Cinquain for a friend: Shenandoah

Skyline

God’s magic sits

aging changing beauty

majesty of peaceful mountains

Blue Ridge

Cinquain by PamelaWLucas

Inspirational photo by high school friend Earl Ritter taken on one of his many rides through God’s country

Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park presents  the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley and the heart of the Appalachian Trail.

Fresh Basil Selfie

Here comes the fresh and juicy, juicy tomatoes off the local vines.  Here comes the fresh strawberries hand-picked from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  And here comes the abundance of fresh sweet basil from my garden.  Seeing the shiny, glossy green leaves of this special herb is a summer delight.  Touch or rub the leaves and its aromatics lace the air with a spicy and distinguished fragrance.  So, let the foodies challenge begin!  We adore this herb. My summer plates evolve around the inclusion of basil.  And by first frost (Zone 7), fresh basil plants and their bounty will be a fleeting memory and sorely missed.  So, while basil is here, it’s king. (The name Basil comes from the Greek word “Basileus” meaning King or people’s leader).

Here are some simple suggestions for the aforementioned.  You don’t need a recipe, just snip the leaves, cut up the tomatoes, slice the strawberries and make mouth-watering  crowd pleasing and nutritional dishes.  Warning… fresh basil is intoxicating, garden-fresh tomatoes… addictive and fresh strawberries…well there are never enough.

Ugly Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar and French Baguette
Ugly tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cracked pepper (Caprese) and a French baguette
Prepared platter of fresh tomatoes with fresh Basil, Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar & French Baguette
Voila! It’s all in the presentation and in this case it’s also in the eating.
Ingredients for a strawberry & baby spinach salad
Fresh strawberries, locally grown baby spinach, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crumbled feta cheese, fresh mint garnish
Strawberry, spinach salad
Ta-da, ingredients assembled & layered for the freshest of fresh strawberry and tender baby spinach salad. In the background is an arrangement from my garden of sweet basil and rosemary.

Maintaining fresh-cut herbs:  Suggest trimming the sprigs in the AM before the heat of the day arrives.  Then immediately rinse under cold water, shake off excess and place the bunch of cut herbs in a container of water.  Place container in a cool place away from sunny windows.  Your bouquet will stay fresh and last a remarkable amount of time, while also bringing in the aromatics of the plant to your kitchen.

 

Family farming replaced by Green Urban Fresh

Years ago several of my relatives had enough land to grow their own fruits and vegetables. My grandparent’s fruitful garden and Aunt Myrtle’s fertile plot remain fresh in my mind.

There was a planting pattern that they shared.  There were rows, neatly furrowed and maintained on a weekly basis.  Corn was planted in the outer rows, so their height would not create too much of a shady shadow.  Then came the pole beans & peas and so on, according to anticipated height.  Next to the last were rows of mounds of squash, cucumbers and watermelons.  The last of the rows were dedicated to growing tomatoes with the final rows reserved for marigolds and other flowers.  My grandmother would plant marigolds between her tomato plants.  The gardens were neat and tidy and a place that the chickens enjoyed visiting.

cabbage
Huge and fresh cabbage heads from Westmoreland County, VA

While chickens were the source of fresh eggs and finally fried chicken dinners on Sundays, they were also used during the growing season as weeders, tillers and de-buggers. Everybody and everything had a job.  My Uncle Frank was proficient at putting up chicken wire in temporary sections of the garden, then skillfully with little effort on his part, he’d guide his hens into the area.  The chickens seemed to be so cooperative with my uncle and for good chicken reasons.  Once in their designated temporary spot in the garden, they would feast on the grubs and pests that liked to feast on the plantings and their roots.  They would peck and pick through the soil, peck at and eat the weeds and just have a chicken good old-time.  My young eyes enjoyed watching the garden flourish, while waiting in anticipation for the coming bounty.

Later in life I learned that my family used excellent farming practices and to some point practices of organic gardening.  I never heard the word organic used by my Shenandoah Valley family members.  They were outstanding farmers, men and women alike.  Each had a hand in growing.   The women canned tomatoes and peaches and you name it and put up preserves, jams and jellies and pickles. My favorite bounty from the canning shelves in the cellar was the bread and butter pickles and the watermelon rind.  I looked forward to my grandmother serving them proudly on her condiment tray at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now I visit our local farmer’s markets for produce and flowers.  Do I wish that I had chickens and some land for a good size garden?  Of course I do, but I am grateful for all the memories and knowledge of farming given to me.

And the farmers markets are incredible.

onions
Fresh fruits and vegetables grown on Ignacia’s Farm of 20 acres in the Northern Neck of Virginia/Westmoreland County