I have a recurring dream: I wake in a meadow surrounded by all of the weeds I’ve ever pulled. Purslane, dandelion, Canada thistle, yellow nutsedge, ground ivy, burdock, broadleaf plantain, bindweed, lambsquarters, tree of heaven, galinsoga.

My weed-pulling days started when others my age were riding bicycles with training wheels. We were country kids. My dad delegated and sent us off in different directions. Weeding the planters around the built-in barbecue grill was my favorite. A simple, defined geographic area—and not too many snakes. There were other chores: picking up black walnuts from the lawn, staining hands and nasal passages, or gathering shards of glass and nails from the pasture, so they wouldn’t lodge in our ponies’ hooves. It was the weeding that took.

“The strongest and most mysterious weeds often have things to teach us.” –F.T. McKinstry

As a new mother, I got a job with a landscape designer on the maintenance crew. Weeding was my calling. I’d come home, farmer-tanned arms, soil crammed my cuticles, and knees crusted with dirt, completely refreshed from a morning of weeding the poolsides and patios of Saucon Valley mansions.

I planned our young family’s first backyard as a high-maintenance garden. I wanted to spend most of my free time right there. Beds were laid out with mulch and precision. Each perennial, shrub, or tree had its spot—encircled with mulch. A friend stopped for a visit and said the garden reminded her of doilies her grandmother put under every knickknack on tables, dressers and sideboards. And when there were weeds sprouting on those doilies, my radar zeroed in and my fingers pulled them out.

Then, there was Fleur-de-Lys Farm. I became one with the weeds. I tossed purslane in our salads, deep-fried dandelion fritters, tried to co-exist. I fell in love with the weedy suckering of the pawpaw trees along the stream and the cut-leaf sumac on the hill. I planted goldenrod, wild ginger, and Jerusalem artichokes that spread like weeds.

“May all your weeds be wildflowers.” –Author Unknown

So, as I’ve spent much of the New Year nursing a sore throat and cough, craving ginger tea, and massaging my sinuses with Tiger Balm, why am I dreaming of weeds?

The first weekend of 2016 I barely left the couch. I played NPR to entertain my mom while I dozed in and out of sniffling slumber. I caught a snippet of The Dinner Party Download guys discussing the latest health craze—Tiger Nuts. Since the 13th century Tiger Nuts have been pressed into a milky drink in Valencia called horchata. That grabbed my attention. I’m planning a trip to the Atlantic side of the Iberian Peninsula—maybe they serve horchata in Portugal, I whispered to myself, head nuzzling a pillow.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue;

But they don’t get around

Like the dandelions do.

            — Slim Acres

On workdays, I’d answer the phone with “Gwawd Mawwning, Mawwcowwn Rawwfinnng.” I was totally stuffed up.

“You’ve got a cold,” said a fellow who calls in once or twice a week.

I moaned in the affirmative.

An hour later, Bud (who is even older than I am) shuffled into the office with a tin of Rawleigh’s medicated salve and a pouch of Q-tips. “It’s old-fashioned. It works.”

There was an audience in the office while I coated my inner nasal passages with Rawleigh’s…hardly one of my more glamorous moments. It works. I could breathe.

I don’t think it’s an accident that both Tiger Balm and Rawleigh’s salves contain camphor, which comes from the Cinnamomum camphora tree, designated as a Federal Noxious Weed. As soon as I got home from work, I fell asleep. Lost in la-la land, dreams encroached. Weedy dreams. Waves of weeds tickled my knees, lapped over my shoulders. Pungent, persistent weeds washed over my face, flowed through my brain.

A few days later, the brief segment on Tiger Nuts played a re-run in my mind. I stopped at a local health food store to see if they carried Tiger Nuts, which are also dried and packaged as a gluten-free healthy snack. “Never heard of them. “ How about horchata? “Nope.” As far as I can tell, Tiger Nuts haven’t made it to Central Pennsylvania.

“Maybe I could grow them,” the farmer in me thought. The search continued.

Lo and behold, Tiger Nuts are actually the tubers of Cyperus esculentus, yellow nutsedge. Yellow nutsedge—are you kidding? I know it all too well.

“Sedges have edges, and rushes are round, grasses are hollow from the top to the ground.”

