Visitors to historic Lake Wales now have two tasty new attractions to enjoy, because the Bok Tower Gardens Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden are now open.
Bok Tower Gardens, which has been undergoing an extensive renovation for the past year, debuted their new outdoor kitchen and edible garden on the morning of Saturday, April 9, 2016. Located adjacent to the Visitors Center, this new area allows guests to enjoy fresh food and culinary programming. The opening of this area is part of the largest capital expansion campaign ever undertaken by the Gardens in its 87-year history.
In addition to the Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden, this new area also features the Cindy and JD Alexander Discovery Center complete with an indoor classroom and restrooms. The entire project utilized natural ventilation and design orientation and incorporated eco friendly building materials including reclaimed cypress wood, Florida keystone, and LED lighting. Both the Kitchen and Cindy and JD Alexander Discovery Center design was created by Lake/Flato Architects of San Antonio, Texas and offers a picturesque spot for guests to discover the joy of edible gardening. The Kitchen is 6,400 square feet and features a wood fired Belgard brick oven, Fire Magic grill, Fire Magic cook top and range, True Refrigerator and freezer drawers, a unique fire pit, and other top of the line kitchen appliances. Festive café string lights, ceiling fans and vine trellises make the kitchen functional, beautiful and intimate despite its large size. A center island with granite countertop provides more than 15 feet of space for chef demonstrations.
More than $1.5 million dollars was raised to build the Kitchen, Gardens and Cindy and JD Alexander Discovery Center through individual gifts, corporate partnership with Danielle Fence and Outdoor Living, and support from the local business community. Construction took over 13 months to complete and the expansion adds nearly one acre of food experiences for guests to enjoy.
The Edible Garden surrounds the Outdoor Kitchen and was designed by landscape architect Thomas Woltz and his firm Nelson Byrd Woltz. Currently bursting with a bounty of late spring produce including kohlrabi, bok choy, arugula, broccoli, tomatoes, cilantro, and rosemary, Edible Garden also features a fruit orchard, grape arbors, and raised beds for herbs and vegetables. This area will be a hub of horticultural and culinary activity and will showcase lifestyle gardening and the culinary arts. The Edible Garden also complements the Gardens’ new educational partnership with University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) which develops garden and wellness programs for schools and communities throughout the state.
“The opening of the Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden is just a taste of the excitement to come as Bok Tower Gardens completes our vision for the future,” said Gardens’ president David Price. “We’re making changes, without changing the spirit of Gardens our members and guests have grown to love,” he continued. “Guests will be inspired to bring the joy of edible gardening to their backyards and experience a greater connection to their food,” Price said.
“The Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden is the achievement of our Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future Campaign and we are looking forward to the final installment of this vision later in September with the opening of the children’s garden,” said Joan Thomas, director of philanthropy for the Gardens. “We continue to be thankful for the generosity of our members and donors who have made this expansion possible,” Thomas said.
Guests can enjoy several upcoming special events in the Outdoor Kitchen including Fresh Bites: Salsa Day on April 30th and Culture & Cocktails: Latin on May 5th. Advance tickets (and general admission) are required for both events and more information is available online at www.boktowergardens.org.
Just in case you happen to be unfamiliar with Bok Tower Gardens, here is a Photo Finds slideshow of the attraction that we shared back in 2011: