RECIPES - GATHER - Growing Beautiful Food: A Gardener's Guide to Cultivating Extraordinary Vegetables and Fruit (2015)

Growing Beautiful Food: A Gardener's Guide to Cultivating Extraordinary Vegetables and Fruit (2015)



We eat seasonally at Stonegate, and what’s ripe and ready is what ends up on the table. Like good art or design, we let the raw materials inspire us—harvesting fresh, gathering only what we need, and seeing what we can conjure from it. The more you sow and grow, the more your diet will align with the cycles and seasons around you.

When your produce aisle is just out back, the pole beans are straight off the vine, and crisp lettuce, fragrant herbs, or ripe fruit is literally within reach, your meals will begin to reflect that variety and freshness. Heading out to harvest with an empty basket and coming into the kitchen with one that’s heavy with food and full of possibility is a thrill.

Most of the food we prepare at Stonegate is reasonably simple—defined by the flavor of the food itself, not by what’s done to it—and reflects our interest in the intimate relationship between growing and eating. The recipes that follow are a few favorites from the farm.

Spinach and Berry Salad


Spinach season is spring and fall, and when you’re growing your own organic varieties just beyond the back door, it’s best eaten fresh to appreciate its full, locally grown flavor. Blackberries and gooseberries add a sweet tang to this recipe.

5 cups (5 ounces) spinach leaves, such as ‘Red Kitten’ or ‘Tyee’

1 small ‘Lemon’ cucumber, halved and sliced into wedges

½ cup blackberries

½ cup gooseberries

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons minced fresh basil

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons basil flowers, for garnish

In a large bowl, toss together the spinach, cucumber, and berries.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper. Drizzle over the spinach mixture and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl. Garnish with the basil flowers.

Kohlrabi and Apple Salad


Kohlrabi’s physical weirdness is easily overshadowed by its wonderful crunchy, mildly spicy flavor. Mixed here with tart apples, sesame oil, and honey, this salad has a lot of sweet and savory crunch.

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon local raw honey

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

2 bulbs purple kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced

1 crisp green apple, such as ‘Granny Smith’, core removed, thinly sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 scallion, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped mint

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, and oil until combined. Add the kohlrabi, apple, carrots, and scallion. Toss to coat well. Transfer to a serving platter and arrange the slices by layering or shingling on the platter, if desired. Top with the mint. Serve.

Herbed Salad


When the spring lettuce starts to bolt in the heat, we begin to get creative with the salad bowl. Herbs like parsley, tarragon, and chives mixed with the golden, inflorescent blooms of mustard and the tender young leaves of borage are a great midseason alternative.

½ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley

½ cup chives, chopped

½ cup loosely packed tarragon leaves

½ cup young borage leaves

¼ cup chive blossoms and mustard blossoms

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

Toss the herbs and greens in a serving bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drizzle over the greens. Top with the sunflower seeds. Toss gently to coat. Serve.


Kale and Farro Salad


We grow three varieties of kale at Stonegate and can never seem to get enough of this versatile, delicious green. Our mainstays are the pink-ribbed ‘Lacinato Rainbow’, the dusty purple ‘Scarlet’, and the crimpled dinosaur, and they find their way into almost everything, including this salad complemented by the nutty chew of farro.

3½ cups water

1 cup dry semipearled farro

1 small bunch ‘Lacinato Rainbow’ kale, stems removed, cut into thin strips

1 small bunch ‘Scarlet’ kale, stems removed, cut into thin strips

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon chopped chives

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and farro to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add the kale and drizzle with the oil and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Massage the kale for 5 minutes to soften the leaves. Set aside until the farro is done.

Add the drained farro to the kale. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir into the farro mixture. Add the tomatoes, scallions, and chives and toss to combine. Serve.


Harvest Salad


A salad of fresh greens, herbs, and berries from your own garden is a seasonal delight, something you can only dream about in the off-season. This is one fusion that mixes sweet with heat, but there are almost as many combinations as there are ingredients.

2½ cups (3 ounces) arugula

2½ cups (3 ounces) loose leaf lettuce

2½ cups (3 ounces) Asian greens, such as bok choy, pak choy, and komatsuna

2 pears, thinly sliced

⅓ cup fresh blackberries

¼ cup nasturtium petals and blossoms

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

⅛ teaspoon sea salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chive blossoms (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the arugula, lettuce, Asian greens, pears, blackberries, and petals and blossoms.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Accent with the chive blossoms.

Tomato and Squash Salad


No matter how hard you try, there always seems to be more than enough summer squash to go around. This fresh, tossed-together mix of tender squash and tomatoes is midsummer in a bowl.

2 cups mixed colors cherry tomatoes, such as ‘Sun Gold’, ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’, and ‘Black Cherry’, halved lengthwise

2 summer squash, such as ‘Costata Romaneso’ (each 5" to 6" long), cut into ½” cubes

½ cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

3 scallions, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil

½ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes, squash, feta, and scallions.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, parsley, basil, and salt. Drizzle over the tomato mixture and toss gently to coat all veggies. Serve.

Dilled Cucumber Salad


The varieties of cucumber available to the home grower are astonishing. From the long, serpentine Armenian to the sweet Indian ‘Poona Kheera’ and the rounded gold ‘Lemon’, there’s a cuke out there for everybody. This fresh-off-the-vine salad celebrates their diversity.

1 medium cucumber, such as ‘Striped Armenian’, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 medium cucumber, such as ‘Poona Kheera’, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

2½ tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon dill flowers, for garnish

Place the cucumber slices in a shallow bowl. Lightly sprinkle with the dill, sugar, salt, and pepper. Separate the scallion slices into rings and add to the cucumbers. Add the oil and toss until each slice is coated. Add the vinegar and toss again. Chill for 1 hour. Lightly toss with a fork and garnish with the dill flowers before serving.

Herbed Pole Beans


Pole beans, particularly colorful varieties, are a beautiful, clambering sight on the farm, but even more so on the plate. When picked fresh, they have a texture and flavor that’s unbeatable. This dish is dazzling when topped with the bright blue, starlike blooms of borage.

1 pound mixed green, purple, and yellow pole beans, cut into 1" pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon snipped chives

1 tablespoon borage blossoms + additional for garnish

⅛ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a steamer, cook the beans for about 5 minutes, until tender-crisp. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.

While the beans steam, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant and golden. Remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, chives, and 1 tablespoon borage blossoms. Add to the cooked beans and season with the salt and pepper. Toss to combine and serve hot. Garnish with the additional borage blossoms.


Quitten Time

It’s quitten time at Stonegate, not only because an early October frost took out the last of the leafy greens and brought a quick end to the season, but also because the quinces (or Quitten in German) have ripened to a phosphorescent yellow in the orchard and begun to blette, turning their bitter starch to sugar and rendering themselves finally, and sweetly, edible.

Bletting is a form of decay, really; the same transformation that turns sour and bone-hard medlars sweet and wine grapes into Sauternes. The French have a poetic word for this metamorphosis, of course: pourriture noble, or noble rot. Maybe something similar happens to the lucky few of us who sweeten as we age.

It’s a beguiling transformation, one not missed by my former neighbor and local fruit aficionado Andrew Jackson Downing in the 1850s: “Fine fruit is the flower of commodities. It is the most perfect union of the useful and the beautiful that the earth knows. Trees full of soft foliage; blossoms fresh with spring beauty; and, finally, fruit, rich, bloom-dusted, melting, and luscious—such are the treasures of the orchard and garden.”

Quince fruit begins as a pale, pleated blossom in early spring and evolves into an oblong sphere of hard, unforgiving firmness; its fleecy rind, its strange knobs and bumps, its astringent flesh don’t hold much promise until late in the season when they transform themselves.

Or those that haven’t been plundered do. I have a handful of quinces that survived the season, but many were plucked early from their boughs by vaulting chickens and the orchard’s archenemy: the squirrel. For a few days in early October, winter-provisioning squirrels sacked and plundered the last of the orchard fruit, but they left me a few quinces. Maybe it’s just too firm and heavy and oddly lumpy for their tastes, or their larder was already full of contraband fruit, so why bother?

I watched helplessly as they scampered down from treetop burrows and leapt in furry, frenetic arcs across lawn and fencerow to the orchard, where they grabbed any fruit they could, giddy and snickering to be sure, and buried it somewhere as a cache for a January pear gelato or some subzero treat.

The apples were the first to go. Small and firm and full of fall promise, most of them were pilfered by mid-August. So my CSA (Compulsively Sacked Apples) fruit never made it into the weekly shares, and the reliable ebb and flow of dearth and plenty at the farm goes on. From now on, there will be netting.

The few quinces I have I will covet and try to transform into an aromatic jam or jelly, or paste, something that’s been done for centuries. In fact, quince culture long predates that of apples or pears, other pome fruit in the same family (Rosaceae), but somewhere along the way it lost favor and is now a rare find.

All the more reason to grow them here at Stonegate: where the obscure will always have a home, where quirky botanical history is relevant, and where the squirrels and chickens eat like kings.


Quinces hanging golden and ripe in the fall orchard, their aromatic flesh a temptation to all. We turn ours into preserves, mixed with pear and tart aronia berries.

Broccoli Rabe with Ginger and Garlic


Broccoli rabe, with a distinctive flavor profile somewhere between turnip and kale, is always grown at Stonegate in spring. Its versatile, slightly bitter leaves, stems, and florets are all edible, as are the pretty yellow flowers.

1 pound broccoli rabe leaves and stems/florets, rinsed and tough ends trimmed

1 tablespoon peanut oil

2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons broccoli rabe flowers, divided

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (optional)

Fill a large bowl with ice water and place it next to the clean sink area. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Plunge half of the broccoli rabe into the water and cook for about 2 minutes, until tender-crisp. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli rabe into the ice water to cool. Repeat with the remaining broccoli rabe. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the peanut oil over medium-low heat. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the garlic is golden brown. Add the broccoli rabe and cook for about 1 minute to heat through. Transfer to a serving platter and toss with the orange peel, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the flowers. Drizzle with the sesame oil, if desired. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon flowers.

Optional: Cook 8 ounces brown rice stir-fry noodles according to package directions. Serve the broccoli rabe recipe over the noodles.

Roasted Beets with Horseradish Vinaigrette


Beets have come a long way since my childhood, when they were habitually pushed to the side of the plate. Roasting homegrown varieties like ‘Chioggia’, with its candy cane-striped interior, or ‘Touchstone Gold’ is now my favorite way to enjoy their beauty and flavor.

6 red and golden beets, such as ‘Chioggia’, ‘Bull’s Blood’, and ‘Touchstone Gold’ (about 1½ pounds), peeled and quartered

⅛ teaspoon sea salt

⅛ teaspoon cracked pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon yellow or white viola blossoms, for garnish


1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon drained horseradish

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a medium bowl, toss the beets with the salt, pepper, and just enough of the oil to lightly coat. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, or until fork-tender. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, horseradish, and mustard. While whisking, add the oil in a slow stream to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the beets and toss to coat. Garnish with the viola petals and serve.

Balsamic Grilled Scallions


Slender scallions do fine in very tight quarters, and we interplant them regularly among other annuals throughout the season. The deep purple varieties are particularly pretty, especially when combined with the more common green cultivars, and both are delicious when grilled.

1 bunch ‘Deep Purple Bunching’ scallions, roots trimmed

1 bunch ‘Parade’ scallions, roots trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

⅛ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the grill to medium.

Arrange the scallions on a perforated grill topper or grill basket. Brush lightly with the oil. Grill, turning frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the scallions are lightly charred and softened. Transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle with the vinegar and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Serve.

Mashed Parsnips


Creamy, smooth, with an herbal sweetness somewhere between potatoes and carrots, parsnips are often overlooked in the garden in favor of flashier vegetables. But their distinct flavor and texture have won us over as a welcome substitute for the usual mashed spuds.

2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into 2" chunks

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter

½ cup light cream

⅛ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chopped chives

In a medium saucepan, combine the parsnips with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender. Drain and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the butter and cream and cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the butter is melted. Add the cream mixture to the parsnips and mix on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until smooth. Season with the salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle the chives over the puree. Serve.


Baked Fennel


If you love the licorice-infused flavor of fennel, this dish is a celebration. Topped with fennel’s delicate, feathered fronds and the blue blossoms of anise hyssop, it makes a beautiful show, as well. We grow bronze fennel for its lacy leaves and Florence fennel for its bulb.

4 bulbs fennel, trimmed (fronds reserved) and core removed, each bulb cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon anise hyssop petals

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a large rimmed sheet pan (or a casserole dish large enough to hold the fennel in a single layer).

In a bowl, toss the fennel wedges with the oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange the wedges in a single layer on the sheet pan, loosely tilting or shingling the slices if necessary. Drizzle any liquid remaining in the bowl over the fennel. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the fennel is tender. Transfer to a serving platter. Top with the reserved fronds, parsley, and petals.

Poached Quince


Quinces are the most beautiful trees I grow in my orchard, with pale pink blooms in spring that look like roses. The quince that ripens from those flowers in fall is a large, yellow, lobed fruit with a unique aromatic flavor and perfume.

4 cups water

½ cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 whole clove

½ orange, cut into wedges

4 quinces (about 5 ounces each), peeled

¼ cup black currants, rinsed

¼ cup crème fraîche

In a large nonreactive saucepan, add the water, sugar, cinnamon stick, clove, and orange and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the quinces. Cover. After 2 hours, partially cover the pan with the lid, leaving an opening for steam to escape; this will allow the liquid to thicken slightly as the quinces poach. Cook for 1 additional hour, or until tender. Transfer the quinces to individual serving bowls, top with the black currants and crème fraîche, and drizzle with the cooking liquid, if desired.


Grilled Spiced Plums


My plum harvest usually runs out long before I’ve exhausted ways to prepare them. When picked at their full, juicy prime, plums are exceptionally sweet. And when grilled, they take on a smoky, caramelized flavor that’s hard to beat.

6 yellow plums, such as ‘Shiro’, purple plums, or Pluots, pitted and halved

2 teaspoons olive oil

⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2½ cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons local raw honey

1½ tablespoons chopped lemon basil or lemon balm

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Brush the flesh side of the plums with the oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Place the plums cut sides down on the grill rack. Grill for 2 minutes, or until lightly charred. Turn the plums skin sides down and grill for 2 minutes, or until softened. Transfer to serving bowls.

In a bowl, stir together the yogurt and honey. Top the grilled plums with the yogurt mixture and the basil or lemon balm.

Honey-Baked Pears with Black Currant Sauce


Between my heirloom pears and tart, earthy black currants, it’s hard to imagine finer fruit to grow. This dessert celebrates summer in the orchard with the deep glaze of black currants covering the pale, luminous flesh of honeyed pears. This is as good as it gets.

6 firm-ripe pears, cored and sliced

2 tablespoons local raw honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup black currants

¼ cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9" × 9" baking dish.

Arrange the pears in attractive rows in the dish. In a small bowl, blend the honey and vanilla. Drizzle over the pears. Top with the butter. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, basting frequently, until the pears are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the currants, water, and sugar to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat. Strain the juices through a sieve and into a bowl and discard the skins and seeds. Stir in the lemon juice.

Transfer the pears to a serving plate and drizzle the black currant sauce over the pears. Serve hot or chilled, topped with the yogurt.

Gooseberry Crisp


Most of us think of gooseberries (if we think of them at all) as an obscure, lip-puckering fruit that’s almost impossible to find unless you cultivate your own. We grow a hybrid that ripens into a grape-size, deep purple berry that’s much sweeter than most but still tart enough to be interesting.


5 cups ripe, sweet gooseberries, stems and husks removed, rinsed

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

⅛ teaspoon ground ginger

⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon


½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup (½ stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the gooseberries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, ginger, and cinnamon and toss well to combine. Spoon into a 9" × 9" baking dish.

To make the topping: In a food processor, combine the oats, flour, butter, sugar, and salt and pulse until well combined but still somewhat clumpy. Dot the top of the fruit with the oats mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and brown and the fruit is bubbling. Cover the pan loosely with foil if the topping turns golden before the fruit is bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Sour Cherry Crostada


What could be more American than cherry pie? And by July Fourth, most of our dwarf cherries are jeweled in glistening fruit. If the birds don’t get them first, they end up in desserts like this delicious, rustic, hand-shaped tart.

Single Crust

1¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour

¼ cup ground flaxseed

2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons canola oil

2-3 tablespoons ice water


4 cups pitted, fresh sour cherries (pitted sweet cherries can be used as a substitute)

¼ cup local raw honey

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1½ tablespoons water

To make the single crust: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, flaxseed, wheat germ, and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives held scissors fashion, cut the butter and oil into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Gradually add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can gather the dough into a ball. Flatten it into a disk and place on a sheet of floured waxed paper. Sprinkle a little more flour over the dough and top with another sheet of waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To make the filling: In a large saucepan, heat the cherries and honey over medium heat. Gently stir the cherries to fully coat them in honey. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add an additional 1 teaspoon water if necessary. Add to the cherry mixture and stir to coat. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 12" round. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Spoon the filling into the center of the dough round, leaving a 2" border. Fold the edges of the dough toward the filling. Most of the filling will still be visible. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.


Currant Jelly


Currants are truly beautiful, hanging off their multiple stems like translucent strands of pearls. They are usually sold dried in the store, but their unique flavor as fresh fruit is not to be missed. Tart, aromatic currants also make for great jellies, jams, and preserves.

2½ pounds fresh red currants (about 10 cups), rinsed

½ cup water

2¼ cups sugar

In a large pot, combine the currants and water, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat, adjusting the heat if necessary, for about 15 minutes, or until the currants have released their juices. Strain the mixture through a dampened jelly bag over a large bowl. This may take up to 4 hours. You will get more juice if you squeeze the bag, but it will make a cloudy jelly. If you prefer this method, strain the mixture twice. Measure the juice. The amount of currants used should yield about 2¼ cups juice.

Pour the juice into a large saucepan. The amount of sugar used should equal the amount of juice, so adjust accordingly. Add the sugar and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Boil until a good jelly test is obtained (see “Testing for Jelling Point”). Ladle into hot sterilized jelly glasses, adjust the seals, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (see “Using a Water Bath Canner”).

Testing for Jelling Point. A well-made jelly holds its shape when released from a mold yet is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Also, good jelly has a fresh fruit flavor, never a caramelized sugar taste. To determine when a jelly has reached the jelling point, use one of these three tests.

1. Temperature test. This is probably the most accurate test, but to get a reliable reading, it is essential that you know the boiling point for water in your area. Check the temperature of boiling water shortly before making the jelly, then cook the jelly mixture to a temperature 8°F higher. At this point, the mixture should jell nicely when cool.

2. Sheet test. This test requires a watchful eye. It is very popular but not entirely dependable. With a cool metal spoon, scoop up a small amount of the boiling jelly mixture and raise it about a foot above the pot, away from the steam. Quickly tip the spoon and let the jelly run off the edge. If the syrup forms 2 drops that flow together and fall from the spoon as a sheet, the jelly is probably done. If it slides from the spoon as separate drops, cook the mixture a little longer, then test again.

3. Freezer test. The hot jelly mixture should be removed from the heat during this test. Put a few drops of the jelly on a cold plate, then chill in the freezer for a few minutes. If the mixture jells, it is done.

Using a Water Bath Canner. A boiling water canner is useful for processing foods high in acid: fruits, tomatoes, pickles, jams, and jellies. For all other foods, use a pressure (steam) canner. Place the rack on the bottom of the canner, then fill the canner half full with hot water. Over high heat, bring the water to a boil for hot-packed foods and almost to a boil for raw-packed foods. Next, lower all the jars to the rack, leaving enough room between the jars for the water to circulate. Add boiling water until the jars are covered by 1" to 2" of liquid, but do not pour the water directly onto the jars. Cover the canner and return the water to a gentle boil. Start timing the processing when the water begins to boil, and add more boiling water as needed to keep the water 1" to 2" above the jars.

As soon as the processing is complete, remove the jars.



He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple.

—KENNETH GRAHAME, The Wind in the Willows

Now that a few frosts have left Stonegate “stripped of its finery”—its green, biomolecular skin turned to mush—the farm has begun its swift and certain journey toward oblivion.

The lurking cold has crept into beds of greens, transforming tender leaves and stalks into slack ribbons of decay. Once-radiant stands of cut flowers that persisted all season have been hung up and dried, vibrant Jezebels of seductive color forced to put on their veils.

It’s reassuring to see that the bees, despite their roving wildness, have done some good cognitive mapping of the property and know where their food and shelter are. They’re now huddled in the walled, hexagonal darkness of the hive, forming winter clusters around their queens.

The chickens, too, are spending more time cooped up, heading out only occasionally to peck at fallen fruit or frozen bugs. On cold days, besides the wood smoke curling into the sky or drifts of brittle leaves scattering about, they’re the only thing moving.

November is postmortem time. Time to sort through the pathology of what did or didn’t work this season, what grew well, what failed to deliver.

Seed packets are always as full of promise as they are seeds.

Flower and vegetable annuals live out a lifetime in a few months—birth, growth, decline, death. A nicely framed physiological snapshot compared to us. Plants may not have consciousness as we know it, but they can tell us something deep about living. Free from the existential burden of defining themselves, they just are.

We, on the other hand, are obsessed with self-definition—more than ever in a hyperconnected social-media world, where fretting about online likes, tweets, and posts is a form of virtual affirmation and seems to give distorted value to it all.

Just being used to be enough, to “tramp a perpetual journey,” as Whitman said, but sit in an airport, a bar, or a café, or even walk down the street these days, and you’ll see that everyone is somewhere else, drifting in a virtual trance. No one is present.

Wherever we go, it seems, there we aren’t.

One thing farming asks of you, besides considerable patience and humility, is to be present, to be deeply engaged in the physical world. There’s no other way to do it. For me, this little farm keeps it real.


Bouquets of celosia and gomphrena hung to dry; flowers from the cutting garden, like anise hyssop, dried for teas; chickens out for a scratch in the frozen orchard; cut flowers drying in the stable.