Do your attempts at home gardening look like mine?
If the plant life in your apartment looks more graveyard than backyard, I can sympathize. I didn’t find that photo by Googling “world’s worst gardener.” It’s from my own windowsill.
Being a health and wellness chef who loves fresh, green ingredients, I used to fantasize about having a backyard garden bursting with in-season, heirloom produce. That is, until I tried to growing my own. I over-watered, then I under-watered. Then a small paper protest sign on a toothpick appeared next to the shriveled, wilting herbs in their pot: “Kill Me!” it said. That was my sister’s doing, but like the Lorax, she was speaking for the trees.
So last year I teamed up with urban micro-farmer Todd Jones to create the class The Kitchen Garden: Cooking From Your DIY Garden. Todd is an expert grower and has set up gardens for restaurants and people across the city. Clearly, I had selfish reasons in mind setting up the class: I wanted fail-proof techniques to start my own indoor herb-pot! Herbs have amazing medicinal and health properties, are full of flavor, and can be quite spendy at the store, so growing them at home is an easy, inexpensive hack to getting more freshness and flavor into your diet.
Using the same common-sense and sensory approach I have to teaching cooking, Todd was easily able to convey principles about how to get started growing herbs. Here’s a preview: want to know if your plants need to be watered? Put your finger down into the soil; if it’s wet, they don’t, and if it’s dry, they do. It sounds so basic, but it was something I’d never even thought to do. Mind blown! With Todd’s tips in mind, last year, I was successfully able to have a booming herb pot on my 12th floor apartment balcony, ready for snipping when inspiration called.
The class was such a hit, we wanted to offer it again at the beginning of the growing season this year. Join us for The Kitchen Garden: Cooking From Your DIY Herb Garden on Wednesday, May 13th, 7pm at Merchandise Mart.
And even if you don’t want to grow your own, the rest of the class, I’ll be taking over the kitchen and showing you really creative ways to use herbs in any kind of recipe. There’s an herbalicious Quinoa Tabbouleh that can use up almost any leftover herb you have, a homemade Mint and Chocolate Ice Cream (in the last class we brought in a store-bought version to compare and no one even wanted to try it!), a killer herb dip called Green Chutney that’s perfect on everything from Shrimp to Cauliflower. And my favorite, a unique greens spread called Herb Jam. Yes, if Todd and I form a band, it will be called Herb Jam.
Also, if you’ve been checking out local mixology bars like The James Beard Award-winning The Violet Hour, you know the key to a balanced, high-end cocktail is the vegetal notes of fresh herbs. When you walk in the door to class, I’ll hand you a killer home cocktail called a Basil Lychee Fizz topped off with champagne. Easy, quick and impressive.
And because I know at least one student in class will have my gardening skills and not Todd’s, we’re going to raffle off the planted herb pot that Todd demos in class to one lucky student! Sign up for Wednesday’s cooking class here. We can’t wait to get herbal with you!