At first glance, yellow nutsedge looks like grass, but a weed-trained eye quickly determines it is not. Indigenous to Africa and the Mediterranean, it has short straw-colored bursts of spikey flowers that remind me of fireworks. It is one of those deceiving weeds. The green, grassy foliage comes off in handfuls with hardly a tug—but the weediness of the plant is that the tubers don’t come up when you yank. Instead, they hide underground to send up new growth as soon as you turn your back. Tiger Nuts may sound enchanting, but yellow nutsedge is a nightmare. Laurie Lynch

“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”—Author Unknown

Addendum: This blog was written in fits and starts, between fevers and sneezes, thought about between FCS calls and year-end spreadsheets, and guess what…Amazon knows all. I got an email yesterday saying I might be interested in: Organic Raw Tigernuts, Organic Sliced TigerNuts, TigerNut Flour, TigerNuts Supreme Peeled, Organic Cold-Pressed Tiger Nut Oil and Tiger Nut Raw Granola…wish someone would decide whether it’s one word, two, or two, runtogether.

“But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last.” –Robert M. Pyle


Grow Box

Thanksgiving for two. Sounds romantic. It’s not.

But, thank goodness, there are different kinds of love. This was the first time in 60-plus years I’ve ever had turkey for two—mom and me. My game-day strategy was a lineup of TV programs.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We raised our kids without much exposure to television. My pet peeve of hospitals and nursing homes is the constant drone of the boob tube. But selective viewing is a different matter altogether, as is kitchen sanity.

Home alone with mom. I decided the best plan was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to fill her morning hours while I kept busy in the kitchen, the almost-adjoining room. My mother loves music and was a drummer in her high school band, so the parade was just the right mix of music and marching, uniforms and pageantry, floats, balloons, and cutesy pop culture. I knew she was engaged when I heard her clapping, an occasional “Ohhh” or “Ahhh”, and more clapping. I popped my head in to see the Rockettes and the return of the 1960s-era Dino the Dinosaur, mascot of Sinclair gasoline.

Being alone in the kitchen for a holiday is new for me. The solitude led to a warm, not cold, hard fact: How much I relied on my mother to get through the holiday preparations during my adult life. When I couldn’t make it home, there were long-distance calls from Charleston, Isle of Palms, or Mount Pleasant, SC, Coplay, or Kutztown. The kitchen has always been our connection.

I decided on Cranberry Upside-Down Cake for dessert. As I followed the recipe I got from a Cuisinart class at her cooking shop, The Country Sampler, I wondered whether I could use fresh cranberries I stashed in the freezer last December. That would have been a call to mom back in the good old days. In the years of dementia, it is a Google question. The answer, by the way, is: “Sure—just pick out any shriveled berries.” I washed the cranberries, picked out a few, and patted them dry.

Next step was to peel off the rind of an orange. After I went shopping the night before, I looked at the supermarket receipt. I had mistakenly bought blood oranges, not regular oranges. Back to Google. Again, no problem. Then, after peeling off the rind and placing it in the food processor with sugar to spin into a fine blend, I took a time-out. I squeezed the blood orange juice into a small glass, added a shot of vodka, and had a breakfast wake-up drink—a lesson learned from my dad, who always had a glass of wine while stirring the risotto.

Although I keep family traditions for holidays, I do like to spice them up a bit by trying something new. This year, I decided on Everybody’s Mushroom Gravy – a new recipe for me. I keep running into Mollie Katzen recipes and cookbooks (the Lemont Village Potluck Finnish Carrot Pancake adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Cookbook and while visiting Webster’s Bookstore Café for a little music, I found a copy of Still Life with Menu Cookbook that I couldn’t resist.) I found Katzen’s recipe for EMG on The Splendid Table website, which boasted that the gravy was vegan and gluten-free. Chalk it up to fate. The two of us have no dietary restrictions but you never know who might show up at the table next year, so I tried it out. Plus, I love mushrooms. Well, the recipe calls for cornstarch. I searched the kitchen but couldn’t find any. Years ago, this would have been call #3 to mom. Instead, I looked inside the cupboard and found a curled-at-the-edges Substitution Chart taped on the door: 1 T cornstarch equals 2 T flour. Simple fix.

