Neyers Vineyards Bruce's Journal
It’s Hard to Beat a Garden to Table Meal
By Bruce Neyers
Wednesday 22nd June, 2022
Barbara got an early start on her garden this year, and everything was in by the first of June. Now we simply sit back – I sit back anyway – and wait for the harvest. Barbara refers to it as her ‘Salsa Garden,’ but it has far broader appeal, especially given my fondness for her platters of sautéed squash, grilled eggplant, fried green tomatoes, and pickled cucumbers.
She prefers raised beds, and there are ten of them. Each has some space reserved for tomatoes and peppers, and at least one other vegetable. She prepared a list of this year’s plants for me, and I’ve copied it below. All are developed from cuttings rather than seeds:
Maxibell Haricot Vert (A French green bean)
Patty-Pan Squash (AKA Scallop Squash)
Barbara adds zinnias, along with yellow and orange marigolds, to each bed, as they attract ladybugs and other parasites that keep vegetable-threatening insects at bay. The roots of marigolds also secrete a poison that thwarts nematodes, which can be a problem if there are (or were) trees nearby.
At this stage of the growing season, my responsibility is to think of ways to enjoy the crop. Few evening meals are as gratifying as those that are built around what Barbara picks from her garden earlier that day. My favorite dish is also the easiest — sliced tomatoes with Buffalo Mozzarella and Olive Oil. We use our Neyers Vineyards olive oil – made from the four varieties of olive trees planted around the winery. It has a welcome spiciness to it, similar to the character we find in many olive oils from the south of France.
The sliced tomato dish goes equally well with white or red wine, but I prefer it with our Sage Canyon Red. The grapes were all harvested by hand, meticulously sorted in the vineyard, then again at the winery. They’re crushed by foot, using a traditional ‘pigeage.’ We ferment in open top tanks, using native, wild yeast, with 100% stem retention. After 18 months of aging in neutral French oak barrels, the wine is bottled without fining or filtration. It’s a beautifully structured, hand-made wine, traditional in both its rustic aroma and complex flavors. It improves everything it’s served with.
In 1977, New Yorker writer E. B. White collected a series of columns on gardening written by his late wife Katharine and had them published as a book, entitled ‘Onward and Upward in the Garden.’ Barbara has never written about her gardening exploits and speaks of them only infrequently, but if she did, her feelings would be similar to what E. B. White later wrote about Katherine’s, when he said, “…her excitement at growing things, her belief in the worth of gardening…were timeless.”
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad Recipe
- 1 pound beefsteak tomatoes, 3 or 4 tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese sliced ¼-inch thick
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, shredded or torn into small pieces
- Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper (consider Phu Quoc Vietnamese Peppercorns)
- Salt and pepper the tomatoes.
- Arrange the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella in an alternating pattern on a platter.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
- Add the shredded or torn basil leaves.