Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dark Days #5: Hard Cider

Oh, what a difference a year makes!

This time last year, you would have found me perusing my Fedco seed catalog with a big mug of tea, as shown below.
Ahh, the zen of garden planning.

2012 has brought some changes - this is my seed-purchase planning spread this year.
No zen this year, more like ordered chaos.

You may notice that my collection of garden books and catalogs has rapidly expanded. And I've swapped the tea for hard cider.

No, garden planning is not so stressful that I'm driven to drink! Today is Thursday and that means it's Growler Day at Farnum Hill Ciders in Lebanon, where locals can stock up on the offerings of the day at a discount.

While hard cider was the original American adult beverage of choice, it is not well-known today. What I've been enjoying this winter's evening is nothing like Woodchuck or Hornsby's; Farnum Hill tastes much more like a dry white wine. I'll let owner Steve Wood tell you about it himself - here's a clip from the PBS production "The Botany of Desire" where Steve was interviewed. (The feature-length documentary is based on Michael Pollan's book of the same name, written before he started on his lengthy, multi-book quest to find the answer to life's most persistent question, "What's for dinner?")

Garden planning brings out the eternal optimist in all of us, but each year, the motivation changes a little. Discovery of new or different varieties, hard lessons learned from the year prior, and surprising successes all play a role in the general feeling of "anything is possible" for the upcoming year's garden.

For 2012, I've got three primary motivators for my garden planning:

1) I'm feeling ambitious to really work on season-extension this year, so I can be working in the garden from March through December. 2012 will be the year of the cold frame.

2) Julie introduced me to some new tasty vegetables that she grew in her education garden at the Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm in 2011, and that I really want to grow this year. Julie's enthusiasm for growing and eating vegetables is positively contagious. Specifically, I want to try out salad turnips and braising greens (choy, mustard greens, broccoli raab, etc.) and garnish kale.

3) My aunt and mother-in-law gave me gifts of garden books for my birthday, full of tips, recommendations and layouts. I've relied on the good words of Mel Bartholomew and Eliot Coleman for garden planning help in the past, but I'm really enjoying The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch and The Kitchen Gardeners' Handbook by Jennifer Bartley this year. I will review these books in more detail this winter.

I'll also share my planting list and seed order with you all shortly. Readers, are there any new varieties you're planning to try out this year?

As this is a Dark Days challenge post, I should mention that I did eat more for dinner than just hard cider. The hard cider is an excellent local beverage pairing with my meal this week, but unfortunately, I fell a little short on the local choices for the food part of the meal.

Adam cooked black duck and Canada goose breasts with shallot and sweet cherry, and I prepared a side of homemade pasta, rosemary-infused olive oil and Parmesan cheese. The duck and goose were local (well, they are migratory, but were shot flying over Great Bay in New Hampshire), and the pasta and rosemary-infused olive oil were homemade, but the shallots, cherries and cheese were all from far away lands. Not a great week for Dark Days eating... but a very good week for Dark Days drinking.


  1. i don't think that there's anything wrong with having just hard cider for dinner.

    will you help me plan my little garden when you come to NY?

  2. Hi Rachel,

    This year I'm hoping to try out some "walking onions" that a friend gave me.

    Here's a blurb from Territorial Seed Company, where you can order them (

    Egyptian onions, also known as tree or walking onions, are very hardy perennials. These fascinating onions form several small bulbs underground, plus they produce clusters of reddish hazelnut-sized bulblets that form at the top of each seed stalk. Normal flowers do not occur.
    CULTURE: Plant bulblets 5–6 inches apart, 1 inch deep, in rows spaced 12 inches apart. Once Egyptian onions have established themselves, you can harvest and cook with the bulbs at the base of the plant and replant the bulblets gathered from the top of the stems. If left untended, you will understand the term ‘walking onion’, as the onion stalks will bend down to the ground and take root all by themselves.
    HARVEST: From late summer through early fall, use a garden fork to lift the clumps and separate the onions. In more severe microclimates, bulbs should be stored and planted in the spring. The underground bulbs have a very strong flavor and can be used in a wide variety of your favorite recipes. The stalk bulblets are somewhat spicy and are delicious pickled. They can also be used when pickling other garden vegetables. Be sure to replant some of the bulblets to keep your walking onion patch going.


  3. Lizzie - Sure thing, I'll bring the garden books, you bring the adult beverages.

    Vanessa - Cool - I have read about walking onions but never seen them.