From Trustees Kitchens

Prepping Prime Picnics

Trustees tips for great alfresco dining experiences this summer

By Rob Barossi, Trustees Staff

Summer is the perfect time for picnicking and no matter what setting you prefer, you can likely find it at a Trustees reservation. Among the sculptures at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Beside the pond at Rocky Woods or Rock House. Surrounded by spectacular views on Monument Mountain. A few yards away from the organic crop fields and grazing livestock of a working farm. And many more.

The landscape options for your picnic destination are numerous. As are the choices for what to pack in your basket. To help narrow the options, we asked the culinary experts at our farms for some suggestions.

Seasonal salad for a light, easy-to-make meal

Jenny DeVivo is a chef, educator, and food security advocate who teaches culinary classes for children, teens, and adults at The FARM Institute in Edgartown. “My perfect picnic basket would be filled with a freshly baked French baguette, assorted cheeses, some soppressata salami, a Tuscan kale salad, and some watermelon or cherries.”

Her kale salad, made with golden raisins, almonds, and shaved parmesan is a perfect light and easy-to-make picnic option.

Whatever salad recipe you choose, pick ingredients that are in season. This helps with sustainable farming and helps lower the environmental impact caused by shipping and transporting produce from farther away. Many salad ingredients like kale and lettuce can be found in the Trustees’ farm stores and weekly CSAs.

Not only are you eating more sustainably, it’s also a light and refreshing meal.

“I don’t want the fuss of hot foods,” Teri Culletto from The FARM Institute says of her ideal picnic basket. “A fresh tomato salad with chunks of fresh mozzarella, basil, and a bit of parmesan. Extraordinary artisan bread to enjoy with the salad. Some local smoked bluefish spread, watermelon, feta, and arugula salad with lemon verbena-mint dressing, and iced tea with lemon slices. Of course, no picnic is complete without either a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie.”

Jenny DeVivo, The FARM Institute

Teri Culletto, The FARM Institute

Charcuterie style or veggie platter for a tasty variety

For other items that don’t require much preparation, DeVivo recommends hummus with veggie sticks, a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a fruit salad.

Jess Porter, Culinary Programs and Food Service Manager at Appleton Farms in Hamilton & Ipswich, recommends similar must-haves including good bread, cheese, something herby, fresh fruit, beer or wine, and something sweet.

Experiment with sauces

For an easy-to-prepare but versatile option, Porter also suggests, trying this easy-to-make sauce: “take whatever herbs you have on hand and process those with fresh lemon, garlic, a hard cheese, salt, and crushed red pepper. Lean towards parsley and/or cilantro as a base and add in some flair. It’s the perfect accompaniment to cheese or bread, and most savory items. Or try tomato bruschetta (but only in tomato season)! Bruschetta is easy to assemble on the fly but tastes so fancy with good bread.”

For good bread that’s perfect for a picnic and an opportunity to get creative, Culletto recommends a shortcut version of focaccia bread, similar to what she makes at her Farm-to-Focaccia classes at The FARM Institute but using frozen dough to make the preparation a bit easier.

“My rule of thumb for picnics is finger foods and anything that can use a cracker or crostini as a vessel,” says Thi Bowles, Culinary Program Manager and Chef/Instructor at Powisset Farm in Dover. “Picnics should not be a big production. Go to the deli or cheese section in the local grocer’s and pick up your favorite things. Make your own pasta salad and a snack pack.”

She adds that the perfect picnic should always start with “a road trip to get your favorite picnic provisions,” and always must include, along with good food, “a special person to share snacks with.”

Jess Porter, Appleton Farms

Jess's Green Herb Sauce

Next step: Set the GPS and explore somewhere new

Now that your basket is filled with some tasty, seasonal meals – all you have to do is decide which Trustees location to set as your destination. Our chefs have some excellent recommendations.

“This is a hard question,” Culletto says when asked about a Trustees reservation she’d like to visit for a picnic. “Every time I see a new social media post, I think, ‘I must go visit that place.’ For right now, it’s Farandnear [in Shirley]. I love the name and the trails sound beautiful. Many varieties of trees and a cranberry bog as well as birds. I would like to explore more of the western side of the state as I live on the eastern portion.”

Bowles similarly hopes to picnic in a different part of the state, such as Cape Poge on Chappaquiddick Island. “The fun of picnicking is taking in the surroundings, enjoying the view, and the weather. Water makes me happy, so I think I would really enjoy an alfresco dining experience there.”

Porter, a fan of Crane Beach in Ipswich, also hopes for a chance to picnic at Bird Park, nestled in a residential area of suburban Walpole. Chapel Brook in Ashfield, with its summit and varied landscape, is a spot DeVivo has her eye on for a future picnic.

For some of our chef’s recipes to enhance your next alfresco dining experience with us, visit And check out our staff’s favorite spots to picnic among our more than 120 special places at

Go back to the Special Places home page

Thi Bowles, Powisset Farm

Cape Poge, Chappaquiddick Island