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Lights ... camera ... escarole! PBS's "Ciao Italia" films segment at UNH Organic Garden

By Beth Potier, Media Relations
July 25, 2007

Wearing frilly frocks of deep emerald green, their feet covered with mud, the escarole plants at the UNH Organic Garden got star treatment on the morning of July 16 when PBS’s “Ciao Italia” taped them for an upcoming segment about ways to cook the tasty salad green.

“We’re doing a grand tour of escarole – ‘scarolla’ in Italian,” said host Mary Ann Esposito, who shot the segment with UNH senior Cormac Griffin, president of the UNH Organic Gardening Club. Griffin introduced Esposito, a UNH alum and Durham resident, to the four types of escarole he and garden manager Diana Laurentitis had grown on OGC’s two-acre plot on Spinney Lane.

While Esposito tapes several “Ciao Italia” segments in her own garden, she admitted that she hadn’t had luck growing escarole. So she and producer Paul Lally contacted the OGC via the Office of Sustainability early this spring to “commission” a row of escarole. Griffin happily obliged, then consulted with Cooperative Extension associate professor of plant biology Becky Grube to ensure that the escarole would be ready for its television close-up.

Which it was. “This escarole is beautiful!” Esposito gushed. As Lally crouched behind the camera, Griffin and Esposito swapped gardening tips and tales for what will be a three-minute segment. “I remember my grandmother just going along and picking this on the roadside,” said Esposito of one type of escarole.

“I guess one person’s weed is another’s gourmet meal,” said Griffin.

Esposito explained that UNH’s organic garden exemplifies a principal of Italian food. “We’re trying to get people to think globally and eat locally. Italians always eat what’s in season,” she said.

And shooting part of a show at the organic garden was a homecoming of sorts for Esposito: “I got my start right here on New Hampshire Public Television,” she said, motioning across Main St. to the station.

Although the UNH escarole won’t come to public television until spring or summer of 2008, it will be available for purchase at the OGC’s weekly farm stand, Wednesdays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Murkland Courtyard.

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