Winter Staple: Squash!


Carnival Squash

Northeastern Native Americans grew pumpkins and other squashes; they roasted or boiled them, and, at times, preserved the flesh as conserves in syrup. New England settlers were not impressed by the Native Americans’ squash until they had to survive the harsh winters, at which point they adopted squash and pumpkins as staples. We New England localvores have learned the value of winter squash which can be stored for many months without much difficulty. Hubbard and acorn-type squashes seem to store best;  50°F in a dark place is recommended  . . . but my carnival squash (an acorn-type squash) had been on the kitchen counter since October and was still firm and delicious!

I grew carnival squash for the first time this year and my one plant was prolific, producing 10 beautiful squashes. My favorite uses have been in quesedillas, stuffed squash  (with sauteed onions, garlic, walnuts, bread crumbs, cheese, garden sage and nutmeg), and simply mashed with butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and a touch of maple syrup.


Mashed roasted squash with sauteed onions, garlic, walnuts, cheese, nutmeg, and a touch of maple syrup on top of flour tortilla

To make a winter squash quesedilla, roast and mash squash and add a bit of salt, buttter and maple syrup.  Combine with sauteed onions and garlic, toasted walnuts, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cheese. Spread mix on tortilla* and heat until golden. Top with another  tortilla and flip. Cook until both sides are golden. With salsa or sriracha, this is one of my favorite winter meals – simple and delicious. I’ll bet you can find winter squashes at your local winter farmers market.)

  • I used Maria & Ricardos’s flour tortillas here, but I have also used Vermont Tortilla Company corn tortillas. Maria & Ricardo’s is in Canton MA and uses organic flour. Vermont Tortilla is made in Shelburne, Vt using organic, stoneground, Champlain Valley corn.


Posted in Food Storage, history, recipe, Regional Self-Reliance | 2 Comments

Home-grown Peppers in December!

DecemberPeppersMy peppers had a slow start in the community garden this year. Too much rain. When frost was threatening, and they were in flower, I dug this plant up and brought it inside. Peppers love sun and my window only gets sun in the afternoon . . . but that was enough to produce these 4 jewels. I loved adding bright red pepper slices to the salad I made for New Year’s Eve festivities! A special treat!

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Zucchini-Corn Quesadilla Time!


Local zucchini, sliced

Local onions sliced

Fresh local corn (you can use raw or already cooked corn, kernels cut from the cob)

Shredded local cheddar cheese

Optional: Toasted chopped walnuts

Flour tortillas (I’ll bet you could also use local Vermont corn tortillas)

Cooking oil or butter

Homemade salsa or hot sauce


This is a quick and delicious use of the summer’s bounty of zucchini and corn.  Simply slice zucchini and onions and saute in oil or butter with a dash of salt and pepper. Add kernels of fresh local corn cut from the cob. Cover a flour tortilla with this veggie mix and top with shredded local cheese. Sizzle in the frying pan and top with another flour tortilla.  When the bottom tortilla is golden, carefully flip to cook the other side. If my tomatoes had not been so green, I might have made my own salsa, but in this case, I topped my quesadilla with a spiral of sriracha sauce.  Sometimes I add toasted chopped walnuts to the veggie mix for an added crunchiness.  Either way it is delicious . . . for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Posted in garden, Good Ideas!, New Local Products, recipe | 2 Comments

Native Squash Bees

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Did you know there are bees that only pollinate squash blossoms? Summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, gourds .  .  .  that’s their specialty.  Squash yield is entirely dependent on insect pollinators, because male and female reproductive parts are housed in separate flowers; the pollen is heavy and can’t be dispersed by wind. By some estimates, squash bees alone may pollinate two-thirds of the commercially grown squash in the United States. They are up at dawn, day after day, pollinating our squashes.

Long-storing winter squashes are an important year-round food source for New England localvores, so the health of these bees, and pollinators in general, is of great concern. What can we do to protect pollinators and help them prosper?

Here are a few tips from the USDA Forest Service detailing ways to attract and support pollinators:

  • Use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall.
    Help pollinators find and use them by planting in clumps, rather than single plants. Include plants native to your region.
  • Avoid modern hybrid flowers, especially those with “doubled” flowers.
    Often plant breeders have unwittingly left the pollen, nectar, and fragrance out of these blossoms while creating the “perfect” blooms for us.
  • Eliminate pesticides whenever possible.
    If you must use a pesticide, use the least-toxic material possible. Read labels carefully before purchasing, as many pesticides are especially dangerous for bees. Use the product properly. Spray at night when bees and other pollinators are not active.
  • Include larval host plants in your landscape.
    If you want colorful butterflies, grow plants for their caterpillars. They WILL eat them, so place them where unsightly leaf damage can be tolerated. Accept that some host plants are less than ornamental if not outright weeds. A butterfly guide will help you determine the plants you need to include. Plant a butterfly garden!
  • Create a damp salt lick for butterflies and bees.
    Use a dripping hose, drip irrigation line, or place your bird bath on bare soil to create a damp area. Mix a small bit of table salt (sea salt is better!) or wood ashes into the mud.
  • Spare that limb!
    By leaving dead trees, or at least an occasional dead limb, you provide essential nesting sites for native bees.
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Sylvia Davatz’ Solstice Seeds Catalogue

Wheat drying in Sylvia’s solar-powered greenhouse

Sylvia Davatz, of Hartland , VT,  develops seeds using a variety of criteria, looking for seeds that will contribute to our year-long food supply, be well-adapted to our growing environment, have great flavor, be productive and disease-resistant and, thereby, worthy of preservation. She has once again made her seeds available through her Solstice Seeds Catalogue which you can download below:


Sylvia’s Garden & Greenhouse

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Food Swaps

When visiting my daughter Alisa and her husband Sean in LA this March, I noticed a lot of unpicked citrus in many neighborhoods. It was heartening to learn there are food swaps in LA attempting to solve the “problem” of this abundance.

Alisa and Sean benefit from a highly productive avocado tree next-door; avocados rain down on their roof and they collect them in buckets.


On Saturday, they took their avocado bucket to the neighborhood produce swap. In exchange for avocados, they brought home grapefruits, lemons, limes, loquats, eggs, fennel, herbs, and marmalade.

Citrus and Fennel




There was once an Upper Valley Home Gardeners Facebook page through which local gardeners could swap or sell their produce . . .  but it seems to have disappeared. If anyone is aware of such a web site or an organized Upper Valley swap, please let us know.  I do find a Pioneer Valley Food Swap – but I’m hoping there is something more local!  Or maybe you’ll want to organize one?!

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Sylvia Davatz’ 2016 Seed Catalogue

Sylvia’s Garden & Greenhouse

Local seeds from Upper Valley seed saver, Sylvia Davatz of Hartland VT

A message from Sylvia:

It has long been, and continues to be, a core part of my mission to preserve varieties that are in danger of being lost. This now seems more urgent than ever. In the pages of this catalogue you will find many rare, endangered, beautiful, tasty, old, hardy, and historic varieties. All are worthy of being curated by our generation in order to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy and be nourished by them. All will feed you in more ways than one!

If you are interested in cultivating your seed saving skills, remember that our Upper Valley Seed Savers group continues to meet monthly for lively conversation and the sharing of knowledge and seeds. Let me know if you would like more information about our meetings.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy browsing in these pages and entertaining visions of overflowing gardens. Heartfelt thanks to all for your support over the years, and warmest wishes for health and bounty in the new year.



Posted in garden, Localvore News, Regional Self-Reliance | Tagged | 4 Comments