In spite of how miserable the weather has been lately, I still think it’s a good thing we have winter. It gives us gardeners a chance to spend some time indoors, reading up on our favorite plants, learning about new varieties, crops, or methods we might want to try out this year, and planning this summer’s gardens.
One vegetable crop that is not often grown in home gardens is potatoes. I’ve been growing them for a couple of years now and I really enjoy it. The plants are good-sized and robust without too much fussing and are well suited to our climate. » Continue Reading.
Enjoying a meal around a campfire is an important part of an outdoor experience. Many a camper insists that food just tastes better when eaten outside.
An anonymous sportsman wrote about his trip to the Adirondacks in 1867, with particular mention of meals: “Trout ‘Flapjacks’ & corn cakes were soon cooked…and then we hurried into the Tent to eat, for the Mosquitos were very troublesome out side, & threatened to devour us, waving [sic] all objections as regarded our not being Cooked. Next morning we were up early & had such a Breakfast. Venison nicely cooked in a variety of ways great blooming Potatoes, splendid Pan cakes with maple sugar syrup, Eggs, & actual cream to drink…We could scarcely leave the Table…” » Continue Reading.
Rita Poirier Chaisson was born in 1914 on Canada’s Gaspe Penninsula. In 1924, her father Paul Poirier, a lumberjack, moved the family to the North Country where logging jobs were more abundant. Her mother agreed to leave Canada with reluctance. The Poirier family spoke French, no English, and she was convinced that New Yorkers “just talk Indian over there.”
The family kept a farm near Tupper Lake, with as many as 85 cows. Rita planted potatoes and turnips, and helped with the haying. She and her siblings attended a local school, where she was two years older than most of her classmates. Although she picked up English quickly, her French accent made integration difficult. She left school at the age of 14, and worked as a live-in maid, cooking and cleaning for local families for three dollars a week. She used her earnings to purchase clothes by mail order for her sisters, mother, and herself. » Continue Reading.
In Rules for Recovery from Tuberculosis, published in Saranac Lake in 1915, Dr. Lawrason Brown stated that “there are no more difficult problems in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis than to make some patients gain weight and to help others avoid digestive disturbances.”
Diet was an important part of treatment for tuberculosis, the “white plague.” Highly contagious, tuberculosis (or TB) was one of the most dreaded diseases in the 19th century. Caused by a bacterial infection, TB most commonly affects the lungs, although it may infect other organs as well. Today, a combination of antibiotics, taken for period of several months, will cure most patients.
The drugs used to treat tuberculosis were developed more than fifty years ago. Before then, thousands came to the Adirondack Mountains seeking a cure in the fresh air, away from the close quarters and heat of urban streets. Doctors prescribed a strict regimen of rest, mild exercise, plenty of fresh air, and healthy, easy to digest meals. » Continue Reading.
During the nineteenth century, a number of Adirondack Indians marketed their skill as hunters, guides, basket makers, doctors, and cooks.
On Monday, July 5, 2010 Dr. Marge Bruchac will offer a program entitled “Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways in the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Bruchac will focus attention on what might be a lesser-known Native skill – cooking.
The first offering of the season for the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members. Nineteenth century white tourists paid good money to purchase wild game from Native people, to hunt in their territories, to buy medicines and remedies, and to eat in restaurants or lodgings where Indians held sway in the kitchen.
Dr. Bruchac will highlight stories of individuals such as Pete Francis, notorious for hunting wild game and creating French cuisine; George Speck and Katie Wicks, both cooks at Moon’s Lake House and co-inventors of the potato chip; and Emma Camp Mead, proprietress of the Adirondack House, Indian Lake, N.Y., known for setting an exceptionally fine table.
Bruchac contends that these people, and others like them, actively purveyed and shaped the appetite for uniquely American foods steeped in Indigenous foodways.
The Adirondack Museum celebrates food, drink, and the pleasures of eating in the Adirondack Park this year with a new exhibition, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” The exhibit includes a 1915 photograph of Emma Mead as well as her hand-written recipes for “Green Tomato Pickles” and “Cranberry Puffs.”
