For several years, the front lawn of the Quebec National Assembly was fenced off to the public, while major renovations went on inside. Now that construction is complete, the fence has come down and a beautiful “edible garden” has been revealed.
The public garden is maintained by a non-profit that partners with organizations on urban farming projects. Les Urbainculteurs started in 2009 and now has 40 ongoing projects in Quebec City and nearby Levis. Other than the National Assembly, they also have urban gardens outside private companies, hospitals and rehab centres.
“We want to spread the word and educate people on growing their own food,” said Martino Mangili with Les Urbainculteurs.
At the National Assembly, there are over 200 different plants, organically grown and harvested for the restaurant, Le Parlementaire. It’s also open to the public since visitors have their own space in the garden.
“We have a section called Incredible Edibles, where people can pick their food as they want,” Mangili explained.
It’s part of an international movement to promote urban agriculture and food security.
“To have a public garden outside of the house of parliament, the house of the people, where we have a lot of tourists coming, they can see that Quebec is forward thinking,” Mangili said. “I think it’s part of the future of a city to cultivate their own food.”
Chef Martin Gagné takes a stroll through the garden every morning at 7 a.m. in order to prepare the day’s ever-varying menu at Le Parlementaire. One of his favourite things to create is a mixed salad with edible flowers.
“Every flower has a different flavour,” said Gagné. “Some are very bitter, others taste like soap, but mixed together, it creates an explosion in your mouth.”
The garden was created in 2014, but many members of the public began discovering it just this summer when construction on a new addition to the National Assembly was completed.
“We were walking up the hill from our hotel to get to the Plains of Abraham and happened upon the garden. It’s beautiful, spectacular,” said Mary-Martha Hale, who is visiting from Ottawa with a group of friends.
She said she’s impressed by the garden and what it brings to the community.
“We have a lot of people in the city, but also in the country, who are food insecure. And if they can learn about things they can plant themselves, that they can find in gardens that are edible, it would be very helpful,” she said.