The heat and humidity of these last weeks of summer has me taking dinner down to its barest essentials. Still, there’s a kind of luxuriousness that remains in paring things down this far. Just five ingredients, plus some olive oil and black pepper — round zucchini from Sandy Hill Farm cut into wedges like an apple, sautéed with fresh Cippolini onions from Connolly’s Organics and crisp garlic from Touching Earth Farm, all from the York (Gateway) Farmers’ Market, then finished with some mint from the garden, and served with a lusciously oozing globe of buratta from Maplebrook Farm. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Enjoy every bit of this long weekend, dear friends, there’s much to savor.
During a summery stroll through Kittery at twilight, we came upon the hops vine that grows vigorously in the middle of Foreside, now heavily laden with piney blossoms. Though we’re more familiar with their use in flavoring beer, other parts of this perennial herb are also edible — especially the young shoots but also leaves, harvested while at their tenderest in spring. For the moment, I’m imagining the blossoms taken singly and deep fried, battered or not.
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.
“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.
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
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.
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.