Monday, June 18, 2012

Dehn’s Herb Garden Tour

Last week, I took a lovely tour of Dehn’s Garden, located in Andover, MN.  Bonnie, who owns the farm along with her husband Bob, was a delightful woman.  She is very passionate about what she does and it shows in their quality.  “After starting out with 20 acres in 1979, the small family farm has grown to 100 acres with 20 greenhouses.  Bonnie comes from a family of vegetable growers dating back to her great-great-grandfather.  Dehn's Garden Fresh Herbs and Vegetables is a result of Bonnie's passion for cooking and Bob's tireless dedication for the perfect crop.”

There were four of us on the tour, all food bloggers.  To start off she went through some history and offered us some snacks, if you want to call them that.   They were stunning to look at and tasted amazing (Bonnie shared two of the recipes which are below).   

First up was lemonade with mint.  It was so refreshing and beautiful (I forgot to take a photo).   What a good idea to add a few bunches of fresh mint to a pitcher of lemonade to give it an even fresher taste.  Of course, I found myself thinking how great it would taste with a splash or two of vodka. 

Minted Lemonade
1 ½ cups          Fresh mint leaves
1 gallon           Prepared Lemonade
1 tray               Ice Cubes

Add ice cubes and mint to pitcher and stir to bruise mint.  
Serve in glasses over ice and garnish with mint and/or lemon slices.   

Best Ever Chocolate Mint Brownies
1                                Family Size Brownie Mix (your favorite brand)
1/3 cup              Fresh Mint (finely chopped) – * Preferably Chocolate Mint
Prepare the brownie mix as directed.  Add the finely chopped mint to the batter.   Spread the batter into a greased 9x13 inch cake pan.  Bake as directed.   Dust with powder sugar and garnish with edible flowers before serving.   

Crab Stuffed Flowers
I don’t have the recipe for this but it was edible flowers stuffed with a crab mixture (I’m guessing it was a combo of crab, cream cheese, chives, etc…. but I'm pretty sure you could stuff them with anything).   Not only were they beautiful, they were delicious.   These particular flowers, Nasturtium, had a little spicy undercurrent that added a nice, bonus of flavor.    I don’t know about you, but I never think about using edible flowers. From now on I will definitely be seeking them out.  They are so pretty; I can’t wait to start adding them to salads and such.

Watermelon with Basil & Feta
I love watermelon with this combination.   I’ve made a salad using these same ingredients but I like the idea of it being slices, making it finger food.  Ingredients: Watermelon, feta cheese, basil, and drizzled balsamic vinegar (and a pinch of salt and pepper.)   

As I think of it, I just bought a really great Balsamic Glaze at Traders Joe’s this week that would be great for this application.   They were sampling it on cantaloupe and it was really good.   This especially makes me happy because it saves me the time of reducing my own balsamic.    
More info: Crafting an authentic balsamic vinegar reduction is a delicate process that demands time and attention… Or, you could just squeeze. It’s not as silly as it sounds. Trader Giotto’s Balsamic Glaze is made for us in Modena, Italy, home of some of the world’s best balsamic vinegar. Crafted using traditional methods, it boasts deep flavor and pungent aroma. Combining concentrated grape must and balsamic vinegar that undergoes a special filtration process, it’s slow cooked, resulting in a smooth, thick reduction with an ideal balance of sweet and bitter – beautiful! Packaged in a handy squeeze bottle, it’s ready to use. Enjoy this effortless gourmet glaze on salads, as a drizzle over grilled meat and fish, or as a dessert topping for fresh, summertime berries.

If I could bottle the aroma and scents of this farm, I would.  It just smelled so fresh.  

During the tour, we were exposed to (and able to try) a wide variety of herbs, many of which I didn’t know existed (did you know there is a pineapple sage?).  I discovered two new herbs that really should be mainstream: 1) Lemon Thyme – I thought it would be great in pastas and cocktails, and 2) Pepper Grass – it was spicy with a unique peppery flavor that I thought would go well in any dish or salad.   If you ever come across these two, try them and buy them.   

Here are some helpful herb tips that Bonnie shared:
  • Always wash your produce and fresh herbs just before you use them.
  • Refrigerate by wrapping a damp paper towel around the "cut" end of the stem and place into a plastic bag or container.
  • When using fresh herbs in place of dried herbs use three times as much.
  • DO NOT REFRIGERATE BASIL. Basil is very cool sensitive and will turn black in the fridge overnight.  Place in a vase with fresh water and leave on the counter. The best temperature to store basil is between 45° and 55°F.
BEFORE (babies) baby lettuce using hydroponic growing methods
AFTER (all grown up)

Check out Dehn's website for more information and an informative herb guide:

Better yet, visit them at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market Friday – Sunday, where they’ve been selling their high-quality produce at the Farmer’s Market for 32 years.  “Throughout the season, we have more than 20 varieties of herbs, 15 types of hot and sweet peppers, 10 varieties of field greens, and eight other varieties of vegetables. Our legendary carrots are the best on the market and so sweet, you'll skip the veggie dip.” 

This visit really reminded me how important it is to use the freshest, high-quality ingredients.   Cheers to a “fresh” summer!

What is your favorite herb?  Please share.

UPDATE:  A week after posting this, my dear friend Michelle surprised me with some Lemon Thyme!   Apparently, as a farmer's market regular, she knows Bonnie & Bob and was able to put in a request.    I cannot wait to experiment with it.   Thank you Michelle!

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