I still had plenty of time, thanks to an offhand remark by a family friend, Pat. She and her husband invited us to dinner the night before Thanksgiving. Going out to dinner is always a treat, but this was doubly so since it was the eve of a holiday. I remember with my own family, the night before a big holiday I’d order pizza—a pre-feast break for the cook. Anyway, Pat told me she had all of her onions, celery, bread cubes cut—oysters draining—ready for stuffing-making the following day. I went home and did the same, substituting chestnuts for the oysters, and had everything ready to mix together in time for our dinner.

I was so far ahead of schedule (and didn’t need to figure in time to “dress” and meet and greet visitors) that I found myself distracted. On the way to the compost pile with vegetable trimming, basking in the mild weather, I made a detour to the garage for my folding Felco pruning saw. November’s leaf drop bared a dozen or two weed trees (trunks no more than 1-inch caliper but towering 10 or more feet) and right against the foundation of the house. In a half hour I pruned them out, piled them up, and dragged them to the woods. I also whacked back a wayward mugo pine branch that I’ve been ducking under for months–I’d had enough.

WPSU-TV had a special on Big Band music from noon to 2. We took a luncheon break as my mom and I bonded over the history and music of the 1920s through the 1940s. I’ve grown to love all of the instruments in the Big Bands (although Lawrence Welk still gives me the willies) and the complete corniness of the lyrics. Even today, I can’t stop singing, “A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I’ve got a gal in Kalamazoo….”

The turkey breast went into the oven.

Got a call from my sister and we exchanged family news and the countdown for dinner. She said that instead of making mashed potatoes, she was going to roast potatoes with olive oil and rosemary. That confession gave me permission to do the same—I mean, why go to the bother of mashed potatoes for just two people? We could still douse them with Everyone’s Mushroom Gravy. Last to go, Brussels sprouts with home-grown garlic and shallots, Italian prosciutto, olive oil and balsamic fig vinegar—how could I lose?

The only disappointment of the entire meal was Trader Joe’s cranberry-orange relish – The taste was OK, but the texture was like soggy sawdust. I much prefer my sister’s cranberry chutney but I can never find the recipe in my haphazard files. Next Thanksgiving, I’ll give her a call. Laurie Lynch

The Freshest Herbs: The accompanying photo is of herbs we keep inside the house in a Grow Box. I’m babysitting two of our Master Gardener Grow Boxes for the winter, when the water is shut off in the high tunnel and we can’t fill the bottom reservoir. It is a great self-watering planter. If you’d like a copy of instructions on how to make your own, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Written on Slate: “The best kind of giving is thanksgiving.” Gilbert K. Chesterton



This is time of year is difficult for me.   I like to get up with the sun. When the sun goes down and the weather turns cold, I like to crawl in bed with a good book.

But my almost-87-year-old mother has a different idea: “Let’s go out on the town!”

My sister Lee Ann was visiting a few weekends ago. When I explained the situation, she suggested I do what the Danes do—light the house with candles to lighten up the mood, give the house a festive air. Her daughter Ansley was an exchange student in Denmark several years back and the family she lived with used candles to get through the long, dark winter.

The same Danish family had a special technique for making French Onion Soup—the easy way. My last newsletter on the Onion Johnnies dredged up the recipe in Lee Ann’s mind, and she shared it with me.

We had a lazy Sunday and all the fixings, so I gave it a try.

Danish French Onion Soup

Slice 2 large, sweet onions as thinly as possible. Saute in olive oil slowly in a frying pan until tender and slightly golden.

Toast slices of crusty bread and top with grated Gruyere cheese. Melt cheese under broiler, set at low. Cut cheese toast into bite-sized chunks.

Heat up beef broth in soup pot and add cooked onions.

Place cheese toast into the bottom of individual soup bowls, ladle steaming broth and onions over top, and serve.

Simple. Delicious. A sure way to take the chill off a November evening.

By 6:30 p.m. or so, the pots and bowls were in the dishwasher, the counters wiped clean, and off we went down the dark bedroom hallway. Fifteen minutes or so later, my mom and Sandy were nestled in her bedroom and I was climbing into my bed, ready for a few chapters of The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. Then, I heard my mother call in the night: “Hey, you tricked me. It’s not even 7 o’clock. What am I doing in bed?”

