I was going stir crazy last week, so I decided, despite the frigid spring temperatures, to go for a little walk and check on my not so secret spot for wild ramps. It is still very early in the season, but I figured a status update would be beneficial, and I needed something to do. Lincoln was all in for a walk by the river, so off we set, basket and digging tools in hand.
Ramps are a type of leek that populate forest floors and river valleys. They are difficult to domesticate, but are abundant in the wild in some areas of the United States. They have a mild onion flavor and are simply delicious.
My little spot is right on the side of a dirt road that is a very popular walking spot, even more so now that everyone is seeking escape from confinement. In fact, it is so close to the road that I hesitate to go when I might be seen, for fear of others finding my spot and cleaning out all the ramps. This type of secrecy is symptomatic of a condition is called ‘locaphobia’. It is very common in foragers, and causes all sorts of subterfuge and erratic behavior. (Just kidding, I made that up. Not the condition, but the name for it. The condition is very real.)
The ramps were there. I made my introductions, asked permission of the grove, and ‘heard’ an assent. (This hearing, I’ve learned, is a skill that develops with time). They were small, but there seemed to be plenty. Baby spinach, baby carrots, baby lettuce, why not baby ramps? As I was on my knees in the dirt, a meanderer ambled along and asked me what I was doing. I tried to hide behind a tree, but he wasn’t fooled. “I’m harvesting baby ramps” I mumbled. “What are they?” he wanted to know, so I told him. He said “Wow. Free food.” I agreed and he went on his way.
When I had enough, I offered a thank you and packed up my things. As I was walking back to the car I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. The whole hillside above where I harvest was covered with wild ramps. Acres were blanketed with them. They were everywhere. Amazed, I suddenly wished I had someone to show.
I thought of the man walking. Something about our conversation niggled at me. Free food, he had said. Was it really free? Certainly no one had to pay for it. But free has connotations of disregard, of lack of value, and possibly of neglect. Free comes without conditions. That didn’t feel right. The ramps weren’t free, they were a gift. A gift denotes a relationship. A gift involves generosity, caring and even love. A gift requires a response. The forest gives to us. It’s up to us to give back.
The ramps I collected require not only gratitude, but compassion, thoughtfulness, protection and respect. I want my relationship with the earth to be reciprocal, not based in abuse or greed. As such, I never take the first. I never take more than half. I always say please, and I always say thank you. Just like I would do with a friend.
I decided to make a quiche with my ramps. The very flexible recipe follows.
Ingredients for Ramp Quiche
1 bunch of ramps, washed and dried.
I TBSP butter
8 eggs (or 6 if that is all you have)
1 cup milk (or half and half)
1 cup sour cream (or other dairy like ricotta, yogurt, cottage cheese)
1/2 cup Bisquick
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese)
1 pie crust.
Roughly chop the ramps an saute them in the butter. Allow to cool.
Mix the next 5 ingredients and add the ramps. Pour into the pie crust and bake at 350 for 1 hour. It’s not necessary to preheat the oven. Enjoy!
Apparently, the next commodity in short supply, after toilet paper and hand sanitizer is …. Drum roll, please … vegetable seeds! That’s right, friends, the New York Times reports a seed buying frenzy across the country. If you haven’t already made your plans for the garden of your dreams, you might be behind the curve.
It’s unclear if people are buying seeds as fast as they can because they have nothing better to do than work outside in the garden, or if they actually fear for their food security and are wisely planning for the future. Regardless of the reason, seeds are in high demand and many seed companies are running a wait time of several weeks. While I’m delighted that the country is turning towards the dirt for solace during these crazy times, I’m equally delighted that I ordered my seeds during the garden doldrums of January.
I have a confession to make. I’m a seed addict! I love seeds. I actually have card catalogs (yes, plural) to store my seeds alphabetically. I have a box specifically for bean seeds, and another for pea and corn seeds (seeds that are too big to fit in the card catalogs, obviously) When I get those color glossy catalogs from the seed companies like Baker Creek and Kitchen Garden and Territorial, I spend hours reading descriptions and oogling the pictures of luscious shiny vegetables. “Vegetable porn” My girlfriend calls it. I don’t know about that, but I will confess that I save the catalogs.
