Seed Saving: Grandpa was Frugal©

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Only save seeds from open-pollinated varieties, hybrids do not carry true from one generation to the next.  Only save seed from mature fruit/vegetables.  Seed maturity is not the same as market maturity in all produce.  To save carrot seed the plant should be a year old and three to four feet tall, whereas seed from a market cantaloupe can be saved.

Seed Savers Exchange offers a primo chart for seed maturity at https://www.seedsavers.org/site/pdf/Seed%20Saving%20Guide_2017.pdf

To insure seed quality be mindful of planting two or more varieties within a close enough distance for them to cross pollinate in which case the fruit produced from those seed won’t produce true.

For very small seed the entire seed head can be tied in a see-through cloth bag of organza which keeps the seeds contained until cut from the plant (purchase or make your own).  Bags are helpful for keeping varieties from crossing as well. These bags can be washed and reused many times.

Always clean the seeds of debris before storing in a cool, dark place in an air-tight container, ideally the refrigerator or freezer.  It is a good idea to test your seed for germination by placing them between layers of paper towel that are kept well moistened before storing them away.

Separate the seed from any connective matter, in most cases, wash them, then drain well and allow to dry, stirring with the fingers occasionally.  When thoroughly dried, put into paper packets/envelopes, write the variety and the year the seeds are harvested on the packet, and place the packets into a sealed container (jar, tightly sealed bowl, vacuum sealed packs).

Small seeds will stick to paper towels becoming difficult to remove after they are dry.  Coffee filters work better or place them on the paper towel for only a few minutes to absorb excess water, then spread on a plate or saucer or dry coffee filter to finish drying.

Asparagus varieties may produce large round seed which can be saved to start new plants.  This is a slow process, but with free seeds what’s to lose?  The seeds will turn from green to red then brown, although they usually fall off the plant before the brown stage.  The stem can be put into a seed bag which will allow the seeds to fully mature yet be contained should they fall off on their own then.

 asparagus-seed

Basil seed can be collected using a seed saver bag or by diligently watching the seed heads and snipping them off before the seed begin to separate on their own.

Beans & Peas kept for seed should have brown, dry, and brittle pods.  The higher the humidity the greater the chance of mold and mildew spoiling the seeds.  In a particularly wet year the plants can be pulled and hung up in a dry place to finish maturing.  Sugar snap peas can be left on the vines until they are dried.

Broccoli and brassicas will bolt if left long enough producing multiple seed pods.  Each pod contains several seed.  The dried pods can be gathered and allowed to dry further before removing the seed from the pod.  When the pods reach a certain maturity the seed often fall out on their own, so it is a good idea to lay them on a clean cloth or put them in a paper bag to dry.

Carrots produce seed heads that look like the flowers from Queen Anne’s lace which is, in fact, related.  Enclose the seed head in seed saver bags until fully dried.  OP varieties:  Danvers, Dragon, Oxheart, Paris Market, Red Cored Chantenay, Scarlet Nantes, St. Valery.

800px-Daucus_carota_flowers,_peen_'Napoli'_(1)  Closeup of carrot flower cluster

Cilantro seeds can be used to season food (they are coriander seeds) or used to plant.  Often, they will fall on the ground and reseed with no help from gardeners.

Collards are saved like broccoli.  OPvarieties:  GA Southern, Morris Heading

Corn should dry on the stalk until perfectly dry.

Cucumbers for saving seeds should be allowed to yellow on the vine.  Discard any seeds that aren’t plump and harder than the immature seed.  OP varieties:  Space master, Cucamelon, Sweet Market More, Boston Pickling, Lemon, Chicago Pickling, Japanese Long, Muncher.

Dill seed heads are a familiar sight and smell.  To save seed for planting encase the seed head in seed saver bags and leave on the plant until the seed have matured.

Eggplants should be turning brown and the seeds should be hard and crunchy.  Leave one or two fruits on the plant while continuing to harvest the others.  To collect the seed cut the eggplant in half then break it into small pieces.  Cutting can damage the small seed while breaking it up will leave the seeds intact.  OP variety:  Black Beauty.

117766400_10218116177475632_8342338463456701056_n  Front left:  eggplant seed.  The red cayenne pepper is ready for seed harvest, the jalapeno seeds would not be mature yet.  The bowl in back contains cucuzza seed.

Marigold seed can be harvested from flowers that have dried on the plant.  Dead-heading will keep the plant flowering longer.

Melons are harvested as normally (when the stem dries, and the melon is easily pulled), and the hard, mature seeds are rinsed, and dried.  Melons do not have to mature beyond the eating stage to save seed.  Mature seed will sink when dropped into water.  Throw away any floaters.

Mustard seeds are saved like broccoli and other brassicas.  OP varieties:  Southern Giant Curled, Magma, Leaf Heading.

Okra pods should be left on the plant until they are completely dried, then break apart and sort out the seed.  If uncertain, watch them until you see the pods begin to split and then harvest the seed.

Onions will produce a round seed head which can be placed inside a seed savers bag and allowed to dry on the plant.  When the flower head has dried, and small black seed are visible the seeds can be shaken out onto a clean cloth.  “Walking” onions produce a cluster of new “starts” which can be pulled apart and each one planted to produce a new plant.

f593653ab642082175873b7e6679b527  Walking onion

Peppers are ready to save for seed when the fruit reaches its final color – for cayenne and jalapeno this is deep bright red.  For some bell peppers this can be yellow, orange, etc.  Open the pepper, and with your finger, strip out the seed.  Either wear gloves or wash hands thoroughly after deseeding hot peppers.  What is left after the seeds are removed can be dried and kept for seasoning.

Pumpkin seeds are saved like squash.  OP varieties:  Small Sugar, Seminole, Amish Pie, Cornfield, Rouge Vif D’Etampes. Long Island Cheese.

Radishes will bolt and form seed pods if left in the ground.  Allow the seed pods to thoroughly dry then separate out the seeds.  The green pods can be pickled also.  OP varieties:  China Rose, Watermelon, Spanish Round Black, Spanish Long Black, Early Scarlet Globe, French Breakfast, Philadelphia White Box, White Hailstone, Daikon.

