Gene Seymour likes the Sweet 100 sandwiches best, just ahead of the example Earthwise Tacoma’s workplace garden sets.
The business is all about re-using and repurposing solid stuff that did its job once, and may be up for another incarnation. If you need an old-growth beam, a good old-fashioned one-flush toilet, a roll of barbed wire or a vanity, you can find it at Earthwise, which started in Seattle some 20 years ago. It opened a Tacoma branch a year ago at 628 E. 60th St., between one lumber mill and the site of the old Hillsdale Lumber.
Green as Earthwise is, greenery is not its specialty, aside from the delicious blackberries along an exterior wall on pocked and rutted 60th Street. Manager Karen Carston let them grow because they stood between gang taggers and a wall they coveted. The city may not maintain the street, but it has told Earthwise to cut the bushes, which community members are using as a fruit garden.
The tomatoes by the office are legal, though, and just about the only thing growing inside the complex of old sheds and pole buildings.
Carston’s excited about them. So is Seymour.
That’s the thing about workplace gardens, especially those that produce lunch or dinner. It’s gratifying to step outside on a break and watch them pop up from nothing but good dirt. The fun those plants seem to be having in the parking lot is almost naughty.
“Hi, I have been looking at your challenge in the paper for weeks! I am finally sending you something that we are very excited about,” Carston wrote in an e-mail to Tacoma Weekly. “The tomatoes are growing like crazy in our double sink. I used Tagro, and it's funny, the fruit doesn't taste like sewage! They are delicious, just getting ripe...”
Earthwise is all about the possibilities left in used items, and the tomatoes, aside from bursting with vitaminey goodness, are marketing tools,
“We start doing something with stuff, and it starts selling,” Seymour said. “Stuff that would otherwise end up in a landfill can be beautiful. We have old railings, and customers make a trellis out of it.”
The half-barrel was a natural. The sink, a quick recovery.
“The sink was chipped and unsalable,” Carston said.
In May, she popped in the TAGRO, a few small starts and got a Godzilla response. (Yes, you can buy one of Gozilla’s relatives at Earthwise. You can also purchase “Downton Abbey” paper dolls.)
The bounty is so surprising that Carston is eying other stuff that might make a good garden. There’s an upside-down bike rack a pole bean could snuggle up. There’s a toilet tank that already is growing ivy, and a barbecue bottom that would be an excellent lettuce patch. That’s all for next year.
Now it’s sandwich time.
Here’s how they do a tomato sandwich a la Carston at Earthwise:
“You use Dave’s Killer Bread, The Good Seed, and real mayonnaise. Not sandwich spread. Best Foods or Hellman’s. Iceberg lettuce, not frou frou arugula, and how about sweet mustard? And did I say salt and pepper?”
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