Fleur-de-MarchDC

valerieValerie slipped on her green gown, placed the crown on her head, and the entire bus broke into spontaneous song:

“O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…”

It’s been more than 40 years since my last protest rally but here I was, on one of three buses organized by the Moshannon Group Sierra Club, headed for Saturday’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

What a day.

We had Metro SmarTrip cards but didn’t use them.  The lines were too long.  We walked 2.5 miles from the bus parking lot at RFK Stadium to the Capitol Building. It was an unseasonably warm day for January. The calendar juxtaposition of Martin Luther King Day earlier in the week made the hike an inspirational treasure. Black yard signs with MLK quotes in white sprouted from townhouse gardens, side by side with blooming forsythia and pansies, as we walked up East Capitol Street SE, the crowds growing ever thicker.

I had three bus buddies to stay with, an Impeach the Tweet sign swinging from my neck by  a Christmas ribbon, a clear, plastic bag in the crook of my arm, and camera in my jacket pocket.

Oh, the people, the pink hats, and the posters! We didn’t march. We flowed (with a few logjams). Our foursome never got close enough to see the stage or hear the speakers.  We saw the Washington Monument peak from the fog and knew with the crowd congestion we would never make it to  The White House.

One of the crowd-control volunteers started shouting:

co-marchers

Bus Buddies

“Repeat after me.”

Crowd: “Repeat after me.”

“Amplify.”

Crowd: “Amplify.”

“Say it twice.”

Crowd: “Say it twice.”

“Say it twice.”

Crowd: “Say it twice.”

“March on the sidewalk.”

Crowd: “March on the sidewalk.”baby-power

“March on the sidewalk.”

Crowd: “March on the sidewalk.”

“Medical,” the woman bellowed, pointing to the area below her platform.

Crowd: “Medical,” we repeated, pointing to the area.

“Medical.”

Crowd “Medical.”

“Patience.”

Crowd: “Patience.”monument

“Patience.”

Crowd: “Patience.”

It was a fascinating lesson in crowd communication. And speaking of communication, the Women’s March proved the power of words.

One of my personal favorites was hand-written on white poster board:

“We are half of the world and gave birth to the rest.”

Another poster proved the power of no words:

“OMG GOP WTF”

A third sign proved the power of foreign words:

“Nyet means Nyet.”

Another proved the power of inclusive but far-reaching words:framed

“Global Warming is a Real Threat

My Muslim Neighbors Are Not”

A fifth proved the power of simple words:

“Make America Kind Again”

By 3:30 p.m., we decided to start our trek back to the bus. The crowd, though pleasant and peaceful, was exhausting. On the way to the bus we were welcomed by volunteers at the William Penn House, inviting us in for a bathroom stop (as well as tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks).  As another visitor said, “There’s nothing like a Quaker toilet.” They suggested we leave our protest signs with them. They are going to make a collage of signs and take photographs, capturing the multitude of messages.  As we left, I picked up leaflet with more words: March Today. Lobby Tomorrow!

capitolWe continued down East Capitol Street, thanking police officers managing crosswalks and volunteers encouraging us as we headed toward our bus, exhausted.  We watched dogs romping in the park, parents pushing strollers, and residents waving from their front stoops.

My feet were sore but my spirit was soaring. I know this day is more than a moment—it is a movement. Laurie Lynch

Written on a Yard Sign:  “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Fleur.de.PlantVillage

I was sitting in a social hall turned lecture hall and it was quickly filling up with words like crowdsourcing, deep mind, and artificial intelligence. And I was feeling anything but intelligent.

One term kept popping up to keep me from zoning out: Plant Village.

