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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Conscious cuisine: Edible gardening tips from Albert Risemberg

Man with a gray beard standing in the middle of a garden
The Zest Podcast
Gulfport resident Albert Risemberg shares his journey from airplane mechanic to yoga instructor, gardener and beekeeper.

The sustainability advocate offers advice for going green later in life and tips for turning your backyard into an edible oasis.

Listen to the episode

When the zombie apocalypse happens, the best place to ride it out might just be at Albert Risemberg’s house. At his home in Gulfport, just south of St. Petersburg, Albert is growing enough sustenance to outlast any hunker-down situation that may arise.

The 61-year-old’s small front and backyards are like a modern-day Garden of Eden, lush with fruit and vegetable plants, 10 bee hives for honey and an impressive composting setup. Albert even grows plants to make his own medicines. His sustainability efforts earned him the title of Gulfportian of the Year from the local newspaper, The Gabber.

But Albert didn’t always lead such an eco-friendly lifestyle. Born in Argentina, he moved to the United States with his family when he was 3.

“My parents were both physicians, so growing food just wasn’t part of my raising at all,” he says. “In the ‘60s, we tried to become Americans.” That included eating plenty of packaged foods.

Albert spent 30 years as an aircraft mechanic. He and his then-wife raised two sons together. He was finally living the American dream. There was just one problem.

“I was miserable,” he says. “I worked too much.”

Then 9/11 happened. With the airline industry in dire straits, Albert took up his company’s offer for early retirement at age 47. Soon after, his marriage dissolved. And so began Albert’s second act.

He befriended an acupuncturist/massage therapist.

“She was all about sustainability,” Albert says. “That’s when I first got my taste of what sustainability was all about.” He eventually moved to Florida and got involved with the 15th Street Farm. “That’s where I really cut my teeth in urban agriculture,” he says.

Fast-forward to today. Albert grows dozens of edible plants, from lettuce and lychee to mango and moringa. He calls his homestead Moon Landing. There’s even a small backyard nursery where the public can buy plants, by appointment only. He sells plants and honey and teaches yoga, and he’s happier than ever. Not only does this sustainable lifestyle feed him physically, but also financially and spiritually, he says.

In an interview with The Zest, Albert offers encouragement for folks starting their sustainability journey later in life. He also offers a list of edible plants that are easy for beginners to grow in Florida. His top pick? Papaya.

“Oftentimes,” he says, “the papaya gives you the best fruit in the first year.”

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Thank you to our sponsors: Seitenbacher and TECO Peoples Gas.

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