I was about to write that eating was my favorite part of gardening.
After thinking about it awhile I decided that I could not distinguish a favorite or least
favorite part of gardening. I love it all from shopping for seeds (I hate to shop for
anything else.) to taking the table scraps to the compost pile. If you saw my compost
pile, you might be led to believe that I don't care much for making compost. Not true. I
love making compost when I am doing it and when it is finished. My problem is in getting
the job started. While I'm confessing I should say that I sometimes have trouble finishing
a job, too. I've been building a barn for 15 years.
Eating usually gets started and
finished without much problem and is always enjoyed. Today I'm going to cook one of my few
specialties, stew. It is a fall tradition with me when all the root vegetables are at
their peak. It is perhaps more appropriately a late winter meal as a way to spark up the
vegetables that have been stored in the root cellar. We should be eating more cabbage now
since it will not last as long as the rutabaga, potatoes, carrots and onions that will go
into the stew. Properly stored these vegetables will last until spring.
Proper storage for the potatoes, carrots and rutabaga is near but not below freezing
with high humidity. Our cellar was perfect before I put a furnace in there. It has a dirt
floor which is always moist. I can hear Wayne and Naomi who service my furnace exclaiming
"Moist!!!" You see, there is a little ditch meandering through the cellar to a
little settling pond. Overflow from the pond exits the basement through a drainage pipe.
There is no water running in the ditch now but there is for most of the year. That keeps
the humidity in the cellar pretty high.
There have been years when the stew was all home-grown except for the seasoning (salt
and pepper and maybe a bay leaf or more) and a little flour. This year the beef and celery
This is going to be a special stew for another reason. This is the first year we have
grown more than two kinds of potatoes. Our old standbys were Katahdin and Kennebec and
sometimes Green Mountain substituting for one of the others. This year we grew six
different varietiesGreen Mountain, Carib, Banana, French fingerling, Yukon gold and
dark red Norlands. The potato harvest was a disappointment. The plants all died early. I'm
told the reason was leafhoppers blown into Maine on some of the southern warm winds we got
this summer were spreading blight. I just wish I had been growing my old standards so I
could be sure it was the leafhoppers and not more susceptible varieties. The Green
Mountain did seem to hold up longer than the others.
Anyway, I have a lot of little potatoes which, because of their size, will not keep as
well as larger potatoes. I think I'll have enough small ones to make the stew using whole
potatoes. That will make it possible to identify the variety while eating the stew and we
can critique them for future reference. I am envisioning a meal similar to my childhood
eating alphabet soup and looking for the letters of my name.
İOctober 18, 1997
Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For
Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine
in 1987. He is a consultant for organizations. You can eat his organic
produce at his son's southern
Maine restaurant. His address is 802 Bald Hill Road, Wells,
Mort retains all rights to his columns. Anyone interested in using them can get the
rights at a very reasonable rate.