While I’m confessing, I should also tell you that I’m a seed snob. Not all seeds are created equal. The tenants of slow living mandate that when I evaluate my purchasing, I regard provenance, equity, sustainability, history and justice with at least as much weight as I give to economy and facility. I choose seeds that are unique, rare, and unusual, not only because they are interesting to grow, but because my dollars promote the safekeeping of those seeds, and enhance the lives of the small farmers who grow them. My seed dollars promote biodiversity and global health. GMO and hybrid seeds that are mass produced in colossal greenhouses not only contribute to global warming, but make vegetables that can’t even reproduce themselves. You couldn’t save and re-grow those seeds even if you wanted to. They may cost a few cents less, but the hidden cost to the planet isn’t worth it.
Seed are truly miraculous. They are the great multipliers. One seed can produce hundreds, if not thousands, of new seeds. They hold secrets. Different kinds of seeds need different conditions to germinate. Some need fire. Some need freezing. Some need sunlight and some need darkness. They contain life. While we can alter them, we still cannot create them. Without seeds there is no life.
I buy new seeds every year. In the past few years I have been learning about traditional seed saving techniques, but with the vast array of amazing varieties that come out in the catalogs each year, I feel like buying and planting rare and heritage seeds is a way of promoting and protecting biodiversity. Every year I buy something I have never grown before. This year it’s artichoke.
If you are looking for seeds and can’t buy them from a seed company, you still have might options. Try looking in a gift catalog. Often companies that sell Christmas gifts offer gifts for gardeners, and may have kits for herbs, lettuces or other groups of vegetables. Try to contact your local library. Many libraries have a seed exchange, and you may be able to convince your librarian to get some seeds and leave them out for you. Ask your friends who have gardens. Most gardeners don’t use all their seeds each year, and most are willing to share.
For those of you who do have seeds, you might be wondering what to do with them. I’m starting tomato seeds in the following pictures, but you can modify this tutorial for any seeds you want to start growing indoors.
Vegetable seeds fall into roughly two categories: those to plant outside, and those to start inside. Almost all seeds can be planted right in the dirt, once the weather cooperates, but many need a longer growing season than we have in the Northeast, so to give those plants an advantage, we plant them indoors first. They include the brassica family, (cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc.) the cucurbitas (squash, melon, cucumber etc.) the solanales, or nightshade family, with the exception of potatoes (tomato, pepper, eggplant etc.) If your seeds fall into one of these three families, keep reading.
Sprinkle the seeds on top of a moist seed starter mix, or potting soil if that is all you have. In a pinch, dig some dirt up from your garden (but make sure it isn’t cold). It should be light, not packed down. A rule of thumb for seed starting is that you need to cover the seed as deep as the circumference of the seed itself. For my tomato seeds, this means 1/4 inch or less. Loosely cover the seeds with a layer of moist soil commensurate with it’s size, water lightly, (soil should be damp but not mushy), close the lid and leave in a warm, sunny place. If you have a heat mat, place the seed containers on it to start the germination faster. Unless you like surprises, DON’T FORGET TO LABEL!
Voila! Baby Tomatoes. Next they will need little pots to grow in. You can use pretty much any container with a hole in the bottom, like a plastic bottle, paper cup, Tupperware, ceramic pot. Anything. Choose a pot that will be able to hold your plant until it’s time to put it into the garden. I use leftover plastic seed pots from the greenhouse that I re-use each year. Potting soil is a good medium. Pack the soil in firmly, but not hard.
Next, move the babies to their new homes. Make a deep hole in the center of the pot. Use a tool like a bamboo marker (or chopstick, butter knife, pencil) to loosen the soil and lift the seedling from the bottom. Use your fingertips on the stem of the plant. IMPORTANT- Don’t pull. Don’t touch the roots. Don’t touch the leaves. Separate it from it’s siblings, and gently place it into the hole you have created for it. If needed, poke the roots down into the hole with the tool. Gently pat the soil around the stem. If you bend a plant, discard it and try again.
