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Tonight’s Tomato Sauce

A recipe just in time for Heirloom Tomato Weekend

Karen Z. —  August 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

tomatoes on the vineWhen Larry Aronson stepped in to substitute for a scheduled chef during a recent Garden Chef Series demonstration, the long-time Chicago Botanic Garden volunteer brought three important things with him:

  1. His chef son, Richard, who helped demonstrate alongside his dad.
  2. Decades of cooking and restaurant experience as the owner of My π Pizza Unique Pizza in the Pan.
  3. An awesome tomato sauce recipe that he had developed especially for the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden’s Heirloom Tomato Weekend.

Aronson knows tomatoes, and he knows that many of us are just starting to pick the first ripe tomatoes from the vine. (Cooler nights have delayed ripening.) What can a gardener do with just a few tomatoes from each plant, instead of a bushel full?

Make this sauce.

tomato_sauceThe flavorful sauce was a hit at the chef demonstration that day, and it was a hit with the volunteers and staff who got to sample it at a follow-up luncheon. At the latter, Aronson also served the “winter” version of his sauce—same recipe, but made with canned tomatoes instead of fresh. Both were tasty, in different ways: the “summer” version was light, bright, and refreshing; the “winter” sauce was thicker, richer, and heartier. 

Aronson will have copies of his recipe on hand and will be talking tomatoes when he volunteers at Heirloom Tomato Weekend this Saturday and Sunday (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day). Stop by to talk tomatoes—and recipes!

We’re happy to share the recipe here, too—just in case you need it for tonight’s tomato sauce.

Click here to download a PDF of Larry Aronson’s marinara recipe.


©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Five Unexpected Things to Learn in Master Gardener Training

The new session is underway!

Karen Z. —  February 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

It’s snowy outdoors at the Chicago Botanic Garden. But serious gardening is underway indoors, where master gardener training has begun.

The Garden’s Plant Information Service help desk typically recruits 20 new master gardener interns from each biannual training session. Master gardeners answer your questions!

Every two years, the Garden becomes a teaching site for the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program. This year, the ten-week course, which started January 16, saw a record number of students enroll in on-site (93) and online (31 — triple the number of screen users as last session) classrooms.

What are those 124 folks up to so far? They’ve finished sessions in topics including botany, soils & fertilizers, and woody plants. (Herbaceous plants, vegetables, fruits, turf, plant pathology, insects, and IPM/pesticide safety are up next.) They’re learning skills which are key to the program, including how to be a volunteer community educator — the true definition of a master gardener.

Lessons learned along the way include:

1. You don’t have to know everything.  Yes, master gardener training is a crash course with lots of information coming at you fast. And, yes, there’s a test after every week’s session (it’s open-book, and you can take it at home). The real skill is to learn about the resources with the answers to the questions you’ll be fielding as a volunteer.  As one instructor puts it, “there are two kinds of knowledge: what you already know, and what you know you can find the answer to.” The master gardener program teaches both.

Soil Class_rjc4600

Students learn to identify soil samples.

2. The educators bring some interesting stuff to class. While class is lecture-based, there are plenty of PowerPoint visuals to help you picture what you’ll encounter out in the Garden. In the Soils & Fertilizers class on January 23, instructor Ellen Phillips brought soil samples, and explained soil porosity with the aid of…sponges!

3. You learn from everyone in class. Most classes have a Q & A session, and that’s when things can really get interesting. The real-life questions that fellow master gardener trainees bring up in class are the same questions you’ll be asked by the public. Many an “after-school” conversation, and many a gardening friendship, have begun from a question asked in class.

4. You identify your real interests. Are you a natural teacher? A community organizer at heart? Or a home gardener with decades of skills to share? After successfully finishing the course, master gardener trainees head out to master gardener internships, with lots of opportunities to find a volunteer situation that truly fits their interests.

Master Gardeners answer gardening questions at the Plant Information Service.

Master gardeners answer gardening questions via Plant Information Service.

5. You realize that this is a special program. Started in Illinois back in 1975, the master gardener program began as an aid to agricultural extension officers who needed to be out in the field helping farmers, but also needed volunteers to run the office and answer day-to-day questions from the community. (It still functions that way in some rural counties.) Today, the program is a shining example of public education at work, as university/research-based knowledge gets passed on from master gardener instructors to master gardener trainees to the public, in communities all over the state.

Although the next on-site master gardener session won’t start at the Garden until 2015, we offer the course every year online! There are also different University of Illinois county extension offices that offer the program each year. Think about your schedule, talk to our Plant Information Service volunteer master gardeners, and do some research about the program on our website. See you at the next master gardener training!


©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

PHOTO: Fall cabbageFall is a great time of year to challenge yourself to compose images that include complementary color relationships. Wet surfaces make colors more vibrant. Stone and masonry take on rich tones and show more color variation than when they are dry. This photo by volunteer Bill Bishoff was taken during a light rain. Notice how the bricks appear with a vibrant rosy surface that otherwise would appear pale.

This image also takes advantage of complementary colors to make the subject pop. Complementary colors appear opposite one another on the color wheel— blue/orange, red/green, and purple/yellow. Together, complementary colors appear brighter. In this image, Bill includes two complementary pairs—purple/yellow and red/green.

PHOTO: Photographer Bill Bishoff, keeping his camera dry.It is important to make sure you and your equipment are protected from the rain. You don’t need anything more complicated than a plastic bag and a handkerchief. Poke a hole in one end of the plastic bag for your lens, and peek in the other side when you are ready to take a picture. The handkerchief helps to dry off any raindrops that fall on your lens. If you use a UV filter on the end of your lens, you can safely wipe it dry it without worry of scratching the lens. If any damage occurs, you need only replace the filter, not the lens. 

Keeping yourself dry is also a good idea. If you are caught without an umbrella, there are plenty of dry vantage points around the Garden. You could appreciate the vistas from the comfort of McGinley Pavilion, or enjoy the solitude of McDonald Woods from the woods shelter.

During fall, sunny days can become scarce, but an overcast or rainy day can also be a great photo opportunity.

Join us on the first Saturday of every month for a photo walk in the Garden. We’ll cover a different subject each month and take some photos together.

 

Ray Wilke leads this tour of the Shoin House, located in the Malott Japanese Garden, or Sansho-En. Both the house and the garden were designed by Koichi Kawana. Visit http://www.chicagobotanic.org/explore/japanese.php for more information on the Malott Japanese Garden.

As you walk near McGinley Pavilion this winter, you may notice that the white stems of the birch trees are especially clean and bright. That’s thanks to six Chicago Botanic Garden volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and gently scrubbed the lower limbs of 30 whitespire birch trees to reveal their brilliant stems. While it’s not necessary for the health of the trees, the task does make the trees more beautiful — and luckily, it is very easy to do at home. Read more here and watch a video on how to do clean your trees.