Husk Cherries

I am so full that I had to change into sweatpants. Tonight’s dinner: Burgers with beef from Normanton Farm. Each burger had a slice of Cabot cheese and bacon from Popper (if you haven’t checked out Popper’s Sausage Kitchen, you MUST!)  Topped with some of our Arugula and lettuce and Appledore Cove’s Chipotle Lime Ketchup. Num num. Local (well sort of, Vermont isn’t within 50 miles). Oh, and the bun was from Nissen bakeries – also New England. Hey, check us out, Barbara Kingsolver!

So what the hell? It is mid-May. I know, I know, my parents always told customers to not plant anything until Mother’s Day. Well, that was last weekend and we’ve had some 34 degree nights and lost a few seedlings in the Chef’s Garden to the frost. We’ve been shmucking (shlepping + mucking) the tender plants into the basement in the evening and out to the greenhouse in the morning in order to try to protect them (yes, before and after the DJ-Day Job).

As you can see, things are getting quite big.

I left control plants of peppers, basil and a husk cherry in the greenhouse to see how they fared each night. We did well – a few ruined leaves, but the flowers hung in there. Whew. So, it hit 34 degrees again last night and everything did fine. I buttoned the house up, putting blankets in the doors where there’s an air gap and we haven’t lost one thing. As a matter of fact, we have flowers.

See the little husk cherry already forming?

Buds on a tomato plant.

The lettuce and arugula are doing well in the Chef’s Garden. The bean sprouts are pretty dead, however, and the edamame was hit by frost so badly, it looks like it was regurgitated. The onion, planted a few weeks ago, seems to not have changed a bit. I know I’m impatient.

It’s just that I am anxious to get everything planted outside. It’s strange, actually, how often I think about our little Patch during the day. I ordered business cards with our logo (Daisy in the daisies) and somehow find a reason, just about daily, to force them on someone – usually some unsuspecting non-gardener who probably couldn’t give a crap but says, “Really?” and so, sounded interested. Poor soul. Here’s our card.

This is a good place to thank my wonderful non-gardening friends for their readership and support. I am sure that reading about slugs, worms, bat shit and tomato (ooh, just pulled a “Dan Quayle” by spelling that with an “e” at the end. At least I was smart enough to delete it. The snotty-spelling-bee-kid in me was just completely disgusted with myself for that) flowers must bore them to tears, but they (thankfully!) read my posts and comment with gusto.

The Gig Girl who quit her, “full-time-full-salaried-full-benefits-with-a-big-girl-office-and-even-a-window job” to be a stay-at-home Mom and is exploring home-based income opportunities in the process (with much humor and wit!) and Gillis Marketing who jumped with both feet and no swimmies into the world of SMM (no, silly, Social Media Marketing) where she tries to educate (dare I say, ‘enlighten”) others in the process. Here’s what she says, “Join me as I learn, communicate and educate my colleagues to use these tools. Join in the discussion… Consider this your therapy, your reality check, your informational portal. I feel pain – you may feel it, too.” Both very bright women who know their stuff.

Tonight’s lesson kids? Eat local, shop local and read local. You’ll feel better about your food and possibly support your sweatpant-wearing neighbors in the process.

I realized it has been over a week since I posted. I’m feeling a bit under the weather – literally. It has been dumping rain for several days now with hurricane force winds and I haven’t been feeling like doing much at all. Bleh. On a calm morning last week, Keith put landscape fabric down in the greenhouse and small stone on top of that, we fastened the rails and would like to get the plastic up. The only way that is even a possibility is if the Wizard of Oz winds calm down or else I can just envision our little friend Jen just flying away as we’re trying to lift the plastic over the frame.

Sad news – we had crop failure. I was looking forward to trying the Arugula microgreens, however, we had them too wet and they turned to snot in the growing tray. I plan on trying again. Soon.

Why haven’t I replanted them? or planted the Edamame? or worked on where we’re going to plant the 50+ Husk Cherries? Bleh. The first day of Spring is Saturday, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen the sun in weeks (I did, last Saturday but that was SO long ago).  Bright clothes for Spring are blinding me as I turn the pages of magazines. No interest.

My girlfriend made me promise that, before we buy one piece of lumber for the chicken coop, Keith and I book a vacation. We haven’t even gotten around to doing that. My sweet husband bought me a little pot of Gerber Daisies. The flowers died and so did the flower buds. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?

When I lived in Vermont, they called this, “Mud Season.” It is Bleh Season and I’m putting a stop to it. I’m taking back sunshine, taking back good mood. I’m leaving for the day job now and picking up some flowers on the way. Tomorrow, I wear pink…

and book a vacation.

