2014 Seed Notes

2014 Seed Notes

“There is a natural flow to the years,
and gardens here to match.”
— Russell Libby, “Which Gardens to Plant”

As we plan for the next growing season, we’re keeping in mind our intention to simplify. It’ll be our seventh season, and we’re now turning our attention towards refining rather than expanding. Our new mantra: Grow less, and grow it well. It’s easy to get carried away by glossy seed catalogs that arrive at a time when we’re most susceptible, but paring down the planting list does have its benefits: a more manageable garden, less chance for loss and waste, increased space for rotating the beds, and allowing the soil to rest between plantings.

Using trial and error as a guide, we try to select what works best with our garden’s micro-climate, which consists of a long and cold spring followed by a short burst of summer warmth, then a prolonged and temperate fall ending with the first hard frost. We start seeds around mid-March, a later schedule than others, then hold them back while we patiently wait for the ground to warm up and the last frost to pass. Once things are in the ground, we can expect some extra growing time in fall that helps to make up for the late start.

Even so, there are some vegetables and varieties that simply require a longer season than we have. We try to choose things that work within these constraints, such as smaller sized tomatoes, eggplants, and winter squash, and depend on our local farmers’ markets to fill in the rest. Of the vegetables we dropped last season — beets, parsnips, eggplant, and salad turnips — it was also a question of space and timing. We did miss having our own eggplants, though, and it’s very brief shelf life makes it a compelling vegetable to return to the list.

Other ways of coping with with our garden’s particular needs is through buying seed from regional sources, and by saving our own from plants as they adapt. So far, we’ve been able to save seed from shell peas, filet green beans, 3 varieties of garlic, and 2 varieties of winter tomatoes. Still, like most gardeners, we can’t resist something new and we’re adding potato onions as this season’s challenge.

BI – Botanical Interests
F – Fedco Seeds
HM – High Mowing Organic Seeds
K - Kitazawa Seed Company
SI – Seeds from Italy
SS – Seed Savers Exchange

Alliums (see also Leeks)
Rossa Lunga di Tropea (F); planted too late last season to fully develop, try a second time. Add Potato Onions (F); plant in fall, possibly with garlic. Perennial plantings of chives, garlic chives, and Egyptian Walking Onions. Some success with ramps; left as is to further establish.

Arugula (see also Salad Greens)
Narrowed last year’s list of 4 varieties to 2 — Arugula OG (F) for main season planting, and Ice-bred OG (F) for early spring and late fall/winter extension.

Purple Passion continues to out-produce Jersey Supreme; work on soil fertility and bed maintenance.

Beans & Peas
Masai filet green bean (saved seed); Cascine (SI), Aguadulce (SI), and Superaguadulce favas (SI); Green Arrow OG (F) and Coral (F, co-op members) shell peas. The 3 favas mature at different rates, Cascine seems to do best here and has longest season. Season too short for successive plantings of peas, plant all at one time this spring.

Brassicas & Chicories
Spring planting of Spring Raab (HM) and Fun Jen (F). Fall planting of Cima di Rapa Quarantina (SI), Hon Tsai Tai (HM), Italiko Rosso Chicory (F), Tatsoi OG (F), Puntarelle Stretta (SI), Catalogna Brindisi (SI). Selection depends on what else is growing at the time and how they’ll be cooked; refine list as we replace seed.

Napoli (HM) for spring and fall/winter extension. Of all the carrots we’ve tried, this one seems to do the best for us; stores well.

Brilliant (F); smaller than usual heads last season, purchased new seed.

Rainbow (HM) for entire season; Fordhook Giant (HM) for fall/winter extension.

Boothby’s Blonde OG (F) for slicing; National Pickling or other purchased seedling for preserving.

Purchase seedlings for Fairy Tale or other small Asian variety. Pingtung Long (F), first time growing from seed, as back-up.

Finale (HM) and Orion (HM), chosen for flavor and bolt-resistance.

Phillips (F), Music (F), and Rossa di Sulmona (SI); all from saved seed.

Siberian (HM) and Red Russian (HM) for entire season; Lacinato (HM) for fall/season extension.

Siegfried (F, co-op members) and Bandit (HM); plant only for winter/season extension as don’t cook with during early fall; overwinters left in-ground.

Shishito Pepper (HM); vigorous producer, reduce to two plants. Peppers turn red as they mature, may be dried.

Yukon Gold (F); continue growing in containers. May change to Keuka Gold depending on this season’s outcome.

For spring/summer: Valentine’s Day Mix (HM), French Breakfast (HM), Cherry Belle (HM), and Cincinnati Market (SS). For fall/winter storage: Japanese Long Scarlet (K), Miyashige White Daikon (HM), Watermelon (HM) and Green Meat (F). Refine list as we need to replace seed.

Chipman’s Canada Red and MacDonald; need to divide.

Salad Greens
For spring/summer: Gourmet Lettuce (HM),  Gourmet Baby (BI), Farmer’s Market Blend (BI), Red Planet (HM), Misticanza di Lattughe SI). For fall/season extension: Winter Lettuce Mix (F) and Misticanza di Lattughe Autunno-Inverno (SI). Continue second season with Agretti (SI); seed heavily then thin.

Italian White and Sunrise Lemon (HM).

Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG (F) and Zephyr (F) for summer; Zeppelin Delicata OG (F) and possibly Spaghetti Squash (HM) for winter; Tromboncino Summer Squash (F) as dual purpose summer and winter. We’ve still 4 Tromboncinos, well suited to winter storage.

Sun Gold and one other cherry (purchased seedlings). Continue Aprile and John Forti’s Piennolo from our seed saved from last season. Drop Ponderosa, season too short to reach maturity before harvest, and prefer flavor of red varieties of these winter tomatoes.

2013 Seed Notes
2012 Seed Notes

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Torta Verde — Chard and Potato Tart

Torta Verde — Chard and Potato Tart

We’ve had this Torta Verde, a rustic tart from Liguria, bookmarked for years, but were always hesitant to tackle it because of the dough. It’s meant to be rolled out paper thin, as if it were a sheet of pasta, then filled with a savory mix of chard, potatoes, feta and eggs. This was as much a way to make the flour go further as it was for its aesthetic appeal. It wasn’t until we came across a video of another version of this tart that we understood the dough’s particularly stretchy qualities, or, in baker-speak, it’s extensibility.

With this in mind, we chose to use King Arthur’s Italian-Style flour for this torta. It’s an American version of what is known in Italy as 00 flour, and its low protein levels makes for a silky dough that is easy to shape, and bakes up light and tender. The dough will be easier to roll if you let it rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours, even better overnight. Traditionally, the torta should be even thinner than we’ve accomplished here — we’re still getting the hang of working with this supple dough. In keeping with this tart’s frugal origins, we used some leftover spinach in place of the chard; just make sure that whatever green you use is thoroughly drained. Though the torta was considered “poor people’s food in the Ligurian backcountry,” the delicious results are anything but.

 Torta Verde — Chard and Potato Tart

1¼ cups flour, sifted
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup water

8 to 10 large leaves Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
Sea Salt
1 medium potato, boled, peeled, and finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1¼ cup crumbled feta
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to brush crust

- To make dough: Mix together flour and salt in a large bowl. Drizzle oil into flour, mixing with a fork, then sprinkle in up to ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until dough just holds together. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Shape dough into a ball, wrap or cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.
- To make filling: Put chard into a colander, sprinkle with 1½ tablespoon salt, toss to mix, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together potatoes, onions, parsley, and feta in a bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Press chard against the colander to squeeze out juices, discard the juices and add chard to potato mixture. Mix in eggs and 2½ tablespoons oil and set aside.
- Heat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough until 18″ in diameter, and place on a piece of parchment paper cut large enough to fit a 14″ pizza pan. Place the filling in the center of the dough, and spread to within several inches of the edge of the dough. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling and towards the center, forming overlapping pleats; gently press the tart to fill the edges. Slide the parchment paper with the tart onto the pizza pan, and lightly brush the edge of the crust with additional olive oil. Bake until golden, about 35 minutes.

Adapted from “Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian” by the Editors of Saveur Magazine.

Local ingredients: Spinach (in place of chard) from Hollister Family Farm; Yukon Gold potatoes from Riverside Farm; onions from Black Kettle Farm; feta from Flying Goat Farm; and eggs from Mona Farm.

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Juliette of the Herbs

“One of the main purposes of having gardens is that this garden is your teacher and your friend.” — Juliette de Baïracli Levy, “Juliette of the Herbs”

We’ve long been enamored of the culinary uses of herbs, and a recent illness has us more closely considering their healing powers as well. A little research led us to this film on Juliette de Baïracli Levy, an English herbalist who gathered her vast knowledge of the subject from peasant cultures around the world, with a special interest in Gypsy lore. Here in Maine, we’ve a direct link to this remarkable woman and her teachings through the equally inspiring Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals, who learned from Juliette firsthand.

