Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend: Visit your local Farmers Market and your local Cemeteries

Spring flies by so quickly that it is hard to believe that Memorial Day weekend is upon us already.  A lot of people will travel over this long holiday weekend.  If you are headed out of town, I encourage you to check out your destination’s local farmers market.  Be sure to report back--I always enjoy hearing about markets in other communities.  If you have guests coming to Zanesville this weekend be sure to bring them to our market to give them a taste of what our area has to offer.
            Memorial Day was created to honor veterans who died in Military service.  It is so nice to visit the cemetery and see the fresh American flags waving over the graves of our fallen heroes.  I have always enjoyed taking a trip to the cemetery in the spring.  You can’t argue the fact that cemeteries are peaceful places and there always seems to be the fragrance of an old-fashioned lilac wafting through the air.
            This past Sunday I traveled with my grandma, Jean Baughman, and my aunt, Mary Ann Ewart, to the old family plot in the cemetery down the road from where my grandma grew up near Moxahala, Ohio in Perry County.  It was time to do the annual cleanup around the headstones so they are ready for “Decoration Day” as grandma calls it.
            People often say to me, “You must have a green thumb.”  I usually shrug it off because I truly feel surprised when anything that I plant actually sprouts, let alone seeing it bloom or become something edible.  However, while working in the cemetery with my grandma and aunt, I realized that I have been handed down a legacy of the love of flowers and growing things from generations of women in my family. 
I brought home some peonies and iris that I had thinned from around the grave of my great-grandma, Julia Hankins.  Though I was just a kid when she died, I have wonderful memories or her flower gardens.  They say she could grow anything.  There is a holly tree that she brought home from a trip to California one time.  They said it would never live in this climate—it’s now taller than the house. 
And on another trip, when she passed some desert plants that were fenced off in order to protect them, she swatted at them with her four-pronged cane saying, “You can’t kill that stuff.  It will grow anywhere.”  That is the confidence of someone with a true green thumb; if anyone could have gotten that stuff to grow in Ohio, I’m sure it would have been my Grandma Julia. 
This is the season when my “Joy of Rhubarb” cookbook, by Theresa Millang, comes in handy.  The other day, a cousin asked, via Facebook, for a kid-friendly rhubarb recipe.  My sister replied “I’m still looking for an adult friendly one. Yuk.”  Here’s one from that cookbook that might satisfy both.

Rhubarb Honey Muffins
·         2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon baking soda
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         1 egg, beaten
·         1 cup brown sugar, packed
·         2/3 cup vegetable oil
·         ½ cup honey
·         1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         ¾ cup buttermilk
·         1 ½ cups fresh rhubarb, finely chopped
·         ½ cup pecans, chopped
·         1 tablespoon butter, mixed with ½ cup sugar until crumbly

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.  Paper-line muffin pans.  In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients.  In another bowl, stir egg, brown sugar, oil, honey, vanilla and buttermilk until blended; stir into flour mixture until moistened.  Fold in rhubarb and pecans.  Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle tops with butter-sugar mixture.  Bake 25-35 minutes or until golden.  Remove from pan; cool on a rack.  Makes 24 muffins.

 Pictures from the cemetery trip: (Mom thinks it's morbid to take trips to the cemetery.  She won't go.  I enjoy it.  We even stopped at the "Six Mile Turn" on the way and got subs to have a picnic in the cemetery.  I used long dead cousin so-and-so's tombstone as a table.  We all decided he would have been okay with it. Haha!)
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This is Grandma Jean.  Here are a few odd family tales she recounted while we were there:  She is seated in front of the grave of her cousin Joe Podolinski who had his hand shot off in World War I.  Another grave is of her uncle Lawrence Trunko who died in 1919 at the age of eighteen.  He was born deaf and was killed one night while while walking home from Corning.  He fell asleep on the train track and didn't hear the train.  How tragic!  She told of her uncle Charlie Hudak who had a large indentation in his head from an unfortunate run-in with an axe.  (This is not how he died.)  Seems like life was pretty hard back then.

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Aunt Mary Ann in working around the grave of my great-grandparents, Julia and Earl Hankins.  To the left is the grave of deaf uncle Lawrence Trunko and in the rear is the grave of my great-great grandparents Julia and Karol Trunko.

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This is a yucca plant.  I hate yucca plants.  We have dug this thing up countless times and it just won't die!

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The yucca after I dug it and chopped it with a hatchet!  NEVER plant a yucca unless it is in a spot where you want it to remain forever!

