Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Garden of Eden, Right Here in NYC

The zucchini pesto bruschetta, above, is delicious and sans the bread will do some wonderful things to pasta. Below in descending order: A placard featuring photo and quote from Mario Batali at his Celebrity Chef Kitchen Garden on the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden; Michele Di Pietro in the Conservatory Kitchen, one of four at The Edible Garden, before she presents the media with her creation; Yours Truly finds the apple-lemon juice from Red Jacket Orchard irresistable; Doreen and Michele Di Pietro work their magic in the kitchen. Photos by Yours Truly.

lemon zest, lemon juice and roasted garlic are doing the #*&%$@##$@$##&%&##%&$#*! to my palette. And just when my palette thinks it’s about to recover from this explosion of flavors, in kicks the zucchini. And then the fresh basil, some of which only moments ago I plucked from a bunch and deposited into my skirt pocket for a rendevous later.

I’ve just had zucchini pesto bruschetta prepared by Whole Foods Market Associate Culinary Arts Coordinator Michele Di Pietro and her wingwoman, Doreen. I am at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) where in progress is a media preview of the plant museum’s second “The Edible Garden,” which opens Saturday and in time for Father’s Day with “Get Out and Grill.” It is the first of the four festival weekends. "The Edible Garden" closes 17 October with the final festival weekend, “Fall Finale,” which includes sound advice about preserving and a demo and booksigning by Mario Batali. He also participates in the Celebrity Chef Audio Tour during which he and others talk visitors through how to best use the fruits and vegetables in “The Edible Garden.”

What a party is this “celebration of growing and preparing good food!” And could it be held in a more appropriate place in New York City than in the Bronx, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the unhealthiest of the five boroughs? On the beautiful grounds of the NYBG will be a four-month orgy of daily cooking demos in four different kitchens, tastings, the aforementioned festival weekends, book signings, audio tours, as well as a ton of family programs, which focus on digging, weeding, composting, planting, tending and harvesting.

The best way to navigate “The Edible Garden” is to understand that it is neatly divided into four main rubrics: Festival Weekends, Garden-to-Table Weekends, Value Weekdays and Other Programs of The Edible Garden.

The garden’s bounty seems boundless: For “Get Out and Grill,” Dan Barber will be one of the celebrity chefs conducting a demo in the Conservatory Kitchen, the very place that MDiP whipped together that scrumptious zucchini pesto bruschetta. Recipes for the bruschetta and many of the demo dishes will be available on the NYBG Web site. A delicious way Sunday to show appreciation for fathers and father figures is to get them to the Garden Terrace Tent for a Father’s Day barbecue. Also on the menu is a talk and booksigning by Yankee great Roy White aka Mr. Consistent.

Later in the garden party, Nan K. Chase promises to explain how to “Eat Your Yard”(16 Oct.). Mark Gagnon, Executive Chef of Abigail Kirsch, will be so kind as to show and tell how to prepare a good asparagus (26 and 27 June). Afterward, his boss, AK will sign books.

Wonder whether the peas and rhubarb demo (3, 4, and 5 July) will include how to make a rhubarb tart? Further, will rhubarb and/or peas be on the table for the canning, pickling and preserving demo (24 and 25 July). Meanwhile, one of the joys (and sometimes sorrows) of living in New York is that the world lives here, too. A bit of its food – that means you the Caribbean; you, too, Ireland – will be part of the global cuisines demo (4, 5 and 6 Sept.). Global, too, and amongst the home gardening demos are Herbs and Edibles (3, 4, and 5 July), Grow Organic (14, 15 Aug.) and What’s Eating My Garden? (11 and 12 Sept.). Moreover, “Some Like It Hot” (25 and 26 Sept.); some don’t.

Incidentally, “The Edible Garden” dishes daily, at least the weekdays NYBG is open. The specials are as follows: Tuesdays and Wednesdays (11 a.m.) is “Cooking for Kids,” Wednesdays also has “Cooking for Your Health (12:30); “Cooking for the Season” is Thursday’s dish (2 p.m.). Rounding out the work week, Whole Foods endeavors to put the TGI into Fridays (2 p.m.). And for the very good reason that good music helps with the digestion, August (5, 12, 19) brings with it the “Food for Thought featuring the Waterlily Concert Series.” Here, food experts jaw about the subject they know best, then the music begins.

GrowNYC’s “Greenmarket” is the only one of the many programs of “The Edible Garden” that’s ON! now. It opened today and it will be open every Wednesday (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) until 24 November. FYI, on Wednesdays when the Greenmarket is doing business at NYBG, grounds admission is free. And welcome at Greenmarket are FMNP, WIC, Senior Coupons and Food Stamps/EBT.

Think of Greenmarket as an appetizer, a very good appetizer that is nutritious, delicious, affordable and from as close to home as the product of New York state’s farmers and merchants. Today, Perez Farms, is offering radishes, scallions and some of the sexiest red-leaf lettuce I’ve seen in a spell. Bread Alone is responsible for that wonderful pumpkin seed muffin I enjoyed at the media trough. And Red Jacket Orchards is pimping its sweet white cherries, red cherries and size-appropriate strawberries. Lazing in ice are RJO's fruit juices and samples. The most seductive and inspirational is the apple-lemon juice. Yum.

Visit for complete information about "The Edible Garden," including how to purchase tickets.

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