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Posts by Caroline Lewis

I’m a gardening and culinary professional with a degree from the Robert Reynolds Chef Studio. My husband, Larry, and I co-own Verdura Culinary Gardens. We design, install, and maintain raised-bed organic vegetable gardens for Portland-area residents who love to cook and would like to work with fresher, more seasonal ingredients.


We invite people with noteworthy ideas about food to blog on Culinate.

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Prepping the garden

Wintertime tasks

By
February 6, 2013

If you are (or aspire to be) a vegetable gardener, you have likely heard about raised-bed gardening. Its benefits are many:

Continue reading Prepping the garden »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

An ode to Robert Reynolds

The passing of a culinary luminary

By
September 5, 2012

Culinate editor’s note: The following tribute to Robert Reynolds is a slightly edited version of the one that was included in Caroline Lewis’s recent newsletter to her clients at Verdura Culinary Gardens.

August 27 was a sad day indeed, marking as it did the passing of a beloved friend, mentor, and source of inspiration, Robert Reynolds. Robert was, among many other things, the owner of Portland’s Chef Studio, from which I graduated with a culinary degree and a new lease on life in the spring of 2006.

If it seems unusual for the co-owner of an urban gardening company to dedicate a post to a chef, consider this: My company wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Robert. The fact that “culinary” is in our name is of course no accident; while we may be gardeners by profession, what people do with those vegetables and fruits in the kitchen is every bit as important to us as is how they grow them in their backyards.

Continue reading An ode to Robert Reynolds »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Harvest how-to

Summer and fall vegetables

By
August 8, 2012

Culinate editor’s note: In addition to building raised-bed gardens, Caroline Lewis’s company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, offers hands-on organic gardening lessons and consulting for Portland-area residents. This is the second part of Lewis’ two-part story on when to harvest vegetables. The first installment focused on spring vegetables.

It’s not always easy to know when a vegetable is optimally ripe, nor how much longer it will be OK if you’re not quite ready for it and you want to leave it in the ground. Here are some pointers for harvesting the bounty of summer and fall.

Continue reading Harvest how-to »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Harvest how-to

Spring and summer veg

By
July 5, 2012

One of the questions we’re most frequently asked by relatively inexperienced gardeners is, “How do I know when to harvest that lettuce?” (Or carrots, or spinach, or . . .) While some types of vegetables may be pretty obvious (ripe red tomatoes, for example), others tend not to be, particularly for inexperienced gardeners. Carrots, beets, kale, lettuce, peas — these can be a little trickier to understand. What follows is a brief harvest how-to for some common spring and early-summer vegetables.

Continue reading Harvest how-to »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Kids thrive in the garden

Little farmers

By
April 10, 2012

There are many reasons to involve your kids in vegetable gardening. They learn where their food comes from, they develop healthier eating habits, and they spend more time outside. But to me, the best reason is a somewhat selfish one: seeing the look on their faces the first time they pull a carrot out of the ground or taste a sugar snap pea right off the vine.

We have worked with quite a few families over the years, learning from experience that children are much more likely to eat vegetables they’ve grown themselves than anything from the store. Kids are smart — homegrown veggies taste better. And when they’ve nurtured the plants themselves, they’re curious to taste them.

Continue reading Kids thrive in the garden »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Preparing to plant

A garden checklist for March

By
March 5, 2012

Although it may still seem quite early, this is the time of year when we all need to get our gardens rolling: planning the plantings, building garden frames, ordering and starting seeds, cleaning up from winter, and amending soil.

Otherwise, we run the risk of missing out on the all-important early-spring season: peas, lettuce, spinach, arugula, onions and more. (And if you have never tasted home-grown peas, you’ll just have to trust me that this is well worth doing).

Remember that the key to growing vegetables year-round is planning — and to understanding that planting is not just something that takes place when the tomatoes go in the ground in May. Here are some tips on what to do this month.

Continue reading Preparing to plant »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Fall gardening

Beyond summer

By
September 15, 2011

Your tomatoes are finally enjoying some serious heat and you’re in the middle of harvesting the bounty of all that hard work done this spring, right? But don’t forget that late summer and fall are the perfect time to plant seeds and starts for fall and over-wintering crops. Trust us; in cold, rainy March, you’ll be happy to be able to harvest something fresh, organic, and nutritious right out of your garden.

Here are some reasons why this is worth doing, and some suggestions on what to grow.

