GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2005 show26
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Show #26

This week we're visiting an elegant resort and fine dining establishment in Woodinville Washington located in western Washington state, just outside of Seattle. Their beautiful gardens are also functional and include herbs, edible flowers and unusual vegetables. The resort is the Willows Lodge and the restaurant is The HerbFarm. The HerbFarm started as a nursery 30 years ago as an outlet to grow and sell herbs. It has since expanded to include classes on organic vegetable growing, a line of herbal craft products and a world class restaurant where the guests learn about the food they'll be eating that night. In this show we learn about growing herbs and extending the herb season, how to grow unusual vegetables and how to make herbal syrups.

Carrie Van Dyck is the co-owner of the Herbfarm and fills us in on its' history. About 30 years ago her mother in law and father in law moved to Fall City, which is about 20 miles east of Seattle, to retire. They found a nice home, put in a little garden then found themselves with extra chives to give away. Her mother in law couldn't bare to throw them away, thus put them in little pots in a wheelbarrow by the road with a jar where one could put in money and make change. People bought the plants and they continued to grow new plants. Eventually they had over 300 varieties of herbs and put in some gardens so everyone could see what the plants looked like. They then built a garage so people could have a picnic lunch out of the weather while touring the gardens. At that point they asked their son Ron, Carrie's husband, and Carrie to join them in the business. Ron and Carrie expanded the selection of herb plants, put in a retail store, started a mail order business and initiated classes on cooking, growing and crafting with herbs. One of the classes was a luncheon where one could have an entire meal that featured herbs; it was an educational luncheon. They then started serving dinners and it became the Herbfarm Restaurant. It burned to the ground in January of '97 and they spent the next several years working through legislative issues to get the restaurant rebuilt in Fall City. When that became too daunting a task they moved to Woodinville, their present location. They now have some display gardens and a farm that supports the restaurant, which is the focus today. It is a 5 diamond restaurant, the only one west of Chicago and north of San Francisco, and the only one with pigs that you can visit before dinner. This restaurant is unique because the guests go into the garden before dinner and learn about what they'll be eating. They focus on seasonal, regional ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. They only serve foods that are in season and the garden drives what it is that will be on the menu. They never know until the last moment what will be the freshest and best. They look at that point what herbs EagleSong, the gardener, has grown, therefore what Jerry, the Chef, will be cooking. They try to expose people to new and different items. For example, Daylilies, they're sweet and delicate. Jerry the chef is an avid gardener, Carrie does some gardening but EagleSong is the head gardener and we next talk with her.

EagleSong has her hands in the soil and makes things grow year round. And her garden is beautiful. In it she has planted a lot of vegetables and definitely a lot of herbs. They have flowering herbs that they use on the table, some in the napkins and some in little bouquets on the table. They grew 114 different kinds of herbs last year, 102 vegetables between this garden and the farm. Now they're getting ready to transition the front gardens, the formal gardens, for the winter. They're tucking in Scented Geraniums and putting away plants that will die in the winter and trimming up the perennial herbs so that they are tidy and set for the winter. When you have an herb garden you will have annual herbs that are tender, like Basil. You will also have tender perennial herbs, like Lemon Geraniums as well as really hearty herbs. Thus some tender plants will be pulled out and others will need to be protected so they can make it through the winter. Today we're going to lift the Mable Gray geraniums and get them ready to go to the cold greenhouse, where will then live during the winter. The greenhouse isn't heated but is protected from the wind and rain, this is all that is needed in this mild climate. In the spring the geraniums will be placed back in the garden. This garden has beautiful herbs, some nice flowers that are edible as well as ornamental and some vegetables, as well. They grow a lot of vegetables and look for unique, unusual vegetables. For example, they have purple sprouting broccoli that comes on in March as do some of the winter cabbages. In the summer they look for unusual beans and potatoes. In the fall they have some nice lettuces, some kales, things that are cold hearty. This garden has one end that is a perennial garden, it has more Mediterranean herbs that need less water and sweeter soil. The far end has the salad crops, fast growing crops that turn over frequently. They require different watering strategies thus it helps to have different areas for the herbs and for salad greens.