David Hughes was holding his smartphone, pointing it at us, calling it the super computer everyone carries in their pocket, when, click, we where on Twitter. Minutes later, he was talking about tom-ahhh-tos as only a Dubliner can.photo-d-hughes-jpg-large

(Let us pause for a brief technological confession: Several years ago, when I moved back to State College, my brother-in-law suggested I buy a cell phone similar to the one he had for his family. That phone system downsized or upgraded or something, and a few years later, I got a free “smart” phone. When I was talking to the customer service rep, I said I just wanted basic service, nothing fancy, no email, no internet, etc. If the phone rings, and I have it with me, I answer it. If I need to make a call, and I have it with me, I do. With a monthly bill of about $18, I call it a bargain. Then, two or three years ago at a Penn State Homecoming Parade, students were selling those cute little phone pockets for credit cards. I bought one and stuck it on. It wasn’t until months later, when I told someone in the office I had a smart phone that was stupid because it didn’t take photos. Well, then we realized it couldn’t take photos because I stuck the phone pocket over the camera lens…)

Getting back to the business at hand. Earlier this week Dr. Hughes, assistant professor of biology and entomology in Penn State’s College of Agriculture, was talking to Centre County Master Gardeners about plantvillage.org, an online network that he and Marcel Salathe created. The mission of the non-profit project and collaboration between Penn State and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne is to provide knowledge that helps people grow food and to make that knowledge accessible to everyone on the planet.

“The world needs public good,” Hughes stressed. A team of scientists at Penn State and beyond has collected and compiled basic crop information with good, reliable content that is free, and free from advertisements, for the website.

“We should never, ever put crop knowledge behind pay walls,” said Hughes who grew up in a country that was devastated by one of the worst crop-disease disasters in history, the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. Coupled with the basic crop information, the website is a forum for using technology to share practical knowledge about plant diseases and pests with farmers and growers across the globe via their hand-held mobile devices.

With increased globalization and climate change, “we need to be able to identify the beneficials and the nasties,” he said. And the pressure is on. The United Nations estimates we will have to double world food production to feed the 9 billion people who will be living on Earth by 2050.

When I visited plantvillage.org this week, I found encyclopedic information on various food crops in alphabetical order, from African eggplant, alfalfa, and almond to watermelon, wheat, and yam. (Zucchini is under squash.)

Skimming through, I was fascinated with the information on Brazil nuts, a plant I had never even thought about. There were photographs of the tall, straight tropical evergreen that can reach 180 feet and live for 500 years. The fruit is 6 inches in diameter, packed with 18-24 nuts, and takes 15 months to mature. But look out when it does! Brazil nuts are harvested in the rainy season and collected on the forest floor in the early morning, to reduce the chance of being hit by falling fruit, which can cause severe injury.

“There are 155 crops with information people can copy, use, and share. 1,800 diseases. 8,000 images. If this was a book, it would be 4,000 pages,” Hughes told us.

The open access, web plant forum began in March 2013, so it is coming up on its fourth birthday. In that time, there have been 3.5 million users. The bulk of visits are from backyard gardeners from the United States (48%), with another 16% from India, 12% from Southeast Asia, and 10% from Africa. Growers can snap a photo and submit it, asking for identification of a problem.

The goal is not just a fast library for free, said Hughes, but a network of librarians to go between the person who knows little and the expert. Within the year, the project will develop an app to identify crop diseases. Scientists are photographing disease X on crop Y in Tanzania, Ghana, Brazil, Penn State or Purdue, and feeding those images into the computer and will teach it to recognize signs of disease with 99% accuracy, Hughes explains, “just as Facebook uses facial recognition to tag your sister or your Auntie.” Gardeners and farmers in Delhi, Dubuque, Dakar or Dublin will be able to use their phones to help put food on the table. And yes, maybe I’ll have to peel the pocket off the back of my phone. Laurie Lynch

Written on Slate: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”   Socrates

 

 

 

 

 

Fleur-de-SmartCookie

ice-roseThe thing about baristas, as my dad would have said, is they are smart cookies. Or biscotti. Or scones.

What I mean is, baristas are the type of people you’d like to invite to sit down at your table to sip a small Chai Latte with skim and chat away the morning.

I was sitting and sipping at Café Lemont, alone at Evan’s table (he had already left for the morning so I snagged it), when I caught a snippet of Aine’s conversation with another customer between belches and blasts of the Nuovo Simonelli espresso machine. “Love it…her mother had Alzheimer’s…the stories she tells…my favorite book…”

I tried to catch a name or title but the pre-holiday rush of caffeine seekers, punctuated by jets of steamed milk and the shuffle of the cash drawer, made that impossible.

I had been feeling really down. My mother. The situation. The way the holidays turn dementia into delirium and back again, an emotional kaleidoscope of nonsense and frustration and more nonsense. I needed something, so I threw out a life buoy.