Continue reading Fall gardening »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Tomato tips

Growing tomatoes in a cool climate

By
August 18, 2011

With relatively cool, short growing seasons, the Pacific Northwest is a challenging place to grow tomatoes. When we get a particularly wet and cool spring and summer, as we have the past two years, it gets even trickier. Yet tomatoes are a wildly popular fruit, and are by far the most-requested crop we grow for our clients.

Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years about growing tomatoes that may help gardeners in any climate, particularly one with a short season.

Continue reading Tomato tips »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

A garden grows in Baltimore

Seventh-graders tend their vegetables

By
July 15, 2011

Here in the Willamette Valley, where almost anything grows and local food abounds, we sometimes forget that other parts of the country don’t have that same access to fresh food. Many families live in food deserts, urban areas where local food choices are limited to the processed junk sold in convenience stores. That’s why we are particularly excited about what our son Mike and his Baltimore City middle school, Green Street Academy, are doing with their new organic-gardening project.

Green Street Academy is a new public middle-high school in west Baltimore that embraces the green movement and the new career paths it will generate. To align with its mission of sustainability and to promote project-based learning in classrooms, Mike (a seventh-grade literature teacher) and other GSA staff members decided to tackle a vegetable garden this spring as a project for the entire seventh-grade class, roughly 60 students in all.

Continue reading A garden grows in Baltimore »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Flowers in the garden

Companion plants add beauty

By
May 26, 2011

Space is at a premium in most raised-bed gardens. When we do planting plans for clients, sometimes we’re asked why we include flowers in vegetable gardens that are already tight on space. We do it because flowers add to the garden’s beauty as well as its overall health.

The right flowers will help your garden by attracting pollinating insects, repelling destructive insects, providing a source of food and healing plants, and of course adding beauty and increasing your enjoyment of the garden.

Even though most of our gardens are relatively small and decidedly urban, at Verdura Culinary Gardens we have the same focus most organic farmers do: creating a thriving mini-ecosystem with beneficial interrelationships in each garden.

Continue reading Flowers in the garden »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Swiss chard

Notes on growing and cooking

By
May 3, 2011

As our young spring crops approach harvestable size this chilly spring, we find ourselves still relying on cold-hardy vegetables like Swiss chard to tide us over until abundance arrives.

A member of the beet family (Beta vulgaris), chard is low in calories and loaded with antioxidants and vitamins. A 100-gram serving contains a third of the RDA of vitamin C plus vitamins A, K, beta carotene, and iron.

Continue reading Swiss chard »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

In defense of shelling peas

Grow them in your garden

By
April 5, 2011

Many Americans are old enough to remember the horror of being served canned peas. Younger people may seem fortunate by contrast, to never have been served anything but either frozen peas or fresh sugar snaps. These are indeed tasty, but I can assure you: Real, old-fashioned shelling (or English) peas are one of the best things you can grow in your garden.

Why?

Well, for one thing, shelling peas have a more complex and interesting flavor than the more prevalent sugar snap peas. Freshly picked, they’re just as sweet, but not so one-dimensional. They are the first vegetables to be planted in spring, tolerating cold, wet conditions just like what we’re experiencing right now here in the Pacific Northwest. Because they are planted and mature earlier than most spring vegetables, they feature prominently in many classic early-spring dishes from around the world.

Continue reading In defense of shelling peas »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Culinary herb primer

Pairing herbs with food

By
June 9, 2010

As a chef, I’m often asked for tips on using fresh herbs. Which herbs enhance which foods? When to add them? Which pair well with others?

As gardeners, Larry and I are generally asked a different set of herb questions. Which herbs can be grown in a small garden? How much space will they take? Will they come back year after year?

Here are a few herb suggestions for both the home cook and the home gardener.

Continue reading Culinary herb primer »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

High yield, high benefit

Which edibles to plant in a small space?

By
March 30, 2010

Our friend Todd wrote us: “I only have a certain amount of space available to plant veggies. While certainly I would grow some items just to have them fresh, I would also like to save as much money at the supermarket as possible with my little square of dirt. What are some high-cost, high-yield-per-square-foot veggies? On the flip side, what are some huge space-takers with relatively low yields?”

Here are some thoughts on these questions. Please note this list is by no means complete!

Continue reading High yield, high benefit »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Penelope’s garden

Feeding the hungry in Portland

By
June 12, 2009

Of all the gardens we’re working on this year, the most wonderful has to be Penelope’s Garden. Four years old and born into poverty, Penelope is a fourth-generation Oregonian. She has stunning blue eyes, a sweet smile, and a heart of gold. Penelope is being raised by her new family, an extraordinary couple who have been so appalled by their glimpse into the world of hungry children that they decided to do something about it.

