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Tag Archives:gardening


Fall Flavors Sans Pumpkin Spice

Saving-the-season-cookbook-coverLast fall, I was unpacking the groceries from a trip to the market. My husband popped into the kitchen to “help” put the food away, a.k.a. survey my selections so he can plan what I refer to as his “snack-tivities” for the week.

After a few minutes of cupboards opening, I heard him exclaim, “Ugh! Why would anyone buy this?!” I turned around, expecting him to be holding one of the weird veggies I buy without knowing what I’ll do with them, but nope, he’s holding a box of pumpkin spice Cheerios. I thought they looked good, but my husband thought I was trying to poison him. This was the moment that I learned that my husband hates almost all pumpkin spice flavored things.

He always ate my squash pie at Thanksgiving dinner, which has the same flavoring as pumpkin spice, so why this sudden hatred for this popular fall flavor? Apparently, the problem is over-exposure. Dunkin’s introduced a pumpkin muffin a few years ago, which I thought was a good fit. New Englanders have been eating spiced pumpkin bread for centuries, so why not make it muffin shaped? But the pumpkin spicing didn’t stop there. Now there are pumpkin spice Oreos, pumpkin spice tea, and pumpkin spice Peeps. Even I draw the line at pumpkin-y marshmallow chicks.

Still, I love warm flavors. Fall and winter are my favorite food seasons and my taste trends toward old fashioned. My favorite meals are the ones served from one giant roasting pan and heat up the whole house in their making. Give me apples, squash that will last months in a root cellar, cozy breads, and warm Indian pudding. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy a good avocado and egg sandwich- I am a millennial after all (barely), but if I knew it was my last meal, I would be ordering my grandmother’s Canadian boiled dinner followed by a gigantic slice of squash pie.

My husband is the opposite. He also likes warm flavors, if by warm, you mean HOT. He loves thermonuclear chicken wings, spicy and tangy fish tacos, and self-concocted barbecue sauces that make my eyes water. If I am an autumn/winter eater, he is all about summer flavors. I think that might be why he hates seeing pumpkin spice flavored everything lining the grocery store shelves- it is a signal that summer is over.

For my husband’s sake, I am trying to avoid pumpkin spice overload this autumn and am seeking out fresh fall flavors that won’t induce winter woes, but will still use the ingredients available from our local farms and orchards. Luckily, the library has more than a few books to help me.

The first book I found does less to celebrate the upcoming cooler weather and more to stretch the tastes of summer further. Saving the Season: a Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving, by Kevin West is a super book for gardeners and farm-share households. I am always scrambling in October to preserve the glut of late season tomatoes and other garden goodies practically falling off the tangle of vines that is my vegetable patch. This book gives options- tasty, tasty options.

The book that I am just loving right now is Dishing Up the Dirt: Simple Recipes for Cooking Through the Seasons, by Andrea Bemis. The author is a passionate farmer and has crafted recipes that take advantage of what her organic farms has on offer each season. She experiments with flavors in recipes like her beet, walnut and kale pizza or winter squash carbonara, but still includes new twists on classic recipes, like tomato sauce to use up the last of the season’s tomatoes, and sweet potato pie.

Another book that made my mouth water is America Farm to Table, by Mario Batali. Batali also takes on using local, seasonal ingredients to make yummy dishes that will please a crowd. He looks to towns and cities across the country for inspiration. I found that the recipes inspired by Vail, Colorado fit well with what my garden is producing and what is available at nearby farmers markets. The beef and chard meatballs were lick-the-plate-clean good.

Even with summer quickly fading away, I am hoping to ease the transition into fall for my anti-pumpkin spice husband with a few recipes from these great titles. Maybe I can even save a few recipes to take the sting out of that first snowfall.

Alli Palmgren is the Technology Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Alli’s column in the September 20, 2018 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


City Girl, Country Girl

backyard-chickensAs a kid I dreamed of living in the Big City. On weekends my mom and I drove into Boston from the suburbs to shop at the iconic Filene’s Basement. I got such a thrill out of walking through the scary “Combat Zone,” past shops and restaurants in Chinatown, and arriving at “The Basement,” where we shielded each other and tried on clothes in the aisles, and I learned math by figuring out the “automatic markdowns.” The variety of different people in the city fascinated me and I longed to live among them some day.

