Fleur-de-Poona

Trellis

Dumpster Trellis

Someone recently said I grow Poona Kheera cucumbers just because I love saying the name, “Poona Kheera.”

I beg to disagree. I love eating a Poona Kheera as much as I love saying “Poona Kheera.”

I’ve been growing the cucumbers since I discovered them in a Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog, in the mid-2000s. I sold them at Fleur-de-Lys, and at the Lemont Farmers Market, but other than that, I’ve never seen them for sale in a supermarket or farm stand. If I want to eat them, I’ve got to grow them.

And I do want to eat them. They are sweet, never bitter; always crunchy and juicy. A Poona Kheera cucumber starts out palest green, then turns yellow, golden, and, finally, as brown as a russet potato—and can be picked and eaten at any stage. And boy, are the vines productive. When I was running our family farm stand, I needed outstanding vegetables with great taste and good shelf-life to fill the display table—and Poona Kheera never disappointed. Back in 2010, I had so many Poona Kheeras that I started pickling them!

Golden Fruit

Poona Cheer

This spring I was in trouble when I noticed my “hills” of Poona Kheera didn’t germinate. I knew the reason—old seed. So I gently chided myself and paid the price of hefty postage for a single packet of seeds. When the seeds arrived, I overplanted them in small pots, watched them grow, and replanted them in the garden, pampering them with crib rails lifted from a dumpster and repurposed as trellises. Voila, a Poona Kheera jungle.

Poona Kheera cucumbers come from the state of Maharashtra in western India, from a city formerly known as Poona, but now called Pune on all the maps. In fact, it is thought that cucumbers as a family originated in India, and from there were introduced to China, Europe, and the Americas. Pune is appropriately recognized as the “Garden City” and Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are preserved there in the garden of Aga Kahn Palace. From afar in Central Pennsylvania, I will always know India as the land of the Poona Kheera. Laurie Lynch

Karat, Carat or Carrot? As a collector of odd vegetable stories, I loved the news last week of the Canadian woman who found her long lost engagement ring wrapped around a carrot harvested from her garden. If you missed the story, go to the following link:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/16/canadian-woman-engagement-ring-carrot?CMP=share_btn_link

Eclipse Watchers

Partial Eclipse watchers, Richard and Marie

Hot Pepper? My mother and I were invited to a neighbor’s 70th birthday party over the weekend. There was quite a spread but my eyes were drawn to an arrangement of what looked like purple peppers in a grape-like cluster. I picked one up and timidly tasted the tip—just in case it was really hot. Instead, it was really cool and not a pepper at all. It is called a “teardrop grape,” and when our neighbor saw the grapes at Wegmans she had to purchase some for the party. (Warning: They are triple the price of oval grapes, but, ah, novelty.)

Fleur-de-Pens

“Do you have an extra pen?” my buddy Mike asked at a recent Master Gardener meeting.

“Do I have an extra pen?” I mumbled to myself. “I must have a dozen in the bottom of my purse.”

I quickly scooped up a handful and gave him one. I remember wondering why on earth he didn’t have a pen. Does he live on the moon? In all fairness, I decided, the answer has nothing to do with pens, and plenty to do with the fact that Mike doesn’t carry a purse.

Days later, I was neck-deep in papers, books, and clothes, de- cluttering my bedroom. Three and a half garbage bags of clothing went to Goodwill. At least four Trader Joe’s grocery bags packed with paper, magazines, and old seed catalogs went to recycling. A cardboard box stacked with books went to the AAUW Book Sale collection box—fitting, since most of the books came from the AAUW Book Sale in the first place and still have price stickers on them. In the dark recesses of my bedroom I even found two paper bags of year-old deadheaded poppies and calendulas I was drying for seed…

We have to take pleasure in the little things in life. I can now walk around my bed without stumbling on a pile of books or recipes, see the top of my dressers, and store my shoes and sweatshirts in the closet.Pen Collection

What amazed me, though, was the collection of pens I have amassed. My tin cup overfloweth, my red bucket spilleth over, and there are still more pens. I found an old Godiva chocolates box, labeled it “Pens,” and stashed it in the basement. It was a productive weekend’s work.

