Jason Starnes, executive chef at The Sun Dial, examines the Edible Garden's herb wall at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Jason Starnes, executive chef at The Sun Dial, examines the Edible Garden’s herb wall at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

By Beth Clark

Remember that moment in the movie Clueless when Cher Horowitz reaches out of her window and plucks a lemon from a tree for her tea? As laughable as a reference to that ‘90s hit movie may sound, the truth is most of us would love to have that kind of relationship with our food: fresh, within arm’s reach, flavorful and free of charge.

Well, you can have that kind of experience by creating an edible garden.

The farm-to-table movement isn’t just for restaurants; it’s an experience you can have at home. Indeed, some of the food on your table could come from your farm. Does that seem a little farfetched? Jason Starnes and Moe Hemmings believe that creating an edible garden at your home is easier than you think.

Hemmings is a senior horticulturist at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG), and Starnes is the executive chef at Sundial Restaurant at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Downtown. What do these two have in common? The ABG has teamed up with influential chefs around Atlanta, like Starnes, to host the demonstration series Fresh Plates and the Well-Seasoned Chef, aimed to both feed you and change the way you relate to food.

Harvesting in-season vegetables and fruits from ABG’s 11,520 square foot edible garden, these four-course events take place throughout the summer and fall, and offer an intimate chance to watch and interact with chefs as they prepare creative dishes for you. You soon come to realize how much of the meal was grown a mere few feet away.

Edible gardens focus on plants of all kinds that you can eat: examples include herbs like rosemary and basil, vegetables like peppers and kale, bushes of raspberries and muscadines, and trees like persimmon and fig. If you want to start your own garden, here are a few tips from Starnes and Hemmings:

  • Start small. Consider your time and space available and then select edibles that fit what you are able to take on.
  • Grow what you’ll eat. Don’t grow radishes if you hate them.
  • Get creative with recipes. Harvest your edibles for pasta dishes, smoothies, ice cream, sauces – whatever you can think of!

The benefits to your nutrition, budget and stress levels – not to mention cooking skills – could be huge. And think of how enjoyable it will be to have friends over for a dinner filled with ingredients lovingly grown by you.

For more about the classes at Atlanta Botanical Garden, visit atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

Beth Clark is a writer and dancer living in Atlanta. Curiosity is her compass, and this city has irrevocably stolen her heart. Find more of her explorations at thecitydweller.me.