Returning my mug to the clear-your-table wash bin, I stuck my head behind the counter and whispered:

“Aine, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but what book were you talking about?”

“The Near, I mean, The Faraway Nearby.”

Can you repeat that?

“The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit.”eves-eve

I’ll never remember that, I mumbled to myself. I wrote it down and went to Barnes & Noble. The store didn’t have it in stock. I went to Schlow Centre Region Library. Not in their inventory, but available through an Interlibrary Loan. A few weeks later I got an email saying the book arrived in State College for pickup, on loan from Lebanon Valley College.

I spent the next few nights dog-earing pages, lightly marking paragraphs or sentences with pencil stars, underlines, or brackets—to be erased before returning. I was like a hungry hummingbird, sliding out that long tongue and curling it around the sweet, life-giving nectar. A book can be a workout. That’s how I found The Faraway Nearby.

For example, Solnit might start with a simple declaration. Then she draws parallels and intersections, and circumnavigates the subject, looking at it from a half-dozen viewpoints. It is exhausting. One minute she’s writing about Frankenstein and the apricots on the tree in her mother’s backyard, next she’s musing on The Snow Queen or the birth of an island off the coast of Iceland in the 1960s (yes, Iceland keeps popping into my life), and miraculously she bundles them into a coherent theme or revelation.

I read it simultaneously with Gypsying After 40 (a how-to on adventuring). I’ve got to believe the combination was serendipity: a search for getting through each day and a quest for what to do after—simple threads spinning, unraveling, and maybe weaving together again. Laurie Lynchsunset

Another Thing Learned From My Barista: “A-i-n-e is as Irish as you can get” and is pronounced “Awn-yah”.

Another Recommendation: A friend and I took my mom to the new musical La La Land. What a treat! It is edgy, yet nostalgic, with fabulous dancing and singing in the City of Stars.

Written on Slate: “Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds.” Rebecca Solnit

Apropos Slate Suggestion: My friend Terese gave me two boxes of slates from her old roof—and sent along a new quote. “I drink wine because my doctor says I shouldn’t keep things bottled up.”

Fleur-de-Package

“Wij kleden ze niet uit.”

It’s a Flemish saying that translates roughly as “We do not undress them” which, in the words of my favorite Ghent gent, means: “We pay a fair price for good produce.”

Only this time, it has a few other meanings.

A package notice arrived in our post office box the other day. If you’ve never been in the State College post office during Christmas season, let me take a moment to describe the scene. It’s not unusual to have 20 box-laden customers waiting in a line in the main section of the post office with one or two holding the glass door open to the postal box lobby to cram another dozen or so customers into the snaking line. And it’s 4:50 p.m., 10 minutes to closing. There are only two clerks working. Then a third appears and shouts, “Anyone here for a pickup?”

My lucky day. I was able to jump to the head of the line for Clerk No. 3. I handed her my slip. A few minutes later, she returned with a battered and tattered heap. Originally, it was a cardboard box about the size of two shoeboxes. But it had been slit and crushed and ripped and slashed to nakedness. Then, it was wrapped with clear plastic tape. Then twined with plastic cord and wrapped again with Shrink Wrap. Before Clerk No. 3 would hand it over, I had to sign an orange notice.

Apparently customs clerks on both sides of the Atlantic have a motto that’s quite contrary: “We do undress them,” rifling through the birthday-Christmas package for my mom and me from our Belgian family.gifts

If customs officers were expecting contraband, it must have been a disappointment. From Richard, there were Belgian melt-in-your-mouth chocolates and a smorgasbord of regional/European, edible delights such as canned Belgian “faux gras”, a tin of Portuguese sardines, and a package of Icelandic sea salt flakes. There was also a special treat from my rascally granddaughter Lais: Jimini’s Crickets. From Marina and Koen, a Naaktkalender. Now, you don’t need to know Flemish to figure that one, just pronounce each letter out loud—N-aa-k-t (naked) k-a-l-e-n-d-e-r (calendar).

The package was a gift of years and Christmases past, present, and to come.

