It’s not the most exciting time for the culinary gardens at Kendall-Jackson, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. In fact, right now is the time of the year when we try to protect the plants and trees from frost and make a game plan for the spring and summer seasons. I have asked our garden specialist, chef Matthew Lowe, to share some of the things he is working on this time of year. – Justin
The overcast, drizzly days of winter sometimes make it feel like there is nothing happening in the garden, but there is plenty going on. I put together a few tips to help you protect your plants during the winter and to help prepare the garden for spring.
- Frost and freeze is an issue for everyone this time of year. Our citrus and banana trees are covered with a frost blanket to protect them (citrus and banana are some of the aromas we use to describe wines in our Wine Sensory gardens). A blanket or a string of holiday lights can also be used to keep plants from getting too cold. Just be sure not to use plastic, as the moisture trapped inside can quickly turn to ice and do more damage than good.
- Winter cover crops, such as beans and vetch, help improve the soil and can be tilled into the ground in the springtime like a green manure. In addition to helping improve the nitrogen in the soil, fava beans also have the added benefit of being one of the first vegetables we harvest in the spring.
- There are still plenty of vegetables in the winter garden to eat as well. Underground crops, such as carrots, beets and turnips, provide great flavor for soups and stews. Broccoli and collard greens are above-ground vegetables that do well this time of year. Sun Chokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) keep well in our “root cellar” and we dig them up as needed for hearty winter soups.
- New seed catalogs are arriving now and they give us lots of reading material about newly discovered heirloom varieties that will taste great in the summer sun. Now is the time to start picking out what seeds you would like to plant in the spring.
With the time of year and what is in season in mind, I thought it’d be nice to share a recipe that has a sunchoke as the star.
Sunchoke and Granny Smith Apple Soup
Recipe by Chef Ryan Pollnow
Paired with Highlands Estate Camelot Highlands Chardonnay
The natural sweetness found in the sunchoke balances the tartness of the Granny Smith apple in this light, pureed soup. With aromas of apple and lemon found in both the dish and the glass, this soup and the Kendall-Jackson Camelot Highlands Chardonnay are a natural pairing. A touch of cream to complete the soup enhances the buttery finish in this well balanced wine.
Serves 6 to 8 (as a light appetizer)
- 1 oz. butter
- ½ yellow onion, diced small
- 1 lb. sunchokes, peeled and cut into small pieces
- ½ lb. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup Chardonnay verjus* (1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar may be substituted)
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- ¼ cup cream (optional)
- Kosher salt
- Melt the butter in a large sauce pan. Add the onions and turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir occasionally and cook until the onions are tender, approximately 8 minutes.
- Add the sunchokes, apples and enough water to cover. Add the verjus and honey and turn the heat to high.
- Once the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 35 minutes. Carefully, transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth**.
- Add cream, if desired, and season with salt.
- Serve hot and enjoy with a glass of Kendall-Jackson Camelot Highlands Chardonnay
*Verjus is the unfermented, under-ripe, pressed grape juice from vines also used to make wine. This product is available in specialty stores or anywhere that sells gourmet ingredients.
**Be cautious when pureeing hot liquids in the blender.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America Matthew has worked in the kitchen, gardens and cellars of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates for nearly a decade. He brings to the table a wide variety of cooking experience from restaurants, healthcare, catering and corporate dining. Matthew specializes in vegetable dishes and the Kendall-Jackson culinary gardens offer an endless palette of seasonal produce and herbs to draw from.