Archive for March, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

I came across this blog by accident;  BiscottiQueen does an excellent job  covering varied gardening subjects.  She has given me permission to reproduce this article for your reading pleasure.  Visit her blog for more great articles.

—————————————————————————————-

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

by BiscottiQueen


**Originally I wrote this article for Bakespace.com but I haven’t seen any further movement on the blog lately. I didn’t want this topic to get old. It is time to get thinking about your Tomatoes!**

Why are tomatoes so important to the home gardener? Simple… a produce of intense flavor, multiple uses, an abundance of choices available, and many varieties give high yields. When I think of tomatoes I think of my grandmother’s garden, and all those wonderful sauces she prepared from them. She however lived in the Northeastern United States when I was a child, I now live in the hot and humid Southeastern United states. What varieties worked for her, won’t exactly work for me and not necessarily will work for you.

Things to consider before you choose a tomato:

  • Flavor

  • Disease Resistance

  • Heat Resistance

  • Your Cooking Needs

  • Expected Yield

Here are a list of Types and Varieties. Some hybrids, some heirlooms, and some open pollinating hybrids. Each type is listed by popularity for different regions of the United States. If you are not in the U.S. look at the climate type listed and see how they measure up to your region.

Slicing Tomatoes:

Brandywine – Available in Red, Pink, Brown and more. A popular heirloom variety all over the country. Brandywine does particularly well in areas such as: The hot Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, interior South, shorter season North Central and Rockies, humid Gulf coast, arid Southwest, and shorter Northeastern summers. Brandywine are early developers.

Cherry Tomato Choices:

Sungold – An Open pollinating hybrid, does really well in the Midwest, Mid-atlantic, Interior-south, Northwest, Rockies, Southwest, and Northeast.

Super Sweet 100 -Another hybrid, does well in the Midwest, Mid-atlantic, Interior-south, Northwest, Rockies, Southwest, and Northeast.

Paste Tomatoes (Also good for canning):

Amish Paste– An heirloom variety that thrives in all regions of the US. Said to have an amazing flavor.

Currently the most popular colorful heirloom is the Cherokee Purple. It needs an extra long hot summer to ripen though, so it is not best for all regions. It may be a fun one to try in your garden if you are looking to try your hand at an heirloom variety this year and you have the long season it needs!

For more information on tomatoes, varieties and how to grow them check out www.MotherEarthNews.com and search tomatoes. A lot of the information in this article was found from their site using information from their readers all over the United States.

Here’s a yummy Heirloom Tomato Tart by Whirlybird I found on Bakespace I can’t WAIT to try this summer:
http://www.bakespace.com/recipes/detail/Heirloom-Tomato-Tart/45590/


Don’t Call Me A Dumbcluck

Dumbcluck always seemed an appropriate designation for a chicken.   When I got to know a few, up close and personal,  my thinking changed completely.

Domesticated pet birds provide endless  entertainment;  our bantams  give us  eggs; it takes three of the little globes of protein to make a serving, but –hey, they are from my  own little flock!  They give this country boy, living in town, bragging rights.

Linda gets especially close and friendly with this feathered  menagerie.

Each youngster is named.  Each one’s  nom de plume is chosen to reflect its personality.

Yes, chickens do have definite and distinct personalities!

Let’s see, in our flock of regular breed bantams  is  Napoleon,  Big Boy, Henny Penny, Lil Red, Mama’s Girl and the infamous Bully Boy.

When the kitchen door opens,  all around the  yard heads  jerk to attention.   They are hoping a treat might be forthcoming.

A black fluff ball that moves like a bulldog

I hear Linda  call, “Come to Mommy, Big Boy!!”

The first time I heard her call, I came running , a big , silly grin on my face!

She gives me that  disgusted  look (reserved just for me);  “Not you, you old  fool!”,  looks past me, to  this big black fluff, moving with the rolling motion of a bulldog.  Racing  toward us is  Big Boy, the silkie rooster; he is followed by his harem.

