Spring Plant Sale in Centreville, May 3

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The Queen Anne’s County University of Maryland Extension Master Gardeners will have a Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, May 3, from 10am – 1:30pm at historic Wright’s Chance on Commerce St. in Centreville, MD.

Master Gardeners will be selling a variety of vegetables, herbs, annuals and perennials, potted arrangements and baked goods.

For more information, contact Molly Garrett, QAC Master Gardener Coordinator, at mgarret1@umd.edu.

Food Friday: The Rabbit Knows!

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Major religious holidays demand ritualistic foods: Thanksgiving demands turkey. Passover seders entail matzo. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day, and eat at night. The Chinese New Year calls for boiled dumplings. Easter requires ham, colored eggs, and chocolate bunnies.

Every family is different. We will prepare the annual lemon cheesecake (sans the spiders-under-the-nasturtiums decoration) and a small spiral cut ham, from which we will make deelish ham biscuits to munch on with some noontime Bloody Marys.

The Bloody Marys are a custom we embraced during the years we held Easter Egg Hunts in our back yard for many churlish children and their parents. When the children outnumbered the adults. We had no idea how cutthroat the competition was for the Easter Eggs. We, poor benighted adults, who thought our helicopter hovering had resulted in happy, sharing, loving, and reasonable children. We didn’t realize that children hopped up on jelly bean rocket fuel would become as vicious as the boys in Lord of the Flies. Even our own. Those sweet little girls in pink Lilly Pulitzer Mommy-and-Me-dresses? Stand back and avert your gaze. Blood will flow. As will tears. And vodka.

So, no Easter Egg Hunt for us this year, but Bloody Marys for sure, with a nod to passing time and practically grown-up children. And we will be happy, for a moment, that we will not have to break up any plastic egg fights. Or dig melted chocolate out from under the sofa pillows. And whose kid was that who persisted in schmearing his boogers on the wall in the hall? Sheesh. Time marches on!

If you still have wee ones, and want to look like the parents with the mostess, Food52 offers up recipes for 10 kinds of homemade candies. I would be very proud of myself if I pulled off a homemade Cadbury cream egg, and I do not think I would share it with anyone. I suppose my children got their killer instincts naturally…
http://food52.com/blog/10191-10-homemade-candy-recipes-for-easter

Easter is quite warm some years, so it is nice to offer cool food, thus our cheesecake. The gentle folks at Garden & Gun have quite a good idea for a dessert that we intend to prepare often this summer:
http://gardenandgun.com/blog/southern-summer-dessert

If you are fellow empty nesters, and are feeling sentimental for the good old days of marshmallow Peeps, here is just the recipe for you – Marshmallow Peep-Infused Vodka. Holy camoly. As a child I used to make my peeps last longer by waiting for them to get a little stale, and then gnawing on the slightly leathery texture of the sugary coating over the course of a couple of days. It might well be a pleasant childhood memory that I can now abandon: http://www.foodbeast.com/2013/03/29/diy-marshmallow-peep-infused-vodka/

And here is a healthy idea for using up those leftover eggs – skip the soggy egg salad sandwiches – have the eggs for dinner: Kale Cobb Salad. http://www.dinneralovestory.com/kale-cobb-salad-or-how-to-turn-easter-eggs-into-dinner/ Yumsters!

The Easter Rabbit and I agree that cooking carrots is a big mistake. You can either enjoy them crunchy, fresh and raw, or gussied up, shredded and baked into a cake, slathered with thick lashings of sweet cream cheese frosting. There are no exceptions. The Rabbit knows.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/03/sigrids-carrot-cake-perfect-for-easter/

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/layered-carrot-cake-50400000111526/

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be,” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

-Elwood P. Dowd (and Mary Chase)

Taste of the Town Celebrates Seven Years of Delicious Food & Fun

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On Sunday, April 27th, The 7th Annual Taste of the Town & County will once again be set around downtown Chestertown’s iconic fountain. Festival goers can sampling the dishes of local chefs – from crab soup and oysters to pulled pork, bangers and mash, and chocolate bread pudding. An additional feature is, “Diced! A Local Food Challenge,” patterned after the popular cable TV show “Chopped.”

Participating restaurant include The Kitchen at Rock Hall, Brooks Tavern, Fish Whistle, the Imperial Hotel, Luisa’s Café, Two Tree Restaurant, Uncle Charlie’s Bistro, Procolino’s Italian Eatery, Evergrain Bread Company, Lemon Leaf Café, the Inn at Osprey Point, Little Village Bakery, Chef Sabrina Sexton, paired with Colchester Farm CSA, Luisa’s Café, O’Connor’s Pub, The Grill Meister Gunner Roe, and My Best Friend Personal Chef & Couture Bakery. A complete list of participating restaurants can be found at tasteofchestertown.com.

The “Diced!” chefs will demonstrate preparing an appetizer, entrée and desert from a “mystery basket” made up of ingredients donated by local farmers. Farmers will be on hand to discuss their products as well.

crowd shot.tot. (1)

Local wines from Crow Winery & Vineyard, and Cassinelli Winery will be available for purchase, as well as beer from 16 Mile Brewery. Don’t forget to peruse the many items offered for the raffle and silent auction.

Festival goers are encouraged to come early to see the 6th Annual Paint the Town Quick Draw competition from 10:00 to 11:00. Over fifty painters from over the East Coast are participating in this year’s four day plein air event culminating in a Quick Draw competition on Sunday morning.

Taste of the Town is sponsored by the Downtown Chestertown Association (DCA). Funds from the event have contributed significant donations to the Community Food Pantry, the Kent County Culinary Arts Program at the high school, and downtown Chestertown’s Curb Appeal program. The DCA is committed to maintaining a viable historic business district as an integral part of the quality of life that makes Kent County special.

Advance passes for Taste of the Town will be available through April 25, and may be purchased online at tasteofchestertown.com or at The Finishing Touch, located at 311 High Street in downtown Chestertown. Additional locations are listed on the website.

The $15 advance pass can be redeemed at the door for $15 in food and raffle tickets. Admission at the door is $15 for $12 in tickets. Tasting dishes range from 1 to 3 tickets. For additional information, visit the website or call 443 480 1987.

Growing Power’s Will Allen Visits Chestertown April 17

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One of the most influential leaders of the good-food movement will share his strategies for empowering communities through urban farming when he visits Chestertown on Thursday, April 17. Growing Power CEO Will Allen, a former pro-basketball player and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant,” will attend a community pig roast and gardening celebration at Garnett Elementary School before speaking at Washington College.

Growing Power CEO Will Allen will attend a community pig roast and gardening celebration at Garnett Elementary School before speaking at Washington College April 17th.

Growing Power CEO Will Allen will attend a community pig roast and gardening celebration at Garnett Elementary School before speaking at Washington College April 17th.

The pig roast and community food celebration, which is free and open to all, will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. It will feature live music, a recipe exchange, children’s activities, information about local farms, and more. Participants can make their own lemonade and plant seedlings to grow their own vegetables.

Allen’s talk, “The Good Food Revolution,” will follow at 6:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, on the Washington College campus.

Allen, the author of The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities, is recognized as one of the preeminent thinkers of our time on agriculture and food policy. His Growing Power, Inc. is a farm and community food center that fills three acres in the city of Milwaukee. Through community food projects at home, across the nation and around the world, he promotes the belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, affordable and nutritious foods. Using methods Allen has developed over a lifetime, he and his Growing Power team train neighbors to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food and, ultimately, transforming lives and communities.

The son of a sharecropper, Will Allen grew up on a small farm in Maryland. He founded Growing Power in 1993 after careers in pro-sports and corporate sales. In 2008, he was named a John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow. A member of the Clinton Global Initiative, he was invited to the White House in February of 2010 to help First Lady Michelle Obama launch Let’s Move!, her signature program to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. He has been profiled by the New York Times Magazine and in May 2010 was included in Time magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.”

A book signing and reception will follow Allen’s April 17 talk, which concludes the College’s “Recipes for Change: Our Food, Our Future” series of events. Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the Center for Environment & Society, and the C.V. Starr Center, the “Recipes for Change” series was designed to provide new perspectives on food and American society.

“Although this is the last stop on our speaker series, we hope it is just the beginning of real change in our local food system,” says Associate Professor of Anthropology Bill Schindler, whose students will be roasting the pig and preparing sauces and side dishes for the community celebration. “We are using this opportunity to bring together all parts of the community to meet and hear from Will Allen, engage in fun learning activities, and unify over the power of a shared meal.”

Food Friday: Making Sweet Memories

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Last weekend I scampered out of town to visit with nine dear old friends, for our almost-annual get together of laughter and food. We met in college, and though the years we have kept tabs on each other. What started in freshman orientation at a small college has persisted through boyfriends, husbands, grad schools, world travels, weddings, divorces, careers, children, opening nights, and marathons.

