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

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