Jerusalem Artichoke Blossoms

Jerusalem Artichoke Blossoms

In the early 1990s we were living in the Cement Belt of the Lehigh Valley and I befriended a retired, old-boys club of gardeners. Bent grew vegetables, Florian raised prize-winning chrysanthemums, Frank filled his gardens with dahlias, Peter had amazing blueberry bushes, and Dick could sharpen any garden tool known to man—or woman.

Bent carried a thick Danish accent and a love for the vegetables of his childhood in Denmark. When I visited his garden in Danielsville I always learned something. What he learned from me was that I had reached middle age without hearing of or tasting celeriac—knoldselleri in Bent’s mother tongue. “Celery root?” he would admonish me. I just returned a blank stare. It was like telling an Irishman I had never heard of potatoes.

Bent got his way. Eventually, I was growing celeriac and cooking with it. But with the busy-ness of a young family, celeriac and I parted ways. Last January I went to a winter farm market and was reacquainted. An Amish farmer had a large display of celeriac and I was happy to find local produce in our frozen Centre County winter.

I bought Giant Prague celeriac seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company and by March 1 seeded a flat of celeriac—planning to pickle chunks of celery root with my Jerusalem artichokes and carrots (more about them later) for this coming winter.

Just Dug Celeriac

Just Dug Celeriac

The seedlings took off. Then I took off, for Belgium, leaving the young plants for my sister to get into the garden. Upon my return, I tended the peppers and tomatoes and beans; the celeriac was off in its corner, doing its thing. The rabbits got the carrots.

Celeriac has a long growing season and a long history. It has been used in Egypt, Greece and throughout Europe for culinary, medicinal and religious purposes. Why, it was even mentioned (as “selinon”) in Homer’s Odyssey in 800 BC. It’s no beauty, and perhaps that is why it has never caught on in this land of America the Beautiful. But, for the busy or lazy gardener, it provides a celery taste without the difficulties and blanching of regular “leaf celery”.

This past week, with memories of Bent bubbling to the surface, I harvested some of my celeriac crop and will leave the rest in the soil until frost. Washed, cut, and trimmed, it only lasts about a week in the refrigerator. I put the trimmed leaves (tasting like its cousin, parsley) in a plastic bag in the freezer for winter soups. After paring off the gnarly, brown roots, root hairs, and skin, I sliced the white flesh into ½”-thick slices and sautéed them in olive oil until tender, then sprinkled with salt and pepper—celeriac steak, if you will. Celeriac can also be grated, sprinkled with lemon juice to preserve its creamy color, and served raw in a salad, but I will pickle a lot of it. For long-term storage, the whole plant, roots, stalks and leaves, is covered with sand and kept in a cool root cellar where it will last all winter. Laurie Lynch

Washed and Trimmed

Celeriac Washed and Trimmed

Farmers Market Horror Stories: Farmers markets are one of my favorite destinations, in this country and abroad. But the old caveat, Buyer Beware, has crept into my casual stroll from one vendor to the next, sampling chunks of orange watermelon or oatmeal breakfast muffins.

There is a local farm market stand that sets up a tent in a nearby strip mall parking lot, April through Thanksgiving. The market offers baked goods, egg noodles, jams, jellies and pickles, as well as bountiful crates and bins and pecks of produce. I knew that one family, no matter how extended, couldn’t produce all that was there, but I figured the wide variety was just a symbol of their entrepreneureship—that they were offering other products from their local community.

In the spring I buy their shelled peas and spinach, and in summer, corn on the cob, peaches and watermelon, and a tiny cantaloupe called Sugar Cube. Fall brings apples, pear jam, cabbage-stuffed pickled peppers, and these little pecan pies the size of a silver dollar. I avoid their baseball bat-size zucchinis and carrots, and heads of lettuce that weigh more than a small child. But on Saturday, I was drawn to the carrot bin.

