While it may feel like much of the world is on pause right now, our Chef’s Garden offers a beautiful and calming reminder that Mother Nature continues to move forward. Vibrant flowers, aromatic herbs and new shoots are popping up daily. Our Chefs are harvesting and experimenting to make creative new dishes for you to enjoy later this year (like an ice cream program – YUM!) We thought that in honor of Earth Day, we’d take you for a quick journey through what this season looks like at our estate.
In this season of transition, we’re focusing on the little things that help build a strong foundation for a busy few months:
· Seed selection: Planning for the next season is arguable the most fun part! Right now our Chefs and Gardener are working together to select new seeds for the summer garden. We are bringing in lots of new plants we’ve never grown before: different varieties of corn, okra, turnips and different types of tomatoes.
· Recipe testing: Right now our Chefs are using their downtime to demo new recipes for our eventual re-opening. Sneak peek: Fried Chicken with garden herbs begging for a glass of rosé; a grilled asparagus, caper and fresh goat cheese salad; Niner Smash Burger. We’re also working on an ice cream program, and the “Mint Chocolate Chip” inspired by our huge garden mint sprawl is absolutely delicious! If this is making you hungry, click here for a Spring inspired recipe.
· Harvesting: We have to make room for our new seeds! So that means bringing in the last of winter crops like beets, potatoes and chard along with spring radicchio, mixed lettuces and fava beans. With the restaurant closed, these veggies are either going to recipe testing, our team or to our monthly meal at the Echo Homeless Shelter.
new starts in our greenhouse
raised beds made of recylced wine barrels
· Composting: right now we’re feeding the garden with a mixture of organic and mushroom compost. This compost mixture provides essential nutrients and structure to the soil which will help it to hold the moisture and nutrients it needs more effectively later on.
· Soil aeration: to make the nutrients in the compost easy to absorb, we need to aerate the soil. While the March rainstorms brought much-needed water, they tend to compact soils. So aerating (i.e. tilling the top few inches with a garden rake) allows air, water and nutrients to integrate.
edible flowers are also in full bloom across the garden
· More Garden Space: Right now we are looking to expand our garden all the way up to the Craft Winery and to the road behind it. That expansion includes a variety of stonefruit trees, which means estate grown peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries! We’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to keep hungry critters out of the garden (we have an exceptionally hungry set of local bunnies) so step one of the expansion is building a fence around the entire area.
· Guest Areas: Once the fence and fruit trees are in the ground, we hope to share the area with you all! Right now with the wildflowers blooming and the olive trees swaying in the spring breeze, it’s one of the most beautiful places on the estate. Expect to hear more about this later this year!
Even though our doors are currently closed and we can't invite you all in to visit, know that we are staying busy preparing for when we can. We are working hard to come up with creative, exciting experiences that will let you visit our estate safely this summer and get the most out of your time here. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and stay safe (and maybe open a bottle of wine or two.
From Chef Jacob Burrell - Grated carrot salad is a staple in classic French cuisine. Fresh carrots are grated, seasoned and dressed simply with olive oil, lemon and parsley. The dish is as ridiculously simple as it is refreshing, and gives you a great base for other flavors and add-ins.
My first time pulling out petals of a calendula flower took me back to the memory of grating carrots - their distinct smell and pigment that stained my hands for days. The inspiration for this dish came to me in our Chef’s Garden, smelling those calendula flowers in the midday sun. That slight warmth perked up the flower’s aromas and drew in bitter citrus and tarragon flavors from the rest of the garden from the air, onto my hands.
That discovery led to the following salad, which will come together rather quickly!
Recipe for the home cook follows:
½ lb carrots
4 calendula flowers, petals gently pulled out and reserved
2 sprigs of tarragon
1-2 Tbsp Niner Estate Olive Oil
½ lemon for juice
salt + black pepper
First, grate your carrots. If you’re using a box grater, be sure to use long strokes across the grater to get lengthy shreds. A mandoline, spiralizer or food processor will also work. Strip your tarragon leaves from the sprigs and roughly chop them. Combine carrots, calendula petals and tarragon and toss lightly with salt and pepper. Then, drizzle in oil and toss again (this will coat/protect the delicates a little longer). Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice and toss. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
A note from the Chef: This is a great last-minute salad - eaten fresh and cold it has a bright, pleasing aroma. I've included a few weekly meal suggestions below but the range is vast and you can adapt it to whatever you have on hand (I've even found it as a healthy foil for corn chips...)
Weekday Meal Ideas:
Serve on Avocado Toast
Top with poached eggs
Top with roasted fish or chicken
like our famous Brussels Sprouts, Fish with Citrus Butter Sauce and more!