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The supervisor--Grandma Jean!  Knitting as usual!  Age 91.

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Peonies and iris we thinned out and are taking home with us. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Flowers and May Showers

            The full “Flower Moon” was last night, May 14th, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.  As the old saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers” and it does sometimes seem that the flowers truly are more beautiful in May than in other months.  It’s certainly not that they are as showy or elegant as some of the later flowers such as roses, zinnias, and sunflowers.  However, any pop of color against the lush shades of newly emerging greenery are such sight for sore eyes after the drab grays and browns of winter that the flowers seem rather dazzling.
 A trip to farmers market offers annuals in almost every hue of the rainbow to add a little extra punch of color to your porches and flower beds.  Bright red geraniums, pink and white impatiens, sunny yellow and orange marigolds, blue bachelor buttons, and deep purple petunias, are among the spectrum that can be found.
            Mother’s Day weekend at Farmers Market was certainly a wet one.  My almost two year old niece, who was visiting from Cincinnati, certainly enjoyed playing in the rain and stomping puddles, but the rest of us mostly huddled under tents and umbrellas or inside the building.  As we said--April showers bring May flowers; yet, in contrast--May showers bring impatient farmers.  It is hard to get into the fields when the ground is so wet. 
Rather than twiddling my thumbs waiting for the ground to dry out, I have been utilizing this time to weed and thin some of the flower beds around the house.  It’s amazing how quickly plants like hosta, day lilies, and ground covers can take over an entire flower bed.  They sometimes become almost as bad as weeds in terms of choking out other flowers.  I recommend thinning these things every year, because when you let them go too long, trust me, it becomes quite a chore to get them back under control.
This week’s recipe features radishes.  Radishes are one of the earliest vegetables ready in the spring, most varieties taking only about twenty five days to mature.  This year I tried a new variety that was supposed to be ready in only 18 days.  Of course, after my radish seeds were in the ground, I forgot to record the date of planting.  Once planting season starts my organizational skills and short term memory typically fly out the window, so I’ll probably never know whether or not this particular variety of radish actually only takes three weeks to grow.    I was excited when my friend Diane Jahnes brought this salad to our book club because I am always looking for more interesting ways to serves radishes.  She got the recipe from finecooking.com.  May Day is celebrated on May 1st and maybe one of these years I’ll get my radishes planted early enough to actually prepare this dish on May Day.

May Day Radish and Parsley Salad
  • 12 oz. trimmed fresh radishes (about 1-1/2 bunches), cut in half lengthwise and then into lengthwise wedges about 1/4 inch wide
  • 1/2 cup whole small (or large torn) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. sliced fresh chives (cut into 1/2-inch lengths), plus chive blossoms if available, for garnish (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt
Put the radishes, parsley leaves, and chives in a medium bowl.  Whisk together the peanut oil, crystallized ginger, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Let sit for a few minutes to let the juices mingle and the ginger soften, then whisk again. Pour and scrape the dressing over the radish-herb mix. Toss and mix well and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently and tasting occasionally. (The radishes will release some liquid and will absorb some of the flavor of the dressing as they sit. They will stay crisp.) Serve the salad in little glass bowls along with some of the juices. If you like, garnish with chive blossoms.

My family came to see me at market.  They were troopers!

Cole preferred to stay under the tent in the wagon.

Maya, on the other hand, LOVED the rain!

Second Week of Farmer’s Market is just in time for Mother’s Day

            Week two of the Zanesville Farmer’s Market is upon us.  Make a special date with your mother to come to the Muskingum County Fairgrounds on Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon.  Picking out the perfect hanging basket or flat of annuals is the perfect way to show her just how much she is appreciated.  And don’t stop there—actually helping her clean out flower beds and working together to plant them when you get home is an even better gift to your mother.  Ohio is known to have late frost after Mother’s Day.  So, if you do go ahead and put in tender annuals, be sure to check the forecast and cover them if there is any chance of frost.
            The first week of Farmer’s Market was a quite a success.  Many customers and vendors had not seen one another since the end of last October.  Obviously, there was a good bit to catch up on.  The most prevalent topic of conversation was, of course, the harsh winter and how glad everyone was to be back at the fairgrounds on a fine spring day.
            Mrs. Cherry and I discussed how the fruit trees had faired with the late freezes.  She thought that their apple crop would be decent but sadly informed me that there will be no peaches in the state of Ohio this year.  This sad news makes me wish I had canned more peaches last summer.  I think we are down to the last one or two jars in the cellar.
            She and I also discussed how disappointed we were in the state of our herb gardens.  Many herbs are perennial and supposed to be winter hardy but this year many did not make it through the cold temperatures at all or were greatly stunted.  Most of my large sage bush died.  Only one small branch showed signs of green, so I trimmed off all of the dead, hoping this small portion will make a comeback.  All of my lavender died as well as my thyme.  If your herb beds suffered the same, you can find replacement plants at the farmer’s market and it shouldn’t take long for them to flourish.
            Never fear, though, no polar vortex could dampen the spirit of my mint patch.  We were still able to harvest plenty of this aggressive herb to make our annual Mint Juleps in honor of the Kentucky Derby this past Saturday.  Here is an easy and very tasty side dish featuring mint. (kaylnskitchen.com)  I would probably use spearmint for this one, but peppermint would work as well.  