Indeed, after college I moved to Boston where I lived for the next 20 years or so- in a cockroach-infested apartment in Brighton, in three different makeshift artist lofts downtown, and then in a duplex I owned with a friend in Jamaica Plain. I got married, my husband and I consolidated our two households of “stuff” into one apartment, my friend got married and had two children, they moved out, and we decided to follow suit. We felt cramped and had become homebodies taking little advantage of the convenience of nearby restaurants and amenities or our proximity to the T. We also got sick of the occasional sounds of gunshots and all-night parties of nearby neighbors.

In 2015 we took the plunge and moved to Holliston, to a home we fell in love with- a house on a two and a half acre lot with a garden, a swimming pool, a brook, lovely landscaping, and lots of privacy. Oh, and a chicken coop. We went from one extreme to the other, and while I had dabbled in container gardening and watched my parents manicuring their lawn and planting shrubs and annuals, I needed a crash course in country living!

I set a goal, to at least avoid killing all the beautiful plants during the first year. With books like Pruning Basics by David Squire I did teach myself “the basics” of pruning rhododendrons, roses of Sharon, and lilacs. I kept a log book of what came up when: hellebore and daffodils first, followed by irises and poppies, and at this time of year various lilies, daisies and roses. Martha Stewart’s recent Martha’s Flowers provided great ideas for arranging and displaying cut flowers to bring the beauty of the yard inside the house.

Facing a daunting fenced-in garden, I set to work watching YouTube videos and scouring Improving Your Soil by Keith Reid. I learned about prepping soil, rented a rototiller, bought seeds, and planned the layout. Companion planting (see Louise Riotte’s Carrots Love Tomatoes) became a passion. I ended up with too many zucchinis and cucumbers, and relied on Bittman’s trusty How to Cook Everything Vegetarian to make use of it all. Imagine my pride serving guests garden-fresh salads and arugula walnut pesto, followed by cucumber mint sorbet.

The property did not come with chickens, and I insisted on waiting for a year before acquiring any. We had enough to learn during the first year. On the anniversary of moving in, I brought 6 tiny chicks home and delved into the study of keeping them happy and alive. For anyone with the capacity and will to venture into chicken parenting, the library has Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, and A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens, if the children want to help. To get a feel for the way chicken-owners become attached to their flocks, watch the hilarious documentary Chicken People.

Of course, with chickens come abundant eggs. We didn’t realize just how many eggs! Fortunately I received Rachel Khong’s All About Eggs, and Eggs, by Michel Roux, as gifts. For the library’s volunteer appreciation get-together I made “Green Goddess Deviled Eggs” from the library’s D’lish Deviled Eggs cookbook, and they got rave reviews.

Our country oasis surprised us over and over. I discovered Concord grapes growing along a fence and into the trees, and learned a bit about canning and preserving (see DIY Canning). I posted a photo of a weird brain-like mushroom and found out we had precious morels! This prompted the purchase of Foraging New England. Although strange mushrooms frighten me, I delight in harvesting wild berries, chard, and rogue tomato plants that manage to self-seed in the woods.

Home ownership is not all fun and games though. Having never maintained a pool before, I discovered What Color is Your Swimming Pool. With so much space to fill with more and more stuff, I finally read Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and learned to de-clutter. Just because you have room for it doesn’t mean you need to keep it and crowd your living space with junk.

Sometimes I miss the variety of restaurants in Boston, and I don’t like the long ride to and from the city when visiting friends or attending events, but at this stage in life, I definitely prefer being a country girl. A Zen-like calm comes over me while gardening, and after reading my grandmother’s memoir about farm life in Lithuania, I wonder whether this knack is in my DNA. As I listen to songbirds, “peeper” frogs, and even the silence of winter- when I smile watching the silly chickens or discovering that the peonies have bloomed, I have no regrets about moving.

Lydia Sampson is the Head of the Technical Services Dept. at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Lydia’s column in the July 12, 2018 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

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