March 18, 2013

September 22, 2009 Shades of the Night

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Friends,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:03 pm

There are a number of plants in the nightshade family, most prominent among them the potato and the tomato. Late last night, President Obama was on the Late Show with David Letterman, and accepted a gift from an audience member – a heart-shaped potato. Did you see that dinky thing? That was no potato, that was simply an aberration! At least, that’s how it appeared compared to our potato, posted on this blog back in April:
lovin' potato

Now that’s a heart-shaped potato! I knew I should have sent it off to the White House!

In other nightshade news, there are two new appearances of Tim Stark on the net. One is from NPR’s Science Friday on the subject of late blight, the same problem that caused the great Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century. This year it’s wreaked havoc upon the tomato crops in the northeastern US.  And there’s another video just up on youtube. It’s an intro for a video chefs tour of New York city being produced by the website Much of the video is filmed at Tim’s farm and at his market stand in New York, at the Union Square Greenmarket. Here’s the intro:

Can’t wait for the rest of the tour! Thank God that many of the tomatos have so far escaped the blight. I’m not tired of them yet, nor have I frozen enough to last me over the winter.

August 30, 2009 Big Tomato Time

Filed under: ◦Family,◦Food,◦Gardens,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:30 pm

This year I planted a tomato with a very colorful name: Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter. I guess it’s called that because Charlie’s tomatoes produced so well he could pay off his house?? Tim has been raising these for years, but I never tried one in our own little garden before. All the tomatoes took their time this year, but this one’s finally here, and worth the wait.
Radiator Charlie's

These tomatoes may not be exactly round, but they are BIG! Not too big, but this one, for instance, weighs in at 1 pound 10 ounces, and you certainly don’t need too many slices for your sandwich. In fact, you may have to make a little bit bigger burger than usual, or you could lose it under a slice like this.
Radiator Charlie's

The juicy, meaty slices you see above were consumed with our baked salmon last night. Mmmmmm. But it took until lunch today for the two of us to finish just this one tomato!

March 17, 2013

August 10, 2009 Tomato season revisited

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:53 pm


tomato timeAs we do every year, we’re again celebrating tomato season. Because of a cool, wet spring and early summer, the tomatoes were late to arrive here, but are now ripening in great numbers. And today Tim, our resident farmer and tomato guru, was once again on the CBS Early Show, sharing his tomato expertise.
Here’s the story, complete with a couple of his favorite recipes.

And here is the video:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

March 15, 2013

June 23, 2009 2+ Sunny Days!

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:55 pm

Maybe my complaining had some effect, though I doubt it. But the ever evolving seasons have finally brought a change in our weather, and I’ve been able to spend more time out and around the yard and fields. The white wild strawberries are actually still producing, and now the red raspberries are coming too! And another thing – along our driveway there’s a wild cherry tree.
wild cherry tree
When I was a kid I loved wild cherry Life Savers, but never tasted wild cherry flavor anywhere else. Well, here it is, at its’ source. They’re small but sweet, and just ripening.
wild cherry tree
The wineberries are swelling now, too, and won’t be far behind. But while I was out along the driveway, I snapped these pictures of another shrub, the elderberry. It’s currently in flower, if a little past its peak, but it’s blooming heavily this year. If you look closely at the first picture of the cherry tree, you can see it below and to the left 0f the tree in the distance, at the corner of the field – just to the right of the lower part of the drive.
Close up it’s much more impressive.

As you head down the drive to the road, and follow the road to the corner, you come to the base of the hill upon which the house stands. It’s a large rock outcropping, which apparently has some special significance, because local colleges’ geology classes stop on annual field trips. The rocks stretch upward from the side of the road by the stream, right into our basement, one side of which has no floor but rather a large mound of rock.

I mention all this because the coming of summer has brought another profusion of bloom: the prickly pear cactus that spill down over the rock to the gravel below.
prickly pear
prickly pear
prickly pear
prickly pear

On the way back up the drive to the house, I stopped by the field for some fresh-dug red potatoes (and some parsley to prepare them with). Also on tonight’s menu, sauteed beet greens with garlic. The spring rains and now the early summer sun have brought us a true wealth of beauty and sustenance, with an anticipation of much more to come. But now it’s time to get down to work, getting ready for our summer show at Kutztown this weekend.

June 20, 2009 More gloomy days

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:54 pm

If you follow any other blogs from this area of the country (eastern Pennsylvania), you probably already know that we’ve been having a rainy June. Our local airport this month has recorded 13 days with measurable precipitation, 7 without. What’s more, today is the sixth or seventh day this month with a rainfall greater than a half inch. We’ve more than doubled the average rainfall for June so far, and we’re 1 1/2 degrees cooler than average overall this month.
Remembering how distressing it’s been in past years as drought conditions made gardening difficult, I’m reluctant to wish away the rain, but a little moderation would be nice. So far, at least, not much has rotted away, and most things are growing like crazy, thanks to all the rain and the occasional sunny afternoon. One thing that the rain has made easier was something I did this afternoon, between downpours. I went to the garden and pulled carrots for dinner.
In the somewhat rocky and clayey soil, it can become necessary to actually go dig the carrots with a trowel (especially those twisty ones), but not when the ground is so saturated. Today they came out easily, with just a firm, steady pull on the tops. We have two different varieties, one orange and one white – we argue over which is sweeter.

Next week is our summer extravaganza antique show; hopefully better weather for that. And we need some tomato weather soon!

