Greenhouse Newsletter | May

Upcoming Events

Spring is here, and we are celebrating with plenty of new, exciting classes at the greenhouse! Improve your garden by learning about the basics of soil health at our May garden workshop, learn how to make your own kombucha, or bring your family to a fun cooking class focusing on picnics, a fun warm-weather activity for everyone! Click here to see our full schedule

The Greenhouse & Kitchen is located at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park, 679 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10031

Plant of the month: Blue Agave

Blue agave, or Agave Americana, is native to the hot, arid regions of northern and central Mexico, and some parts of the Southwestern United States. Agave plants can reach a height of 6 to 8 feet, and can grow just as wide, making them a popular statement piece in landscaping. Agave Americana is a known as the “century plant” – some species of this succulent genus take 100 years to flower in the wild, but most flower between 10 and 15 years of age. When an agave plant reaches maturity, it produces a flower stalk that can reach up to 20 feet high and bears green and yellow flowers. Once the plant flowers, it usually dies shortly afterward. The number of years before flowering depends on the vigor of the individual plant, the richness of the soil, and the climate.

Blue agave plants are deer resistant, drought tolerant, and can easily live all year round with little maintenance in warm climates. In addition to being used in the production of sweeteners and tequila, blue agave are used to produce rope and bio-fuel.

The leaves of the blue agave have extremely sharp, long, spines at the tip, which gives it an effective defense against animal predators. However, if you want to plant this striking agave in your home, it should be planted a good distance away from where anyone, particularly pets and children, could brush up against it. Once the plant has matured and flowered, it is common to see multiple “pups” around the base of the parent plant. Once the parent plant has died, it can be removed and the pups can be transplanted to start a new life cycle.

Chicago Botanical Garden

University of Florida

Asparagus Lemon Pasta

Here’s a quick recipe for weeknights that takes advantage of the vibrant colors and bright flavors of the spring season. For freshest asparagus, select spears with the tips tightly closed. Save the woody ends of the asparagus in a plastic bag in your freezer until you have enough vegetable scraps to make a stock; use stock throughout the spring when making rich risotto or creamy asparagus soup.

Yield: 4 servings

1 ½ pounds asparagus, ends trimmed (if you bend the stalk near the bottom, it will naturally break between the woody base and the delicate, edible stalk), and   slice the asparagus on the diagonal at approximately 2-inch intervals.

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

3 tablespoons butter

¾ cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from approximately 3 large lemons)

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt

1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

½ to ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

  1. Bring about two inches of water to a boil in a large stockpot with a steamer insert. Place cleaned, trimmed 2-inch pieces of asparagus in steamer basket and cook, covered for approximately 3 minutes; asparagus should be crisp-tender. Drain asparagus and rinse under cold water to halt cooking.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat butter until melted over medium-low heat in a heavy skillet. Add cream and stir in salt, lemon zest and juice. Cover skillet and remove from heat.
  3. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package instructions until al dente. Take approximately ¼ cup of pasta water and add to sauce; drain pasta and set aside.
  4. Add pasta and asparagus to sauce and turn heat to medium, tossing and adding parsley, salt and pepper (to taste), until all is coated.
  5. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side.

Springtime Strawberry Lemonade

2 cups freshly squeezed lemon (approximately 9 large lemons)

1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups superfine sugar (you may make this by blending regular cane sugar in a food processor for a few minutes)

3 cups water at room temperature

5 cups chilled water

2 to 3 cups strawberries, cleaned and hulled then pulsed in a food processor or blender with a couple of tablespoons of water until smooth

Sprigs of lavender, mint or thyme


  1. To get the maximum amount of juice from the lemons, roll them on a hard surface before cutting in half. Slice each fruit in half and extract the juice using a juicer (manual or electric) or even your hands. If using your hands, squeeze juice over a strainer to capture any seeds.
  2. Add three (3) cups room temperature water and sugar to a pitcher with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until sugar is dissolved and water is clear, approximately 30 seconds.
  3. Add lemon juice and strawberry puree, careful to not include any lemon seeds. Add chilled water and shake, or use a large spoon to thoroughly mix. Refrigerate. Serve over ice with a sprig of lavender, mint or thyme.

Eleventh Street Arts presents Florilegium

March 22- April 25, 2019
Opening Reception: Friday, March 22, 6-9pm

Eleventh Street Arts
46-06 11th Street
Long Island City, NY 11101

Curated by Katie G. Whipple, Florilegium will feature over 30 works of painting, illustration, and sculpture, as well as botanical installations and floral designs. The works range from minuscule specimen illustrations to a six foot by twelve foot floral painting, and from traditional oil still lifes to living floral sculptures. Florilegium showcases each artist’s relationship with nature, creating an immersive sensory experience. This is a show that is meant to be experienced in person, so visitors can explore the textures of life in nature and in art.

Katie G. Whipple grew up in central Indiana painting with her mother, artist Libby Whipple. After graduating high school, Katie decided to forgo a traditional college education and moved to New York City to study academic painting at the Grand Central Atelier. She has since been the recipient of many awards, including scholarships from the Grand Central Atelier and a purchase award from the Indiana State Museum. Most notably, she received the 2013 Alma Schapiro Prize, which sent her to the American Academy in Rome to study the work of the old masters. She now works full time as a professional painter, teaches part time at the Grand Central Atelier, and lives in Queens, NY with her husband, artist Brendan Johnston, and their dog, Theo. Florilegium is Katie’s first curated show.

Greenhouse Newsletter | March

Upcoming Events

There are a lot of exciting new classes being offered at the Greenhouse and Kitchen! Come participate in a workshop on seed starting to kick start your spring garden, learn about identifying edible foods in the wild and using them in the kitchen with Chef Noah Sheetz of Chef’s Consortium, or check out one of our upcoming fermentation series classes!

Click here to see our full schedule

The Greenhouse & Kitchen is located at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park, 679 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10031

Plant of the month: Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena, or Aloysia citriodora, is a strongly scented and flavorful herb in the verbenaceae family. Native to Argentina and Chile, lemon verbena can grow up to 10-15 feet tall in the tropics, and 2-4 feet tall in containers. Lemon verbena is the most strongly scented and intense of all lemon foliage plants. Ever since it was imported to Europe from Spain’s South American colonies in the 18th century, lemon verbena has become a globally accessible herb used for its medicinal effects and qualities as a food additive. Its leaves can be used in beverages and desserts, or to flavor meat and vegetable dishes, as well as in perfumes, cosmetics, potpourris, and herbal medicines. Lemon verbena is rich in antioxidants, and boasts a number of health benefits when used medicinally. This herb is typically used to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, relieve stomach issues and indigestion, reduce fever, soothe nerves, clear up congestion, and aid in weight loss.

Lemon verbena thrives in full sun and hot temperatures, and will grow as a perennial in frost free areas and as an annual in northern climates. If grown in an area with too much shade, the leaves will lose their potency and the branches will grow long and spindly. When the temperature drops below 40 degrees, the plant will drop its leaves and enter dormancy. Lemon verbena can be grown in containers and overwintered indoors in bright, cool locations with minimal watering. It requires loose, well-draining soil to prevent the roots from getting soggy, which will kill the plant. Popular planting locations for lemon verbena are along outdoor walking paths, or anywhere indoors where the leaves may be brushed up against to release the scent.


Bonnie Plants, Organic Facts, Missouri Botanical Garden

Chickpea Stew with Turmeric, Coconut and Ginger

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • ¼ cup olive oil; additional for serving
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • A knob (approximately two inches) ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon or more red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or collard greens, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup mint leaves, for serving
  • Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)
  • Toasted whole wheat pita (cut into wedges)

Over medium heat in a large pot, heat oil and add garlic, onion and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and cook a few minutes until the onion starts to brown a little around the edges.