We’ve been busy on the DaisyPatch homestead. The heat mats in the basement are making seedlings pop up very quickly (4 days for the Husk Cherries to germinate, whereas last year it took weeks without that heat mat!) We started some Arugula and Mache microgreens as well as the tomatoes, husk cherries,  peppers, and poppies we started. I look forward to trying those. The sap buckets are 1/2 full and were only tapped 3 days ago. Keith picked up the plastic for the greenhouse and we are planning a barn raising as soon as the weather permits (3 days of freezing rain expected on the Seacoast starting…ok, just looked outside…starting NOW) AND, we have signs of life outside.


Snowy Oregano

I may make some Catnip/Oregano tea just to say, “I grew it.” Maybe not, that sounds gross.

Betty the cat ate all the Catnip I picked after taking this picture, then, she slept all day. She’s allowed, she’s 15. That’s not a bad idea. I deserve a little rest, too, don’t I? Small private vow, the first salad we eat from our greens, I’m going to have it with a cup of Catnip tea and then take a nap. Now that sounds pretty nice.

I had mentioned in It Ain’t Easy Being Green-House that I would tell you more about tomatoes. Keith had a fantastic tomato crop last year. Well, more than fantastic – he had 2 harvests. Here’s how it happened. He started them under lights in the basement. In January. Yellow Pear tomatoes, Sweet Baby Cherry, Marmande (heirloom) and Plum.

By the time it was ready to move them out in May, we had been eating yellow pear tomatoes from the 8-foot high basement tomato vines. They were in gallon pots and were staked to anything he could find.

Smart guy that he is, Keith cut them down, leaving the roots and about 1 foot of stem and that’s what I planted outside in, what was then, our new garden. They grew up nice and strong and we harvested many, many during the season.

One day's harvest, September 2009

 Here’s what’s growing today!

Basil = pesto = love


More Peppers

I just asked Keith to remind me what seeds we ordered yesterday.  Here’s how it went down.

K: Your edamame, some spinach and arugula and Jamaican bat guano. Me: Wait, what? You got what?  K: Guano – bat shit. Me: I thought you were just getting seeds. K: It’s good fertilizer.

All I can do is laugh. God, he just cracks me up. So, we have worms in the basement and shit in the mail. This adventure is getting crazier by the minute. Hang on for the ride.

We’re at a standstill. The grow light in the basement has blown. Keith ordered another and the company promised to ship in 48 hours. We checked a week later – still in the warehouse.  So, he ordered a back-up.  That hasn’t arrived yet either. The seedlings are starting to pop under a fluorescent light which isn’t ideal, some of the hot peppers have already died.

So, we decided to bundle up and get working on the greenhouse. It was 23 degrees on Sunday and we only had the side boards to level and bolt on before putting on the plastic.

Bundle up!

We got out there and discovered the bolts weren’t the right length. Off to Home Depot which, thankfully, is only about 1.5 miles away. We got about 6 bolts on and the bit in Keith’s cordless drill broke. Frustrating (but not too upsetting, I was cold!) So, we went to the bar for some wings and beer. We could have gone to get another bit, sure, but why fight it. It just wasn’t meant to be this weekend.

Meanwhile, we’ve been talking to some of our friends about our project and are getting lots of encouragement. We’re asking local chefs what greens would they want to use, but can’t find locally. I’m all about Mache.  I haven’t ever even tried it, but read about it in The French Laundry Cookbook.

The French Laundry Cookbook

Apparently, Mache is a “microgreen” and is a little delicacy. It also goes by the names, “Lamb’s Lettuce” and “Rapunzel.” I want it just  because of that. “Rapunzel.”  Apparently it grows well in the cold. That’ll work! 

Keith and I went out for sushi the other night and there were some sprouts on top of the chef’s special salad. We think they were radish sprouts – VERY peppery and yummy.

Green Radish Sprouts Photo courtesy

So I’m thinking, can we supply our neighborhood chefs? Lofty goal, I know, but every time I get into something, I always start thinking about how to make it into a business. Mache, sprouts, hot  peppers, lettuce mixes, husk cherries, tomatoes..I can just picture me in an old red Chevy truck, Daisy hanging out one window, pulling up to a local restaurant. In my overalls and checkered shirt, I get out of the truck and pull a basket overflowing with veggies out of the back. I hand it to the chef who has white flour on his nose and greet him by first name. We chat a bit about the weather until Daisy barks, reminding me we have a business to run. I wave to my buddy, the chef, smile as the Chevy door creaks when I open it, and take off to deliver the rest of our garden bounty to our friendly neighborhood restaurants, all of which have “Using Vegetables from The DaisyPatch in North Hampton, NH” on the menu.

Maybe…someday, if the damned lights would show up.

I need inspiration! It is grey out. Granted, it is 7AM on a January Saturday morning, it is allowed to be grey, but I just want to growl. Not a,  “Who’s at the door?” growl or, “That’s MY food dish” growl, just one of those low in the throat, grumpy growls that, when someone else hears it, they know EXACTLY how you feel. Grey, grumpy, GROWLY.


Just opening!