Squash seeds can be saved from summer or winter varieties.  Leave summer squash on the vine until they become large with a hard rind.  The squash can be stored in a cool dry place for a few days to weeks to allow the seeds to further mature.  Seed can be harvested from winter squash, such as Butternut, when picked to cook.

Sunflowers are ready to harvest seeds for planting when the plants have died back, and the backs of the blooms have browned.  Cut the stalk about a foot down from the flower head.  Place it in a container to catch loose seeds.  If you determine a seed head isn’t quite as dry as you thought, just hang it up in a dry place for a week or so to finish drying.  OP varieties:  Mammoth Russian, Giant Primrose, Irish Eyes, Lemon, Arikara, Autumn Beauty, Valentine, Velvet Queen, etc.

Tomato seed are ready to harvest when the tomatoes are ready to eat.  Simply squeeze out the seed.  My family dried them at this point, however, for better germination, put the seed and pulp into a jar with about as much water.  Cover loosely with a cloth or cheesecloth and allow to sit 2 to 5 days (the process is quicker at higher temps).  Pour off the water, drain well and spread out to dry.  Note:  It is advisable to wash, or allow these seed to ferment, to remove the coating which can reduce germination.  Pour off the water, any floating seeds, and any mold that is floating on top.  Add fresh water, let the seeds settle, and repeat until the water is clear.  Drain well and spread the seeds out to dry.

Zinna seed are easy to harvest from dried flowers.  Pull the seed out of the flower and remove the petal from the arrowhead shaped seeds.  Allow to dry completely before storing.

Zucchini seed are harvested for planting like squashAllow to grow very large and the skin to harden.  The zucchini can be stored two to three weeks allowing the seeds to mature further before breaking or cutting the zucchini open and scooping out the seed.

As always, I leave you with wishes for Blissful Meals and Happy Gardening. ©

Upland Rice for Home Production©

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Rice might not come to mind when discussing American food crops, however, it has been grown here since the late 1600s.  There are two types of rice – one is an aquatic “lowland rice” and the other is “upland rice”.  The primary reason for growing in water is weed control – rice grows in water while weeds do not.  Upland rice will grow with decent rainfall much as do cotton or corn.

Rice has been grown primarily in South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and western Tennessee but they are not the only states with a rice culture.  Today rice is grown commercially primarily in Arkansas (the U.S.’s top producer), California, Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas but has been successfully grown in Florida and as far north as Vermont and Maryland.  Cooler climates will need to start the rice in seed trays and transplant the plugs when plants are at about three weeks growth.

The origin of rice growth in America dates from 17th century South Carolina.  “The cultivation of rice spread rapidly from the beginning into most of the Southern States, and even so far north as Missouri, Tennessee, and Illinois.”

Upland rice culture in Mobile was reported in the American Farmer in January 1824.  The author stated he saw no real difference in the bearded rice and the smooth and grew both.  He noted the bearded had a larger head and larger grain and he felt it was far more productive.

Upland rice was submitted by a farmer in Grand Bay, Alabama which met with praise from the proprietor of the Empire Parish Mill in New Orleans in 1871.  “The rice sent by you to our mill will compare favorably, as to the grade and yield, with the best ever raised in Louisiana and will command the highest price in our market”.

“All qualities and descriptions of land have been sown in rice, from the stiffest of clays to the lightest sands, with apparently equally profitable results…”.

South Carolina planters said in 1851 that they planted the upland rice and cared for it just as they had corn but thought the rice produced more food for their families.  Crab grass could choke out the rice until it grows large enough in a few weeks to make do on its own.  The same writer noted that the rice was as easily transplanted as onions.

Upland rice culture was rapidly increasing in all the flat country bordering the Gulf and Atlantic in the 1870s with some saying the white was the best for upland areas while the famous gold rice of South Carolina and Georgia was the best for water culture.

Growers reported that following the War Between the States as Louisiana’s sugar production plummeted, the production of rice exploded from 7,000 to nearly 30,000 barrels.  Comments on the successful production of upland rice as good as, “that which is raised in the swamps of Georgia and South Carolina”, were found in numerous publications including “The Southern Farmer”.

“This has been proved beyond a question in Alabama where for many years upland rice has been raised with great success, yielding 50 to 100 bushels of shelled rice (rice with the husk on) to the acre…The big white, little white, and the red-bearded all do well on upland.”

Early on, South Alabama did not have facilities to process rice necessitating shipping to and from New Orleans, however, by 1871 it was said, “the cleaning or hulling can be easily performed with an ordinary pestle and mortar, and at very little expense three or four of these pestles and mortars could be so constructed to be run by the gin power which would clean a large crop with great expedition.”

In warmer climates, sow the seed where it is to grow after soaking in water for between one and five days, changing the water daily.  Plant one ounce of seed per 100 square feet soon after the last expected frost date.  There should be about four seedlings per foot with rows a foot apart.  Plan to use bird netting on T-posts over your crop so it doesn’t become bird food.  As with any open pollinated seed one can save seed from this year’s crop to plant again next year.

Harvest begins in late summer after the seed heads turn brown.  Cut the stalks and hang them up in a dry place to dry.  Thresh it as soon as it is dried.

Remove the rice from the stalk with a flail or by beating the stalks together over a clean sheet or piece of plastic or put the seed heads into a five-gallon bucket and use a drill with a paint stirrer attachment to separate the grains.  (Insert the stirrer through a hole in the bucket lid so the rice doesn’t fly out everywhere).  Scoop up the rice and drop it with a fan blowing to separate and blow away the chaff.  Spread the rice in the sun to dry or it can be dried in a low temperature oven.

An article published in 1924 touches on hulling rice.  “The hulls are removed by passing the grains between revolving millstones, set apart about two-thirds the length of a rice kernel…”.  The idea is to strip off the hull without crushing the rice grains.