We started gathering steam as we congregated in an airport bar where loud shrieks of laughter and warm embraces greeted each newly arrived traveler. The weekend’s moveable feast commenced in stages. We shared onion rings and fries; then chips and salsa. Then a fish sandwich and a salad. DuClaw Venom Pale Ale, Diet Cokes, Bloody Marys and waters.

After some fun finding our cars in the perplexing parking garage, our designated drivers headed north on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We rendezvoused in a grocery store parking lot to hunt and gather our weekend provisions: Utz Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, pretzels, rotisserie chicken, salad, tomatoes, celery, garlic, bread and Bergers cookies. We also made a stop at a liquor store. Of course. Our host nation greeted us with a bowl of fruit salad, an apple pie and a strawberry pie, freshly cut tulips and open arms.

We were staying in a cottage, perched on a hill that overlooked a picturesque valley of farms, where we could see ambling horses and gamboling goats. The tree next to the scenic overlook was covered in glowing, burgeoning buds, which seemed to swell and grow by the minute. There were drifts of daffodils and clouds of forsythia, and two roosters to keep it real; there would be no sleeping late when there were heartfelt conversations to be had.

At good gatherings, most of the time is spent in the kitchen. This is where we milled and cooked and washed up and served each other meals. There is nothing like spending time with people who think you haven’t changed much since you were eighteen. Consequently we fell back into the behaviors of eighteen year olds, though, of course, we are responsible adults now.

The dependable ones chopped tomatoes and basil and fresh mozzarella for a killer salad. (Here is a real culinary hint: add a little olive oil and chopped garlic to the mixture, cover and let it marinate for a couple of hours. POW! So delicious!) The former RA cut up rotisserie chicken with her customary efficiency and aplomb. A chopped kale salad was uniquely dressed, and a new crowd pleaser was born. Wine was poured. Pies were divided and conquered.

It was a weekend of sweet indulgences. “Yes, thanks. I think I will have a margarita at lunch. With salt.” And, “Yes, I will have a Bergers cookie. For breakfast.” We cherish these reunions, which is why we spent two hours one morning discussing eye creams. Where else would we find an interactive audience for our opinions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s hats? Who else has the skill set for ear candling?

These are people who love you despite your bad boyfriends: they patiently waited for me to get over a poetry-spouting narcissistic actor once. We love each other despite our big hair in the 80s – and have we got the photos to prove it! Many a time, as we tried to master smartphone selfies this weekend, we thanked our lucky stars that there was no Internet – or digital photography – back in the day. Better to have our hilarious memories (without photos) of the rubber cement incident…

How did we know then that we would still love each other now? Warts, toenail fungus, bad perms, and the acres of stretch marks are all there – and up for discussion. We aren’t too sentimental, but for people from such diverse backgrounds, who fell to earth together in a tiny little spot, we feel pretty lucky.

Consequently, we will share the recipe for Bergers cookies with you. Be warned – home baked Bergers will be like bagels outside of New York City, or pizza outside of New Haven; they probably won’t taste exactly like the Bergers you remember from Baltimore, but they will give you some new, sweet memories, and leave you hankering for more.

Cherish the memories. Now go kiss someone. Don’t waste any time.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/baltimores-finest-berger-cookies-recipe

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2008/05/11/baltimores-finest-the-sequel/

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
― Jane Austen

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Soil Tests, Lilacs, & Attracting Birds

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: I was hoping you could help me understand the process of soil testing. My neighbor told me that the University of Maryland tested his soil a few years ago. I went on your website and found the publication on the subject but it looks like all of the labs are out of state. I really want to test the soil in my vegetable garden before I plant. Can you help?

Answer#1: The University of Maryland soil testing lab closed many years ago. As you mentioned we have lots of information on our website about soil testing. When you are on the home page look for the photo of a man’s hand holding a handful of soil. Watch the video as it helps to clarify the process. Under resources look at HG 110 and HG 110a (list of recommended labs). The lab’s website will explain how to take a sample and will provide a submittal form for you to print off. Your sample can be mailed to the lab in a self-closing plastic bag. Please contact us again if need help interpreting the results.

Question #2: Many years ago I planted an old fashioned lilac. It appears healthy but it has not bloomed well for the last couple of years. I asked at a garden center and was told they like alkaline soil and to use a fertilizer high in phosphorus. Can you provide any more information? I really miss the flowers.

Answer #2: There are many species and cultivars of lilac and we do not know which one you are referring to. The last few years we have had questions from homeowners very similar to yours. Ruling out other reasons why lilacs do not bloom which include, too much shade (planting sites can become shadier over time), too much nitrogen fertilizer (which promotes leaf growth and not flowers), improper pruning (pruning in summer, fall or winter removes flower buds), the most likely reason is that lilacs prefer cold winters. With the exception of this year our winters have been warmer than normal. So chances are good that your lilac will bloom well for you this spring. We do not recommend applying fertilizing but a layer of compost around the root zone would be helpful.