Tomato plants can grow roots from their stems, so you can put them into the hole deeply. Each time it gets transplanted, bury part of the stem to give it added stability. This is not true of other plants.
Once they are all tucked in, sprinkle them with water to settle the soil around the roots. They may look sad, but they will perk up in a day or two.
Different plants have different needs once they are started. Warm weather plants like tomato and pepper will benefit from having a light on them for at least 12 hours a day. Special bulbs can be purchased at a hardware store for use in a regular lamp. I use an ultra thin LED panel that sells for about 20 dollars on Amazon. The brassicas will not need extra light or warmth, and it’s still a bit early to start the squashes in New England, so I recommend starting out with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
For the next few weeks you should check them daily and water as needed. If you have started tomatoes, let them dry out a bit in between watering. A little stress will help them develop strong roots. This is true once they are planted in the garden as well. Over watering will result in weaker plants and less fruit, but never let them get so dry that they wilt.
If you have questions about specific seeds, or just want to share your experiences with seed starting, I’m happy to answer. Comment below or find me on Instagram. Good luck with your new seeds and happy gardening!
I have always defined the quality of my life in terms of my choices. Can’t take your car? Call an Uber. Hitch a ride with a friend. Take the bus. Walk. Ride a bike. Heck, roller-skate if you feel like it. These are all possible choices. But what if you don’t have a friend? Or a bike. Or money for the bus. Or working legs.
A few days ago I went to the store to get a cabbage. Sounds like the start to a pretty boring story, right? It is. There was no cabbage. And no Napa cabbage. No radicchio. No escarole. No romaine, bok choy or endive. Nothing that resembled a cabbage. Neither was there lettuce, nor carrots, nor vegetables of any kind. As I stood looking at the empty racks, I realized that I had to change my plans for dinner. I had no choice but to make something else.
No choice. This was the first Covid-19 blow to my life.
I consider my life to be rich, because I have many choices. I can choose how I spend my time, for the most part. We can choose where we want to live, within our means. I can choose my work, which doctor I go to, which stores I shop at, who I vote for, and a million other choices that make my life seem rich and easy compared to some. When it comes to food, I might even have too many choices. If I get an idea about what I want to cook, there is no stopping me. Forget about what’s in the cabinet; I’ll drive to the Asian market forty minutes away to get fresh turmeric, if the recipe calls for it. That’s beyond living richly. Than’s just spoiled.
I was unhappy with no cabbage, but I recovered. I chose my dinner, a chicken, took it to the check out, and waited behind a woman and her partner, both in masks and gloves. Together they rang up 3 carts and more than 700.00 in groceries. Including 3 cabbages. I watched as they proceeded to pack them all into their fancy car with out of state plates.
Will a Land Rover full of groceries save them from the Corona virus?
I admit I was a little miffed. Interestingly, my first thought wasn’t to tell them off, it was to go get another chicken. But a chicken instead of a cabbage is not a hard choice. After a minute, I decided that a chicken was a lovely dinner, and I was grateful that it was available to me.
I think I am well prepared for food shortages, although there has been no evidence that I’ll need to be. I am able to grow much of my own food, and it is almost the growing season here in the Northeast. Our family hunts, and I have food reserves from previous harvests. What I am not prepared for is the idea of hardship. As was evidenced by my irritation (ok, anger) at not being able to buy a cabbage. I am unaccustomed to having limited choices.
My out of state grocery shoppers chose to hoard food. Their plan was to save themselves by buying all the food they could carry and going into isolation. They hope that the virus will pass them by. Nothing wrong with that. Good luck to them. I hope for their sake that when they come out of isolation in a few weeks to get more food, they get a pass again. And that there is still food to be had.
