If you order a turkey wrap at the Lemon Street Market this summer, or drink a mojito at Lancaster Brewing Co., the tomato on your sandwich and the mint in your drink might have been grown right outside the restaurants.
Six Lancaster, Pa. restaurants are planting tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, herbs and other fresh produce in containers, hanging baskets and small beds.
They plan to harvest the fresh items and serve them to their customers, to promote healthy eating and local products, in a project sponsored by Lancaster city and a local health organization, according to Lancaster Online.
"We'll use the cucumbers in our salads and the basil in sauces,'' said Brent Eshelman, general manager of the Lancaster Brewing Co., which is growing plants, including hot peppers for its wing sauce, outside its new 50-seat patio at Walnut and Plum streets.
Said Trish Haverstick, an owner of Lemon Street Market, "It shows people how easy it is to grow your own food. It looks great outside."
"And it's good for kids, to just see where their food comes from.''
The project is the brainchild of city health officer Kim Wissler, who recruited the restaurants and enlisted the help of Lighten Up Lancaster, a local organization that promotes healthy eating.
"I am hoping more people in the city will turn to urban gardening,'' Wissler said. ``We want to encourage people to look at it and grow it in their own backyard.''
The planters and mini-gardens will be easy to spot in many areas.
At the Taproom, deep windowsills along one side of the restaurant are lined with planters, where chefs can snip a bit of basil when making a margherita pizza or other dishes.
"We are growing the herbs we will use in our actual kitchen,'' said Greg Keasey, an owner of the Taproom and Spring House Brewing Co. ``I think it's a great idea.''
Wissler grew some of the starter plants in a small greenhouse she has at her home outside the city. She also obtained seeds for some of the other plants through the America the Beautiful Fund.
The project also will reuse resources.
The planters at the East Side Community Kitchen are tubs that once held trees that have been planted in the city. Lemon Street Market is using bushel baskets that Wissler salvaged from the warehouse of the city streets bureau.
The hope is that the project also beautifies the city.
Nicole Buckles, the kitchen manager at East Side Community Kitchen, said the kitchen is installing planters as a way to grow fresh food, as well as enhance the property, which also is adding a mural to its north wall.
Lighten Up fights obesity and promotes the consumption of fresh foods, so this project was right in line with its goals, said Beth Schwartz, facilitator at the health organization.
Lighten Up will be providing cards with recipes using fresh produce for distribution at restaurants and markets. It also is designing a kid's place mat promoting healthy eating, as part of the project.
The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority is donating soy crayons for kids to use on the place mats.
Other restaurants that are participating include the Belvedere Inn and the Prince Street Cafe.