Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What a Season!

2012 was a very busy season in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen. Over 10,000 visitors attended a Garden Chef cooking demonstration. The Outdoor Kitchen was also used for three glorious weeks of summer camp (ages 4–6 or 7–10). On top of demonstrations and camps, the Garden offers an assortment of classes ranging from Pickling & Preserving to Chocolate in Five Courses to The Well-Seasoned Chef Series. In fact, we held 44 cooking classes in the Outdoor Kitchen this season between April and November! Here’s a photo journey of this spectacular season of classes: 

Sautéed Shrimp and Kale over Grits (in the largest cast iron pan!) artfully created by Marie Nygren, The Farmhouse at Serenbe, The Well-Seasoned Chef Series

Farm Burgers with Sautéed Swiss Chard, Grilled Onions and Herbed Goat Cheese

Chef Eddie Hernandez, Taquería del Sol, Fresh Plates Series

Chef Steven Satterfield, Miller Union, The Well-Seasoned Chef Series

Chef Gillespie’s Sweet and Sour Garden Cucumbers with Dill, Charred Fennel, Compressed Radish, and Whipped Chevre

Chef Turbush’s Pimento Cheese Crostini

Chef David Gross of MARKET Buckhead plates his Frisee and Goat Cheese Salad with Pickled Peach and Crystallized Wasabi for the Fresh Plates Series

Chef Anthony Gray and Chef Art Smith, Southern Art, The Well-Seasoned Chef Series

Chef Ron Eyester of Rosebud’s Breakfast Casserole, Brunch in the Garden

These wonderful classes and series are listed on the Atlanta Botanical Garden's website on the Classes page.  Registration for April 2013 classes will begin by the end of December.  Check back often and register early - seats are limited.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sweet Potato Season

Three varieties of sweet potatoes thrived in the Edible Garden this summer: ‘Georgia Jet,’ ‘Carolina Ruby,’ and ‘All Purple.’  By the middle of September, we had a bumper crop of beautiful, but not quite ready, sweet potatoes.  It takes time for the roots to sweeten and develop a moist texture.  We piled the sweet potatoes in crates and cured them inside for a few weeks before using them for cooking demonstrations and classes.  They lasted for many, many demos and classes!  Enjoy these simple and delicious Garden Chef recipes this fall.

Gingered Sweet Potatoes

4 organic sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
2 T fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
¾ cup coconut milk beverage
3 T maple syrup or agave nectar
1 T extra-virgin coconut oil
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 pinch sea salt
½ cup pecans, toasted

Cover sweet potatoes with salted water to boil.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain sweet potatoes.  In food processor, pulse ginger to mince.  Add cooked sweet potatoes, coconut milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, nutmeg and sea salt.  Pulse sweet potatoes in food processor until desired consistency.  Top with toasted pecans to serve.

Recipe by Garden Chef Megan McCarthy

Coconut Whipped Sweet Potato

1 lb sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/3 cup coconut cream
3 T honey
1 tsp cinnamon
toasted coconut, to garnish

Place the sweet potato in a pot, cover with water and simmer until fork tender.  Drain well and place into a food processor.  Add the coconut cream, honey and cinnamon.  Blend until smooth and serve with toasted coconut on top.

Recipe by Garden Chef Christina Curry

Grilled Sweet Potato and Thyme Hummus

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
3 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ tsp sea salt, divided
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 T sesame tahini
1 lemon, juiced
½ tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 T fresh thyme

Preheat grill or grill pan to high heat.  Slice sweet potatoes into ¾-inch thick wedges.  In large bowl, toss wedges with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil until coated and season with ¼ teaspoon sea salt.  Place wedges on hot grill and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning once, or until potato is tender.  

In food processor, mince garlic.  Add grilled sweet potatoes, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.  Pulse mixture until smooth.  Add fresh thyme and pulse until blended.  Serve with baby carrots or toasted pita bread.

Recipe by Garden Chef Megan McCarthy

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Paw Paw Patch

Colleen Golden, Atlanta Botanical Garden Senior Horticulturist of the Edible Garden, writes about a particular patch of interesting trees.

Asimina triloba, or Paw Paw, is the largest fruit native to the eastern United States, yet many people have never heard of it.  At the Atlanta Botanical Garden, we have a handful of paw paw trees in the beds adjacent to the edible amphitheater.  I grew up singing a song about paw paws that some might be familiar with, something about being “way down yonder in the paw paw patch.”  But in my entire life I had never seen a paw paw tree or tasted a fruit.  Consequently, I have been very excited for our paw paws to fruit and have paid very special attention to them each year, first noticing the non showy burgundy flowers that emerge before the leaves in the spring and then searching for any sign of fruit set in vain.  People suggested the trees had not made any fruit because they weren’t old enough yet, but others gave this advice: since paw paw flowers are pollinated by flies and beetles hang raw chicken necks on the branches when the trees are in bloom to attract pollinators.  Gross!  I knew that latter nugget of advice would not fly here at the Garden.  Don’t worry, I have good news, apparently seedlings will fruit when they get about six feet tall.  We harvested our first fruit in August sans a raw chicken gallows!

One fruit, one intoxicatingly fragrant kidney shaped greenish-yellow fruit.  Other common names for the paw paw include Poor Man’s Banana, Custard Apple and Hoosier Banana.  The skin is thin, and cutting through the middle reveals a handful of large lima bean shaped brown seeds and a soft creamy colored pulp.  We ate it straight out of the skin with a spoon although it is said to be good in ice creams and pies as well.  It tastes like a cross between a banana and a mango - really delicious.  It is actually a very healthy fruit rich in manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper and amino acids. 

A paw paw is a deciduous small tree or large shrub.  It is the only temperate member of the tropical Annonaceae family which includes other delicious fruits like soursop (guanabana) and custard apple.  In the wild, the plant grows along streams or ravines in full sun or shade.  Optimum fruit set happens in the full sun; however, the first year or two after planting the trees can benefit from a little shade.  The term ‘paw paw patch’ comes from the plant’s ability to produce root suckers.  If these suckers are allowed to grow and produce suckers of their own a patch is formed.  The seeds contain alkaloids and are toxic if eaten.  These same toxic chemicals served early settlers well as they would used crushed seeds as an insecticide.  Paw paws are not self fertile so make sure to plant at least two unrelated trees to ensure fruit set.