March 16, 2010

Garden on busy corner gives deli a fresh approach

— FALMOUTH — Elaine Titcomb stopped outside Leavitt & Sons, a deli, sandwich shop and specialty grocery store perched on the corner of Route 1 and Depot Road.

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Derek Davis/Staff Photographer: Pete Leavitt picks radishes from a garden outside his deli, Leavitt and Sons, in Falmouth, Monday, July 21, 2008. He uses the vegetables he grows in his deli and also gives some away to customers.

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Derek Davis/Staff Photographer: Melanie Toner slices basil at Leavitt and Sons deli in Falmouth, Monday, July 21, 2008. The owner, Pete Leavitt, uses vegetables and herbs from garden outside the deli.

Titcomb is from Sebago, but she and her husband keep their boat in Falmouth. She walks or drives by this busy corner every day, and lately has noticed something new -- a large vegetable and herb garden.

Today, she's stopped to take a closer look as cars whiz by a few feet away.

''What are you going to do, sell vegetables?'' she asks deli owner Pete Leavitt.

No, he's not. Well, not unless they are incorporated into a salad or some other to-go meal.

Leavitt has decided to follow in the larger footsteps of restaurants such as Arrows in Ogunquit, which is well-known for its garden, and Cinque Terre in Portland, which grows its own vegetables on a Maine farm.

In June, he had a landscaper plant $5,000 worth of vegetables and herbs outside his deli. Now the project is starting to bear fruit.

While Leavitt's garden is not as large as the restaurants' plots, this isn't exactly a small vanity garden, either. Growing all around the store are tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, parsley, low-bush and high-bush blueberries, oregano, cilantro, lavendar, Thai basil, a couple of kinds of lettuce and cabbage, spinach, eggplant, celery, mint, hot peppers, jalapenos, green peppers, zucchini, summer squash, radishes, basil, Swiss chard, beets, carrots and lemongrass.

There are peach, apple and plum trees.

There's also some nasturtium, which the 4- and 7-year-old sons of Leavitt & Sons think is ''cool as heck, because you can eat the flowers.''

Leavitt estimates that right now, he's probably only using about 10 to 15 percent of the garden in his food because most of the vegetables aren't in yet.

The basil, for example, is going into the store's caprese sandwiches. The lemongrass goes into soup.

''The herbs we use in a lot of our different soups, and when we do roast-chicken dishes, we'll use a lot of the herbs in that,'' Leavitt said. ''The blueberries I put into the fruit platters that we do and the fruit cups that we make.''

Next year, he may add grapes, watermelons or pumpkins.

Leavitt is not under any illusions about how far the home-grown produce will go in his store. The cabbage might last a week. He's doing this for other reasons, too.

Some of the harvest -- and perhaps most of it next year -- will be donated to a local food bank. Some of it is being given away to customers.

''A very popular one right now is, people are coming to get mint to make mojitos with,'' Leavitt said.

Need some radishes? Stop by, because Leavitt doesn't have much use for them in the store.

Leavitt likes the idea of making such a traffic-heavy corner in Falmouth's shopping corridor a little more attractive. And he gets a kick out of seeing people walk or bike by to see how the garden is progressing.

''Originally, I was concerned about people coming and messing with the stuff, and maybe that will happen once the vegetables become ripe,'' he said. ''Most people are very respectful.''

Some, like Titcomb, are even more respectful than others. She could not walk away without pulling a few weeds.

''I have to do this,'' she said.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 7911-6332 or at:

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