As many of you know, Mike and I live in the Convivium Farmhouse, the yellow house right next door to Convivium. So it was important to us when we remodeled the house in 2015 to incorporate a landscape design that not only looks good, but was also in keeping with the principles and ideas that we are trying to teach through Convivium. Mainly, that with some forethought, you can grow A LOT of food in small space and make it look good too.
Luckily, we have AJ to help us with all of this, because as eager as we are, he is much, much more knowledgeable in this arena than we are. It’s important to note that we have a very small yard – a small patch in front of the porch and then on the side, the rest is taken up with our side deck, so when we say our entire yard is edible, we aren’t really talking about that much space. That said, we are able to produce a lot of food year after year.
We have broken up our yard into some distinct areas and planted a mixture of perennial fruits, fruit trees and herbs (those that come back year after year) and annual vegetables (those we have to replant every year).
Strawberry Hedge This hedge is right along the sidewalk in front of the house. We planted it with two varieties of ever-bearing strawberries — Toscana and Berri Basket Hot Pink. These plants have been prolific, even the very first season we grew them. Because they are ever-bearing, they do not produce a ton of berries all at once, but rather produce berries throughout the entire growing season. So we are enjoying fresh strawberries from this patch from mid- to late June all the way through the first hard frost in the fall.
The families are then asked to bring us the sap that runs from the tree. The sap will begin running when temperatures dip below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. When it comes out, honestly, well, it looks like water. And basically, it is water. That is why it takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to make only one gallon of maple syrup.
That process is done by boiling…and boiling and boiling. It takes a long time to evaporate all of the water. But it is that boiling process that eventually produces the lovely golden-brown syrup that we are familiar with.
This year we produced about 2 gallons of syrup from 90 gallons of donated sap from the maple trees throughout our community. How amazing is that?
Real maple syrup is a staple ingredient in our house Maple Balsamic Salad dressing, which we use on salads as well as a sauce to roast vegetables in for of Maple Balsamic Roasted Vegetables on our menu.
Below is both the dressing recipe and instructions for roasting vegetables. Enjoy!
Maple Balsamic Dressing
1-1/2 c olive oil
1 c balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ c. pure maple syrup
In a bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, salt and maple syrup. Whisk to combine, then slowly drizzle in olive oil while continuing to whisk. Whisk until fully combined.
Roasted Balsamic Vegetables
4 c. roasting vegetables – cut into 1” chunks (zucchini, mushrooms, onion, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli)
¼ to ½ c Maple Balsamic Dressing
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450. In a medium bowl, toss vegetables with dressing, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray Roast for 15 minutes, turning and stirring once half-way through roasting time.
So, how is everybody doing? These are such strange times. I keep reflecting on the fact that this pandemic and the media and social media response to it, coupled with the fact that we are all very isolated right now (and rightly so), are serving to unite us all in this low-grade hum of fear and anxiety.
But then I look outside and I see that the robins are back, and my rhubarb is pushing through the earth, my chives have sprouted and the neighbors daffodils have unfurled and I take great solace in the fact that nature and its never-failing cycles persevere. And that very fact alone is a great anchor of strength and comfort for many of us right now, myself included.
And so, the gardens at Convivium (and those that work in them…thanks A.J.) are also soldiering on. We spend a great deal of time in the winter planning our gardens – what to plant, when to plant it – in order to maximize use of the produce in the kitchen. With the restaurant closed until April 30 (but likely much longer), our meticulous plans have been upended. (Join the club, right?)
But we have decided to share our garden-to-table journey with you here and on our social media pages instead. We want you to also feel the comfort of the quiet strength of nature that we see here at Convivium each and every day – and be able to recreate it at home, if you wish.
Put them all together and what to you get? Rosemary-Garlic Potatoes! See below for the recipe.
We are thinking of you all and are trusting that we will all return to the ‘normal’ cycles, routines and rituals of our lives – and hopefully that includes a breakfast, lunch or brunch every now and then here at Convivium. But until we meet again, we will be sharing our garden-to-table journey with you here along with our recipes from our breakfast and lunch menu.
Stay well. Leslie
Convivium’s Rosemary-Garlic Potatoes
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
2 sprigs rosemary
3-4 cloves garlic – unpeeled
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste