Summer Sojourn at Bailey Island

Bailey Island

A perfect summer day on Bailey Island — beginning with wild Maine blueberries for breakfast, a visit to the Brunswick Farmers Market to stock up, an easy-going bike ride to the furthest end of the island where we nibbled on wild radish blossoms and seed pods, a walk around the Giant Stairs to see the basalt formations, and ending with a memorably delicious dinner at Tao Yuan Restaurant. August is here, dear friends, enjoy every minute of it.

Above: Mackerel Cove at Bailey Island, Maine.

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Celia Thaxter’s Garden, Appledore Island

Celia Thaxter's Garden, Appledore Island

“At the Isles of Shoals, among the ledges of the largest island, Appledore, lies the small garden… Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer. A lonely child, living on the lighthouse island ten miles away from the mainland, every blade of grass that sprang out of the ground, every humblest weed, was precious in my sight…” — Celia Thaxter, “An Island Garden”

Earlier this summer, I had the chance to visit the site of Celia Thaxter’s garden on Appledore Island. With its straight borders and paths, the garden is planted mostly with annuals that she’d fill her parlor with, as well as the nearby Appledore Hotel. There’s something about being on an island and its surround of open water that takes one out of oneself, and, though visitors frequently come just for the garden, the island itself was a source of inspiration for Celia’s many guests.

Celia Thaxter's Garden, Appledore Island Beyond the garden, the landscape here is rugged, as a visit to the Devil’s Dance Floor, one of the island’s many coves, attests — ample evidence of the feat Celia accomplished in creating her “little old-fashioned garden.” Appledore is now home to the Shoals Marine Laboratory, which continues Celia’s tradition of welcoming visitors through its program of workshops and tours. Though this weekend is the last of the garden-specific tours, the docent-led natural and cultural history ones also includes Celia’s garden, with several dates still available in August.

An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter with illuminations and pictures by Childe Hassam
About Celia Thaxter’s Garden, Shoals Marine Lab
Celia Thaxter’s Garden Tours, Shoals Marine Lab
Appledore Island Walking Tour Cruises, UNH Marine Docents
UNH Marine Docent Program

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Finding Local: Kittery Community Market

Kittery Community Market

A sunny midday stroll to the weekly Kittery Community Market ended with a basket full of sparkling fresh lettuce from Greenlaw Gardens, lacinato kale and kohlrabi from Bumbleroot Organic Farm, Maine Grains whole wheat pasta and polenta from Four Star Fresh, topped with a cheery bunch of sunflowers from Zach’s Farm. Tonight’s dinner will be pasta tossed with shredded kale, and a kohlrabi and greens salad to round things out. This is just an inkling of the bounty to come — be sure to make time to enjoy the summer while it’s here, dear friends.

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Growing Local

One of my first encounters with Great Works Regional Land Trust (GWRLT) and their work in conserving farmland was during a walk at Beach Plum Farm, where their office is also located. This old New England salt-water farm in Ogunquit overlooks nearby dunes and ocean and, as if the spectacular setting wasn’t enough, discovering the thriving community garden in the middle of it secured a place in my memory. It was the height of the season then, and a chance meeting of a garden member gave rise to a generous offer of tomatoes from his plot. Imagine my delight as he filled my bare arms with as many of them, still warm from the day’s sun, as I could carry.

GWRLT has a history of protecting farmland that dates back to 1989 when it preserved Backfields Farm, and is accelerating its efforts as agricultural land comes under increasing pressure. By working with farm owners, many of whom are aging beyond the desire or ability to continue farming, GWRLT is seeking to protect 1,500 acres of farmland on 13 farms, located in Berwick, South Berwick, North Berwick, Eliot, and Wells. This year, GWRLT established a partnership with Maine Farmland Trust, a force for farmland protection statewide, to strengthen its farmland protection efforts.

As a kick-off for the partnership, GWRLT and MFT will co-host a screening of “Growing Local” on the evening of Thursday, June 18th, starting at 6:30 pm at the Hilton-Winn Farm in Cape Neddick. The film was co-produced by Maine filmmaker Bridget Besaw and MFT, and explores the growing pains of the local food movement and the uncertain fate of the farmers and farmland that keep it alive. A panel, moderated by MFT President John Piotti, and including Amanda Beal, Policy and Research Fellow at MFT, and other farm and food experts, will lead a community discussion to explore both opportunities and challenges. I’m honored to be asked to join this panel and hope to see you there.