I bought this Amaryllis on sale after Christmas.  $5. It has no leaves, just a funny, phallic 23 inch-tall stem with buds at the top that just started to open. This pretty flower blooming in front of a window that only shows grey beyond it will have to be my inspiration to trudge through what I think it the most annoying part of the gardening life cycle – starting seeds. I’d rather weed.

You would think that the miracle of adding water to a little speck and ending up with a tomato or a zucchini or, yum, Husk Cherries (more on those later!) would awe and excite me. NOPE. Hate it. If every speck became a plant, I’d love it, but the stress of seeing the pan of dirt STAY a pan of dirt without so much as, “Nope, Jenn, no plants here, move along” really makes me irritated. I am impatient. I know this about myself, my loved ones definitely know this about me. A trait gardeners need to have is patience. You can’t rush an heirloom tomato that matures in 70-80 days or else you’re eating it green. Patience is a virtue, blah blah blah. Whatever.

Husk Cherries (physalis), also named Ground Cherries, Cape Gooseberries, Husk Tomatoes, and Pineapple Tomatillos are a supreme test of my patience.

Husk Cherries

We discovered these little babies when we joined a CSA 2 Summers ago. It run by a young couple who were leasing the land from an organic farmer. We signed up for 1/2 share, suggested for a family of 2 non-vegetarians. Every Friday, either Keith or I would pick up our veggies in the shed at the CSA (Community Supported Agrigulture.) There would be a sign saying what our share was for the week like, 2 pounds tomatoes, 2 bunches Kale, 1 bunch Swiss Chard, 2 cucumbers, etc. I could also pick flowers, herbs and, when indicated on a sign in the shed, head down into the gardens for the PYO. Sometimes PYO (pick-your-own) consisted of  green beans, cherry tomatoes, or arugula. One day, while picking greenbeans and doing some weeding of the bed (encouraged if you were a “GOOD” CSA member, which I surely wanted to be!), the husband of the couple who ran the CSA was a few garden beds past me and said, “Ooh, the Husk Cherries are starting to ripen! Love these.”  I asked him what he was talking about and he picked one for me. He told me to take the husk off (no -brainer, didn’t look edible) and just eat it.

I am not a huge fan of eating tomatoes off the vine. I like tomatoes, don’t get me wrong. Put them with something else like mozzarella and proscuitto and some olive oil, I am all about the tomato, but eating off the vine not so much. It was yellowish-tan. It looked sour. I put it in my mouth with major trepidation, internally cringing at the thought that when I bit down, this little berry or whatever it was, was going to burst ickiness and sourness in my mouth. Shudder.

I love good surprises. It was so good.  The flavor was a combination of sweet cream butter, strawberry and tomato. Or maybe pineapple, strawberry and tomato. I brought as many home as I could pick. Keith loved  them too. Put them in an Arugula salad with toasted pine nuts and fresh goat cheese and you’re in for a treat.  For the rest of the season, every Friday, I picked as many as I could to bring home. We shared with friends and co-workers – apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had never heard these little guys.

It has been a while since I added a picture to this post, so here is one of Daisy and Peber at their best.

Now, if you’re judging me for having only 1/2 share in the CSA and picking as many ripe Husk Cherries as I could find every week, hear me out. I have a perfectly good explanation for hoarding the Husk Cherries (ooh, there is that word again, perhaps I do have a problem.) This was only the CSA’s second year. This was our first ever with a CSA, but I had done some research online. It seemed that our choice, although close to home, didn’t have as many varieties of veggies as other places did. We ended up calling it the “Kale Cult.”  Every week, the share offered Kale. Big bunches of Kale. I tried every which way to cook the stuff. Sauteed and smothered in butter, wilted with garlic and butter, steamed with parmesan cheese, in chicken noodle soup, you name it, we tried it. We did not like it. We ended up leaving bunches of Kale on the table every week. There was so much Kale and Swiss Chard (also inedible we think) that we sort of felt that it was ok to take extra Husk Cherries if we were leaving our share of the bitter greens behind for someone else to take. Give and take, you know? We decided not to join the Kale Cult last Summer and decided to grow our own – grow things we liked. Keith thinks this was the beginning of our “Fend for Ourselves” dream.

Keith found Husk Cherry seeds online last Winter and bought a packet.  They took FOREVER to germinate under grow lights in the basement. Sheesh. When they went outside in the Side Garden (calling it Peber’s Point is starting to grow in me. Nice job, Will C! The board of directors for The Daisy Patch will vote this weekend on the new name) they were very small. Miniscule, like a 2-inch stem with 2 leaves on top. Then, in the ground, they took MORE FOREVER to do something, like,  uh, grow. We did get many Husk Cherries off the three plants eventually (enough for Keith to include some in jam he made), but I wish the growing season were longer because, no matter how much I covered them, we lost a lot to the first freeze. Waah!

Patience will be my new mantra. We just ordered the seeds along with several varieties of tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes and we’ll plant them in the basement under the grow lights, next to Keith’s hot peppers just as soon as they arrive. I just wish they’d hurry up.

Picture of Husk Cherry from here:

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