Husk Cherries



My Seed Catalog haiku…ahem…

Oh Seed Catalogs!

With all your varieties

Can’t we get them all?

As I pore over seed brochures, I need to recall lessons from last year when we overcrowded things a bit. (Ok, more than “a bit”). We also realized that we want more varieties of things. How the hell are we supposed to accomodate more types of veggies? We didn’t really have too much go to waste (except during the tomato blight).

So, what is a homesteader to do? I think the solution is to plant more varieties, but fewer plants of each. This way, we can try more things. Also, I need to add some things to the list that I forgot last year:

  • Zucchini
  • Sugar Pumpkins
  • Butternut Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • and of course…daisies (although not a vegetable, I do find it necessary to have some daisies considering our homestead is called The Daisy Patch)

I need to plant fewer of the following:

  • Basil (I know, can you believe it? We had so much though.)
  • Lettuce
  • Green Peppers
  • Husk Cherries (WHAT? But you love those! True, but they naturally re-seeded themselves and grew all over the damn property and by the side of the road, there is NO reason we have to start as any this year.)
  • Scallions
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers – maybe just 1 less.

And more of…

  • Edamame (ONE LAST TIME and then THIS IS IT! If I don’t get them to work this year, I will NEVER try them again.)
  • Thyme
  • Salad tomatoes (We lost them to the blight and were left mostly with plum and Reistomate)
  • Potatoes

Now it is time for some new things. This is where I am stuck. I have no clue what we would like. We did not like Brussells Sprouts (thanks anyway, Doreen!) We did like Parsnips. So any recomendations for some newer things we might like? Please note they’ll need to be able to grow in the North East. Thanks!

And Merry Christmas (on a Christmas side note…I plan to bake like a fiend this week. I finished one knitting project, hope to finish another and still have some Christmas Shopping to do. It’s going to be a great week (I mean it – I love this stuff!))

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My I’m In Pain haiku…ahem…

Why don’t I wear gloves?

My left hand got stuck with thorns

My right hand got stung.

Now go get a hot chocolate and when you come back, curl up at my feet and I’ll tell you the story of the sunny October day your old Aunt Jenn got her first bee sting after 27 years.

First, we need to start at the beginning, where all good stories start. When she was 12, your Aunt Jenn’s big brother was given a plane ride for his birthday. Being the youngest of three, and a little spoiled to say the least, she wasn’t too thrilled about spending a Summer afternoon in a dusty country airport field. She forgot a book to read and so entertained herself by playing balance-beam on some planks that were laid across stumps in a makeshift seating area. Up and down she walked. Up and down, up and down. The minutes seemed like hours. “How boring,” she cried, and kept walking up and down the planks. The hours dragged and she, like all little pouty, bored girls do when no one is paying attention to them, started to stomp. Stomp, stomp, stomp.

Little did she know, she stirred up a bees’ nest and they were mad. AT HER! What do you think happened next? That’s right, she got stung.

She ended up in the emergency room where a mean, nasty doctor with red eyes and fangs took out the longest needle he had and held it up to the light where it gleamed like a sword (or maybe it was a sword. It probably was, the bastard). He used that needle to pick every one of the 17 stingers that were left behind in your Aunt Jenn by those big, mad bees. She’s been terrified of needles, and bees, ever since (I’m sure you can imagine!)

Well, you would think your Aunt Jenn would have learned her lesson about gardening without gloves after she picked hot peppers and wiped her nose, but apparently, she’s not that bright (we do still have hopes for her though). One bright, Sunny October Sunday, 27 years after that fateful day, she was weeding and pulling everything out of the ground that was within reach. Without looking, she reached out her left hand and it brushed a thorny weed. Now, this was not the type of thorny weed that only has a few thorns like a rose bush. This was the type that was covered top to bottom with skinny, hairy thorns that get into your skin and are invisible so it’s real hard to get them out.  All the thorns were in the top of her fingers, from her knuckles to the nail. She stopped weeding for a while and tried to pick them out, but a lot were just stuck…and sting-y.