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For home production the hulls can be removed by pounding with a rubber mallet or using a large old-fashioned mortar and pestle.  There are plans online for making an apparatus to do this and, sites offer hullers for purchase starting at roughly $150 on Amazon.  Some of the expensive grain mills can utilize a de-hulling attachment.  The attachment itself is $275.

rice hulling machine

The hulls may be used as mulch, soil conditioner, bedding for poultry, insulation, etc.  Rice straw can be used as feed, bedding for animals, mulch, and fertilizer.  From the “Mobile Register”, quoted in “Southern Farm and Home March 1873:  “…if you do not [have a hulling mill nearby] it will still pay you to grow it as a feed crop, for it bears two cuttings in the year below 32° north latitude and makes a hay which sheep, horses, and cattle prefer to the best grass product grown”.

In the following video we first see a demo of the huller being used followed by instructions on how to build it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxWI5Mvw36Y.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpZxS3QoWTE shows the same machine with a motor attached.

This huller is made from a bench grinder.  One wooden grinding wheel stays stationery while the other is turned by the bench grinder.  There are some in use in third world countries that utilize one such grinding wheel turning against a plain rubber wheel.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fnP-y8_Asg

A manual on growing upland rice: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ivc/docs/uplandrice.pdf

Seed may be purchased from Nature and Nurture Seeds, AmkhaSeed in Colorado, Experimental Farm Network (as nonprofit in Philadelphia), Sherck Seeds in Indiana, Fedco Seeds, Wild Folk Farm in Maine (they do sell varieties suited to the South as well), Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (they also have a tutorial for growing upland rice), etc.

The Carolina Gold rice seed offered by Baker Creek is a paddy type rice requiring flooding for cultivation.

Blissful Meals and Enjoyable Gardening should readers want to try their hand at rice culture!

RECIPES FOR CAPTAINS OF SHIPS© By: Victoria Brady

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Keeping supplies from which to feed the crew on a late eighteenth or early nineteenth century sailing vessel was an art which was part culinary and part science though those doing it wouldn’t have viewed their efforts as either. Janet MacDonald’s in depth look at “Feeding Nelson’s Navy” shows how the food was procured by the Victualling Board or captains in port, stored, loaded onto the ship, preserved, cooked, and served for the officers and messes onboard ship. While common sense might dictate, with her research we can document the sort of supplies kept on the ships. By looking at receipts for ships captains in Hannah Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery, Plain and Simple” (1774) and possessing a general knowledge of 18th century food preparation we can envision what made dishes the men ate.

The first receipt in Glasse’s chapter, “Recipes for Captains of Ships”, is “To Make Catchup to Keep Twenty Years”. With today’s inferior packaging this claim may seem dubious at best, however, I have no trouble believing it kept until it was used up. It was made with strong stale beer, anchovies, shallots, mace, cloves, whole pepper, ginger, and mushrooms. It was cooked until it reduced by half, strained, and bottled. This would have seasoned any number of dishes.

Her fish sauce was similar, but instead of mushrooms contained horse-radish, white wine, lemon, anchovy liquor, red wine, and similar spices.

Meat drippings were an integral part of cooking at home or on the sea, but particularly so on ships where access to fats and oils was often limited. Glasse gave explicit instructions to the sea cooks on keeping the drippings fresh. The beef dripping was boiled in water, cooled, then the hard fat taken off and the “gravy”, or gelatinous material adhering to the underside of it, was scraped off. This was to be repeated seven times more before adding bay leaves, cloves, salt, and pepper to it. It was sieved and allowed to grow cold in the pot. She advised turning the pot upside down onto a flat surface to keep out the ever-present rats.

There were receipts for pickling and powdering mushrooms which are found in most any cookbook from the era. (Plagiarism was common amongst early cookery writers.) Her “To Keep Mushrooms Without Pickle” is rather interesting. She instructed cooking the mushrooms with salt, draining them and drying them on tin plates in a cool oven. When perfectly dry they were put into a stone jar, tied down tight and kept in a dry place. “They eat deliciously, and look as well as truffles”.

For change she discussed drying artichoke bottoms and reconstituting them in water for adding to sauces or to flour and fry them. The latter was to be served with melted butter. Her “fricasey” of artichoke-bottoms directed the cook to lay them in boiling water until tender, and put to them half a pint of milk, a quarter of a pound of butter rolled in flour, stir it “all one way” till quite thick then add a spoonful of mushroom pickle. The artichokes were put into a dish and the sauce poured over. Documents show that ships carried cows, or more often, a sheep or goat aboard for fresh milk.

Crew members were known to catch fish which was a welcome meal. Glasse told the cook how to fry the fish in beef dripping and serve with a sauce. Her method of baking fish was quick allowing the cook to concentrate on other parts of a meal. “Butter the pan, lay in the fish, throw a little salt over it and flour; put a very little water in the dish, an onion and a bundle of sweet-herbs, stick some little bits of butter or fine dripping on the fish. Let it be baked of a fine light brown; when enough, lay it on a dish before the fire, and skim off all the fat in the pan; strain the liquor, and mix it up either with the fish-sauce or strong soop [sic], or the catchup.

For soup, the cook was to refer to a previous chapter aimed at home cooks.

Puddings were salt beef or pork, mutton (butchered onboard), apples or prunes rolled in pastry, put into a pudding bag, and boiled in like manner.

Currants and raisins were among the stores kept on the ship and these were utilized to make a suet pudding. There are two receipts for Oatmeal puddings with raisins and/or currants.

The liver of an animal killed onboard was made into a pudding with the liver cut fine and mixed with suet, crumbs of bread or biscuit (hard cracker), sweet herbs, nutmeg, pepper, salt, anchovy and butter, then put into a crust and boiled.

Rice pudding was made by: 1. boiling rice in a cloth, taking it up and adding nutmeg, butter, and sweetener and boiling it again. It was served with a sauce made of butter, sugar and a little white wine. 2. Baking it in a buttered pan with similar ingredients.

There were methods for making both soup and pudding from dried peas found in rations.

Harrico of French beans is brilliant in its use of ships stores. A pint of the “seeds of French beans, which are ready dried for sowing”, were boiled for two hours, drained, reserving the liquid, and added to onions fried brown in butter, pepper and salt, and made to the thickness desired. “When of the proper thickness you like it, take it off the fire, and stir in a large spoonful of vinegar and the yolks of two eggs beat. The eggs may be left out, if disliked.”