EagleSong and Charlie start with a lemon geranium, it has a very strong scent and tastes great in sorbets. They will lift these plants out of the garden and take them to the cold greenhouse. EagleSong likes to take cuttings first, before she lifts the plants. With the cuttings go 3 nodes down when placing into the potting medium. She likes a mix of 50% vermiculite and perilite. With geraniums you want a mix with good drainage. They can then sit in a container over winter or keep a dozen in a small window box and keep them barely moist throughout the winter. One was done in the spring, it's well rooted and placed in a quart sized pot, they will now be held in the warmer greenhouse and it will be used as a production garden geranium next year. She also cuts the plants back a little so that they'll grow vigorously up when placed into the warmer climate of the greenhouse. This also provides a way to store some of the plant material. The leaves of this plant can be used in cooking or dried and later used in crafts. This process can be used for most geraniums. They next lift up the mother plant and repot it for transition to the greenhouse. Since you never know what size the root system will be within a year EagleSong has several different pots. You want enough room so that the plant doesn't really know that it has changed locations. Then top dress. This pot has a mix of pumice because they live around volcanoes, pumice is a good soil amendment since the geraniums want good drainage. This provides a lot of air in the dirt, gives them breathing room and then for winter you'll let the plant sit and the soil become almost totally dry in between waterings. When watering, barely water, but not much. Sometimes they will go 2 or 3 weeks without watering their geraniums, then give them enough water to keep the roots barely moistened. You want them to go to sleep, let them rest. When daylight starts to lengthen and temperatures start to warm, give them a shot of food and get them growing again. One reason they lift them and put them in a greenhouse is because early in the spring they use them in the kitchen and need the leafy production ready for their needs in the springtime. If doing this at home make sure you use well drained potting soil, then in early spring, February or March, even in a cold climate, bring them up into a sunny window, they will need as much sun as possible. They might even get a little leggy, if so snip them off and use them in dishes. Try to keep them bushy so that by May or June you can bring them outside. It will look beautiful.

They use an unusual mulch here. It's the shell of the hazelnut. Hazelnuts grow locally and they use a lot of hazelnuts in the restaurant. They buy the shells from the farm where they buy the hazelnuts and use them on their walkways. No matter where you're from it's nice to use local resources. In the south you might use pecan shells, in the southeast pine straw, but look around and find local products.

They also have succession plantings of vegetables. EagleSong and Charlie look at some lettuces. They have lettuces that are almost finished, new lettuces that were installed last week, then Lacinata kale which will be coming on for spring harvesting. When the old lettuce comes out they will be putting in cress and winter Asian brassicas to replace the lettuce. They can endure the colder weather and they make a beautiful bed that will go through much of the winter. The kales will hold the place until they bloom and then will use flowers in the early or late spring salads. Here they're planting for the fall, but if in a colder climate you can be planting for next spring, plants like spinach, kale or chard will survive the winter. Place a little hay or mulch when it gets very cold, then you'll have greens next spring. If in a real cold climate, a zone 4 or 5, you can actually over winter some of these crops, maybe mulch them a little in the late fall and get an early crop in the spring.

We next visit the farm, where the real production takes place. They are growing some unusual items. Several herbs, like Shiso or Perilla (Perilla frutescens) are available in green or red varieties. They have a very unique flavor, almost nutty with a touch of citrus and a very aromatic flavor. Jerry uses them to make a green apple shiso ice. And you can use it as a salad green when it's young and actually use the seeds as well. Use the tips in salads and the seeds when they start to form, they make a very piquant flavor to add to marinated salads and Japanese food. They also have some unusual basils and they do something different with the basil once the leaves are gone. Let it come up to its' blooming stage so it develops a nice long stem. Leave the basil in the ground until it freezes. At that point the basil wood is harvested. Cut it off and hang it in the greenhouse, the plant dries, the leaves are all gone, then the woody stem is used for smoking seafood, mussels, black cod. It is a very nice way to infuse that great basil flavor and adds an earthy, woody component to the food. It's a nice way to use basil after the season is done. After you've made your pesto, strip all the leaves off then come back and harvest after frost.

EagleSong next harvests some Bonus baby corn (Zea mais 'Bonus). It is similar to what we might find in a Chinese restaurant. It is grown for its small immature cob and is very sweet. It is picked when immature, the silks aren't even very long, only about an inch beyond the husk. This is a new variety developed in Washington state. The extension service developed this small corn as a specialty crop and it fits with the menu at the Herbfarm. Even the husk is sweet. To cook it peel back the husk and grill it, sometimes it's cut into bite sized pieces and they make a tempura, it can also be eaten raw. It tastes great.

