Friday, November 18, 2011

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights

It's hard to believe that the photos below were taken in the same Edible Garden bursting with okra, eggplant, and tomatoes this summer!  The current stars of the garden are whimsical flowers and beneficial insects of energy-efficient LED lights sure to turn on your holiday spirit. 

Photo courtesy of Joey Ivansco.
Photo courtesy of Joey Ivansco.
Photo courtesy of Joey Ivansco.

The show extends far beyond the Edible Garden and far beyond anything you've seen before.  Mark your calendars to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden before January 7.

Photo courtesy of Joey Ivansco.

You can find all of the details here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Irish Stewed Apples with Blackberries

There’s a tree in the Edible Garden, often overlooked until late summer and into the fall when it’s laden with Arkansas Black apples. One of the darkest cultivars, the Arkansas Black apple is a keeper - lasting up to six months in storage.

Some found these apples to be too firm. Garden Chef Megan McCarthy decided they would be perfect for stewing.

Need a quick, last minute dessert? Heat up some blackberries or frozen mixed berries while you stew the apples. Spoon both over vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

Irish Stewed Apples with Blackberries

4-6 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
water, to cover
½ cup evaporated cane sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
2 T water
2 T evaporated cane sugar
fresh mint, for garnish

In medium saucepan, combine apples, water and cane sugar. Bring apples to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add cinnamon and stir. Remove stewed apples from heat and let cool slightly.

In sauté pan, add water to blackberries and cane sugar. Cook over low heat until blackberries become tender and juicy.

Serve warm stewed apples over favorite vanilla frozen dessert and top with blackberry sauce. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Discover more Garden Chef recipes here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Vinaigrette

The most popular question visitors asked Garden Chef Megan McCarthy on the weekend of October 9 was: Is a yam the same thing as a sweet potato?

Answer: No. They are from different families. The sweet potato is from the Morning Glory family and originally hails from Central America. The true yam is the tuber of a tropical vine and originally hails from Africa.

There are two dominant types of sweet potato: one has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh which is not sweet and has a dry texture, similar to a white baking potato; the other has darker, orange to reddish skin (often called "yam" in error) with a vivid orange, sweet flesh and a moist texture. There are over 200 different varietals of sweet potato in the world. In this recipe, Garden Chef Megan uses four varietals (including ‘Porto Rico’ and ‘Nancy Hall’ from the Edible Garden) for an assortment of color, texture, and taste.

Keep the skins on to maximize the nutritional value of this recipe; however, choose organic potatoes when possible. Potatoes do absorb many pesticides from the ground, and most toxins will end up in the skins of a potato.

Chef Megan grills the parboiled potatoes to finish the flavor and add those lovely grill marks. Married with the Cilantro Vinaigrette, the end result is a mouthwatering combination of tangy and sweet. Pair this delightful side dish with steak or fish. You won’t be able to stop saying, “Just one more.”

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Vinaigrette

4 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Wash and wedge cut sweet potatoes lengthwise, leaving skins on. In large pot, cover sweet potatoes with cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until potatoes are softened. Drain and rinse with cold water. Lightly coat grill or grill pan with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Arrange sweet potato wedges on grill pan and cook until grill lines appear before turning on next side of wedge.

Whisk together lime juice, salt, and pepper and slowly add olive oil. Stir in cilantro and season to taste. Arrange grilled sweet potatoes on platter and drizzle with cilantro vinaigrette to serve.

Discover more Garden Chef recipes here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vegan Sweet Potato Soup

The great thing about cooking in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen is that you are never at a loss for fresh herbs. Above, a volunteer harvests some thyme for the soup from the Herb Wall.

This delicious, vegan soup lets coconut milk act as a flavorful substitute for heavy cream. The curry powder will not only fill your home with a delicious aroma, but it will add a nice, yellow color to the soup, prompting your dinner guests to go “Mmmm!” long before they lift their spoons.

Garden Chef Christina Curry recommends using a teaspoon as a tool to peel the fresh ginger. With a little scraping, the skin will come right off. Go ahead and throw whole sprigs of thyme in the soup. Some of the leaves will fall off while the soup simmers; you can remove the rest with tongs before you blend.

