My paternal grandmother and my mother shared an extraordinary knowledge of flowers, an ability to use them in artistic ways, and a general love of digging in the dirt. Somehow, that gene bypassed me—but thankfully I married well.
My husband would choose yard work over golf any day of the week and is equally content with a pole saw as he is with a pile of dried out bamboo. (The latter was transformed into a rather pretty trellis.)
So he deserves most of the credit for the small part that my family is playing in this year’s Demuth Garden Tour. The event, currently in its 34th year, is named after Charles Demuth, who is considered by many to be Lancaster’s most famous artist. The tour celebrates our town’s unique homes and gardens, and this year there’s a special focus on the art of cooking.
Tour participants begin at Demuth’s downtown studio and museum and from there create their own path to the various properties on the tour. One home offers a full acre of perennial gardens—with not a blade of grass on the property—and a Wizard of Oz theme. Another set of properties line the Conestoga River, where one property husbands bees and the other lays claim to the oldest chestnut oak tree on the east coast.
While most of the tour takes place on the grounds surrounding the participating residences, a stop at a restored 1767 home includes a trip through its beautifully renovated kitchen. Another stop offers classic décor and over 28 acres of gardens, fruit trees and buttonwoods. One longtime host is known for serving homemade mint tea, a tour favorite.
Somewhere along the way, the two-day event includes the kitchen garden of yours truly. (The aforementioned bamboo trellis is on display, too.) A few blocks away, a food truck will be parked at the majestic Conestoga House Gardens.
While our kitchen garden may have inspired the theme for this year’s tour (as a bonus, a special selection of recipes will be featured in the guidebook; some of our raised bed pictured above), it’s Charles Demuth’s mother who inspired the following recipe.
Augusta Demuth was known to be an excellent gardener and cook. She kept a lovely Victorian cottage garden at her downtown home and grew “alligator pears” in the green house that once stood on the premises. Better known as avocados, my kids looked at me somewhat skeptically when they first appeared in the following summer salad.
Creamy avocado and sweet watermelon may not be an everyday pairing, but when mixed with fresh mint, salty feta, and tangy lime juice, the result is decidedly refreshing on a hot summer night. A perfect complement to grilled steak or chicken, we think it tastes especially good when enjoyed with a garden view.
Yield: 6-8 servings
- 4-5 cups bite-size watermelon pieces
- 1 avocado, diced*
- 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, torn or roughly chopped
- 1/4 of a small red onion, peeled and slivered
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill
- 2 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)
- Optional for serving: baby arugula, baby spinach, or spring greens
- Place the watermelon, avocado, mint, and red onion, in a large bowl. Drizzle/sprinkle the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper overtop, and gently stir to combine. Cover the bowl and let the salad marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top
- If desired, serve over greens of choice.
- *Ideally, the avocado should be ripe but not too soft.
- A grating of lime zest is a nice option. For extra crunch, toasted walnuts would pair well.
- This salad is best consumed the day it is prepared, as the watermelon and avocado soften as they sit overnight.
If you’d like to go:
What: 34th Annual Demuth Garden Tour
When: Saturday, June 10, 10:00 – 5:00 and Sunday, June 11, 11:00 – 5:00
Details: Self-guided tour of distinctive Lancaster Homes and Gardens. Tickets $18 in advance, $20 day of the tour (rain or shine). For tickets and information call 299-9940 or visit www.demuth.org .