Monday started with an email from a friend in Kutztown:  “I sent you a package wrapped in brown paper. I am a hoarder with certain things and as I go through a “de-hoarding” cycle, you could help me by being the repository of the objects of my hoarding. Feel free to just dump it in the garbage. I also have sticky fingers when it comes to these, although I suspect no one would call me a thief.”

Is there something in the Pennsylvania air that is causing us women of a certain age to shed our belongings in mid-summer?

The box arrived at the post office. When I opened it, I marveled at our parallel lives.

My return email: “…I took the cooler, rainy weekend to de-clutter my bedroom and found a kazillion pens. Gay pride week, I pick up a pen. At the dry cleaners, I pick up a pen. At the bank, I pick up two, just in case…Hoarders United.”

How did ballpoint pens become such a fixture in our society? Gone are the tobacco ads on the sides of barns—now we advertise on the backs of ballpoints.

Hungarian newspaper editor and inventor Laszlo Biro and his brother Gyorgy, a chemist, devised the modern ballpoint pen. The brothers filed for patents on their ballpoint pens in 1938, but, as Jews, were forced to flee Hungary during the Second World War. Six years later, they set up the Biro Pen factory in their adopted homeland of Argentina.

The whole point of the ballpoint pen is a tiny ball bearing at the tip that rotates when it is dragged across a sheet of paper, leaving a path of ink drawn from the pen’s reservoir. It’s a lot easer and more reliable than a fountain pen.

History is often filled with irony, and so it is with the ballpoint. During World War II, the British Royal Air Force was looking for a pen for its navigators that worked at high altitudes (fountain pens tended to leak). They found just what they needed in Argentina. The RAF bought 30,000 Biros.

About the same time, U.S. manufacturers jumped on the ballpoint pen phenomenon. Milton Reynolds brought some Biros from Argentina and his International Pen Co. began manufacturing its own version of the ballpoint pen.   Introduced at Gimbels department store In New York City Oct. 29, 1945, it became the first modern ballpoint pen sold in the U.S.  The Reynolds ballpoint was advertised in newspapers as a “fantastic, atomic era, miraculous pen.” Gimbels reportedly sold 30,000 that first week, with each pen priced at $12.50.

After the War, the Biro brothers sold their patent to Baron Marcel Bich, a Frenchman. He dropped the “h” in his name to create the cheap, mass-produced BIC. His company, founded in 1950, shipped BIC ballpoints to the American market in 1959, where they sold for 19 cents a pen. In 1965, the French government approved of the use of BICs in schools, and other countries followed suit. These days, in Belgium, my French-speaking, 3-year-old granddaughter Laís doesn’t ask for un stylo (a pen). No, she asks for un BIC (pronounced “beak”). Laurie Lynch

Penning An Autobiography: As I look at the assortment of pens and read their advertisements, I realize how much they reflect the ups and downs of life in the 21st century: Santander, Fit For Play, First Commonwealth, Roan’s Body Shop, Dan’s Camera, Associated Realty, Fosamax, Hartman, Hartman, Howe & Allerton, Centre LGBTQA Support Network, Financial Abundance, Student Bookstore, Animal Kingdom, Penn State Ag Sciences, Harraseeket Inn, H & R Block, Kellogg School of Management, VBSFCU, Rose Franklin’s Perennials, Ready, Set…Schlow!, Firestone Master Contractor, Nittany Bank, Centre Oral & Facial Surgery, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco, Balfurd Dry Cleaner, Charles Krug, The Village at Ohesson, Hilton, This Way LLC., Homecoming 2000, Pathblazer, The Teaching Professor Conference, APSCUF, Council on Chemical Abuse, Fleetwood Bank, Computer Wizards, Kutztown University, PNC Bank, Toftrees, Renaissance Hotels, Holiday Inn, Mama’s Delight Pizzeria, Connections, Embassy Suites, Country Inns & Suites, East Penn Diner, Adams & Associates.

