In the height of summer the gardens at Kendall-Jackson’s Wine Estate and Gardens are booming. All sorts of unique plants are sprouting up to be utilized by our chefs in their delicious culinary creations. With the 18th Annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival fast approaching, we decided to check in with K-J’s Culinary Gardener Tucker Taylor to learn about the latest happenings in the garden.
What plants are you most excited about right now?
Tucker: I am excited about our ice lettuce which originates in coastal Africa. Being a succulent, it has a nice crunchy texture and being a coastal plant, it uptakes salts from the soil and has a nice briny flavor. The chefs love it because the leaves look like they are covered in diamonds, or “ice.”
What plants are producing the best fruit or vegetables?
Tucker: Right now, the Padron and Shishito peppers are really flourishing. These small green peppers are occasionally spicy and taste delicious pan-fried in oil.
What garden foods are the chefs most excited about?
Tucker: Chef Justin and his team are most excited about our oyster leaf. This is a plant that originates in the Moors of Scotland. It has beautiful blue-grey leaf that tastes just like oysters.
Are you doing any planting right now?
Tucker: Yes, the work in the garden is never done. We are planting seeds for our fall crop transplants, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower.
What sustainable practices are you continuing to implement in the garden?
Tucker: Here at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens we intensely focus on soil building through the use of compost, crop rotations and cover crops. Growing the same crop in the same location depletes the soil of vital nutrients. Rotating our crops allows for these vital nutrients to naturally return to the soil.
How are you preparing for the upcoming Tomato Festival?
Tucker: Right now we are weeding and planting new successions of summer squash, green beans and sunflowers to be ready for the Tomato Festival.