Garden Days of Summer
It’s August, time for vegetable and herb garden mayhem. Those little seeds and plants that took up such small spaces back in April and May are now full-grown and ready for harvesting. And it’s not just the gardens here at the inn that are matured: it’s a great time to take in the bounty of the region’s many gardens, farms, and farmer’s markets.
Our vegetable garden is a small patch that can still produce a volume of food. We start by planting a variety of vegetables like beans, peas, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beets, zucchini, squash, leeks and shallots, but as any farmer (big or small) will tell you, some years are good for one crop but not another. Either way there’s always a profusion of produce to harvest.
Of course some of the vegetables make their way into the B&B breakfasts. Rhubarb stalks are used in berry-rhubarb crumbles, and squash from our late-season gourds and other veggies may wind up in the Butternut Squash Frittata. The over-abundance of vegetables in the summer gives us the chance to freeze extras for use throughout the year.
Others, particularly the root vegetables, are destined for our winter soups. Carrots, potatoes, leeks, garlic and parsnips eventually spend some time in our freezer before finding their way into our stomachs on cold winter days. As a matter of fact the carrots were just harvested and turned into soup yesterday, and now the freezer has that much less room to spare. The potato leek soup is a favorite. Jonna loves to dig (not pick) potatoes in the early fall, and some of these make it to the breakfast table, baked with herbs (yum!), and others go into the winter soup. The parsnips stay in the ground into the winter, then dug, roasted, cooked and pureed into a delicious, creamy soup on a cold day.
Still other vegetables get pickled. The cucumbers, garlic and (hopefully) dill get packed into an array of mason jars for eventual use on sandwiches or sides. See our Homegrown Garlic blog for more info. And homemade horseradish is a blast, almost literally, considering the intensity of the smell when it is cut and shredded prior to adding the pickling vinegar. Whew!
The herb garden has more functional daily use. This garden is close to the house in what Jonna calls “zone 1” for easy access while making breakfast. Summer guests may find Cindy’s Lavender Shortbread Cookies on their amenity plate. Herbs such as basil, thyme and parsley make frequent appearances in breakfasts in the summer. Mint is often added to the refreshing drinks that are offered to guests on their arrival. On good years we add sage, lavender and fennel to the basil and thyme to make an herbes de provence, used to season breakfast vegetables or Herb Baked Eggs.
Besides the vegetable and herb garden, the house is surrounded by other flower and planting gardens, all given close care. Not to ignore them, but they deserve attention in their own blog in the future.
However, if you are looking to take in some beautiful gardens in the area, there are quite a few to keep in mind for your visit. Innisfree Garden, a Chinese inspired landscape garden, is one of the finest strolls in the area. Blithewood Garden, at Bard College, is a walled Italiante garden, and also a great picnic spot. Maybe stop by Matchbox Café in Rhinebeck for a take-out lunch before heading to Bard.
The Climbery, in Elizaville, is a unique, private garden with one of the largest clematis collections in the world. Check out their Escapes article in the New York Times. Wethersfield is a country estate with beautiful formal gardens and panoramic views. It is open to the public from June through September.
Several gardens are on notable historic estates. Montgomery Place, former estate of the Livingston family, is now part of the Bard College campus, and open for mansion and grounds tours. The Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield is part of the Franklin Roosevelt Hyde Park campus. The formal gardens of the F. W. Vanderbilt National Historic Site are just a few miles north, also in Hyde Park. Locust Grove Historic Estate and Museum has a grand landscape garden and nature preserve, and also holds garden sunset dinners and wine & food events.
Should you wish to reap the rewards of local agriculture and some of the bigger “gardens”, be sure to visit Mead Orchards, Greig Farm or Rose Hill Farm. Or simply visit the Rhinebeck Farmer’s Market, Montgomery Place Orchards market or Migliorelli Farm Stands for wide-ranging choices.
And don’t forget the agricultural highlight of the year, the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck. Each August the fair brings the bounty of the region to a half a million people. Part agriculture, part carnival (and all food), the fair is Rhinebeck classic and one not to miss.
So whether it’s our smaller vegetable and herb gardens, or the larger gardens, farms or fairs, agriculture plays an important part not only in the region, but also in your stay at the inn. Come and enjoy!