Roger Doiron is the founder of both Kitchen Gardeners International, an organization of 4,400 gardeners from 80 countries, and International Kitchen Garden Day, which is being observed Sunday. Scarborough residents can take part in the celebration by joining a garden tour in Doiron’s neighborhood, starting at 2 p.m. from his home at 3 Powderhorn Drive, Scarborough, where he lives with his wife Jacqueline and three sons. The tour will conclude with a potluck supper. Last week, Doiron, 40, who works with nonprofit organizations and does freelance writing, sat down with The Current to talk about his gardens, his organization (on the Web at www.kitchengardeners.org) and a vegetable he can relate to.

Q: How long have you lived in Scarborough?

A: I grew up here. It took me 39 years to travel 100 yards. It’s interesting to see what changes are in a neighborhood. In terms of things that stay the same, there are still gardens, but there seem to be less of them.

Q: What do you grow in your gardens?

A: We do a little bit of everything here. I’m trying to eat as well as I possibly can and feed my family as well as I possibly can. We do the range of things from fruit to herbs to every kind of vegetable you can pronounce. We also think of it as a project to show how much you can do on a regular house lot. We’re trying to show people, yes, you can grow peaches. We have other things like blueberries and raspberries. In terms of unusual things, I love walnuts. We just planted a walnut tree this spring.

Q: Why do you think more people don’t have kitchen gardens?

A: These things require a long-term commitment, and there’s work involved, but you put something in and you get many things back – the food you put on the table and the recreational aspect. For our boys, we’re happy to see they have a very close relationship with their food. It’s true this takes time, but it’s a question of priorities. It’s about your family. It’s about health. It’s about the kinds of neighborhoods we want to live in.

Q: What is International Kitchen Garden Day?

A: As for the Pleasant Hill celebration, we’re going to do a walking tour visiting three or four gardens and have the gardeners be available for questions and answers. Even an experienced gardener can walk into a garden and learn something new. We try to facilitate that exchange of information in this tour and show that good food doesn’t have to come from far away.

Q: How did International Kitchen Garden Day start?

A: I was surfing the Internet and found they had a snack food month. I saw they had claimed February, so I said, people who grow their own food, we should at least have a day for getting together and showing what we produce. The date is starting to take hold. It’s always the fourth Sunday of August, which for us coincides with the peak season in the northern hemisphere. I’ve heard from gardeners in Australia and gardeners in Asia. I’m always trying to think, what’s the next way of getting people aware of these kinds of issues? We had this idea to try to come up with a more clever approach to garden promotion. We decided to turn it into a little contest called the “Grow-off Show-off.” Last year, the winner painted her Dodge minivan with slogans on it. This year the grand prize is $500. We’re trying to get people to come up with more creative entries. It would be fun to have people submit some YouTube entries. I’m tyring to pitch it as a garden talent contest, a mix of PBS’s “Victory Garden” and “American Idol.” We’re going to be accepting entries up through Nov. 1.

Q: Are you also part of an organization of kitchen gardeners?

A: Kitchen Gardeners International – I started that in 2003. It was my way to try to shorten the distance between people and their food. The average biteful in the U.S. travels 1,500 miles from where it was produced to where it was consumed. We’ve turned into a society of convenience. I saw data recently that said the average American watches three hours of television a day, and the amount of time people spend cooking goes down every year. We’re not finding time to connect as much as communities. Kitchen Gardeners International was set up to introduce people to the process of food. Most people have a relationship with food as a product. It’s a prepared product. It’s been done for you. Kitchen Gardeners International is trying to help people develop a different relationship with their food., so it’s not just the product of food, it’s the process of food. We give the information of how to grow food but also the information of how to cook food and how to preserve food and to also keep it fun. We work it into our lifestyle. I often tell people it’s the garden that tells us what’s for dinner.

Q: What’s your favorite meal to cook from your garden?

A: One that we like doing at this time of year is what we call a no-cook tomato sauce. You cut up garden fresh tomatoes, and you add olive oil and basil and salt. If you want to make the dish more decadent, you can cut up cubes of brie cheese. You let that sit for a couple of hours. It should be refrigerated. You cook up your pasta, and you add the piping hot pasta to your bowls of tomatoes, basil, olive oil, salt and brie, and you turn the pasta really quickly. What happens is the pasta cooks the sauce.

Q: If you were a vegetable, which one would you be?

A: I guess I would be a leek. I think of myself as kind of an underdog. Leeks are the underdogs of the garden because they aren’t given the attention they deserve. They grow very well in Maine.

Q&A with Roger Doiron – Good food, close at hand


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