What to Do? Neither of us have time for a Support Group for the Pen Obsessed, so we started thinking about how to share our wealth, spread our abundance. A library? Senior Center? Perhaps. Then I read about a fellow named Ryan who traveled to Rwanda on a public health mission several years ago. While there, he realized ballpoint pens are the tools for educational success in the remote villages of Sub-Saharan Africa. He started an organization called Pens to People. The goal? Changing lives one pen at a time. I emailed Ryan. If I get a response, I’ll let you all know. If you have any other recycling ideas, please email me.

Written on Slate: Here and yonder, high and low, golden rod and sunflowers glow. –Robert Kelley Weeks

Fleur-de-Butt

I’ve been thinking about butts lately. It comes from running the Katahdin gauntlet.

On the morning of my last garlic harvest, I filled the wheelbarrow with Spanish Roja, opened the gate, and sprinted through the pasture to the barn where I cure bunches of hardneck. Whoosh, the Three Musketeers swarmed the wheelbarrow from all sides, pulling out stalks of garlic to munch. I grabbed a handful and started swinging them around like a gaucho’s bola yelling, “Get away. Get away!”

The next time I filled the wheelbarrow with Music and faced a different challenge. The rams put their heads down and started butting my butt. Then they rammed the wheelbarrow with head-butts.

I dropped the handles of the wheelbarrow and ran. I found a long branch on the ground, picked it up, and began swinging it behind me, like a 4-foot-long tail. Then, with one arm balancing and pushing the wheelbarrow, the other swishing my makeshift tail, I wobbled with my Music garlic toward the barn. I gathered all of the stalks in my arms, quickly opened the barn door, and squeezed into the barn without any of the damn rams following me.

Red Cabbage with Dew Jewels

Cabbage with dew jewels

When I returned, Gruff used his sneaky little sheep snout to pull off the advertising sticker from the wheelbarrow.

“Gotcha,” he seemed to say.

The last batch was Quiet Creek garlic. This was grown in a raised bed (I ran out of room in my garlic patch) so I caught the Three Stooges off guard. Branch in hand, I was ready for them. They were off grazing. This last trip was a breeze. After delivering my load, I headed back, relieved that the harvest was done. I was ready for a tall glass of elder blossom ice water.

Something was wrong. I was armed and ready, but there wasn’t a sheep in sight. The Three (male) Furies butted under the quickly latched gate and were burrowing through my asparagus patch in search of delicate morsels.

Time for reinforcements.

I secured the outer gate—I did not want to spend the rest of the day chasing sheep down the golf course. I rounded up Richard and posted him at the open pasture gate while I tripped through the tangle of asparagus fronds hollering at one, then two, then three menaces, chasing them out of the asparagus and into the pasture. What a pain in the butt!

That night, instead of counting sheep … I was counting lamb chops. Laurie Lynch

Written on Ancient Slate: “Such is the destiny of great men that their superior genius always exposes them to be the butt of the envenomed darts of calumny and envy.” Voltaire

Fleur-de-RainLily

When I moved back to State College a half-dozen years ago I was lucky enough to meet Rhonda, a talented hairstylist who cuts my curls and trims my mother’s bobby pin waves.

Our conversations often are drawn to nature. One morning we might talk about a squirrel dangling upside down at her birdfeeder outside the window, or the bear that is haunting her neighborhood, or her gorgeous container gardens.

RL Buds

Rain Lily Buds

This spring after my haircut she surprised me with a handful of rain lily bulbs. Rhonda’s grandmother died four years ago. Since then, the family has been sharing Nana Ida’s rain lilies.

In memory of Nana they hand out bookmarks with a poem on one side and planting instructions on the other. A tulle drawstring bag containing the bulbs is attached to each bookmark so that recipients can grow the beautiful flowers Nana loved.

Rain lilies or fairy lilies are traditional pass-along plants that are said to bloom each time it rains. With 70 species in the genus Zephyranthes, they have grass-like leaves and flowers that come in colors of pink, white, and yellow. They are native to southern U.S., Central and South America. In Florida, they are often used as landscape plants but in northern states you need to grow them in containers and protect them during the winter months. You can buy Zephyranthes from most bulb companies, or find a friend who has some to share. Here are Nana Ida’s instructions:

  • Plant bulbs 1” deep in a pot using fresh, soft potting soil.
  • Place planter in a cool, dark place and do not water at this time.
  • On Mother’s Day return the pot to the sunny outdoors.
  • Water the rain lilies every day but do not saturate.
  • Lilies thrive best with fresh rain and bloom throughout the summer.
  • Before the first frost in autumn, return the rain lilies to a cool, dark place for the winter.
  • With each passing year, the bulbs will multiply.

