Immigrants to St. Louis are capitalizing on urban gardens, and helping to revitalize the city.

In a city best known for deep-fried ravioli and butter cake, you might not expect bitter eggplant—dubbed “pumpkin on a stick,” for how it looks on the stem—to be a runaway hit.

Yet bitter eggplant, common to cuisine in parts of Africa, Asia, and Brazil, has become one of the most popular crops at two urban farms in St. Louis, bringing in $6 to $7 per pound. Used in a soup or a sauce, it is a favorite among the locale's most recent arrivals, refugees from such strife-torn lands as Burundi, Myanmar, and Nepal. For the past few years, refugee farmers have raised the exotic crop, and many others, through a program run by the International Institute of St. Louis, a nonprofit organization that helps immigrants adapt to life in a city whose heyday has long passed.

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