After finishing weeding in the backyard, she went to help Uncle Keith pick Husk Cherries, a sweet little fruit that falls to the ground when it’s ripe. It’s one of Aunt Jenn’s favorites. Uncle Keith went into the basement to grab his leaf blower while Aunt Jenn stayed outside, picking the little husk-covered fruits from the ground and putting them in her bowl. Bending and picking, bending and picking. Reaching down with her right hand to get a particularly large morsel, she felt the electric-jolt and sharp stabby pain that can only be described as…what do you think she felt? That’s right? A bee sting.

She didn’t see what it was, but she knew…OWIE OWIE OWIE, oh oh OWIE OWIE OWIE! was all she could say. She didn’t cry, she’s a trooper, but she did make a LOT of noise and then ran inside to get Uncle Keith.

Aunt Jenn: Keith! KEITH!

Uncle Keith (from the basement): What?

AJ: I GOT STUNG!

UK: Okay

AJ: Oh, oh, oh, owie owie owie, oh (while using her thorny and now rashy left hand to get baking soda out of the cabinet).

She mixed the baking soda together with some water to make a paste, like she knows you’re supposed to do, and packed it on top of the sting, which, by this time, was just a little white lump with a small hole in the middle, right on top of her right ring finger.

UK: You ok?

AJ: Owie. Owie, it stings, I didn’t see it. I just reached down and it got me. Oh, owie. (Really, “Owie” was the word.)

UK: Are you allergic, do you need to go to the hospital?

AJ: I don’t know, the last time I got stung was by a lot of them, so I ended up in the hospital with a weird reaction, so I always thought I was allergic, but I don’t know if I’m allergic, what if I’m allergic, what’ll happen I’m probably not allergic, oh owie maybe I should take some benadryl, do we have benadryl, yeah, I’ll take some benadry owie I can’t believe I got stung, I’ve done so well avoiding bees, I can’t believe it oh, owie, god it hurts, what the hell? owie where’s the benadryl, didn’t we buy some for Daisy in case she got stung I can’t find it, have you seen it I thought it was in Daisy’s drawer, but I don’t see it owie, god, it’s throbbing.

UK: Did you see a stinger?

AJ: Oh, I don’t know (looks) nope, no stinger, just a hole look at it (she makes Uncle Keith look at it) he left a freeking hole in me owie, ow ow, dammit it hurts WHERE’S THE GODDAMN BENADRYL?!?

UK (calmly): I’m not sure if we have some, do you want me to get you some?

AJ: No I’m fine, I’ll just put some more baking soda on it. Owie, ow, crap it stings.

UK: Are you sure you don’t want to go to the hospital?

AJ: No, but if my throat closes up, I’ll be PISSED. Ok, I have more baking soda on it, I have to sit down.

UK: Jenn, don’t panic, you’ll be fne.

AJ: It’s been forever since I’ve been stung, I can’t believe I got stung owie, it still hurts, what the hell?

UK: Well, I’m going to go back outside, I’ll need you to hold the ladder in a little bit, do you mind?

AJ: No, I’ll be fine, I think it’s calming down. Ooh, ow, still stings, but I’ll be fine. Sure I’ll help.

And so kids, that’s the story of Aunt Jenn’s first bee sting in over 25 years. What do you think? Do you think your Aunt Jenn wore her gloves after that? That’s right. She sure did. Ok, nighty night, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Ed note: It still hurts.


The downside of overcrowding your plants? It drastically reduces the size of your favorite little veggie. And? When you pick them, since they’re so small and overcrowded? They’re super hard to pick. Yeah. So, below, please find my little visual of a backyard Husk Cherry (left) versus a front yard Husk Cherry(right) that self-sowed itself by the road. (I have taken the liberty of including a bright, shiny new quarter for ease of comparison. Isn’t that nice? You’re welcome.)

Yes, you read that right. The ones we tended to with loving care all Winter in the basement and in the greenhouse then planted in the garden, side-dressed with guano and egg shells aren’t doing as well as the one that grew all by itself thanks to a bird or critter stealing the fruit from our garden last year and leaving the seed behind in the pile of crappy sand left from the Winter road sanding to fend for itself. Fascinating (and irritating as hell. Damn Murphy’s Law!)

