One of the joys of not working is that on a balmy winter’s day, I can go for a bike ride through bucolic scenery and bask in the sun after a picnic lunch, while everyone else is cooped up, grey-faced in a temperature-controlled office cubicle.
So I was most excited when I woke up this morning, dazzled by a bright blue sky, because it was the day for my trip to Heide Museum of Modern Art. Two things: I love fresh food and I love sculpture gardens. So a Pick and Eat Winter BBQ in amongst the outdoor sculptures at Heide would count as one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon.
For about two hours, head gardener Dugald Noyes (who worked for 10 years at National Trust properties) and his assistant Anna led a group of gardeners and foodies on a tour of the vegetable garden and the kitchen garden. They talked about the history of its construction, the philosophies of the planting and the practicalities of soil quality, composting, planting and harvesting. I never knew that:
- you shouldn’t save your own seed for brassicas, as they tend to cross-pollinate very easily. Meaning you could end up with an alien hybrid cabbage-cauliflower;
- potatoes should be harvested using a special potato fork with flatter prongs so as not to damage the vegetable;
- Londoners survived the Blitz by eating a lot of easy-to-grow jerusalem artichokes; and
- the third quarter of the moon’s cycle is the best time to plant root crops.
Everyone donned their gloves and got down to hoe potatoes (check out the giant one), snip chillies and unroot bright pink radishes.
When the Heide Cafe (run by Shannon Bennett as Cafe Vue at Heide) opens in November 2009 it will be using the produce from the gardens. I can’t wait! Today, however, our harvest ended up in our delicious lunch made by Ed Dixon Food Design and take-home goodie bags. Sitting in the warm sunshine, we sampled crusty bread with a crushed herb paste, mellow jerusalem artichoke soup (made with no cream, but mineral water!); barbecued marinated chicken and herb baguettes, a crisp green-leaf salad, silverbeet, pea and goat’s cheese tart and prettily pink pickled radish salad. To finish off, baby pavlovas with poached rhubarb and delicate edible flowers. The lovely staff kept topping up the flutes of Chandon sparkling wine too, although I stuck to pink grapefruit Tiro.
If all that wasn’t delightful enough, when I got home I unpacked my goodie bag – silverbeet, herbs, radishes jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, lavender, recipe cards, a pair of tickets to Heide’s indoor exhibitions and some giant sunflower seeds. The flowers went in my bathroom, the silverbeet and herbs were paired with some organic rainbow chard from Organic Wholefoods ($2.99 a bunch) for a yummy jalousie tart and I’m going to try my hand at the jerusalem artichoke soup this weekend.
The next Pick and Eat will be in spring. If it’s on a weekend I will definitely go again to sample different spring produce. For $45 I think the whole experience is fantastic value and a really special day outing, especially if you pair it with a trip to the gallery.