In the end I chose to pass on the second chicken. If this is the apocalypse, a second chicken probably isn’t going to save me. A second chicken is only going to guarantee that someone else isn’t going to have a chicken when they want one for dinner. I’ll have two, but they’ll have none. I decided to pull on my Corona pants, tighten my emotional belt, and not only accept, but welcome this limiting of my choices. I’m going to chose to be more frugal, in lifestyle and in material things. I am choosing to welcome a smaller life.
It doesn’t seem like the corona virus is giving any of us much of a choice. No matter how rich your life seems, no amount of wealth, or food seems to prevent it (although I hear it can get you a test). But that doesn’t mean we don’t have choices. We can chose to be people who support our neighbors. We can chose to be kind, helpful and compassionate. We can chose to consider those who have fewer choices than us. We can chose to leave the second chicken.
The world is a nutty place to be right now. From people hoarding toilet paper as if Covid-19 was an intestinal disease to our fearless leader acting as if nothing is the matter at all, my world, at least, is a little shaken up. The school where I work is closed, as is almost every school I know. I’ve got bored teenagers draped around the furniture, moaning at their loss of friends and freedom, and a fridge bulging with extra groceries, not because I believe there will be a supply breakdown, but because my neighbors are hoarding, and I don’t want to get left with the last jar of, say, hearts of palm, for dinner.
Truthfully, I’d be perfectly content if I stopped going to the grocery store. Perhaps now is the perfect time to really delve into what I preach. I can reach out to my local network of growers and farmers for eggs, milk, flour and meat. My favorite family farm stand still has onions, garlic, potatoes and squash. I can (and will!) have spring greens in my greenhouse in a matter of weeks. I can look for spring vegetables in the woods. I bet I could harvest cattail roots today. See my post about eating cattails from April 2013 https://eattheseason.com/2013/04/15/cattails-yum/
I’ve always been an advocate of slow living. I try to adhere to the principles of slow food, for example. No, that’s not like eating snails. Slow food is the practice of planting, tending, harvesting, cooking and serving food. It takes time. Alternately it is buying healthy local food that reflects your understanding and thankfulness for the process of how food comes to us. It is built on a reverence for the natural world. It centers around community. It fosters patience, flexibility and gratitude.
Slow food’s opposite is, of course, fast food, where the focus is on expediency instead of quality, economy instead of value. It is harmful to us psychologically as much as it is physically. Just so fast clothing, wherein the Costco leggins that you picked up for 7.99 don’t advertise on the label that they were made by children in sweatshops in Bangladesh, out of cotton picked in El Salvador by workers who are paid pennies to be sprayed with chemical pesticides. I prefer homemade, handmade, and local-made. Slow living is living out social justice.
So is this Corona virus the apocalypse or what?
I say no. I say now, this crazy time, can be the perfect time. The perfect time for what, you might ask? To which I reply, the perfect time for anything you want. It could be the perfect time to fix your grill. Or the perfect time to start walking outdoors again. The perfect time to learn to cook. The perfect time to think about planning for the future, or to try some new software, or to learn to knit, or plant a garden. Read to your children. Write a letter to an old friend. We have endless opportunities in this moment in time to do community in a small way. It is the perfect time to slow down, finally, and really experience your life. How many times have you said to someone “I’d love to do it, but I’m just too busy”. Guess what? You are no longer busy! You have some time. Some perfect time.
What will you do with your perfect time? If you find yourself working from home, have been laid off, or simply have extra time due to this unexpected pandemic, write a comment below and let me know what you are doing to make this time the perfect time. Be safe my friends.
Welcome to springtime in the New England! It is 70 degrees today on March 8th in Northwest Connecticut, and in order to mitigate my rising alarm at the wicked respiratory cold they call Covid-19 racing across the globe, I’ve decided to take a break from the news. It’s time to pull on my gloves (the dirt protection kind, not the medical grade germ protection kind) and venture into the garden. Since cold season clearly isn’t over, and the best thing for a bad cold is a bowl of hot soup, I have my favorite spring soup in mind.
