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Edible: Greenmarket Farmer Knows Variety

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Edible Magazine's Rachel Wharton recently checked out the Union Square Greenmarket and filed the following report.

Our next issue is all about eating and drinking locally and there's no better way to do that than to grow your own. Luckily, there's Silver Heights Farm at Union Square Greenmarket. For a decade, Trina Pilonero has grown the city's best organic seedlings and helped urban gardeners choose the right plants.

"It's real important to me that when these plants go out that the people get them, learn how to grow them if they know how to do that. So we're also here for advice, which is quite free," says Pilonero.

Pilonero’s plants are open-pollinated, meaning you can save your own seeds to plant next year. They’re also diverse. She has about 2,000 varieties in her catalog, including 25 kinds of basil.

"For instance, the tomato plants, I don't sell six or 10 or 20. I sell 325 varieties, and I've actually whittled down the number to 325 varieties," Pilonero says. "And I pick them based on a bunch of things. I pick plants for their productivity, for their flavor, and for their ability to perform in the current area in the Northeast."

Pilonero also picks plants for New York’s multi-culti community of cooks.

"So if you're from one area of the world, let's say you're from Japan and you want Japanese plants, I've got a lot of them, so you can have some of the plants that you knew from wherever it is you're from," says Pilonero.

A word of advice: don’t ask her to name a favorite.

"People ask me all the time what my favorite tomato is and it's kind of like asking who's your favorite child," Pilonero says. "I like lime green salad cause it's got a beautiful color. I like Jaune Flamme cause the color and the flavor are exquisite. I like Mortgage Lifter because it tastes great and has got a wonderful story. I like Cherokee Purple, Dorothy's Green. I mean...I like them all."

Customers say they love the variety, even on gray days that seem a long way from summer tomatoes.

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