Three Donaldson brothers operate independent businesses on an expansive, well-tended acreage in Hackettstown. Brother Gary handles the wholesale aspect, Greg runs the farmers market, and David operates the Donaldson Greenhouse and Nursery.
“We offer a product range from tomatoes to trees,” says Denise Stevenson, Retail Sales and Marketing Manager for Donaldson’s Greenhouses. Stevenson has seen Donaldson’s grow from a tiny establishment with one manual register to a modern, high-tech operation during her 16-year tenure.
The impeccably arranged greenhouses and lush outdoor garden area resemble a well-manicured park. “I’m crazy about plants,” adds Stevenson, who enjoys sharing her knowledge and assisting customers with their selections. “We grow our own vegetables, and plant our own annuals and baskets. We have a lot to offer in every season. During September, we plant 10,000 mums out in the field. It’s glorious.”
When asked about her experience with edible flowers, Stevenson says: “I have two passions – plants and cooking. My sister is a trained chef and we enjoy cooking together. We started with zucchini blossoms from our own garden – picking them, preparing them, cleaning them, stuffing them, and of course the best part, eating them. From there we moved on to candied flowers – using violas and roses as garnish in fruit salads and cupcakes.”
Stevenson cautions against eating unknown blooms, and recommends flowers grown without pesticides for culinary purposes. “That being said,” she adds, “the possibilities are grand. Some fruit blossoms are edible and tasty. Herb flowers, often overlooked, are also wonderful. I love using garlic flowers and garlic scapes (the long, green stems of fresh garlic) for a chive-like flavor.”
“Today I chose to share a recipe close to my heart,” says Stevenson. “I’m inspired by Maureen Gubelmann, chef and co-owner of Stella G’s in Hackettstown, who’s famous around these parts for her lavender lemonade. It’s refreshing and delicious - absolutely outstanding.”
Denise Stevenson is enamored of the Lavender Lemonade served at Stella G’s in Hackettstown, so she started making her own version, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. Stevenson recommends English Lavender for its intense flavor. For special garden parties or afternoon teas, Stevenson suggests freezing tiny sprigs of lavender in ice cube trays, then adding the decorative ice cubes to the Lavender Lemonade.
For the syrup:
To make syrup, pour sugar into a small heavy saucepan. Stir in water and mix well. Place over medium-high to high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn down heat, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat. Add lavender blossoms and lemon slices. Cover, and let steep overnight (at least 12 hours).
Strain syrup, and pour into a large glass pitcher filled with ice. Add fresh lemon juice, water and lemon slices. Garnish with fresh lavender sprigs. Makes about 2 quarts of lemonade.
Donaldson Greenhouse and Nursery
178 Airport Rd, Hackettstown • 908/852-7314
Educate yourself about edible plants before ingesting any flowers.
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