“They finally figured out how to grow carrots,” I said to myself. The carrots were long, thin, and tapered—and I was in my pickled-vegetable mode. I selected a half dozen. As I was waiting to check out, I saw a young fellow walk to the carrot bin to “refresh” it. He broke open one of the two plastic bags in his arm and dumped it in. Long, thing, tapered carrots. He reached for the second bag to do the same. “Product of Canada” was written on the bag.

Now I have no quibbles with Canada. It is a lovely country. But it is not “local” to Central Pennsylvania. I feel cheated.

Which brings me to another farmers market. It was August. I heard a voice call, “Oh, garlic scapes!” as a woman rushed to the stand. “Yes, we keep them in the refrigerator,” the young girl said.

“For two months?” I thought to myself. The woman went home with her prize—stiff, woody, petrified garlic scapes. I doubt she’ll be back for more, even in June when they are at their prime.

My Musical Education Continues: The other night I dragged my mother to yet another evening meeting. This was with a new group, so we started with circle introductions.   I usually introduce my mother, but this time the introductions started across the table and went clockwise. I didn’t even have time to worry about my mother introducing herself. She stood, flashed her wide smile that lights up her entire face, and sang, “I’m Marie the dawn is breaking.” I had never heard that before, but it brought a laugh from the group and the meeting went on.

When we got home, I rushed to my computer and typed in: Marie the dawn is breaking. Bingo! Marie (The Dawn Is Breaking) was written by Irving Berlin, and published in 1928, the year of my mother’s birth. It was the theme song in the film “The Awakening” starring Vilma Blanky. In 1929, Rudy Vallee’s recording of Marie hit No. 2 on the charts. By 1937, Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra took it to No. 1. Frank Sinatra, The Inkspots, and even Willie Nelson continued bringing Marie (The Dawn Is Breaking) to airwaves, dance halls and my mother’s mind.

Written On Slate: “Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, we have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” –Humbert Wolfe


What do Pineapple tomatoes, Goji fruit, and Pink Cadillac tomatoes have in common? All were experiments in my garden this summer.

The Pineapple tomatoes, heirlooms with golden fruit shot through with bursts of fiery red, were this year’s favorite. Prolific, tasty giants—one slice filled my sandwich, sometimes dripping out the sides. Yum.

Goji Fruit

Goji Fruit

Goji fruit, aka Lycium chinense or wolfberry, came with promises of health—everything from nurturing calmness and sleep, to promoting athletic prowess and weight loss, to slowing aging and preventing cancer. Ads for goji juice and dried goji berries say they’re chock full of amino acids, protein, and nutrients, in other words, a super food. Well, I’m going to add one more accolade: Pure entertainment.

Yes, I tasted more than a few of the scarlet, teardrop-shaped fruit trying to figure them out. When I pop one into my mouth, pressing it with my tongue against the roof of my mouth, there is a burst of juice with a touch of sweetness, followed by a slight bitterness. It tastes like something that should be good for you.

Back to the entertainment aspect…I potted my goji plant in a container on the deck where it joins other edibles—fig trees, alpine strawberries, cape gooseberries, nasturtiums, and a red raspberry plant called Raspberry Shortcake. The deck is off our living room, separated by a wall of windows about 9 feet tall. Quiet a view. And this summer, I was fortunate enough to watch a cardinal couple nip and peck and gobble the goji berries, delicately dangling from arching branches. Nature’s color echoes, fruit and feather, were a highlight of the summer.

OK, the Pink Cadillac tomatoes. Nothing like a tomato with a good story—which is what sold me on these tomatoes at the Centre County Master Gardener’s Plant Sale and Garden Fair in May.

John Koritko Jr., grew up in Uniontown. His maternal grandmother worked in the coal mine during the day and drove a horse-drawn ice cream wagon in the evening. The extra income afforded the family a large house and with a double lot, one lot devoted to their garden.

