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Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Basil and Mint Infused Lemonade

By Lyndsey Bridgers, Marketing Director

The summer sun has us daydreaming of ice cold drinks and relaxing in the shade with family and friends. One of our favorite refreshers this time of year is a chilled glass of lemonade. You can whip up a nice infused simple syrup to give your lemonade a little more flavor. And it’s a great way to use some of your garden-grown herbs!

Basil Fresh Herbs

To begin, select your herbs (typically about a cup total if you’re using greens, such as basil, cilantro, mint or rosemary) and combine them with a cup of sugar and a cup of water into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, turn off the stove and let the herbs steep as the mixture cools, about 30 minutes. Once it’s cool, discard the herbs.

Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Meanwhile, juice your lemons. I used a citrus press, but you can also squeeze them by hand, cut-side up to prevent the seeds from dropping into your cup. Add your lemon juice and water to the simple syrup and stir to combine. If you have the time, refrigerate your lemonade so it stays nice and cool once you add it to your iced glasses!  

Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Herb Infused Lemonade Recipe

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 2 cups of fresh lemon juice (from about 12 – 15 lemons)
  • 2 cups of water
  • Herbed simple syrup

Herbed simple syrup

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup fresh basil, washed and stems removed
  • ½ cup fresh mint, washed and stems removed

Place your sugar, water, fresh basil and mint into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Let simmer for ten minutes. Remove it from the heat and let the simple syrup cool while the herbs steep. Once it’s cool, remove the herbs and pour the simple syrup into your serving pitcher.  

Juice your lemons and add the juice to the simple syrup. Mix in your water and add ice or set the lemonade in the refrigerator to chill as the flavors combine.

Serve in a chilled glass with lemons, basil and mint and enjoy!

Watermelon Gin Cocktail Blog

Watermelon Cucumber Gin Cocktail

By Lyndsey Bridgers, Marketing Director

There is nothing as delicious as perfectly sweet, chilled watermelon on a hot summer day. This thirst-quenching fruit always accompanies a delicious spread of grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and casseroles at my family’s Fourth of July cookout. To celebrate the Fourth of July this year, we’re whipping up one of our favorite cocktails using sweet watermelon and garden-grown cucumbers and basil.

I started by juicing my watermelon. I used a citrus press (mostly because I already had it out for making lemonade), but you can also use a blender and then strain it with a mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a jar. Afterwards, prepare your glass by running a lime wedge around the rim and rolling it in kosher salt. Set the glass aside.

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add your lime juice, elderflower liqueur, cucumber and basil and muddle using a muddler or a wooden spoon. Then, pour in your watermelon juice, gin/vodka and ice and shake vigorously.

Add ice to your glass and strain in your cocktail and top with a lime wedge, cucumbers and sprig of basil. And enjoy!

Watermelon Cucumber Gin Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients (for two cocktails)

  • 1 ounce of lime juice (from two limes), with one wedge reserved  
  • 2 ounces of elderflower liqueur
  • 2 ounces of gin (or vodka)  
  • 6 ounces of watermelon juice (about three cups of cubed watermelon)
  • 6 slices of cucumber
  • 6 basil leaves, plus two small sprigs for garnish
  • Kosher salt

Run a lime wedge over the rim of the glasses, then roll the rims in the kosher salt and set aside.

Add the cubed watermelon to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the mix through a fine strainer or cheesecloth draped over a glass to separate the juice from the fiber of the fruit

Watermelon Gin Cocktail Blog

Add the basil leaves, 4 slices of cucumber, lime juice and elderflower liqueur to a cocktail shaker and muddle. Next, add your watermelon juice, gin and ice and shake until cold. Fill your cocktail glasses with ice, then strain the cocktail into the glasses. Garnish with sliced cucumbers and the basil sprigs and enjoy!

Looking for more garden fresh drinks for summer parties? Try out our herb infused lemonade!

Sunflowers, Annual

Unique Edibles for Fall Cooking

With fall on its way we are all starting to think about our cool season vegetable gardens. In addition to well-known fruits and vegetables, there are also a wide variety of edible annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs which you may already be growing ornamentally in your landscape. By learning to incorporate these plants into our cooking, we can add some unique flavors to our meals. Whether you are new to edible gardening or are just looking for some new plants to add to your established fall garden, consider adding some of these herbaceous edible plants to your landscape this year.

