Monday, October 6, 2014

Harvest Time at the Museum

by Erin Doane, curator

The season is wrapping up for our three small garden beds out in front of the museum. There are still a lot of tomatoes slowly turning red and the ornamental corn still has a ways to go but we've harvested nearly everything else. For the size of the gardens, I'd say we had a fairly good harvest.
After finally defeating (or at least strongly discouraging) the squirrels, almost everything grew well. The runner beans didn't do that well and the peas and spinach were just planted too late but otherwise, I'd call it a success. 
Roma tomatoes and ornamental corn
I just love cooking with fresh, home-grown (museum-grown?) vegetables and I made a lot of different things from our little plots. The cucumbers did really well and I think everyone on staff took some home. I sliced some up and mixed in some onion, sour cream, vinegar, salt and pepper, and a bit of sugar.

Chicago pickling cucumbers
We also had an abundance of basil that got shared around. I made a lot of pesto and used some full leaves on a tomato sandwich I made with one of the German Giant tomatoes from the garden. The German Giants are huge, lovely, tasty tomatoes and I’m definitely going to look for them again next year for my own garden.
Sweet basil and pesto
Sliced German Giant tomato and tomato sandwich with fresh basil
The root crops did well in our Victorian garden.  There were enough beets for two or three servings.  I oven roasted them will a little oil, salt and pepper.  The carrots were short and stout but there were a lot of them. I shredded some and combined them with pineapple, raisins and yogurt. While some folks seemed skeptical of the recipe, I thought it was very tasty.  There are still a lot of carrots in the garden bed. Maybe I’ll have to make a carrot cake next. 
Ruby queen beets
Early chantenay red-cored carrots
The pumpkins in the Three Sisters garden had a really good start but the leaves got powdery mildew in the middle of the season.  There was enough time, however, to get two nice little pumpkins before the vines died.  I cooked up one and made it into a pumpkin cheesecake. That was definitely the staff favorite of all the dishes that came out the garden.  If anyone is interested in the recipe you can find it here.  I’m not sure what to do with the second pumpkin.  Suggestions?
Early sweet sugar pie pumpkins and pumpkin cheesecake
Visitors seemed to enjoy seeing the gardens growing outside the museum and it drew people in to see our agriculture exhibit.  We even gave a couple little tours of the gardens where children could touch and smell the plants and herbs.  I am really pleased with the way the gardens turned out and with all the good food we got from them. 


  1. I really enjoyed watching the gardens grow this year, this was an amazing idea ... Thanks for the cucumbers they were awesome, and for making the pumpkin cheesecake (yumm !!) I am really looking forward to seeing how next year's crop comes out like if we do this again

  2. awesome job....veggies look great and the dishes look delicious!

  3. A good project: thanks for the report.