Archive for August, 2008

"The creepy joy of cooking"

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Vincent Price’s recipe for a hot dog –

“slit franks down the middle, lay on “sharp cheese” and sautéed onions, and then wind around a strip of bacon.”

From Slate.

The Water Question

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Water’s been in the news a lot lately. Maine, which has rich resources and long history with water, is embroiled in a number of disputes, most of which have Poland Spring bottled water at their center. Historically, the disputes have been located around the town of Poland Spring itself, and Fryeburg. But lately Poland Springs has been widening its grasp and new issues have popped up in Springvale, Hollis and Kennebunk.

Fortunately we have Elizabeth Royte to help us frame the issue and warn of some of its larger implications. Royte’s new book Bottlemania has been extensively and quite favorably reviewed. She has a recent NYTimes article on turning sewage into water, a practice increasingly necessary in some parts of the world and even of this country (San Diego, for example).

Royte will be coming to speak in Portland this September 17th, and you’ll have two opportunities to catch her. First she’ll be speaking at the Portland Public Library from noon-1pm, as part of their Brown Bag Lunch series. That evening, Rabelais will host Royte at One Longfellow Square, where she will talk about her book, and about the future of water in Maine and the world beyond. Stay tuned to our events calendar for more info in the near future.


Saturday, August 9th, 2008

So my efforts with the apple trees seem to be for naught. A years’ worth of pruning, spraying (organic), and worrying has yielded four trees full of gnarled, black spotted little globes. Thankfully, we’ve planted nine new apples, plums and pears in the last two years, and we will look forward to future fruits from them. In the meantime, I’ve been turning my attention to the much more satisfying (right now) world of berries.

We’ve many clumps of brambles around the farm, and a few years of pruning and mulching have finally brought the berries back to fruiting. In some places new growth has outpaced berry production, and in others one miserable looking bush has produced a quart or two. Most exciting is the discovery of blackberry and black raspberry bushes tucked away in corners of our hay fields. The black raspberry bushes have put up thick, heavily thorned canes which arch to the ground in search of a new place to start a new bush. I’ve been busy directing these canes toward where I want them to go, and popping the berries in my mouth as I work.

I’ve been reading Gene Logsdon’s classic Successful Berry Growing, as well as a few more modern works on the fruit, and it’s gotten me thinking about how much I love berries. While supermarket berries tend to be a bit lacking in real flavor, real backyard berries – wild or cultivated – are infinitely more satisfying, in part because they take a bit of labor to harvest. And berries offer the extra satisfaction of a long rotation through the seasons; strawberries give way to blueberries, raspberries to black raspberries and finally blackberries. You might even get lucky with some late fruiting varieties which can take you into fall.

My wild berries come in raspberry, blackberry and black raspberry, but within each family there is huge variety, and so I’ve been driven to consult Hedrick’s Small Fruits of New York. This massive dark green tome is part of the monumental survey of edible plants of New York (but it works for all of New England) which was issued by the New York Experimental Agricultural Station. Hundreds of varieties of these three basic berry types are cataloged and illustrated here, some of which are no longer known, although they are hopefully out there somewhere in wild form. And there are separate volumes for Plums, Pears, Peaches, Cherries, Grapes, Wild Edibles, Mushrooms, and Apples, along with the much less well-known series on Vegetables. I’ve yet to identify my varieties, and given the complexity of identification and my lack of knowledge I may never, but this fall I’ll be busy mulching, pruning and otherwise tending to my berry plants, and looking forward to next summer.