We did make Husk Cherry/Lemon jam. It’s great on Ritz (What isn’t great on Ritz? You could spread cat vomit on Ritz and it would be delightful. Ritz rock!) Anyway, it’s pretty good. Keith has made jam before, I have not, this was my first.  It’s a little on the watery side, so I’ve decided to call it a Chutney.  Same yellow sweet stuff, now you have different expectations.  Words are powerful.  Maybe I’ll call it Side of the Road Sauce. No, that gives visions of road kill. I’ll come up with something.


My Roma Tomato Haiku…ahem

Roma Tomatoes

They’re bringing back memories

Of our famous sauce

Last Summer and Fall, when Keith and I were making spaghetti sauce, I shared with him something I thought I had already told him. When I was a child, my family would make spaghetti sauce every year. We called it, “The Sauce.” He knew that part. Here’s the part he didn’t know…

Me: Yeah, we used to make, I guess, somewhere around 220, 230 quarts each year.

Him: You mean pints.

Me: No, quarts.

Him: No you didn’t.

Me: (indignant) Yes, we did.

Him: 220 quarts?! C’mon!

Me: You want me to call Mom and Dad? I know, I’ll call my sister. (Dials) Hi, Doreen? Tell me, how many quarts, roughly, did we make of sauce every year? Wait, do you mind telling Keith? Ok, hold on, here he is. Ok? Cool. Thanks, love you. (Turning to Keith) SEE!?!?!?!?

My Dad commissioned Mr. C, the farmer across the road from us to grow the tomatoes, onions and peppers for our sauce every year. Then, we’d set aside a weekend, get all the bushels of veggies and make sauce all weekend. When I was smaller, I was responsible for washing the veggies. My Dad always did the squishing – it was a manual process. The kitchen was filled with bushels and bushels of veggies. We bought dried herbs to mix in. My sister’s responsibility was to wipe the jars down, put the just-boiled lids on the jars and then screw the bands on.

Then, at the very end of the day (usually 12 hours later, at least), with aching feet and sore backs, we’d sit at the kitchen and listen to the jars pop. If you’ve never canned (jarred), this is the sound of the lid creating the suction seal. It’s like a, “Peenk” sound. We announced every one until someone shut us (me) up. “There’s one.” “There’s another!” “There they all go” Peenk Peenk Peenk.

So, last year, when we made sauce, I didn’t call Dad to get “The Sauce” recipe, but I tried to make my own version. Onions, green peppers, garlic powder, onions, (secret ingredients). It came out “okay.” I’m not good without recipes. Keith made a sauce that was a bit on the spicy side. We labeled them with our names and taste tested (can you tell we’re a bit competitive? Makes things fun! We’re currently in a FourSquare war over the mayorship of a coffee shop down the road.) His was better than mine. (Grumble)

So, you saw the picture in the last post of all those cherry and grape tomatoes? He made them into a sauce last weekend. We bought a hand-crank “Sauce Master” last season that works pretty well. He kept the sauce on a low-simmer overnight and it is nice and thick. I think we’ll jar it up this weekend.

I got home from the DJ today, grabbed a basket and went outside in the 91 degree heat and heavy humidity to pick the veggies that I could see were ready.

I grabbed a bigger basket than last week.

Those are husk cherries on the top of the basket. This basket didn’t work too well. Cherry tomatoes and husk cherries kept falling out of the holes. I should have gotten on the scale with it. This was not light. And it was hot. Damn hot. Africa hot. I struggled to get it inside and on the counter. Everything has been sorted and washed and are now sitting on the counter, waiting for whatever we have planned for it this weekend.

We started some unique varieties of ‘maters. One is Reistomate. I just ripped up the renewal notice to the Martha Stewart Living magazine. I just can’t keep up with all the magazines, and he reminded me that he read about the Reistomate in one of the issues. I guess I will renew. I mean, she is the Queen.

~Small aside ~

I called Martha Stewart Living radio last year. I didn’t get to speak with Her Highness, but I did weigh in. Reenactment below..

Kim from MS Morning Living: Hi, who’s this and where are you from?

Me: Jennifer from New Hampshire

Kim: So, what rice varieties do YOU think Martha has in her pantry? (Of course, IF one were dirty minded, one COULD take that sentence the wrong way and snigger a little bit at what OTHER things Martha has in her pantry, but I didn’t, for me,  I was concentrating on rice.)