Pistou is a Provencal pesto of sorts, made with basil, garlic and oil. It is used primarily in a northern Italian dish called Soupe au Pistou. When I think Pistou, I don’t think of basil as much as I think of fresh peas, which is one of the necessary ingredients for this light, bright, healthy Mediterranean soup made with pasta, beans and spring vegetables. For Pistou later, I need to plan now. Click on the link under the photo for one of my favorite French versions from The French Barn.
St. Patrick’s day has always been my rule of thumb for the time to plant peas. In this region it is generally the time when the soil can first be worked, and in the past I’d wait for a sunny day soon afterwards. But the times they are a changin’, as they say. Climate change has done away with the regular patterns, and we have to adapt. For my purposes today, the sooner the ground is thawed, the better.
When I chose my peas from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company in January, I was, as always, enchanted by the color glossy pictures and delicious descriptions of the vegetables. As always, I couldn’t decide on which varietals to choose, so I chose several. I may be sad when the weather warms and there is no room left in my garden for the tomatoes and eggplant!
Peas are very easy to plant. They love cool weather, they can handle a light frost, and they don’t mind soils in the 30’s. This makes them the perfect spring vegetable for our inclement Northeast weather. Once your soil is loose and has been amended with compost, simply poke them in the ground with your finger to a depth of about 1 inch. Space them 3″ apart in rows at least 24″ apart.
Most peas grow in vines, and need something to cling to as they grow. A trellis of some sort, either a net attached to stakes, such as I use, or a mesh fence or a woven panel will help them grow tall and make harvesting easy. It should be at least 5 feet tall, or higher, depending on the variety. Some peas can grow 10 feet tall! New this year for me is a bush type varietal called Kelvedon Wonder. Topping out at 18″, it needs no staking, and therefore even less work than usual.
A word of warning: New pea shoots and leaves are a favorite of some songbirds, and if found, they will peck at the leaves until there isn’t much green left for the new plant to photosynthesize. If you find your tiny new leaves are getting eaten, it’s wise to cover them with row cover for protection until they are strong enough to withstand a bit of abuse. A cover is also in order if a heavy snow is expected.
When I think of those first fat pods of sugar snaps dripping off the vines, and then lightly sauteed snow peas in butter, and finally thumb-sized shelling peas bursting with flavor to store for the winter, I’m ready to get them started. It’s easy to sit inside and panic, to worry and watch the numbers and listen to the talking heads squawk fear and discord, anger and accusations. Panic is antithetical to the gardener. If a gardener falls into the mindset that the world is ending and all is lost, he/she/they will no longer garden; hence they cease to be a gardener. Without a future, there is no point in a garden. The act of gardening is an act of hope. In fact, gardening is the natural response to fear and panic. It provides stability, a plan, future security and a firm foundation in a hope for better things. Let’s focus on what is important. Try to stay home. Try to stay healthy. Eat soup. Plant peas. Sow hope. Go put some seeds in the ground and see if you don’t feel better about your world. I dare you.
February and March may seem like the absolute doldrums for gardeners in the North East, but for me this is really where the fun begins. Starting in mid January my daily run to the post is enhanced by the plethora of seed catalogs and gardener supply fliers that inundate the more mundane sampling of bills and offers of credit. These magazines, filled with flawless, sparkling, brightly colored fruits and flowers not only bring the remembrance of springtime just when it seems like winter will never end, but spark the planning and scheming process that every gardener goes through each year. Moreover, for me they offer not just ideas and choices of what to grow, but actual hope for the delights of spring, and desire for a bountiful garden, in much the same way that ads for fancy skin cream lure us in with the unattainable promise of youth and beauty. I know it sounds foolish, but there it is.
This winter, when John Scheepers and Gurney’s and Burpee came to tempt me with their seductive photos, I threw them immediately into the recycle bin, and here’s why. Last fall on my birthday I received a wonderful present from a girlfriend of mine. It was a gardeners journal, a subscription to Heirloom Gardener, and a seed catalog from Baker Creek. She knows me well. I devoured the magazine. I learned more about GMOs and gardening history in the US, and I vowed that never again would I plant a seed whose origin was questionable. I saved the seed catalog for February.
