Archive for the ‘Lucky finds’ Category


About two weeks ago my friend Anna, who lives in Western Virginia, posted this on her Facebook status:

“Dear wineberries:  I love you, I love you, I love you.  I wish I bought more of you.”

Now I had never heard of a wineberry, so I asked her what on earth they were.   She pointed me to a Wikipedia entry about them, and my response was:  “Oh, you mean that big thicket of mysterious berries that are growing the in middle of my yard?”

Turns out, I had wineberries right under my nose and had no idea.  It seems that lots of people mistake them for wild raspberries, though they actually aren’t native.  Have you seen these growing and thought they were raspberries?

You aren’t alone!  Apparently they are native to China, Japan, and Korea and were imported as a fruit/ornamental crop and, like many imported things, turned feral.  It certainly grows vigorously in our little patch, and in parts of Virginia is runs entirely rampant.

I’ve been watching these little fellas grow for a while, as they start life wrapped tightly in a tiny, hairy husk and they only open when they are just about ripe.  Quite unusual and striking.  They also have a slightly sticky sap on them, which actually helps when you are picking them, but builds up on your fingers.  It is very easy to wipe off, though.

Here’s a just-opening bunch:

Held side by side to a conventional raspberry, they really do look quite different.  They have  a squat, domed shape to them unlike the pointed tip of a raspberry.  I was going to take a picture of them next to each other, but by the time I walked over to my camera with the three raspberries I was able to dig out of the thick foliage, they had somehow fallen into my mouth.  Whoops!

The most striking difference is the color.  Where raspberries are dull and opaque, wineberries practically sparkle.  They look like rubies.  This picture was taken at dusk with a heavily clouded sky, and you can still see how gloriously they shine:

And of course, they taste amazing.  I think I like them more than raspberries.  They have a more subtle flavor- on the sweet side, but you can pick them a little early for tartness.  They are amazingly juicy.  Eating a handful of them is like taking a sip of water.  They dissolve in your mouth leaving behind a lingering sweetness that can’t be beat.

I’m having a love affair with these berries- I think they may have replaced blackberries in my heart.  You may already be eating them in your own yard (or know of a patch on the side of the road), but if you aren’t, they are probably worth cultivating.  I know now that I can never live without these berries again!  From what I can tell they have no pests, no diseases, and no drawbacks (if you can keep on top of their natural ramblyness).  Oh, and they are heavy producers.

I love my farm!


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First, the ethics.

So just say that there is a stand of magnificent, overburdened raspberry canes about 300 yards from your house.  Say these raspberry canes are behind a stone wall in an obviously disused and abandoned farm, complete with derelict heavy garden equipments and the skeleton of a greenhouse.  Say these raspberries have been picked by no-one.

Say the only way in is guarded by a big old “NO TRESPASSING” sign hung across the only entrance.  What do you do?

While you ponder this, let me thank the raspberry gods for the sprawling nature of their lovely plants, and the builders of the stone wall, who made it low enough for several canes to hang over.

There were more, but 300 yards is a long way to go with these beauties winking at me.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, OUR raspberries (of the black variety) are just starting to trickle in, and I picked the first outliers of the blueberries.  Ok, maybe not the first, because those 7 or 8 got eaten right at the bush this weekend.  Truly, I’m impressed these stayed alive long enough to be photographed.

Asparagus is still growing, though it is certainly slowing down.  We’ll only get a few more harvests out of it this year.  It has taught me one thing, though.  The MOMENT I settle down in a place I know I’m going to be for a while, it will be the first thing I plant.

Want to show off your harvests?  Go visit Daphne!

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Christmas surprise

Don’t you love surprise packages in the mail?  I wasn’t expecting anything from my dear friend Elizabeth, who manages a historic garden in South Carolina, but she really came though for me with my Christmas present.  I was delighted when I opened a small package from her and a plethora of seeds neatly wrapped in little papers fell out!