The snack packet of pepper and dried tomato crickets brought back memories of this year’s visit to Penn State’s Great Insect Fair…and stirred up desires of looking forward to introducing my granddaughter to the wonders of nature. The company motto at Jimini’s is Think Bigger, Eat Smaller. Check out their products at www.jiminis.com (text available in English and French.) Jimini’s began in October 2012 with an idea, followed by crowd funding. Insect snacks were sold in France the following year and reached supermarkets in Belgium by 2014. All insects used in Jimini’s products are raised in Europe, and the snacks and energy bars are manufactured south of Paris. There are lots of sustainability reasons to intentionally include insects in our diet in the coming years, and, a few nutritional surprises. Crickets, for example, contain twice as much iron as spinach!

Faux Gras de Gaia (www.fauxgras.be —available in French and Dutch) is an animal friendly pate made of mushrooms, champagne, aromatics such as coriander, cinnamon, and cloves, and other organic ingredients. The product information says 200,000 ducks in Belgium are caged and force-fed until their livers swell 10 times their normal size to provide the country’s appetite for foie gras. For me, this gift recalls our first Christmas in Belgium with Marina’s au pair family: Christmas Eve dinner, Liege-style, with foie gras and champagne and midnight Mass in French. Directions say to refrigerate the pate before serving. The faux gras will be cut it into bite-size pieces and then each is placed on a slice of toast, for a single bite. My Chocolate & Zucchini blog guru, Clotilde Dusoulier, instructs that foie gras should never be “spread” on toast, a foie gras and Faux Gras faux pas.

The tin of Rio Azul sardines in olive oil from Setubal, Portugal, brought an immediate smile to my face. I recalled my travels in 2016, picnic lunching on sardines with good Portuguese bread and cheese, gazing at monoliths, cork trees, and beachside cliffs. The people of Setubal (south of Lisbon) have been preserving fish since Roman times. You can order your own at www.rioazul.pt (Website available in English, etc.)

The sea salt may be a gift of future travels, but how did Richard know? I’ve been daydreaming of visiting Iceland for years, prompted by a book I read on Icelandic ponies (A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse by Nancy Marie Brown). This fantasy raised its head once again just this month, listening to a friend’s tale of watching school children in Iceland save baby puffins. Infant puffins, it seems, fall out of their cliff nests with regularity, and students go on field trips to pick up the birds and return them to their nests. The beauty of Mother Nature is that puffin moms don’t care which baby is returned to which nest—they mother whoever ends up in their nest. On second thought, Richard probably just remembered my mom’s salt mill was getting low… Nordur Sea Salt Flakes are blended with handpicked Arctic rhubarb in Karlsey, Iceland, where sea salt has been harvested for 260 years. www.nordursalt.com

All of this discussion leads me to the coming year and the calendar from Marina and Koen, the Ghent food team (VZW Voedselteam) and the team’s motto: “Wij kleden ze niet uit.”

Apparently the food team farmers and food purveyors decided they would undress themselves. Most years they open their farms for tours or events, but this year they stripped off their overalls and work shirts to promote another form of transparency within their food system. The calendar idea struck a soft spot with me because I loved the 2003 British comedy Calendar Girls (starring my favorite Helen Mirren). Just this summer, I went to a local Boal Barn production of Calendar Girls in which a Master Gardener friend had a role. With the Naaktkalender hanging on my wall, it promises to be an interesting new year. Happy 2017. Laurie Lynch

Written on Slate: “Live each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” Henry David Thoreau

Fleur-de-Kabocha

A few weeks ago, Valerie wrote a comment about her favorite winter squash—kabocha—and I responded saying I didn’t know anything about it. Days later, I went to pick up my winter Plowshares. Eureka, kabocha!

Kabocha (pronounced kah BOH chah) is a dark green winter squash with splashes of orange, round and squat with a flattened top. Inside, hunter’s orange flesh surrounds a small seed cavity.

Botanically known as Cucurbita maxima, it is one of a family of winter squash that originated in South America. Like all winter squash, it is a powerhouse of vitamins A and C, with calcium, iron, and some vitamin B as well.

kabocha

Kabocha

Kabocha is drought tolerant and easy to grow in Pennsylvania. It is a warm season crop so it should be harvested before the first frost. To develop optimum flavor and texture after harvest, kabocha should be ripened for 13 days in a warm space, and then cured in cold storage for a month. Like all winter squash, it keeps for several weeks/months in cool, dry storage.

