Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

April 21, 2010


April has been a rainy month here in Calistoga, especially on the weekends; we had to perform an emergency weather intervention for a wedding of 160 guests two weeks ago.  The growth spurts of our plants and produce have therefore been stop-and-go, but in addition to the fava beans over at Fisher Vineyards, we have a little kitchen garden out back of solbar where we have just put in the next season’s herbs, as well as tomatoes and melons.

Ryder selected the plants from Forni-Brown last week, and Vito Serrano, our Director of Engineering, and his crew planted them. In the raised beds are citrus mint, peppermint, spearmint, genovese basil, greek fino basil, nufar basil, and opal basil. A third bed, not pictured, teems year-round with thyme, sage, tarragon, and marjoram. We also have lavender and rosemary bushes nearby that we use on a regular basis.

For tomatoes, we put in small varietals:  green grape, sun sugar, and sweet million.  Our larger heirlooms will come from the Fisher garden, Forni-Brown, and maybe Big Ranch Farms.  The small ones we like to grow ourselves because they are so delicate that they don’t hold up well to packing and traveling when they’re ripe.  And few things are better than telling a guest that the tomatoes they’re enjoying are warm from the sunshine because we just picked them a few minutes ago.  The tomato plants are already a foot high with a few yellow flowers, and soon those cages you see will be no match for them–they’ll need solid trellising or rebar.

This is the BEFORE picture of what will, by August, be Melon World.  Ryder selected Hearts of Gold and I believe two other types.  I can’t wait to show you what melon plants with 13 hours per day of hot California sun can do, they’re like the kudzu of NorCal.  There’s a reason everyone up here has a garden in his or her backyard–it’s EASY.  You can plant from seed, give the seedling a drink now and then, and feast on the results for weeks and weeks, and it all grows so fast in the sun that you can almost watch it like time-lapse photography.

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