About  four  feet in front of Linda he stops, turns sideways, lifts  his head high,  stretches his neck and crows!!

Arrogant, aggressive!! One mean bird. I am Bully Boy!

It is always the same ritual except for me, (I stay put) and Bully Boy, the half-bred.

None of the flock allows us to touch them;   all gather  round , except Bully Boy, eager for whatever morsel is being offered.

(Frt - Bk) Screech, Lucy, and Tiny Mite

The half-breed, has big plans; he will dominate the flock one day; for now he bids his time outside the circle. Bully Boy’s  arrogant, combative,  attitude broadcasts his intentions, loudly and clearly!!

These small bundles of energy are the first echelon  in our feathered kingdom.

Serama are promoted as the smallest chickens in the world; weight range for a  ‘champion grade’ rooster is from 8 to 12 ounces; hens range from 6 to 10 ounces.

None of mine qualify as show material but they  stand  up front on my  list, as favorite feathered pets.

Our three, Screech, Tiny Mite, and Lucy  amaze us with their intelligent, resourceful actions.  They are said to descend from tiny birds from  Malaysia.

It is sad, that a few weeks ago, all but three of our flock was destroyed by two ranging dogs, set free to roam the neighborhood.

Small Town, USA

Small town USA, the place that forever imprints it’s images  in our minds and on our hearts.  Come with Larry Davis as he visits one town, so similar to many, yet uniquely different from any.

———————————————————————————–

Cockleburr, TEXAS

Larry D. Davis

It’s a 790 miles trip, from the Oklahoma state line, to the tip of Texas on the Mexican border south of Brownsville

I am in Cockleburr, Texas.  Barely a wide spot in the road,  Cockleburr sees little traffic, an occasional farm tractor; maybe, a carload of locals.   The cane poles stickin’ out the passenger window of the vehicle says they are  heading for their favorite fishin’ hole.

It has been a long day on the road; it is nearing sunset; this is about as far as I want to go.

A small sign at the edge of town tells me 327 people live here.  The water tower looming in the distance proudly agrees, giving  me confidence, this indeed, is Cockleburr, Texas.  Never been here.

I pull up to one of  three intersections. A single red stop light dangles from a drooping line. The other two intersections, a block away, have stop signs in both directions.  I suppose these visual “arms of the law” keep the traffic orderly.

It is not difficult to survey the heart of town. I  can see one café, a few other stores, including a  convenience store called“Toot ‘n Tell”; “Ralph’s Clip-Joint”, a barber shop; and one gas station.

Charley's Sinclair Gas Station offers gas and information about Cockleburr

As I  pull in to “Charley’s Sinclair Gas Station” for a fill-up, I  am  greeted by a short, rotund little man.  An un-lit black stogie hangs from one side of his mouth. He bounds out of his tiny office, eager to serve. I am gassed; ready to go in a jiffy.

During our conversation he highly recommends “Johnny McWhorter’s Quik-Stop Café” for a reasonably priced, filling meal.  I am famished. I head down the block, this is my only choice in Cockleburr.

Just as soon as I plop down on a stool, a petite waitress, menu in hand, greets me.

I order coffee – black – hoping to recharge my road-weary body.

I study the meager menu, chose the “Blue plate special of the day”.  It looks good enough – $4.95. including iced tea (sweet or unsweet).

This is Thursday, the “special” today is chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes, country gravy, collard greens, Texas toast and, for desert, peach cobbler.

“Great meal!”, I think.

While waiting, I peruse the “breakfast menu.” Decide I will have one egg, “sunny side up”, biscuits with sausage gravy, a side order of grits, in the morning; this will be sufficient to start a new day.

My evening meal is satisfying.

I drive to the “Cozy-Nite  Motel”.   My  room is  simple, but clean;  reminiscent of the “tourist cabins” along “Route 66” I remember from childhood.

There is that unmistakable aroma of those  personal-sized, complimentary, fragrant soap bars that were a permanent fixture of  Mom & Pop motels in the days of my youth.

The older model TV picks up few channels.    This does not  matter; I am dead-tired; I do not need to be entertained.

Restful sleep comes quickly.

A beam of laser-like sunlight, piercing the dark through a crack between the drawn drapes covering the front window, is my wake-up call.

I am jolted awake; back to reality!!

My own bed! My home! It is time to get ready to head down the expressway, going to work.

First, a quick shower.

So, Cockleburr, Texas was just a dream.  Or was it??

On the tray in my shower lies an unopened, complimentary bar of fragrant soap, labeled “Cozy-Nite Motel”.

©2010 Larry Davis

Heirloom Tomatoes

Gary Millwood from Louisville, Kentucky is a grower and collector of heirloom tomatoes.  Here is another fascinating story of the origin of one of  his varieties.

———————————————————————-

My most recent heirloom tomato discovery.

Gary Millwood 2010

Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad ~ Historical heirloom carried through the Underground Railroad to Ripley, Ohio, from Kentucky –  tangy red fruits about 4 – 8 ounces, IND, 70+ DTM

Tomato seeds of this variety, first  called Aunt Lou’s , were carried by a black man as he traveled the Underground Railroad from Kentucky. We have provenance tracing this variety directly  to this man;  the tomato itself is characteristic of those grown in this era.

The black man  (unfortunately we don’t know his name)  came from Kentucky to Ripley, Ohio, where many slaves crossed the river to freedom.

Ripley is home to Rankin House, now a museum,  a well known stop in  the Underground Railroad.

This black man  grew these tomatoes there, sharing seeds with a woman named Lou, who later shared seeds with her great nephew, Francis Parker.

Francis Parker was consulted, on the need to add “Underground Railroad” to the “Aunt Lou’s” to signify  its history; he was pleased that others would be able to continue growing his  Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad tomato.

Francis Parker died December 2009 after an extended illness.

Sixty years later Francis, who lived in Sardinia, Ohio, shared seeds with Wilfred Ellis, owner of Ellis’ Feed Mill.

Wilfred is still alive, though quite elderly.

Wilfred shared them with Susan Barber, who gave them to me (Gary Millwood).

I always share my seed with my friend, Maria Stenger, in Sonora, Kentucky.

I am getting older, my health is not the best; she can carry on the work I have done with  these wonderful tomatoes.

Maria showed interest in growing my Kentucky Heirloom Tomatoes several years ago; she operates a small seed business on E-bay from her farm.

Maria is growing seeds of  Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; my friend, Ira Wallace runs  the company.

Some weeks ago, I suggested Maria send several packets of our seed to Michelle Obama to be grown in the White House Garden, hoping to honor the memory of the folks who preserved this bit of history.

Maria just received an acknowledgment from the White House.  With our fingers crossed, we hope to hear from The First Lady  personally.
—————————————————————-
Note: I have added links for information only;  I am not connected with, nor am I being compensated by any linked company.

Grandma’s Cornbread and Pot Likker!!!

There are some writings that just  hit my heart.   This is one of those pieces.  Larry Davis and I could have been raised in the same house!   What fond memories came flooding back as I read!!
—————————————————————————————————-
C O R N B R E A D
©2010 Larry D.Davis

Oh man, this is how I love it!!

I believe we are the sum total of all that has gone before us— the experiences and the food traditions that have been entrusted into our care after the parents and grandparents are no longer with us in body,  but in spirit.

Specifically, I believe my life has been inexorably influenced by all those who have gone before me whether they were from Virginia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Arkansas or Texas.  All that somehow culminated in me whether it be my mannerisms, manner of speech or…my food preferences.

