Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gourmet in May

May Day, Mother’s Day, Cinquo de Mayo: The month of May, with its warmer weather, has always been a month for celebrations and festivity. And festivity, of course, means food! So the Edible Garden, with its fresh, oh-so-pickable produce, became a focal point for our programs, demonstrations, classes and activities, all of which we referred to as “Gourmet in May.”

Loquat tree in the Edible Garden

Visitors stopped by the “Nibbles” tent on weekends to taste something from the Edible Garden or a local company. They loved the popcorn with rosemary salt (recipe below), but the most popular Nibble, by far, was the loquat, also known as the Japanese plum. It comes from the fruit tree Eriobotrya japonica, which is native to southeastern China and easy to grow in subtropical to mild temperate climates. The pretty loquat fruit, similar to peaches, apricots, and plums, has a delicious citrus flavor akin to mild mango.


Herbs are a necessity in any kitchen. Because they are so easy to grow, they often act as a gateway to more intensive gardening. During Gourmet in May we offered many opportunities for visitors to learn more about herbs, including a “Plant a Basil Seed” station (for those just getting started), a Make & Take Herb Garden (for the more ambitious), and an Herb Bouquet station (for those wanting something to cook with that night).

An herb bouquet or “bouquet garni” (French for “garnished bouquet”) is a bundle of herbs tied together with string and used to season soup, stock or stews. This way, the herbs are boiled with the other ingredients but can be removed easily once cooking is complete.
Visitors of all ages enjoyed making herb bouquets to take home.  Some even practiced their new knot-tying skills!

Kids in the Kitchen 

Other Gourmet in May offerings included cooking classes for children.  In Gourmet Parfait, a Drop-In Family Class, young chefs learned how to make granola, yogurt, and strawberry sauce from scratch. Garden Breakfast, a more intensive Drop-Off Kids Class, included harvesting basil from the Edible Garden, learning how to crack eggs for the Garden Scramble, and the class favorite - making Berry Good Pancakes.  Keep an eye out for the next Drop-Off Kids Class, Grilled Garden Pizzas, later this summer.


Strawberries are one of the first crops of the year in Georgia and excellent for preserving.  During Gourmet in May weekends, volunteers shared the history of canning, tools for the job, and a strawberry jam recipe (included below).  Visitors interested in the entire process attended a demonstration by Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put ‘em Up, on May 15th in the Outdoor Kitchen.  Students in the Basics of Jam Making class on May 28 learned how to prepare and can a delicious Strawberry Mint Jam from Gina Bodell of Emily G’s.  If you are disappointed about missing these preserving programs, it’s not too late!  Keep an eye out for Basics of Jelly Making with Gina Bodell and Preserving and Pickling with Steven Satterfield of Miller Union later this summer.

Rosemary Salt

½ C fresh rosemary
1 C coarse kosher salt or sea salt crystals

Rough chop rosemary in a food processor for 30 seconds. Add the salt and process until the rosemary leaves are similar size to the grains of salt. Spread the rosemary salt on a cookie sheet to dry and store in an airtight container. Use to season things from meats to popcorn.

Classic Strawberry Jam
 Makes about 3 ½ cups

8 cups strawberries, hulled and halved if large
2 cups sugar
¼ cup bottled lemon juice
  1. Toss the strawberries and sugar in a large bowl and macerate overnight to coax out the fruit’s juice.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a large nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring and crushing to release the juice. Stir in the lemon juice. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches the desired gel, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the jam rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.
Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot half-pint canning jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
Recipe from Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton, used with permission from Storey Publishing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mache Greens with Blueberries and Avocado

Over the winter, the Garden grew mache, also known as lamb’s lettuce. It grows well in cold weather, can survive in the winter, and is one of the first leafy greens to sprout in early spring, but don’t let its hardy temperament fool you. The leaf is delicate and crisp, with a mild, sweet, gentle flavor. It offers a nice alternative to more common mesclun lettuces, like arugula and watercress, which can be bitter.

