His name is Stevie

Friends, I am pleased to announce that we have a brand new addition to our family. [No, this is not going to be a shotgun wedding.] He's a cat, and his name is Stevie.

Alex and I met Stevie on the road, in the dark, on the way home from a dinner party last Saturday night. It was absolutely beautiful out, one of those September stunners of a night, and we had decided to walk the mile and a half through the woods to the house on Old Chequesset. In the pitch black coming back, we heard a meow behind us, and then another at our feet, and before we knew it, an orange cat was marching steadily toward home. We tried to send him back, or away, or wherever it was he might have come from, but he was Not Going to Budge. When we arrived at the door he weaseled his way inside, and then onto the bed, and although a certain Mr. Fisher looked none too certain, it became very clear very quickly that he was going to stay.

We called the animal officer and got him scanned for a micro-chip, and they said he was up for grabs. Today, I took him to the vet, and we officially rolled out the welcome mat. Or at least, most of us did. Some of us still aren't quite so sure.

At any rate, we are finding out very quickly what Stevie Does and Does Not like. So far, we know for certain that he is very amenable to teaspoons of dulce de leche and small bits of ham. Sunday morning we baked a fresh ham for brunch—slathered it in brown sugar and cloves and dry mustard and salt and pepper—and Stevie looked as though he had just landed on a soft, billowing cloud of pure, straight-from-God bliss. In fact, the hope of ham just might be why he decided to follow us home.

This morning, when I collected the leftover bone and scraped off fat and cracklings of skin to make black bean soup, I thought he might just dive right in. I don't blame him, of course—if I weighed 11 pounds, I'd go swimming in my ham and black bean soup, too.

I adapted this particular batch from a recipe I found in the Joy of Cooking with the very intriguing title U.S. Senate Bean Soup. According to the header, a white bean and ham hock soup has been served in the U.S. Senate restaurant since 1901. At first, I wasn't quite sure if that was a good sign or not—the words Senate restaurant sound sort of like code for cafeteria to me—but as it turns out, our elected officials have excellent taste. U.S. Senate Bean Soup is like a hijacked split pea soup, with whole white beans replacing the soupy green mash. I went ahead and took things one step further by throwing black beans in instead.

The resulting soup was just the sort of thing I would imagine a senator eating for lunch. It's nothing hoity toity—nothing high-powered or white linened or too sit-down—but the sort of thing I picture John Kerry sitting down with in a paper bowl and a plastic spoon and reading the newspaper alongside over lunch. It is simple, delicious, and solid—very much a by the people, for the people sort of soup. It's just the thing, come to think of it, that you might make to take over to a friend who just had a baby, or lost an aunt, or maybe got a new cat.

Around here, it has proved an excellent way to welcome Stevie home.


I made this soup with a bone from a fresh ham that had been baked for several hours. Fresh ham isn't as salty as cured ham, so be careful with the seasoning and taste as you go depending on what sort of meat you use.

1 and 1/4 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight
7 cups cold water
1 small ham hock
1 large onion, diced
3 medium celery stalks with their leaves on, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place the beans, water, and ham hock in a large soup pot. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender (roughly an hour and a half). When the beans are soft, remove the ham hock. Discard the skin and any extra fat and the bone (read: give them to your dog or cat) and return the meat to the pot.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot as well, and simmer for about a half an hour, or until the potatoes are soft. Turn off the heat and mash the soup with a potato masher until the potatoes form a thick broth. (Some of the beans will be mashed, too, but most should stay in tact.) Serve warm, with chopped fresh parsley and a dollop of sour cream.


The Local Food Report: since 1888

Friends, I have been waiting for this day for weeks. I have been tiptoeing around like my sister and I used to when we were making an especially extraordinary construction paper Christmas present for our parents, beaming and whispering and wishing the day to give it away would just hurry up and get here. And now lo and behold, here it is, and I don't even know where to start. I guess the best place is with the dahlias. They are lovely, aren't they?

They were handpicked from a garden in Westport for the one hundred and twenty-first annual Allen's Neck Clambake, held the third Thursday of every August since 1888. If you look closely, you can see that they are set up on a picnic table in a grove, and that there are an awful lot of picnic tables stretching out on all sides, and in every direction, all decorated with white clothes and home grown flowers and paper napkins and plates. That's because the Allen's Neck Meeting House—the same Quaker congregation that's been putting this clambake on since the very first summer—sells out five hundred tickets each year. One hundred and fifty volunteers set everything thing up, and just about the whole town comes to eat.