Question #3: We moved into a senior garden apartment complex this winter and are not allowed to put out bird feeders. Our apartment is on the first floor and I have an area out back where I can plant flowers or some shrubs. Would you have any suggestions of something I can plant to attract the birds?

Answer #3: A water source really attracts birds to a landscape. Are you allowed to put up a bird bath? It does not have to be large or fancy. A large saucer (you can even use one that is made to be placed under a container) placed on the ground would work. Keep it filled with fresh water. Change the water on a regular basis in the summer to prevent mosquitoes. Some perennials that attract birds are Coreopsis, Liatris spicata (gayflower), Echinacea (coneflower) and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan). It is best to plant a group of three or more. Birds love to feed on the berries of many shrubs. Some examples include, American cranberry viburnum, winterberry holly (you need a male and a female plant to produce berries), chokeberry, and blueberries which need well-drained, acidic soil.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to extension.umd.edu/hgic  Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Food Friday: Loving Lemons

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Spring! It’s out there. It’s tantalizingly close. Spring! And with it, in come rushing all the cloying clichés: the spring in your step, and hope springing eternal, neatly spring to mind! Now that we have dispensed with that, it is a relief to open the windows, even if just for an hour, and have the breezes billow the wafting draperies over and through the agitated dust bunnies.

This is my house, not Martha’s, after all, and I have yet to eagerly embrace the notion of spring-cleaning. I wait until all the dog and cat fur clump together, and it gets back-combed into black, big-haired, tumbling tumble weeds before I bother to get out the Hoover. There are too many flowers about to burst onto the scene to worry about the mundane and the nonsensical cleaning up after the perpetually shedding animals! Although, perhaps, I should speak with my staff…

It is time for us to start going sockless. It is almost flip flop season, although Easter is awfully late this year – April 20. Not that I am dying to pull out the linen, just yet. I have gotten tired of being bundled up every minute of the day. It would be nice to sit in the yard, with a book, and feel the sun on my face. I was out back earlier this week observing the signs of life in the garden (see the photo of the lettuce) and the birds were swooping with grace and abandon. I watched a twittering band of goldfinches the other day streaking around the back yard. (I just looked up the collective noun for finches, and it is “charm”; a charm of finches scissoring merrily through the neighborhood.) It looked like such fun.

Yellow is truly a springtime color – not a pastel watery yellow – but something with vigor and brass – like a daffodil trumpet. Those perky little goldfinches flashed their yellow bellies. Fosythia bushes will soon burst into yellow flaming clouds. And the crocuses are defiantly gamboge YELLOW, when they are not purple or white, that is.

There are so many variations of yellow, and the names are quite evocative. You can picture each color: goldenrod, jonquil, school bus, straw, gold, day-glo, butter, butterscotch, mustard. Those names lead us to lemon yellow. And to lemons and all the miracles lemons can cause in our cooking and baking. We can make lemon bars, lemon curd, lemon cookies, lemon cake, lemon pie – all perfectly splendid and spring-y.

I like to bake a friend’s lemon cheesecake for Easter. The hoary family legend always demands full disclosure about the first lemon cheesecake I served up for the holiday. That year I prettied it up with some nasturtiums from the garden, being an edgy food experimenter. We all looked askance as a large spider skipped out from under one of the blossoms and trekked across the surface of the cake. The children were scarred for life. From the thought of ever eating spider-infested nasturtiums; not cheesecake. Never that.

http://food52.com/blog/10069-buttery-lemony-lace-cookies

http://www.npr.org/2013/04/08/176577903/preserved-lemons-older-wiser-and-full-of-flavor

http://honestcooking.com/salt-preserved-lemons-recipe/

http://www.ruthreichl.com/2012/03/sorrento-lemon-pie.html

I am looking forward to trying the preserved lemon recipes. The zing of the lemons will add piquance to my more mundane meals. I like a little lemon butter with steak; the light citrus taste elevates the ordinary without taxing my negligible Béarnaise abilities. And lemon butter, continuing with our springtime theme, is quite cheerily yellow.

Adding lemon to our comfort foods isn’t an extraordinary or original idea, but it will add layers of flavor and tone and subtlety. Having a jar with fat preserved lemons is some handy insurance that we can add a little sparkle to our lives, as we leave the drab winter, and head confidently into the spring-y sunlight.

