It is summertime and the livin’ is easy—that is if you are at home in the a.c. with a long, tall cool drink of lemonade or iced tea. I have been out on the road, giving lectures and visiting public as well as private gardens. Fortunately, I am with like-minded people, those who like to garden and cook, so we get along even in this heat. This heat is stretching from coast-to-coast—everyone whom I come in contact with reports that this is the hottest summer and highest long-running temperatures—since they can remember.
So we go out and harvest herbs and bring them in before they wilt, cut their stems again and put them in jars of water. In between gathering, I go about and take photos until I have to go inside to cool off. It is essential that we hydrate continually while we are out in hot weather and most important to wear a hat and apply sunblock, take breaks under the shade of trees.
Recently I have visited the St. Louis Botanical Gardens and last weekend I gave two programs at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, in conjunction with the Herb Society of America unit there. They are a great bunch of gals and we had a good turnout. The theme of my program was the Mediterranean Herbs—in the morning we identified a number of them by passing them so we could smell and taste them and discussed their cultivation—and in the afternoon I did a cooking demo with the herbs. I arrived a day early in order to prep the ingredients for my cooking demo and four members came to help me. The gardeners at the conservatory harvested and washed herbs and vegetables from the gardens in advance. After getting everything ready in the new Education Pavilion, we had a delightful potluck dinner at one of the member’s homes, whose gardens had recently been featured in Columbus Magazine. We were fortunate to get a personal tour of the lovely and extensive gardens there.
The next morning, we got up early and went to the gardens to get ready, harvest last minute herbs, and I wanted to get some pix. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus was built last year and I am amazed at how it has filled in. It is a wonderful facility with many plots in the Culinary Gardens; a Chef’s Allee complete with Summer Kitchen, a Live Fire Cooking Theatre and wood-fired oven; an Apiary and Workyard with a Pollinators’ Garden; a Berry House and Yard; a Serenity Garden of the Muses; and a large number of community garden plots. The plots are cared for by groups and individuals and they grow a huge variety of herbs and vegetables and are well cared for. It is a fresh, vital, inspiring space right near downtown with a potential for great community interaction, greenspace and educational events.
I was able to gather herbs for my programs right outside the classroom and we had an exciting day, with a visit to the Conservatory, Café and Gift Shop in between. If any of you are traveling to Ohio, make a visit to these gardens and the conservatory a destination point.
I will post one of the recipes this weekend that I prepared, Salsa Verde, which is a green herb sauce. The sauce changes seasonally—right now I use basil, arugula, fennel, parsley and whatever else is available—in the spring I might use chickweed, watercress and sorrel, while late in the season I might use nasturtium leaves, a second round of basil, perhaps a bit of chard or kale, or whatever else is left in the garden. Use this sauce with just about anything; I like it with raw vegetable crudités, grilled or steamed vegetables, on bread, and it is good with fish or fowl.