The bakemasters are in charge, and the work starts at 7 am when they build the fire.

They build it on a big, concrete slab in the middle of the grove, sort of like you would a log cabin, with interlocking layers, and then they fill each layer with stones. That way, when they rake out the logs a few hours later, the rocks will tumble down onto either side of the concrete, evenly, and the hot wood and ashes can be swept away. Men put on fire coats and heavy boots and someone brings out a hose, and what you see up there disappears into a cloud of smoke and emerges as a perfect bed of hot cooking stones. This all happens at 11:30, in a hushed, reverent silence—The Rake Out, as they call it—and it is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Once the stones are set and everyone's boots have been hosed down so their toes don't sizzle up, a pick-up truck full of rock weed arrives and the men start throwing it over the rocks. The rock weed crackles and hisses as its bubbles pop in the heat, and the steam gets so thick you can hardly see your own feet. Next, they load up the food—boxes and boxes of clams and potatoes and onions and tripe stacked up in perfect squares. When the whole meal is on board, they cover it with a wet tarp, and then another wet tarp, and then another, and then finally a few more dry ones on top. They weight down some of the sides, but they make sure to leave some holes, too, because otherwise, the pressure from the steam will blow the whole thing up. It's the most unnecessary and wonderful clambake procedure I've ever seen.

Kathy Neustadt, an expert on clambakes, agrees. She's the one who invited me to come experience the event at Allen's Neck. I think she knew how excited I would be because this was the very first clambake she ever went to, back in 1984, and she got so excited about it that she researched clambakes for 8 years. This led, in turn, to a book—Clambake: A History and Celebration of an American Tradition. Kathy says that over the course of writing it, she came to believe that how a community puts on a clambake is like a window into its soul.

At first, I thought this was sort of a grandiose way to think about a clambake, but then I found out that the one at Allen's Neck doesn't have lobster. This put me into a swivet, having grown up in Maine and all, and I realized Kathy was right. How you put on a clambake says more than you think about who you are, and where you're from.

At any rate, 'tis the season. Kathy will be at the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford this weekend, talking about the history and traditions of New England clambakes, and I'm sure she'd love to see you if you have time to stop by. There will also be all sorts of other interesting talks and tours and good food and on the whole just a lot of fun, so I wouldn't skip it if you live nearby. For more information, you can head on over here. Oh! And you can read more about Kathy's book in this direction.

Enjoy your weekends, everyone.


Since day one

This summer, my sister's boyfriend invited her to go work, for one week, at his summer camp. He'd gone every year since he could remember, first as a camper and now as a counselor, and it was a very important place, he said. She agreed, sent in the necessary paperwork, and the plan was set.

As summer wore on and the August week got closer, he started to tell her little things about what to expect. She would be leading a trip, he said, overnight, and she should bring two sleeping bags to camp in case the one on the trip got wet. She would have a cabin with campers, and every day would be so choc-a-bloc full it would just zoom by, and she would be very tired at the end, so it might be a good idea to get a day or two off afterward.

Oh, and she should be ready to let her freak flag fly.

That's right. When she called me to tell me this, we decided on the spot that this was without a doubt the most brilliant phrase of all times. It might explain things to tell you that, as a family, I am fairly sure we have been letting our freak flag fly since day one. (Maybe even before, since on the day my father met my mother, which I believe, in the life of a family, is technically the start, he was wearing an outfit composed of a maroon corduroy shirt, purple corduroy pants, leather cowboy boots, and a red bandanna. They hadn't even had their first kiss, and already things were showing some dangerous potential.)

At any rate, the expression stuck. And apparently, word has gotten out that the Pierson girls are not afraid of a little weirdness, particularly when it comes to strange vegetables, because every time I've been to the farmers' market recently, someone has called me over to point one out. This week, it was these:

For size reference, in case you can't tell from the picture up there, those little vegetable halves are about the size of your thumb. When I first saw them, I thought maybe they were watermelons that had been put through a version of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but as it turns out, they're cucumbers. Tiny, watermelon-shaped and watermelon-looking cucumbers, Mexican Gherkin cucumbers that for the most part taste like any other cucumbers, but on the outside are very, very crisp. Inside, they sort of lack the translucent body bulk, and instead are mostly rind and seeds and a little bit of juice. In short, they are the most readily pickle-able cucumbers of all times.

Unfortunately, I picked the wrong recipe the first time around and botched an entire batch. For the record, these are not dill pickle cucumbers—these are meant to be sweet pickles, bread and butter style.

I didn't realize that. I put them in a salt water brine, left them overnight to crisp in the fridge, and returned to find them far, far too salty for my taste. I tried to wash them, to counteract the mistake, but the deed was already done. The next time around, I followed a recipe passed down from my grandmother-in-law-to-be (!), and things turned out much more splendidly. On Saturday, bright and early, I will be lined up at Gretel Norgeot's stand at the Orleans Farmers' Market for more. Maybe, just maybe, I'll see you there.


The original of this recipe calls for English cucumbers and white onions, but for these sweet little Gherkins, I tweaked it a bit. The miniature cucumbers pickle best cut in half the long way (otherwise, when they hit the hot water bath, they shrivel), but I'm willing to bet that if you left them whole and poked a few holes in them that might do the trick as well. Also, I used shallots instead of onions, both for their color and because you can use fewer bulbs to achieve the same strength of flavor, which after cutting all those tiny Gherkins in half is awfully nice.

Makes 6 to 8 pint jars

6 to 8 pounds, or roughly one gallon, Mexican Gherkins, cleaned and halved
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pickling salt
two trays ice cubes
5 cups granulated sugar
3 cups white vinegar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons celery seed
1 and 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
2 tablespoons mustard seed

In a large bowl, toss the Gherkins and the shallots with the pickling salt and crack the two trays of ice cubes over top. Let this sit out on the counter for three hours, and then drain off the water.

In a large, non-reactive pot, mix the sugar, vinegar, and spices with the drained cucumbers and shallots. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and turn the heat down to a simmer. While the liquid is kept hot, pack the vegetables into the hot pint jars to about 1/2 inch below the lips. Pour the hot liquid over top and wipe the rims of the jars with a cloth dipped in boiling water to make sure they're clean. Seal with sterilized lids and screw tight. Return the jars to a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, and leave them on a dishcloth upside down overnight. In the morning, check the seals, label, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.


The Local Food Report: the meat mobile

This cow belongs to our friends, George and Janet. He doesn't have a name, because one day, he will be dinner. Or rather, dinners. There's a lot of meat on those bones.

And that meat is grass-fed. (With a few dropped apples and extra heads of lettuce and stolen hay mixed in, to be sure.) But mostly grass-fed. Which means that Mr. Moo, for lack of a better name, will have to be cooked differently than your average cow. The meat most of us are used to—conventional beef, fed grain and raised in feed lots—cooks differently than grass-fed cuts. Mostly, what you need to know about cooking the sort of meat that would come from Mr. Moo is as follows:

1. You will need to get a meat thermometer, and learn how to use it.

2. You will need to turn down the heat.

3. You will need to learn a little bit more about dry-heat cooking methods and moist-heat cooking methods, to the point where you can decide which to use, when.

4. You won't need to use so many seasonings and sauces. A cut of grass-fed beef can stand up on its own.

All of this is important not because George and Janet have decided they are very generous and would like to give you some of their very own homegrown beef, although I'm sure they would if they knew you, but because we have a new meat vendor in town. Or in Cape, or however you want to say it.

Local, grass-fed meat can be hard to find on a consistent basis. There's Ocean Song Farm, which sells pastured chickens and turkeys and pork and sometimes lamb, and Border Bay Junction Farm, which offers up whole lambs from time to time, and deli cases in places like Far Land Provisions in Provincetown and How on Earth in Mattapoisett that sell cuts from Northeast Family Farms. But beef—chuck and Porterhouse steak and ground hamburger and bristket—good, grass-fed beef can be hard to find. Enter Joe Beaulieu, and his meat-mobile.

