Monday, September 14, 2009

The Edible Garden

How this (almost) got past me, I'll never know. I checked me email on Friday and found out that, lo and behold, Sunday was going to be the last day of the Edible Garden at the New York Botanical Gardens. That is so perfectly up my alley that I got our free pass, charged up the camera and off I went.

If you've never been it's definitely worth spending a few hours. For some reason, it always takes me back in time. It's serene and peaceful and you could picture Edith Wharton on a bench scribbling away. Unless of course there's something exciting going on and then it turns into everything you love about New York. All different kinds of people, all different voices and languages, all different types of families and singles. It's quite extraordinary.

And you get to see things like this.

It was the most beautiful purple basil that I've ever seen.

And this is Orris Root which smelled amazing. I kept drifting back to it because it smelled so good.

I'm not sure what these are but I want to own a lot of things in that color. It was so vivid and happy.

There were about a dozen vendors handing out samples on the steps of the big greenhouse. My two favorites were Ayala's Herbal Water and Laloo's Goat Milk Ice Cream. The water comes in really amazing, subtle flavors and was so refreshing. I'm not a big fan of either bottled water or flavored waters but these were so unique and delicious that I see a lot of them in future. Especially the lavender mint flavor. The goat milk ice cream had a wonderful, creamy texture and the guys running their table were so nice. I had the coffee and the mission fig (ahhhhhhh---figs) and both were outstanding. There were also very good dumplings from a company out in Brooklyn but they didn't have any takeaway cards so I signed up for their mailing list. I'll let you know all about them when I hear from them.

The highlight for me was seeing Ariane Daguin, the president of D'Artagnan,in the Conservatory Kitchen. She made a lovely dish of ham and mushrooms over polenta. She's so knowledgeable and interesting and just a lot of fun to watch. I wish I had gotten her photo showing how ducks and geese would fly if their livers were on the side (like all other animals). It was pretty funny.

There was one woman in the audience who seemed to be trying to bait her. First she asked about using nitrates as a preservative. Ariane was terrific. She said, yes, they did use nitrates in some of their products because they had too and there is currently no better alternative. Apparently, some companies are now using celery juice to preserve their products to appear greener but the celery has the same nitrates in it that everyone else uses. The woman also asked about force feeding ducks and geese to grow their livers. Ariane gave a great, very clear explanation of how ducks and geese work. They travel very far distances over mountains and seas so they force feed themselves twice a year to grow their liver and thicken their skin (the two places where they can carry the calories that they need to make it to their destination with no food). So it is in their nature to force feed. Unlike a chicken, which everyone agreed would be cruel to force feed as it is not in their nature.

I recently received some confit duck gizzards as a gift (I have wonderful friends) and asked for her suggestions. She jumped right in with some ideas for cassoulette our lentils. Yum to both of them!

I think I want to go work for her!

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