Comforts from a rooftop garden

Text version of photo story below.

Photo story introducing rooftop garden
Photo story about the beneficial herbs that are harvested.
Photo story about harvesting and drying the herbs and using them on the Access Alliance staff tea cart.

Text version: Comforts of a rooftop garden

In the hallway outside a cluster of offices at AccessPoint on Danforth sits a tea cart filled canisters of mint, lemon balms, lavender, lemon grass and other herbs harvested from the abundant rooftop garden on the Danforth.

Access Alliance’s rooftop garden has been in operation for nine years. It’s a place where people can learn about gardening and growing food.

Lara Mrosovsky, AA’s Green Access Community Animator, says, “People use the skills they learn here to do low cost, accessible gardening. They can do container gardening on their balconies and grow plants from seeds and root cuttings.”

On a sunny morning in August, community gardeners start their day picking and bundling garlic chives. Then they get to harvesting herbs for the tea cart, including anise hyssop, lemon grass and mint.

While Lara trims bundles of lemon grass, she says, “Many of the herbs we use are beneficial. They’re nervines and can be calming. Almost everybody has some kind of stress and these teas can be good for that.”

Herbs are great for teas because they have a long growing season and often provide multiple yields. They’re easy to dry and can be stored or used through the winter.

Community gardeners also enjoy the herbs grown on the rooftop. Rokeya has been volunteering at AccessPoint on Danforth for three years. She works in the garden and cooks once a week in the community kitchen. She says, “I like to add fresh mint leaves to a tea bag. It make a very delicious tea.”

After harvesting, the herbs are laid out to dry. Chamomile and calendula are some of the herbs drying in hanging baskets. Eventually, the herbs make their way onto the tea cart, which has information about the herbs and their properties and is equipped with everything needed to make a nice cup of tea. The cart can be wheeled to different rooms for use in programs so that community members as well as staff can enjoy it.

This fall the rooftop gardeners will be creating a special blend of teas to celebrates Access Alliance’s 30th anniversary. The tea will be available at our 30th anniversary celebration in November. Keep your eyes open for it!