I've written a couple of times about Bear Creek Farm near Osceola, MO and their grafted tomatoes. They - Robbins and Jim Hail, and now their son, Lonnie and wife Jenna, grow around eleven acres of vegetables for farmers market and Whole Foods stores. Susan, Robbins' sister, owns with her husband, Mike, Wild Goose Gardens Nursery and produce, with their son, Ethan, fresh cut flowers for the florist market in Kansas City. We've been to their gardens several times and it was a pleasure to get to show them around ours. They enjoy plants like I do, and we all appreciate good food. So we cooked and talked and cooked and ate! (In the header photo, Susan is holding German statice to take home as a reminder to possibly grow some - florists love it and it's a hardy perennial and easy to grow).
Herb Shop and guesthouse. Jim and Robbins stayed in the guesthouse (above, under the bell tower next to the Herb Shop) and Susan got the guest bedroom in the house. The guesthouse has the added advantage of a nightly chorus of frogs and whipporwills from the nearby woods.
I'd fixed BBQ ribs, potato salad, grilled portabello mushrooms and White Grape Salsa (recipe from my Salsas book). Bear Creek Farm sells the book at the farmers market, or you can order it from us). It's a salsa I concocted for people who don't like cilantro and uses fresh mint instead. Josh made a loaf of sourdough bread, using 2 thirds whole wheat flour to 1 third rye flour, it was excellent!
The statue I've dubbed, "Firefly boy" because it looks like pictures of Josh when he was little, was lit for the first time. It's solar powered and at night a "firefly" glows in the jar the boy is holding. It was his birthday present 2 days ago, on the 6th. You can find him (firefly boy, not Josh) at Lowe's.
Large cherry tomatoes, stuffed.I also made a batch of my favorite summer treat - stuffed tomatoes. It combines the flavors of lemon basil (or any basil will do) with French marigold petals, chopped pecans and cream cheese. People are always tentative when they first hear what's in these, but then gobble up several once they've tasted the first one. Here's the recipe. You can easily make them look fancier than mine here.
Tomatoes Stuffed with Marigolds
12-16 medium-sized cherry tomatoes
4 of 5 French marigold flowers, any color (but not the large African marigolds which are bitter)
3 sprigs, about 4-5 inches long, any kind basil (I like lemon or Thai)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons toasted, chopped pecans (almonds or pine nuts will work, too)
Slice the tomatoes in half and remove the "innards" (I use a melon baller but a half-teaspoon measuring spoon works just as well. Discard the insides or use on a salad.
Using a paper towel, slightly dry the insides of the tomatoes and set aside so the cream cheese will stay in place.
Cut the bottom green part away on each marigold flower, allowing the petals to fall loosely, discarding the green portion. Put the petals on a cutting board and add the 3 sprigs of basil - leaves and small stems, too, cutting away only the larger main stem.
Using a chef's knife, chop the basil and marigold petals until chopped fine (or you can use an electric herb chopper if you wish, it's just faster for me to do it with a knife).
Mix the basil-marigold mixture and the chopped pecans into the cream cheese, mixing well. With a spoon or spatula, fill each tomato half. Garnish with marigold petals or basil leaves. I think you'll enjoy the combination of flavors, each complimenting the other.
Hopefully the Bear Creek Farm and Wild Goose Nursery folks will come for another visit and we'll have a reason to cook something else!