Fleur-de-SummerSlump

The Fleur-de-Blog site has been blog-less for most of the summer, if you can call what we’ve had a summer.

Odd weather when Queen Elizabeth and her court are sweltering in London awaiting the birth of a prince and we Pennsylvanians are digging out blankets from the linen closet to wrap ourselves at outdoor evening concerts.

Like the weather, the author, it appears, has been oddly out of sorts. Time flying by without flying fingers.

But no complaints. For one thing, I traveled to Tuscany via two thoroughly entertaining books, “A Tuscan Childhood” and “Bella Tuscany”.

In “A Tuscan Childhood” Kinta Beevor reflects on her youth, publishing her first and only book at 82.  One of my favorite passages is her description of Fiore, a stone mason who taught her and her brother what he calls the “dance of the seasons,” explaining how the rhythm of the year brings a culinary kaleidoscope of produce and meals. When she describes their wild mushroom adventures, the practicality of country life is reflected in their using wicker baskets with a loose weave to collect the mushrooms so spores could escape to fertilize other areas as they move through the woods. It reminded me of last summer when my father’s Italian cousin Settimio told us how he trekked through the mountains above Fregona gathering “fungi”.Image

I found Frances Mayes’ “Bella Tuscany” at the AAUW book sale last winter. I had read “Under the Tuscan Sun” and wanted more. The poetry of her writing is evident throughout the book as is the continued theme of the dance of the seasons, complete with recipes that I dog-eared for later.

This literary excursion was punctuated by an unexpected package from Italy by way of Kutztown. A red purse, but no, it’s actually a cardboard wine box! Also included in the care package were an assortment of hometown newspaper clippings and a package of napkins to set my wine glass and current philosophy upon: Without family wine wouldn’t be necessary.

In the meantime, Fleur-de-Lys took on a new look. In mid-August I began selling garlic gardens in a bag and lavender wands at the Lemont Farmers Market under the name of Garlic 101. (101 because this is a university town and introductory courses are the norm—and 101 is the link to local—all of my garlic is grown at 101 Timber Lane.)  I provide a one-page, garlic-growing syllabus and color-code my garlic varieties just like Marina has been color-coding her dissertation research in London.
Color coded

Two Saturdays ago, my Master Gardener buddies teamed up with my Tait Farm buddies to host a Tomato Tasting. We chopped about 35 named varieties of tomatoes, armed visitors with toothpicks and ballots, and went about trying to discover the BEST tasting tomato.  None of us had ever seen so many different tomatoes in one place.

Taste TestIn the photograph with this blog, taken by MG Chris Igo, you will see just a portion of the spread, including the smallest (in a plastic container) Sweet Pea Currant Tomatoes and the largest, midway back on the right, the deep-pink, heart-shaped Kosovo.  The seed for Kosovo was brought back from that country by a United Nations worker and each fruit can weigh 1-to 2 pounds!  One of the women in our group referred to the Kosovo tomatoes as “Double Ds”.

And, the winners were…Sungold, followed by Black Cherry, two hybrid cherry tomatoes. Third place was a three-way tie: another cherry tomato hybrid called Sakura, the wonderful heirloom slicer Brandywine, and ground cherries. Ground cherries aren’t really tomatoes, but they are members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. They were my No. 1 discovery at the sampling. (More about those in my next blog.) Besides the tasting, there were chefs giving demonstrations and a garden chat about growing tomatoes. Here is one of the recipes you might like to try as summer takes its final bow.

Heirloom Gazpacho

3 lbs. peeled plum tomatoes                                  3 lbs. heirloom tomatoes

10 oz. seedless cucumber                                        8 oz. red bell pepper

8 oz. red onion                                                            Garlic cloves

1 oz. champagne vinegar                                         1 oz. olive oil

1 oz. lemon juice                                                         Salt and pepper to taste

Reserve a small amount of diced heirloom tomatoes, red pepper and red onion for garnish.

Place the rest vegetables in blender or food processor and puree. Blend in vinegar, oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in garnish vegetables and serve.

Italian Wisdom: “Wine is light, held together by water.” –Galileo Galilei

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