FOOD in the Garden 

Past Events

Together with American History (After Hoursand Smithsonian Gardens, FOOD in the Garden invites curious audiences to join us outdoors in the museum's Victory Garden in the summer for an evening of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation exploring the connection between gardens, crops, people, and more. See below for upcoming programs.

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August 10: FOOD in the Garden - Gardens & Community

6:00 - 8:30 pm; Victory Garden

American History (After Hours) goes outside with Smithsonian Gardens for an evening in the museum’s Victory Garden! Join us for FOOD in the Garden, an evening of food, cocktails by Green Hat Gin of New Columbia Distillers, and dynamic conversation exploring the connection between communities and nature.

On August 10, we'll explore how gardens and public green spaces have brought people together to build community, learn, and heal throughout American history. From parks, to victory gardens, to community plots, these green spaces have offered not only beautiful and calming spaces but also a place for civic engagement during critical times. Join us as we celebrate the history of public gardens and try to answer the question: How do gardens foster community and change? 

The evening will include a panel discussion featuring

  • Tom Kanatakeniate Cook, Running Strong, an American Indian support organization for communities and youth across the United States
  • Pam Hess, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture
  • Elin Haaga, George Washington University landscape design program
  • Dr. Frederick Foote, The Green Road Project, a natural healing environment for wounded service members and their family members

And an interactive garden party-themed reception with

  • Custom cocktails by Green Hat Gin of New Columbia Distillers
  • Tours in the Victory Garden
  • Delicious food by our own Chef Jose Diaz
  • Croquet games in the lawn
  • Arcadia activity station
  • Story-sharing with Community of Gardens by Smithsonian Gardens
  • Groundwork Anacostia station
  • And more!


FOOD in the Garden takes places in the Victory Garden on the east side of the National Museum of American History.

In case of inclement weather, the rain date for this event will be the following night: Thursday, August 11 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.


Past Events

FOOD in the Garden 2015

For 2015, we explored innovations in American food and gardens with tastes, talks, and tours outside in the Smithsonian Gardens’ Victory Garden. What’s old, what’s new, and what have we yet to discover in the garden?

Aug. 20: Seeds of Innovation

From heirlooms to biotech, how have seeds fed us in the past and how will seeds feed the future? Join scientists, researchers, and historians to discuss the impact of seeds, seed saving, and seed technology on our historic and modern food systems.

Sept. 17: How Does Your Garden Grow?

What do the kitchen gardens of our founding father, Victory gardens of WWII and edible rooftops have in common? Good design of course. From soil to sun, how do plant needs, space, and aesthetics influence the design of a garden? Join a conversation with historic and modern garden designers on the past, present, and future of edible garden design and gather inspiration for your own unique space. 



FOOD in the Garden 2014

In 2014, FOOD in the Garden commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and celebrate the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired our national anthem, with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and Smithsonian Gardens.  FOOD in the Garden 2014 explored four maritime regions where battles were waged during the War of 1812: Long Island Sound, the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. We looked back and looked forward at 200 years of connections between land and water, people and food as we enjoyed evenings of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation in a relaxed garden atmosphere.

Learn more about the research behind 2014's topic on the blog.

2014 Topics

September 4, 2014
Human Impact: The Long Island Sound

In 1812, Long Island Sound, one of the nation’s most historic estuaries, was a crossroads of trade and agriculture. Seeds from around the globe were brought to its shores and ships brought goods produced in the region out to the world. The area was, and continues to be, renowned for the abundance of goods it produces. From its many farms and wineries to its thriving seafood industry, Long Island Sound has become synonymous with the production of fresh, tasty food and drink. But what has been the human impact on the region in the past 200 years? 

This program explored the relationship between Long Island Sound and the people that inhabit it, specifically focusing on how the fishing and agricultural industries have transformed the environment. We also explored how the area has changed since the War of 1812, and learned what new and exciting things are taking place to protect Long Island Sound while still producing amazing, regional food and drink. 

Panelists: Cindy Lobel, Professor of History at Lehman College and author of Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York; Stephanie Villani, co-owner of Blue Moon Fish, and Diana Whitsit of Terry Farms. 

See pictures from: Human Impact: The Long Island Sound


September 11, 2014
Cultural Connections: The Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay, described as “an immense protein factory” by Baltimore writer H.L. Mencken, long supported an abundance of oysters, crabs, clams, and many species of finfish.  These productive waters along with the bay’s extensive network of navigable tributaries shaped the region’s foodways.  Through trade, transportation, and communication the region’s natural bounties were brought together with new people, foods, and flavors from around the globe, particularly Africa, the Caribbean, England, and Europe. How did these cultural connections come together in the Chesapeake region and how did they find expression in gardens, landscapes, communities, kitchens, and around the region’s tables?  This session explored the 1812 period as well as the long-term impact of these dynamic connections on the bay’s marine environment and resources. 

Panelists: Mollie Ridout, Director of Horticulture for Historic Annapolis Foundation; Psyche Williams-Forson, Associate Professor of American Studies at University of Maryland, and Denise Breitburg, marine ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

See pictures from: Cultural Connections: The Chesapeake


September 18, 2014
Exotics and Invasives: The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes region was integral to the War of 1812, a front for several naval and land conflicts such as the assaults on Ft. Meigs and the Battle of Put-in-Bay. Once referred to as the Eden of the West, the Great Lakes region included hundreds of miles of untamed wilderness, rolling rivers, and dense forest encompassing modern day New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. The region was home to the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Iroquois tribes, who valued the waterways as a means of life. With the increasing demand for elbow room, European-Americans began to extend their reach westward into relatively unfamiliar territory with the hope of thriving off of abundant, fertile land. With them came exotic and—in some cases—invasive species never before seen in the region such as apples, peaches, swine, and other fare that would come to define the region. How did the introductions of new plant and animal species affect the cultural foodways of the people who lived there and continue to live in the region today?

200 years later, this region is the cultural center of the Midwest with over 32 million people living along the lakes. Although early settlements have come and gone, many heirloom seeds native to this region have stood the test of time and there is an ever-present effort to preserve them, not only for consumption but for their cultural significant as well.

Panelists: Jodi Branton, National Museum of American Indian;  Rick Finch, interim director of the Glenn Miller Birth Place Museum and former site manager of Fort Meigs: Ohio’s War of 1812 Battleground ; and Tim Rose, geologist at the National Museum of Natural History and cider maker with Distillery Lane.

See pictures from: Exotics and Invasives: The Great Lakes


September 25, 2014
Marketplaces: New Orleans

New Orleans has always been a crossroads of people, ideas, and products. What was created out of this dynamic interplay of people and products at this global crossroads of New Orleans? At the heart of NOLA are the people, a very diverse population ranging from Native Americans, French, Spanish, Africans, and other subsequent waves of immigrants. Drawing from abundant natural marine resources, adding diverse foods from around the world through merchants and settlers, the NOLA population created one of the most unique and influential foodscapes in the world.  The markets and new migrants continue to thrive and draw from the many unique cultural and natural resources of the area.

PanelistsAshley Young, historian of food markets and street food culture in the 19th century; and David Guas, chef/owner of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, VA [and coming Winter 2014 to Washington, DC] and host of American Grilled on Travel Channel.  

See pictures from: Marketplaces: New Orleans



FOOD in the Garden programs made possible through the generous support of:
DuPont Pioneer
The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts

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