Add turmeric, red pepper flakes and chickpeas. Stir frequently and cook chickpeas as they sizzle in the oil until they start to break down and brown slightly and get crisp, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Add coconut milk and stock to the pot and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits that formed on bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally until stew thickens, up to 30 minutes, or longer until it reaches your desired thickness or consistency. Add greens, submerging them in the liquid until they wilt and soften. Check seasoning.

Place stew in individual bowls and garnish with mint, sprinkle of red pepper flakes and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with yogurt and toasted pita and a dusting of turmeric (optional).

Banana Apple Muffins

  • 2 apples peeled and grated
  • 1 cup ripe mashed bananas (1 banana)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (10 tablespoons or 1 ¼ sticks)
  • 3 TB milk with ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat oven to 375°F and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat the 1 1/4 sticks of butter and 1 cup of sugar together on medium speed until it has a light and fluffy texture.
Without reducing the speed, add 2 eggs one at a time, and also buttermilk. Finally, beat in the flour mixture. Use a spoon to fold in the apples and banana.

Fill the lined muffin cups about half-way.

Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Greenhouse Newsletter | February

Upcoming Events:

There is something for everyone at the NYdigs Greenhouse & Kitchen! Whether you are interested in fermenting, want to learn about Sous Vide, or love to get cozy with fresh baked goods, we have the right class for you! Don’t forget to check out our 5-session Fermentation Series that covers popular topics like Miso, Kombucha, Cheese, and more

Click here to see our full schedule

The Greenhouse & Kitchen is located at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park, 679 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10031

Plant of the Month | ‘Swiss Cheese Plant’, Monstera deliciosa

Monstera at the Greenhouse and Kitchen

Monstera deliciosa, is a tropical, flowering plant native to southern Mexico and Panama. It is famous for the ridges and holes found on it’s more mature leaves, giving it the nickname “Swiss cheese plant.” Part of the Araceae family of plants, it can grow up to twelve feet tall with leaves that spread nearly two feet wide.

When growing in their native climates monstera produces fruit, known as “Mexican breadfruit,” that look like ears of corn with a pineapple-like flesh, and are said to taste like a medley of banana, mango, and pineapple. These fruits can take up to a year to ripen, and can cause mouth and stomach irritation if consumed before ripe. Important to note, all other parts of the plant are toxic to both humans and animals if eaten.

There has been much speculation about the interesting shape and pattern of the leaves, specifically about the holes giving the plant the popular nickname “Swiss cheese plant.” One theory suggests that the holes maximize the leaf’s surface area, allowing it to capture more sunlight on the forest floor. Another suggests that the holes allow tropical rains to pass through the leaves with less damage to the plant, inspiring another common nickname “hurricane plant.”

Fruit from Monstera

Monstera deliciosa is an easy plant to care for in your home. They are relatively low maintenance, and will thrive in most environments. The plants do well in areas with filtered, indirect light, as too much harsh sunlight will scorch the leaves. They prefer soil that is consistently, slightly moist, but are sensitive to overwatering. They typically need to be watered no more than once a week, or if the top two inches of soil are dry. Because monstera are natural climbers, once the plant grows more mature it helps to add a stake or trellis to provide extra support. If your monstera grows too large, they respond well to trimming, and you can even use the cuttings to start a new plant!

Sources: Missouri Botanical Garden, Gardenista, Greenerynyc, Gardeningknowhow

Seasonal Recipes: From Our Kitchen to Yours

Split Pea Soup with Parsley Croutons

Split Pea Soup is perfect, healthy meal for a cold winter day. Full of flavor and loaded with potatoes, peas, and carrots, it is not only just filling, but also delicious. For a crunchy addition, top it with homemade croutons!