Marge Bruchac, PhD, is a preeminent Abenaki historian. A scholar, performer, and historical consultant on the Abenaki and other Northeastern native peoples, Bruchac lectures and performs widely for schools, museums, and historical societies. Her 2006 book for children about the French and Indian War, Malian’s Song, was selected as an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times and was the winner of the American Folklore Society’s Aesop Award. Photo: Dr. Marge Bruchac
A Wilmington woman who suspected her tomato was afflicted with “late blight,” a fungal disease killing area nightshade crops, put the plant in her car and drove it to the Hhott House garden center in Saranac Lake late last week to get an expert opinion.
The opinion was, yes, the plant did indeed have late blight, and now it had traveled through Lake Placid, home to Cornell University’s Uihlein Potato Research Station, which provides seed stock for much of the state. It had also come within six miles of Tucker Farms, a commercial potato grower in Gabriels, and, less important, within a block of my potato and tomato plants, the latter which are finally fruiting. The plant was bagged and discarded in the trash, as it should have been to begin with. Late blight is spread by spores that can travel several miles on the wind. Here is a reminder from the Clinton Essex Cooperative Extension on what you should do if you suspect your tomatoes or potatoes have late blight.
Adkforum has an interesting thread going about a bride’s search for an authentic Adirondack cocktail to serve at a Keene Valley wedding. So far the consensus seems to be Genny, though the western New York beer is being edged out by Lake Placid’s Ubu Ale.
Joe Conto teaches a class at Paul Smith’s College called “Beverages: Six Glasses that Changed the World.” Last summer his students invented Toni Basil Lemonade (“oh, basil, you’re so fine, etc.” ), a vodka and lemon cooler garnished with basil, for Lisa G’s restaurant in Lake Placid. As for a drink with Adirondack ingredients, Professor Conto offers, “I make this one cocktail with: 1.5 oz Makers Mark 1/2 oz maple syrup (good stuff) 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice Shake with ice and strain into martini glass, Garnish with lemon twist (not wedge). The bourbon and the maple taste gooood together.”
He adds, “One time in New York City I had a drink with dark rum, maple syrup and lime juice (I assume the same proportions, maybe a little more syrup) served on the rocks with a lime wedge garnish. Also good. Actually, I might add a splash of club soda to this one.”
Potatoes are the region’s cash crop, so vodka would seem a possibility, but locally distilled P3 Placid Vodka is actually made with grain. Its Adirondack cred comes from Lake Placid water and filtration through Gore Mountain-area garnet. Whatever—this drink recipe from P3’s Web site sounds pretty good: “The Miracle on Ice” The Red – cranberry juice The White – ice and a splash of Sprite The Blue – muddled (mashed) blueberries The Miracle – P3 Placid Vodka
There is a cocktail called an Algonquin, but it originated at the New York City hotel, not on the mountain or the lake. It calls for 1.5 oz Old Thompson Blended Whiskey, 1 oz dry vermouth, and 1 oz pineapple juice. Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Enjoy.
Last year it seems my yard was the staging ground for every potato beetle in Newcomb. No other gardeners I’ve spoken with seem to have had any, yet my potatoes were covered and defoliated faster than my patrols could keep up. This spring I resolved that I would not fall victim to these insects. I ordered an organic-certified insecticide, and read that by planting my ‘taters later (say, mid-June), I could avoid an infestation.
Well, I went out in the garden the other day (after planting my potatoes…I just couldn’t wait another week), and found a Colorado Potato Beetle on a potato plant that had just emerged, a sprout from an overlooked potato from 2008. I crushed it beneath my boot. Then I found another…and another. A couple days ago I went back out and found that not only did I have adult beetles grazing on these resurrected plants (they are sprouting up all over the place – I must work on my potato digging skills), but they were mating and laying eggs. I smooshed several clusters of the brilliant orange eggs before I went inside and mixed up a batch of spray. Thus armed, I commenced my attack. Then it rained. » Continue Reading.