Pink Cadillacs

Pink Cadillacs

The garden was 90 percent tomatoes with a few peppers and kohlrabies planted around the edge, according to the article that came with the Pink Cadillac tomato plant. John Jr.’s mother canned the tomatoes, smashing them into jars after she dipped them by hand into boiling water. “The tomatoes lasted a long time, rows and rows of canned tomatoes lined up on a shelf in the root cellar.”

The family kept chickens, and made chicken manure tea to fertilize the plants—John Jr.’s job was to pour a little onto the base of each tomato plant. Each summer there was a neighborhood contest for the first and biggest tomatoes. John’s father always won the Largest Tomato category. Besides growing the prize tomatoes, John’s father worked long days in the coal mine and became known as “Cadillac John” because he drove a Cadillac. At the end of each summer, Cadillac John would fill a big basket with his tomatoes and drive them to a nearby convent. The nuns, their habits fluttering as they rushed to the door for the delivery, would exclaim with delight, “Oh, the Pink Cadillacs.”

When “Cadillac John” died in 1974, John Jr. was living and working in Centre County and had no time for gardening. His mother stopped growing tomatoes, and eventually went into a nursing home. She died in 2001 at 84. At her funeral, a woman who had lived across the street from the family brought a medicine jar with some seeds in it that “Cadillac John” had given her in the early 1970s. John Jr. doubted the seeds would germinate after 30 years, but gave them a try.

“I wasn’t convinced it was really my dad’s Pink Cadillacs until they matured and I saw that they really were his tomatoes. They’re not round and red, but pink and big, and look like two tomatoes joined together,” Koritko was quoted saying in the brochure. “When I tasted it, I knew it was the real deal—real sweet and real meaty. I know my dad would be glad to see his tomatoes growing in my garden. I feel the connection; I feel like I’m the keeper of the seed.”

The Sunflower House brings a smile.

The Sunflower House brings a smile.

It is wonderful when we can be keepers of the garden, a place that provides nourishment for the body, mind, and soul, and connects us to each other and to our precious earth. Laurie Lynch.

Written on the Side of a Milk Truck: When I was a kid, Meadow Pride Dairy on Puddintown Road delivered bottled milk to our home. Each week, as I recall, quarts of milk were placed in the galvanized metal box next to garage to save my busy mother a trip to the store. That service disappeared, probably in the 1960s. Well, the other day, I was driving down Branch Road, not more than two miles from the homestead, when I saw a 2015-era milk delivery truck. I missed the name of the dairy but I caught the slogan: From Moo to You. Love it!


McBurney Manor B&B

McBurney Manor B&B

My mom and I were invited to McBurney Manor’s Pizza Gathering and spent the entire summer anticipating it. The first event was scheduled for June but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, so it was pushed to an absolutely gorgeous August evening.

McBurney Manor Bed and Breakfast is in McAlevy’s Fort, about 15 miles south of State College, owned by Nancy and Jay Yoder. Besides the B&B, Jay has his furniture-making workshop at the property. And then, there is the bake house.

During the week, Lisa Hershey of LeFevre Bakery bakes artisan breads in the McBurney Manor bake house, a beautiful restoration-in-progress brick building next to the manor. But, when the Yoders get the itch to entertain, they plan a Pizza Gathering.

Nancy begins the starter for the pizza dough 14 hours prior to mixing the dough on the morning of their pizza bakes. In August, her batch of pizza dough resulted in 55 16-ounce pizza crusts. A fire is built in the bake house oven eight hours before it is hot enough to use.

Into the oven

Into the oven

With the fire burning in the back of the oven, and temperature reaching 650 to 700 degrees, the crusts are pre-baked for 5-10 minutes the afternoon of the gathering. As evening approaches and guests cross over a wooden bridge, youngsters splashing in the creek below, the bake oven prep room is bustling. All of the fresh vegetable toppings were gently prepared by stir-frying them in olive oil the day before the bake. Just before each pizza goes into the oven, the toppings are assembled. Then, each prepared pizza is carefully placed on the oven’s baking stones using a long-handled peel, and baked for another 5-10 minutes.

As each pizza is pulled from the oven, it is placed on a table under the 5-foot drying drawers that were ingeniously placed over the oven to catch the heat. (One of these days, Nancy plans to use these drying drawers to make apple schnitz.) Visitors pay $15 and line up for slices of pizza hot out of the oven, help themselves to salad and mint tea, and head to one of several tables to share a meal with friends, old and new. Local musicians play fiddles and guitars in the shadow of the nearby barn. Home-churned peach ice cream is served after guests get their fill of pizza. As my mom always says, “I’m stuffed to the gills, but there’s always room for ice cream. It just slides down.”

The Gathering

The Gathering

The work involved for one Pizza Gathering seems overwhelming, but it is small compared to the on-going renovation of the bake oven building. The brickwork was disassembled, Nancy and Jay cleaned each brick with chisel and hammer, and then the masons reused them. The Yoders began the bake oven project in March of 2011 and they’re still at it.

The original purpose for the brick building was the four-seat outhouse at the far end—McBurney Manor was built in 1844, mind you. The room next to the outhouse was the smokehouse, then the bake oven room, and kitchen.

In 2016, the Yoders plan to schedule Pizza Gatherings in June, August, and possibly September. McBurney Manor, 13206 Greenwood Road, McAlevy’s Fort, is halfway between State College and Huntingdon. If you would like to be notified of the events, request being added to their email list at http://www.mcburneymanor.com

It is always hard to say good-bye to the days of summer without looking forward to the next. Laurie Lynch

Written on Slate: “People forget years and remember moments.” Ann Beattie


The best thing about potluck dinners is discovering new dishes. And, getting lucky with a recipe.

I emailed the hostess with the mostest at the Lemont Village Association potluck, asking who brought the wonderful Finnish Carrot Pancake. She put me in touch with the FCP couple and they gladly shared their recipe. The dish was presented in an iron skillet, cut into pie wedges, and topped with a border of gooseberry sauce. When I tasted it, I thought of Thanksgiving dinner. Later, I found out it was adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant and knew why it was so good:

Finnish Carrot Pancake (Porkkanapannukakku)

3 cups grated carrot

3/4 cup finely minced or grated onion

6 eggs

1 1/8 cup milk (we use yogurt thinned with water 50-50)

3/4 cup flour (white, whole wheat, rye, millet or a combination)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Plenty of fresh ground black pepper

Topping: sour cream, applesauce, cranberry sauce, or in the version served at the Lemont picnic, gooseberry sauce. 

Cranberry Sauce (Karpalokastike)

12 oz. berries

1/2 cup maple syrup

Grated rind and juice of one orange

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Dash of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients for sauce in a pan. Cook on medium heat 10-15 minutes until cranberries pop. (For gooseberries, delete grated rind and juice of orange, and mash with a fork. Cook down until thick.)

Instructions for pancake:

Penn State's Pasto Agricultural Museum

Penn State’s Pasto Ag Museum

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. You will cook at this temperature for 20 minutes, and then lower to 350 degrees for another 10 minutes, or until done. Pancake should be light brown, puffy, and crisp. Sticking a knife in the center should result in it coming up dry.
  1. Heat a heavy iron skillet 9 ½” to 10” into which you have put 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Spread oil up the sides an inch or so by tipping pan while it warms up.
  1. Combine everything in large mixing bowl.
  2. When pan is hot, pour batter into pan (be wary of spattering) and smooth out with a spatula.
  3. Bake as in Step 1.  Serve while hot with topping. Also good warm, and great as a leftover.

May your Sundays always be so lucky. Laurie Lynch

Speaking of Sundays: Centre County Master Gardeners are teaming up with Pasto Agricultural Museum for Penn State football Sundays in September and October, 1-4 p.m. If you are visiting University Park for a home game and looking for something to do on Sunday, check out the museum and demonstration gardens. Both are located at the Penn State Ag Progress Days site, off Route 45, west of Pine Grove Mills. Turn into Gate K, 2710 West Pine Grove Road, Pennsylvania Furnace, 16865.