‘Tiftblue’ Rabbiteye Blueberry
Vaccinium ashei
According to the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Georgia is “the #3 blueberry growing state.” It has the longest growing season, lasting from late April through the end of July. Three types of blueberries are grown in Georgia: rabbiteye, southern highbush, and northern highbush. The rabbiteye blueberry, native to south Georgia, north Florida, and southeast Alabama, is the most productive and easiest to grow in Georgia.

Garden Chef Megan McCarthy is back this summer serving up tasty treats in our Outdoor Kitchen on the weekends. Who better to get you out of your salad rut?

Chef Megan dicing scallions and teaching, as visitors watch and listen.

Mache Greens with Blueberries and Avocado

4 oz mache greens (lamb’s lettuce)
1 tsp fig balsamic vinegar
½ tsp lime juice
3 T roasted walnut oil
sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste
½ pint of fresh blueberries
2 scallions, diced
1 ripe avocado, pitted and cross cut

Place mache greens in large bowl. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, lime juice, walnut oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette over greens and toss. Add blueberries, scallions and avocado. Gently toss again and serve.

Find printable versions of the Garden Chef recipes here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Baby Spinach & Strawberry Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

Garden Chef Christina Curry has all of the ingredients lined up and ready for the demonstrations.

The strawberry season in Georgia lasts from April through June.  While we do grow strawberries in the Edible Garden, visitors love them, not to mention animals, so there are a limited number we can harvest.  

For demos and classes, we supplement our strawberry patch with farmer’s market or store bought strawberries.

Baby Spinach & Strawberry Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

4 cups baby spinach, cleaned
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 T white balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 T shallot, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
goat cheese (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the spinach and strawberries.  In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, Dijon mustard and shallot.  While whisking, slowly add the olive oil until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the dressing over the spinach and strawberries.  Gently toss together.  Serve with crumbled goat cheese if desired.

Find printable versions of the Garden Chef recipes here.

Our visitors aren’t the only ones who think the Outdoor Kitchen is cozy.  Some baby robins with big appetites were nesting above us that day.  (Thankfully, not above the food prep area!)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Return of the Garden Chef

Garden Chef Christina Curry is back in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen for her second season, providing free cooking demonstrations for visitors every Saturday and Sunday, May through October. The demonstrations were so well-attended that we decided to add two additional demonstrations per weekend. You can now stop by the Outdoor Kitchen at noon, 1 p.m. or 2 p.m., sit down in the shade, and watch a master at work! Chef Christina provides quick and informative tips on how to cook tasty dishes that are enjoyed in warmer weather, with a focus on using fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally. The demonstrations are about 20-30 minutes long.

“Does the Garden Chef distribute samples of her delectable concoctions?” you ask. Why, yes, of course! What would a cooking demonstration be without samples?

The cooking demonstrations in early May presented a challenge.  There wasn’t much to harvest in the Edible Garden at that time, as most of the fruits and veggies aren’t ready until summer.  But we had rosemary bushes!  In the photo above, you can see the row of rosemary just behind the millet.

We premiered Gourmet in May at the Atlanta Botanical Garden this year.  Chef Christina pleased the May Day crowd with her Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Rosemary Gremolata.  Pink peppercorns (far right) were used in the marinade.  Interestingly, these are not actually peppercorns but are a spice made from the dried berries of the Baies rose plant, Schinus molle.  With a delicate, sweet, and spicy flavor, and a rich rose color, they add a touch of elegance to any cuisine.

Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Rosemary Gremolata

1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup olive oil
3 T pink peppercorns
2 tsp kosher salt
1 lb flat iron steak
4 sprigs rosemary
kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine red wine, olive oil, pink peppercorns and salt. Mix together and pour over steak. Add the springs of rosemary and marinate for a half hour. Remove from the marinade and drain any excess. Season with salt and pepper. Grill on high until steak reaches desired temperature, flipping once. Allow the steak to rest before slicing.

Rosemary Gremolata

1/4 cup rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 T lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve over sliced flat iron steak.

Find printable versions of the Garden Chef recipes here.