Entering the garden and working its beds is oftentimes a one- or two-person routine. Personally, I enjoy alone time within the garden gates and leave it a better, more peaceful person. However, gardens can be a real space for connection, and it’s nice to share with others a place you have tended and cared for. Hosting a dinner party that starts in the garden is a quick way to break the ice, laugh, connect, and enjoy not only the company, but a shared experience in the harvesting, preparing, and enjoyment of mealtime. A garden dinner party does take some forethought, so here are some things to consider:
Choose an ideal number of guests.
Throwing big bashes can be fun, but if you wish to bring your guests to the garden, keep the number of invitees to a comfortable amount that can fit in your garden and kitchen. Being sure there is enough space for everyone to be involved and not overcrowded will make for a peaceful experience and avoid feeling overwhelmed. As a rule of thumb, I would keep the party to no bigger than eight people.
What will be ready to harvest on the day of your party?
Before sending out your evite, be sure you’ll have something in the garden that will be ready to harvest during the party. Think about hosting a garden dinner party at the peak of harvest time. The more food available to pick for dinner, the funner. Plan the menu around what you will be able to gather from the garden.
What can you make with your harvest?
Will you have tomatoes? Collect ingredients for fresh salsa, caprese salad, or bruschetta. Will there be a head or two of lettuce or some other form of leafy greens ready to pick and enjoy? Be sure to have things to make a simple salad and salad dressings. What else goes well with your garden treasures? Are there berries for the picking that can be topped with freshly whipped cream for dessert? If it is early spring or autumn/winter, plan to make a root vegetable stew with your potatoes, carrots, turnips, and beets that you dig up. Are you in the middle of summer? Get the grill ready and assign the master BBQ-er of the group to work his/her magic. Be sure to toss some garden-fresh summer squash on the barbie.
How long will it take to prepare the meal (and what can be done ahead)?
When deciding a time to invite your guests over, be sure to factor in how long it will take to pick all the ingredients needed from the garden without having to rush. Allow time for chatting, joking, and the questions you will likely be asked about your garden. It’s your time to brag on the garden plot. From there, you will also need enough time to prepare the food that was just picked. Think about and see what can be done ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling to finish and feeding your starved guests close to midnight. Try to keep the menu and recipes simple. Fresh produce already tastes so good, it won’t need to be doctored up, just easily prepared. As a general rule of thumb, invite your guests over at least two hours before you plan to eat dinner; and hour for the garden and an hour for food prep.
Garden dinner parties are becoming increasingly trendy, which is no wonder. Sharing the delight in harvesting your own food, lovingly preparing it, and gathering around the table to enjoy everyone’s labor fills hearts with fulfillment, pride, and thanks. I hope you will share about your garden dinner party with us!