Kitchen Gardens

Ellen Ogden’s Inspiring Kitchen Gardens

by Katherine P. Cox

 

harvest-basket-3 lee krohnWhile it has invaluable advice on everything from preparing the soil and choosing seeds to basic tool and style suggestions, this design/garden/cook book inspires rather than intimidates. It transforms the humble vegetable plot into a place where art, whimsy and creativity take flight, enhancing the essential joy of growing something from seed. That the resulting vegetable ends up on the dinner plate, further exciting the senses, just reinforces the inherent satisfaction of gardening.

“It’s in our DNA that yearning to grow something ourselves,” Ogden said. “I wanted to encourage people and give them the tools.”

While supporting local farmers is important, “I feel that growing (our own) food is the next step beyond local,” she said. She knows it’s a DIY audience, and wanted to impart that “wonderful satisfaction of growing your own…things that you’re not going to get at your CSA.” She believes that most consumers have lost their connection with food, and that planning, planting, growing, and discovering just how long it can take to grow food renews that connection.

Just as she advises gardeners to start with a plan, she first developed the garden concepts for this book and then designed them with an illustrator, Ramsay Gourd. Then, with photographer Ali Koukas, she “floated around and looked at gardens” that corresponded with the themes in her book —the Cook’s Garden, the Children’s Garden, the Heirloom Maze Garden, and 12 others that comprise the 15 kitchen gardens in the book.

Each of the garden chapters includes gorgeous photos, an illustrated design plan, 10 tips for growing, and descriptions of the suggested seeds and plants to put in the soil. Ogden’s own unique recipes using those vegetables conclude each garden’s chapter.

There’s the basic Kitchen Garden for the salad lover, which includes a variety of lettuces and greens, radishes, carrots, cucumbers and edible flowers. The Organic Rotation Garden, or Four-Square, “is ideal for first time gardeners with the goal of learning fundamental principles of organic gardening,” Ogden writes.

Others are more creative and stimulate the imagination: the Paint Box Garden (“plant by color to create a patchwork quilt with shades of green…and dabs of pink, red and blue.”), the Culinary Herb Garden (“fill with color, texture and fragrance”), the Artist’s Garden, and the Four Friends Garden, Ogden’s personal favorite.

“A patchwork quilt symbolizes friendship; likewise, in this garden, each of the four squares reflects the unique personality of one of the four gardeners,” she writes, “and all the squares blend into one. Inspired by the concept of a community garden, the Four Friends Garden offers camaraderie, recreation, and education, with a common goal of growing nutritious food. …Each tends to a plot, but all share in the harvest of the whole.”

Regardless of the garden, Ogden is adamant that planning and proper preparation are the keys to success. She sees it as an investment. “You have to start with a plan. Plan now, plant later,” she said. In the opening chapter, “Getting Started,” Ogden lays out the basics: Site, soil, compost, seeds (she suggests a “balance of both tried and true and new and different”), maintenance (“weed, water, mulch”), boundaries (walls, hedges, fences), tools, and style. “Invite whimsy into your garden,” she proposes, with garden art and benches, for example.

Gardening should not be a chore or time consuming, she said. Her book offers up gardens that are inspiring, satisfying and fun. Ogden brings a wealth of experience to this book, her fourth. A garden design consultant, she also delivers garden talks and has been gardening in Vermont since she first moved to the Manchester area in 1980. Co-founder of the seed catalog The Cook’s Garden, she now lives in Manchester Village, where she has a small plot of land and what she calls a classic potager garden. When she first moved in 8 years ago, there was little landscaping. But “once a gardener, always a gardener,” she said, and she has slowly beautified her property.

Basically, Ogden’s philosophy is that people should pay the same aesthetic attention to vegetable gardens that they do to flower gardens. “Inspiration can be found in a garden if you take the time,” she said. “It opens you up to a new way of looking at gardens. It turns work into play.”

Basil Wrapped Grilled Fish

From The Complete Kitchen Garden

“Mammoth basil grow as big as your hand and are well suited for wrapping fish fillets or other quick-cooking foods for the grill. The leaves impart a delicate flavor to the fish and help keep the flesh moist while cooking. Soak the leaves in cold water to keep the basil from scorching on the grill.”

8 mammoth basil leaves

1 ½  lbs. skinless scrod fillets

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons basil pesto

1 lemon, cut into 8 thin slices

8 wooden skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Basil Wrapped Grilled Fish

From The Complete Kitchen Garden

“Mammoth basil grow as big as your hand and are well suited for wrapping fish fillets or other quick-cooking foods for the grill. The leaves impart a delicate flavor to the fish and help keep the flesh moist while cooking. Soak the leaves in cold water to keep the basil from scorching on the grill.”

8 mammoth basil leaves

1 ½  lbs. skinless scrod fillets

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons basil pesto

1 lemon, cut into 8 thin slices

8 wooden skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Light charcoal fire and let it burn until coals are covered with white ash. (Or preheat gas grill on low heat). While fire is heating, soak basil leaves in bowl of cold water. Cut fillets vertically into 8 strips, each about 2 inches wide. Season strips with salt and pepper. Spread pesto on strips and top with lemon slice. Drain basil leaves, shaking off most of the water. Wrap each slice in a wet basil leaf and secure with a skewer.Lightly oil the grill, place fish on grill and cover. Cook until the fish is completely cooked in the center when cut with a sharp knife, about 10 minutes. Remove leaves and serve hot.

 

Lightly oil the grill, place fish on grill and cover. Cook until the fish is completely cooked in the center when cut with a sharp knife, about 10 minutes. Remove leaves and serve hot.

To purchase an autographed copy of “The Complete Kitchen Garden,” go to http://www.ellenogden.com.

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