Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
I love to poke around and see what the experts do-then follow their advice. No one can resist getting sage advice from those who are most knowledgeable at Homestead Gardens and can you imagine the tips and skills you absorb when you work there?
Bonnie shared some of her gardening stories-successful and not-but that is what gardening is all about-exploration, failure and success. Ms Finlay plans all of the internal and external events and festivals at Homestead Gardens. She wears a few other hats as well which include manager/buyer of gourmet foods, produce, cafe and grill manager and…whew that list goes on and on. Not to mention producing all of demos and food events for the many festivals: Tomato Festival, Fall Fest, Ladies Night, Spring Flower Show.
So now you can tell that Bonnie must have a ton of energy to see her through all of these tasks. Another aside is that if you’ve ever given an event at Homestead Gardens, you realize how large the Davidsonville space is and that takes a lot of running back and forth. A segue vehicle is a soothing thought, however Bonnie seems to handle the miles!
It was February 14 and we were talking this week about some of Bonnie’s greatest loves…her horse and rabbit. Just at that moment a beautiful red rose bouquet was delivered from her human sweetie. Bonnie’s face turned almost as red as those roses. Aha…there’s a guy in the picture! Very cute! (see photo)
So back to her pets. As we chatted about what Bonnie first grew in her apartment container edible garden, all of the elements were with Toby, the bunny, in mind; four different kinds of basil as it appears all varieties of basil are his favorite. I adored the story of the lazy gardener tip from Gene Sumi on “Pillow Beds”: Buy a large bag of potting soil. Lay it on the surface and slit open the top. Plant your seeds directly in the pillow. Cover all with mulch for the visual tidying up! Then there are the lettuces-primarily with Toby in mind. These containers and pillow gardens were atop a roof in the building where Bonnie lives.
Since the rooftop has been now been claimed by a money making restaurant, Bonnie has snagged a new plot in the ground at her sweetheart’s yard. She’ll probably go with a raised bed to avoid having to test and then rebuild the soil-a sure fail way to go. One element that most of the folks at Homestead Gardens swear by is Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed (the blue label). Leafgrow is another natural product which makes the garden sing!
Here are some of the favorites Bonnie shared with me and by the way, many of the plants will be in both locations of Homestead Gardens in time for the Edibles Weekend-April 16 and 17:
- Chef Jeff’s Asian Jade cucumber
- Butter Crunch lettuce
- Spring Mix
- Sungold tomatoes
- Red bell peppers
- Thai basil
- Genovase basil
Of course it is only fitting that Bonnie share some of her favorite recipes for the produce she grows:
Cucumber, Onion Salad
Makes 3-4 cups
Leave the skin on the cucumbers to give some body to the salad as the cucumbers soften when they are salted.
- 2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 onion sliced thin
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup white or apple vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- Dash of freshly ground pepper
Place the cucumbers and onions in a medium bowl and toss with salt. Drain off any liquid. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Refrigerate for about 2 hours before serving to season.
Optimally, let sit overnight in the refrigerator to season.
Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce)
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
No one likes a runny Tzatziki sauce is the 1st rule you need to know when making this simple classic Middle Eastern yogurt sauce. The trick is to use a very thick yogurt and drain some of the liquid from the cucumbers before combining. Bonnie likes it topping grilled fish and you’ll usually find it gracing a gyros.
- 3 cups Greek Yogurt (or regular plain yogurt, strained to thicken)
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 2 medium Asian Jade cucumbers, diced
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt for salting cucumbers
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (can substitute mint leaves, if desired
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Mix the ingredients together. Refrigerate 1 hour to season before serving.