I guess next time I’ll try the candles…Laurie Lynch


Roscoff OnionsRichard, Sabine, and Lais love spending Sundays at the farmers market near their apartment in Charleroi, Belgium. And I love hearing about their adventures—the unusual mushrooms and pumpkins, the bait-and-switch apples, and the sticker-shock onions.

Never did I suspect the 10 Euro onions would lead down a path of European history, culture, and a darn good story.

Richard paid for a selection of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and onions from one of the farmers at the market. As he walked away, checking the bill, he couldn’t believe that half of the total—10 Euro—was spent on 1.4 kg (3 lb.) of onions. They were nice looking onions, he told me later, but 10 Euro? Then he noticed a sticker. These weren’t just any onions. They were Roscoff onions of Appellation d’ Origine Controlee status, the champagne of the French allium world.

Having never heard of the famous French Roscoffs, I had to do a little investigating. Roscoff onions are pink-fleshed (Oignon Rose) natives of the far-west reaches of Brittany. They are valued for their sweet, mild flavor and make the finest French onion soup. But that is just part of their story.

girls with OJ poleAs far back as the 16th century, Roscoff valued its onions. In the town’s Place Lacaze Duthiers, there is a house decorated with a stone gargoyle clutching a rope of onions. In 1828, a French farmer named Henri Ollivier decided it was easier to cross the English Channel to sell his Oignon Rose to the British than to make the arduous trip to Paris with his harvest. The first “Onion Johnnies” carried 60-100 pounds of onion ropes hung from poles they laid across their shoulders. By the end of the 19th century, there were hundreds of Onion Johnnies riding bicycles, handlebars draped with the onion ropes, hawking Oignon Rose door-to-door in England, Wales and Scotland. The trip was not without its costs. In 1905, 73 Onion Johnnies were among the 127 passengers who perished when the S.S. Hilda, heading from Southampton to Brittany, ran into the rocks during a snowstorm.

By 1929, the Brits were consuming 9,000 tons of onions from 1,400 beret-wearing, bicycle-pedaling, French onion farmers. Each July, the Breton farmers brought their harvest across the English Channel to store in rented barns, slept on beds of straw in small rooms at the onion depot, knotted the onions into portable ropes, and sold their exclusive produce by bicycle. In December or January, they returned to farms in Brittany. (There were no ferries from Brittany back then.)Onion Johnny

World War II interrupted the trade, but by the late 1940s, the Onion Johnnies were at it again. The stereotype of Frenchmen wearing berets and riding bicycles was born in the English countryside and on city streets as the Onion Johnnies, and an occasional Onion Jenny, sold their goods. In the 21st century, the old-time Onion Johnnies thrive only in the museum Maison des Johnnies et de l’Oignon de Roscoff, 48 rue Brizeux , and for the two-day Fete de l’Ognon each August in Brittany. Laurie Lynch

Cousin Connection: At another farmers market, on this side of the Atlantic, Richard’s cousin Wille (my chef-phew) has another story. As a chef in Washington, D.C., Wille rarely gets Sundays off. But on this particular Sunday, with no kitchen duty, he headed to the DuPont Circle farmers market. At that same market, chef, author, local foods activist, and proprietor of Chez Panisse Alice Waters was selling and signing her latest cookbook: My Pantry.

Alice“It was just random, happenstance, serendipitous that I was off on this Sunday,” Wille panted, catching his breath. I was panting too, having just a handful of garlic cloves left to plant for the 2015-16 season. My mom, God love her, brought the phone all the way out to the garden.   “I never thought I’d actually meet Alice Waters. I can’t believe this. I’m standing in line for her book right now. Do you want a copy?”


A half hour later, Wille called to report his success. Alice was there, with her daughter and co-author Fanny. How was she? “Charming,” he said, still dazed. What did you say to her? “Oh, I just gave her my elevator speech. Worked at Ubuntu. Ate at Chez Panisse.” And then he mentioned something about sleeping in some chef’s home…

A week or so later, I picked up a package at the State College post office—my very own copy of My Pantry. On the endpaper was a blue sticky note from Wille: From Alice’s hands to yours!