Sept. 13: Simple Machines & Agricultural Invention Timeline displays. At 1 p.m., Making a Grow Box for Less than $20 at the museum. At 2:30 p.m., Luffas & Lemonade at the MG APD Demonstration Gardens.

Demonstration Gardens

Demonstration Gardens

Sept. 20: Food & Herb Harvest & Preservation—from Yesteryear to Today, Penn State Extension food specialists and Master Gardeners at the museum. Demonstration gardens open.

Sept. 27: Pennsylvania Forests and Trees with Penn State lumberjacks. Demonstration gardens open.

Oct. 4: Focus on Fibers—Spinning and Weaving guilds, and flax processing demonstration at the museum. Discussion on dye plants at the demonstration gardens.

Oct. 11: Penn State Herbarium flower pressing at the museum. Bring your favorite blossom to preserve. Preparing for winter at the demonstration gardens.




If I was in garlic overdrive in early August, I am jetting through clouds of Allium sativum this final weekend.

Or, to put it bluntly, I reek of garlleek! I’ve spent the weekend feeling like a walking, talking loaf of garlic bread. Chances are, I have smelled like one too.

On Friday, I began making my first (and possibly last) batch of garlic powder.

I began by collecting leftover German White, Spanish Roja, and Music garlic bulbs in the barn. I ended up with a total of 30 bulbs, which I broke into 200 cloves. Although my Houtzdale students swore that peeling the cloves by shaking the coverings loose in two stainless steel bowls was their secret to success—I failed that lesson. Perhaps I just don’t have the upper body strength. A few of the papery skins came off, but I soon realized the shake ‘n bake method wasn’t going to work for me.



So, my Mom and I spent a good hour peeling 200 cloves of garlic. With essential oils gluing the garlic skins to the tips of our fingers—a sticky mess—and play-by-play complaints of the process, I was relieved when the last clove was naked.

The rest was easy. We had a generous four cups of bare cloves that I stuffed into the feeding tube of the Cuisinart, pulse, pulse, and all were sliced. Around 3 p.m. Friday I spread the garlic slices in single layers on the trays of the dehydrator, set the dial to 130 degrees, and plugged in the machine. Then the fragrance began.

The kitchen, the entire house, smelled like gently roasting garlic. Vapors of the “stinking rose” carried into the night. I swore I was getting high. That it was a full moon weekend only added to the buzz.



By Saturday morning, the air seemed to be more of an essence of garlic—or maybe my nostrils were numb. Occasionally I checked the dehydrator, rotated the trays, tested the cloves. The goal was slices that broke with a dry snap, not a sticky bend. Finally at 5:30 Saturday evening, we were in business. I scooped up all of the garlic chips from the dehydrator trays and put them in the blender. I pressed the Liquify button and in 10 seconds or so, I had my first batch of garlic powder.

It looks a lot like cornmeal, so the first thing I did was place a label on the re-used mayo jar. Let me tell you though, when you open the lid and take a whiff, no label is needed. Powerful stuff.

The odd thing is, I now have nearly two cups of homemade garlic powder, and I’ve never even cooked with garlic powder—always used fresh garlic. So this culinary experiment will continue throughout the coming year, one quarter-teaspoon at a time. Laurie Lynch



Garlic Airmail: An envelope from Houtzdale containing a letter from one of my students and a large plastic vial protecting three bulbs of Italian Red garlic arrived at the post office.

I made two mistakes in a previous newsletter—it was David’s grandfather (not father) who made a return visit to Italy in 1947 (not 1942) to see his mother and family again. See what happens when a teacher doesn’t have a pen in hand?

“He found post-war destruction and tough conditions overall,” David wrote of his grandfather’s visit in 1947. His grandfather came from the town of Oriolo Romano, Viterbo Province, in the hills about 25 miles north of Rome. He returned to the States with the garlic of Oriolo Romano.

