Miami Culinary Institute Digs in to New Organic Edible Garden

​Miami Dade College's Miami Culinary Institute will soon welcome some new buds into its kitchen. 

On July 14, the MCI will host the grand opening of its organic garden, where every plant will provide edible fruits, berries, herbs, or even flowers. These crops will be used in culinary classes as well as the student-run MCI Cafe, the Alphabite Food Truck, and the school's new restaurant, which will open in the fall. 

The garden will follow MCI director and chef John Richards's soil-to-soil concept: everything from the garden goes straight into the kitchen and then back to the soil in the form of compost. 

"We're teaching [students] the entire life cycle of what they eat," said MCI's culinary coordinator Victoria Nodarse.

While the plants are located in the heart of downtown Miami, taking up a one-third of an acre site at the corner of Northeast 1st Avenue and 6th Street, Nodarse hopes the space will be an urban oasis for locals. "It's in the middle of the concrete, but it's an awesome little eden. It's a great little serene area to sit and relax -- you almost stop hearing the cars that pass by."

This "oasis" will be tended by students at the institute and Natural Greenscape. Headed by Diane Sugimoto and Gabriele Marewski, Natural Greenscape designed and constructed the garden's feng shui and sacred geometry inspired landscape. It's circular elements mirror those at Paradise Farms, the Redlands farm that Marewski owns. 

"Just as it's important for a chef to have a beautiful presentation, it was important for us to make a beautiful garden," she said. "Hopefully the students will be inspired to build gardens wherever they go next."

Marewski emphasized that next week's harvest will not yield as much produce as a fall or winter harvest. Of the 100 varieties of plants available over the summer, there will be about double the amount available next season, as the garden will undergo a seasonal redesign. For now, herbs like curry, mint, and lavender will be available. Fruit trees -- jack fruit, papaya, and mango -- won't bear fruit for another year or two, since the seedlings are still too young.

It's safe to say, we'll be keeping our eye on them.

Miami Culinary Institute's The opening will take place at 10 a.m. Call 305-237-3276 or visit

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Alexandra Leon
Contact: Alexandra Leon