Flowers garnish the plates and vegetables and herbs add flavor to the menu items at the Tellico Village Yacht Club’s Blue Heron Restaurant, where executive chef John Gatlin and employees pick freshly grown food from the backyard garden, which was created years ago by the Thyme for Herbs club.
The garden has rarely been put to use in the past, Andy Fox, general manager of the Yacht Club and restaurant, said. However, vegetables were not added to the mix until Gatlin was recently hired.
“It’s a bunch of ladies that live in the Village, and for years they’ve been growing this beautiful garden of flowers and herbs,” Fox said. “They’ve been hoping for many years to have a chef here at the Yacht Club that would actually utilize the garden. It’s been utilized to a very small extent over the years.”
Gatlin met with the women of the club a few months ago and revamped the vegetable garden, which is now in full bloom.
Fox said the team puts seeds in the ground and, within three weeks, employees are spending their mornings pulling vegetables, flowers and herbs to be used that day.
Fox said about four weeks ago, lettuces, baby carrots and baby radishes were put together to form the beloved Tellico garden assortments salad.
“It was basically this beautiful salad that was pulled two hours ago from the garden,” Fox said.
The tomatoes will be ripe soon, and cucumbers are beginning to bloom as well, Gatlin said.
Fox said one of his favorite utilizations of the garden are the strawberries added to the strawberry shortcake.
Other items grown in the garden include squash, zucchini, peppers and herbs such as thyme, basil and rosemary. The mint is primarily used at the bar, Gatlin said. Gatlin attempts to use all of the flowers as well. He said they are used on as many plates as possible for garnishing. Gatlin said he picked 130 “real mild” tasting double impatiens last Friday morning for the key lime bar at a ladies fashion show.
“It creates a buzz in the dining room and in the kitchen,” Gatlin said. “They’ve got something to talk about with the guests as opposed to just saying it’s got peas and mushrooms on it. So that gives them selling points.”
Gatlin said not only does the garden create better business, but it saves some money. He plans to keep it growing yearround. He and the women with Thyme for Herbs will meet and decide what to plant and when based on what’s available.
“I don’t know what kind of miracle, magic potion they’ve got, but this stuff just grows like Jack and the Beanstalk,” Fox said. “It’s unbelievable.”