Summer is here! Festivals, road trips, outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, camping, hiking and all sorts of activities abound. Do some planning and make time to take a garden tour, attend a food festival, hike a mountain and/or see a concert in the park. Don’t squander this glorious season, get out there and enjoy yourself!
The Herbalist’s Happy Hour.
Crafted Cocktails and Small Plates from the Garden features easy, delicious techniques to create unique, artisanal beverages and tasty finger foods from the garden. It covers everything from edible flower garnishes, non-alcoholic refreshers, and fruity shrubs to captivating cocktails, infused liquors, and savory small bites. It will be released in the next few weeks and available for purchase at Amazon.com in print and digital Kindle format. I will also have books available for purchase at classes. I’ll be sending out a release announcement once we have it officially completed.
Edible Wild Foods Gourmet: Identification, Harvesting and Use of Wild Plants
Sunday, June 3, Denver Botanic Gardens 9 am to noon, $55, $50 members, info here
Explore the fascinating world of wild edibles. We’ll begin with an herb walk, identifying local wild edibles. Discover the optimum nutrition and delicious tastes provided by plants usually weeded and tossed in the compost pile. Back in the kitchen, participants prepare a delicious four-course meal using common, nutritious wild plants, including nettle, chickweed, dandelion, lambs quarters and more. Enjoy an appetizer, wild salad buffet with chicken and veggie options, a savory soup, and a delicious wild foods pesto with pasta. Explore all the ways you can add wild edibles to your current recipes to boost nutrition and flavor. Recipes, lunch, and drink included. Discover the fun and benefits of eating on the wild side!
Garden to Glass, Summer Drinks and Tapas Workshop Sold Out
Friday, June 8, 6-8: 30 pm, Denver Botanic Gardens
Learn how to make the most of your summertime libations. Participants learn to make refreshing aqua frescas, extraordinary elixirs, and sensational syrups made from fruits and herbs from the garden and summer markets. Become your own mixologist and dazzle your family and guests with custom crafted cocktails and delicious thirst quenchers. Create delicious tapas to go along with drinks. Add some sparkle to those summer gatherings! Handout with recipes, drink samples, and tapas included.
Special Instructions: Cooking class, plant list with growing hints, beverage and tapas tasting and take home fruity shrub concentrate and bitters. No alcohol will be served.
Garden to Glass – Tagawa Garden Center
Saturday, June 16; 2-3pm, $10 info here Create your own happy hour with herbs, fruits, and veggies you grow yourself. Learn the secrets to making great cocktails and mocktails. We’ll discover the best plants to use and discuss planting, growing, and harvesting. We’ll cover simple syrups, infused liquors, bitters, mixers, and garnishes. Put some pizazz in your summer drinks and cocktail hour! (Non-alcoholic, drink samples only, no food featured.)
Farm to Fork – Enjoying Nature’s Bounty
Saturday, June 23, Denver Botanic Gardens @ Chatfield, 10 am to noon, $51, $46 members, info here * This class takes place at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Chatfield Farms at C-470 and Wadsworth. Join Susan Evans on the farm to learn how to utilize those abundant fresh veggies this summer. Class takes place on the rustic and historic Hildebrand Ranch property of Chatfield Farms where participants are surrounded with the beautiful CSA fields, the cut flower garden, herb garden, chickens, goats and resident pigs. The outdoor kitchen at Chatfield Farms makes for the perfect summer class location! In a rut with your fresh veggies and fruits? Learn new ways to savor the flavor of delicious, nutrient-packed food from your garden and Farmers Market. We’ll create and sample scrumptious, easy dishes and discuss tips for best selection and home storage. Recipes and three course, vegetarian lunch provided.
I will be teaching at the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival happening from July 11 to 23 in the wildflower capital of Colorado. A great time in a truly gorgeous location. Check www.
Fun Things to Do
Garden tours –A great way to spend a morning and pick up lots of ideas and inspiration for current and future projects. Check out http://www.coloradogardening.
Capitol Hills Peoples Fair, June 1-3, starts at 10 am, Civic Center Park, Denver. Bands, art, food and lots more! https://peoplesfair.com/
Greely Blues Jam – June 8 and 9, 2 big stages with national and local musicians.
Colorado Renaissance Festival, Larkspur. Open weekends June 16- August 5. Never been? Check it out, the kids love it. Jousting, music, hypnotists and other performers, food, and fun. https://
Juneteenth Music Festival, June 16, 5 points, Denver.
