It has never quite hit me how pervasive yellow is in Spring.
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.
The road between New York City and Tupper Lake passes through many states.
Heading north, we drive through Grace, Beauty, Longing, Happiness and Anticipation. But the trip home passes through some different places–Nostalgia, Melancholia, Reflection, Dolor and Blah. Leaving the mountains was especially hard this year.
The weather was damn near perfect up in the Adirondacks, and we took full advantage. We hiked and paddled (seriously people, if you’ve never tried kayaking, get out on the water stat!), and sat outside marveling at loons, ducks, dogs and bald eagles and went for boat rides and grilled steaks.
And when the weather wasn’t so great, we went inside and sat and read and played with my nephew, little J, who’s at that age where he’s over Thomas and protective of his Legos yet somehow still a blast to be around, and when we were hungry, we cooked.
There were shrimp and controversial grits, (we tried to tell little J that the grits were polenta, something he loves, but his four-year old mind couldn’t get over the fact that they weren’t yellow). There was also beet pasta with the greens thrown in for good measure, roasted squash and mint salad, braised radicchio, tarragon chicken and sandwiches and salads galore. We ate and lived well on our short week up north.
And then we came back to reality.
It’s been a very easy summer to complain about.
The weather has been dreadful and the hours at work long and exhausting, and that has meant that finding the time to keep the Granny Cart up to date has been nearly impossible. I begin a post and then it sits for a week, sometimes two, until I find the time to complete it. And then, when the post is finally done, it’s nowhere near as good as I had hoped it would be.
So, in an attempt to not dwell on the negative, allow me to paraphrase Juliet:
Swear not about the rain, the near constant rain, that daily changes good dirt to mud, lest my prose prove likewise dour.
In a move that may surprise those that know me in real life, I’d like to stop complaining for a minute, and focus on the good things, because in the rare moments when the rain has stopped, it’s actually been quite an awesome summer.
So, in no particular order, Things I’m Loving, Summer 2009.
The Red Barn‘s Tiny ‘Tinis. 2 oz Martinis. Perfect in both concept and execution.
There is no surer sign that Spring has returned than the reappearance of ramps.
In years past, I was a part of the ravening hoard of ramp “hunters” at the Union Square greenmarket, marching from booth to booth until a waft of earthy, oniony air would hit my nose and stop me in my tracks. But for some reason, this year, I had lost all enthusiasm for them. They just didn’t seem special anymore.
Then on Saturday when I called my mom to make plans for our dinner at Local 111, she asked “Do you think they’ll have ramps?” I said I thought they would. And they did; in a spring onion soup, alongside low-poached swordfish, and accompanying a local steak.
The soup was delicious, light and pleasant in a way that’s hard to do. It wasn’t too “green”, as if it had been overloaded with spinach, nor was it too bitter, as can happen when you add too many raw alliums. It was perfect topped by lumps of sweet, briny crab. The encapsulation of Spring in a bowl.
And then there was the side of pickled ramps my mom ordered. Tinted ever so slightly daffodil-yellow by turmeric, they were piquant in the most pleasant way. Ramp-mania had indeed returned!