Ships often housed poultry for the eggs and for cooking. They were readily available in most ports. At whatever point the cook felt proper to butcher some of the fowl the evening meal could have been made into a pie. Glasse says to fill the paste with bacon or cold boiled ham, sliced, and season it with pepper and salt and add a little water. A pastry lid was put on and the pie baked for some two hours. Seasoned gravy was poured in just prior to serving it.

Janet MacDonald found no mention of potatoes among the foods available from the Victualling Board until the 19th century, however, either they sometimes purchased them from locals where they stopped or Hannah Glasse wasn’t aware they weren’t available onboard ships. Her Cheshire pork pie for sea was a crust filled with layers of salt pork and sliced potatoes seasoned with pepper.

Her Sea Venison was freshly killed mutton boiled in the sheep’s blood and hung to dry before roasting. She did note this process depended upon the weather and how long the meat could be kept without spoiling.

She concluded the chapter with a receipt for dumplings the size of a turkey’s egg made of bread crumbs, beef-suet, nutmeg, sugar, and two spoonsful of sack (wine). They were boiled and served with a sauce of butter and sack with a little sugar strewn over.

She referred the reader to her chapter on soups and broths. The officers’ cook might have been able to read her book and shared ideas with the mess cooks, but more likely an officer might have purchased or borrowed a copy from which he instructed the cook.

The most useful receipt may have been for making Portable soup and Pocket soup which was cooked down to “glue” and when ready to prepare it reconstituted with water to make gravy and sauces as well as broth and soup.

Good day, gentle readers, I hope you find this brief advice useful in stocking your home larder should you have an interest in any degree of self-sufficiency. I leave you with wishes for Blissful Meals.©

“Dutch” Case-knife Beans: A Taste of History©

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Photo:  William Woys Weaver, Roughwood Seed Collection

I once had someone who was viewed as an amateur historian tell me that people did not eat dried beans in the 18th century.  What?  I’ve never forgotten that and today we will debunk that theory.

The earliest description this writer found for a white-seeded bean that matches the description of what was later called the case-knife bean was written by Nicholas Culpepper in 1666.  “…but white is most usual; after which come long and slender flat cods, some crooked, some straight, with a string as it were running down the back thereof, wherein are contained flattish round fruit made to the fashion of a kidney…”.

Amelia Simmons was perhaps the earliest cookery book writer to document white beans for drying (1796) and Simmons listed a “clapboard” bean which some think was the case-knife.  She advised they must be poled and were, “the easiest cultivated and collected, are good for string beans, will shell”.

Philip Miller said in 1775 the Dutch White Beans were much the sweetest for the table.  He thought them “extream [sic] windy Meat” and recommended preparing them in the Dutch fashion of half boiling them then “you husk them and stew them… they are wholesome food”.

John Reid wrote of beans in 1683, “Beans and peas boyled with savory and thym[e]…served up with sweet butter beat amongst them and set a little on a coal or chaffing boyl [sic]”.  – “The Scots Gard’ner”.

A farmer wrote in 1840 that the “prettiest” way to grow dry beans was to raise white pole beans and, “The common case-knife beans are excellent for this purpose”.  Twenty-three years later Fearing Burr told his readers the case-knife was “common to almost every garden” and it remained so into the early 20th century.  Today the white-seeded variety of case-knife bean isn’t as common, at least by that name, but close versions can be found.

“Some Dutch case-knife beans did come up and grew finely…In good time they were heavily loaded, and they were of rich and splendid flavor, so much so I forbade wife cooking any more, having visions of acres of beans and a big bank account”.  One will pity this poor farmer when he explained that a mere few days before he went to pick his dried beans they had been beset upon by weevils.

“The manner of saving the seeds of these plants, is to let a few rows of them remain ungathered in the height of the season; for if you gather from the plants for some time, and afterwards leave the remaining for seed, their pods will not be near so long and handsome, nor will the seed be so good.  In autumn, when you find they are ripe, you should in a dry season pull up the plants and spread them abroad to dry; after which you may thresh out the seed and preserve it in a dry place for use”.  – Miller, Philip.  “The Gardener’s Dictionary”.  1768.

Buist [1805-1880] proclaimed the Dutch Case-knife to be an excellent pole bean producing a good crop of fine flavor and much earlier for the table than either the Lima or Carolina.  “It can be used either in or without the pod; it is also adapted for winter use”.

Mr. W. F.  Massey submitted information on white beans and their culture in the hot humid South for the Southern Planter and Farmer in 1900 saying they produced more damaged beans than when planted in the North.  He stated the best white beans he’d ever tried growing in the South were the Dutch Case-Knife beans.  “This is a pole bean, but not a rampant climber, and in my boyhood was commonly planted in the corn field and allowed to climb on the stalks in a portion of the field so as to give a supply for shelling in winter.  It is a flat bean, similar in shape to a small lima, but smaller still.  There is no shelled bean of better quality.”

As for the method of growing these beans they could be trellised or staked.  The following would make a nicer presentation than row staking.  “Strike out a dozen (or more) circles on the ground, as large as a cart wheel.  Put a wheel barrow load of manure into it and spade it up with the earth.  Drop the seeds in the circle, on the outer edge of the hill, say six inches apart.  Then insert eight or ten poles just within the circle, at equal distances from each other, and tie the tops of the whole together-forming a cone.  Cover up the seed and wait the result.

Each of these hills will yield you a peck or a half bushel of dry beans next fall—which if you have but a dozen such hills, will give you, perhaps half a dozen bushels.  This will be enough for your purpose.  By this course, but a little land is occupied.  Pole beans will yield very much more abundantly than bush beans, and occupy air, whilst the latter must have the surface of the earth”.  – Holmes, Frances.  “The Southern Farmer and Market Gardener”.  1842.

This bean was often referred to as Old Dutch White or White Dutch and differs from the brown-seeded variety sometimes sold as Caseknife today.  Old cookery books and garden manuals refer to white beans, small white beans, large white beans and great white beans.  All agree the white was preferred.