June 6, 2009 Today in the garden

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 2:32 pm

Today we spent the morning selling at our local antique market, so didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend gardening, but this afternoon did manage to put in a few basil plants among our tomatoes. After that, I went to the field to see what I’d find for dinner. It had been rainy all this week until today, so I hadn’t been looking, and was amazed how much everything had grown.

We had stopped on the way home and bought a fresh tuna steak, so tonight’s menu is blackened tuna served on a bed of steamed rice over arugula. with creole mustard on the side – we picked two different kinds of arugula in the garden, but I think we’ll use the wild variety with this dinner because the flavor’s a little stronger and nuttier. The regular is on the left with the lobed leaves, the wild on the right is more deeply notched and jagged.

We’ll also have asparagus on the side – can’t get enough and there are only a couple of weeks left in the season. But while I was getting the asparagus, I got more as well. See, there’s rain predicted for most of next week as well, so I figured I might as well be prepared. Here’s some of today’s harvest:

And I’m not sure about what we’ll have for dessert, but it’ll include this patriotic assortment:

OK, it’s only patriotic because of the blue plate, but I like how the red and the white strawberries look together on the cobalt blue. Now, will it be vanilla ice cream, or New York style cheesecake?

May 3, 2009 A weed by any other name

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Friends,◦Gardens — sharon @ 2:04 pm

A weed, indeed!

Dandelion is a wildflower, providing us with some of the earliest available seasonal produce in the form of very nutritious crowns and leaves. We generally collect dandelion from beneath a layer of last season’s fallen leaves that have collected in corners of our yard. Those leaves are often blanched for lack of exposure to sunlight, and among the tastiest, tenderest and least bitter of all dandelion. Vitamin and mineral levels are at least twice those of fresh broccoli, and of course there are few calories. Never fear, though, because we live in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where the standard dressing for dandelion is hot bacon dressing, made with bacon, eggs, milk and vinegar, with some sugar added. So you’ll still get your quota of calories and cholesterol!

Foraging friends tell us that they eat dandelion all year, that the bitterness is not overly bothersome if cooked with an ameliorating salty flavor. By now, of course, we’re on to spinach, arugula and other garden greens. Meanwhile, the lowly dandelion, at this point in its season, has also become a great toy, in it’s way – who among us has not enjoyed the perennial childhood pleasure of contributing a puff or two to help spread and propagate their downy floating seeds?

April 27, 2009 A time of change

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Vintage — sharon @ 12:51 am

At this time of year everything happens in rapid fire. During our show last week, we started out with high temperatures in the 50’s and 20 mph winds; by Saturday we had a high of 90 degrees, with the humidity creeping up like it does in late summer. Shocking to the system, for sure. And the transition from cool to the premature summer heat has accelerated happenings in the garden as well. Some of the daffodils have withered, but the pinks are in full, bright bloom. This patch, which is escaping over the stone wall, was started with two plants in 4 inch pots about 11 years ago….
mountain pinks

What’s truly amazing to me, though, is the change in the asparagus. A week ago we were checking daily, waiting, yearning for the spears to emerge a little faster. Finally we managed, over the course of a day or two, to find about a dozen that had grown to 6 inches or so for our dinner. Fast forward past our weekend show – which is now all a blur anyway – and there are shoots emerging everywhere along the row, growing fast enough that I thought of sitting there to watch them lengthen. By Saturday night there were three dozen or so that I picked, leaving the ones as short as 6 inches for Tim and his crew to pick the next day; by noon Sunday he was able to harvest well over 100 spears. And this morning it’s apparent there will be an equivalent number again today; at 8:30 there were a number already sufficiently tall, and a large number more that would mature by day’s end.
morning asparagus

I inserted a stick into the ground next to the spear at right, that spear was about 5 inches at 8:30. By 11:30 it had grown another inch or so
noon asparagus

Checking on it later, I found it had been picked. I find comfort in knowing there will be more every day until mid-June. I love that the seasons dictate an ever-changing array of garden goodies!

March 14, 2013

April 13, 2009 Comfort Food – Potato Love

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Vintage — sharon @ 5:42 pm

One of my favorite meals that qualifies as comfort food is one that we make often in late summer, stuffed green peppers. Whenever we can pick them fresh, we’ll make them as often as once a week, in a double batch, and freeze half for later use. This week we’re using the second last frozen batch, and some time in a month or so we’ll use the last, praying for the new crop to hurry up!

With this meal, we always enjoy mashed potatoes too. Getting ready to make them, I reached into the bag of potatoes and pulled out a few, including this one:
lovin' potato
It goes well with the vintage Tammis Keefe kitchen towel, doesn’t it? Gotta love it!

Of course, I couldn’t bear to mash it, but now I have a dilemma – what to do with it? Sell it on eBay perhaps? Slice it thin and make heart-shaped chips? Or is there a way to petrify and preserve it?

March 13, 2013

January 10, 2009 Snowy Saturday

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food — sharon @ 12:43 pm

A good day to stay indoors. So of course we were up and out early to the local Saturday antique market, but not because we expected a lot of activity. And indeed, scarcely an eighth of the vendors braved the elements to open for business. No fabulous finds for us today, but we did need groceries anyway, and hadn’t wanted to buck the crowds shopping yesterday afternoon in anticipation of the storm.
snow in the woods
So we picked up potatoes, bananas, a lemon and an avocado at the farmer’s market, then headed to the supermarket for milk, bread, eggs (not just because it was snowing- we really needed all those) and of course, cat food. The roads were getting a bit worse by 9:30, but we were almost home already when we stopped at our great local butcher shop for the rest of tonight’s dinner.
A day like today demands comfort food, so we’d decided last night that it would be meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Now we’re ready for whatever Mama Nature tosses at us!
front yard