Sweet potatoes were a staple crop for homesteaders and farmers in Georgia before home freezers, imported produce, and supermarkets. Before the advent of modern medicine, doctors “prescribed” them to combat malnutrition in children because of their high Vitamin C content as well as Vitamin A, iron and thiamine. Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious foods you can find. Enjoy!

Vegan Sweet Potato Soup
serves 6

3 T olive oil
1 lb sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 T ginger, minced
1 T curry powder
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 T maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add the sweet potato, apple, onion, ginger and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes, stirring continuously. Add the thyme and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs. Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Finish the soup by stirring in the coconut milk, maple syrup and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Discover more Garden Chef recipes here.

Aspiring chefs and sisters pose with Garden Chef Christina Curry.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Israeli Couscous, Sweet Potato & Apple Salad

On the last weekend in September, when the leaves in Atlanta were beginning to turn, Garden Chef Christina Curry brought our visitors a much anticipated taste of fall with this salad that calls for maple syrup, dried cranberries, and sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes grow very well in Georgia. They are extremely sensitive to frost and need warm, moist weather. They have a long growing season (about 150 days). In the Edible Garden, Sweet Potato ‘Porto Rico’ plants grew beside tomatoes all summer long. Plant them four weeks after the average date of last frost or when the soil is thoroughly warm. Sweet potatoes are planted from rooted sprouts, or slips, taken from a mature root.

There are a few ways to break down the fibers in raw vegetables to make them more palatable: 1. cooking; 2. using chemicals (such as lime juice); 3. grating. You don’t have to cook the potatoes for this recipe; you simply have to grate them.

Israeli Couscous, or pearled couscous, is more like pasta than rice. Rather than covering it with boiling water and leaving it to sit (covered), one should cook it like pasta, on the stove, for about seven minutes.

The flat-leaf parsley in the recipe, delicious this time of year, adds a taste of freshness, while the zest helps to bring the different flavors together. The result is a pleasantly moist, sweet salad that works well as a side dish or, if you have a sweet tooth, a scrumptious mid-afternoon snack.

Israeli Couscous, Sweet Potato & Apple Salad

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous
1 cup sweet potato, grated
1/2 cup apple, grated
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 T thyme leaves
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 T maple syrup
1 T orange zest
1 T lemon zest
salt & pepper, to taste

In a bowl, gently combine couscous, sweet potato, apple, raisins, dried cranberries, thyme and parsley. Add the olive oil, cider vinegar, maple syrup, orange zest, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix well and allow the salad to marinate for 15 minutes before serving.

Don’t have any dried cranberries in your pantry, but have dried apricots instead? Want to use different herbs? Experiment with whatever you have on hand. All of Garden Chef Christina’s recipes should be considered “open to interpretation.” The one thing she does recommend sticking with is pure maple syrup - the really good stuff!

Discover more Garden Chef recipes here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apple & Napa Cabbage Slaw with Sage

Word of the day: espaliered. A tree that is trained to grow against a wall, or on a flat plane, is called an espaliered tree. We’ve demonstrated this in the Edible Garden. Why do we do this? Because we’re in a city, space is limited, and espaliered trees are an attractive garden element.

The Liberty Apple is resistant to cedar-apple rust, apple scab, powdery mildew, and fire blight, all of which make apple growing difficult. The red-over-green apples ripen in early September. They were a little tart for Garden Chef Christina Curry’s recipe. A sweet apple, like the Fuji apple, would work well in this recipe. If the apples in your kitchen are tart, do what Chef Christina did on the day of the cooking demo: add some agave nectar to the recipe to sweeten it up.

This recipe is a marinated version of coleslaw. In other words, it does not use mayonnaise. Chef Christina recommends replacing mayonnaise with a combination of olive oil, vinegar, and honey. Fresh sage from the Edible Garden will also boost the flavor.

In this demo, Chef Christina used a Japanese Mandolin to julienne the apples. The Napa or Chinese cabbage in the recipe can usually be found in the store next to the bok choy.

