Posts Tagged ‘Heirloom Plants’

Aunt Ruby's German Green tomato seedlings.

Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomato seedlings.

The tomato seeds that I started last week have germinated just in time to usher in the first day of spring!  After a very white winter these tiny green sprouts are a welcome site.  Thanks to slightly warmer temperatures and yesterday’s down-pouring rain most of the snow has melted off of my vegetable gardens.  It looks like spring has finally come!

This is our "big" vegetable garden.  It's a bit over 60 feet long

This is our “big” vegetable garden. It’s a bit over 60 feet long

The small garden still has a bit of snow.

The small garden still has a bit of snow.

If the weather stays nice I'll be planting rows of sugar snaps peas along the white picket fence in this garden in a few weeks.

If the weather stays nice I’ll be planting rows of sugar snap peas along the white picket fence in this garden in a few weeks.

The cilantro seedlings are starting to unfold... searching for the sunbeams shining in through my windows.

The cilantro seedlings are starting to unfold… searching for the sunbeams shining in through my windows.


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Freshly washed Dragon's Tongue beans on the left and Pink Eyed Purple Podded Peas on the right.

Freshly washed Dragon’s Tongue beans on the left and Pink Eyed Purple Podded Peas on the right.

As part of  my Izannah Walker Doll Making Retreat in September, I cooked lunch for everyone, using some of the fresh produce from my gardens.  I promised to post recipes for a few of the favorites, so here they are.  Just in time for your 2013 garden planning!

Black Eyed Pea Salad

1-2 cups of shelled, cooked and cooled black eyed peas, pink eyed purple podded  peas or other field/cow peas (you may also substitute 1 can of rinsed black eyed peas)

1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into thin rings

4-6 cups of washed and dried field greens or young lettuces

optional: 1 cup of cooled, steamed “tender-crisp” young black eyed peas or pink eyed purple podded peas in the pod – cook them just as you would young green beans

1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar – or to taste

1/2 cup of olive oil

3/4 teaspoon sea salt – or to taste

1 teaspoon sugar – or to taste

Mix last four ingredients together in a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well.  Place black eyed peas, pea pods and onions in a bowl.  Pour all of the vinaigrette over the top.  Refrigerate at least one hour.  Before serving, place lettuce in a large salad bowl or individual bowls.  Spoon marinated peas, pods and onions over the top along with some of the vinaigrette.  Serve with croutons if desired.

Heirloom Dragon Tongue Beans in my garden.

Heirloom Dragon Tongue Beans in my garden.


Another similar recipe, that is a favorite of mine, is this one that I’ve adapted from an heirloom Shaker receipt.

"Dill Marinated Beans" Dragon Tongue beans, Pink Eyed Purple Podded Peas and dill in jars, before adding vinaigrette.

“Dill Marinated Beans” Dragon Tongue beans, Pink Eyed Purple Podded Peas and dill in jars, before adding vinaigrette.

Dill Marinated Beans

6 cups of fresh beans and/or young field pea pods – cooked tender crisp in boiling salted water – then cooled

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (or to taste)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)

1 cup of fresh dill – roughly chopped

Place cooled, cooked beans and peas in clean jars with tight fitting lids (canning jars work perfectly for this).  Divide dill between the jars.  Pour the remaining vinaigrette ingredients into a separate jar, screw lid on tightly, shake well until thoroughly combined.  Pour the vinaigrette over the beans and dill, dividing evenly amongst the jars.  Cap the jars of beans and refrigerate at least overnight.  These are delicious served as a cold side dish, or spooned over mixed  greens as a salad.  They make wonderful picnic food too!

Fresh dill grown in a recycled granite-ware canning pot.

Fresh dill grown in a recycled granite-ware canning pot.

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One of my favorite fall scents is the clean, somewhat citrus scent of the Osage Orange.   I’m also quite fond of their appearance and whenever I have any available, I place them around my home in large bowls and cluster them in groups with pumpkins and gourds.

I’m forced to import the large, eerie green globes from Nebraska, on fall trips to the Midwest to visit my family.  On one memorable occasion, my sister and I climbed on top of the roof of a minivan and tried jumping high enough to pick the fruits from a mature tree.  It was not an entirely successful maneuver, as the tree was  huge and we were taking turns juggling her infant son at the same time.

The following are some of the things I’ve learned in my 20 year quest to bring Osage Oranges to Connecticut.

1. It is much easier to pick the fruits up off the ground than it is to pick them off of the tree. 🙂

2. Even if you spend enough to mail them by Priority Mail, Osage Oranges will grow moldy when shut up in a box and shipped from the Midwest to the East Coast.

3. Osage Oranges are very dense and heavy.  An important fact to remember when stuffing as many as possible into your carry on luggage!

4. When you order Osage Orange trees from a nursery, the only ones you can buy are the size of a #2 pencil.

5. Osage Orange trees also have thorns!!!

6. Be really, really careful when zipping past an Osage Orange tree while riding on a lawn tractor!!!  (reread point #5)

7.  When waiting for your Osage Oranges to be really ripe, prior to harvesting the seeds, beware of fruit flies.

8.  Tossing ripe Osage Oranges onto the ground in likely looking locations and waiting for nature to take it’s course, does not result in an Osage forest…

Originally Osage Orange trees were found in the Red River valley in southern Oklahoma and northern Texas, also the home of the Osage tribe (and the source of one of the many common names for this tree).  Coincidentally this is also the area where my family lived for several generations.

Before the invention of barbed wire, many thousands of miles of hedges were created  in the plains states, by planting young Osage trees closely together.  After barbed wire made hedge fences outmoded, the wood from the Osage trees was used for fence posts.  The wood will last for decades in the ground without rotting or suffering from insect damage. Bow makers have long prized the wood for crafting superior weapons.  Osage trees also make effective windbreaks.  And last, but not least, my personal favorite is that the sawdust from these trees can be used to dye fabrics!

Part of a row of Osage trees.

I currently have a rather long row of Osage trees planted parallel to one of my property lines.    Some of the trees have been  in the ground for about fifteen years, and the rest are a bit younger (due to several re-plantings to replace trees that died during the winters or wound up being deer snacks).  I’ve read that the only trees you can purchase, are the thorned variety.  I’ve also read that Osage trees come in male and female and that both have thorns, while only the females bear fruit.  Apparently it is impossible to tell the sex of the trees until they reach the fruiting age of ten.


So far all I’ve got are thorns.  In fact I have enough thorns to ring Sleeping Beauty’s castle with an impenetrable hedge of thorns!

The inside of an Osage Orange, look closely to see the seeds.

This year, I’ve decided to try growing some Osage trees from seed to add to my thorn garden.  I’ve harvested the seeds and planted them in pots, now we’ll just have to wait and see.  I’ve also got a back up stash of seeds, just in case worse comes to worse.

Osage seeds.

I know you’ll be happy to hear that Osage Oranges aren’t my only tree obsession.  I also have a long running love affair with quince trees, but that is a story for another time…

A bowl of ripe quince.

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