The decision to plant a non GMO garden was a big one for me. While I profess that organic is best, I’m not above sprinkling my soil with a little Seven when I can’t get rid of those pesky ants around my eggplant. Even thought I detest chain department stores and all they do to wreck local economy, I’ve been known to buy a tomato plant at Home Depot on impulse. While I tout the values of a nutrient rich, homegrown local and balanced diet, I’m the first one to order pizza when I’m too tired to cook. So Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a hypocrite. But now it’s time to step up to the plate. Genetically modified food is bad. Bad for us nutritionally, bad for local economy and a just plain bad for the environment. Get more information on this at www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more
When I plan my garden in the spring I start with a list of what I’d like to grow. Then I make a map of my garden and, referring to last years map, add each thing where I feel it would grow best. When I actually do the work my plan often changes, if, for instance, I bought more tomatoes than will fit in the allotted space. Sometimes I cluster, other years I might mix it up, say putting the carrots in with the beets or planting every other tomato and pepper. My garden is quite small, so I often cram. Every year I plant some things from seed, like beets, and beans, and carrots, and some things from plants that I purchase, like tomatoes and squash and melon. The only things I start from seed indoors myself are pepper plants and this mostly because I have more of a selection than I can find at the greenhouse. Deciding to choose heirloom and non GMO plants means that I have to either find a source for heirloom plants, or grow them myself. While there is a local CSA that I believe sells plants in the spring, I didn’t want to limit my choices, and since I have had some luck with peppers, I decided to go ahead and start my entire garden from seed. That means all the tomatoes, melons, squash, eggplant, cucumber, spices, cabbage and peppers. Yikes!
Last month I finally made my choices from the Bakers Creek Heirloom Seed Company catalog. I highly recommend this company to anyone who is a vegetable fanatic. Their selection is unbelievable and their knowledge extensive. Their website has tons of valuable information and it’s just fun to browse. Check it out at www.rareseeds.com After days and weeks of poring over the descriptions and photographs of exotic and divine vegetables (am I the only one who finds vegetables alluring?) I ordered 38 types of seeds. 10 types of tomato alone, with names like Green Zebra and Black Prince. Where I’ll put them is still a mystery. I made a schedule by counting back in weeks from the average last frost date (May 20th). I borrowed some growing lamps and purchased seed pots and starter mix. I rearranged my bathroom and tub area to fit the seed trays. I planted the onions and the eggplant.
While I tell myself that it’s the best thing to do, I remain nervous about starting all the seeds myself. I’m not a very technical person but I’m smart enough to know that if I was, I’d have a better chance of growing healthy plants. There is a science to it that I have yet to figure out. My policy of flying by the seat of my pants and hoping things work out for the best might not serve me so well in this instance. If I were so inclined, I would spend some time figuring out optimal light cycles, temperatures, nitrogen mixes and hardening practices for different types of plants. Then again, it’s just nature, after all, and there really is no stopping it. The worst case scenario is that I have to source the plants after all. It’s not like I’ll never eat another homegrown tomato if my seeds fail to thrive. And there is hope! Even though there is still 2 feet of snow on the ground, my 300 onions are already an inch tall.
I’d love to hear from anyone with any advice or expertise on starting plants indoors. My set-up is not very complicated, but advice on light times, bulbs, best starter mix, or just about anything would be much appreciated. Happy growing!
June is here and delights are beginning to come in from the garden. Among the radish and peas, the lettuces and green onion are the strawberries, the most wonderful of all fruits and the one that really makes it feel like summer . Of all the berries, the strawberries are the earliest and, in my opinion, the tastiest. At least I say that until early July, when the blueberries are ripening, and then early august when we taste the delectable raspberries and blackberries. But for now we indulge in the sweet, tangy, indescribably yummy strawberry.