Picture a vegetable garden full of bright flowers and variable foliage. Instead of a giant garden with straight rows of vegetables, you have many smaller beds, each a jumble of vegetables, herbs and flowers. A waste of space? Not at all! It turns out that vegetable gardens that exult in variety are inclined to be the most productive. Companion planting, folks – that’s the name of the game. A classic book in the lexicon of gardeners is Carrots Love Tomatoes. Since this book came out, however, many others have joined the bookshelf, and one of my favorites is Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham. This book has almost become my garden bible because it is not only chocked full of great gardening advice, but it is immensely readable!
The key to a successful garden really is variety. You want to avoid the monoculture. When you plant expanses of just one type of plant (be it trees, flowers, or vegetables), you increase the odds that some disease or insect pest will find it and destroy it. If, on the other hand, you mix things up, garden survival rates soar!
But you don’t just want to chuck plants/seeds haphazardly into your garden; you need to follow a plan, you need to mix and match appropriately. For example, carrots and onions/chives are great companions. Carrots can be susceptible to carrot rust flies and onions/chives deter them. Onions are great for companions for many plants, actually, because of their pest-repellent qualities. Carrots also like caraway/coriander, calendulas and chamomile.
Beans and potatoes – these are a classic combo because the beans will help deter Colorado potato beetles. Here’s my two cents worth on this: bush beans yes, pole beans no. Make sure you use the right beans! Beets and onions are another good pair – alternate these root vegetables in your garden plots (I’ll discuss garden plots vs garden rows in another post). Your cabbage family plants (like broccoli) do well with aster family plants (like zinnias, dill and marigolds). Growing corn? Then you might want to try the traditional corn-beans-squash trio that many of our native people used (and still use). Plant your greens among your garlic, or under your cucumbers, or under broccoli and cauliflower, where the leaves will shade the tender greens from the harsh summer sun. Tomatoes do well with basil and peppers – all your pizza ingredients in one bed!
Nasturtiums, cosmos, calendulas and marigolds all feature prominantly in my veg garden – they provide wonderful spots of color, but also attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Buckwheat is another great attractant for pollinators, and it’s also a great green manure when turned into the soil.
So break away from the boring vegetable garden. Turn it instead into a riot of color and textures. Mix and match your herbs and flowers and vegetables, and then see if your produce doesn’t do better for the effort.
This spring has many of us North Country gardeners in a quandary: do I put in my peas yet or not? The rule of thumb here in Newcomb is not to plant before Memorial Day Weekend, but this year the weather has been so balmy so early that we are itching to get those early veggies started. Seed packets come with instructions like “Plant after all danger of frost has passed,” or “Plant as soon as the ground can be worked.” The latter applies to peas. And with the scorching weather at the end of April, it was really really hard NOT to plant – I had to keep telling myself, “It’s still April.” And even though peas and spinach are cool weather plants, killer frosts and even snow are not out of the question.
I ran into a neighbor that last weekend in April and we immediately started talking peas. He said that if he could get his tiller going that day, he’d plant his; I heard the tiller rumbling the rest of the morning. And I hear that the doctor over in Long Lake put his peas in, too. I decided to spend the day prepping my veg beds instead, getting ALL of them ready for planting a little later in the season.
Last Sunday, as the weeding continued, I uncovered a whole bowlful of leftover potatoes in one of the beds! Mmmm – fresh potatoes in May! I even have undug onions and last year’s leeks resprouting! We’ll see if they grow into edible bulbs.
Meanwhile, every day the tomatoes are getting a bit taller in the kitchen, and the squashes I started are, eh, doing so-so (I was a bit over-anxious and started them a wee bit too soon). The flower seeds I started a week or so ago are sprouting now, too.
So, we wait and practice patience. Still, there is something appealing in being able to plant the garden BEFORE the blackflies come out!
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.