When Lucy and Karl Leahy moved into an Oakland house with prolific fig and apple trees, they did what any resourceful homeowner
would do: Make jam. Lots of it. Until friends started saying, “Sure, come on over, but don’t bring any more of that stuff.”
Next, they began experimenting with juices, then teas (chamomile, feverfew, mint, echinacea), wines (grape and fig), beer, and cocktails. The results (which they’ve documented on their blog, drinkablegarden.com) were so good that they planted part of the driveway with lemon, mandarin orange, and pomegranate trees, plus blueberries, carrots, pineapple guavas, and more. “We weighed the advantages of off-street parking versus cocktails,” Lucy says with a smile. Cocktails, of course, won.
Put 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until very warm, then stir to dissolve sugar. Add 1/4 cup fresh anise hyssop or mint leaves, cover bowl, and set aside about 1 hour. Strain syrup. Fill 2 glasses with ice and add 2 tbsp. syrup to each.
Pour in 1/2 cup each hard apple cider* and brewed, cooled black tea. Garnish each with an apple wedge. Chill remaining syrup to use another time.
*Find in grocery stores alongside beer.
Put 1 tbsp. fresh lavender blossoms, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until very warm, then stir to dissolve sugar. Let sit at least 20 minutes but no more than 1 hour, then strain syrup. Pour 1/4 cup syrup, 1/2 cup carrot juice, and 1/2 cup potato vodka such as Blue Ice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well to blend, then strain into 2 martini glasses. Garnish glasses with lavender sprigs. Chill remaining syrup to use another time.
Whirl 1 large heirloom tomato (8 oz., chopped) in a blender until smooth. Strain into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Add 1/2 cup potato vodka such as Blue Ice, 1 tsp. grated fresh horseradish, and juice from 1 lemon and shake to blend. Strain into 2 highball glasses. To garnish each glass, thread 3 pitted green olives onto a long Thai chile and set over glass.
Gear up: Very handy: a professional masticating juicer (pulps the produce before squeezing out all the juice) and a stand-alone freezer.
Experiment: Mix flavors you love and see what works. Sure, some combinations will be awful, but, says Lucy, “Mistakes are all part of the fun.”
And sometimes they’re the solution: For instance, Karl’s rosemary beer was a failure as a drink but a wild success with (and killer of) the garden’s snail population.
Freeze the juice: Because so much ripens all at once, it’s best to juice your fruits and veggies in large batches by type. Freeze the juice in small containers, though, so you can defrost a bit at a time. “Right now we can mix cocktails from last year’s fruit juice,” Karl says. “It’s a great way to extend the season.”
Reuse, reuse, reuse: Lucy takes the dried, grated fruit pulp left over from juicing and adds it to carrot cake, zucchini bread, and apple strudel.