Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Friday January 20, 2012

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Celebrating Heirloom Kernels

I can’t remember the last time I read a positive article about corn.  With the emphasis on genetically modified corn engineered by Monsanto for high fructose corn syrup and ethanol and the golden piles photographed in the Midwest as examples of excess of commodity crops we are hardly celebrating the tiny kernel.  Except today— National Popcorn Day—January 19th.  A day solely devoted to our favorite movie munchies and rainy day snack!

The origins of January 19th as National Popcorn day are unknown, however if you want to celebrate and need some ideas for decorations or games head here.  Also, a good friend of mine was kind enough to share her own Kettle Corn recipe (watch out because it's addictive!), she also gives instructions on how to pop corn the old fashioned way with oil in a pan on the stove.  

It was a near miss, but thankfully I heard about National Popcorn Day before it had passed.  We just finished ordering our seeds from the folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for planting the Heirloom Meals garden and selling on our website but I headed back over to their online catalog to read up on heirloom corn varieties with the dream of adding to our order a few packs of corn seeds.  While Baker Creek sells 12 different heirloom varieties of corn their beautiful red Strawberry and dark brown Dakota Black varieties are both well suited for popping-you can check these out at the Baker Creek website.

So what’s my favorite kernel of truth?  Popcorn pops in two shapes— the butterfly and the mushroom —next time you’re at the movies take a closer look…

Friday January 13, 2012

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Not all Chickens Cluck the Same By Mary Vaughan


There are few things as exciting as a new cookbook especially just when the January doom and gloom starts to set in and you’re counting down the days until you can start planting things and seeing the sun again.  I just received a little delivery from amazon—“The River Cottage Cookbook.”  Author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a way with words and ordering this book was a bit of a ploy on my part as I knew that this is a book that makes you feel confident you can undertake virtually any agricultural activity and I am confident that I want to raise chickens in my parents’ yard.  My parents, however, might still need a little convincing. They willingly allowed me to move back home while I am interning at Heirloom Meals-but of course that was before they knew of my plans for chickens, bees, raised beds and cold frame.   Perhaps I can include a human sized roost in that coop…

Most of us can name the breed of dog we own but can we name the breed of chicken our eggs come?  Largely the chicken undertaking and research has been an experience in learning that “not all chickens cluck the same.”  The number of eggs you get and whether your laying bird will ultimately taste good on the table has everything to do with the breed you select. The size and color of the eggs and personality of the chickens also varies considerably across breeds.  Hugh talks about the Isa Brown and Welsomer as great layers, and Cuckoo Marans, Light Sussex, Dorking, Wyandott, Dumpy and Rhode Island Red as “good dual purpose birds”- for the eggs AND the table. 


Our friends at Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs sell the eggs from two heirloom varieties- Ameraucanas and Marans.  Ameraucanas lay beautiful pastel blue colored eggs and Marans lay brown eggs.  These birds are well adapted to harsh environments as the Ameraucanas originated in the Patagonia and Marans were bred in France to be adapted to damp environments.  For more information about either of these Heirloom breeds check out Pete and Gerry’s website.

Thursday September 01, 2011

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Harvest Time - a True Bounty

Ok, so admit it, I expected my garden to produce some food but it is truly extraordinary how much food a 20 X 48 foot garden can yield.  I can't keep up with the tomatoes despite our eating 2-3 a day, canning 50 jars of salsa, roasting multiple pans of cherry tomatoes and freezing and of course, giving some away.  I think one needs to take a week or two off and just put up your food!

So here's my harvest thus far - at least 2 small bushels of jalapenos, 100 lbs tomatoes, 20 eggplant, 50 garlic cloves, who knows how much kale and Swiss chard, 10 heads of cabbage, still waiting to harvest onions.....

And now I am getting ready to plant for late fall harvest, so stay tuned!!

Thursday August 11, 2011

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Who wants sauerkraut?

This year, my garden produced an abundant crop of cabbage, which finally reached such a size that I had to harvest it!

There are many great ways to use cabbage, and I'm going to preserve mine by making some sauerkraut. First, of course, I needed a sauerkraut crock. After scouring the internet, I found a beautiful crock, and I hope to get started on it soon. Stay tuned!

Thursday July 07, 2011

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
The Joys of Straw

My garden is really coming along.  The 38 tomato plants are all staked.  I remember my grandfather always removing the "suckers".  When I was a kid I thought they were bugs. Now I remove the suckers and have learned that they are new shoots that form at the roots of the plant that can "suck" the energy from growing bigger and more delicious tomatoes. I have even staked my eggplant which are finally beginning to show signs of life.  For a while I thought they were frozen in size.  Now they are growing and offering up flowers - yippee!!

I planted my kale and Swiss chard so it gets morning and midday sun, but ends up shaded as the afternoon passes.  I think they like it  -  they are healthy and productive!!

But the weeds were killing me!  In fact, one day I thought the weeds were winning and then I discovered STRAW.  Not only does the straw make for lovely paths, its golden color offers a juxtaposition to the lush greeness of all the plants.  And, it seemed to be a magnet for the chickens - I only left the gate open for 2 minutes as I went for a glass of water....

Well, it's time for a little harvesting. Happy day.

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