Summer, it happens every year, and while there are so many wonderful things about it, it comes with a terrifically tough contender. The Summer heat! So great at tiring us out, aggravating us, keeping us indoors, BUT also at giving us a great reason for seeking refreshment! Why not arm yourself against the heat of Summer with a Refreshment Garden and an arsenal of sippable recipes? A Refreshment Garden is my new way of saying a Cocktail Garden because right now, with an eight-month old baby, I am a “mocktail” drinker (at least one a day) and I like mine loaded with flavor. In fact, I am sipping something très cool as I share this recipe for planning and sipping your way from garden to glass.
Prep. Think about what you and the people you share Refreshment Hour with like to drink. Are you into the fruity, the savory, the traditional, the funky, or maybe you are all open to regularly exploring the awesome power of the blender? Perhaps start with the basics and add some experimental ingredients as you go.
The top ingredient for flavoring, garnishing and accenting a drink is Spearmint. There’s no way around it, nothing really speaks to refreshment the way mints do. They are irritatingly great growers so plant mints in pots to help keep them in check. If you plant mint in the ground, plant far enough away from other plants that you don’t become enslaved to the task of keeping mint contained. Spearmint has a sharp and sweet flavor with a slight hint of lemon. ‘Kentucky Colonel’ Spearmint is the official mint of the Mint Julep, but there is certainly fun to be had with Berry Mint, Chocolate Mint, Peppermint and more. Snip and bruise the leaves before adding them as a garnish to iced tea, sparkling water, or club soda; muddle them into mojitos, or the julep; and know that even the Vodka Martini crowd can appreciate a cooling mint leaf floating atop their cold, clear nightcap after a long day of Summer heat.
Parsley is another favorite herb to add to beverages. It might seem strange at first read, but think about a Bloody Mary. The best Bloody Mary does her work while giving you a lot of produce to start your (perhaps tough) morning. Add leaves and stems to any “hair of the dog” mixture to flavor. Parsley also tastes delicious with citrus. A truly refreshing mocktail can be built by tearing apart a few pieces of fresh flat leaf parsley and squeezing a fat slice of lemon into a cold glass before adding half parts lemonade and sparkling water. Trim the rim of the glass with a lemon and float another sprig of parsley in the glass. If the lemonade is sour, add a drip of honey and stir gently. If you’re entertaining adults over 21, add 1-2 ounces of vodka to this delicious drink. Parsley is easy to grow, and has multiple culinary uses. Note that it is a favorite food for Swallowtail caterpillars so if you have butterfly plants in your garden, you might find that your parsley gets stripped by the caterpillars before you get to drinking!
If you and your clan love fruity drinks, you won’t regret adding Lemon Verbena to your Refreshment Garden. This lemony and slightly floral flavor pairs so well with berries and tropical fruits. It smells so good! It can be used like a lemon, though it isn’t tart like the fruit. Add a handful of the leaves to your pitcher of sangria or add two handfuls of leaves to a jar of water to brew some sun tea. Lemon Verbena can be grown in a pot or in the ground. It likes well-drained soil and should be used/trimmed regularly to keep its shape.
More herbs that work in a Refreshment Garden: Basil (great with tequila, as a garnish for a gin drink, or added to a Bloody Mary); Lavender (beautifully garnishes everything and works well to flavor a simple syrup); Pineapple Salvia (a sweet fresh taste and fragrance that will pair with any fruited drink and will look cute as a spear for melons, citrus, or grapes in a punch.)
To me, a cucumber is one of the most drinkable vegetables. I love cucumber-infused water so very much, especially on a steamy day. A cucumber martini; cucumber with mint, gin and tonic; or a cucumber, lime, and club soda spritzer- I feel cooler just typing those! Plant cucumber plants in a sunny spot with some good organic soil.
Basically speaking, there is no way to go wrong with lime. Even a rum and coke becomes the exciting Cuba Libre with a slice and squeeze of lime! For small space gardening, Key Lime trees can be planted in a container. Lime is essential for a margarita and adds freshness to anything cold on a long, hot day. Lime trees will grow in full sun. Plant in moist, but well-drained soil.
If iced tea or lemonade is your favorite Summer refreshment, consider planting a lemon tree before lime, but if you have enough space, use both. Where drinks are concerned, each really has their own specialty. Another fruit tree for a small space is the kumquat. Orange-like and yummy, this fruit brings refreshment and juiciness.
Strawberries are a darling addition to a cocktail garden. A seriously cute plant, they’re delicious in a daiquiri, with any rum drink, floating in a martini or as a garnish to lemonade, club soda, or a tall glass of water. Strawberries are perfect in a frozen cocktail or a blended smoothie. They grow in full sun in well-drained soil.
Any fruit can be used in a cocktail, if you’re creative and wish to add color to your summer beverages. If you have enough space, let your creativity rule you! Bananas, lychee, mangoes, papaya, starfruit and more. If you google cocktail recipes for any of these yummies, you will certainly find something delicious to try.
If you have a favorite fruit that you’d like to add to your garden or to your glass, come enjoy the day with us on June 28th. It’s our 6th Annual Daddy-O’s Tropical Fruit Festival and Marvin will be there answering questions. We’ll have a fruit-tree planting demonstration, and you can sample many fruits.
Having a Refreshment Garden, or a few plants that lend themselves to refreshing, helps even the hottest day end happily.