Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Apple Dumplings

Nashoba Valley Winery

It’s apple season here in Bolton and the PYO orchards are getting ready for their big season. The pictures in this post were taken at Nashoba Valley Winery on Wattaquadoc Hill Road in Bolton, Massachusetts, which runs a PYO operation as well as a winery making fruit and grape wines from their own fruit, a microbrewery and a distillery. They also have a gourmet restaurant, J’s, in the farmhouse on the property. This is one of our landmarks, a winery and orchard situated on a hillside with spectacular views. Using agricultural restrictions and assistance from the state and the Bolton Conservation Trust, the town was able to save this beautiful parcel from development.

It’s a crazy life. In August we townies vacation on the Cape or Maine or the mountains of New Hampshire. In September and October, we become a tourist destination. Folks from the Boston metro area come out to Bolton to see foliage and pick apples. Some of the things the orchards offer to tempt the pickers and leaf peepers are apple cider donuts and apple dumplings. The following apple dumpling recipe is not a local recipe, it is actually from the Miss Hulling’s Cafeteria cookbook, a now-defunct cafeteria chain in St. Louis. Although I don’t do sweets or carbs anymore, I have made this recipe many times. With all the butter and sugar, the dumplings are sweet and rich. Half a dumpling serving is about all I could ever handle at one time.

Apple Dumplings

For the syrup: Mix 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to boil and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup butter.

For the pastry: Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons baking powder in a bowl and mix. Cut in 3/4 cup shortening. Add 1/2 cup milk all at once and stir until flour is moistened. Roll out 1/4 inch thick and cut into 6 five-inch squares.

To assemble, place a peeled and cored apple in the center of each square. Fill the core of each apple with 1 teaspoon sugar (I like to use brown sugar) and 1 teaspoon of butter. Pull the corners of the pastry up and seal, moistening the edges with a little milk. Place the apples in a buttered baking dish and pour the syrup over them Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until apples are tender.

Serve warm with cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Apple orchard

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Harvest Monday–29 August 2011 (Goodbye Irene edition)

This post is late, courtesy of tropical storm Irene. Power went out about noon Sunday and was restored about 5 AM Monday, good work by National Grid. Unfortunately, Comcast provides cable here in Bolton and I am still off the air today. Meanwhile, the Verizon landline worked throughout the storm. I don’t think Comcast is going to get my telephone business anytime soon. Then at 4 PM on Monday, National Grid pulled the plug again while I had Live Writer open with this post. Thankfully I had done a Save and didn’t lose anything. Finally at 1:30 on Tuesday we got cable back. So here is the post, and be sure to visit Daphne's Dandelions to see what other gardener's are doing.

On Monday last the harvest was mostly tomatoes. I got a few heirloom tomatoes: two Cherokee Purple (left, below) and two Mr. Stripeys (right).

Cherokee Purple and Mr. Stripey tomatoes

Below is a Mr. Stripey being sliced up for lunch. The flesh is yellow and flecked with just a little pink. The meat is firm and juicy and the seed pockets are very small. This is a superior slicing tomato with excellent taste.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garden Update - 22 August 2011

Most plants in the  garden is pretty mature now, and some are history. I removed the snap and snow peas, the mesclun and lettuces, and harvested all the baby bok choi. I reseeded the lettuce, mesclun and sugar snaps, and set out some Romaine, chard and bok choi seedlings I started at home. Also put in more Icicle radishes. Given how long they take to germinate, I decided not to try a second planting of beets, given my first planting is still golf ball size or less.

I removed the last floating row cover from the collards/kale bed. The collards were ready for a second harvest and were starting to crowd the kale. The collards looked beautiful (front of the box, lower left) and the row cover kept the cabbage caterpillars off them so there were almost no holes in the leaves. They are a lot more appetizing that way!  The Beedy’s Camden kale (on right, lower right photo) is coming along and I might get a cutting in a week or two. The leaves are thinner and less curled than Winterbor and are supposedly more tender. Each year I make a batch or two of Portuguese kale soup (I use the Victory Garden Cookbook recipe). which uses up some of the tomatoes and kale from the garden. Last year I tried shredding the kale and sautéing it, which turned out great. I think Beedy’s Camden might be even better for that.

South African Green Beans and Peppadew

I recently went looking for Pickapeppa sauce, sort of a Jamaican spicy A-1 sauce. The store didn’t carry it but I discovered they carried a number of South African condiments, including Peri-Peri sauce (a hot sauce made from the African Birdseye pepper and used in the famous Nando’s Peri-Peri chicken) and Peppadew seasoning. I did a little research and found that the Peppadew pepper is a sport discovered in South Africa. The pepper is round and red like a cherry and has a sweet flavor with a slightly hot or piquant bite to it. The Peppadew company grows and bottles these peppers in South Africa under the Peppadew trademark. They try to keep a lock on the market by tightly controlling their growers to make sure seeds do not get out, but there are numerous people on the internet claiming to have seeds for sale. This would be an interesting pepper to grow.