Photograph of Beach Plum Farm courtesy of Great Works Regional Land Trust.

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Finding Local: Black Birch’s Kitchen Garden

Black Birch's Kitchen Garden

While walking to The Black Birch for dinner, it’s easy to miss their kitchen garden tucked away and to the side. As it turns out, this small strip of land is chock full of the season’s first offerings, such as French and icicle radishes, tender spinach, and tiny beets with their greens. It was especially exciting to see Alabama Blue collards and Lincoln peas coming up, planted from seed courtesy of this year’s Heirloom Harvest Project. Thanks to Gavin for the quick tour — looking forward to all of this fresh goodness making its way onto their menu.

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Pea Shoot Pesto with Green Garlic and Mint

Pea Shoot Pesto

This is the time of year when we’re still slightly between seasons. We’re weary of sturdy winter fare but much of what we crave resides in future tense and is yet to come. We make do with what we have, and there are many small joys to be found in that, such as the tangle of tender pea shoots from Meadow’s Mirth that I’d brought home from the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. After considering the possibilities, I settled on a pesto, and blended the tendrils with a couple of stalks of softly pungent green garlic from Riverside Farm Stand with a handful of bright mint from the garden. This spring-time concoction tastes hauntingly of sweet peas, stays verdantly green, and will go into a week’s worth of dishes — to dress a wheat berry salad, stirred into risotto or a pot full of pasta, smeared onto a flatbread or sandwich, and, as a special treat, a generous dollop on a luxurious piece of wild caught salmon.

Pea Shoot Pesto

Pea shoots are the early vining tendrils and leaves of the pea plant, and are also known as pea greens. Shoots are typically harvested from the growing point of snow pea vines, although they can be from any type of garden pea. Look for pea shoots in spring, early summer and fall. When they do appear at the farmers’ market, their season is short, as peas don’t grow well when daytime temperatures are above 65°F. Pea shoots are best used within a day or two of harvesting — to store these fragile greens, keep them refrigerated, wrapped in paper towels in a closed bin. If pea shoots aren’t available, pea sprouts or micro greens may be used instead.

Pea Shoot Pesto

½ cup pinenuts (or almonds, walnuts)
6 stalks green garlic or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups pea shoots, roughly chopped
½ cup mint leaves
¼ cup grated parmesan
Sea salt to taste
⅓ to ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

– In a food processor or blender, add pine nuts and green garlic, and pulse until roughly chopped. Add pea shoots and mint, and pulse to combine. Add salt to taste. With processor or blender running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Process until blended to desired thickness. Makes 2 to 2½ cups.

Local ingredients: Pea shoots from Meadow’s Mirth; green garlic from Riverside Farm; mint from the garden.

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Finding Local: Maine Grains Flour and Grains

Finding Local: Maine Grains

A brand new display of Maine Grains just appeared at Philbrick’s Fresh Market in Portsmouth — including their whole wheat flour, sifted wheat flour, wheat berries and cracked oats, all from Aroostook County and stone ground at the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan — making it easier than ever to cook and bake with local flour and grains.

Finding Local: Finding Local

The back of each bag lists the variety of wheat and where it’s grown. Magog is a hard spring red wheat, with a protein level of 11.62%, which makes it excellent for baking, and is approximate to what’s frequently referred to as all-purpose flour. The sifted whole wheat, with 86% of the bran extracted makes for a lighter flour that produces a loftier bread, while still retaining some of its nutritious qualities.

Finding Local

Even the oats have a name, and the Alymer is known for its plump kernel and high yields. The larger grain makes it particularly suited to milling, with the cracked oats cooking up similarly to the steel cut ones. While Somerset Grist Mill holds scheduled tours, one of the best times to visit is during the annual Kneading Conference and Artisan Bread Fair, now in its 9th year in Skowhegan, and coming up July 30–August 1.

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