All summer, Joe has been showing up at the Sandwich Farmers' Market on Tuesday mornings from 9am to 1pm with every cut of pastured beef you can rattle off. He used to sell whole animals, sides and halves and that sort of thing, straight from his farm, but when the economy tanked off, the number of consumers willing to fork over $900 at a time for beef took rather a sharp downward turn. So he built himself an 8' by 8' by 20' wagon—picture an ice cream truck, or maybe a hot dog stand at the beach—threw in two freezers, a generator to power them, and an old Hobart scale, and turned his business plan around. He's gone mobile, so to speak.

And so far, so good. He raises roughly 20 head of cattle a year, has them processed at a USDA approved plant up in Sanford, Maine, and sells every cut imaginable at the market. (Twenty cows, according to Beaulieu, is roughly equivalent to 16,000 pounds, if you can imagine.) He also sells in Braintree, Bridgewater, and Fairhaven, which is where his farm is. He has 27 acres right off 195, where his cows live naturally, like happy cows, as he says. Business at the meat mobile has been excellent, and he says that everyone has come back for more—a lot of repeat customers—which he takes as a sign that he can go ahead and join in the happiness.

He's so encouraged, in fact, that he'll be taking winter orders even after the market shuts down and showing up at the Gallery Gourmet on 6A in Sandwich the second Saturday of every month, from noon to one, for pick-ups.

Just in case you're lucky enough to end up with a freezer as full as his—a cold cavern choc-a-bloc full of roasts and sirloins and hamburger with a good, creaky hinge—here's a recipe for inside-out cheeseburgers. There are also some cooking tips, but for more—because after all, a burger is not a roast is not a sirloin—check out the links all the way at the bottom. The first goes to a very interesting article in the Atlantic published back when the whole grass-fed idea was brand new (or rather, recycled new), and the second goes to the website of the woman who wrote the book the burger recipe is adapted from. It's all about how to cook with grass-fed beef, and it is, in the face of a meat mobile, necessary and excellent.

So enjoy, eat up, and I'll see you all soon.


This recipe is one I adapted from The Grassfed Gourmet by Shannon Hayes a cookbook devoted entirely to how to cook with grass-fed meats. It was given to us as an engagement present and has proved an incredibly handy tool when trying to eat locally. The original recipe called for feta, but I am a firm believer in the merits of Great Hill blue cheese, so I swapped that in instead.

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 heaping tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1/4 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the cheese, oregano, and spinach together in a small bowl. Divide the meat into four portions and make three patties, setting the extra portion aside. Place a third of the cheese and herb mixture into the center of each patty, pack a third of the extra meat on top of each, and reform the patties so that none of the stuffing is exposed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook using to the following tips.

1. Form the patty so that it is 3/4-inch thick on the edges and 1/2-inch thick in the center. (Yes, even with the stuffing inside). This will help the burgers cook evenly, and not puff up and become round.

2. Be sure that your pan is hot and that you coat it with a little bit of oil. This will help ensure that the meat doesn't stick and get left in the pan.

3. Pan fry the burger over medium-high heat for roughly 3 minutes a side and you will get a nice, crusty exterior and a juicy interior.

4. Don't press on them with a spatula as you cook, or you will squeeze out their juices.

To find out more about the health benefits of eating pastured meats, head on over here. And for more on cooking with grass-fed meats, check this out.


The Local Food Report: sort of zany

The Giant Cape Gooseberry sounds like something out of a Roald Dahl book, don't you think? Like a cross between an everlasting gobstopper and James' Giant Peach—something the Wormwoods would have made Matilda eat in great, mounded heaps.

But really, it's just those funny looking fruits you see in the yellow checked napkin up there. They're a little smaller than a golf ball, a pale golden color, and wrapped in a tomatillo-esque paper husk. They taste sort of zany, like a kiwi-strawberry-pineapple-cherry tomato cross.

If you were hunting for their number, you'd find it in the tomato book. They're a relative of the tomato and the tomatillo—a member of the Solanaceae family, not the traditional gooseberry. (If you remember the rabble rouser, that Mr. Black Currant who we talked about a month or so ago, he's the real gooseberry cousin. You have to be a bona fide Ribes to claim any real gooseberry status, and he is.)

Instead, if the Giant Cape Gooseberry had to pick a little sister, she would be a ground cherry. Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry, if you were shopping at Clare Bergh's stand in Orleans—the sweet, bite-sized kind I fell for last year. She's the crazy tomato lady, or really the amazing lady who is very passionate about tomatoes, the one who grew 150 varieties of tomato seedlings for sale this spring. The Giant Cape Gooseberry and Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry are just two more relatives for the list.

Raw, straight from the wrapper, both fruits are delicious. They sort of dance on your tongue, a little hint of strawberry popping up here, a taste of pineapple there, a burst of sweetness to wash it all down. I'd had the fruits from Clare's stand and Andy Pollock's in Provincetown, but I'd never seen them growing until I went to edit today's radio show at my producer's house last week. He heard the first few sentences of the piece, stopped the sound, and dragged me outside. There in his front yard, growing out of an old boat, were a whole mess of ground cherry plants. We ate every last ripe fruit we could find.

Since then, I've decided that eating them raw is the best way to enjoy both fruits. I was hoping to tell you about the magic of a Giant Cape Gooseberry version of cherry clafoutis today, but after tasting the big fruits cooked, all I can say is that there is absolutely no magic to be had. The clafoutis was magical—the way cream, eggs, flour, and sugar came together into a soft, almost crepe-like pudding, but we picked every single Giant Cape Gooseberry out. As Alex put it, they tasted like unripe cooked tomatoes—not exactly what you're looking for in a dessert.

So instead, once you've snacked on all the fresh Giant Cape Gooseberries and Aunt Molly's Ground Cherries you can find, I recommend making a beach plum clafoutis for dessert. Technically, for a real clafoutis, you're supposed to use stone fruits anyways, pits in, so I suppose it's no surprise Giant Cape Gooseberries didn't work. (The Boston Globe is usually a very reliable source, but apparently, when it comes to matching strange fruits and baked goods, they're not entirely on point.)

At any rate, the idea behind leaving the stones in is that they are supposed to give the custard a rich, almost-almondy-flavor, and I can report after last night that it works. The beach plum clafoutis was everything I hoped the Giant Cape Gooseberry version would be, and then some. In fact, it took us through half a bad movie and two CSI episodes without Alex falling asleep, which let me tell you, is quite a feat.

Of course, this was partially because it was slow going getting those plum pits out, but I didn't mind that part. It was a good reminder, I thought, to slow down and enjoy dessert.


This recipe is adapted from one I found for Cherry Clafoutis in The Food of France, a Whitecap cookbook by Chris Jones, Maria Villegas, and Sarah Randell put out for Williams Sonoma. While my first version, the one with the Giant Cape Gooseberries, was an absolute flop, I could tell there was something to hold on to in the batter. Cherries are out of season here and the stone fruits at the markets, like peaches and plums, were way too big for a custard, but beach plums perfectly fit the bill.

The texture of the baked batter reminds me of a crepe—not quite sweet and perfectly smooth in a custardy, pancake-y sort of way. Be sure not to skip the sprinkling of powdered sugar over top, as it gives the tart plums the sweetness they need.

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beach plums, picked clean but with pits
1 tablespoon fruit liqueur (beach plum would be ideal, but as a substitute, use kirsch)
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla in a small mixing bowl and whisk together well. In a separate, larger mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs to break the yolks, then add in the sugar and flour and stir until evenly combined. Pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until smooth. Add the beach plums and the fruit liqueur, stir once more, and pour the batter into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the batter has set and the top is golden brown around the edges. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature, dust the top of with confectioners' sugar, and enjoy, taking care not to bite down on the stones of the fruit.


A very auspicious start

I can't stay for long today, but I wanted to stop by quickly to tell you that the season for watermelon has officially begun. I bought one from Hillside Farm at the Truro Ag Fair yesterday, and this morning, I ate so many slices for breakfast I felt sick. It was a very auspicious start to the day.
Of course, I don't feel as sick as I would have if I'd entered the pie eating contest yesterday. I feel a little bad telling you about this today, as it's already gone by, but yesterday, in downtown Truro, there were a full four heats of chocolate-cream-pie-eating competition. It was part of a larger event—the first ever Truro Agricultural Fair—and it was quite a sight to behold. There were three heats of kids, and one of adults, everyone lined up on their knees with their arms behind their backs and their hair tucked up. I should have told you about it sooner, I know, especially since I'm on the board of the event, but I get sort of shy about these things. At any rate, it was a smashing success, and I think it's safe to say there will be one every year from now on. At least, we hope so.

Between the Fair and the Labor Day hubbub at the restaurant, it has been quite a weekend. An exciting one, to be sure, but also the kind of stretch that necessitates a good nap before you get back to work. I don't have a recipe for you today, and I hope you'll forgive me for that.

But I am able to offer you what I hope are two very nice things instead. Number one is the best, I think, and that is the address of the Hillside Farm stand in Truro. It's on Route 6, number 300, on the left side as you're headed toward Provincetown just before Sweet Escapes, the ice cream place. (If you happen to get distracted and go in there instead, I highly recommend a scoop of Celebration Cake. You may become a hopeless addict and never fit into a pair of jeans again, but it will be worth every bite.) At the farm stand, on the other hand, there are two things to recommend. Both are a kind of watermelon—one a long, skinny specimen and the other the regular rolly-polly type, and if I were you I'd buy one of each and put away as much as you can stand.

Number two, the other thing I want to tell you, is that although I don't have any recipes for you here this week, I am very excited to announce that I will have some soon somewhere else. On Wednesday morning when you wake up, if you click on over here, my very first national story will be up. It's for the Kitchen Window series on NPR.org, and it's about beach plums. There are not only one but three recipes at the bottom, so if you happen to be around on Wednesday, I'd love for you to check it out. The beach plums are just getting ripe, and it is absolutely perfect weather to pull on your boots and go pick. It isn't quite like it was two years ago, but there are certainly loaded bushes out there.

I think that's it. You have watermelon, you know about the Ag Fair, and on Wednesday, you can take the recipes if you like. Now, before another minute goes by, I am going to lie down for a nap.

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone.


The Local Food Report: cross your hearts

A few weeks ago, I went to Coonamessett Farm in East Falmouth. I met Stan Ingram, who's in charge of the tomato plants there, and we went out together to inspect the troops.

Unfortunately, morale was pretty low. Some were drooping, some were oozing, and some were just missing—gone altogether from their rows.

He didn't seem particularly surprised. It's been a rough summer for tomatoes, not just at Coonamessett, but everywhere from the Carolinas to Maine. It started in June, when the humidity and the rain and the wind picked up, and it's been sort of a downhill ride ever since. The culprit is a disease called late blight, a wildly contagious fungus that flies from plant to plant in the form of little white spores.

Late blight is nothing new—it was the cause of the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s—but plant pathologists say that this year is unprecedented in how quickly and how widely the disease has spread. One week, it was discovered on Long Island, and the next, it was up and down the east coast. And the worst part is it can jump from tomato crops to potatoes, too. Chances are, if you have a garden with either one of these, you have late blight kicking around somewhere. It's been held in check a bit recently by the nice sunny, dry weather, but hardly any place has gotten off entirely scot-free.

Beyond encouraging late blight, the wet weather we had in June also slowed the ripening of the fruits. I found these tomatoes in our garden downtown, struggling to get red. Don't you just want to give them the day off—slap them a pat on the back and tell them it's okay, we understand?

I don't mean to sound all gloom and doom—it's been a first rate year for lettuce and arugula and the cucumbers, even though they arrived late—and the blackberries and raspberries have had a pretty good go of it, too. Tomatoes will just have to wait for another year to shine, that's all.

But the point of all this—what I really wanted to tell you about—is canning. Please, please don't put up any tomatoes this year. Late blight changes the pH of tomatoes, making them less acidic than usual. Even if they don't show any signs of the disease when they're picked, they might still be affected, which makes canning tomato sauce an A-plus recipe for botulism. Freezing sauce is okay—as long as the tomatoes you use are in tip-top shape—but because I really like you all, please don't go putting any crushed or juiced or canned tomatoes in Mason jars this year. Really, cross your hearts, okay?

If you don't believe me, you can find out more over here, and you can read a very interesting op-ed about the disease over here. Finally, if you're wondering what to do with a harvest of un-ripe tomatoes like the ones I have sitting up there, Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times offers some awfully good inspiration for how to cook with green tomatoes over here.

I hope you have a bang-up weekend, everyone. Just don't go sneaking any red fruits into jars.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.