Brain Food Garden is This Summer's Happening Hot Spot!

TMF Farmers, VHCY Veteran Ray, Frank Henderson, Ava Talamantez and Amy Knopp

Summertime is in full swing and the same can be said for our crops now growing in the Tug McGraw Brain Food Garden here at the Yountville Veterans Home. We’ve already seen an impressive harvest of gorgeous zucchini, leeks, radishes, kale, carrots, basil, mint, parsley, lemons, and several types of lettuce.

TMF Brain Food Garden

To take advantage of our summer harvest, we held our 2nd garden party on June 26th. This event gave us an opportunity to share with our veteran residents and the community at-large what we’re growing here in our backyard – and why it’s so important to our overall mental and physical health.

At the 2nd [in a series] garden party, 40 guests were treated to summertime treats, a presentation by Master Gardener, Donna Woodward, along with a demonstration of the various summer produce available to the residents.

The party menu featured all the fresh tastes we often associate with summer: mint, tomato, basil, zucchini… all presented in simple recipes that anyone can make at home in a snap. Guests dined on Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Tomato, Basil & Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Chilled Penne Pasta with Grilled Zucchini & Basil Pesto Sauce—all paired with the perfect summertime beverage—Mint Iced Tea.

Sharing with our veteran residents the healthy options they can pick from the garden and simple ways to make a delicious meal at home is just one aspect of the garden party series. We also encourage people to take an active role in the care of the garden – from planting, watering, weeding to harvesting. It’s a chance to get outside, take in some sunshine, move your body and calm your mind. By hosting these parties our intended impact is to get home members excited about what the garden offers – healthy, fresh, non-processed eating, exercise, and socializing. All good for the brain, the body and soul!

Our Brain Food Garden has also captured the attention of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone … on Saturday, July 21st, we’re incredibly grateful to host CIA students who will be delivering a summer-themed, three-course meal to 40 lucky veteran residents in our garden. Students will introduce themselves and talk about their experiences in the program and the veterans will take the students on a tour of the garden before sitting down to enjoy lunch. We look forward to developing a long-lasting partnership with our CIA neighbor and our Brain Food Garden.

Our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Julie Fields, Chef Paul Fields, the CIA @ Greystone, its students, and Chef Rebecca Peizer CEC, CHE, Professor of Culinary Arts for this special opportunity!

Recipe from the Garden Party

Basil Pesto Without Nuts

Prep time: 5 mins

Total time: 5 mins

This version is an allergy-friendly basil pesto without pine nuts. This pesto can be used as a sauce for pasta dishes or it can be used as a dip for raw veggies or bread!


· 3 cups fresh basil leaves

· 3 cloves garlic

· ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

· Splash to up to a whole lemon of fresh lemon juice (add more according to your taste buds)

· About ½ cup olive oil (or oil of your choice)

· Salt and pepper to taste


1. Chop up the garlic until it is minced. This can be done by hand or in the blender.

2. Add in the basil and cheese and start the blender. Slowly add in the olive oil while the machine is running. If you cannot add from the top of your blender, add a little at a time. Blend until smooth.

3. Squeeze in desired amount of lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Use immediately or freeze. These are great to prepare ahead.

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