The bottled peppers were not available so I bought a bottle of a dried Peppadew seasoning. The variety I purchased was their Pepper & Cilantro blend, with dried bell pepper, Peppadew, garlic, onion, parsley, lemon zest, and cilantro. The blend also has salt and black pepper so it makes a good seasoning by itself. I have used it on my morning eggs, on tomatoes, chicken salad, grilled fish and chicken breast, wherever I want to add a little different taste. All this got me curious about South African food and I found a recipe I really like, details below.

Peppadew seasoning

Monday, August 22, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Previously I had little knowledge of or interest in heirloom tomatoes. You can’t buy them at the supermarket, and the farm stands around here just have bins with large piles of “native” tomatoes of some unidentified variety. So I had no experience with the variety of colors and shapes and the wonderful flavors of heirloom tomatoes.

Then several years ago on a business trip to San Francisco, I was working a trade show by myself, eight hours a day of standing up without a break. When I got a day off, I treated myself to a trip to the waterfront, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf (really commercialized into a tourist trap now) and Ghirardelli Square. I had dinner at the McCormick and Kuleto’s restaurant in Ghirardelli.

It must have been early or a weekday, because the restaurant was not very busy and I got a great table on the balcony with a terrific view of the harbor. My waitress was quite enthusiastic about one of the specials that night, an heirloom tomato salad. My expense account budget was already going to be blown by this meal, but she convinced me to try the salad. Twelve dollars for four slices of tomato!

Heirloom tomato salad

I am glad I did because the salad was wonderful. I can not remember what else I had for dinner, but I remember those tomatoes, four slices of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes laid on a bed of salad greens and drizzled with truffle oil. What is truffle oil? It is olive oil that has been infused with the essence of white truffles, a rare and expensive fungus found growing underground.

Since then, I have been experimenting with planting various heirloom tomatoes. Varieties I have tried include Brandywine, German Striped, German Pink, Cherokee Purple and Mr. Stripey. And then I found my local supermarket carries truffle oil! So now when I have ripe heirloom slicers on hand, our favorite way to serve them is to slice them and drizzle with truffle oil with a garnish of chopped basil or other herb. The photo shows a slice of Cherokee Purple on top and a Brandywine. No lettuce for garnish but the essence of the dish is there, heirloom tomatoes and truffle oil.

Harvest Monday–22 August 2011

Tomatoes and beans are the story this week. I have been harvesting the tomatoes when they start to show color (or in the case of the Romas, when they drop). The tomatoes rapidly ripen on the kitchen counter anyway and I am hoping the plants will be able to devote their energy to develop the young fruits on the top of the plants before cold weather arrives.

A few heirloom tomatoes below. Upper left is a Cherokee Purple, upper right is a Brandywine. The tomatoes at the bottom are my mystery tomato that came in a 6-pack of Roma tomato plants.

Heirloom tomatoes

Jade beans, a cucumber and Broccoli shoots.

Beans, cuke and broccoli

More Jet Star and Roma tomatoes. The Romas are definitely starting to slump, but the tomatoes are not coloring at the same time, so sauce making may be extended.

Jet Star and Roma tomatoes

Again, more tomatoes and beans, plus another cucumber and a couple of Sunburst patty pan squash. I really like the patty pans. They got a later start than the Zucchini and put out just male flowers for two weeks, but are now setting fruit. The texture is creamy smooth and the flavor sweet and nutty, excellent for eating raw.

Veggie assortment

On Saturday, I removed the floating row cover from the collard/kale bed and cut a large amount of collard leaves. I am going to try freezing the collards after washing and chopping them.


Another large picking of tomatoes, some beans, and another patty pan. You can also see a Poblano pepper in the front. The beans, Poblano, and a tomato went into another batch of stewed green beans, some of which was frozen.

Tomatoes, poblano pepper, and beans

You too can join in the Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Harvest Monday–15 August 2011

This week it was mostly tomatoes and beans. I cut a lot of basil and parsley to make pesto, which I will freeze.

Basil and parsley

A couple of Jet Star tomatoes and my first Sunburst squash, hand-pollinated. The cover is now off the squash and I am taking my chances with whatever squash bugs are left.

Tomatoes, patty pan and broccoli

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Brick Ends Farm Compost

Earlier this summer I was in the produce department of a local Hannaford supermarket and noticed a pile of white sacks with a sign about Hannaford recycling its waste. I got the impression that the sacks of compost were made from Hannaford waste, but I am not sure that’s the case.

Brick Ends Farms compost

The compost was made by Brick Ends Farm, a non-profit organization dedicated to “restoring fertility to worn out farmland, initially through green manure crops and later through heavy application of organic compost.” The compost is made from organic produce and is usually sold in truck load quantities. The bag I purchased was the product of a collaboration between Brick Ends Farm and Kidz b Kidz.

