When food is fresh, gathered from the garden just hours ago, something special lingers in the flavor. In November, you can taste the nip of last night’s frost, the subtle sweetness of mineral-rich soil and that certain vibrancy that comes only from being grown with personal care.
Those not-so-subtle flavor differences are evident with the first bite of Braised Garden Kale with Thyme, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary or Honey Lavender Crème Brûlée served up at the Glasbern Country Inn, where herbs play a lead role. Nestled among the rolling hills of Pennsylvania farm country, the Glasbern is blessed not only with 100 acres of lovely country vistas, but also rich, living soil that has sustained generations.
Once part of a family farm, the land supplied food to local markets for nearly two centuries. Now an elegant inn, the Glasbern continues the tradition of providing backdoor-fresh organic vegetables and herbs, as well as pasture-fed chicken, beef and lamb.
A few steps from the kitchen door, sage, thyme, rosemary and dozens of other herbs grace Glasbern’s terraced, hillside herb garden. In November, hardy greens, root crops and brassicas finish the season in the 2-acre production garden, while recently dug potatoes and winter squash occupy their fall quarters in the pantry. What the inn cannot grow for its patrons, it buys mostly from other local growers.
“Having fresh herbs and vegetables on hand makes an enormous difference in quality,” Chef Michael Corrigan says. “Herbs add so much to a holiday celebration—not only flavor, but also texture and color. They give every dish a more festive look and exciting flavor.”
Of course you don’t need an inn-sized production garden to create a flavorful holiday feast at home. Even just a few sprigs of your remaining garden herbs can transform the typical turkey dinner into a memorable harvest celebration. Gather the rest of your holiday fare at the nearest farmers’ market—a cornucopia of fresh, local flavors. Think of the market’s collective offerings as your community’s “family farm.”
Then, to make the most of the season’s bounty, try these freshly inspired recipes from Chef Corrigan. Many of these dishes (thankfully) can be made a day or two ahead of time.
Crispy Sage Leaves with Aioli
Celery Root and Potato Soup
Roasted Heritage Turkey with Herbs
Savory Butternut Squash Stuffing
Braised Kale with Thyme
Gnocchi with Brown Butter
About Glasbern Country Inn
Longing for a slower pace—or perhaps just a weekend of scenic serenity? The Glasbern Inn might be just the thing. Located in the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania, on more than 100 verdant acres, the inn offers 35 comfortable sleeping accommodations, as well as fine dining, spa, conference and event facilities.
Lovingly restored by the Granger family, who bought the farm in 1985, the original, 19th-century post and beam barn serves as a dramatic dining room and pub. Seven rustic outbuildings have been transformed into luxurious guest rooms and suites. Throughout the sloped pastures that surround the inn, Scottish Highland cattle and Black Welsh Mountain sheep comfortably graze. A tranquil pond, hillside herb garden and organic vegetable garden complete the idyllic setting.
For more information, contact the Glasbern Inn at (610) 285-4723; or visit their website at www.glasbern.com .
For the freshest, close-to-home-grown food, visit your local farmers’ market. Often, you’ll find produce that was picked just hours ago. Besides being a great way to gather delicious food, shopping at the farmers’ market supports your local economy and small family farms. Tips for market day:
•Take it easy. Before you buy, take a stroll through the market to see what different vendors have to offer. Often, great deals are available.
•Talk it up. Establish a relationship with local growers. You can learn how the crop was produced (organically or conventionally, for example); how to judge ripeness; how to prepare new varieties; and what’s coming next week.
•Take a cooler. If you plan to spend the day doing errands, keep your market buys fresh by stashing them in a cooler until you return home.
To find local growers in your area, visit www.LocalHarvest.org , www.sustainable.org or www.EatWild.com .
Even in autumn, many fresh herbs—including sage, thyme, oregano and parsley—can be gathered from the garden to add depth and interest to most any dish.
For best results:
- Harvest early in the day or on a cloudy day.
- Use a scissors or sharp knife to clip sprigs. Clip whole stems, several inches long, rather than just the tips of stems or individual leaves.
- Harvest evenly, not just from one area, to maintain the plant’s shape.
- Stretch the season by covering cold-sensitive herbs with a row cover, sold at most garden centers. Consider potting up your favorites to bring indoors for the winter
Rob Cardillo has photographed plants, gardens, people and food for more than 15 years. Formerly the Director of Photography for Organic Gardening magazine, his work also has appeared in Mother Earth News, Better Homes and Gardens, Garden Design and many other publications.