Apple & Napa Cabbage Slaw with Sage

2 apples
juice of one lemon
1 small head Napa cabbage
1/2 small red onion
2 T sage, chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 T infused white balsamic*
honey or agave nectar, to taste, optional
kosher salt & cracked black pepper, to taste

Use a mandolin, or hand chop, to julienne the apples. Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples to prevent browning. Julienne the Napa cabbage and red onion. In a large bowl, combine apples, cabbage, red onion and sage. Drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar and toss gently. If apples are tart, add a little honey or agave nectar to taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a side or to compliment to your favorite fish or pork dish.

* Choose any flavor of white balsamic that you enjoy

Explore more Garden Chef recipes here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Grilled Pepper Hummus

Peppers can be fun to grow because there are so many different kinds and flavors to choose from. This year we grew ‘Early Sunsation’ Bell Pepper in the Edible Garden. Peppers like warm soil and full sun. The plants will stop producing fruit if left unpicked. So harvest away!

Garden Chef Christina Curry gave visitors some great tips on how to use peppers in hummus. You can roast them in the oven, throw them on the grill, or even turn them over the flame on a gas stove. The green ones tend to cook faster, so you want to remove them from the heat sooner than the rest. After they are cooked, throw the peppers in a paper bag to steam them. Do not rinse. You can use a paper towel to quickly wipe off the charred parts, if you so desire.

Before putting your chick peas in the food processor, be sure to rinse them. You don’t want the residual brine from the can to ruin the flavor.

Ideally, you want to use tahini paste (not tahini sauce) for this recipe. The paste is less watery. Tahini can have a bitter taste, but Middle Eastern or Greek tahini is less bitter than the kinds that come from East Asia. Tahini paste can be found at most natural food stores. It comes from sesame seeds, so it will be located near the peanut butter and other nut butters. Sesame oil can be used as a substitute in a pinch.

Grilled Pepper Hummus

2 bell peppers
2 T + 1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chickpeas
1 clove garlic
3 T lemon juice
2 T tahini
flat leaf parsley, to taste
kosher salt & black pepper, to taste

To grill the peppers, remove the seeds and cut into pieces. Coat lightly with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill over high heat until tender. Allow the peppers to cool and gently remove the skin. Place the peppers along with remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with toasted French bread or pita chips.

Explore more Garden Chef recipes here.

Vanilla Cocktails and the Science Cafe

It's hard to believe, but the end of the 2011 Science Cafe series is almost here. Thursday, October 20 is the sixth and final event for the season, and we are thrilled to have Matt Richards, Atlanta Botanical Garden Conservation Coordinator, as our guest speaker. His discussion will focus on native orchids and conservation, and the event will take place in the Fuqua Orchid Center during Fest-of-Ale. Guests are invited to sample our evolutionary cocktail, which features flavoring from the vanilla orchid, and enjoy a pre-Cafe discussion.

The Orchid Display House has grown so vast that it includes species from Madagascar, Ecuador, Australia, Central America, Mexico, and Asia. You may pick up the scent of vanilla, because this comes from the seed capsule of several species of orchids of the genus Vanilla. In fact, you can find a different species of Vanilla at the base of each cedar post in the display house.

Come to this month's Science Cafe, and see how many scents and tastes you can spot in the vanilla orchid cocktail. Stick around for Matt’s discussion, and learn about the evolution of these intoxicating orchid flowers.

With the support of the Atlanta Science Tavern, the Science Cafe series is sponsored by the Center for Chemical Evolution. Science Cafe is held every third Thursday between May and October. Admission to the Garden is free for members and $18.95 for non-members and includes access to Fest-of-Ale. Evolutionary cocktails are $7, wine is $6, and beer is $5. For more information, visit

Friday, October 7, 2011

Preserving and Pickling

We were honored to have Steven Satterfield, Chef and Owner of Miller Union, here to teach a class on preserving and pickling on Saturday, August 13. Here’s a series of snapshots from the afternoon in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen.

Keep an eye on the list of classes at the Atlanta Botanical Garden for more preserving sessions in 2012.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Tomatillos are a staple of Latin American cuisine and are often used in green sauces. Even though tomatillos are sometimes called "green tomatoes," they should not be confused with green, unripe tomatoes. Tomatoes are in the same family as tomatillos, but a different genus. Tomatillos are a great fruit to grow at home because ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed first.