Kidz b Kidz is a Needham-based non-profit organization with the goal to teach children about “empathy and the importance of helping others, and encourage them to find ways to use their artful hands and generous spirits to do good in the world.”  The compost is a project of Kidz b Kidz, using compost donated by Brick Ends Farm, and bagged by developmentally disabled adults from Bass River to give them meaningful employment. The artwork was done by kids at Kidz b Kidz, and the profits are donated to Boston Children’s Hospital. How much more feel-good could you get into one bag? The compost is great and it is packaged in a nice cloth bag with a string tie to re-close it.

Monday, August 8, 2011


This is a good time of year with all the vegetables from the garden. Dinner planning is easy, usually a little grilled meat or fish with a vegetable and a salad, and the grocery bills are significantly less. I usually look for tasty, low-carb recipes that use a lot of vegetables without increasing their volume. I remember spending hours following a Julia Child recipe for ratatouille that turned an eggplant and a couple of zucchini into a huge pot of grey, rubbery stuff that sat in the fridge for a week before I tossed it.

A frittata is sort of an Italian omelet and is especially useful when you have nothing else in the refrigerator for dinner. The Spanish have a similar dish called a tortilla and made with potatoes. It is a staple in tapa bars.You don’t need a recipe for this, I just sort of eyeball it. Of course, the frittata is best served with a large salad from the garden, to use up some of that lettuce and cucumbers. And it’s great left  over, for breakfast or lunch, cold or reheated. My sort-of recipe follows.

Harvest Monday–August 8, 2011

Vegetable harvest

We had rain this weekend so I did not visit the garden on Sunday. I visited this morning just to check on things and came home with with a bag of veggies. A couple of cucumbers, some Cubanelle peppers, a Lady Bell pepper, Sungold cherry tomatoes, a Raven zucchini, a third picking of Jade green beans, and Jet Star tomatoes. Not bad for having no expectations.

I picked a couple of the Jet Stars with catfacing that were starting to color. The larger one weighs 20 ounces, the smaller one 14 ounces.The one at the bottom of the picture was picked semi-green on Friday and is already ripening nicely. With a heavy load of tomatoes on the vines, I usually harvest the first ones to color up and ripen them at home, so the plant can put its energy into the remaining fruit. This year with the bizarre weather, some of the earliest fruit to set was affected by catfacing, caused by cool temperatures resulting in incomplete pollination of the fruit. The later fruits do not have this problem.

I have several pounds of green beans harvested last week in the fridge. I may try to blanch and freeze some of them using my vacuum sealer. In the past, I found the frozen beans to be mushy and watery. I may also try to freeze some stewed beans, larger beans that are simmered with onions, tomatoes and a chili pepper for about an hour. I will post a recipe later, but this is one of my favorites.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Visual Diagnostic Aid

I visit the garden almost daily and one of the first things I do is check all of the plants for signs of problems. This is how you find you have a pest or disease problem before the damage becomes too severe. With experience we learn to recognize many problems, but there is always something new attacking our plants. The trick is to figure out what is causing the problem from the visual clues we get observing the plant.

I learned of a really great visual diagnostic tool from the High Mowing Seeds blog. The tool is the Landscape Problem Solver from the Home and Garden Information Center of the University of Maryland. The site works by starting with a description of the problem, then offers a list of possible causes. Select what you think might be the cause and you get a page with detailed descriptions and photographs with information on how to treat or prevent the problem. The advice includes information on organic and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques.

This was a fortuitous find because I have just noticed a problem with my zucchini. I have my summer squash under floating row cover to hopefully ward off the squash bugs and borers. The downside is I have to check each day for female flowers and hand pollinate them. I have already harvested two zucchini and have two more successfully pollinated. But now I noticed a lot of leaf damage I am not familiar with. I took the photos below so I would have a reference to use when I go research the problem.

Leaf damage on zucchiniLeaf damage on zucchini

The leaves seem to have lots of small yellow/brown spots. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow and wilt. I looked under the leaves and around the raised bed for evidence of some kind of insect pest but found nothing. Using the HGIC website above, it seems like this type of damage is typical of squash bugs, which suck juices from the leaves. I suspect the bugs are capable of crawling under the row cover. I didn’t find bugs or nymphs or eggs under the leaves. Following the site’s advice, I will lay down some trap boards under the plants and check them each morning. Meanwhile. I sprayed the plant with insecticidal soap. And I decided to remove the row cover so I don’t have to hand pollinate. Hopefully it is late enough that the threat from squash pests is diminished.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Community Garden Update

It is now August and the garden plots in the Bolton Community Garden are looking green and healthy, despite the weather, insects and disease we have had to put up with. Below are some pictures of the Garden.

Bolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in August
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