I have a small berry patch that I often think takes up too much real estate in my tiny kitchen garden. Most of the year it looks stringy and sad, almost as if the plants are dead or dying, but not so. Come May, out come the shoots and flowers that, ever so agonizingly slowly, turn into hard green fruits and then ripen into luscious berries. I have everbearing plants, which means they produce fruit all summer, although not as prolifically as they do in June. Come August, they are growing wild and trying to climb down the sides of the raised beds and into the paths. They are so hearty and vigorous they can root into the deep pine chips I use as mulch on the pathways. Each year I cut back the runners and plant some back into the bed in the bare spaces, replace some older plants, and reluctantly throw out the rest. They are so hearty, in fact, that one year I ripped them all up and, not able to throw them out, kept them in a bag in my garage. Then, regretting my decision, I replanted half of them back into another bed, where they took, and bore berries the same year.
As hearty as they are, strawberries are a funny plant. They only produce for a few years, and will shoot out runners that can overtake the garden rapidly. They use an enormous amount of nutrients and therefore should be moved every 3 years or so to a different spot in the garden. They are best heavily mulched, which both keeps the berries out of the mud,and protects the crowns from cold. They like water, but not too much, and must be in well draining soil. Weather will affect the crop and determine ripening times; with warmth and abundant sunshine they ripen quickly, rain and clouds cause some delay. Some varieties do well in containers, and are a good choice for those with not much space, but they must be watered regularly.
Besides eating them fresh on granola or yogurt, one of our favorite things to do with berries is to make ice cream. Following is a simple and delicious recipe that can’t be beat.
1 pint fresh berries
1 1/2 cups cream, divided
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
Wash and crush the berries with a potato masher until pulpy.
Heat 1 cup cream in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form on the sides of the pan.
Mix together egg yolks 1/2 cup cream, and sugar in a medium bowl
Add the hot cream to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, and then return the mixture to the pan. Over medium low heat, whisk the mixture until it becomes thickened, 5-10 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
When custard is cool, add to an ice cream churn and follow the manufacturer’s directions. YUM!
As anyone who lives in the North East knows, a few days ago the weather was unbearably hot and humid. Very unusual for May and, to tell you the truth, it was making me a bit crabby. With the hot breath of the sun bearing down on us for so long the boys and I decided to see if our favorite neighbor had opened their pool, but no luck. It was still sealed up tight, with a thick layer of leaves to top it off. Discouraged, we headed back home, grumbling and moaning, until we remembered our favorite weekday watering hole. That is not to say our favorite drinking location, but our best dipping pool and trout sanctuary. We turned the truck around and headed the few miles down the road to Kent Falls.
Kent Falls is a State Park in northern Kent that in the summer is a very popular picnic spot. In fact it is the most visited State Park in Connecticut, due in part to the fact that it is so very accessible. It is right off the state road and has lots of parking, a stream and a wide open field for picnicking. It’s greatest attraction, however, is an incredibly beautiful series of waterfalls that drop steeply into delectably clear pools perfect for bathing. The water is cold, sparkling and divine. There are stairs beside the falls that lead up to the top, with a wire fence that declares in multiple places along the route in very clear language “NO SWIMMING”. Swimming is permitted, although not legally sanctioned, in the two pools nearest the bottom, and on the average summer weekend day the pool is filled to overflowing with frolicking children and their parents splashing around in the cold water.
This is usually not a problem for us, as we almost never go on the weekends. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the park charges a fee to enter on Saturday and Sunday, so we typically stick to afternoons during the week. On some occasions, though, we have arrived at the park to find the pool occupied with swimmers, and while my children aren’t averse to swimming, they are first and foremost fishermen. Kent Falls is not a swimming hole but a designated trout park dedicated to fishermen like my boys, so say the park rules. This become a problem for us when we have come to fish and others want to swim. We are usually in the minority. For many years I have counseled the boys about the necessity to work together with others and to compromise, but how do you explain to a child that they can’t do what they want because others are breaking the rules. How do you explain that if LOTS of people are breaking the rules, than they have the priority? It doesn’t seem right. But then again, if you had driven 2 hours to see the falls, and your children were frolicking in the water with a dozen others, and two boys came with rods and told everyone to clear out because they wanted to fish and the law was on their side, how would you feel? It is a delicate situation and one we try to avoid.
