Everyone of a certain age is familiar with the phrase, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Do you know where that came from? Did your mother permit you to eat all the apples you wanted? Did you go around and steal apples from neighbors trees, as I did?
Oh, probably, even if you don't admit it. We never had snacks growing up. Maybe if we were visiting someone who treated us now and then, but regularly, snacking was not in our vocabulary. We were expected to be at every meal, and we ate whatever my mother served, mostly because we were hungry little peeps. In between meals in the fall, we foraged for apples from trees easily assessable by short children.
"An apple a day" probably came from a phrase coined in 1913 based on a Pembrokeshire proverb that originated in 1866. Notes and Queries magazine was the first to publish the original quote: "Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."
So, the burning question, "is it true?" Well, maybe and maybe not, like most medical news you hear. One day it's good for you, the next day it isn't.
Apples are good for you, eaten right off the tree. They contain vitamins and fiber and fulfill one of the five servings of daily fruits and vegetables.
I love crabapples and the oldest varieties you can find. There's something about that wild taste that I find very appealing (pardon the pun).
There are many different varieties of apples on the market. Some are better for eating, some are better for baking, and some are better left in the store. Red Delicious, you know who I am talking about.
Baking apples should be tart to offset the amount of sugar in a pie or crisp. They also hold up to baking and don't become mush in the oven.
Suitable apples for baking include:
• Granny Smith
Some apples can be eaten fresh, and they hold up to baking. I love a crisp tart apple to eat and, at one time, made a point of running to the supermarket every noon and eating an apple. I have since become lax in my healthy habit.
• Golden Delicious
• Pink Lady
Of course, everyone loves Honeycrisp. Developed in Minnesota, Honeycrisp is a cultivated variety of apple developed at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station's Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Designated in 1974 with the MN 1711 test designation, patented in 1988, and released in 1991, the Honeycrisp, once slated to be discarded, has rapidly become a prized commercial commodity, as its sweetness, firmness, and tartness make it an ideal apple for eating raw."...The apple wasn't bred to grow, store or ship well. It was bred for taste: crisp, with balanced sweetness and acidity. (SOURCE: Wikipedia).
A little pricey out of season, Apple Crisp are the best eating apples on the market. Okay, in my opinion.
This is the apple season. Be sure and get out there and eat a few, bake a pie or freeze some for winter. Fall is apple season. While my friend, Diane, maintains it hasn't frosted hard enough yet to pick them off the trees, they are still readily available at your farmers market and in the supermarket. So, enjoy an apple or two today.
It's pepper season at the farmers market. Peppers for pickles, salsa, stuffed peppers and jalapeno poppers are abundant at your local farmer's market this year.
There are 50,000 varieties of peppers ranging from the typical green pepper on grocery shelves year-round to Carolina Reapers. What set's peppers apart? The Scoville Heat Index, of course.
Some people don't like peppers, and some people especially don't like hot peppers, and then there are the brave souls that dare to explore the high end of the Scoville Scale.
First off, the Scoville Scale and Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) were named for scientist Wilbur Scoville in 1912 for measuring a chili pepper's pungency and heat. SHU represents the amount of capsaicin present. The higher the rating, the hotter the pepper.
To determine the SHU, they mix an alcohol extract of capsaicin oil from a dried pepper. Then, they mix it with a solution of water and sugar.
Nowadays, they determine the hotness of peppers by high-performance liquid chromatography. This test measures the chemical capsaicin in chili peppers. However, due to nostalgia, scientists still convert their results back into Scoville units.
Green pepper score 0 on the scale and Reapers range from 1,500,000-2,200,000 SHU. What a difference that would make in your chili recipe. Whew.
Some people can't even tolerate green peppers at 0, but usually it’s because of their stomach or the fact they do not like the sometimes-bitter taste of green pepper. That taste can be removed simply by peeling your pepper. How? Might you ask? Roasting. You can roast peppers on the grill, on your gas stove burners or under a broiler. Just heat at a high temperature until they are blackened all around. Place them in a paper bag and let them steam for a bit until cool enough to handle. Remove the core, seeds and stem, and you have a delightful pepper strip that can be used on a sandwich or chopped with some onion and tossed with olive oil and vinegar for a quick side dish. If you use the tri-color pepper packs you find at the store, and you will add some beautiful color to your plate.
