Jodie Lustgarten Gabriella Marin are Battery Conservancy volunteers. Here the...

Jodie Lustgarten Gabriella Marin are Battery Conservancy volunteers. Here the two are seen planting flax in the new Urban Farm at the Battery in Battery Park. (April 19, 2011) Credit: Steven Sunshine

Paying homage to Battery Park's original purpose -- farming -- the southern gateway to Manhattan now sports a large urban farm with 80 vegetable plots reminiscent of the Dutch gardens of 1625.

The Battery Park Urban Farm -- on nearly an acre -- includes plantings of everything from flax and potatoes to carrots, broccoli, radishes and lettuces.

Anyone can volunteer to work on the farm; plots have been "adopted" by community groups and schools in lower Manhattan, according to officials with the Battery Park Conservancy, which manages the new farm. "There is nothing like this in Manhattan, nor the method of such aggressive farming. It's just gorgeous," said Manhattan farmer Carolyn Zezema, a volunteer who was instructing a group of adults from AHRC New York City, an agency that offers support and education to adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

"This is a great opportunity for us to have a hands-on experience," said Yuliya Khripunkova, transition developer at AHRC.

Maintaining the vegetable plots, harvesting the food and getting to "actually cook with the foods we grow shows us the results of our day-to-day labor," Khripunkova said.

There are 683 K-12 students and about 200 volunteers from lower Manhattan who will work the farm, which opened earlier this month. Some farmers are Wall Street office workers who have "dropped their briefcases for shovels" said Warrie Price of the conservancy.

They will water and weed in preparation for a June harvest that will provide fresh food for themselves, food pantries and nearby chefs at the park's food kiosks.

Adjacent to the farm, a new food kiosk, Merchant Market, with seating nearby for 200, will open in three weeks. That kiosk will prepare salads, sandwiches and raw vegetable appetizers picked from the Battery Park farm.

"I'm planning phenomenal salads with romaine, iceberg to mesclun -- just cut fresh steps away," said Wade Burch, 44, Merchant Market chef.

Burch said a percentage of profits from food sales at the kiosk will go back to the farm.

"I'll be making French radishes with sea salt and butter cut in the afternoon. Raw with a nice glass of rosé you'll be sitting pretty." Also on the menu will be a French green bean salad with toasted almonds and Burch's own "Green Goddess" dressing.

"I'm going to take any vegetables they give that day and make something interesting," said Burch, whose culinary philosophy is "keep it simple, and make it taste good and look good."

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