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Paul Greenberg's Posts


Ground Zero garden revisited: Remembering 9/11 with a homegrown meal

Editor's note: This article originally ran on Sept. 11, 2012. Here's an update from Greenberg:

This year, I'm once again cobbling a September meal from my Ground Zero garden. I have snapper blues that my son and I caught at the Magnolia pier in Long Beach (though the town was still beat up and bruised by Sandy). I have lots of Ground Zero garden-grown Mexico midget tomatoes for a salad and a jar of preserved grape leaves from my single bottle winery which I call Chateau Nul. I had planned to make another bottle of Chateau Nul this year through my friend Christopher Nicolson at Red Hook Winery, but the birds unfortunately ate all the grapes in a midnight raid. But the biggest raid that didn't happen was my co-op board's threat to dismantle the garden entirely.  They ran out of money fixing the other terraces in the building so the Ground Zero garden lives on for another year.

My plans for 2014 include mushrooms, currants, and maybe that long sought after tilapia in a barrel.

Greenberg with his son, Luke, in their Ground Zero garden. (Photo by Jackie Snowe.)

If you live at Ground Zero, as I do, the approach of Sept. 11 feels like the onset of an undertow current that threatens to drag you down and away from everything you've tried to accomplish these past 11 years. The barricades go up, constricting you into ever narrower pathways. The massive police presence, already tripled since Ground Zero's next-door neighbor Zuccotti Park played host to the Occupy Wall Street protests, is prepared to triple once again. You have the distinct impression that you've done something wrong even before you've even thought about transgressing. But this Sept. 11, I am throwing off the chains of oppression and setting out to do something that I think neither the Ground Zero rebuilding architect Daniel Libeskind, nor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, nor the billionaire World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein have even contemplated.

Yes, this year at Ground Zero I will grow a meal.

For the last seven years I have lived in a 10th-floor apartment. During that time I have gradually assembled the elements of a functioning garden that, on a good year, can supply my family with bursts of vegetable matter from April to October. For whatever reason this year -- the 11th Sept. 11 -- all the different elements I started building back in 2005 have come together, and instead of having just a side dish here or a sprinkling of herbs there, I am on the verge of putting together an honest-to-goodness dinner grown (or caught) entirely at Ground Zero. It was a twisted kind of road map that led me to this moment of somewhat silly self sufficiency. And as is fitting in this post-9/11 environment of what seems like continual economic collapse, my anniversary meal will be organized around a Greek theme, classic and desperate at the same time. Here, then, is my menu.

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