Exploring Adelaide’s Botanic Garden

Australia’s Adelaide Botanic Garden is an oasis of 125 acres, a place where insane architecture (note the glass waterfall) and horticulture coexist right in the city center of Adelaide.

But the Botanic Garden is more than just a respite from the bustle. The western part, next to the Gingko Gate, has been designated the Garden of Health, and its purpose is to demonstrate the use of plants to heal and promote health and well-being in Western and non-Western cultures. There are two distinct parts: the Garden of Contemplation, which “encourages contemplation and reflection,” and the Garden of Healing, which focuses on disease prevention and treatment. Visitors learn how the use of healing plants has developed, from the Neolithic period to the present age of medical and pharmaceutical science. More than 2,300 plants representing 257 species reveal the diversity of plants that have been used to heal the body, mind, and soul for thousands of years.

The purpose of the Garden of Health is to demonstrate the use of plants to heal and promote health and well-being in Western and non-Western cultures.

Another special feature of this bucolic site is Paul Baker, chef of the Botanic Gardens Restaurant. Baker crafts a modern Australian menu that emphasizes ethically farmed produce, fresh vegetables, and herbs harvested daily from Adelaide Botanic Garden—a true garden-to-table experience. The restaurant has been recognized nationally; The Australian published a glowing review by an acclaimed food critic and included the restaurant on its prestigious “Hot 50 Restaurants” list in 2015. Gourmet Traveller’s 2016 Restaurant Guide bestowed a coveted 1-star rating on the restaurant, ranking it among Adelaide’s top five dining establishments. Chef Baker also hosted a critically acclaimed dinner at the James Beard House in New York recently.

The Botanic Gardens Restaurant is located in a heritage rotunda and offers stunning 180-degree views of the tranquil Garden and Main Lake, making it an ideal perch for lingering over lunch or dinner. The restaurant offers botanical-inspired cocktails that use fresh produce from the garden and its own Botanic Ale, a limited-edition craft beer produced from barley grown on Adelaide Botanic Garden’s City Crop farm. Its wine list features some of South Australia’s most recognized boutique wines.

Chef Baker also grows tomatoes on these highly fertile grounds. “The varieties we have had include Tigerella, Wild Sweetie, Green Zebra, Grosse Lisse, and San Marzano. They are all grown organically and are generally staked to wooden pyramids,” he says.

Baker serves all sorts of tomatoes in his dishes. “At the restaurant we pickle the green tomatoes and serve them with a fresh buffalo curd, lovage verde salsa, and quinoa crackers as a snack. The pickled green tomatoes are also great with cured meats,” he says. As expected, fresh, ripe tomatoes don’t need much dolling up—Baker simply serves them fresh with local sea salt or uses the juice to make a sorbet. Could anything be more refreshing on a hot Australian day?