“The strain of garlic never was really large, and it has weakened in the past nearly 70 years. We still use it and like it a lot!” It is an Italian family heirloom that I will adopt and treasure.

Error of Omission: While I’m confessing, I also want to explain that the image of the Belgian beauty with grapes in Fleur-de-Potluck is actually a photograph I took of a blown glass vase decorated by Fritz Heckert in 1900 and displayed at Het Design Museum in Ghent. Stunning.


Belgian Beauty

Belgian Beauty

Dinner parties were my mother’s era. Potlucks are mine.

We had two this week.

The first was Monday night. After a day of work, the rule is KISS—Keep It Simple, Stupid. Pesto pasta piled into a crockpot to keep it warms turned into Upside Down Pesto Pasta when I took a turn a little too fast and it tipped in the trunk. A single serving was lost; after a quick cleanup around the lid of the crockpot, the rest was just fine.

Friday night’s potluck was with a different crowd and I had the day off to play. I found a recipe that included ingredients I had in the kitchen or the garden, and no cooking, always a plus in the summer.

Vietnamese Watermelon Salad

3 cups seedless watermelon, cut in ½-inch pieces

3 cups cucumbers, chopped in ½-inch pieces

3 ½ tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped mint

1/3 cup peanuts, chopped

Combine cucumbers and watermelon. Cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 15 minutes. Drain off liquid (I drank it mixed with ice water). Combine lime juice and hoisin sauce, mixing well with a fork. Add herbs and toss cucumbers and watermelon with dressing. Chill. Top with peanuts before serving.

Wide, flat Romano beans are one of my favorite summer vegetables. They’re not easy to find at farmers markets, where stands have caught onto the bean rainbow of green, yellow, and purple, but some how missed those velvety Italian Romanos. I’m growing them successfully this year—the rabbits ignored them while chomping down on the Royal Burgundy and edamame plants.

I like to steam Romanos in a little water, but I decided to dress them up a little. In a separate pan, I browned some pancetta cubes. As the meat browned and the fat melted, I added sage leaves and a good splash of balsamic vinegar flavored with figs (a wonderful gift from Sabine and Richard last Christmas). With a sizzle and hiss, I had a glaze of ham, sage and caramelized vinegar to pour over the beans.

For dinner, the night after the second potluck, we had corn on the cob, leftover Vietnamese Watermelon Salad (“This is like dessert,” my mom said.) and my dressed Romano beans, with a slice of multigrain bread to mop up the leftover glaze. Home-gown heaven. Laurie Lynch

Ag Progress Hit: The luffas captured the attention of APD-goers. The CDT ran a photo on their webpage (but it got bumped from the print newspaper by the coronation photo of the Grange Fair Queen.) While politics is everywhere, including Ag shows, we have photographic proof that at least two of the three Centre County Commissioners visited the luffa tunnel. One of them, a garlic groupie, stopped by Lemont Farmers Market after APD and bought out my garlic supply—and said he always thought luffa sponges came from the sea…until Centre County Master Gardeners set him straight.

Corn Quiz: OK, eaters. How do you consume corn on the cob? Do you eat it “typewriter style”—nibbling across the “cartridge” in a straight line until you get to the end, and then, Ping! back to the beginning and down a row…or, do you take a bite and then move down, encircling the cob? There could be other methods, I’m sure, but these were the two discussed at a recent gathering. What’s your technique…and why?

Written on Slate: “Your whole life passes in front of your eyes before you die. This is called living.”   Terry Pratchett


Curing Garlic PSU Style

Curing Garlic PSU Style

August is Garlic Month for me.

Besides having a barn draped with curing garlic for the month of August, my mom and I spend Wednesday afternoons selling garlic-planting packages at Lemont Farmers Market. We have Great Bulbs of Fire (Georgia Fire, Asian Tempest & German White), Stinking Rose Bouquet (Spanish Roja, Metechi & Music) and new this year, the Granary Garlic Collection (Zemo, Quiet Creek and Chesnok Red).

