Mount Julian’s Fall Harvest

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?


A Weekend Fit For A Queen

I’m sitting here, on the tail end of the first real weekend of summer. Slightly exhausted, generally soaked, and really, really happy.

There are countless stories among guests, staff, and even the poor poor sunfish that decided to be near our shore, but we’ll have to keep it to the highlights for now.

Culinary:

This weekend, Mount Julian really came out in its full splendour for the summer. Chef Alexander and I spent the week foraging, and we found countless edibles – wild leeks have been out a few weeks, but the spruce tips only opened on Thursday. Clover, dandelion (leaves for salad, flowers for cookies), garlic mustard (an invasive plant we love to eat), wild chives, mint, trout lillies, and even wild purple violets. I don’t think Chef was happy when I described his lovingly crafted salad as “lawn trimmings,” but, well, I thought it was apt (and delicious).

 

Finding Friends:

One of our new initiatives is the “Find A Friend” board  – after years of recreation programming, we have realized that guests make the best memories on their own. We still offer a recreation program, but also have a board for guests who share interests to meet.

This weekend, a family of 8 decided to organize a scavenger hunt, of sorts, based on the letters of VIAMEDE – draw an Ant. Eat an ice cube. There was a great turn out, and the kids all came away with new friends.

 

Guests:

Our guests were, unsurprisingly, awesome. The rain on Saturday brought people together in the dining room. The sun on Sunday created a rush for our boats. Our pool decks had more water on them than the pools had in them, thanks to splashing kids. BBQs at cottages and our new BBQ patio, The Porch, got heavy use.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention fishing. This time of year, for someone like me, fishing can be a bit boring – pickerel aren’t all that fun to catch, and not much else is in season. But for kids, this is the best time of year. My fly rod’s been working for a few weeks, but the hot sun finally got the sunfish, crappy, and perch biting. On Friday, some guests had rods from their friends with some very strange lures until I got them some simple jigs, and worms the next day. The rest of the weekend, rain notwithstanding, kids were passing around half a dozen fishing rods, catching hundreds of fish in total. It was great to watch!

 

The Farm:

After a late start, our piglets are off to the races. They’re still too small for the big pen (they’d easily escape the fence holes), so for now, they’re in the turkey pen. Our Easter chicks are doing well. This week, we should be getting turkeys, ducks, and quail. Bob, our gardener, has the veggies off to a strong start, and we should get more than we’ve ever gotten from our gardens.

So, life is good. Summer is here!

 

Cheers,

Ben