And now, the flipside of the bookmark. The lesson that Ida shared with all who knew her:

RL Open

Blooming Rain Lilies

Live For Today

I’ll never see this day again,

The seconds or the hours,

Now’s the time to take the time

To stop and smell the flowers.

Today’s the day to give that smile

And happiness away

That you were saving for a friend

Some rainy gloomy day.

This day is golden,

Priceless,

God made this day for you.

The deed you do for someone else

May just come back to you.

So touch a heart, hold a hand,

Call that lonely friend,

Don’t postpone the love you have,

This day won’t come again.

Ah, it’s a beautiful garden out there, enjoy! Laurie Lynch

‘Tis the Season for Harvesting Garlic: And a time to confess. For more than two decades I’ve been extolling the sturdy virtues of growing garlic. Deer proof. Rabbit proof. Squirrel proof. Groundhog proof. Chicken proof. Llama proof. It turns out there is an exception.

The other day I spent a quiet early morning digging garlic with my garden fork, pulling out the long stalks with garlic bulbs intact, stacking them in my wheelbarrow, ready to be tied into bunches to cure. As I continued down the rows, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye moving in the wheelbarrow. Gary the Katahdin sheep was munching the leafy end of a garlic stalk poking through the fence. He nibbled and pulled, nibbled and pulled, consuming the stalk until the garlic bulb got stuck in the wire grid and could be pulled no further. That rascal!

Russian Intrigue: It seems the best hardneck garlic varieties growing in my Central PA garden this summer are those with Russian roots: Georgia Fire, Metechi, and Zemo. Stay tuned to find out whether this has anything to do with Russian meddling in our elections or just that they are a tougher, hardier breed. At least I haven’t found any indication of infiltration from the allium leaf miner.

Written on Slate: “Leave room in your garden for the fairies to dance.”

Fleur-de-BedRaising

Our Centre County Master Gardener community stretches far and wide.

Skilled CarpentersSeveral residents at an affordable housing complex in Lemont expressed interest in growing vegetables and herbs. The property owners gave Master Gardeners permission to build three raised beds in areas bordering the dumpster (which tells you how some people view vegetable gardens…)

For this Home Grown project, we brought together volunteer craftsmen from a local congregation, a Housing Transitions supportive services coordinator, plants from Boalsburg and Rebersburg, donated lumber and cardboard from State College businesses, and College Township wood chips. Oh yes, and Master Gardeners, their friends, and family members.

We purchased chicken wire (keep those bunnies and groundhogs out of the gardens), screws, soil, compost, and coconut coir, and had everything delivered to the site. We were all set.Beds come together

Our housing complex gardeners include two Korean families (novice gardeners) and two single women, one who has more years with a trowel in hand than I have, and the other, who hasn’t gardened since she was a child.

After an initial meeting, we gathered to build the beds, and two days later, we filled the beds with soil, compost, and coconut coir, and planted herbs, vegetables, edible flowers, and seeds.

Master Gardeners are supposed to be the teachers, but we also learn along the way. Take, for example, coconut coir. Brian, a fellow MG, explained that he uses it in all of the raised beds he makes to aid aeration and water retention. Coconut coir is the “hair and husk” from coconuts. Coir is sold in rectangular bricks, and soaked in water before using. The hydrated coir is mixed into the top layer of the planting soil.

Soaking Coir

Soaking Coir

The elder gardener wants to grow lots of parsley and dill. Her friend and raised-bed partner is eager to try growing Malabar spinach for the first time.  One Korean woman is interested in growing tomatoes to teach her young daughter where red and yellow cherry tomatoes come from.