On the first two Fridays of August, I taught a course at the house called Garlic 101 through Penn State’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) for students of a “certain age.”

The first class, on the morning of Aug. 7, I told the class I knew what I was doing exactly a quarter of a century ago. I was picking basil in the garden and chopping home-grown garlic to make a batch of pesto. That evening, my pesto baby, Marina, was born. In celebration of her first quarter century, she and Koen had friends over for a pesto tasting party with basil and garlic grown in their Belgian garden. The circle of life, in our family, is shaped like a bulb of garlic.

During the class, I had garlic roasting in the oven. Not only did it add authentic fragrance to the lecture, students got to smear the stuff on crackers for tasting. I also read my favorite garlic quote: “Tomato and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.” That gem comes from Alice May Brock, a woman who ran Alice’s Restaurant, made famous in a ballad by Arlo Guthrie.

After class, a student named Jim pulled me aside and told me a wonderful story. When he was a young buck in the late 1960s, he and his buddies called up Alice and asked if they could meet her. They ended up staying with Alice in the Berkshires for the weekend—partying and eating and creating their own chapter of anti-war folk music history. My mother questioned what he was talking about, and I mentioned there was a song by Arlo Guthrie with the words, “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant,” and that he actually visited Alice’s Restaurant and met Alice. “Hmmm, you can get anything you want?” she said with a twinkle in her eyes and a raised eyebrow. “Except Alice,” his wife quickly added.

At the second Friday class, I once again crossed the line from teacher to student. First, David told me his father went home to Italy in 1942 and brought back a family heirloom, simply called Italian Red Garlic. He and his family have been growing it in the U.S. ever since. He shared the garlic with his fellow Houtzdale buddy Frank, and oh, the stories Frank told.

Luffas taking off!

Luffas taking off!

Frank is a member of a garden cult I didn’t know existed–Competition  Gardeners. There is actually a Pennsylvania Great Pumpkin Growers Association that has an annual weigh-off in nearby Altoona each October. Frank was spouting off his stats right and left, but heck, I was the teacher, not the student, and didn’t have a pen in my hand. Luckily, I Googled the results of the competitions and can give you a sampling of his accomplishments:

Frank has grown a 3.42 pound tomato, a 99-pound watermelon, and, ta-da-ta-da…a 694.5-pound pumpkin. He drove a giant pumpkin to a resort in the Poconos in the back of his pickup. The manager was so impressed that he gave Frank’s family a free vacation at the resort. By the way, Frank’s experiment this summer is growing peanuts in Clearfield County—along with a patch of okra.

But getting back to garlic, Frank grows David’s Italian Red—300 bulbs a year and consumes them all—except for what he plants. He puts the scapes around his flowers to keep the deer away, makes a mean dip from ramps he finds in the woods, and dries much of his garlic to make garlic powder that he puts on everything. Not only did he share his method for making garlic powder—he shared the numbers: 275 cloves of garlic yield one quart of garlic powder.

No sooner had he finished the garlic powder lesson, he jumped to another passion…privy digging, a topic he sometimes teaches, that combines back-road archaeology with glass bottle treasure hunting. Meanwhile, I’m hoping I have enough energy in the next couple of weeks to make a pint or so of garlic powder. As for the privy digging…there is an old foundation of the original farmhouse in the old llama pasture that I mow around. The area is ripe for privy digging…if only I could find the time. Laurie Lynch

Jo sizing up our luffa.

Jo sizing up our luffa.

Ag Progress Days Update: Our luffas are looking grand in the high tunnel. We have one that measures 21 inches long—take that, Frank. Meanwhile, I was photographing the beauties and fell off the table that holds the water barrel. Rather than grabbing a luffa vine and swinging down a la Tarzan, I reached for the 55-gallon water barrel that I had just filled—it broke my fall, but I ended up with a bloody mess on my knee. Gardening is full of adventure

Written on Slate: Everything in moderation, including moderation. Oscar Wilde