Illustration: Matthew V. Caserta
Farm-fresh foods are all the rage now. In Nashville, the Hermitage Hotel's Capitol Grille has adopted this farm-to-table approach by working in conjunction with the Land Trust for Tennessee. The hotel donates to the Trust, and in exchange, the kitchen staff are allowed to cultivate the Trust's garden at Glen Leven.
Use this guide to create your own vegetable garden, and try some of the Capitol Grille's recipes so you, too, can serve farm-fresh food to your family and friends.
Step-by-Step Raised Beds
Step 1: Start with a level 12 x 12 area that gets at least six to eight hours of full sun. Following our design, construct each bed (based on a 4-foot square) from cedar, brick, stone, or other suitable material. Beds should be at least 8 inches deep, but deeper is even better.
Step 2: Fill all four beds with quality soil, and amend with compost or an organic product such as Black Kow. For beds that are 8 inches deep, you will need 46 cubic feet of soil; 10 inches, 57 cubic feet; 12 inches, 68 cubic feet; and 18 inches, 102 cubic feet.
Step 3: Rake smooth and sow seeds per packet directions. Give 1 inch of water per week. Heirloom vegetables are usually sold as seeds, but we prefer starting cabbage and collards from transplants. Use the center bed for parsley and rosemary, which are great for cold weather.
What to Plant
1: 'Georgia' Collards
An old-time standard with blue-green ruffled leaves prized for their sweet, cabbage-like flavor. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, this cold-hardy vegetable gets even tastier when touched with frost. Harvest leaves while still young and tender. Matures in 75 days.
2: 'Hakuret' Turnips
Smooth, white, slightly flattened roots and hairless tops (called greens) make this turnip hailing from Japan a favorite among chefs. Harvest young, when roots are only 2 inches in diameter. Because it matures in just 35 days, you’ll have time to replant several times during the season.
3. 'Perfect Drumhead' Savoy Cabbage
With crinkled leaves and a large, compact head, this good winter keeper has been considered superior in flavor to standard cabbages since the late 1880s. Mild and sweet in flavor, it lacks that unappealing sulfur smell when cooked. Matures in 95 days.
4. 'Hollow Crown' Parsnip
This heirloom root crop has been around for years for a reason—it’s still the best-tasting parsnip there is. Hard freezes only improve taste, converting starches to sugar. Growing 10 to 15 inches long, this one does best in deeply prepared beds. Matures in 95 days.
5. 'Chioggia' Beets
These super sweet, red-and-white striped beauties look like a bull’s-eye when sliced crossways. Introduced in the U.S. in the late 1840s, this Italian heirloom matures in 50 days and can be sowed every two weeks for consecutive harvest. Soak seeds overnight prior to planting.