Regardless of that ethical dilemma, when we arrived at the Falls that day, no one was in the pool, and I got to swim in the wonderfully cold water and lower my temperature and irritability level at the same time while the boys caught minnows in the stream to use as bait. While I knit in the shade, they proceeded to catch several beautiful trout in a matter of minutes. We kept three, all about 13″, thanking them for their lives and cleaning them in the bushes. Below you will find how I prepared them.
Fresh Trout with Onions.
3 or more fresh whole trout
salt and pepper
1 large onion
1 tbs capers
1/4 cup white wine
1 large lemon
After cleaning the trout, salt the inside flesh to taste. Wrap each trout in tinfoil and set the grill to medium low. Place each trout on the grill and cook for about 6 minutes a side.
Meanwhile slice onion in half and into thin strips. Saute the onions in olive oil until sort and beginning to brown. Squeeze the lemon onto the onions, add the white wine and the capers and saute until the liquid has evaporated. Salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the trout from the grill and open the tinfoil packets. With a fork gently lift off the skin of the trout and remove the flesh from the bones. The flesh should be flaky. Place on a platter and top with the onions. Serve and enjoy!
As much as I like my cocktail hour, I’m not talking about me here! I’m talking about slugs, and how they love beer. I went through two bottles last night alone filling up my little plastic dishes in order to attract those nasty little slimers that sneak around and gobble up anything they can climb on. They had gotten into my cabbage, my strawberries, my beets and peas, my radishes. All those telltale blemishes on my delicate veggies! If you don’t put a stop to them, they multiply, but you never notice cause they are hard to see and mostly come out at night or in the rain. They don’t like direct sunlight. But suddenly they are everywhere and most of the vegetables have either holes in their leaves or pieces gnawed out of the fruits. Fortunately, there is a simple way to knock them out, literally. Just place some shallow dishes of beer around the garden and the slugs flock to them, suck up that frothy concoction and pass out, drowning themselves. You don’t even need good beer; save the microbrew for yourself and pick up a six pack of PBR for the slugs. They aren’t choosy when it comes to drinking.
This morning I went out to look at my garden, as is my custom most mornings after the bus has come and gone and I have a chance to finish my coffee. Everything looked in order from afar, but as I honed in for a closer inspection, trying to sneak up on those pesky tomato suckers, I noticed my plants looked in somewhat ill health. Not exactly sick, but queasy. Now, I knew I took a risk by planting them in the dirt before Mothers Day, but the forecast looked good for an early planting, and I had been fastidious about hardening them off. We did get a cold snap last week, but not a frost in our area, and they had looked fine the morning after. The leaves were sort of yellowish, curling at the edges, with some brown spots on them. What could it be? Blight? Bugs? Too much water? Not enough? As I fondled each plant in turn, murmuring over them and worrying like the mother of a sick child (I have, after all, nurtured these babies since January!), It occurred to me that I might need some help.
I knew just where to get it, too. I hurriedly plucked the worst looking of the leaves off pepper and tomato, hopped in my truck and beat feet (My dad’s expression) to the local greenhouse to talk with my good friend who runs the garden center. She has been a resource for me over years, and one I have come to value and respect. I knew together we could figure out what ailed my lovelies. After a trot around the greenhouse with my fistfull of wilted leaves looking for my friend, who turned out not to be working that day, I decided to take a chance and ask someone else. I found another woman and after a quick inspection she informed me that my plants weren’t that sick at all, but had a case of chill stemming from wet feet. We had a chat, and she suggested in the nicest of ways that perhaps I had mulched too deeply, or perhaps too close to the stems. The previous cold, combined with a wet wind and lots of rain has weakened the plants because the roots couldn’t breath. She prescribed a treatment of kelp and seaweed mulch lightly applied to the area around the roots, and the mulch pulled back 6 inches. It turns out everyone at that greenhouse knows stuff! I rushed home to apply her advice. Below is the result. I’ll let you know in a week if my darling peppers and lovely tomatoes have recovered their former vigor.