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
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
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ to ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add pasta and asparagus to sauce and turn heat to medium, tossing and adding parsley, salt and pepper (to taste), until all is coated.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.