The second Korean woman was overjoyed when we showed her a pepper transplant labeled Extremely Hot Carolina Reaper and a radish seed mix that includes long, white Korean radishes. She is already talking about the kimchi she will make.  She took us to her apartment patio to show us a pot of Korean sesame she is growing and explained to my friend Jan and me that she and her husband use the leaves of the plant with their Korean meals.  All Jan and I could talk about was the sesame seeds the plant would produce. The woman promised to share some seeds with us.

Alas, the old lesson about the folly of common names came back to haunt me. I did a little research on the sesame plant she was growing. Both sesame leaves and sesame seeds are important in Korean cooking, but, they come from different plants—which points out the beauty of botanical names, and the beast contained in common names.

“Sesame” leaves come from the plant Perilla frutescens, an herb in the mint family with large, heart-shaped, anise-flavored leaves. Korean cooks use sesame leaves in many ways—they stir-fry them with garlic and vegetables, pickle them, marinated them, deep-fry them in batter, or wrap them around rice, meat, or fish. Not to confuse the issue, there is a plant Perilla frutescens var. crispa, known in Japanese cuisine as shiso. This perilla comes in a red-leafed form, which I grew at F-de-L farm years ago, and is used to give pickled ginger that pink color.  The American name for shiso, don’t ask me why, is beefsteak plant.

Sesame seeds come from a plant known botanically as Sesamum indicum. This plant produces large pods (much larger than perilla seed pods) filled with sesame seeds that are used as garnish on all sorts of dishes, and yes, sesame seed rolls. Its strappy leaves are not eaten.Two Beds

It promises to be an enlightening and invigorating summer.  And, about that dumpster…Jan and her friend Ryan noticed the rails to a crib that was tossed out.  MGs are known to do a little dumpster diving…

Jan took the tall, ladder-like side rail to support her birdhouse gourd vines and Ryan took the other.  I collected the two end panels for my late-planted Poona Kheera cucumbers to ramble on. Laurie Lynch

First BedjpgMG Energy Bars: Jan brought treats for the bed-raising volunteers, Lemon Bars and watermelon wedges. I raised my kids on store-bought lemon bar mix, which is good. But Jan’s Lemon Bars, to borrow the vocabulary of Tony the Tiger, are G-r-r-r-eat! Check out the details on Food.com (Lemon Bar Recipe by Diana Adcock.)

Plan for the Summer: Keep Calm and Eat Kimchi.

Fleur-de-Bobotie

It’s the age-old question—which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, I asked Koen which came first, the jar of mango chutney he bought at Tait Farm or the idea to make Bobotie for dinner.

Most definitely the chutney, he said. It brought back memories and tastes of South Africa.

The mystery dish was new to me. Marina and Koen said the name once or twice, but until I see a word written down, it often doesn’t register. That afternoon, I helped Koen assemble what he needed to do the cooking.Nestlings Flew

We had many of the ingredients in the kitchen: turmeric, garlic, golden raisins, almonds, onions, eggs, milk.

We put a shopping list together for the missing ones: dried apricots, Granny Smith apple, lemon, white bread, and bay leaves. (Marina and I reminisced about Aunt Leslie bringing us bags of bay leaves she harvested from the shrub at her Virginia Beach home.)

We stopped by the Boalsburg farmers market for a pound of locally raised ground beef and a pound of chopped veal.

After the ingredients were secured, I sat down on the deck with a gin and tonic, and relaxed on my staycation. Koen was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. My mom and Marina took care of the table setting and later, the dishes. I could get used to this!

I’ve only been to Africa through books—“The Poisonwood Bible” (novel about the Belgian Congo), “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” (a who-done-it series that takes place in Botswana) and “Land of a Thousand Hills” (memoir of Rwanda). Koen has traveled to South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. He didn’t actually eat Bobotie until he returned to Belgium but he likes the casserole and added it to his cooking repertoire.

Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa. The melding of meats, fruits, and spices from Eastern and Western cuisine came about when the Dutch West Indies Company set up an outpost at the Cape of Good Hope for its trade. Boats loaded with spices from Indonesia stopped in South Africa on their way to Holland. The Dutch and Malaysian settlers living in Cape Town mixed local goods with imported spices, thus creating Bobotie. According to several sources, the casserole can be pronounced bo-bo-tee, bo-boo-tie, or ba-boor-tee, and is served with yellow rice (white rice with turmeric) and blatjang (pronounced blud-young), an apricot and chili pepper chutney.

