Squash Blossom/Fresh Squash
It’s often been said that you never forget your first love – and squash blossoms are the first specialty vegetables that The Chef’s Garden grew for chefs. So, yes. They will always have a special place in Farmer Lee Jones’s heart, but that’s not the only reason these gloriously golden blooms of summer made the top 10 list. These edible flowers add a lovely mild, delicate and slightly flowery taste to culinary dishes and add such beauty to the plate. Many people are fans of frying these blossoms, while other serve them in delicious summery soups. Stuff them, bake them and use them in wildly inventive ways.
There couldn’t be squash blossoms without squash, of course, and ‘tis the season to enjoy fresh summer squash in hues of yellow or green – or yellow and green striped – in multiple shapes. In fact, when this squash is harvested, we can truly say that summer has arrived. Our succulent squash comes in super sexy sizes, too, important because we first eat with our eyes.
Squash is one of the few plants in the world where every part is edible with each part featuring a unique taste. The stem resembles celery; the leaf, spinach.
Look up “signs of summer” in the dictionary and you’ll see pictures of tomatoes. (Okay, not really, but Farmer Lee Jones believes that SHOULD be the case.) By June and July, we’re in full tomato production at The Chef’s Garden with enough luscious varieties to create a diverse menu featuring this delicacy. You can use them to create a stunning tomato champagne, a Filet au Tomate, Smoked Orange Sorbet and so much more.
We grow cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and currant to toy box varieties, each of them with its own flavor profile. Our garden contains green tomatoes, the pineapple tomatillo, sweet pea currant and so much more. Perhaps even more important, each of these are bred for premium flavor, unlike those grown for fast food chains, which are bred for consistency in size and color, plus shipping ease.
“In this hyper-informative age, we think the world needs more whimsy. Sometimes that whimsy can be found in the natural world. And sometimes it’s edible and delicious, like the cucamelon, the cutest fruit to grow on the face of this Earth.” (Huffington Post)
This wonderfully unique fruit is shaped like a miniature watermelon and provides quite a surprise on the palate – because it doesn’t take like a watermelon at all. Instead, the fruit provides a marvelous tangy flavor, like a sweet cucumber overlaid with a slightly sour pickle taste. When you bite down, you experience a pleasant crunch. You can enjoy them raw in a salad or as a wedged garnish in a cocktail. If you choose to pickle the cucamelon, perhaps with mint and dill, the result is especially refreshing.
“This truly is the perfect little fruit,” says Culinary Vegetable Institute’s Executive Chef, Jamie Simpson, “when you want to engage people in a fun and delicious way as they eat their meal. Enjoying a cucamelon is the coolest experience.”
There are more than 376 varieties of this versatile fruit, including Italian, Japanese, Thai and Indian iterations, and we’ve tested more than 100 of them in our eggplant garden. We continue to grow the varieties that our customers love the most. Traditional recipes rely upon the purple eggplant, baked with parmesan – and that’s a marvelous comfort food – but you can also be highly creative with variations of this exotic fruit.
Recently, at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, an artist-in-residence, Chef Paul Liebrandt charred eggplant until it was blackened, inside and out, and pureed it. This, says Chef Matt Ward from the Culinary Vegetable Institute, was “absolutely delicious” and the result can be used in ice creams and custards. Here’s more insight into the creatively curious mind of Paul Liebrandt.
Eggplants can have green and golden orange skins, and can serve as the centerpiece of a dish or as a component of one. It responds well to baking, broiling and sautéing, and pairs well with proteins and seafoods, including octopus.
According to National Geographic, romaine lettuce may be the oldest variety of lettuce on the planet. We know they were being cultivated five thousand years ago, or perhaps even before that, because they were featured on ancient bas-reliefs in Egypt. And, we’d love to see what these ancient Egyptians would have thought about the quality and variety of lettuces available today!
Red rose romaine is a favorite of Jamie Simpson. This versatile choice offers up a sweet, mild flavor and a soft, tender texture and can be in used in so many ways beyond the salad. You can grill it, braise it or sear it. You can blanch it, wilt it or juice it. Be creative with lettuce wraps or add the lettuce to soups and sauces. You are limited only by your imagination and, from all we know about our creative chefs, that resource is without limits!
“Some lettuces,” Jamie says, “are soft and tender, while others are crunchy. Some are dense, with tightly packed leaves that are almost like a suitcase. The softer ones benefit from a light vinaigrette or from just olive oil, and can be delicious without any dressing at all. Denser ones can almost drown in sauce and its texture still holds up.”
These delicate beauties are the caviar of the vegetable world, a perfect choice when you want to add a dab of fresh bean flavor to complement your culinary dishes. Farmer Lee Jones suggests you float three of them on top of a soup, perhaps with a scarlet runner bean bloom to provide extra visual and textural appeal.