“We live in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavoring and furniture polish is made from real lemons.”
MAD Magazine

That is a sign – do not give into spring-cleaning! Take off your socks. Go outside.

Here is an encouraging springtime quotation:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
― Margaret Atwood

Making the Most of Your Small Garden

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Neoma Rohman

Neoma Rohman

Neoma Rohman, a Master Gardener and urban homesteader, will speak about “Intensive Gardening: Making the Most of Your Small Garden” at the St. Michaels Library on April 12 at 10:30 a.m. The talk is sponsored by the St. Michaels Community Center Community Garden and is free and open to the public.

Rohman lives in downtown Easton on a 1/5 acre lot where she and her husband produce most of their food in raised beds full of vegetables, on espaliered fruit trees and egg producing chickens. The purpose of an intensively grown garden is to harvest the most produce possible from a given space. Methods used include raised beds, wide or multiple rows, vertical trellising, intercropping, and succession planting.

The St. Michaels Community Garden is entering its third year. Forty raised beds are tended by local residents whose excess produce is distributed locally by Union Memorial Methodist Church and the St. Michaels Food Pantry. For more information contact: Mala Burt at malasburt@gmail.com or 410-745-6950.

Food Friday: Pasta Primavera

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There are tiny, little trace elements of spring green under the remains of snow in the bottom of the garden. If you scape carefully you might be rewarded with a handful of snowdrops or even some gaudy crocus. The first indications of spring are starting to emerge, despite the perverse pleasure winter has had in extending its stay. There is a little corner in the side yard that gets sun, and is sheltered from the wind by the garage, and there you can see some white striped crocus leaves. Ha! Take that, Winter!

Botticelli’s painting Spring (La Primavera) is littered with flowers and symbolism. It is a large, lively allegorical painting with nine figures almost floating in an orange grove. In it Botticelli has painted 500 separate plant species and almost 200 different kinds of flowers. It is a celebration of love and spring. You can see myrtle, oranges, hyacinths, iris, periwinkles, violets, anemone and cornflower blossoms among the many plants depicted. He even wove some strawberries into a head wreath. (These are spring plants that bloom in Tuscany in May, so we still have a little time to catch up.)

http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/la-primavera-allegory-of-spring-by-sandro-botticelli/

As promised last week, yesterday I sowed about three dozen lettuce seeds in two straight rows in an old window box planter on the back porch. I have 464 seeds left. I want to see if I can improve my ROI. I paid about $5 for the seeds, which I am comparing to $4.09 I almost paid for a bag of pre-washed organic salad greens last week. I have planted heat tolerant loose-leaf lettuces, because I probably should have started a couple of weeks ago. If I get two salads out of this experiment I will be ahead of the game!

I was puttering around my humble container garden, having a seed catalogue-induced fantasy about how great it is all going to look in a couple of months. Surely the new hydrangea will be blooming, and there will be lettuces enough for Peter Rabbit. In that dreamy state I thought that a little taste of Italy was just what I needed. Airfares being what they are these days, I opted for a homemade Italian pesto. Luckily, it was time for a basil harvest.

I have four basil plants in a big pot out back, and another smaller plant on the windowsill over the kitchen sink. Sometimes I like to just crumple a leaf and smell warmer weather. This fiction comes to you courtesy of Bon Appétit magazine. Just look at that color. Practically chartreuse! It is an early spring in a mouthful of pasta with garlic and Parmesan cheese.

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/ligurian-pesto-with-spaghetti

We have just gotten back from a stroll through the Uffizi Museum, where we wandered among the Botticellis and the beauteous Donatellos, and now we need to offset Stendahl Syndrome and feed our springtime appetites. Delizioso!

The photo from the Bon Appétit test kitchen looked so beautiful. And inspirational. But instead of spaghetti or linguine I used some fresh (although I had stashed it in the freezer last week) sausage. Some days I will do almost anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store. Imagine how great it will be when the lettuce plants are ready for harvest!

Here are some other spring-y variations:

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pasta-with-pistachio-pesto

And who says that pesto is limited to adorning pasta?
http://food52.com/recipes/5014-grilled-bread-with-thyme-pesto-and-preserved-lemon-cream

And here are some great ideas for freezing pesto! You can keep a few cupsful of Italy on ice, to bring out at whim. Or when you cannot fathom another trip to the store.

http://www.simplyscratch.com/2013/08/homemade-basil-pesto.html

“There is no technique, there is just the way to do it.
Now, are we going to measure or are we going to cook?”
― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun