Friday, March 5, 2010

Where are all the vegetables?

The first thing that hit me when I walked into the Chicago Flower and Garden show, through the back entrance, was the smell of dirt.


It's a scent that gardeners crave, and the more delightful for being oddly unexpected in this gigantic forum of fake gardens.

After that it was a little downhill for me. I'm not sure exactly what I thought it would be like, having never gone before, but certainly more variety in garden design. There were very clever themes to be sure, and the overall theme of musical theater was near and dear to my heart. But taken as a whole, there was a depressing sameness to the layouts, despite clever corners and pretty plants.

But what disappointed me most of all was the utter neglect of food gardens. There was one tiny farm illustrating the tale of the Three Little Pigs, and liberal use of lettuce as an ornamental. The American Girls booth had a pizza garden for one of the dolls (not kidding). And that was it. There are seminars on edible gardening. There are back to back cooking demonstrations. But not a single display focused on edible gardening. One display, in fact, didn't even focus on plants. The central feature of Kia's "The Street Where You Live" suburban garden was a huge SUV taking up at least a third of the booth's square footage.

Flickr set here.

And because I promised always to include a recipe, a wonderful recipe from Epicurious/Bon Apetit

Artichoke, Potato, and Portobello Mushroom Casserole
Bon App├ętit | April 2006

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large artichokes (I didn't have any, so I subbed celery and broccoli)
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
2 large portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
small soft fresh goat cheese
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dry white wine (didn't have any, so I used sherry)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Brush 2-qt casserole with 1 tablespoon oil. To trim artichoke, add the juice from half a lemon to a large bowl of cold water. Cut off the artichoke's stem; rub cut surface with the other lemon half. Peel off all the leaves. Cut off top one inch of artichoke. Using a spoon with a serrated edge, scrape out the fibrous choke from the center. Rub the artichoke all over with lemon and drop it into lemon water. Drain before using.

Slice artichoke hearts. Arrange half of potatoes in dish, covering bottom completely. Top with half of artichoke hearts and half of mushrooms. Coarsely crumble half of goat cheese over. Sprinkle with half of garlic, salt, and pepper, then 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Cover with remaining mushrooms, then artichokes, goat cheese, garlic, 1 tablespoon Parmesan, and 1 tablespoon oil. Top with remaining potatoes. Pour wine over; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cover dish with foil. Bake 40 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Sprinkle top with remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and top is brown, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

This was incredibly delicious. Wonder if they'll make it at the garden show?


  1. I think there was actually a lot of edible gardening on display. The garden by Growing Power (with the raised beds and spiral mounded garden) was all edibles and there were edible mixed in with a lot of the ornamentals in many of the exhibits.

    There weren't many traditional vegetable gardens but it was more of a potager feel to them.

  2. I did eventually find the edibles you're talking about, and like you say there were a lot of edibles mixed in as ornmentals or props (lettuce, cabbage, herbs, corn). But I still find it disappointing that every display felt they had to "disguise" the edibles somehow. I was LOOKING for them, and still found them difficult to spot. I think at least one garden should have been a traditional food garden.