What I find fascinating is that the South American winter squash has a Japanese name. From what I’ve read, it was Portuguese sailors who introduced the squash to Japan in 1541. Centuries later, it is known throughout the Western World as Japanese pumpkin, and is intertwined in Asian foods and fable.

In Japan, they call it haku kabocha or “nutty pumpkin.” It is eaten around winter solstice (Dec. 21) with adzuki beans in a sweet soup believed to boost the immune system. The Japanese also serve it battered and fried with other tempura vegetables.

In the1980s, to keep up with the demand, the Japanese introduced kabocha to Tonga in an effort to create a cash crop. In the years since, kabocha has become Tonga’s primary export, the bulk of supply going to Japan and Korea. I must admit my ignorance, but I had no idea where Tonga was—I would have guessed somewhere in Africa. As I used to tease my kids, “I didn’t have Mr. Cottone for Geography,” so I had to look it up. Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom of 169 islands, east of Australia in the South Pacific.

OK, so back to the kabocha sitting in my Central Pennsylvania kitchen. Kabocha can be roasted, steamed, pan-fried, baked, braised, pureed. It has a sweet, buttery texture and holds its shape well, so it can be added in cubes to risotto, soup, stew, curry or pasta.

Some sources suggest microwaving kabocha for a few minutes before cutting to soften its hard shell, but with newly sharpened knives I had no problem cutting, peeling and chopping it uncooked.

After days of enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers, I was ready for a change in taste, so this Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash recipe on Chowhound caught my eye. As usual, I made a few adjustments. If red chili paste isn’t a staple in your kitchen, it should be, along with unsweetened coconut milk.

Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash

1 T. vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Salt to taste

2 red bell peppers, cut into strips

4 cloves garlic, minced

Peeled and chopped fresh ginger, 1”-2” piece

3 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste

1 can (13-14 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk

½ cup water

1 Tbsp. tamari

1 medium kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tsp. lime juice

Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and salt, cook and stir until onion softens. Add peppers, garlic and ginger, stir to combine and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add curry paste, stir for another minute. Then, add coconut milk, water, tamari, and bring to a simmer. Stir in squash, return to simmer and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat, add fresh-squeezed lime juice, and salt to taste.

Serve over steamed rice.

As the winter solstice approaches, perhaps it’s time to chow down on kabocha. Laurie Lynch

Follow-Up: Watermelon radishes are fun for salads, but they’ve taken on a new role in our kitchen. They are nice for roasted vegetable dishes. The radishes slices retain their bright magenta color but don’t bleed like beets do. And, the taste is mild.

And S’More: In my last blog, I mentioned s’mores. I opened the mail this week and there was a birthday card from my sister Leslie for my mom and me (we share the same birthday). It is a photo of a Sandy-lookalike and two other dogs toasting marshmallows over a campfire. Open it up and out pops…

smore-card

Fleur-de-FiredUp

lots-of-firewood

Oven, grill & Wille

What I learned as a Thanksgiving sous chef…

Cooking with fire is no big deal. The Indians did it. The Pilgrims did it. Heck, what Girl Scout hasn’t made S’mores over a campfire? And, yes, barbecue grills use fire…but I’ve always left that to the men in my life (sorry, Gloria).

My Chef-phew Wille has baked pizzas in his Nonno’s pizza oven and wanted to pull a “Jamie O” (that’s Jamie Oliver, the Brit celeb-chef-restaurateur) by cooking our Thanksgiving turkey in a wood-fed, outdoor oven. In November. In State College, PA.

I suggested Wille arrive on Wednesday to make sure he had enough wood. I knew that Richard had cut and stacked a lot of wood for the Secret Garden campfire before he left for Belgium, but I didn’t know if any of it would fit in the pizza oven, or if it would be dry enough.

Well, he arrived at Nonna’s house after dark on Wednesday and we couldn’t find a functioning flashlight, even with a drawer full of D batteries. Not one to worry, Wille brined the 16-pound heritage turkey he bought from a Virginia pig farmer. He cut the wings, thighs and drumsticks off the bird and placed them in one pot; the body in a second pot. All of the turkey pieces were submerged in a brine mixture: Sea salt, water, Harner (Wille’s uncle’s orchard) apple cider, molasses, chili peppers, and “aromatics” which included thyme, shallots, garlic, fennel seeds, coriander, and lavender (more about that later.)

roasting-turkey-neckpumpkinacorn-squash

Turkey & pumpkin roasting

“Aromatics” is the foodie term for herbs, spices, and anything within easy reach of the kitchen stove or the herb garden.