Me: Well, I’m sure she has White, Wild, Jasmine, and Basmati.

Kim: Right. There’s one more, can you think of it?

Me: Um…

Kim: It starts with an, “A”

Me: Oh, I can’t think of it.

Kim: Arborio

Me: Riiiight. Arborio. Of course.

Kim: (trying to make sure I didn’t start to cry for not thinking of Arborio) Basmati is so good, isn’t it?

Me: I know, I think it tastes like popcorn.

Kim: It does, doesn’t it? Well, thanks, Jennifer. Bye. (I am disconnected.) What other items do you think are staples in Martha’s pantry?

Cool, huh? My brush with the Queen (well, one of her minions). I follow her on Twitter too. Yes, I do. I am not ashamed.

Reistomate

So, aren’t these funky? They’re like grape tomatoes that have grown together into a tomato blob.  We haven’t tried them yet (I’m eating a cob of corn right now, don’t feel like having a tomato). Apparently, you can just sort of pick a little blob off the mega-blob and eat the little one. I read that they’re sorta sour. We shall see. Don’t the ones on the right look like those little decorative pumpkins?

We also grew some Striped Roma tomatoes. These are weird too.

Striped Romas

I like the color variation. The little nipple they have hanging off the end is a bit, well, unique to say the least. That’s a good place to close this post. Tomato nipples. Ponder it.


I had a small problem yesterday. I let Keith know that I was going outside to harvest some of the veggies. He said, “Bring a big basket.” You know how you hear something, but don’t really HEAR it? I sort of heard him say that, but it didn’t register. (If you ask him, he will say that is a constant problem of mine. I say it is because I am so intelligent that I’m constantly thinking…all the time, thinking, and sometimes, something new just doesn’t have room to enter at that exact moment. I think he would say it is because I’m not paying attention.)

Outside I go with our little basket. Green beans, peas, husk cherries, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, red onions, shallots, scallions…It took me three trips inside with the small basket to harvest what was ready.

If this is one day of harvest, we’ve got our hands full. I haven’t picked the basil yet, but it looks like I have about 12 cups. Dreams of pesto fill my brain. (Did I mention that I have 5 freezer bags full of pesto in the freezer from last season? Um, yeah…)

The good neighbor, his daughter and some of her friends were walking by as I was picking. They sampled some husk cherries, green beans and sugar snap peas, fresh from the basket. Doesn’t that just warm the heart? Neighbors, standing by the garden fence, chatting about the weather, taste-testing crispy, fresh-picked sweet peas. An idyllic picture of countryside life. (We had to stop mid-sentence as a motorcycle hit the bottom of the hill and revved it’s engine to pick up speed for the straightaway. Jerk! C’mon, it’s a residential neighborhood. Did you do that on purpose when you saw the 5 of us standing there? I hope you get crotch-rot in your leather chaps on a humid 90-degree day!) I smile as I look back on yesterday – a lovely Summer day on the homestead.

Keith is making blueberry pancakes for breakfast with local blueberries (if you see a farmstand, stop and get blueberries and corn – it’ll be worth it!), King Arthur flour (I love that brand) and our maple syrup. Doesn’t it sound so delish? I can’t wait. I asked him to save 5 blueberries from the container to decoratively arrange on top of the pancakes when he serves them. Martha taught me right, it’s all about the presentation! (That’s true love, he just puts up with little requests like that.)

While he works at the griddle (we love our Jenn-Air – hey look, two N’s! It’s one of the reasons we bought this house – not the N’s – the grille) I look up recipes for using green beans. You can only steam them and serve with butter for so many meals before it gets a bit boring. I bought 2 varieties. One is called Tavara. They are slim and skinny – ones I would call French. The other are Burpee Provider. They’re fat and almost fuzzy. I like the Tavara better, but the Burpee Provider is really that – they are prolific!

*****Small aside*****

Dear Future Jenn:

While you are having fun ordering seeds, please remember that more is not always better. Unless you became a vegetarian again or plan on supplying local restaurants with your harvest, might I suggest you cut back on the number of each variety you put in the ground in 2011 and try more varieties in general? While 24 green bean plants sounded good in 2010, please remember that harvesting a gallon bag of green beans each day did cause you to spend the entire July weekend in front of a pot of boiling water blanching green beans for the freezer instead of floating in the pool. Just sayin’.