Charlie notices a ground cherry similar to the one he grows with his daughter. It is a relative of the tomato, has a husk and is sometimes called the husk cherry (Physalis pruinosa). It is wrapped in a husk that when opened reveals a beautiful little fruit inside. At the restaurant they dip the fruit in white chocolate and that adds even more flavor. It has a cherry tomato flavor, is prolific and is a great thing to grow with kids. It always seems better when food can be eaten close to where it was picked.

Thank you EagleSong for the tour of these wonderful gardens. Your gardening philosophy and philosophy of life is refreshing. We have learned a lot. Thank you.

Jerry Traunfield is the executive chef at the Herbfarm. They serve nine course meals in the evening and have some elaborate recipes. But he also likes to show people how to use fresh herbs at home because he thinks they're amazing ingredients that enliven your food with little effort. He also likes simple recipes and will show us several today. He shows us 3 herbal syrups, each made with a different method and all sorts of things like toppings and beverages can be made with these syrups. These syrups make wonderful craft projects and are fun to give as gifts.

Jerry begins with a lavender syrup. It is a very straightforward syrup, basically syrup and water. If you wanted to add a little honey instead of sugar you could do that. In the pot he has 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar. He uses fresh lavender to infuse flavor. Everybody that's brewed a cup of tea has already infused herbs because it's the same thing. Take the hot boiling liquid, add herbs, let it steep, then strain them out and you get the flavor without the pieces of herb. He uses English lavender, it's in the bud stage, right as the flowers are starting to open. Even though the plant is fragrant, it's the flower buds that you're after for cooking. If you don't use fresh lavender you can use dried lavender which you can find in bulk anywhere they sell bulk herbs. Jerry puts in 12 stems and you don't have to pick off the little leaves or flowers, you just cut them off and throw them in. He lets it steep about 10 or 15 minutes till it's cool allowing it to release its' fragrance. As soon as it is cool you strain it into a bottle. You can smell the fragrance.

Next Jerry makes a lemon geranium syrup. This is even easier that the first syrup. Lemon geranium is one of his favorites. He loves the smell, intense lemon. Put 2 cups of leaves in a blender, if a little bit of the stem makes it in that is no problem, it will be strained out later. He uses the same portion, 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water then blends them together. To keep the color a little brighter and to keep the PH alkaline he adds a little baking soda. It will start out as a paler color but as it sits it will brighten and become a deeper color. He uses a fine strainer because he wants to remove the little bits. Use a spatula to squeeze out all liquid. Pour it into a bottle.

For the last concoction he uses one of his favorite herbs, ordinary sweet basil. He blanches it first, that gives it better color. Blanching means putting it in boiling water then taking it out and putting it in cold water. He uses 6 cups of basil. To measure the basil he lightly presses down on it, he considers that gently packed. He blanches it for 5 or 10 seconds, just till it wilts. It will look like spinach. He then puts it in cold water, that stops the cooking. Jerry then puts it in a blender and adds the same proportions of sugar and water, 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water. Again he adds a pinch of baking soda to keep the color and to keep it alkaline. He blends it and after sitting for a day or so it will get darker.

Now that we have these beautiful syrups Jerry shows us what to do with them. First is the lavender syrup. He has poached dried cherries in the syrup. He took the dried cherries, poured the syrup over them and simmered them. By doing this the flavor of the lavender syrup is imparted to the cherries. Lavender and cherries are a great combination, even better when served over vanilla ice cream. With the lemon geranium syrup he makes a sherbet. He takes plain whole milk yogurt and mixes equal parts of the syrup with the yogurt and freezes it in an ice cream maker. You get a wonderful creamy tart lemon sorbet. He puts that all in a little homemade cone and it is as cute as it is good tasting. Lastly, the basil syrup. He makes a lime cooler, really very refreshing. Jerry took 2 tablespoons of the syrup, 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and topped it with sparkling water. It is refreshing. Jerry has these recipes and others in his book entitled Herbal Kitchen.

Jerry, this has been fabulous. We've learned all about herbs and how to make some unusual craft items that would be ideal for gifts. Thank you for sharing your ideas.


Links:

The Willows Lodge

The Herb Farm

Chef Jerry's Cook Book-Herbal Kitchen

EagleSong-Raven Croft Garden

 

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