I went to bed. The last thing I said that night: “If you need more room in the basement refrigerator, just put some of my seeds on the ironing board.” (I store my leftover and collected seeds in the downstairs Frigidaire.)

Thursday, 9 a.m.: I pushed the wheelbarrow and led Wille to the firewood stacks. We gathered a load and returned to the oven. The rain started. I found a plastic garbage bag to over the wheelbarrow and gave Chef-phew Wille some elbow room (and a pack of waterproof matches).

Don’t assume. Be clear. Later that morning, I asked Wille what he put in the brine. He gave me the rundown and said, “Your rosemary looks and smells a lot like lavender.”

“Well, they are similar.”

A few minutes later, I saw him out in my herb garden, picking off bits of the lavender plants. “That is lavender, Wille. The rosemary is in a strawberry pot, inside.”

jacobs-cattle

Jacob’s Cattle Beans

Outdoor roasting and grilling isn’t just for turkeys. Wille pushed the fire to the back of the oven, and in went the body of the turkey, along with an Amish neck pumpkin, a Rebersburg acorn squash, and a foil-wrapped package of my Picasso shallots, still in their skins, drizzled with olive oil.

Next, Wille asked for white wine and olive oil, and another large pan. He took the thighs, wings and drumsticks out of the brine mixture and quickly browned each piece in the olive oil and wine over the grill. Then he returned each piece to the brine pot, put the lid on, and braised it in the kitchen oven on low heat for several hours.

Nothing is out of bounds for the determined chef. The night before, when Wille put the brining pots in the basement refrigerator, he found a mason jar of white and maroon mottled Jacob’s Cattle Gasless Beans…and the wheels started turning.

Thanksgiving morning, “Hey, do you mind if I cook up those beautiful dry beans of yours?”

I didn’t tell him this, but I had forgotten about them. “Sure, but save me a handful to plant.”

The beans were soaked and boiled and cooked. Aromatics added. He grabbed a packet of pancetta that I dole out by the tablespoon and dumped the entire thing into a frying pan.

turnips-rosemary-honey-glaze

Turnips & Rosemary Honey Glaze

Improvisation knows no bounds. My mother, who had a gourmet kitchen shop for almost 30 years, has dozens of pots, pans, and cooking gadgets. One of the family treasures looks like a frying pan with a long handle—except that there are quarter-size holes punched into the bottom—perfect for roasting chestnuts. We had no chestnuts, but Wille grabbed it anyway, repurposing it. He tossed in a shredded Chinese cabbage and quick-cooked the slivers of cabbage over the grill, giving them a smoky flavor.

There are never enough pans when there is a chef in the kitchen. And that’s the primary reason for a sous chef—someone has to wash and dry all of the pans and utensils.

Simplicity is sweet. Wille sliced our Plowshare turnips, sautéed them in olive oil, with generous clippings of the real rosemary. To finish off the dish, he drizzled my Spring Mills floral honey over top creating Turnips with a Rosemary Honey Glaze.

And those Picasso shallots roasting in the pizza oven? After they cooled a bit, it was my job to squeeze them out of their skins so they could be stirred into the heirloom bean and pancetta dish, which turned out to be one of my favorites. Laurie Lynch

It Takes a Village: Wille’s mom Larissa brought family favorites: bowls of broccoli and corn. His brother Andre brought wine and two pumpkin pies, brother Nick brought a crockpot of mashed potatoes, and brother Leon brought beer and made several trips to the woodpile to feed the hungry fire. I made kale salad, cranberry chutney, an apple pie, and washed a lot of pots and pans.

Fleur-de-Plowshare

micah

Micah

In this season of Thanksgiving, Bethany and Micah are on my list.

Last September, our Master Gardener group took a tour of their Plowshare Produce in McAlevys Fort.

