Imagine your backyard plantings were so bountiful more than a dozen garden enthusiasts drove from more than an hour away to harvest your vegetables and prepare a feast?
That’s exactly what happens at Nick Ranieri’s vegetable garden in Mattituck … every year.
On Friday about 20 members of the South Brooklyn Gustatorial Society paid their annual visit to Ranieri’s garden on Old Field Court. They harvested eggplant, carrots, basil, zucchini and more. The ingredients were then used to prepare a Saturday dinner at the Shelter Island home of group members Tom McMahon and Linda Gibbs.
“What impresses me is that it’s a one-man farm that can produce enough to feed his own family, this crazy group that comes out and all of his neighbors,” group member Joe Bruno said of Ranieri’s 150-by-100-foot garden.
Ranieri, who was previously profiled by the Suffolk Times in 2016, immigrated to New York City from Italy in 1965. He has lived and gardened in Mattituck since 2001. He does not sell the produce he harvests, but rather shares it with friends and family.
A documentary crew from Pittsburgh filmed his garden last year for a project about Italian gardeners.
On Friday, the 79-year-old guided the group through his garden, helping them identify fruits and vegetables that were ripe for picking. His plantings include artichokes, swiss chard and apple and lemon trees.
Ranieri gardens all year long, tending to plants in a greenhouse during the winter. He uses a homemade irrigation system and horticultural techniques that allow him to nurse trees back to health or grow different kinds of fruit on one tree.
As the group walked through the garden, Ranieri pointed out an olive tree he planted last year, which is already producing fruit.
Group members later gathered around in excitement as Ranieri harvest fresh figs from a tree, sharing bites with them as they continued on. They also enjoyed snacking on fresh blueberries and blackberries, which they collected in buckets.
“This group excites me so much because of what they do with what they pick,” said Ranieri, who also helped cook for the feast, adding that he enjoys seeing his hard work put to good use. “It’s my joy.”