FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum became a thing when my fun friend, Felicia Roberts, invited five pals for a picnic this spring. The fine dining setting was the woodlands area of Sportsman Lake Park, which surrounds the Wildflower Garden and is soon to become an accredited arboretum, aka “living tree museum.”
Giving huge credit where due, it was Felicia who had the truly inspired idea for the Cullman County Master Gardeners to revitalize the Wildflower Garden begun decades prior by Alabama gardening legend Nona Moon. From tiny petals to tall pines, plants thrive in the mild climate and heritage-enriched soils of our part of the world.
(Dear Reader: We gardeners know that flowers and trees are on a continuum and always come full circle. Soon after my friend Felicia, who I’ve known since the earth cooled, proposed awakening the Wildflower Garden, she had a serious health emergency. Fortunately, four of her fellow Cullman County Master Gardener interns stepped forward and offered to share the project leadership while Felicia herself was revitalized. The happy ending of this tale is that Felicia is reviving and when she’s not in her Esther Williams-wannabe role, swanning in therapeutic water aerobics, she is regularly back at Sportsman Lake Park helping us imagine the arboretum.)
FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum is a delightful suggestion for celebrating this Memorial Day Weekend in the great American outdoors. My friend Felicia’s frou-frou picnic had her all la-dee-dah with a linen tablecloth and her finest botanical-patterned Melamine, but your holiday menu could be Johnny’s B-B-Q with a jug of Alabama sweet tea and be perfectly grand.
Memorial Day is both a solemn holiday to honor the thousands of Americans who have died in military service, and the unofficial start of happy summertime. In north Alabama, you can celebrate both at Sportsman Lake Park in Cullman County.
The first Memorial Day was held nationally on May 30, 1868, just after the American Civil War. It was a peaceful day when one was encouraged to strew flowers on the graves of those who had died, both Confederate and Union, during the conflict. This was a very few years before the founding of Cullman County. From the beginning of our community’s historical roots, 150-plus years, this national holiday has been treasured.
FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum is a way to enjoy a Memorial Day Weekend breakfast/brunch/lunch/lupper under the stately oaks and Alabama pines in the work-in-progress arboretum. This oasis is FREE and OPEN TO ALL every day of the year. There is even a FREE, welcome-to-summertime splash pad for the kids at Sportsman Lake Park, and the large, glistening lake for grown-ups to promenade.
The site of Felicia’s FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum gathering was the “Family Circle Picnic Plaza” just inside the bright red, “Welcome Arbor” to the Wildflower Garden which has four picnic tables. Also, there are many other shaded picnicking spots beckoning up beyond the flowering beds and the “stumpery” near the potting shed.
Pardon the rain-soaked soil and the evidence of toil of Cullman County Master Gardeners. Bring a tarp to put under that pretty picnic blanket you brought, and consider some of these delish, arboretum-inspired recipes for Memorial Day Weekend, 2023:
FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum DEVILED EGGS
- 6 large eggs
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 green onion, very thinly sliced, greens reserved
- 3 to 4 leaves fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Paprika, optional
- Put eggs in a saucepan and cover with water about 1 inch above eggs. Bring water to full boil over medium-high heat. Remove saucepan from heat and cover pan.
- Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and cool eggs with cold water. Eggs are generally easiest to peel right after they are cooled.
- Cut peeled eggs in halves and scoop yolks into a small bowl.
- Mash yolks and add mayo and Dijon mustard until desired consistency is reached.
- Stir in white and light green part of sliced green onion and most of the chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Using a small teaspoon or pastry bag, fill egg white halves with yolk mixture. Sprinkle reserved sliced green onion and remaining parsley. Sprinkle lightly with paprika, if desired.
FEED ‘EM@TheArboretum TRIPLE DIPPED FRIED CHICKEN
- 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 1/2 tbsp. garlic salt
- 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
- 1 1/2 cups beer, or as needed
- 2 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 (3-pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces
- Heat oil in a deep fryer to 350F
- Mix 3 cups flour, garlic salt, 1 tbsp. pepper, paprika, and poultry seasoning together in a medium bowl.
- Stir 1 1/2 cups beer, remaining 1 1/3 cups flour, egg yolks, salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper together in a separate bowl; thin with more beer if batter is too thick.
- Moisten chicken pieces with a little water, then dip in seasoned flour mixture. Shake off excess and dip in beer batter, then dip in the seasoned flour mixture once more.
- Lower chicken pieces carefully into the hot oil in batches. Fry until crispy and well-browned, about 15-18 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone should read 165F. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
FEED ‘EM @TheArboretum GRILLED CORN
- 4 ears corn, shucked
- Butter, for serving
- Kosher salt
- Preheat grill to high and heat for 10 minutes. Add corn and cook, turning often, until charred all over about 10 minutes.
- Spread butter over warm corn and season with salt.
FEED ‘EM @TheArboretum RED, WHITE and BLUE QUINOA FRUIT SALAD DESSERT
- 3/4 cup dry quinoa
- 16 oz. fresh strawberries
- 9 oz. fresh blueberries
- 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
For the dressing:
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Fluff and place in a large serving bowl, then let cool slightly. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the dressing ingredients: honey, lime juice and salt.
- Trim and quarter the strawberries, then add them to the bowl along with the blueberries, almonds and mint. Pour the dressing over the top, then toss gently to combine. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND and AUF WIEDERSEHEN Y’ALL!
Find all columns in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/celebrating-in-the-wundergarten.