It was about this time last year that I was shopping in one of my favorite places: Wegmans.
Jerusalem Artichokes
It’s on the other side of town, so it is a special treat, not a weekly haunt. I was scanning the produce section when I spotted a plastic-wrapped package of Jerusalem artichokes. It took all of two seconds for it to end up in my shopping cart. It wasn’t my stomach that was growling, it was a flashback of the Fleur-de-Lys sign at the corner of Hottenstein and Eagle Point, framed by the yellow fireworks of Jerusalem artichokes in bloom.
I bought my first Jerusalem artichoke tubers from the Maine Potato Lady catalog, official purveyor of organic seed potatoes, shallots, and Jerusalem artichokes. It was a leap of faith that I bought these supermarket bound-for-the-kitchen, who-knows-how-long-they’ve-been-sitting-around tubers, but, what the heck.
When I got home, I pulled out a shovel, dug several holes at the far end of the vegetable garden path, dropped each of the tubers in, covered them up with soil, and forgot about them.
Glorious Neck Pumpkin
Also last fall, on my routine Saturday morning Amish market run, I bought a tan neck pumpkin. It was getting to be pumpkin pie time, and Kutztown folk wisdom insists that “neck punkins” make the best pie. Kin to the butternut squash, neck pumpkins are named for their long, curved necks. Unlike your typical jack-‘o-lantern, a shell filled with a slimy webbing and seeds, the bulk of the neck pumpkin is solid, pie-bound flesh. As I chunked up the neck pumpkin for baking in a shallow pan of water, I scooped out a few seeds from the cavity at the base and placed them on a paper towel. I scribbled Neck Pumpkin Seeds on the paper towel, and stashed it in my bedroom – visions of summer dancing in my head.
Well, the 2012 growing season has come and gone with last week’s hard frost and blackening of the basil plants. But before the cold snap hit, I took my camera into the garden to capture two of this year’s success stories.
The lighthouse of this year’s garden was my Wegmans towering Jerusalem artichoke stand, a beacon of beauty, while below sprawling swells of neck pumpkin vines washed over the soil, straw bales, and garden path, cresting as they scaled the split-rail fence. An amazingly strong woman, Mother Nature.
As a final hurrah to the season, I gathered about two teaspoons of lavender blossoms and sprinkled them into the batter of Gateau au Yaourt, and celebrated the growing year with my favorite comfort cake.
Lavender Yogurt Cake
2 eggs
1 cup unsweetened yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. lavender blossoms
Grease the sides of a springform pan and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, yogurt, sugar, oil, and vanilla. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and soda. Add flour mixture to yogurt mixture, blending gently. Then sprinkle in lavender blossoms. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and an inserted knife comes clean. Let cool slightly on a rack, and remove outer ring. Then, indulge. Laurie Lynch
News from Across the Pond: Marina is settling into London, but still has Fleur-de-Lys in her heart, as you can see from her photograph. She swapped the kot and Metro of Brussels for a flat and Tube of London—a whole new language, a whole new world.
On This Side of the Pond: It is garlic-planting time. Rocks are abundant in my new garlic patch, but the bulbs seemed to thrive on the limestone. This year’s planting cloves are huge!
Written on Slate: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. –Carl Sagan

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