Tait Farm in nearby Boalsburg “celebrates local gifts from the land” and has a variety of chutneys, from Koen’s choice, mango, to apple, cranberry, rhubarb, ginger-peach, and tomato. Although Koen and I live on different continents, we share an attitude and appreciation for food and travel. There’s a saying in South Africa, “local is lekker”. In Dutch, the word lekker means delicious. No matter where you live, local foods paired with international recipes provide a delicious menu for cultural exchange. Laurie Lynch

Bobotie

While Koen was visiting he used a recipe found on Epicurious, added a few random spices from my mom’s spice rack, such as cumin, and whatever else caught his fancy. This is a dish you can tailor to your taste as well as the supplies in your pantry.

Casserole

2 lbs. minced lamb or beef, sautéed lightly until the pink is gone

Butter, vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 T curry powder

1 tsp. turmeric

2 slices of bread, crumbled

¼ c. milk

Grated rind and juice of half lemon

1 egg

Salt & Pepper

3 oz. dried apricots, chopped

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored & chopped

¼ c. golden raisins

1 ½ oz. slivered almonds, roasted in dry frying pan

6 lemon, orange, or bay leaves

Custard Topping

1 c. milk

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole. Heat butter and oil in saucepan and fry onions and garlic until translucent. Stir in curry, turmeric, and other spices, cooking quickly until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Combine the onion and spice mixture with meat in a large bowl. Add bread, milk, lemon rind and juice, egg, salt, pepper, apricots, apple, raisins and almonds, and mix well. Pile into casserole and smooth top. Roll up the leaves and bury them at regular intervals. Seal with foil and bake 1 ¼ hours.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Remove foil, mix custard topping and pour over casserole. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes until cooked and lightly browned. Serve with yellow rice and chutney.

Botanical Treasure Hunt: Several years ago, when I was visiting Belgium in early summer, I noticed gin and tonics (my summer drink) were getting fancy. Cucumber slices or sprigs of rosemary look the place of lime wedges. Not only did you select a brand of gin at the bar, you selected a type of tonic. I thought tonic was tonic. In Belgium, I was introduced to Fever-Tree tonic.

A few weeks ago, Koen, my mom, and I had a few errands to run while Marina did some computer work. We got our bottles of gin (Tangueray and Hendrick’s) and were looking for tonic. I’ve always gone with Schweppes, but since Koen and Marina were visiting, I thought I’d make it special. I asked a friend if she was familiar with Fever-Tree. She said I’d be able to find it at Wegmans. Wegmans is on the other side of town but I figured this was worth the trip.  When we got there, the Fever-Tree shelf was empty.  We tried Giant. Success—but very expensive. A few days later, while shopping at Weis, my go-to supermarket, I looked for Fever-Tree and found the best selection of all: Indian, Premium Indian, Mediterranean, and even Elderflower tonic water.

All of the driving and scouting out Fever-Tree got me thinking. “Fever-Tree. Quinine. Malaria. Fever.”

I was on a quest. The botanical name for fever tree is Cinchona officianalis, a native of the Andes Mountains of South America. It is the national tree of both Peru and Ecuador, and the evergreen belongs to the same family as coffee, Rubiaceae. “Peruvian bark” was used by the native Quechua to treat hypothermia and fever. By the 1630s, Jesuit missionaries followed suit and began using the powdered bark of Cinchona to treat malaria, introducing it to other Spanish colonies. The English and Dutch picked up on this medicinal herb and smuggled it into Asia and Africa. As the centuries zipped by, Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow researched quinine sources in an attempt to come up with the best mixer for gin. In 2005, Rolls and Warrillow introduced Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water to the world.

Not Written on Slate, But Should Be: “If ¾ of your gin and tonic is tonic, make sure you use the best.” – Tim Warrillow

Baa-Baa-BAAAD! The other morning I awoke to some loud baa-ing. I knew something was up. Gary and Freckles were trapped in my asparagus patch, tromping around, and pulled down the wire fence where my snow peas/sugar snaps were climbing. Gruff, black sheep of the bunch, was standing in the barn—either innocent or crafty enough to escape the scene of the crime.