Penelope’s new family, who have asked to remain anonymous, own a home in the Portland area with a large, sunny back yard. They decided they would like to dedicate their property to helping alleviate hunger. Their friend and realtor, Alexsandra Stewart, had met Larry and me at one of our spring Supper Club events, and suggested we get together with Penelope’s family.

Continue reading Penelope’s garden »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Farmers’ market fondness

An inside view of the market

By
April 29, 2009

The chilly weather has generally persisted this spring, but somehow we really scored with the weather the dates we were invited to join the vendors at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market. Both days — April 5 and April 19 — were gloriously sunny and over 70 degrees. That was just the first of many surprises we encountered in our glimpse into a world we had only ever seen from the outside, as customers.

Our farmers’-market experience began when manager Eamon Malloy invited Verdura to join the regular vendors for both April market dates. Eamon often brings in companies like ours as well as musicians, guest chefs, and others who might enhance the market experience for their customers.

Continue reading Farmers’ market fondness »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

The beauty of vertical gardening

A pro touts the benefits

By
April 2, 2009

One reason our garden beds at Verdura Culinary Gardens are so productive is because we make use of vertical gardening techniques. Growing plants up vertical supports has numerous benefits:

Continue reading The beauty of vertical gardening »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Soupe au pistou

A reminder of summer

By
March 16, 2009

I asked my oldest son, Mike — a passionate young cook and gastronome — what he thought I should write about in my next Culinate posting. He immediately replied, “Soupe au pistou! I’ve been craving that lately.”

Anyone who’s ever had a really good version of this delicious dish can understand why. There are probably as many soupes au pistou (literal translation: pesto soups) as there are Provençal cooks. As with most such “recipes,” soupe au pistou isn’t so much a recipe as a construct, a French version of minestrone characterized by the heavenly dollop of pesto swirled in just before serving.

Continue reading Soupe au pistou »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Raised-bed gardening

Advantages over planting directly in the ground

By
February 26, 2009

We are often asked why we grow vegetables in raised beds. What are the advantages and disadvantages? As one Culinate member put it, “What is really stopping you from growing vegetables just as intensely right in the ground?” Good question, and one I’ll attempt to answer.

When I refer to conventional garden methods, I’m not talking about organic vs. non-organic growing. I’m referring to traditional row gardens, in which people till a section of earth, amend the soil, and plant their gardens in rows, with paths to walk on in between. This is how most American farmers have traditionally grown their vegetables, at least in part because they can space their rows to allow tractors, plows, and other machinery access to the crops.

Continue reading Raised-bed gardening »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Transitioning to spring

Plus, a winter recipe for farro

By
February 17, 2009

It snowed last Tuesday, and it was 25 degrees the other morning. So it’s hard to believe that spring is really right around the corner.

It’s an interesting time of year for a gardener and a cook. There’s not much produce available other than what has been in storage, is overwintering in the garden, or has arrived from warmer climates.

Yet we’re full of hope and excitement, because spring planting is nearly here. Gardeners delight in scouring seed catalogs this time of year, dreaming of lush and productive edible landscapes.

Continue reading Transitioning to spring »

Caroline Lewis is a Portland, Oregon, urban gardener whose company, Verdura Culinary Gardens, is dedicated to helping gardeners be more successful at raising their own organic vegetables. A licensed landscape contractor, Verdura installs raised bed gardens including trellises and drip irrigation systems, creates custom year-round planting plans, and offers vegetable garden coaching and maintenance programs. Caroline welcomes your comments and can be reached at caroline [at] verduragardens.com.

Cooks’ gardens

A new blogger connects the garden and the kitchen

By
February 12, 2009

Editor’s note: We welcome Caroline Lewis to the blog. Caroline is a trained chef and a passionate gardener who has combined her pastimes to form a new business: Verdura Culinary Gardens, based in Portland.

My husband, Larry, and I both spent years in the high-tech world. For years we each juggled families, commutes, and stress. When we met three years ago, we were both recently divorced and, truth be told, burned out in our respective corporate jobs.

I have always been a cook. My father, who lived and studied in France, taught me the French language and cuisine at a very young age. At the time I graduated from college, being a chef wasn’t the high-profile career it is now, and I’m afraid it never occurred to me to pursue cooking professionally. However, I cooked with a passion. I did it to relax and to learn. I read cookbooks for fun. Any time I had a moment to spare, I was either cooking or growing vegetables to experiment with in the kitchen.

Continue reading Cooks’ gardens »

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