Cannellini Beans in Mint Marinade

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and well drained (or use 3 1/2 cups freshly cooked beans.)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup finely minced fresh mint leaves
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Drain beans into colander and rinse well until no more foam appears.  Then let beans drain until they are fairly dry. (Sometimes I blot dry with paper towels if they don't seem to be dry enough.)
While beans drain, finely chop mint. In a plastic bowl big enough to hold beans, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in mint, then add beans and gently stir until beans are coated. Allow this to marinate at room temperature for several hours before serving.  The beans will keep in the fridge for several days, but let come to room temperature again and stir before serving leftovers.

Planting potatoes!

Cool arrowhead (or spearhead) I dug up while planting potatoes.  Best one I've ever found!

Cool painting of my onion patch by my artist friend Nora Daniel.  (Trust me, this photo doesn't do this sweet little painting justice.)

My niece and nephew came to visit from Cincinnati.  I love these two!

First Farmers' Market of the 2014 Season

            Saturday, May 3, marks the beginning of the 2014 season of the Zanesville Farmers Market, held from nine to Noon at the Muskingum County Fairgrounds.
            This is a great occasion for the community to come out and celebrate the fact that spring is finally upon us after a winter that seemed to drag on forever.  In spite of the long winter, May really has arrived.  Once again, there is an event to look forward to every Saturday morning from now until October.
            Fulfilling both social and practical needs, a trip to the Farmers Market gives customers an opportunity to come out and say hello to old friends as well as to purchase goods from local vendors.  Meat, cheese, baked goodies, vegetable and flower plants, crafts—all of your favorite items—will once again be available.
            Stop at the Master Gardener booth and one of their knowledgeable volunteers will answer questions and provide some advice as you make garden and landscape plans for the summer.   
           Early season produce may be a bit slow to appear on farmers’ tables this spring, but the soil is warming up, so there are a few things already popping out of the ground.  Look for asparagus, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and other such cool weather crops as the weeks progress.  Spring is also an abundant laying time for hens so look for farm fresh eggs.

            Growing up, mushroom hunting with my dad was one of the highlights of spring, and still is.  The season has just begun, so the hunt is on.  In our family, as in most, the elusive morel, once acquired, is sliced in half, soaked in saltwater (to purge any critters that may be hiding in the crevices), then dredged in flour and pan fried in butter.  This traditional method of preparation is delicious, but my creative-cook friend, Amy Kesting, suggested that I think outside the box and try slow roasting them in the oven.  The following recipe, therefore, was inspired by her idea.

Roasted Morels and Asparagus with Rice
·         1 lb Asparagus
·         ¼-1/2 lb Morel Mushrooms (substitute portabellas or white button mushrooms if you are not having any luck finding morels)
·         1 clove garlic, minced
·         1 small bunch green onions or shallot, chopped
·         2 T. Olive Oil
·         Salt and Pepper to taste
·         Cooked Rice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and cut asparagus into 1” pieces.  Slice morels lengthwise, soak in saltwater, then lay on a paper towel to dry.  Coat a baking pan with olive oil.  Lay morels, cut side down, on sheet and intersperse the asparagus pieces, garlic, and onions.  Drizzle with more olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in the oven for 10 minutes or so, until mushrooms and asparagus are browned.  Serve over a bed of your favorite kind of rice. 

First Farmers' Market of the Season!  Cute new banner from my sister.

Honey from my friends at Honeyrun Farm.  Check out the link to their blog on the right.

Good friend Lindsay with little Penelope.  Baby's first mushroom hunt was a success!

Mushroom hunting is always fun whether you fine one or one hundred!

Some of this year's finds!

Black morels found right in our own backyard!