It’s been a long time since I’ve mentioned the Shakers, but they’ve been on my mind lately.
Especially on Saturday as I pulled out tomato plants, which had all (but four) succumbed to the blight. I pulled up Cream Sausage, and Persimmon, and the beautiful fluted Ceylon, Big White Pink Stripe, Black Prince, Palla de Fuoco and perfect little Ropreco. I lined them up on the lawn, pulled off all the green tomatoes that were worth saving and packed the vines into garbage bags, and then bagged them again.
It was really sad. But it was Large Red that really hurt.
Large Red is the one tomato I decided to plant not based on its name, or because of a promise to keep me in sun-dried tomatoes through the winter, or because it would taste good in sauce. I chose Large Red because it was a favorite of the Shakers and they grew it exclusively just a few miles from our house. I reasoned that if it was bred for this area, it would be a survivor. I was wrong, this summer was just too much for Large Red.
I first came across Large Red in the Shaker Gardener’s Manual. Before the Shakers, there were no little packets of seeds available for the home gardener to buy at the local shop. Seeds were sold in bulk for the large-scale farmer, or seeds were saved from the previous year’s garden. But the Shakers saw an opportunity and sold their famous seeds in little packets in little boxes all over the country. And to help people succeed in their kitchen gardens, they offered a little manual.
The manual is chock full of tips, tricks and hints, many of which are still applicable today. The Shakers were organic gardeners before the term was coined. They believed the best way to grow a healthy plant was to make it strong by planting it in good soil, protecting it from weeds and watering it with moderation. The manual also offers a list of the vegetables and fruit grown just a few miles from where my garden is. The only tomato they grew was Large Red.
It’s not all doom and gloom around these parts, I swear! Because who can be sad when there’s pie around? Head below the jump for the recipe for Shaker Blackberry Pie.