Dr. William Woys Weaver says the Caseknife Bean is perhaps the oldest documented bean in American gardens.  Like the farmers quoted above he believes the oldest were white seeded like those grown in the gardens of Thomas Jefferson and the closest variety to the original bean is the Pelzer Schwertebuhne (Palatine Caseknife Pole Bean).  He found the beans being grown by the Wendel family of Weilerbach in the Rheinland-Pfalz.  He offers the Palatine June Pole Bean in his Roughwood Seed Collection.

As to cooking dried white beans, let’s look at Louis Eustache Ude’s 1814 receipt.

White Beans a la Maitre d’Hotel.  “if they are dry, they must be soaked for an hour in cold water, before you boil them.  Then boil them in cold water and replenish with cold water also which makes the rind or coat tender.  White beans must be well done before you dress them, which is done as follows:  trim a stew-pan with a quarter of a pound of fresh butter, a little parsley chopped very fine, and some pepper and salt, over which lay the beans, well drained.  Keep moving the stew-pan without using a spoon, for fear of crumbling the beans.  Then squeeze the juice of half a lemon and send up quite hot”.

The Shop at Monticello offers seeds of the Caseknife Pole Bean which have white seed like the original and the flattened, slightly curving shape of the beans matches the description above.  They are grown out on-site.  A packet contains between 20 to 25 seeds and sells for $3.95 plus shipping.  1-800-243-1743.

Johnson’s Home and Garden offers “Old Dutch White Half Runner Bean” seed he says were brought from Germany by original settlers of the Dutch Fork Section of South Carolina.  A Half Pound of untreated seed is $3.95 and a pound is $5.95.  Johnson’s Home & Garden, 130 Power Drive, Pikeville, KY 41501, phone                   606-432-8460.

Roughwood Seed Collection:  https://www.roughwoodtable.org/roughwood-seed-collection offers the Palatine June bean seed.

WORK BAGS AND THEIR USES©

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Gentle readers, today’s post departs from gardening and cooking as sometimes happens.  I hope that some of you find it useful.

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To research an 18th or 19th century lady’s collection of sewing implements it helps to know what the collection was called during that time. While one can research individual tools, the container that held them, always ready for easy availability, was most often called a work bag. References are found from articles and books published as early as the 1700’s.

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It was important that every woman knew how to sew and embroidery. More well-to-do women and girls might have worked on more delicate garments and smaller fancy items such as handkerchiefs, doll clothes, or delicate underpinnings, but they were still expected to perfect their sewing skills. Most girls learned embroidery stitches by making samplers.

Work-bags ranged from strictly utilitarian to being knitted or made of satin and decorated with tassels, embroidery, and other embellishments and were often made to give as gifts to a friend or loved one. They were often made to sell at church bazaars.

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Women commonly carried work-bags with them as they visited friends, sometimes working on their needlework as they carried on their conversations. Young girls often had their own workbags.

“. . . and brought, for each of the little girls, a present of a sattin [sic] work-bag ornamented with gold. There was in each bag a needle-book, and a piece of muslin, on which was drawn a pretty design”.

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In addition to sewing tools a work bag was also used to carry everyday items as one might use a tote bag today. It might have contained items such as keys, a piece of jewelry, letters or notes, money, toothpick cases, books, sewing, knitting, or embroidery projects, gloves, handkerchief, etc. or it may, on occasion, have been used to gather nuts or flowers. A housewife (a sewn sewing kit of sorts used for holding pins, needles, buttons, etc.) was often part of the contents of a workbag. In 1841 an article was published about the early use of potatoes in which a woman of 45 years said the first potato they ever saw was kept in her mother’s work-bag to await the season for planting.

Reading material and calling cards were often kept in work-bags. “I did intend reading something to the children,” said their mother, as she drew a paper from her work-bag”. The work bags also held scissors, a bodkin, and needles.
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Sewing is done by choice today but in times past clothes were made and mended and the tools to do the job were in constant use. A woman valued them because replacing them was a hardship. A poem [published 1831] entitled “Careless Matilda” addresses a young lady who haphazardly leaves her sewing tools scattered about, never knowing where anything is.

“Again, Matilda, is your work astray,
Your thimble gone! Your scissors, where are they?
Your needles, pins, your thread, and tapes all lost—
Your Housewife here, and there your work bag tost [tossed]”.

The following quote demonstrates the importance of carefully storing away a work-bag for the next time it was needed. “. . . then Lucy’s mother kissed her, and said to her, put your work into your work-bag, and put your work-bag into its place, and then come back to me.”

My workbag is made of toile after a pattern published in Godey’s Lady’s Book. It is a good size with pockets sewn around for keeping various items together. It has a drawstring closure. It has held everything documented above at one time or another. Researching workbags reminded me how much I need to reorganize mine and be as faithful about keeping my sewing implements together in it as my predecessors were. At my age one would hope to be better organized than I generally am.

Good King Henry:  Perennial Green. ©

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Good King Henry, aka Fathen, wild spinach, English Mercury (in America sometimes corrupted to Markery), goosefoot, or Allgood is not native, but was grown in the U.S. at least by the early 1840’s, perhaps longer.  It is perennial and can be propagated by self-sowing and by root division should you wish to share with your neighbor.  Plant it in a prepared bed where it can grow unmolested and refrain from harvesting until the third year after which it will feed you for years to come.

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Photo:  Stefan Lefnaer, Wikimedia.

“We would particularly recommend to our readers, as a first-class vegetable for early spring use, the Good King Henry (Chenopodium Bonus Henricus), or English Mercury.  This is, in many parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, a rather common roadside weed, with a thick fleshy root, like that of a Dock, and grows to a considerable height.  The lower leaves resemble those of Spinach, and are of a broadly triangular shape, often more than 3 inches long, stalked, sinuate, or slightly toothed, rather than thick and fleshy, and of a dark green colour.  This upper ones are smaller and nearly sessile.  It is extensively grown by the Lincolnshire farmers, almost every garden having its bed, which if placed in a warm corner and well manured, yields an abundant supply of delicious vegetables for a fortnight or three weeks before the Asparagus comes in, and for some weeks afterwards.  From a south border we generally commence cutting the Mercury early in April, and continue cutting until the end of June.  Some of our friends say they like it better than Asparagus; but we cannot go that length, though we like it very much.  When properly grown, the young shoots should be almost as thick as the little finger, and, in gathering, it should be cut under the ground something the same as Asparagus.  In preparing it for use, if the outer skin or bark has become tough, strip it off from the bottom upwards, and then wash and tie it in bunches like Asparagus.  It is best boiled in plenty of water, with a handful of salt added.  When tender, strain and serve simply, or upon a toast.  Some have melted butter with it, others eat it simply with the gravy of the meat.  Now, in cultivation, the Mercury will grow anywhere; but, to have it in the best form, superior cultivation is necessary.  To this end you cannot have the ground too deep nor too rich.  Hence we should say trench the ground2 feet deep, mixing in abundance of rich manure, and plant as early in the spring as possible.  As the plant is a perennial, it is necessary to get an abundant yield of shoots, and to get them as strong as possible—and hence, in time, each plant may be a foot or more in diameter.  In planting, we generally put the rows 18 inches apart, and the plants 1 foot apart in the row; and, after we begin to cut, we drench the ground frequently with manure water, or sprinkle the ground with guano in showery weather.  Of course the plants must not be cut too severely until they are thoroughly established—say in the third year—and then you can scarcely injure them.”  – “The Garden Illustrated Weekly Journal”.  London.  April 19, 1873.

In flavor it is comparable to spinach or asparagus.  The shoots may be peeled and prepared as asparagus cooked as greens (alone or mixed with other plants), or put into soup and stew.  Perhaps one of the following appeals to your taste.  Some suggested adding the seed to soup and stew in the manner of quinoa.

GOOD KING HENRY (Boiled leaves).  1916.  Have the leaves well washed, put into a stewpan with the smallest possible amount of boiling water, and let boil for fifteen minutes; then add a little salt, and boil five minutes longer.  Strain off the water and chop the leaves finely.  Have ready hot in a stewpan about one ounce each of butter and flour, with a little pepper and salt, add the leaves, mix well, and heat thoroughly for another five minutes.  Serve hot with garnish of fried sippets (toasts).

GOOD KING HENRY (Boiled Shoots and Stalks).  1916.  Prepare and cook as asparagus, and serve with any sauce suitable to asparagus.  Keep any cold, cooked stalks for salad.   ©

GROUND NUT, aka hopniss, Indian potato, potato bean, openauk, vine potato.©

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Ground nut is a North American native and produces a tuber similar to a potato.  It is edible as are the beans, shoots, and flowers the plant produces.  In 1585 Thomas Harriot said of it, “Openauk, a kind of root of round form, some of the bigness of walnuts, some far greater, which are found in moist & marish [sic] grounds growing many together one by another in ropes, or as though they were fastened with a string. Being boiled or sodden they are very good meat…”.

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One can hardly read a natural history, book of Indian lore, or an account of pioneers or mountain men without finding a reference to hopniss (the Lenape word for the plant) or Indian potato.  Accounts as early as 1626 call it Indian potato and by 1787 it was Apios Americana.  Lewis and Clark described it in their journals.  The name varied with tribe but each used it as food and as a medicinal.

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Modern day permaculturists praise the plant, but it is nothing new to history.  The noted botanist, Peter Kalm, recorded the plant he called hopniss in his journal in March 1749, written from Raccoon Creek New Jersey.  “Hopniss or Hapniss was the Indian name of a wild plant which they ate at that time.  The Swedes call it by that name, and it grows in the meadows, in good soil.  The roots resemble potatoes, and are boiled by the Indians who eat them instead of bread.  Some of the Swedes, at that time, likewise ate this root for want of bread.  Some of the English still eat them instead of potatoes, but likewise take the peas that lie in the pods of this plant and prepare them like common peas.”

Further, Parkman in “Pioneers of France” stated that Charles de Biencourt and his followers at Port Royal [Acadia, New France, now Canada], in 1613, were scattered about the woods and shores digging ground-nuts.  Jacob Cornutus published a history of the plants of Canada in Paris in 1635 in which is found the ground-nut.   Jane Loudon included the plant in her “The Ladies’ Flower-garden of Ornamental Perennials” and in discussing the edibility of the tubers noted that the plant had been introduced in England before 1640 and was cultivated in Germany (1843) where the tubers were sold in markets.  Whittier spoke of “Where the ground-nut trails its vine” in his “The Bare-footed Boy”.

Henry David Thoreau wrote about these tubers in his journal.  October 12, 1852. I dug some ground nuts with my hands in the railroad sand bank, just at the bottom of the high embankment on the edge of the meadow. These were nearly as large as hen’s eggs. I had them roasted and boiled at supper time. The skins came off readily, like a potato’s. Roasted they had an agreeable taste, very much like a common potato, though they were somewhat fibrous in texture. With my eyes shut I should not have known but I was eating a somewhat soggy potato. Boiled they were unexpectedly quite dry, and though in this instance a little strong, had a more nutty flavor. With a little salt a hungry man could make a very palatable meal on them.

On March 17, 1849 an article on apios tuberosa was published in “The Gardener’s Chronicle” which discussed its introduction to Ireland during the potato famine.  “The apios has a curious underground vegetation; its roots are the size of a quill pen, cylindrical, running horizontally under the soil, but close to its surface, and are often two meters long, and sometimes much longer than that.  Here and there the roots swell insensibly; the swellings gradually become spindle-shaped, grow larger, become filled with starch, and form true tubers.  The swellings are sometimes close together, so as to form a sort of chaplet.”  The woodcut that accompanied the article was a fine likeness.

As to flavor the tubers were compared to a chestnut or potato with a bit of artichoke, “which is by no means unpleasant”.  It is almost certainly the Jerusalem artichoke being discussed as other 1840’s sources specify such.

