Sweet Saturdays at Garfield Park Conservatory

February 5, 2009 (CHICAGO) The 1st Annual Sweet Saturdays is taking place during three consecutive Saturdays in February from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the conservatory at 300 N. Central Park Avenue in Chicago. Candy lovers will be welcomed at first Sweet Saturday this weekend on February 7; the next two dates are February 14 and February 21.

"The Chicago Park District is excited to work closely with the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance to produce a brand new event that celebrates a variety of plants living here at the Conservatory," said Mary Eysenbach, Director of Conservatories. "The 1st Annual Sweet Saturdays evolved from Chocolate Fest as a way to celebrate not only our chocolate trees, but the many plants that help create the different varieties of candy we all love."

The new event focuses on plants that provide the key ingredients to our favorite sweet treats. The Garfield Park Conservatory, a veritable plant-based candy show, is home to many living sweets such as bananas, vanilla beans, cinnamon bark, and chocolate trees. Visitors of all ages can sample the facts, the flavors and the fun of some of the most tantalizing tropical treats. They will be asked to make a $2 donation.

Experience these sweet activities at each Sweet Saturday:

Tropical Treat Stations: Learn a fact about familiar and not so familiar tropical plants and sample flavors derived from them. Here are some examples:

1. Bananas & Plantains

Fact: Many people confuse plantains with bananas. Although plantains look a lot like green bananas and are a close relative, plantains taste very different. They are starchy, not sweet, and they are used as a vegetable in many recipes. Plantains are longer than bananas and have thicker skins.

Flavor: Banana Chips & Plantain Chips

2. Cinnamon Tree

Fact: Cinnamon spice is the ground bark of a cinnamon tree, which grows in tropical rainforests.

Flavor: Cinnamon Red Hots

3. Vanilla

Fact: The pod of the vanilla orchid is harvested, dried, chopped, and boiled in alcohol and water. It is then aged for several months to make the vanilla extract we used in cookies, ice cream, and other goodies.

Flavor: Vanilla Jelly Bellies 4. Carnauba Wax Palm

Fact: The leaf of the carnauba palm is covered with a waxy coat, which is collected and used in products like car wax, lipstick, and gummy bears.

Flavor: Gummi Bear 5. Ginger Plant

Fact: The ginger we eat is actually not a root, but an underground stem.

Flavor: Ginger Chip 6. Coffee Tree

Fact: According to legend, Ethiopian shepherds were the first to observe the influence of caffeine in coffee beans when goats appeared to "dance" after consuming wild coffee berries.

Flavor: Chocolate-Covered Coffee Bean

Hands-on Activity Stations: Design a scratch-and-sniff necklace with cinnamon and sandpaper. Make a "leaf rubbing" Valentine's Day card or a Chocolate Sachet with the sweet-smelling shells of cocoa beans. Other drop-in stations include "Sweet Reads" & "Candy College."

Samples Sweets: Provided by various product partners hosted in the Sugar from the Sun exhibit:

February 7 - Baskin Robbins and Starbucks Coffee

February 14 - Divine Chocolate (fair trade chocolate company)

February 21 - Wholesome Sweeteners (category leader in Fair Trade Certified organically and natural sugars, syrups, nectars and honeys)

Tropical Café: Buy sandwiches, souvenir treats, and listen to the sweet sounds of tropical tunes while relaxing.

"Member's Only" Chocolate Lounge: Members of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance can enjoy special perks and activities:

Discover your inner chocolate spirit by venturing on a self-guided chocolate "taste test" quest.

Pot up a special chocolate mint plant to take a little bit of the Sweet Saturday event home with you.

Enter your name into a drawing to win your very own fresh chocolate pod to take home and show off to your friends.

Free coat check in the Chocolate Lounge available to members.

Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while relaxing in our "members only" seating area.

If you or someone you know is not already a member, memberships can be purchased on the day of each Sweet Saturday event or online at: garfieldparkconservatory.org

For more information on Sweet Saturdays and other activities at the Garfield Park Conservatory, visit garfieldconservatory.org

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