Shedd’s organic gardens brim with colorful native flowers and heirloom edibles. But did you know our horticulturists Julie Taylor and Charlotte Blome grow flowers, fruits and vegetables for many of the animals in our care? Produce from our vegetable gardens add important variety and enrichment to the regular food on the menus for our animals.
According to Jordan Lyznicki, senior aquarist in Amazon Rising, when it comes to early summer produce, leafy greens including lettuces and Swiss chard are a favorite of the turtles, pansies are a big hit with the tortoises, and strawberries are favored by the parrots.
Yellow-footed tortoise Omelette chows down on some pansies from Shedd's gardens.
While these foods are delicious straight out of the garden the way our animals eat them, we thought it would be fun to share a few ways our Shedd horticulture team enjoys preparing some of these foods at home with just a few basic ingredients and a little imagination.
Grilled lettuce salad
It turns out that romaine lettuce can take the heat and is wonderful grilled, then chopped and dressed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil (or whatever oil you have on hand). Leaving the leaves attached, rinse your lettuce, then simply brush oil on the outer leaves and grill until slightly wilted. A grill pan in your kitchen will work too. Chop and toss with lemon. Balsamic vinegar is a good alternative if you don’t have lemon on hand. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Strawberries with brown sugar and Greek yogurt
Top and quarter your rinsed berries, then toss with a scant amount of brown sugar—just enough to draw out the juice. Let it all sit for up to an hour. Blend more brown sugar to taste with Greek or other plain yogurt (cream or even melted vanilla ice cream will work too). Drizzle on top and garnish with mint or edible flowers.
Dill ice cubes
A wonderful way to preserve all sorts of fresh garden herbs for later use is to fill ice trays with the hand-torn leaves, cover with water and freeze. Use frozen dill in soups and pickles or try it in your lemonade for a refreshing twist—just in time for hot weather!
—Charlotte Blome, horticulture team