A research team at Southern Louisiana State University invested twelve years in improving the size of the tubers and the number of tubers produced per plant under the direction of Professor Bill Blackmon.  Unfortunately the research was abandoned after Professor Blackmon left the university so we aren’t likely to see them perfected to the point that they are cost efficient to grow commercially.  The tubers going into our garden were ordered from Sow True Seed and were cultivated from that improved LSU stock.  At least two universities have done studies on the nutrition-packed tubers and found they contain significant isofavones, chemicals linked to a decreased incidence of prostate and breast cancers.

Plants are drought tolerant and perennial.  It is slow to establish itself and tubers should not be harvested its first year.  In fact some growers recommend waiting until the third year to harvest tubers.  Tubers grow on a stringy root and resemble beads on a necklace.  The tubers may be some distance from where the plant grows so it is best to start at the plant and follow the string wherever it goes.  Descriptions of growth habit vary from a vine that grows to six foot long to twenty feet.  It is a nitrogen fixing plant meaning it pulls nitrogen from the soil to the surface where it can nourish nearby plants.

The vine is thin, covered with fine hair and rather tough for its size.  Leaves are pinnately compound with three to nine two-inch leaflets (3, 5, 7, or 9) with no teeth.  The flowers are a lavender/brown color and fragrant.  Tubers vary in size from dime size up to grapefruit size, though the larger tubers usually average about the size of an egg.  Second or third year tubers are the largest.  Those can be harvested and the smaller ones replanted.  Tubers can be dug any time of year, but the tubers are sweetest in the fall.  Seeds grow in a pod and can be harvested before they dry enough that the pod shatters sending seed everywhere.

Seeds do not always germinate well, however, and the plants are usually started from tubers planting them individually or in strings.  Suckers can come up some distance away from the host plant.  Vines can be pruned to keep them from spreading too much.

“Most of the research involving cultural practices has been directed towards developing techniques to screen large numbers of plants. Direct-seeding has presented problems. Seeds may take 10 to 30 days to germinate. Seedlings are small and early seedling growth is not vigorous. Seedling death, presumably from insects or diseases, has plagued this technique for starting apios. The most satisfactory method has been to start plants in peat pellets. After germination, when the shoots begin elongation, the plants are pinched back to the first leaves. This prevents the plants in a flat from twining on each other, allows for better root development prior to planting, and permits plants from slower germinating seed to reach sufficient size to transplant. However, pinching back carries a potential risk of spreading disease among the seedlings. Weak seedlings can be discarded at this stage. 

Tubers are planted intact. The buds that give rise to the shoots and rhizomes occur at the distal end of the tubers. The potential of dividing tubers into sections prior to planting needs evaluation. Generally the larger the tuber, the more rapid the early growth.  Seeds may be harvested from the time the pods first begin to dry. If left on the vine too long some pods will shatter.  Tubers are harvested after frost. Since most of the plants are different (originating from seeds), the tubers are harvested with a shovel to insure that genotypes can be evaluated individually. Fortunately, tubers can remain in the soil for extended periods without rotting even under water-logged conditions, thus allowing an extended harvest period.

Although apios in its native habitat is found growing on water-logged and acidic soils (Reed and Blackmon 1985), observations under field conditions indicate that apios grows best on well-drained soils. A pH less than 5 or as high as 8 may also be detrimental to growth. Adequate moisture is important, but excess moisture encourages longer rhizomes.”  Perdue crop proceedings 1990. 

Eat them boiled, roasted, or slice and fry them after boiling.  Tubers can substitute for potatoes in any dish though the flavor has been described as nuttier than potato and they can be cooked peeled or unpeeled.  The tubers can be dried, ground, and used like flour to add to bread or to thicken soup or stew.  The flowers are edible raw or cooked and the seeds can be shelled and cooked.  The seedpods can be cooked like green beans if harvested before they become tough and fibrous.  The tubers have a much higher percentage of protein than potatoes.

I’ve planted these along with Jerusalem artichokes and I’m watching to see if they come up.  As long as the chickens or squirrels don’t dig up the tubers I should be fine in which case I should have tubers I can harvest in two to three years.  Blissful Meals, friends, and happy gardening.©

“THE OLD POT-HERBS IN THE FLOWER GARDEN”©

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I envision a combination of beauty and function with regard to my principal flower garden this year as I intend to tuck herbs here and there into corners and bare spots transforming the existing garden into an old fashioned cottage garden.  The herbs will add to the floral fragrance wafting through the night air while they add beauty and grace through their own leaves and flowers, and, I ask you, who could not love stepping into the flower garden for a few pot-herbs to flavor the evening’s dinner?

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While I have seen it quite clearly in my head through the dreary winter months, I am, after all, Thehistoricfoodie, so is there any historical basis for this co-mingling of flowers and herbs?  Yes!  I’m delighted with my plan and that it mirrors the author’s description in the article below just adds to my gardening giddiness!

I already have seed orders in for most of the flowers and herbs discussed below and intend to transplant some existing herbs.  Having found this article shortly after my second seed order went to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I see I was remiss in not ordering hyssop.

My seed stash already contains lovage and sorrel, which, due to their size will grace the outer edges of the garden and purslane that will go into its own bed as it self-sows so readily.  Lacinto kale will add color and form to the garden and its leaves will certainly find their way into the soup pot.  Nasturtium is the epitome of beauty and function as its leaves and flowers are beautiful garnishes or salad ingredients and the buds can be pickled like capers.

The plants already at home in the garden include heirloom fragrant roses, daffodils, iris, daylilies, Echinacea, rudbeckia, phlox, verbena, blackberry lily, spider lily, rosemary, hollyhock, Sweet William, snapdragons, hyacinths, etc.  I love the following article because it so beautifully described what I have envisioned my garden will look like after I mix the herbs in with the flowers.

