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!

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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.



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Compost Cooking!

Mindful cooks, through the generations, have had ways to reduce food waste: stir fry, frittata, quiche, quesadillas, soups, stews, homemade broth, etc. Of late, many professional chefs are challenging themselves to use food that would otherwise be wasted. Here are a few of their successful experiments:


Brussels Sprout Stems

* San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino splits Brussels sprout stems lengthwise and roasts them with salt, pepper, and olive oil; the inner “marrow” of the stem can be delicious when served on grilled bread.

slicedBSleavesBrussels Sprout Leaves

  • Leaves of Brussels sprouts can be cooked like kale or collards: Stack the leaves and cut horizontally into wide strips, then sauté in a hot skillet with olive oil. (You can crush a couple of garlic cloves and let them warm in the oil before adding the greens. The whole crushed cloves lend a soft garlicky flavor – remove them or eat them before serving.) Add a scant pinch of chili flakes for some spiciness.

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Carrot Tops

* Carrot Top Pesto – (recipe developed by James Beard Award-Winning Cookbook Author Diane Morgan)

Serve as a dip with crackers and/or crudites or on top of bruschetta smeared with fresh goat cheese . . . or any way one uses traditional pesto. Great on pasta. (Makes about 2/3 cup)

1 cup lightly packed carrot leaves (stems removed)

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

Puree it all in a blender or food processor.

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Broccoli Stalks

*Broccoli Stalk Soup (from Food: Too Good to Waste)

You can use leftover stems of leafy vegetables such as Brussels
sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach or kale. Adapted from Irene
Pizzie and Love Food Hate Waste UK. Yields 4 servings.
4 potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 handful pearl barley, red lentils, or leftover rice
1 cup leftover broccoli stalks
1/2 Tbsp fennel seeds (optional)
salt & pepper
sour cream or Greek yogurt
fresh herbs
Put the potatoes, onion, carrots, pearl barley (or lentils or rice) in a large
pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat and simmer
for about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli stalks and fennel seeds and
continue to cook until all the vegetables are just tender. Remove from
heat and allow to cool. Purée until smooth. Taste and season. Pour into
warm bowls and add a little sour cream or yogurt, swirl into the soup and
add a few sprigs of herbs such as tarragon (optional).

* The New Yorker has a great read on what Chef Dan Barber is doing in New York. And there’s more about his WastED project at http://wastedny.com/scrapb

Also see http://www.zipcar.com/ziptopia/future-city/how-to-reduce-food-waste-and-sustainably-feed-the-world . . . and https://uvlocalvores.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/starve-a-landfill/

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