8 servings

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried (or 1 Tablespoon fresh) oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 medium red boiling potatoes, diced (unpeeled)
  • 1 pound dried split green peas
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable stock or water


  • 1 baguette (day-old is fine)
  • ¼ cup (fresh) parsley, chopped
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In 6-quart stockpot over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic with a few tablespoons olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper until onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add carrots, potatoes, split peas and vegetable stock. Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered for approximately 40 minutes or until peas are soft. Stir frequently.

While soup is simmering, cut up baguette into 1-inch cubes and toss with olive oil and chopped parsley and spread out on a sheet tray. Place in oven for approximately 10 minutes or until crisp.

Enjoy soup served hot with croutons.

Recipe by The Hort’s own, Annette Nielsen

Baked Chicken with Vegetables

  • 1-1/4 pounds small red potatoes, quartered

  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 1 package (5 ounces) fresh spinach


Preheat oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, carrots, onions, oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Transfer to a 15x10x1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix paprika and the remaining thyme, salt and pepper. Sprinkle chicken with paprika mixture; arrange over vegetables. Top with lemon slices. Roast until a thermometer inserted in chicken reads 170°-175° and vegetables are just tender, 35-40 minutes.

Remove chicken to a serving platter; keep warm. Top vegetables with spinach. Roast until vegetables are tender and spinach is wilted, 8-10 minutes longer. Stir vegetables to combine; serve with chicken.

Recipe by Chef Noah Sheetz of Chef’s Consortium

GreenTeam Tips for Starting Seeds

The Hort’s GreenTeam actively promotes the economic, social, environmental, and quality of life benefits of neighborhood plazas and green spaces. Through strategic partnerships, The GreenTeam provides vocational training in horticulture, transitional work, job search skills, and job placement, and aftercare services.

As February rolls around, the sun shines more, and a few 60-degree days pop in here and there, the GreenTeam ramps up its spring planning. In the 2017 season, our workforce will plant, clean, and maintain fifteen public plazas – three more than last year! Serving more public-plazas means planting more plants – and it just so happens that we love plants!

Luckily, to facilitate this large uptick in plantings, The Hort has great friends and partners at Van Houten Farms. Earlier this month, the GreenTeam met with the Van Houten Farms horticulturists to plot out a signature plant palette for the year. The goal is to have New Yorkers recognize the Hort’s public plazas just by looking at the plants!

The GreenTeam does not let Van Houten Farms do all of the growing – they do some too! When a box from Burpee arrived with a huge assortment of flower and vegetable seeds, it was as if Christmas came early (or late?) for our horticulturists. Many of these seeds will be used in supportive housing buildings, where the GreenTeam will teach residents how to grow vegetables and flowers.

However, with the last frost coming soon (about May 1st), it is just about time for all gardeners to start seeds indoors. Whether you are using small pots or seed starting flats, the GreenTeam would like to offer a few tips for seedlings. Follow their advice and watch your seeds grow!

  1. Make sure you clearly label the seeds you plant with the seed variety and planting date – it is easy to forget what you planted.
  2. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist at all times, seeds and young seedlings will not grow if the soil dries out.
  3. Keep your pots or trays next to a sunny window or under a grow light. If seedlings are not getting enough sun, they will start searching for light and become leggy.
  4. Make sure your seeds stay warm to encourage germination – most require temps around 72 degrees to germinate.
  5. Always follow the directions on the seed packets! Did you know that some seeds might not need to be covered with soil?

Does all this ‘green-thumbing’ make you a bit nervous? Worried about your limited space to grow or lack of sunlight? Don’t worry, you do not have to ‘seed start’ everything.  There are plenty of leafy greens and spring vegetables that can be planted directly in the ground after the last frost – think arugula, turnips, radishes, kale, and chard. Local farmer’s markets or nurseries are great resources and often have large selections of annuals that can be put right into the ground! But remember to always choose vigorous looking plants and make sure you are not buying anything you did not pay for, such as yellow leaves or aphids.

With enough hard work, care, and patience, you will have a lush and successful growing season! Who knows, you might even out-grow The GreenTeam.