“The Old Pot-Herbs in the Flower Garden.  Some of these pot-herbs are beautiful things, deserving a place in any flower garden.  Sage, for instance, a half shrubby plant with handsome gray leaf and whorled spikes of purple flowers, is a good plant both for winter and summer, for the leaves are persistent and the plant well clothed throughout the year.  Hyssop is another such handsome thing, of the same family, with a quantity of purple bloom in the autumn, when it is a great favourite with the butterflies and bumble bees.  This is one of the plants that were used for an edging in gardens in Tudor days, as we read in Parkinson’s ‘Paradisus,’ where Lavender Cotton, Marjoram, Savoury, and Thyme are also named as among the plants used for the same purpose.  Rue, with its neat bluish green foliage, is also a capital plant for the garden where this colour of leafage is desired.  Fennel, with its finely-divided leaves and handsome yellow flower, is a good border flower, though rarely so used, and blooms in the late autumn.  Lavender and rosemary are both so familiar as flower garden plants that we forget that they can also be used as neat edgings if from the time they are young plants they are kept clipped.  Borage has a handsome blue flower, as good as its relation the larger Anchuss [?].  Tansy, best known in the gardens by the handsome Achilles Eupatorium, was an old inmate of the herb garden.  Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) has beautiful foliage, pale green and Fern-like with a good umbel of white bloom, and is a most desirable plant to group with and among early-blooming flowers.  And we all know what a good garden flower is the common pot Marigold.  From Elgood’s ‘Some English Gardens’.”  – The Garden.  Jan. 7, 1905.

CLASSIC HERBS and HERB BLENDS©

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Up to the early/mid twentieth century, certain culinary herbs were commonly used together in soup, sauces, stuffing, etc. and these blends had various names depending on who you asked about them.  Some are perennial, meaning they come back each spring, and others may have spread through the seed they produced the previous year so that once established the cook need never worry about what to use to season her soup.

“As so many herbs are perennial, coming up year after year and often spreading rapidly from the root or from self-sown seed, as do the lemon balm, bergamot, lovage, thyme, sage, fennel, the various mints, the true tarragon, lavender, and many others it is well to prepare as large a space as possible in planning the original herb-bed”.

These can vary with location and climate, but let’s take a quick look at which herbs are perennial or that readily self-sow (I’m zone 8a):

Self-sow:  garden angelica, borage, basil, calendula, chamomile, chervil, cilantro/coriander, parsley, dill, chives, edible docks, sorrel, fennel, lemon balm, horseradish, oregano, and purslane.

Perennial:  bergamot, caraway, catnip, chicory, chives, fennel, ginger, horseradish, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, Roman chamomile, sorrel, tarragon, winter savory.

Evergreen Perennial:  bay, hyssop, lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme.  These are not worth the effort to dry as they can be picked fresh any time of year.

The beauty of herbs for seasoning is not that any one should be dominant, but how some of them blend so beautifully, coming together in perfect harmony.  These should be the basis of any herb garden and the blends may be made after you dry your summer bounty.  The following range in date from 1840s through 1920s.

SOUP-BUNCH.  This is a bunch of young onions or leeks, carrots, and various herbs to be found in the market in most large places such as green sage, thyme, marjoram etc.; celery-tops are sometimes included.d  The onions and carrots and other vegetables can be cut in pieces for the soup, but the herbs are best folded in thin muslin and taken out after 10 minutes of simmering in the soup.

SOUP BOQUET.  A boquet [sic] of herbs for flavoring soups and sauces is much used by foreign cooks, and is made of a few sprigs of parsley, thyme, celery leaves, 1 or 2 leaves of sage and a bay leaf.  This may be folded in a small square of tarlatan or other thin cloth, and wound with a thread.  This can be put in the soup for a little time, and all removed without trouble when the soup is served.  [Cheesecloth works nicely to hold your herbs as does an old-fashioned tea ball.]

VIRGINIA FLAVORING.  Take thyme, mint, sweet marjoram, and rosemary gathered in full perfection; pick from the stalks, put them in a large jar, pour on strong vinegar, and let stand 24 hours; then take out the herbs, throw in fresh bunches, and do this 3 times; then strain the liquor, put it in bottles, cork and seal tight.  Do not let the herbs stay in more than 24 hours at one time, else a bitter, unsavory taste may be imparted.  What is wanted, is just the delicate first flavor which comes from stepping the herbs in the liquid.  It makes a delicious flavor for soups and sauces.

HERBS, A BUNCH OF SWEET.  Is made up of parsley, sweet marjoram, winter savory, orange and lemon thyme; the greatest proportion of parsley.

HERBS, SWEET.  These in cookery are parsley, chibbol, [several spellings, a small onion or leeks] rocambole, [a garlic or shallot] winter savory, thyme, bay-leaf, basil, mint, borage, rosemary, cress, marigold, marjoram, &c.  The relishing herbs or Ravigotte are tarragon, garden-cress, chervil, burnet, civet, [civette is the correct spelling, another name for chives] and green mustard.

BOUQUET GARNI.  It was quite formerly known as a FAGGOT.   Parsley, thyme, and bay-leaf.  In its most simple form it consists of a sprig of thyme, marjoram, and a bay-leaf wrapped together in parsley, and tied into a little roll.  To these may be added a small quantity of one or more of the following:  chervil, chives, celery leaf, basil, tarragon.

FINES HERBS.  Chop fine 6 shallots, place them with 1 ounce butter over the fire, cook 3 minutes; then add ½ cupful fine-chopped mushrooms, cook slowly 10 minutes; remove from fire; dip 2 sprigs of parsley in boiling water, instantly remove, chop fine, add 1 tablespoonful of it to the above preparation; season with ½ teaspoonful salt, and the same of grated nutmeg.  If not used all at once, put it in a small glass jar, cover with buttered paper, and keep in a cool place.

“Fines herbes are used for gratins, barigoules, [formerly this referred to artichokes stuffed with mushrooms] papillotes, [a method of cooking in a folded packet of parchment paper or foil] also for Sharp and Italian Sauce”.

HERBS DE PROVENCE.  Recipes vary from one cook to another but the most common ingredients are basil, bay leaf, marjoram, rosemary, summer savory and thyme with lavender being also quite common.

POT HERBS.  “Pot herbs include all those varieties of herbs which may be grown in the kitchen garden—parsley, chervil, chives, thyme, sage, savory, basil, sweet marjoram, tarragon and rosemary. . .There are other herbs which might be included in this list of pot herbs; they are not so well known but have good qualities; among these are dill, fennel, mustard, caraway and borage”.

As always, Blissful Meals and Happy Gardening. © Blog articles may not be reproduced without permission of the author.