Meals being served at the New Horizons Soup Kitchen have come a long way from the soup and sandwiches handed out in the 1970s by Sister Angie Whitten driving around in an obtained Winnebago ministering to the hungry.

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The addition almost three years ago of a 30-by-72-foot greenhouse, improved a lot next to the Manchester Street cooking area and shelter, has boosted the meals, leading to organic salads served daily and entrees seasoned with fresh sage, oregano, basil and other herbs, all naturally grown in the inner city greenhouse.

The more delicious food, which Executive Director Charlie Sherman states is greatly valued by everyone consuming at the soup kitchen area, happened when the city deeded a lot to New Horizons best next door. Mike Marret, co-owner of Rimol Greenhouses of Hooksett, was a volunteer driver for the nonprofit who suggested a full-size greenhouse be installed on it. – See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/Growing-pride,-adding-flavor:-New-Horizons-Soup-Kitchen-serves-organic-vegetables-grown-in-own-greenhouse#sthash.LeozwBnd.dpuf

Marrett, who fellow volunteers call The Garden Angel, contributed the $26,000 greenhouse and volunteers lined up to operate in it.

7For nine to 10 months of the year, natural vegetables and herbs are grown in the greenhouse in garden compost made from vegetable peelings and scraps. Carlos Morales, who handles the kitchen area at New Horizons as well as Families in Transition, stated no fat or meat is included.

One day in May, mesclun, Asian greens, kale, beet greens, romaine and spinach were soaking in ice water in a big plastic bin in the kitchen area to loosen up any dirt. The veggies made it to that night s supper that included bread and butter, covers, pasta, a salad and dessert.

Every day, 250 natural salads, experienced with fresh herbs (dry in the winter), are served.

Sherman stated the company might never ever manage to buy organic vegetables. Prior to the greenhouse, New Horizons invested $50,000 a year on produce. Today, it costs about $35,000 because the greenhouse supplies about 2,500 pounds of veggies yearly.

Kate Hogan, coordinator of the greenhouse collaborators (volunteers), chuckles when she provides the poundage. She understands the exact amount, she says, because every leaf, every tomato and veggie is weighed.

Hogan, a teacher for 50 years, matured on a family farm in Iowa.

We had a huge garden, as long as a field, said Hogan, who has taught kindergartners to university student.

For a time, she resided in New York City where she dealt with Save the Children, putting in gardens on empty lots and planting sunflower seeds in small bare areas of soil.

Manchester s greenhouse started operating in August 2013. There was a learning curve, Hogan said, because the temperature is hot in a greenhouse, which she stated plants love, growing bigger than that outdoors. Pests like those conditions as well, however, and one year the volunteers had to deal with aphids, a gardener s and farmer s worst enemy because of the damage they trigger.

Growing weather starts on St. Patrick s Day, a day volunteers dub The Greening, when they plant their living mascot shamrock in among the raised beds. The earth continues to provide produce up to November.

In March, the volunteers get to work preparing the beds for planting, including the compost prepared by Robert Brouillard, the Compost King. This year, they had much more than they needed.

It’s black gold, Sherman says.

He has not tried his hand at gardening and obviously never will.

My hands have actually never touched dirt and I am darn pleased with that, he says. They want to keep the plants safe so they keep me away from them.

8By mid-May the very first plantings of greens are practically done. But cherry and plum tomatoes and cucumbers are currently well on their way, as are scallions. Peppers and onions will quickly follow, and later on in May, school children will arrive at the state’s only full-size, central city greenhouse to plant the zucchini they’ve grown from seeds in classrooms, as part of the Hunger Project.

They understand their effort will help feed the starving. Often, Hogan says, one of the children will drop in with their moms and dads to see how the plant is doing.

All the kids want to do it however not all the instructors want to do it, chuckles Hogan, who for the last 10 years operated in city schools as an alternative instructor.

All type of herbs is grown in the greenhouse as well: sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, culantro (also referred to as Mexican coriander), basil. When they begin to get old, the herbs are selected and positioned in a dehydrator. Overnight, they are dried and make their method to the kitchen, offering herbs all year long.

The greenhouse has been a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Outdoors, for a touch of color and beautification, planters are filled with flowers.

People walking by state thank you, Sherman states. – See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/Growing-pride,-adding-flavor:-New-Horizons-Soup-Kitchen-serves-organic-vegetables-grown-in-own-greenhouse#sthash.LeozwBnd.dpuf.

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