When you send them off to college…Bike Path

During his undergrad days, Richard got quite the reputation for his barbecue skills. He definitely inherited those genes from his father. A year of cultural nurture as a Rotary Exchange student in Brazil polished his talent—they LOVE meat in Brazil and barbecue everything from chicken hearts and sausages to slabs of steak.

(Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Brazilian gauchos herded cattle. It is said that when they stopped to bunk down, they skewered beef, poultry, lamb or pork, or maybe all four, cooked them over a fire and called it churrasco, Portuguese for barbecue. Churrasco permeated Brazilian life into the 21st century, spreading from the grasslands of Rio Grande do Sul to cities like Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.)

In college, Richard had a job as a bartender that morphed into grill-master for parties. By the time he was working as receptionist at Vesalius College, the faculty requested his services at their staff barbecues because he had the rep of being more than a mussels-and-frites kind of guy.

So now he is in grad school at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, which, in Flemish, translates as the Free University of Brussels. (Not to be confused with the nearby French Free University of Brussels—Universite Libre de Bruxelles). Neither school is free, but both have more manageable fees than stateside schools. He is studying linguistics, but apparently the curriculum does not include communicating with your mother…

So, what’s a mother to do? I can’t afford to be a cell-phone helicopter mom and there is the complication of a six-hour time difference. Richard is busy. He drops his 15-month-old daughter off at crèche (Belgian daycare) and hops on the train for his hour-plus commute to class. And, to be fair, he often pampers his Nonna with packages of Belgian chocolates. But providing mom with a “what I did in school today” report seems to have fallen by the wayside. So, I prowl the Internet for any news of life at the VUB.Closeup

When I scanned the school website I learned that Richard’s university is known for having the first commercial kitchen to serve insect-based (intentionally, that is) food.

In October 2014, the VUB cafeteria introduced worm burgers to the student population. They consumed 400 worm burgers on the first day. There were no leftovers. Since then, the university cafeteria has served insect-based entrées every two or three weeks. Worm burgers are rich in protein, low in fat, and reportedly taste “nutty with a hint of bacon.” The cafeteria later expanded its menu to include worm nuggets with autumn salad, soup, and dessert—a bargain for 5 euro.

The school’s worm burgers are made of the lesser mealworm or buffalo worm, Alphitobius diaperinus. The worms are dried, then ground, and shaped into patties. These worms are actually the larvae of the Tenebrionoidea beetle, and have been used as bird and fish food for years, if that makes you feel better.

The Belgian company Damhert Nutrition actually has a whole line of products named “Insecta.” Just a month before the worm burgers were introduced at the VUB, Dambert began offering tomato or carrot spreads containing mealworms (only 4-6% of the product) at Belgium’s Delhaize supermarkets.

There is a song playing in my head right now. As I youngster, when I was pouty and feeling sorry for myself, my mother would sing, Nobody Likes Me (Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms). And yes, I passed it on to the next generation. Little did I know that the song would return now that the kids are in their 20s.

A report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization concludes that insects are a good source of protein, and a healthy, nutritious alternative to chicken, pork, beef and fish. Insects raised as food release fewer greenhouse gases than livestock and do not require clearing land—definite environmental benefits. To produce the same amount of protein, insects require 12 times fewer nutrients than beef and half as many as chicken, and insects consume much less water. In 2013 Belgium issued national guidelines covering the sale of insects as food.

Intellectually, eating insects makes sense. I know I’ve eaten bugs. My sister’s friend, Mariko, gave our family a container of dried grasshoppers from Japan when I was about 10. My lasting impression is that eating them was like munching on sweet and soy-salty Styrofoam. Unintentionally, I have swallowed gnats while biking, eaten a baby cabbageworm or two hidden under a curl of kale, or gobbled a weevil here and there in rice. But I also know, emotionally, I’m not ready for worm burgers, even if my baby barbecues them on the grill.Puddle

Maybe it is a Mom Thing. I keep telling myself: He is 23, not 13. Just as I did when he was 13, and I told myself he wasn’t 3. At 3, he needed me. He was my cling-on. His dimpled fists would hold onto my arms at bedtime, begging for one more lullaby. Intellectually, I know they grow up and have lives of their own. Emotionally, well, that’s a different story. Laurie Lynch

Written on Slate: “A fallen leaf is nothing more than a summer’s wave good-bye.”


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!