Evergreen Rodeo, June 16-17, parades, cowboys, food, and fun. https://www.evergreenrodeo.
Denver Art Museum – Saturday, June 2
Museum of Nature and Science – Sunday, June 3
Denver Botanic Gardens – 2 locations -York Street and Chatfield Farms – Tuesday, June 5
Four Mile Historic Park, Friday, June 8
Golden History Museum and Park – Saturday, June 23rd
Hudson Gardens – free admission every day
Garden Centers still have a great assortment of plants which will go on clearance as the heat escalates. Don’t have room or time for a garden? Go with containers. You can grow everything from vegetables and herbs to fragrant flowers and stunning foliage. Try some gallon size sweet 100’s, a few basil plants and some edible flowers like nasturtiums. I like to buy the 4 and 5-inch containers of annuals and plant them in interesting combinations in a large container. Voila! Instant garden. Container gardens don’t take a lot of time, planning or weeding; just make sure you have good drainage and quality potting soil.
Herb of the Month – Basil – Ocimum sp.
Basil, Ocimum basilicum, is an annual herb originally from India. Delicious with any cuisine it is usually affiliated with Italian cooking. There are dozens of different basil varieties, from citrus scented varieties to exotic flavors. They all grow easily in full sun with adequate water and do not tolerate cold temperatures. The leaves are used in cooking, flower buds are also edible.
Basil, depending on variety, can grow from 6” to 2 feet or more. They need 5-6 hours of sun to be happy and grow easily from seed. Plant seed every 3-4 weeks for a constant supply. They work well in container gardens. Basil likes a rich, moist soil, but never soggy.
Try to keep basil from blooming and getting lanky, pinch off flower buds and harvesting on a regular basis. Flowering will compromise flavor and hasten the demise of the plant. Always pinch right above a set of leaves.
You can multiply your basil by taking cuttings and rooting in water, babying the plant a bit when you transplant it into soil. Aphids like basil. Remove the majority of them by pinching off the top parts of the plant and then spray down the rest with a hose end sprayer.
Basil grows well with tomatoes, and some of the bush and shorter varieties are hardier than sweet or Genovese basil, which is known for the best taste.
Basil is one of the chefs essential herbs. Use it at the end of preparation to preserve its taste and color. It can be used in salads, sandwiches, in Italian, Asian and Mexican cuisine. Try it with fruits, beverages and just snipped over sliced garden tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil.
Basil does not dry well so preserve it by processing it into a paste with olive oil in a food processor. You can then measure out spoonfuls on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper, freeze, remove, and store in a freezer container. You can also freeze in ice cube trays. Add garlic, Parmesan cheese, and some walnuts or pine nuts, and you’ll have ready-made pesto.
Recipes of the Month
- ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
- ¼ cup olive oil, if you need more, use it, you want a thick sauce texture.
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
Process in food processor until smooth. Use on pasta, sandwiches, roasted vegetables, potatoes and more. Pesto is usually made with basil but you can use any fresh herb as a substitute.
- 2 cups cored, chopped, fresh tomatoes, place in a strainer for 15 minutes to drain off excess moisture.
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tbs chopped basil
- 1 tbs chopped parsley
- 2 tbs olive oil
- ½ cup cubed baby mozzarella, feta or shaved manchego cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine ingredients and serve over crostini.
- 2 cups cubed fresh watermelon
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup ice cubes
- 1 tbs. fresh lime juice
- 1 tbs honey or agave
Blend in a mixer and enjoy!
Strawberry/Basil Shortcakes – serves 4
- 1 pound strawberries, stemmed, hulled, and sliced (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tbs chopped basil, use a sharp knife for this, extra basil leaves for garnish
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup cold heavy cream
- Vanilla ice cream
Whip cream, optional
Basil leaves for garnish
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking oil.
Combine strawberries, chopped basil, and sugar in a medium bowl. Toss and set aside at room temperature. Let stand for at least 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in 1/3 of the cream. Stir to mix in the cream. When first 1/3 of flour is almost incorporated, add another 1/3, followed by final third, at which point the dough should come together. Divide dough into four equal portions and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To serve: Split each biscuit in half. Top each bottom half of a biscuit with about 1/2 cup strawberries, followed by a scoop of ice cream. Top with biscuit halves, put a dollop of whip cream on top if desired and garnish with a basil leaf. Serve right away so biscuit doesn’t get soggy.