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3 Sisters Vegetarian Chili, with Winter Squash, Corn and Beans

3 Sisters Vegetarian Chili, with Winter Squash, Corn and Beans

While we’ve started planning for the new growing season, we’re still eating from the last, and this 3 Sisters Vegetarian Chili with Winter Squash, Corn and Beans makes good use of what we have left in storage. To the traditional Native American trio we added onion, carrots and garlic from the root cellar; and dried beans, and home canned tomatoes and corn from the pantry. The combination made for a savory, satisfying pot of spicy chili, warming enough to make us forget that it’s still winter outside.

The beans we used were Boston Roman, a kidney-shaped heirloom from Baer’s Best, the only grower of this unusual variety in New England. It’s large size, nutty flavor, and ability to hold it’s shape when cooked gave additional heft to the meatless mix. We had both frozen and canned corn at our disposal, and ended up using a jar of corn relish since it also contained red and green peppers; just drain it before adding. If you like, some toasted cornmeal tossed in at the end will thicken the chili and add a hint of smokiness.

3 Sisters Vegetarian Chili, with Winter Squash, Corn and Beans

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut in small dice
1 red or green pepper, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons ground chili, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart canned tomatoes, chopped or crushed, with liquid
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups cooked beans, with pot liquor
2 cups corn kernels
2 cups diced winter squash (about ¾ pound)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped red onion, grated cheese (jack, queso fresco, cheddar) for garnish

- Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy pot and add the onion, carrot and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender and beginning to color. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute. Add the ground chili and cumin, and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to stick to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste, and let cook briefly, about a minute.  Add the chopped tomatoes with their liquid, oregano, and salt to taste, and simmer until mixture is thick and fragrant, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Stir in the cooked beans, and bring back to a simmer, then add the winter squash and corn. If letting sit overnight for the flavors to develop, remove pot from heat and let cool; the winter squash and corn will finish cooking through reheating. For serving the same day, continue simmering until the squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. The chili should be thick, but can be thinned out with water. Adjust seasonings, and serve with diced red onion, scallions or cilantro, and grated cheese.

Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman.

Local ingredients: Boston Roman beans from Baer’s Best; onions from Black Kettle Farm; carrots from Red Manse Farm; cheddar from Brookford Farm; home canned tomatoes and paste, corn relish; Tromboncino winter squash and garlic from the garden.

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Open Hearth Cooking Class: Coffins

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

“Raise a coffin neatly of hot paste, bone your turkey, season it with savory spices, add one pound of ham, a little force meat, a little grave and half a pound of butter, close up the pie and ornament it, and set it in the oven, where two hours will bake it.”
— Mary Smith, “The Complete House-Keeper and Professed Cook”, 1772

If you happen to be in possession of a house with an oversized fireplace, learning to cook on an open hearth is a skill worth acquiring. With a focus on 17th and 18th century food, Sandie Tarbox, an historic foodways culinarian, offers a series of hands-on classes cooking on an open hearth and the attached bake oven in her Newmarket home. The classes include an assortment of dishes selected from historic sources, and the one we attended was on the topic of coffins, a colonial version of pie. During this era, the technique of cooking food in a pastry shell was mainly to serve as a baking dish, storage container, and serving vessel, as we would soon discover.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

Our small group of six split into two to tackle the day’s menu: Two types of coffins, one filled with turkey and another called Lumber Pye; Fried Beets and Carrot Pudding to accompany; and Custard Apples for dessert.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking 2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The filling for Turkey Coffin — turkey breast, onions, chicken livers, mushrooms, hazelnuts, thyme, and a glug of brandy — is cooked in the hearth.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The Turkey Coffin is assembled with a puff paste made of flour, water, salt, and butter, then shaped into decorative shield.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking 2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The Turkey Coffin is then placed in the bake oven next to the hearth; roast beets are ready to be breaded and fried.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The second coffin, Lumber Pye, is a rich and complex mix of savory and sweet ingredients: Boiled eggs; a mix of ground meat seasoned with nutmeg, cloves, ginger, parsley and thyme, formed into small sausages, stuffed with marrow and wrapped in caul; fresh figs and grapes; and covered with a creamy gravy.

 2013 Open Hearth Cooking 2013 Open Hearth Cooking

A hot water crust, the traditional dough for hand-raised pies, is formed into a high coffin. A carved roller is used for a second piece of dough.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The decorative piece is attached to the coffin wall with egg wash.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking 2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The coffin is filled with layers of sausages, eggs and fruit.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The Lumber Pye — topped, decorated, and ready for the bake oven.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking 2013 Open Hearth Cooking

Making Carrot Pudding: Grated carrots are mixed with bread crumbs, eggs, cream, and spices, then bound in a heavily buttered and floured cheesecloth, and submerged in a pot of water and left to boil for an hour.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

The humble result is delicious all the same, and tastes similar to Indian Pudding.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking 2013 Open Hearth Cooking

For dessert, Custard Apples: Cored apples are coated with whipped egg whites, dusted with powdered sugar, then filled with a rich custard and baked in the remaining embers.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

After the flurry of activity, we take a moment to tidy up and set the table, then sit down and enjoy the results of the day’s labors in one another’s company.

2013 Open Hearth Cooking

To find out more about Open Hearth Cooking Workshops with Sandie, visit www.colonialtable.com. In addition, Strawbery Banke Museum is also offering a series of Hearth Cooking Workshops this season. Click here for full slideshow >

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2.24.14 In Winter’s Grip

2.24.14 In Winter's Grip

“You can’t get too much winter in the winter.”
— Robert Frost

2.24.14 In Winter's Grip

Others may complain and flee to warmer climes. We, on the other hand, side with Robert Frost.

2.24.14 In Winter's Grip

The third storm within a week’s time left the tress outlined with snow, creating a canopy of white light.

2.24.14 In Winter's Grip

As the temperature rose, the snow fell from the branches, landing in soft wet plops on the ground below.

2.24.14 In Winter's Grip

A brief thaw on Saturday presented an opportunity to dig out the covered beds and see if anything’s still alive. Nothing left but 4 hardy leeks. Time to hit the seed catalogs.

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Roasted Winter Squash, Brussels Sprout and Apple Stuffing

Roasted Winter Squash, Brussels Sprout and Apple Stuffing

We really didn’t know what to call this, but it seemed unfair to just call it stuffing. There’s nothing really being stuffed, and it’s far too good to be relegated to the side. Nomenclature aside, Roasted Winter Squash, Brussels Sprout and Apple Stuffing tastes as it sounds — a savory mix of winter vegetables, toasted bread and herbs that will remind you of Thanksgiving. That it’s also vegan is almost incidental.

Roasted Winter Squash, Brussels Sprout and Apple Stuffing

From the original recipe, we swapped out ingredients to suit what we had on hand, and used an entire loaf of semolina bread made especially for this. The major change was to cook everything in the same large, shallow roasting pan. After the stuffing reached sufficient brownness, all that was needed to round out the meal was a green salad and a milky sphere of freshly made mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm. If there should be any leftover, it makes a fine breakfast topped with a poached or fried egg.

Roasted Winter Squash, Brussels Sprout and Apple Stuffing

10 slices hearty bread (such as crusty sourdough, cornbread, or whole grain), cubed and left out to partially dry for 1 to 2 days
Olive oil
1 pound butternut squash, cubed
1 pound brussels sprouts, halved
1 medium apple, cut into a ½ inch dice
2 to 3 red or yellow onions, thickly sliced lengthwise
2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or ½ teaspoon dried sage
⅓ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1½ cups vegetable stock (plus extra as needed)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

- Heat oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a large, shallow roast pan, them place the pan in the oven to briefly heat up, about 1 minute. Add the cubed bread to the pan, toss with the hot oil, and cook until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally for even browning. Remove the toasted bread cubes to a bowl and set aside.
- Toss the squash, brussels sprouts, apples, and red onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place the vegetables in the pan and roast until they are tender and taking on color, becoming slightly singed. Remove pan from oven and reduce heat to 350°F.
- Add the toasted bread cubes, herbs, nuts, and vegetable broth to the roasted vegetables. Stir the mixture until the broth is almost entirely absorbed by the toasted bread. Place pan in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until top is browned. Serve hot.

Adapted from Food52.

Local ingredients: Brussels sprouts from Heron Pond Farm; apples from New Hampshire Cider Works; red onions from Black Kettle Farm; Tromboncino winter squash from the garden; homemade semolina bread and vegetable stock.

Submitted to YeastSpotting.

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