These beans are named after Chef Andrew Carmellini®. That’s because he suggested The Chef’s Garden harvest haricot verts when they were still only the thickness of a pencil lead, after he tasted their hint of earthy green bean flavor at that stage of growth. Carmellini® beans are gently hand harvested, and the process takes three men an hour to collect just one pound. But, because chefs receive 1,400 beans in a one-pound order, the cost per serving is minimal when used thoughtfully to enhance flavor.
Here, you can see the beans being harvested: The Chef's Garden Facebook - Bean Harvest
Carmellini® beans are ideal choices when you want a sweet and fresh bean flavor and a succulent, crunchy texture. Picture compact versions of French green beans, available in a multitude of colors: green, lime green and purple. These legumes pair up well with carrots, garlic and parsley, and are nutritional powerhouses. Purple Carmellini® beans provide a unique burst of color on your plates, just one reason that purple vegetables are a hot trend in 2017.
Peppers come in a brilliant rainbow of colors, from red to green, yellow to orange, along the entire spectrum of mildness (or hotness!), sizes and more. Peppers are native to the Americas, grown here for many centuries, and used in cuisines all around the world. They are also highly nutritious, boasting more Vitamin C than an orange. In fact, a bell pepper typically contains more than 100% of the daily recommended intake of this vitamin – and, at The Chef’s Garden, our sustainable farming techniques bring out the fullest potential of the vegetable’s flavor and nutrition.
At the Culinary Vegetable Institute, Jamie and his team fermented peppers in a whiskey barrel for a year, which created an amazing sauce they add to dishes. “There is no other vegetable like a pepper,” he says. “Its spiciness and heat adds a dimension to flavor profiles that’s unmatched and absolutely priceless.”
The Chef’s Garden first began offering vegetable blooms when a visiting chef was inspired by the blooms on our French breakfast radishes. Before that moment, the Jones family followed the commercialized belief that, once a vegetable had flowered, it needed to be plowed under – but chefs have taught them so much about how every single stage of plant life is unique and valuable.
When you use carrot blooms or bean blooms, as just two examples, this adds visual and textural appeal to dishes. Plus, this is an excellent way to support reduction of food waste and sustainability, to give your guests an opportunity to dine with purpose. Vegetable blooms allow you to incorporate an underused portion of a vegetable in unique and surprising ways, adding nuances of flavor and notes of intensity.
To provide a wide range of product options, from microgreens to vegetable blooms, The Chef’s Garden uses the technique of continuous planting so that products are available all along the growth spectrum.
“Since the days of Popeye, spinach has been famous for its ability to make you ‘strong to the finish.’ While this leafy green won’t cause your biceps to inflate like balloons, it is dense in vitamins and minerals, low in calories and versatile in cooking.” (Live Science)
Then there is the delectable flavor! Cathy Seaman in the farm’s research department is a fan of spinach, year-round, and here is what she has said: “The spring spinach is so sweet,” she says, “that it’s like eating sugar, but the light and sweet flavor is not overpowered. I’m not a fan of Popeye-like canned spinach, but our fresh spinach is incredible. Our ice spinach is also delectable with a nice crunch and bursts of flavor. I even eat it for breakfast, with cut up fruit, sunflower seeds and Greek yogurt. What’s phenomenal is that this is delicious and filling, while also being so good for you.”
Spinach can be blanched, added to casseroles, wilted in salads, fried, added to smoothies and so much more. “There is a place for spinach,” Jamie says, “from the first course to the last. We recently concocted a spinach ice cream that was amazing when served with curry cake.”
The earliest mentions of rhubarb were recorded around 2700 BC, for medical purposes rather than for good eating. When the emperor of China was given rhubarb in the sixth century, the intent was to cure his fever; the ruler was warned to take it in moderation as it was quite potent. Fast forwarding to 1839, rhubarb became a point of contention between feuding China and England when the imperial commissioner of China wrote to Queen Victoria telling her that they “surely would die if they could not obtain tea and rhubarb [from China].”
We agree that life wouldn’t be the same without fresh rhubarb in the summertime, whether you use it in pie or make deliciously tart jam. Petite rhubarb is also excellent to use as garnishes and stirring sticks in your cocktails and you can juice it to enhance your cocktails and tea alike. And, picture how refreshing it would be right now to have a tall cool glass of rhubarb lemonade.
“Although leaves, herbs and flowers can be tart, rhubarb is unique in that it’s a full-on tart vegetable,” Jamie says, “something you can enjoy by the forkful. Rhubarb is delicate, though, and can be mistreated by being buried in sugar. We instead embrace its acidity and even cook it in vinegar. Its unique sour flavor adds a layer of depth to dishes.”
Additional ideas include shaving the rhubarb raw and blanching it in cold water to create beautiful ribbons. You can juice it, candy it, dehydrate it and churn it. Our only rule: be creative and enjoy.
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