Herbaceous Edibles

Taro

Generally grown for its foliage, one of its species is called “elephant’s ear” due to the size and shape of its leaves. Taro has an edible corm which can be used in the same way as a potato. It is known for its purple color and can also be used to make chips, tea, ice cream and candy. Taro is grown commercially as a food crop in Hawaii and many other parts of the world, and grows well in wet soil, making it an excellent choice for areas in your garden with poor drainage.

I like this recipe from ChefInYou for Taro Root Roast.

Flowers

Pansy, Annual

Pansy

A popular flower for fall containers and garden beds! The petals of pansies have a mild, fresh flavor and can be used as a garnish for cocktails, salads, soups and desserts. Try sugaring them to make a beautiful candied garnish for baking.

Tuberous Begonia

The flower petals of tuberous begonia have a light citrus taste and crisp texture. These are commonly used in salads, sandwiches, yogurt or ice cream. You can also use them as a garnish – sugared or plain. Edible varieties of begonia include: B. annulata (aka B. hatacoa), B. auriculata, B. barbata, B. gracilis, B. hernandioides, B. malabarica, B. mannii, B. picta, B. palmata, B. Semperflorens and B. fimbristipula (used to make a tea).

Learn to make sugared flowers from this video at Southern Living.

Sunflowers

In addition to the seeds, the entire sunflower plant can be eaten from the roots up to the flower. Eat sprouts thinned out from your garden bed on salads, tossed in your favorite dressing. Try a sunflower bud, which tastes like an artichoke – these are delicious roasted in garlic butter! Mature sunflower leaves can be used in stir fry, provided you remove the tough center ribs. Stalks can be used in the same way as celery for their crunchy texture and mild flavor. If you want sunflower seeds, place sunflower heads in a bright location and allow them to mature so you can collect the seeds for use in your cooking and snacks.

Food and Wine offers a variety of ideas for using all parts of sunflowers in your cooking.

Ornamental Vegetables

Ornamental Cabbage ISTOCK

Many of the vegetables we know and love come in beautiful, ornamental versions – which are still edible! Make the most out of every square inch of your landscape by filling in your garden beds with the beautiful foliage of vegetables like ornamental cabbage and kale. Onions and garlic also produce lovely blooms (think of allium – they are in the same family). You can then use ornamental plants in your fall cooking, just as you would the non-ornamental variety.

Important Tips for Using Edible Plants

Before you begin your edible garden, it is vital to remember the following rules when deciding which plants are safe to eat from your garden.

  1. Be conscious of which plants you will be eating when applying pesticides and fungicides. Knowing which products are safe to treat plants you are growing for food is very important. Any plant you eat must be grown organically, without the use of pesticides or other chemicals.
  2. Be certain you are using an edible variety of plant. If you are not sure that the plant you have is safe to eat – bring it in for us to identify, or start from scratch by planting the correct varieties (or seeds of those varieties) in your landscape.
  3. Start small. Our stomachs need time to adapt to new foods. Try eating small amounts first and give your body time to adjust to new ingredients. If you have food allergies, be especially conscious of the foods you are consuming.

If you have questions about starting your own edible garden, come in to any of our stores to talk with a plant specialist!

Watermelon Salad for National Watermelon Day

We’re celebrating with this fresh-from-the-garden watermelon tomato salad! It’s one of our favorites and is fresh all summer long. We hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 small seedless watermelon
  • 4 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 bag baby arugula
  • 1/4 pound feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. pink peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 3 garlic cloves

Directions

In a bowl, add finely chopped shallots, minced garlic, salt, sherry, honey, mustard and crushed pink peppercorns. Using a wisk, slowly add the extra virgin olive oil until combined. If this mixture separates, that’s normal. Add the chives.

In a separate bowl, add the watermelon and tomatoes, which both should be cut into roughly 1 inch pieces. Crumble feta cheese into the watermelon/tomato mixture and toss with some of the vinaigrette mixture until coated. Mix with the arugula.

This is a great recipe to make a day in advance. Just store the watermelon mixture separate from the arugula. You can substitute lettuce for the arugula or use the tomato of your choice.