One of the tastiest trends to grace tabletops across the country is the charcuterie board! From Pinterest to picnics, charcuterie boards are everywhere. These boards consist of lavish spreads of cheese, preserved meats, fruits, crudités, and more, styled on wooden planks and tables. They’re often garnished with fresh-cut flowers, herbs, honey, and butter.
For most, a charcuterie board means a long shopping list and a trip to the grocery store. However, a few garden additions can transform your backyard or porch into an edible oasis… and knock a few items off that grocery shopping list for good!
START WITH A KITCHEN GARDEN
If you love charcuterie boards, plant a kitchen garden, a tradition that dates back centuries. Kitchen gardens have historically been situated just outside their namesake room to allow cooks easy access to the fresh ingredients they need. Today, a kitchen garden can be as ornate as a stately parterre, with sections of herbs and vegetables divided by crisp and low hedges. They can also be more casual; many urban dwellers and apartment renters are planting mini kitchen gardens in balcony containers, window boxes, under indoor grow lights, and more.
To establish a new kitchen garden, start from the ground up. Get to know your soil – generally speaking, many edibles prefer slightly acidic soil. If you’re not certain what type of soil you have, many agricultural extension agencies nationwide offer testing services. It’s also important to consider good sun exposure, as many fruits, veggies, and herbs produce their most robust crops with plenty of sunlight. Finally, protect your harvest from wildlife. The birds, squirrels, and deer often enjoy those tasty treats just as much as we do!
FABULOUS FRUITS FOR YOUR CHARCUTERIE BOARD
The “classic” components of a charcuterie board include assorted hard and soft cheeses, crackers, and fantastic fruits in a starring role. Many classic charcuterie fruits can be grown easily in the Southern climate… no farm required!
‘Little Miss Figgy’ Dwarf Fig is a cold hardier fig – its petite size makes it perfect for growing in pots, balconies, and small spaces. Large and lush fruits from summer through fall give a sweetness and rich purple hue that pop on a charcuterie spread. Slice this fig on your charcuterie board to showcase its ornate interior.
Fresh berries are another charcuterie must-have. The texture of blackberries (and their harmony with cheese) makes them a fabulous fruit addition to a charcuterie board. If you’ve resisted growing them in the past due to their thorny brambles and painful picking, new varieties like ‘Osage’ Thornless Blackberry and ‘Navaho’ Thornless Blackberry from the DownHome Harvest Collection ensure that growing blackberries is a pleasure… and not a pain. Blueberries are another sweet addition to charcuterie boards; for true Southern flavor try the Hello Darlin and Takes the Cake varieties, bred to thrive in the region’s climate.
EASY-GROW HERBS FOR THE FINISHING TOUCH
Fresh herbs add so much beyond flavor to a charcuterie board. The fragrance of garden-fresh herbs is often much richer than store-bought herbs which may have been cut days or weeks earlier, adding an enchanting atmosphere to the table when you’re entertaining. The vivid green hues of freshly cut herbs provide visual interest on the charcuterie board, complementing savory cheeses, crackers, and meats, and giving the presentation a finished look.
Beyond their service on the dinner table, herbs serve a surprising number of functions in the garden. A dense and compact rosemary like Chef’s Choice Culinary Rosemary can be grown in pots for its stunning beauty or serve as a lovely, compact kitchen garden border. Plant this gorgeous garnish for its higher oil content; as a flavorful, spicy rosemary, Chef’s Choice makes the perfect culinary complement to hard cheeses or salty deli cuts.
Lavender-infused honey is an increasingly popular choice on charcuterie boards; try Phenomenal Lavender, which thrives in the hot and humid Southeastern summer. For a stunning container-grown lavender, ‘Meerlo’ Lavender offers brightly variegated foliage with a highly fragrant aroma, perfect for pots.
When it comes to entertaining, gorgeous spreads and freshly harvested garden goodies are two surefire ways to delight guests. With a little imagination, delicious ingredients, and good company, your charcuterie board will be a certain success!