When growing tomatillos, it is important to keep in mind that they are self-incompatible, which means you need to have two plants that are genetically different enough to create fruit and viable seed. In other words, if you had just one tomatillo plant you would not get fruit. If you only have one tomatillo planted in your yard and you still get fruit, there must be another plant planted closely enough, for pollinators to carry the pollen of one plant to the other.

For her salsa recipe, Garden Chef Megan McCarthy threw some 'Purple Coban' tomatillos on the grill and roasted the rest in a cast iron pan.

Making your own salsa at home is quick and easy, as long as you have a food processor and a few key, fresh ingredients. It’s good for you too, as many commercial salsas contain preservatives and other undesirables.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb tomatillos, husked
1 Red Fresno chile pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
½ sweet onion, peeled and quartered
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
juice of ½ fresh lime
salt and pepper to taste

Place the tomatillos, whole chile, garlic cloves, and onion in a dry, cast iron pan. Roast on medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until all ingredients have charred a bit and tomatillos have softened. Remove from pan and allow to slightly cool. Remove seeds from chile pepper. Place ingredients in food processor and pulse. Add in cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Salsa can be warmed in saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes if mellower flavor is desired. Serve with favorite tortilla chips or as a sauce over chicken and fish.

Alternative roasting methods: Place whole tomatillos under the broiler on a baking sheet and roast for about 8 minutes, turning a few times. Grilling is also a great way to roast tomatillos.

Find more Garden Chef recipes here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Weekend Wrap-Up

Chocolate comes from the fruit (or pod) of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. You can see cacao trees growing in the Fuqua Conservatory at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. On September 10-11, 2011 the Garden celebrated the cacao tree with cooking demos, tasting tables, games and crafts during Chocolate-Covered Weekend. Here are a few highlights and recipes.

These are cacao (or cocoa) beans. You probably don’t see these very often because they don’t taste good and it takes a lot of time and equipment to turn them into tasty chocolate.
Many fascinated visitors discovered the process of bean to bar in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen thanks to Chef Robert Gerstenecker from Park 75 at The Four Seasons Hotel. The restaurant makes their own chocolate from raw cacao beans!
Park 75’s three back to back demos on Sunday ended in a sweet treat featuring the “homemade” chocolate.
Sugar-Coated Radical explored Savory with Chocolate.
These Atlanta Cupcake Factory delights might look too cute to eat but that didn’t slow down the visitors.
Cynthia Wong, Pastry Chet at Empire State South encouraged the crowd not to be afraid of ganache. Her recipe is below if you’d like to confront your fear of ganache at home.

Halloween Spice Candy Bars
by Cynthia Wong of Empire State South

Line an 8”x 8” square pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl over simmering water, gently melt:
8 oz milk chocolate

Fold in:
1/2 c crushed cornflakes or puffed rice cereal

Spread in the paper-lined pan and refrigerate until set.

Once the base layer is set, make the ganache topping, as follows:
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil:
1/2 c heavy cream
1 T butter
3 T maple syrup
1/8 tsp each: ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice

Pour the boiling cream mixture over:
8 ounces dark chocolate in a medium bowl

Put the chocolate and cream mixture back over a pot of gently simmering water. Let melt and stir to combine. Spread evenly over the crispy base. Chill until firm. Cut into small pieces and enjoy!

Garden Chef Megan McCarthy kept her chocolate recipe light and fresh!

Fresh Berries with Chocolate Sauce and Mint

½ cup water
¼ cup evaporated cane sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup agave nectar
1 oz bittersweet or unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
fresh mint, chopped
1 cup each, fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, combined

Combine water and cane sugar in saucepan and heat on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cocoa powder and agave nectar and bring up to a boil and remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and stir until melted and texture is smooth. Add in vanilla and stir. Let cool. Drizzle chocolate sauce over fresh berries and garnish with fresh chopped mint.

Keep an eye out for Chocolate-Covered Weekend in 2012. It’s the most indulgent time to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden!