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Chef Gardens - Growing for the Kitchen

June 28, 2017

VFN member chefs and restaurant staff have an appreciation for - and often an obsession with - fresh, local, unique ingredients. Vermont farmers provide the bulk of their needs, but a natural curiosity drives many chefs to the garden as well. After all, there's nothing like mint picked fresh from the window box and smacked into a cocktail or finally picking the tomato you've been watching ripen to perfection out of your kitchen window. We asked VFN members about their kitchen gardens that come in all shapes, sizes and scales.

Tip Top Cafe (soon to be renamed Thyme - how appropriate!), White River Junction 

TipTop

 

How does your garden grow? 

"We have two stock tanks in front of our building that I planted with herbs and edible flowers for restaurant use. I have our planters on our patio planted with lettuces mostly for decoration but we do eventually eat them for staff meal."

What's growing?

"Chocolate and peppermint, parsley, oregano, sage, lavender, lemon thyme, viola, and nasturtiums."

American Flatbread - Middlebury Hearth, Middlebury     

FlatbreadMidd

How does your garden grow?

"We have a small kitchen garden, with two beds that are approximately 16' X 11' each.  We put extra work into it this year with the help of a class from the local high school and a few staff members with specialty skills (carpentry, permaculture)."

What's growing? 

"We just redid the garden to focus on herbs that we use in smaller quantities, mint in raised beds (we sell a lot of mojitos) and flowers that can be used for bud vases, garnish, and/or salads.  The roster of plants this season includes mint, thyme (3 varieties), sage, chives, oregano, tarragon, borage, calendula, gomphrena, celosia, marigolds, nasturtiums, bachelor buttons, statice, zinnias, flax and a flowering sage variety. We also have some rhubarb, horseradish, daisies, violets, and the stray clover or two."

What's garden-fresh on your menu? 

"Last week's salad special was watermelon, local radish, and local feta with mint, marigolds, violets, and calendula from the garden.  A recent dessert (Rum lime mint tart with raspberry honey whipped chevre) got some nice color and flavor from mint, marigolds, borage and gomphrena from the garden."

Champlain Valley Union High School, Hinesburg

 

How does your garden grow?

"CVU High School has a garden in which we grow vegetables for use vegetables in the Cafe. We have received some delicious produce each year for the school cafe and have plans to continue to do so!" 

Edson Hill, Stowe

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How does your garden grow?

"One of our General Mangers Jesse Stacy deign and manages the kitchen garden every year."

What's growing? 

"Perennial and annual herbs, lettuces and edible and cut flowers for the restaurant."

New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier

 

How does your garden grow? 

"We have two gardens - one with raised beds and one has traditional rows. Both produce vegetables, herbs, and flowers that we use on our menus like sorrel, herbs, flowers, lettuce, hops, and garlic."  

What advice can you offer for someone looking to grow a kitchen garden?

"Start small, get comfortable with how you are adapting to the soil and what grows. Patience is a must!"

The Perfect Wife, Manchester

PerfectWife

How does your garden grow? 

"Our garden is a thing of beauty. I am sure that no one else has a garden like mine and I owe it all to Tom Biggs. He is so meticulous and the love he has put into the design and preservation of The Perfect Wife vegetable and cutting garden is unparalleled."

What's garden-fresh on your menu? 

"We are garnishing our plates with fresh edible flowers and herbs every day and waiting patiently to harvest the tomatoes, beans, arugula, and beets (and not necessarily in that order)."

Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury

 

How does your garden grow? 

"We have several large gardens with 2full-timee gardeners, 1 part time gardener and several resident athletes who work in the gardens as well."

What's garden-fresh on your menu?

"Last year we had a bumper crop of spaghetti squash and noticed that it wasn't storing well. We always store some of the winter squashes ourselves in dry storage until the time comes to do a big processing. Well, the time came all of the sudden with our 2016 spaghetti squash, so we roasted, salted, drained and froze.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the squash had great texture, gently heated after the freezing process. We sautéed yellow onions in olive oil and butter until soft, added our thawed spaghetti squash, finished with freshly grated nutmeg and topped with pesto and roasted halves of cherry tomatoes. It delighted people for 3 reasons, it was delicious, it was new to many, and let's admit that anything topped with pesto is usually a hit." 

Hinesburgh Public House, Hinesburg

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What's growing?

"We have 3 raised beds just outside kitchen door growing parsley, cilantro, hot peppers, oregano, edible flowers, thyme. We also have a patch of mint for use in our cocktails."

What's garden-fresh on your menu?

"Most entrees are garnished with flowers. Cilantro and hot peppers are featured in our Wednesday night Mexican specials."

Long Trail Brewing Company, Bridgewater Corners 

 

How does your garden grow? 

"We have a garden located on our patio that is maintained by a staff member growing a variety of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce for our menu and specials. We use raised beds and a lot of love."    

 What's garden-fresh on your menu?

"We use our custom grown produce on our spinach and wedge salad. We also use leeks grown in our garden for our famous Long Trail Cheddar Ale Soup."

American Flatbread at Lareau Farm, Waitsfield

Lareau

How does your garden grow?

"Our garden was begun years ago by the owner, George Schenk, as an effort to increase our restaurant's local and organic offerings.  We now have two dedicated gardeners who care for pigs, chickens, turkeys, and multiple gardens on the property.In line with our founder's philosophy, we focus on our stewardship of the earth.  We preserve milkweed for the butterflies and plant wildflowers for the honeybees.  Food waste from the restaurant is fed to our pigs, which will then appear on flatbreads in the fall, bringing the whole process full circle."         

What's growing?

"In our garden, we grow anything and everything that could be served on a flatbread or salad.  We grow garlic, tomatoes, and eggplant for our breads, butter lettuce and arugula for our salads, and mint for our desserts.  We serve fresh and local eggs for breakfast at our Inn every morning."        

What advice can you offer for someone looking to grow a kitchen garden?

"Start small, share with neighbors, be playful in the garden, and always have patience.  One year, your zucchini plant may produce over 30 fruits but your tomatoes fall to blight; trade with neighbors and enjoy the variety that our land has to offer."

Michaels on the Hill, Waterbury Center

 

What's growing? 

"Mostly herbs and edible flowers, with a few items that also supplement our menu with most items coming from our local farm partners, like pansies, mint, bee balm, chives, bachelor's buttons, calendula, anise hyssop, lemon balm, basil, lemon thyme, parsley, sage, amaranth, rosemary, sweet peas, rhubarb, zucchini-fruit/blossom, grapes/fruit/leaves, wild raspberries, and cutting flowers."

What's garden-fresh on your menu?

"Lemon Thyme Gin Fizz and Strawberry Rhubarb Pistachio Crisp with Grand Marnier Ice Cream."     

The Inn at Weathersfield, Perkinsville

Weathersfield

How does your garden grow?  

"We have 14 raised beds at the Inn and I have 20 raised beds at home where we grow as many heirloom and interesting vegetables as we can for the Inn."

What's growing?

"4 kinds of potatoes, 3 kinds of kale, 5 kinds of peas, 2 kinds of chard, 4 kinds of garlic, 3 kinds of cucumbers, 5 kinds of hot peppers, 3 kinds zucchini, 15 kinds of herbs, broccoli rabe, 2 kinds of beets, 6 kinds of radishes, 2 kinds turnips, 6 kinds of lettuce, 15 kinds of tomatoes, 2 kinds of amaranth, 6 kinds of sunflowers, 2 kinds of calendula, borage, 5 kinds of nasturtium, rhubarb, 9 kinds of apples, 2 kinds of beach plums, 2 kinds of pears (new this season), 2 kinds of onions, 6-8 kinds of zinnias, 3 kinds of snapdragons..."

What's garden-fresh on your menu?

"Tarragon roasted VT rabbit loin, turnip greens, scarlet and hakurei turnips with fermented brown mustard and chocolate mint ice cream."         

 Shelburne Farms, Shelburne

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How does your garden grow?

"We have a 7-acre vegetable garden, along with 120 dairy cattle for cheese making and a smaller beef herd. We also raise lamb for the restaurant and produce maple syrup."               

What's garden-fresh on your menu?

"Feast of the Fields - I like to highlight all of the produce from the garden.  Each vegetable is treated separately and either grilled, roasted, poached, left raw or pickled. I think of it like a butcher board for vegetables."

 

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