And peppers are good for you. Peppers have a lot going for them. They're low in calories and loaded with nutrition. All varieties are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber.
Peppers from the farmers market are fantastic. Cutting into a fresh-picked pepper means a potential squirt in the eye cutting through the crisp exterior to the juicy flesh. They also last a long time in your refrigerator. You can also freeze pepper for use during the winter months.
I love jalapenos and leave most of my peppers on the vine until they turn a lovely red. Jalapeno jelly from red peppers is beautiful over cream cheese. And, who doesn't like poppers? If you can't stand the heat, there are jalapeno varieties with all the flavor and none of the heat.
Another new favorite way to eat the abundant peppers is stuffed. Wait, don't like to make stuffed peppers, well make soup. Stuffed pepper soup is lovely and a one-pot meal on a busy evening. Just brown your hamburger with onions, and maybe celery, add chopped peppers, a jar of home-canned tomatoes, chicken stock and simmer away. Serve in bowls over rice. Your family will love it.
Thursday, August 6 episode of Main Street Eats is all about pie. Listen on Prairie Public Radio between 3:30 and 4 p.m.
Yes, we love pie. It's the time of year that the peaches and cherries and blueberries and soon local apples will be picked right off the tree. If we don't grow it here, trucks are pulling through offering fresh fruits for the asking. Since COVID-19, many people are doing more baking and cooking at home – and watching movies.I love pie, and I love movies, and three of my favorite films reinforce the beauty of a well-baked pie. So if you love movies and you love pie, you should try and find these gems.
1. "Labor Day," with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin
2. "Michael," with John Travolta, Andie MacDowell and William Hurt.
3. "Waitress," with Keri Russel and Andy Griffith
Of course, these are love stories topped with pie. You have never experienced sexy until you see Josh Brolin make a fresh peach pie. Whoooeeeee.
While we are on the subject, here are a few tips to make a great pie.
CRUST is everything in my book. Some people eat pie for the filling. I love crust. Making good pastry is an art. In high school, I made and sold apple pies to my mom's boss for $2.50 each, because he loved my crust.
I have perfected my crust recipe over many years of making apple pie, but I also love rhubarb, blueberry and fresh peach pie.
If you do not have a family crust recipe or have never made a pie before, I would highly recommend Ken Haedrich, the dean of the Pie Academy's videos and live broadcasts. You can find him at http://thepieacademy.com. Ken demonstrates and sells cookbooks and makes excellent savory pies, hand pies, slab pies and yes, even wide-mouth canning jar lid pies.
Here are my tips for making a great pie crust.
My mom used a fork around the outside and made little lines. You can get as fancy as you wish. Create a woven lattice crust, etc. Remember, your pie might run over, especially if it finds a weak spot around the edge.
Don't forget your pie needs to breathe, so cut some slits, poke holes with a fork, whatever you wish design-wise to create steam holes in the top crust. Sprinkle with sugar and
1. Freeze it till later
2. Bake it immediately.
HOW YOU ASK? Place on a drip disc (find them at Amazon) in a 425° oven for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350° and continue to bake until you see that filling bubbling for at least 30 minutes. Remove, cool before cutting and eating. Last tip: Do not allow a frozen pie to thaw before placing in a hot oven.
So have a piece of pie and watch a great movie about pie. Like my Grandpa always said, "Eat it now, 'cause when you get older, they start taking it away from you."
What do the Fourth of July and potato bugs have in commonIn my work capturing the German Russian food culture, holidays were part of farm life, but in a very different way than today. With the pandemic of 2020, many activities have been altered or canceled completely, so I thought it would be nice to remind you all of the way the Fourth used to be celebrated.
Nearly all the elders I interviewed said the same thing about the Fourth of July holiday.
“We had to hoe the potatoes before we could go anywhere. Some families celebrated the Fourth at home. To top it off, those same little hands had to eliminate the potato beetles by picking them off the plants by hand.
One person said their mom used to deal with bugs on potatoes and worms on cabbage by sprinkling flour over them. What they didn’t know was it was more than likely laced with Paris green.
The Colorado potato beetle was successful eradicated around the 1860s with Paris green, an innovation in insecticide application, it was used with the first hand-operated compression sprayers, first wheel-drawn sprayers, first traction-operated dusters, first engine-operated sprayer and first air-blast sprayer (Gauthier et al., 1981). Potatoes were also one of the first crops to be treated by airplane.
Many of those Depression farmers did not have the means or large enough fields to invest in air spraying, but they did have children.
Delphine and Benjamin Vetter of Linton remember picking bugs off garden vegetable plants. Benjamin said, “We would use kerosene. Put it in a little pail and pick them and put them in there or else they would crawl out. You had to kill them somehow.”
Hoeing those rows was done around the first two days or three days of the month or no body was allowed to go to Fourth of July Celebration. The Vetter’s had a celebration on their farm and as far as Benjamin could remember, it has been going on more than 75 years and draws up wards of 400 relatives to go horseback riding, cook outdoors, visit the cemetery and catch up.
Ellen Tuttle who was close to 100 years old in 2013 recalls the excitement of getting up early on those holidays and to milk and get everything ready before hopping into the wagon hitched to the team of horses and traveling to Linton to celebrate. Of course, they had to be sure to head for home early enough to get the cows milked again.
By the Fourth they chickens were big enough to have fried chicken for the celebration, she said.
Donna Eszlinger recalls her aunt and uncle and her cousin lived a little way from their farm. They had a nice shelter belt and would invite her parents and another uncle for a picnic in the space amongst the trees. They would build a fire and roast hot dogs. Everyone would join in the baseball game, even the moms and dads. It was a nice time as she remembered with watermelon and ice cream.
Her dad would chop out the ice from a big wooden cow tank filled with winter’s ice and kept insulated under straw in the coolest place in the yard. He would put the ice in a gunny sack and crush it so they could take turns with the hand cranked ice cream machine.
After the potatoes were hoed ad the garden was weeded, Rose Voller Glas’ family would go to Strasburg for a parade of a few new cars. The kids would walk around and join in some races. For lunch, the family had ham sandwiches and cookies.
“Molasses cookies at that time,” she said. “When times were really poor, we would get molasses to feed the cattle and to put on the calves feed from the government. It was kind of a commodity and so then that’s what they got when we went to the Fourth of July.”
Rose’s sister said there were some fireworks. Just the small firecrackers on a string that you took off one at a time. They weren’t dangerous, well unless we threw them at each other. They did make noise.
Today, most children wouldn’t be too involved in hoeing before going to the fourth of July parade, but potato bugs still should be deterred before they destroy your crop. A couple of things help prevent infestation (potato bugs can reproduce three times in a season):
Good luck with your potatoes and have a safe Fourth of July.
You see them everywhere in late spring. Fields of yellow blossoms waving in the sun and warmth of coming summer. The word must be out. Bees need dandelions. More and more people are allowing at least one crop of dandelions to gracefully age into white-headed ladies before casting their future into the air and dying.
It’s a good thing for pollinators, but dandelions are also good in many other ways as well.
If you are harvesting dandelion root, you will see earthworms gather around dandelion roots for it is a natural humus producer.
Humus with one “M” is not the chickpea-kind you eat with fresh veggies. Humus is soil with an ecosystem and is the ultimate goal of most people who grow. Of course, I am not going to plant dandelions in the garden, they proliferate on their own quite quickly. But I do appreciate dandelions for their benefits.
My favorite uses are soap and dying, but I have eaten their young leaves. It’s taken a few years, but my husband now allows them to grow freely. In many cultures, the herb Dandelion was more highly valued than a green lawn.
While I realize I revisit the Dandelion every spring, it’s important information in light of the ever-declining bee population. Dandelions are a common member of the sunflower family and there are about 100 species. Like sunflowers, you may have noticed dandelions open with the sun and close down overnight to sleep. The serrated leaves reminded someone of a lion, hence the French name “dent de lion” or lion’s tooth. I have never been that close to a lion so I cannot attest to that description.
Dandelions are survivors and spread like wildfire. They do not need to be pollinated to form seeds to survive even though insects and bees consume the nectar or seed of these yellow beauties.
Because I love folklore and such, you should recognize the three celestial bodies of the dandelion. The flower represents the sun, the puff ball resembles the moon and the seeds floating away on a summer breeze (in North Dakota, it’s flat line 100-mile-an-hour wind) represent the stars in the sky.
Also, three parts of the dandelion are useful and edible. The leaves can be eaten when young as bitter greens in salads or frittatas. Also, the leaves make good tea. The root can be dried and ground and used as a coffee substitute. Green leaves can be mixed with basil and made into pesto with a healthy kick.
Blossoms can be dipped in egg white and fried or taken off the bitter pod and sprinkled over salad and such. Yes, that’s a lot of work. But if you have small children, they are attracted to the dandelion anyway. What mother hasn’t received a dandelion bouquet in her lifetime.
Do you ever try to grow something that just doesn’t perform well? It may be you or it might be it’s been planted next to something it doesn’t like. Yes, plants either love each other or hate each other.
The elder gardeners in my family always planted marigold borders around the garden to ward of pests. It works, but they have to be thick and planted annually to be effective.
Maybe hate is a strong or wrong word for plants. There is some truth to the fact that some plants fare better when interplanted or planted next to complimentary plants. For instance – I have small garden beds, the first garden we dug after we got married some 13 years ago and planted French intensive to utilize the space. The garlic was planted next to the peas. Of course, they performed, but after researching companion planting I found that garlic and onions hinder the growth of peas and beans. Sometimes things like seem like old wife’s tales, but the book called “Carrots love Tomatoes,” by Louise Riotte, gives scientific facts about how plants either thrive next to each other.
You know that motivational speakers recommend hanging out with like-minded positive people, well the same is true with plants.
Carrots love tomatoes and tomatoes love basil. Sometimes you can pair up your plants according to culinary taste. Everyone loves tomato and basil combos so it makes sense that they will grow well together.
Beans also benefit from carrots. Lettuce also grows well with carrots and radishes grown with lettuce are supposed to be more succulent.
Diversified plants are beneficial to warding off plants’ insect enemies. By planting multiple rows of various companion plants or interspersing plants in a single row will confuse insects seeking their favorite tasty treat.
Native American agrarians planted Three Sisters gardens for good reason. It was a method of companion planting at best. And, the corn, beans and squash made a nutrient rich dish when prepared together. These three plants grew symbiotically to deter pests, weeds, enrich the soil and naturally support each other. (we can investigate this at a later date).
That being said, in a nutshell, the benefits of companion planting are:
When people ask me about planting in straight rows, I simply say, “God doesn’t plant in straight rows so why should I?”
In addition to being of benefit to your garden, Louise’ book has so much more information that would be helpful to maintain your garden organically. I’m so sorry I let it collect so much dust on the shelve before I really read it.
It's Mother's Day COVID style. It's not that I mind being home alone, but it should be appropriate that my children spend little time with me. I am, after all, the only mother they have. They may have had other women in their lives that meant as much to them like me, or maybe even more, but you cannot change who your mother is - can you?
Sorry, it's not so bad. There are FaceTime calls, and supper plans and a Sunday afternoon nap in the works. But, with the cold fierce wind and social distancing, I was missing my mom today in the worst way. So I made one. That's correct, I made a "grossmuther" doll as a surrogate mother/grandmother. She's lumpy and doesn't yet have a face or shoes, but she's wearing a dress from fabric my mother purchased when she was quilting. I inherited it. But, that's not all of the gifts from my mom and grandmother.
When Covid19 hoarding began, I said to JC, "aren't you glad I am prepared?" I had no immediate need to run to the store and buy toilet paper, flour and yeast. These are a few of the staples in my pantry, along with bleach, vinegar, sugar, oatmeal, coffee, whole grains for grinding, flax seed, etc. etc. etc.
My mother was a prepper, and my grandmother grew up in an era of preparedness. There was no running to town every time you are out of something. You either made due or didn't do it at all. My mother was also a master at opening up the cupboard and creating something to eat from whatever was available. I love to do that. There are times that I do get a little tired of similar dishes and make a list, go to the grocery store and have a party buying things I don't usually cook with. But for the most part, if push comes to shove, I would be able to create the things that my ancestors thrived on in the great Depression. We are sooooo much better off. Yet, we still complain.
I miss my mom more than I thought I would, so if you have yours around, tell her what she means to you today. I am so blessed to have my grandchildren close enough to see whenever I wish. Granddaughter Lucy and brother, Oliver, were out here a couple of weeks ago, just hanging out. We took a garden tour because it was much nicer a few weeks ago than it will be this week, ugh. I want to plant my garden so bad and I have to be patient because it's just not time.
I said to Lucy, "well, I didn't take a shower today, how does my hair look?"
She thought a moment and then said, "like a doll." And, you know what, she's right. My hair is like a Barbie Doll's hair. The more you comb it the wilder it gets. I have had to live with that nearly my whole life. I am sure wondering what it will be like when it's all over gray and even finer than it is today. My mom's mom, Emma, had fine white hair.
She used to pin it in circles on her head crossed with two bobby pins (for those of you who do not know what a bobby pin is... Google it). Before the whole family arrived for a holiday or church, she would pull out those pins and fluff it up and it looked kinda like my new doll's hair.
Oh, how I miss them and my Aunt Alice and a few other people who are "in a better place." And, without further rambling, I hold this in my heart - an old German saying, "until we meet again in heaven."
Have a wonderful Mother's Day.
PS: here is a post I wrote for Mother's Day in 2011 - it's cute and about my son.
Keeping a starter can become a burden if you do not bake bread weekly. Fear not. There are plenty of great easy low-yeast ways to bake excellent tasting bread without a sourdough starter.
French bread is a great and easy way to make a plain loaf with or without a crispy crust. If you add more than the original four ingredients of water, flour, yeast and salt, it is no longer considered French bread
Using a longer rise time and some "steam injection" when baking, you can create a wonderful loaf of bread without the hassle of starter.
According to the Internet, "Bread was enormously important to the French people, that at the time of the French Revolution in the late 1700's, the average Frenchman was reported to have eaten three pounds of bread each day." (Bread History - French. https://www.abigailsbakery.com/bread-recipes/bread-history-french.htm)
French bread is baked in brick ovens place in and out of the oven with a peel. If you bake your own pizza you probably have a pizza peel in your cupboard.
A boule is simply the French word for round. You can bake loaves in any shape you wish. Long thin baguettes were developed in Vienna so the bread could be baked faster.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE FRENCH BREAD from The BEST Homemade French Bread Recipe at https://www.iheartnaptime.net/homemade-french-bread.
Bread baked in a covered cast iron casserole can resemble or even exceed a sourdough loaf. Using a slow-rise method gives you wonderful flavor and adding extras like cheese or olives will make you a super star in the kitchen. Oh, and there's no kneading.
Here's a recipe from https://joyfoodsunshine.com/easy-no-knead-bread/
You will need a 3.75-quart dutch oven to bake this loaf.
What is a CSA share?
American CSAs' humble start began in 1986 at two farms. Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts (https://www.indianlinefarm.com) and Temple-Wilton Community Farm (https://www.twcfarm.com) in New Hampshire offered produce by the box while family farms were still small family farms.
Despite changes in the landscape over the past 30+ years, these two original CSA farms are still thriving today. Both have established enduring legacies, even though they have confronted many challenges over the years.
Today there are about 12,549 CSA farms in the United States. North Dakota has at least 18 CSA farms offering veggies, herbs, baked goods, canned goods, eggs, meat and more.
Why buy a share?
Purchasing a CSA share helps farmers buy supplies and seeds during a time of no income. It also provides a barometer for planting certain crops by identifying a demand.
CSAs are small farms with more flexibility in the varieties planted each year. That means you may receive new vegetable varieties to include in your summer meals.
There's no middle man and less packaging in a share box, meaning farmers receive a larger portion of the profit. The produce is two to three weeks fresher than any transported to your local grocer. Usually, your box has been picked the day or morning before delivery.
The farmer is not the only person receiving benefits from your CSA purchase. Your family will be eating healthier local produce that can be grown organically. Most small vegetable farmers practice non-chemical growing. You will be receiving organic produce as a much lesser expense than your supermarket can offer. Your produce will also last much longer in your refrigerator because it is fresh.
CSAs develop relationships between farmers and consumers. The knowledge about farming and cooking with freshly harvested vegetables can be shared as the relationship between farms and families grows.
Most farmers experiment with different varieties and treating you to some wonderful new foods. Healthy soil means healthier food for you and your family. It's beneficial in creating a love for fruits and vegetables your children will pass on to their children.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.