by Alyssa Joynt
As the leaves turn from green to gold, the numbers on the thermometer start to drop, and we watch summer roll into fall, it is the perfect time to look back at the summer gardens of Mount Julian. When we say that the food we serve is local, we really aren’t kidding. For the next installment of the Mount Julian blog series, Chef Alexander took me on a tour of the gardens around Viamede and explained how he uses each plant in various ways to create incredible meals.
One of the first gardens I saw was the one situated right next to Mount Julian. The building has gardens both on the side and facing the lake, and all are filled with delicious greenery!
This lavender has a very short growing season, but can be used in crème brûlées and infused into almost anything, especially in dishes involving cream and milk.
In the neighbouring garden, a variety of greens take centre stage. Our goal is to grow all the lettuce used at Mount Julian, and the leaf lettuce seen here can be used in a classic salad or as a burger topper.
Right next door is Genovese Basil, which is used in classic pesto. One of the dishes featured this summer included a homemade pesto that was made with these pretty homegrown leaves.
Leaving the Mount Julian side of the property, we explored the gardens by the main building. These pear tomatoes, which are a kind of cherry tomato, grow right near one of the outbuildings by the main entrance to Viamede. They aren’t quite ripe in this picture, but once they are, they are delicious!
Right beside the cherry tomatoes are string beans and peas, both of which are beautiful and fresh veggies for any dish!
While I recognized many of the plants on my tour, dinosaur kale was a new introduction. Another neighbour of the incredible pear tomato, this is a very large and extremely tough variety of kale that would generally not be eaten raw. When the leaves are big like this, they are better sautéed or in a stew.
At the front of the building, there is a vibrant flower garden, but those flowers aren’t just for show! Some of them are nasturtium flowers, which have a bit of a peppery taste and add a fun bunch of flavour and a fun punch of colour to the summer salad they were added to.
In between the Mount Julian and main building gardens, there is a very special plant growing. Viamede doesn’t use any pesticides and we try to preserve the natural landscape of the Kawarthas as much as possible. Because of that effort we are blessed with native plants like this wild grape. This variety is completely edible, and not only can we munch on these grapes but we also use them in jelly. Their leaves are especially exciting – Chef used them during the summer to make dolma as a starting course at Mount Julian.
Chef harvests the leaves before service and then boil them to make them nice and tender.
Once boiled, he fills them with wild rice and rolls them up into delcious dolma!
Another example of the wild Kawartha landscape incorporating itself into the Mount Julian menu is our sumac and honey butter.
Featured earlier on in the summer, this butter is hand-whipped and mixed with honey and sumac, which can be seen growing all over the property.
Our gardens supply our kitchen with as much natural produce as possible, and we are so grateful! As our gardens transition into the end of the fall harvest, Viamede transitions along with them. Into our fall season now, these Mount Julian blog posts are near their end. Thank you for exploring the kitchen with me, and I look forward to sharing the exciting world of preserves with you later on in the winter. We all need some way to preserve the summer season, right?