“Farm-to-table” is something of a buzz phrase these days, but Josh Rosenstein is a true believer. The Israeli-American has worked extensively in organic farming, nurseries, permaculture and sustainability and, after several years as the farm director at Pearlstone Center, decided to launch his own sustainable business in 2014. Edible Eden creates edible landscapes and organic gardens in and around Baltimore to connect people back to their food source. We chatted with Rosenstein recently about his business, starting your first garden and his favorite food.
What inspired you to start Edible Eden?
There’s kind of a movement of sustainable “right livelihood” three-pronged businesses that are both good for the earth and good for the people and also bring in income. The hope, the dream, is that this is a timely, meaningful, in-demand thing that I can do and also make a living.
What got you into gardening?
I grew up in a house that did not purport to be environmentalist. My parents had a compost because a compost made sense. My parents had a vegetable garden because local, seasonal vegetables are the best you can get. And my mother gardens because she finds it therapeutic, you know?
Why do you think it is important for people to eat local and connect to their food?
My agenda is not to lead with darkness, but I just believe that our industrial “Big Ag” food system is fundamentally broken. And the reason they’re able to get away with it is because of that disconnect between the consumer and their food source. I’m also just really passionate about food. Food that’s produced locally and sustainably and harvested fresh and treated right is 100 percent more flavorful and delicious and healthy. So, one side of this has to do with ethics and environment and one side has to do with culinary excellence and flavor.
What plants or vegetables would you recommend for someone’s first garden?
Any foray into gardening [should] include both vegetables from seed—your arugula, your carrots, your spinach—and seedlings, like tomatoes or peppers. I’d also recommend some perennial culinary herbs—thyme, rosemary, sage, chives. The last category I’d recommend is perennial native pollinator species, such as yarrow, Echinacea or orange glory flower.
How is the approach to food different in Israel and America, and how has that informed your work?
I think Israel inevitably leans more towards an industrial productivity when it comes to agriculture. At the same time, culturally, I grew up in an Israel where fresh vegetables were a part of every meal and going to buy vegetables from the markets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was a visceral, colorful, tangible experience.
What’s your favorite food?
I’d have to say the Israeli experience of hummus is probably my favorite. Growing up, I was a passionate vegetarian and deathly allergic to dairy, so my parents were a little bit at a loss for what to feed me. I ate a lot of hummus growing up.