What we saw were rows and rows of some of the most beautiful vegetables I have ever seen stretching over three acres. Micah showed us their hoop houses and fields. Nearby, sheep grazed on the rest of the farm. Bethany talked about how they met in Washington, D.C., she working as a farm and food advocate, he working in a soup kitchen. They spent two years in a farm apprenticeship and then decided to come back to her family’s 60-Acre farm in Huntingdon County to raise a family and farm the land.

They’ve had the CSA for eight years and the pleasure of being able to raise their two sons there while earning a living. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm sells seasonal shares, you pay upfront, they use the money to buy seeds and other supplies, and each week, or two, shareholders get a portion of the harvest.

Bethany showed us a sample of a share basket. As she was talking, toddler Daniel couldn’t resist. He grasped a Hakurei turnip in his tiny hand and took several bites. Then, he switched course and started on a red bell pepper. What an advertisement! Bethany smiled and didn’t skip a beat as she talked about the email newsletter they write, the seeding charts that enable them to grow a rotation of 50 types of vegetables, and their successes and failures in the field.

A few days later, I emailed Bethany and asked to be included on her email newsletter list, even though I wasn’t a member of the CSA. No problem, she said. So for several weeks I read about the boys splashing in Stone Creek, the steam that runs through their farm, looking for crayfish. She wrote about the abundance of the fields, bursting with goodness. Of Micah working into the evening light, growing weary from harvesting 50 bushels of frost-sweetened carrots. I got swept up in the poetry of the farm and rural living, and got a chuckle when she talked about the valley’s hard frost…”good riddance, galinsoga.” (Bethany and I share distain for the annual weed that torments vegetable gardens.)

The newsletter also shares how-to storage and prep tips for under utilized vegetables such as rutabaga and parsnip, and gives operating instructions for vegetables you have never tried, such as Watermelon Radishes. Bethany suggests peeling their skin, cutting them into thin round slices and then cutting the slices in half to see why they’re called watermelon radishes—they are bright magenta on the inside and pale green on the outside. And, she features several recipes. One I’m saving for next August is called Farmer Mike’s Zucchini Crabcakes.

Then, I got the issue featuring their Winter Share program. Every two weeks, from mid-November through January, they deliver their CSA produce to several locations, including a Mennonite church about two miles from our home. I’ve always avoided CSAs because I still grow so much in my garden throughout the season…but a winter share would be perfect for us when all I have in the ground are shallots and garlic buried under a blanket of leaves snoozing until spring, and a few pots of herbs.

plowshare-spread

Plowshare Swag

Ta-da-ta-da, our first Plowshare Produce cornucopia! I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of our Plowshare Food Pyramid—well, more of a swag, the rounded sides of turnips and beets and watermelon radishes don’t make for easy stacking…

Besides the wholesome goodness that filled two refrigerator vegetable bins and a cool storage area in the garage, we’re set for Thanksgiving. My chef-phew Wille is coming up from Washington, D.C., with a heritage turkey he plans to roast in Nonno’s outdoor pizza oven, and I just can’t wait to see what he does with our Plowshare. Happy Thanksgiving! Laurie Lynch

A Recipe for Now:

Beet Salad with Caramelized Onions and Feta

(from Mama’s Minutia)

4 cups boiled or roasted beets, cubed

2 large onions

3 oz. feta cheese

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

¾ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

5 tbsp. olive oil

While the beets are cooking, cut onions into thin slices, then quarter the stack of slices. Heat some olive oil and add onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir on medium high heat until they start to blacken. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 30 minutes until the onions are caramelized. Mix dressing ingredients from vinegar to oil, toss the beets with the dressing and sprinkle with the onions, feta and pine nuts.

harvest

Can you spot Chippy in the upper right? Look for a shiny black eye.

Stocking Up: My mother and I had a wonderful treat this week. A chipmunk was helping himself to the orange berries from an espaliered Pyracantha shrub above our deck. (He’s braver than I. There’s a reason Pyracantha’s common name is “firethorn” as I found out one year pruning it and ending up with a painful rash on my arms.) Anyway, this little guy was comical as he climbed the branches and stuffed his cheek pouches with berries. Sometimes he disappeared, probably stashing his harvest in his little den. Then he’d return for more and gobble them down right in front of our picture window.

chippyWritten on Slate: “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” Erma Bombeck