Gardeners rejoice! For the 17th year the Assateague Coastal Trust will offer a selection of native flowering perennials, heirloom tomatoes, peppers and herbs at its annual Native Plant and Heirloom Tomato Festival. The Festival will take place on Saturday, May 7th, from 8:00a to 1:00pm, next to the ACT offices located on Old Ocean City Boulevard near the corner of North Main Street.
The date of this year’s Festival allows shoppers to honor moms for Mother’s Day on May 8 by giving native, all natural gifts that keep on giving year after year. And that are good for the environment, too!
The Native Plant and Heirloom Tomato Festival is one of Assateague Coastal Trust’s many programs to encourage visitors and residents of the Lower Eastern Shore to make wise environmental decisions in their everyday lives. In partnership with Environmental Concern, a native plant nursery based in St. Michaels, the ACT will offer a variety of native perennials, heirloom tomatoes, garden herbs and peppers that adapt to the local gardening conditions and ecology. Native plant gardens require little or no herbicide, pesticides, or fertilizer, and encourage habitat creation for native wildlife.
Hummingbirds and butterflies love the orange-flowered Butterfly Milkweed, lavender-pompommed Wild Bergamont, and white-flowered semi-evergreen Beardtongue. The purple-flowered New England Aster is a particular favorite of monarchs. Black-eyed Susans are of special value to native bumblebees.
Heirloom tomatoes were introduced to the Festival seven years ago and have grown in popularity since. Heirlooms typically produce more flavorful tomatoes than hybrid varieties typically found in grocery stores or seed packets. This year the ACT will offer six varities of tomatoes including Cherokee Purple, San Marzano, and an Eastern Shore favorite, the Yellow Pear Cherry.
In addition to the six tomato varieties and 24 flowering native perennials the ACT will offer a selection of garden herbs which can be grown in patio containers or in garden beds. New this year is the fish pepper, an heirloom that dates back to the 1870s. Often found in the oyster and crab houses around the Chesapeake Bay, the fish pepper boasts orange and bright red fruits that grow two to three inches long. Raw the peppers are as hot as cayenne, but their heat mellows when cooked. Dried, they make an excellent hot chili powder.
While the ACT will have many varities of plants on hand on May 7, you may want to plan ahead to make sure they don’t run out of the plant you want for your garden. Advanced orders can be made through the ACT website through May 3. Pre-orders can be picked up on the day of the Festival, Saturday, May 7, between 8:00am and 1:00pm.
For more information check out the Assateague Coast Trust online, or visit their offices at 9930 Old Ocean City Blvd. in Berlin.