To me, nuthin’ in the world reminds me of the comforts of “home” more than the smell of freshly baked cornbread, southern style, and when I get a yearning to “taste my “childhood”, I make cornbread by Mom’s recipe.

Matter of fact, I did just that very thing today!

Making her recipe follows two cardinal rules for truly Southern cornbread — there’s no sugar in the recipe and it must be baked in a pre-heated cast iron skillet so the top is lightly browned, the insides are soft as a baby’s bottom and there’s a nice crust on the bottom.

That bottom crust is the secret since it lends texture like none other and is attainable only by putting oil or, in the old days, bacon grease into the skillet and pre-heating it in the hot oven before adding the prepared batter.  It really sizzles when the batter hits that hot oil and a wonderful crust forms almost immediately.

The cast iron skillet I use was passed down to me from my grandmother’s sister-in-law, my great Aunt Lola.  It is over 80 years old but cooks like a king!

“Real”Southern cornbread bears little resemblance to the sweet corn muffins enjoyed by many since it is intended to be savory rather than sweet.

I believe cornbread is one of the most versatile forms of bread imaginable.

It can be served with a big pot of pinto or kidney beans that have been slowly cooked with a ham bone, hog jowl, sow belly or a piece of fat back to give it that unmistakable aroma and flavor that I remember from childhood on a cold wintry day. Or, it is equally delicious with a steaming bowl of beef stew with cubed beef, chopped carrots, diced onion and diced tomatoes like my mother used to make for me when I came home on Christmas vacation for a visit.

My Dad and his mother used an old-time term to describe great food— it’s Larapin!  You never heard of it?? Well, look it up on the internet!  It’s a term from the “old South” meaning scrumptious!!!

Cornbread is equally tasty with a bowl of domesticated (garden grown) or “wild greens”such as Poke or Lambsquarter in the springtime and the cornbread is generally used as a vehicle to soak up some of that wonderfully tasty “pot likker”, also referred to as broth. Together they give a flavor that is much bigger and better than the sum total of their separate parts—somehow they are miraculously “synergistic” to use a modern term.

Every springtime I hunt (forage) for poke  greens & lambsquarter right here in Pennsylvania just as we did when I was a kid in Oklahoma almost 70 years ago.

On the other end of the spectrum of taste, my grandpa Davis always liked his warm cornbread after a meal as dessert with Blackstrap molasses or pancake syrup poured over it and that’s still one of my all-time favorites. Matter of fact, I enjoyed some today!!

That brought back such memories & it was, indeed, larapin!!

In fact,…untold numbers of ”country folks”,  including my dear mother and older members of the family,  used to eat a simple supper comprised of nothing more than their beloved cornbread crumbled into a glass of “sweet milk” or buttermilk and accompanied by a few “green onions” (known as scallions to northern folks)  from the garden.

For the uninitiated, “sweet milk” is the term country folks used to refer to whole milk as opposed to “skim milk” or “buttermilk”– the left-overs from making butter.

When I was a kid some folks called separated or skim milk “Blue John”.

Separated milk was processed in a DeLaval Centrifugal Separator that sat in the back room of grandad’s farm house on the Porter place in Western Oklahoma and it was operated by a crank handle which turned the big bowl centrifuge on top.

Cow’s milk was poured into the bowl, the handle was quickly turned to spin the big “bowl” on top and it separated the cream from the skim milk.  The cream was poured over the morning’s oatmeal or churned by hand into butter and then used on top of our “cathead” sized biscuits or cornbread.

I still remember operating the separator and also turning grandma’s Daisey Churn handle to make a “blob” of butter which she then put into a wooden mold that compressed it and left the imprint of a pretty flower on top.  It came out a pretty block of country butter with a “flower” on top!

Our butter wouldn’t spoil at room temperature like today’s modern “butter” which MUST  be refrigerated.  Ours WAS organic & natural and wouldn’t spoil!

Cornbread will always be a part of my food tradition as long as there is warmth in my body and breath in my nostrils.