Elizabeth Records and Marc Luterra grow some unusual plant varieties in the 3,000-square-foot garden at their home.
Things like a native corn species from Montana, adapted for short growing seasons, and a variety of the grain quinoa, bred to not have its seeds sprout on the plant in the late-season rains common to the Pacific Northwest.
But Records said a particular favorite for both her and her husband is their “heatless habaneros,” a variety of the pepper bred to remove its spicy flavor, leaving a unique tropical fruit-like flavor.
Luterra said he puts the peppers in or on burgers, stir fry, eggs and just about anything.
But tasty as they are, Luterra said, plants do have a problem: they are slow-growing. The couple will wait to harvest the peppers until the night before the first frost in October or November, and then ripen them inside for a couple of weeks.
“I try not to look at them more than once every couple of weeks or else I get sad,” Luterra said.
Records said the garden, at their home near Southwest 53rd Street and Southwest Philomath Boulevard, is all organic. They usually spend a weekend day and time in the evenings working in the garden on tasks like weeding by hand. They also have five chickens for eggs and Luterra keeps bees, with hives at their house and at local farms.
The garden will be featured in the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s Edible Garden Tour at 6 p.m. on Aug. 9. The tour starts at the Starker Arts Garden for Education in the Bruce Starker Arts Park.
Luterra said the hours spent working on the garden can be a lot of work. But, usually, it's a labor of love.
“It’s also a thing we do together, and it’s quality time together,” said Records.
Both Luterra and Records are professionally connected to agriculture: Luterra, who has a doctorate in biological and ecological engineering from Oregon State University, owns Luterra Enterprises, through which he does consulting and machine design for small-scale agriculture. Records works on education programs with the OSU Extension Service’s Master Gardener program in Linn and Benton counties.
The garden produces, by weight, about 25 percent of what the couple eats, Luterra said.
Records said that even though they're not close to being self-sufficient with their home garden, she likes learning the skills everyone’s grandparents or great-grandparents used to survive.
The garden also connects them with their community and neighbors, she said. They even have an informal agreement with a neighbor in which they give her a big bag of vegetables each week and she cooks them dinner.
“I feel like I’m a better person for being connected to the place I live, and I do that through gardening,” Records said. “And the strawberries are really good too.”
Luterra said as an engineer, he’s used to designing machines where he has to place every part into it.
“What’s miraculous about gardening is you put something out there, a seed, and it makes itself,” he said.
Luterra added that the garden connects him with the land.
“I’m more of a rural person. It makes me feel more at home in a somewhat urban environment to have this,” he said.
Records said as a garden educator, her message is that anyone can garden. Even people in apartments can grow things in their windowsills.
“Gardening is for everybody, and you can do it on any scale, anywhere,” she said.