Some of them came from her garden, I know, so it will be fascinating to see how they do up here.  Here’s the wonderful things that she sent me:

  • Speckled Glory Butterbeans
  • Rattlesnake Pole Beans
  • Jenny Lind Muskmelon
  • Moon and Stars Watermelon (an especially welcome variety, as I was planning on buying some of these to grow next year!)
  • Alabama Red Okra
  • Cowhorn Okra
  • Indigo (the plant that makes the blue dye)
  • Tropical Milkweed

Isn’t that exciting!?  Thank you so very, very much Elizabeth!  Next year when I have garlic I’ll return the favor and send you some!  Y0u’re the best!

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On citrus

We just got back from a 4 day Thanksgiving trip to the lovely Alabama Gulf Coast (“what are you thankful for, Taylor?”  “WARMTH!”  It was 70 degrees every day…bliss!) with family and friends, and I feel incredibly rested. 

I’m also feeling a surge of vigor from the copious amounts of vitamin C I ingested this weekend.  When we pulled into the driveway of the bay house that my parents rented, the most beautiful sight met my eyes:  citrus trees.   The neighbors had several trees that were absolutely laden with grapefruits, lemons, kumquats, and- most lovely of all- satsumas.  If you haven’t ever had a satsuma, it’s your loss.  They are similar to tangerines or clementines, but very sweet.  The peel in an instant and are juicy beyond belief.  It’s funny that I came down to Alabama for Thanksgiving and what am I most excited about?  Not my mom’s signature cornbread dressing or pecan pies or a giant roasted free-range Alabama turkey, but satsumas.

They were especially welcome because about a week ago I was standing in Whole Foods gazing mournfully at a mound of Florida Clementines wanting nothing more than to eat my body-weight in citrus.  I couldn’t justify eating something that came from 1500 miles away (which is especially silly since I bought a bag of Florida-grown pearl onions two weeks ago), and my fast of non-local fruits is going very, very strong.  So far I haven’t broken it yet since this spring when I came to my senses and vowed to eat local.  I haven’t had a banana since February!  DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH I MISS BANANAS? 

 I’m not sure why I have imposed such selective rules on myself, especially since the same day I bought those Florida onions I also bought gulf-coast shrimp (at least it wasn’t Indonesian!), but I feel easier about justfiying stuff that I know Pete will be eating as well.   Regardless of my odd limits, fruit hasn’t been justified into my kitchen yet, so I found myself without Satsumas at the time when I wanted them most.

I think you’ll understand why I ran to my mom standing under the Satsuma tree and hugged it before I hugged her. (Love you, Mom!)  I think you’ll also understand why our luggage was filled to overflowing with every fruit I could cram in there when we came home.   And why when the lady at the airport security check looked askance at Pete and said “what are those…tennis balls?” I hollered joyfully “THEY’RE LEMONS!  AND SATSUMAS!  AND GRAPEFRUIT!”

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The seeds are off!

OK, Howling Hill!  I’m sorry to say that I missed my two week deadline by 1 day, but I did finally mail the seeds off today at lunch. 

Here’s what I took:

1 complete packet of Dill

1 complete bag of Cannelinni beans

And then about 20 seeeds each of:


Kandy King Corn

Black Turtle Beans

Here’s what I put in:

A big bag of Egyptian (Walking) Onions

White Cleome (what I call “firecracker flowers”  I don’t know the real common name)

An almost full packet of Yellow Crookneck Squash

An almost full packet of Long Island Brussels Sprouts


I’m very excited about the Okra, which I’m skeptical about growing here but I’m sure going to give it a try!  It will be worth it for one small handful of fried okra.  Also, the dill, because we spent a small fortune on dill this year and didn’t make anywhere near the number of pickles that we wanted to make.  Next year I’m dill pickling EVERYTHING! 

Now my seeds are off to Allie and Allie’s Answers!  How exciting!  I can’t wait to see what she choose.  Enjoy, Allie!  (PS:  Pick my walking onions, they are AWESOME!)

(Don’t have any idea what I’m talking about?  Why, it’s the seed swap!)

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Green Tomatoes

Last night we dropped by the farm to make sure a check I had left for the managers was found. We’re signing up for 2 chickens and some farm-raised pork that we’ll receive in November and this was my deposit check.

Everything looks very different. We had a couple of evenings of frost in the lower gardens, so everything in the main gardens are dead. It was strange to see the piles of blackening tomato vines lying in the fields. We’re going to go over later to help her pull them up.

Next weekend we’re having a celebration at the farm for the year that we’ve had, so we’ve all been asked to bring a dish to share. I’m making my famous southern biscuits and I also thought I would make green tomatoes if we had any left from the farm. Connie (the manager) told me that she was expecting to have a few more frosts before next weekend, so she said that I should probably pick the tomatoes while I was there and store them in a dark place. She said to take whatever we wanted since they didn’t have anything to do with them.

She said she hadn’t been back to the upper garden in a few days, but she suspected there were probably some up there (It’s up on the highest point of the farm, so there wasn’t any frost there). Pete and I headed up with a cloth bag to see if we could scavenge a few. We should have brought more bags. The plants up there were collapsing under the weight of their tomatoes. The ground beneath the plants was littered with freshly-dropped green and barely-ripened tomatoes. And they were perfect. We’ve had many, many delicious tomatoes from the farm, but very few perfectly beautiful ones. These look like grocery store tomatoes.

Pete was having a fit and we quickly picked more than enough green tomatoes for the party next weekend. But then we couldn’t stop ourselves. We picked up an awful lot of the large tomatoes that were on the ground and every Brandywine and Amish Paste we could find. I kept saying to Pete “Stop! We can’t carry anymore! This is too much for us!” even as I was stuffing my shirt full of tomatoes. We couldn’t stop ourselves! How do you leave a perfect 1.5lb Brandywine to rot on the ground!?

Eventually when they were falling out of the pockets we had made from our shirts we gave up. We had been out there for about 10 minutes.

As we were carrying the bag back (one on each handle) it actually broke it was so full! We went back into the barn to show Connie what we had managed to pick in such a short time and she said “Please! Take them! They’ll never ripen in time.  At least they won’t die in the fields!” We offered to come back and pick some to give to the food shelter or something and she said that she already offered but they didn’t want to take any green tomatoes…can you believe that?

So now I have this:

Which is what I had left after I pulled out every pristine and unripe green tomato and put them in my storage room:

So my plans of fried green tomatoes will account for about…I don’t know…maybe 15 of those.  Which means that I still have about 40 lbs. of tomatoes to deal with.

I’ve heard that they will keep green for up to a month as long as you pull out the ripening tomatoes and keep them cool and dark.  Anyone have experience holding green tomatoes?  I’d actually prefer to delay the ripening for as long as possible.

Anyone have a recipe for pickling green tomatoes?  I’ve still got empty mason jars!

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Local Surprise

I just got back from our local Stop N’ Shop (yeah, just like on Family Guy for you non-New Englanders) where I stopped in to pick up some little preserve jars.  I haven’t bought grocery store produce in a few months now, but I usually like to walk through to check to see if they have any local produce for sale.  I’m generally disappointed, but this time I found lots of local squash from a farm in the middle of the state.  Not bad.  They had lots- Buttercup, Butternut, Delicata, Carnival (which I had never heard of- it looks like Delicata but round), and sugar pumpkins.  I was so pleased to see it for sale that I bought 3 big Butternuts.   I’m pretty proud that my first mass-market produce purchase in months was supporting local agriculture.  I didn’t particularly need any squash, especially since my local farm-stand has it coming out of the eaves, but I wanted to support Stop N Shop for stocking it.

I also found some apples from New York state.  Not bad, considering we usually have apples from Oregon and New Zealand and such.  Especially ridiculous considering I live in MASSACHUSETTS and there are literally apple trees on every corner, but I won’t fault New York.

It was heartening, you know?

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