Archive for June, 2009

Eek of the Week: Cherry Marketing Update

leslie land bowl-of-cherries

After writing the recent post on making brandied cherries – and not making cherry preserves now that the fruit can’t be bought in bulk, I tried to find out WHY the bulk boxes went away.

But now that I know, I kind of wish I hadn’t asked. Here’s the lowdown from Lynn Long, a cherry expert at Oregon State University Extension:

” Supermarkets were the catalyst to this change. It used to be easy for
the packing houses; put 20 pounds of cherries in a box and ship it off.
But supermarkets were concerned about the loss that occurred when people
sorted through the cherries looking for the perfect fruit. In 1996 90%
of the cherries from the Pacific Northwest were sent in bulk, loose fill
boxes and 10% in consumer packs. By 2003 it was 60% bulk and 40%
consumer pack. Now it is almost 100% consumer pack, either loose fill
bags or clam shells.

In  a Northwest Cherry Growers study conducted among 1000 consumers 56%
of the respondents said that they prefer purchasing their cherries in
bags, 40% prefer clam shells and only 4% preferred bulk style

I asked Mr. Long what on earth was possessing these people. He quite sensibly suggested I contact the Cherry Growers, whose study it was. But then I didn’t have the heart.

How Is A Blog Like a Baby Wren?

hungry baby photo by Bill Bakaitis

more soon, I promise.

posts upcoming on garlic,  garden volunteers , food gardening fine points, chocolate cake — and the Joy of Wrens.

photo by Bill Bakaitis

Rain and Rain and Rain Again, 5 Tips for Dealing With Constant Damp

In Maine, the chilly rain is now bidding fair to be every day for the entire month of June, and it’s not much better in the Hudson Valley. Or not much less rainy, anyway. It IS better there in general because it was warmer longer sooner, giving plants a good head start  – and the rain itself is warmer.

I keep telling myself this too shall pass – There’s photographic proof from last July, when Lois was painting in the garden.

There can be so much sun you need an umbrella for that

There can be so much sun you need an umbrella for that

But it’s difficult for me to listen to me, so I’m glad there are a few things I can do to help  avoid total catastrophe.

Read More…

Cherry Season – a Memory, and a Recipe for Real-Deal Brandied Cherries


By real deal I mean the cherries are fermented in the hooch, not simply given a quick bath.

Sweet cherries, before and after the full brandying treatment

Sweet cherries, before and after the full brandying treatment

Most popular recipes for brandied cherries require only combining the fruit with brandy and sugar.  Couldn’t be easier, and it’s delicious after sitting around for only a couple of days. Then after you put it in pretty jars and age it a while the cherries turn leathery and the liquid tastes just like cough syrup.

I made a lot of this stuff myself before I discovered that if you take the longer route, using less brandy and letting the mixture ferment, you end up with two good things: a fortified spirit that resembles port and firm, slightly velvety cherries that taste like themselves except for being drunk.

Read More…

Why Plants Are Variegated

Maybe. At least it’s a plausible explanation from what might be called a reliable source, the scientific journal Evolutionary Ecology.

Here’s the summary, with illustration and caption, from the BBC (photographer uncredited, unfortunately):

The Plant That Pretends to Be Ill

A leaf damaged by mining moths (left) compared to one faking it (right).

A leaf damaged by mining moths (left) compared to one faking it (right).

Short version is they do it to look sick, thus fooling the bugs that might make them sick into thinking they’ve already been drained of vitality.

Words cannot express my investment in this explanation, but if YOU have been expensively seduced (over and over) by some gorgeous variegated thing, only to find when you got it home and put it in the garden that it just looked sick, you will know what I mean.

Floppy Peonies – what is to be done?

Not much, unfortunately, when you have downpours like the ones that the Hudson Valley’s been having for the last two weeks. I don’t suppose it makes sense to call anything this soggy ” toast,” but our peonies are over for this year.

They did ok though the first couple of storms, so there were still plenty to pick when I got here from Maine

Cache-pots aren't just for pots; put a glass or china liner in metal ones to extend vase life of flowers

Cache-pots aren't just for pots. Use a glass or china liner in metal ones (to extend the vase life of the flowers).

At that point, the peony hedge looked like this

not great, standupwise, but not bad - except for that white one on the right about tk from the end.

Not great, standupwise, but not bad - except for that white one at center right

Read More…

Extending the Rhubarb Season (plus Rhubarb Peach Deep Dish Pie)

Did you keep cutting off the rhubarb flower buds, doing your best to extend the season by preventing


Rhubarb flowering instead of making pie material?

Rhubarb flowering instead of making pie material

If so, welcome to the club of “if only.”

Just about every rhubarb grower I know is convinced that removing the flower stalks will

a) keep the edible leaf stalks from growing tough and

b) encourage the plant to produce more of them,

and they are abetted in this belief by most of the published information on rhubarb growing, including that from reliable sources like universities and extension services.

Nevertheless, (a) is untrue and (b) applies mostly to the following season.

Read More…

Ladybug or Squash Beetle or Mexican Bean Beetle?

It can be hard to tell. The  squash and bean beetles are orange with black spots and so in many cases are the ladybugs, aka lady beetles.

Two clues:

1. The vegetable eaters are mostly on the vegetables they eat.

2. Most  of the common ladybugs have black heads; the pests don’t.

Ladybug, so glad to see you

Japanese, squash and bean varieties notwithstanding, beetles in the garden can be a very good thing. Here we see a lady beetle ( probably the Asian one, Harmonia axyridis, although I wouldn’t swear), working on the aphids in the trap crop lambs quarter.

leslie land ladybug-on-lambsquarter

When young, lambs quarter is one of the most delicious greens any garden can grow. As it ages and toughens, swarms of aphids come to infest it instead of your fava beans. Very convenient.

less good of the beetle, better of the aphids. Never eat anything bigger than your head.

Less good of the beetle, better of the aphids. Never eat anything bigger than your head.

The White Rose and the Red

If you don’t count

old faithful Jens Munk,

old faithful Jens Munk,

blooming away at the edge of the woods, the first rose to show its face in the lower gardens was a white hybrid tea whose name I no longer remember. Not an especially pretty plant ( as usual with hybrid teas) but a very pretty rose.

 Also a nicely fragrant one. Put your nose in the vicinity and be rewarded with a delightful lemony perfume.

 “ Those people who are always on about scentless modern roses have gotten a bit carried away,” thought I , keeping the trophy close to my schnoz as I headed up to the house.

 Passed the gone-to-wild-we-still-haven’t-upgraded-it side garden and there was a survivor,  the antique gallica ‘Tuscany’, small, semi-double, deep, deep purplevelvet red.

Modern white, antique red

Modern white, antique red

Read More…