*****End of letter*****

Something about the idea of that Green Bean Casserole from our childhoods makes me skeevy. Canned soup, french fried onions from a can and greenbeans, slimed up and cooked. I am making a “that sounds yucky” face. So, here I am with Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals GetTogethers trying to get inspired. Page 167 – Green Beans with lemon and toasted almonds. This sounds good. We’ll have it tonight with the buttermilk fried chicken K has been soaking in batter since last night.

2 oz sliced almonds

1 pound green beans, trimmed

1 tbsp butter

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

In a medium pan, toast almonds over medium heat. Remove from pan and add 1/2 inch water to the pan. Bring water to a boil, add the beans and cover the pan. Reduce heat. Cook beans 4-5 minutes until just tender, yet still green. Drain beans and set aside. Return pan to stovetop and melt butter over moderate heat. Add lemon juice to butter (juice lemon half right-side up to keep seeds in lemon rather than in your beans). Add beans to lemon butter and coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer green beans to dinner plates or serving plate and top with almonds.

Thanks, Rachael. I’ll let you know how it is.

Another recipe is mine. This one rocks. It takes an entire day to prepare, but I’ll tell you where you can take a shortcut.

Smoky chicken pesto salad

Smoke a whole chicken in your smoker (shorcut: Don’t smoke the chicken) Cool and cut meat (white and dark) into chunks.

Boil a box of pasta (I like the bowties, use whatever you like). Rinse with cool water and drain, making sure all the water has dripped out.

Make pesto. I eyeball it – but be sure to toast the pine nuts before you put them in the food processer. I will take you it makes a TON of difference. Save some of the pine nuts aside (again, all about presentation!)

Mix the pesto into the cool pasta in a big bowl. Add grape tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes. Add fresh mozzarella, cut in chunks – you know the stuff that is soft and spongy and is found by the olives in the grocery store floating in a liquid? (Or better yet, make your own! Making cheese isn’t difficult! More on that in a later post!) That stuff.

Pour into your serving dish, sprinkle with some baby basil leaves (keep them whole, they bruise when they’re cut), a few more tomato chunks and then the toasted pine nuts. Dust lightly with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Nummy!

WHILE i STRUGGLE with Caps-Lock thanks to Peber, I will say this post is finished just in time for blueberry pancakes. It’s a good life.


My Husk Cherry haiku…ahem

Yummy Husk Cherries

Plus chicken, goat cheese and nuts

Make a cool side dish


It has been a busy weekend at the Patch. I was outside from 7:30A to 5P yesterday (with a few water breaks and a blog break in the middle) to pull the tomato leaves affected by early blight.

For those of you who don’t know about early blight, it is a fungus, Alternaria solani, which germinates in damp, warm weather (which we’ve had!) Anyway, it germinates in 1/2 hour to 2 hours and spreads quickly. The leaves get spots, usually starting at the bottom, then the leaves turn yellow and start to die off. This usually happens right at the time the fruit is setting. With no leaves, the plant can’t usually survive, or the tomatoes get hit by sun and sort of burn, called Sun Scald. (I’ve become quite knowledgeable on this topic in the last 48 hours, not to mention I lived up close and personal with it for 10 hours yesterday.) Anyway, this fungus is NOT GOOD! That is our food for the Winter.

Hopefully this little guy will keep watch over things.

On a good note, the Edamame looks good!

Time to Harvest the Garlic!

The garlic is resting in the shade on the hammock. I plan to let the soil on them dry a little bit, brush off the soil, and wash them if I need to with a gentle spray from the hose. Then, everything I read leads me to understand that I need to treat them super carefully so they can store properly and not rot. We don’t have a root cellar, so once they’re cured, we may have to keep them upstairs in the pantry.

As all of this food starts to come in, we need to catch up with it. We have a gallon bag filled with green beans that I need to blanch and freeze. The last of the lettuce needs to be enjoyed, husk cherries, peas, cherry tomatoes…all need to get ingested or frozen.

Let’s hope I’m saying the same about tomatoes at the end of the month.

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