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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

The Garden Of Ideas  Launches Fruits of the Garden Class Series

Apr 03, 2015 02:09AM

Chef Susie Buckley

Encompassing eight acres of marsh, woodland, meadow and vegetable plots on the border of Ridgefield and North Salem, New York, the Garden of Ideas was conceived as a place to create beautiful garden spaces, grow interesting plants well, and produce an abundance of nutrient-dense food crops. Program Director Suzanne Ryan describes it as a “unique gathering place for community collaboration where participants explore and experiment at the crossroads of food, nature, art and science.”

In the coming months, Chef Susie Buckley will be demonstrating how to make the most of the garden bounty at the Garden of Ideas through monthly demonstration classes which feature food that has been harvested at the farm. 

“I grew up in a small town in Southwest Virginia. At the time, it was a one- stoplight town. Most people either had a garden themselves or visited the local farm stand for all their fruit and vegetable needs. My family always had a vegetable garden and, for a few years, a smokehouse. Having fresh vegetables available just steps away from the table fostered my love of seasonal, fresh and organic food. There is nothing greater than walking out into the garden, picking a tomato from the vine, rinsing it off and eating it… still warm from the sun,” Buckley says.

  “After attending college at Virginia Tech, I moved to Brooklyn. Of course, New York City was an entirely different food scene as compared to the mountains of Virginia. I suddenly had the opportunity to taste food from all over the world. I decided to go to culinary school and attended Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (now renamed the Institute of Culinary Education). My focus was on French cooking but, more importantly, on cooking technique. At Peter Kump’s, it was mentioned many times not to be a slave to recipes. Of course recipes are important, but knowing a cooking technique can let anyone cook a good meal. Learning the basics of preparing foods in a simple, easy way that lets ingredients speak for themselves is my goal in both cooking and teaching about food. I believe that we should let the food shine. As Alice Waters, my personal food idol, has said ‘let things taste of what they are’.

A Spring Delicacy: Ostrich Ferns Shoots (Fiddleheads) 

Ostrich Ferns Shoots, known as Fiddleheads, are a spring delicacy. Buckley describes the taste as green, like spring. You can find fiddleheads April through early May at your local farmers, market. Look for the smallest, dark green, tightly wrapped fiddlehead spirals available. Make sure the ferns are dry, not wet or mildewed. They will last in the refrigerator for only a couple of days, so buy them right before you want to prepare them. To prepare fiddleheads, cut off the thick ends and rinse to remove any brown fuzzy bits clinging to the ferns. Fiddleheads can be boiled, steamed or sautéed but MUST be thoroughly cooked. Buckley likes fiddleheads sautéed in butter or olive oil with a tiny bit of garlic, salt and pepper and shares her recipe.


Serves 4

1 lb fiddlehead ferns
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 tsp virgin olive oil
1 small, thinly sliced clove of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste


• Rinse and remove any brown ends or bits of the ferns.
• Bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil.
• Add the ferns and cook for 2 minutes (blanching the ferns removes any bitterness). Drain and rinse with cold water.
• In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the fiddleheads. Stirring the ingredients, cook until they are thoroughly cooked and start to brown (about 5-8 minutes).
• Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook until you just start to get the aroma of the garlic cooking—no more than a minute.
• Serve immediately.

For more information about The Garden of Ideas’ monthly demonstration classes, visit or call 203-431-9914. The Garden of Ideas is located at 653 North Salem Rd, Ridgefield, and is open year-round to the public 8am to dusk. Admission is free, donations are accepted.