Fleur-de-Staycation

You never know who is going to pop up in Centre County. Take, for example, the face I spotted at the single stoplight in Lemont…

Sean in Lemont Yew Bushes

Sean in the shrubs

Yes, that appears to be Sean Spicer in the yews.

For Memorial Day week, I took a staycation to be at home with Marina and her partner Koen, visiting from Ghent, Belgium.

We celebrated Memorial Day in Boalsburg (Birthplace of Memorial Day) with Marina’s State College cousins and several days later went to a great aunt’s memorial service with other cousins. We dined with friends at a new farm-to-table restaurant in Amish country (Revival Kitchen) and drove from store to store to store to farmers market to gather beer, handmade pasta, wine, charcoal, and cheese for our home-based meals. Marina and Koen are used to city living, where they have a weekly co-op farm share, and walk or bike to pick up other supplies. And, they don’t use all of those ridiculous plastic bags (I must get better at bringing my own tote.)

We talked together, drove together, cooked together, and laughed together. During their stay, with the asparagus patch producing non-stop, we had asparagus soup, roasted asparagus, raw asparagus, grilled asparagus, blanched asparagus, asparagus salad, and asparagus pasta. Koen definitely got his fill of green and purple Pennsylvania-grown asparagus. White asparagus, grown under black plastic and soil to block the sunlight, is the tradition in Belgium.

Memorial Day

Nick, Marina, Andre, Nonna, Leon & Koen

I introduced Koen to my friend John Deere as he helped with yard chores. Marina, Koen and I hiked through Shingletown Gap and made a quick trip to the Lehigh Valley where we celebrated with Marina’s godparents. Their son graduated from high school and is shipping off to the Naval Academy. We made a short stop at the old Fleur-de-Lys shop for a box of Marina’s Harry Potter books and high school mementos.

On my way out of town, I saw my buddy Rich at the Kutztown Turkey Hill as I topped my gas tank for the ride home. Rich told me his 17-year-old daughter is graduating from high school and is raising four hens. He still has the photo of her when they rented Easter Peeps from our farm. I filled up my travel coffee mug with hazelnut coffee and lots of half and half. As I pulled out my wallet to pay for the coffee, Rich shooed me off and said, “Get outta here,” making me feel as if I belonged, once again. Laurie Lynch

M&T

M & Terese

 

 

Sweet Tooth: I got my first chocolate mint plant from our Lehigh-Northampton Master Gardener plant exchange (thanks, Steve K. of Coopersburg) a good dozen or more years ago. Last winter I made the mistake of putting it in the garage with a lemon verbena and forgot to water them. So, at the Centre Furnace Mansion plant sale last month, my sister and I each picked up a plant. Fran (of Fleur-de-Unicorn fame) was working the checkout line and promised to share a Chocolate Mint Biscotti recipe. Meanwhile, the mint in the garage somehow survived, which goes to show you can’t kill mint. Now I’ll have plenty of chocolate mint to try this recipe:

Chocolate Mint Biscotti

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup packed whole mint leaves, use chocolate mint leaves if available

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (mini chips preferred)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Grind sugar and mint leaves in a food processor for 30 seconds (pulse perhaps).  Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in eggs and vanilla until well blended.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Fold this with chocolate chips into the egg mixture until incorporated.  Dough will be sticky.
  3. Divide dough in half.  Wet your hands with water and shake them off, but don’t dry them.  On parchment paper-lined baking sheet, press each half into a log that measures about 11 inches long by 2 inches wide.  Press down on each log until 1/2 inch high.  Leave about 2 inches between logs.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and lower temperature to 325°.
  5. Cool pan on wire rack for a few minutes and transfer logs to a cutting board and cut crosswise with a serrated knife into about ¾-inch slices.  Put slices standing up on the parchment-lined baking sheet spaced slightly apart.  Bake 15 minutes more until crisp.  (Maybe be less time too.)  Transfer to racks to cool.

Happy eating and gardening.