Get to know Jennifer R. Bartley of American Potager.
What are you going to speak about at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR?
I will be giving a cooking demo called Organic Food and Flowers from the Fall Kitchen Garden. We will be harvesting the last of the warm season herbs and vegetables to make spicy garden curry with cool yogurt Sauce and hot peach chutney from my new book The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook. We heat a little ghee in a pan and add freshly harvested green beans, carrots, potatoes and whatever else is growing in the garden till it sizzles. We’ll add garlic, broth, curry spices, coconut milk, flat leaf Italian parsley and Thai basil and simmer to perfection. Two sauces are served on the side so everyone concocts their own curry bowl to taste. Cool Yogurt Sauce with mint balances the spiciness of the curry. Spice lovers can add more heat to hot peach chutney with jalapenos and cilantro to kick up the flavor. We will also gather coneflowers, goldenrod, bronze fennel and Joe Pye weed to plop in a vase. When you harvest from your own garden, each meal is a celebration.
What are you most looking forward to sharing with FAIR attendees?
I love sharing how gardening and cooking from the garden are creative endeavors. It’s like a fun art project but instead of crayons we are using food and flowers we’ve grown ourselves. This spicy curry is easy to make and the recipe is flexible and can be adapted to what’s best from the garden all season. I love pairing salsas, sauces, and chutneys with my dishes. You’ll see - there are no strict rules. Cook what you love. Cook what the garden offers. Am I a purist? Nope. We also blur the lines of Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean. Modern cooking is sort of like fashion - there is total freedom to do what you want. My philosophy is this: when the food and flowers come from your own garden, you can’t make a mistake.
Tell us about your background with your particular topic.
I am a landscape architect who cooks. I design gardens for people who want beautiful outdoor spaces to grow fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetables so they harvest something for the table or vase everyday of the year. I am also a cook who gardens. I have relished the joy of gathering my own food since I was a child watching my mom make elderberry jelly and black raspberry pies from the fruits of our foraging. Every childhood birthday or celebration began by gathering whatever flowers were in the garden to put in a vase or plop on an iced cake. Hopefully, I have passed this love of eating from the garden to my own five children. Fifteen years ago my children and I built our own potager with four raised beds and reclaimed bricks right next to the house. Since then we’ve gathered snippets of this and buckets of that to concoct the soup of the day.
My first book, Designing the New Kitchen Garden, is filled with design ideas and photos from my garden and inspirational French and American edible gardens. The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook continues this theme of beautiful edible gardens. It’s set up by seasons so it’s clear what to plant and harvest when. It’s also filled with seasonal recipes, detailed planting designs and decorating tips. I do all of the photography, writing and water color drawings for my books. It’s my home-grown creation to inspire your home-grown creation.
This has been my mission for many years: to communicate how to borrow ideas from the French potager and make it practical for American gardeners. Kitchen gardens can be beautiful when we mix up vegetables, fruits, herbs, edible and non-edible flowers and plant it all right next to the house. When we gather something to nibble on that we have grown and prepared ourselves, we feed our souls as well as our stomachs.
Why should fairgoers attend your presentation?
After a long day at the FAIR you might get hungry and cranky - stop in for a taste of some good curry. You don’t have to do the cooking and you will walk away with a new recipe or two.
How will you get to the FAIR, and how far do you have to travel?
I will be driving from my home in Granville, Ohio. It’s a beautiful drive through eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
What are you most looking forward to at the FAIR?
I am hoping to catch the lectures on compost, organic fertilizers and building soil fertility. Ultimately, growing your own food and flowers successfully is about “growing” healthy soil.
What advice do you have for attendees?
Besides the motherly advice of wear a hat and bring sunscreen, I would say have fun and keep an open mind. You are on a learning vacation.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could have only one thing, what would you choose?
I would have to say a deluxe Swiss Army knife. A really fancy one with a miniature saw, tweezers, various knife blades, scissors, tools, cork screw etc. I like gadgets, and how else would I open the vintage bottle of wine that might drift ashore?
Thanks, Jennifer. We'll see you at the FAIR!
Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa. FAIR September 24-25, and upcoming FAIRs in other locations. Tickets are on sale now.
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