Out the back door garden

 our farm at Imagery Winery; photo by Steven Krause 
To us, the farm is both literal—referring of course, 
to the 2 plus acres of biodynamic land at Imagery Estate Winery 
in Glen Ellen where we grow most 
of our vegetables, herbs and fruits—but our "farm project" also 
encompasses what we grow at the restaurants. 
A blog past last year took you along with Chef John 
and his farm consultant, Colby Eierman as they reviewed
the space behind the girl & the fig, where they first started planting, 
and looked ahead to what else could be done there:
(that's how they decided to plant 300 asparagus crowns 
even though we need to be patient for almost two years until we can harvest them) 
And, in some ways, the "farms" right outside the doors of the restaurant 
are where the Chefs turn for frequent daily inspiration or a quick solution. 
the lavender bushes and apple espaliers at ESTATE are beautiful and delicious!
apple fennel galette photo by Steven Krause 
The gardens at ESTATE are a significant aspect of the environment and 
experience of dining there, where you can enjoy beautiful ornamental plants, 
a climbing rose that is over 100 years old and lush trees. 
Certainly the herb beds and apple espaliers in the front and the lemon tree by the porch do double duty for us, both as part of the landscaping and serving the kitchen. 

heirloom apples grafted on the espaliers
story goes that this climbing rose was a wedding gift to General Vallejo's daughter 
lemon tree right outside ESTATE bar entrance 
But we also take advantage of every bit of sun and space available
with beds of potatoes, onions, carrots and some herbs in an area in the west parking lot 
as well as creatively planting along the back fence. 
The beans, cucumbers, eggplant, chard, and purslane back there are truly 
an "out the back door" garden for the chefs. 

chard. Did you know this is a plant that makes you happy?
purslane, which tastes like spinach or watercress, appears in our salads. Here are recipe ideas
And behind the girl & the fig, our new greenhouse is ready for micro greens and herbs. 
The greenhouse is a new addition to our farm project 
and will greatly enhance what we can do, especially with 
more fragile plants as well as allowing us to have more control.

greenhouse at the fig in process
greenhouse ready for plants
Chef Jeremy from "the fig" enjoys the convenience of 
dashing out the door to snip some chives—how much fresher could they be? 
And he likes "keeping his hand" in the farm; while he works the beds 
out back, he may get a new idea for something to do in the kitchen. 

What do you plant outside your back door? 
Get some ideas for container planting in the city.
Whatever you decide, here is a great resource from 
about planting a more "earth-friendly" garden
And Smart Gardener is a favorite source for innovative ways to garden in small spaces whether in the city or anywhere. 
Being limited for space should not prevent you from the experience 
and the delicious taste of growing some of your own food!
photo by Jerry James Stone 
And if you and some fellow urban farmers want to join forces 
to create a more extensive garden in a city environment, 
read this article for ideas. 

But for us, here in Sonoma, we know we are lucky 
to have the space we do and the bounty we cultivate 
in all the areas we consider "the farm project."
Our chefs and servers are happy to share that bounty with you,
 telling you which ingredients come from our farm. 
Stop in sometime soon this summer to taste what we are growing.
the peas at the farm inspired the chefs at ESTATE 
to create smoked pea sformato radish salad

Summer's approaching...patience at the farm

In a few days it will be the official start of summer. 
While we certainly have already been enjoying the fruits of our labors at the farm, 
we are now preparing to really reap the rewards. 
radishes and onions this spring; photo by Cece Hugo
abundant garlic beds earlier this spring; photo by Cece Hugo

We look forward to enjoying what the chefs will create
from the 350 tomatoes, 100 peppers and 100 eggplants at the farm,
as well as all the herbs and other vegetables.
heirloom tomato & watermelon salad, a favorite at the girl & the fig
featured in our new book, Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
photo by Steven Krause 
photo by Steven Krause
wood roasted shiso peppers from ESTATE
Summer begins the time when a trip to the farm is not only 
about the work we need to do, 
but there is always the promise of leaving with something fresh in hand. 

We confess it is often challenging to wait for summer's bounty, 
but the knowledge of how things do change 
at the farm encourages us along.

apricot tree in the orchard in late April
the apricot tree now
A great article recently talked about how gardening teaches us patience. 
In The Telegraph, author James Alexander-Sinclair says 
"gardening is the last bastion of the patient, as nature cannot be hurried...
often the greatest pleasure is in the waiting: 
to appreciate the progress of the plant at every stage." 

We keep the image of something like our lemon verbena pots du crème
photo by Steven Krause 

as we wait for the lemon verbena to be ready. 

For now, though, as we anticipate summer, 
there are a few special things we are creating with inspiration from the farm.

What are you enjoying from your garden right now?
And what have you planted that you look forward to having this summer?


Happy plants

We feel like we are in full swing now at the farm—most of our plantings 
are in as we look ahead to a bountiful summer and fall harvest. 
After our big planting party a few weeks ago, 
we added a greenhouse behind the girl & the fig 
for micro greens and herbs, which will make the chefs very happy.
new greenhouse behind the girl & the fig
And speaking of happy, we recently talked about "a sense of place in our food," 
 the idea of "terroir," and shared a great article from "The Atlantic" 
about how getting your hands in the dirt and working in the garden 
ESTATE sous chef Uriel planting peppers
boosts your mood, but did you know that some of what you grow 
has the same affect as you are eating
vegetables and herbs make you happiest.
Sondra & John are pretty happy after picking beets & carrots-are they on the list of veggies?

The link to "Organic Gardening" article was shared by 
Smart Gardener, a rich resource for information and tips. 
If you have not finished your planting for the season yet 
and wonder how long you can keep seeds, Smart Gardener recently posted 
great info on that. We follow them on Facebook and appreciate all their tips. 

there's still time for you to plant for summer 
Chard, potatoes, and tomatoes, 
are just some of those noted as affecting your mood in a positive way.
Chard grows in great abundance behind the girl & the fig 
potato bed in the Orchard at the farm
photo by Steven Krause 
Ultimate potato happiness, right?

Ray from Local Landscapers with tomato starts we grew from seeds, ready to plant at the farm
Last summer a "happy" John picking tomatoes
we look forward to a great bounty of tomatoes from the 350 plants at the farm
supreme "tomato happiness" at the girl & the fig; photo by Steven Krause

It makes us feel good as we work at the farm 
knowing you will enjoy the fruits of our labors, 
but with these particular vegetables it seems as if there is another layer to the cycle. 
Our moods are boosted during planting and you 
get an extra hit of happiness from the properties of these vegetables. 
Whatever the science of this, we just know how good it tastes 
when we create a dish from our farm ingredients.

 Sondra & John picking carrots and beets at the farm; photo by Jerry James Stone
Chef John at work in the kitchen of the girl & the fig

Do you have a favorite farm-inspired dish from our menu?
Or is there something you make from your garden bounty 
that tastes especially good and makes you happy?

Farm Inspired

There was so much happening around us this week 
including a nice mention in the New York Times, some fun at the farm 
 with Jerry James Stone and Dayna Reggero filming video 
for Jerry's many blogs including

Click to like Jerry James Stone facebook page 
and follow his progress of the filming of his month long 
"Sustainable Food Tour in a Chevy Volt."

We were DAY 15!
Sondra & John at the farm picking carrots & beets for "The Harlot" cocktail
making sure the carrots are just sweet enough!
back at the girl & the fig with Kim at the bar
Kim (center) shows Jerry James Stone and Sondra how she creates our farm-inspired cocktail 
"The Harlot" - beautiful AND Healthy

the girl & the fig's  "Harlot" cocktail recipe 
if you want to give it a try:
The Harlot
Makes 2 cocktails

3 ounces tequila
1 ounce Canton Ginger Liqueur
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce lemonade
½ ounce carrot/beet puree (see below)
Splash of soda

In a pint glass full of ice, add all ingredients.
Shake well to mix ingredients.
Strain into a glass filled with ice.

Carrot-Beet Puree
Makes 16 ounces:
1 carrot
2 red beets
¼ cup sugar

Blanch carrot and beets in a pot filled with water and sugar.  
Let cool and puree with a splash of the blanching liquid. Keep refrigerated.

Back at the farm:
Matt, Ray, Jerry James Stone & John talking about sustainability and biodynamics
We know that we do at our farm on Imagery Estate Vineyards 
is just one aspect of the biodiversity
that the Benizger family has created on this land. 
The farm contributes to the overall goal since they need to plant
more than grapes to maintain the biodynamic balance.  
The Benzigers continue to be leaders in this area and
we are always learning from them.
Always an educational read from the Benziger Biodynamic Chronicles.

Checking out the upcoming work that will be happening at Annadel Estate Winery
What will be growing here? 
Sondra and Harold McGee at Annadel Estate Winery's Farm
Have you read Harold's inspiring book, On Food and Cooking
 It has been called "a kitchen classic. Hailed by Time magazine 
as 'a minor masterpiece' when it first appeared in 1984, 
On Food and Cooking is the bible to which food lovers and professional chefs 
worldwide turn for an understanding of where our foods come from, 
what exactly they're made of, and how cooking transforms 
them into something new and delicious."

No matter what we are doing at the farm, 
we always have an eye towards what will happen in the kitchen. 

We'd love to hear your ideas for a dish you have created 
from something you've grown in your garden,
or how you transformed the bounty you brought home 
from the Farmer's Market to share with family and friends at your table.

That's the reason we all do this, right?