Thursday, October 26, 2006

Building Continues

With cooler temperatures now an every day reality, the new greenhouse is a little closer to being completed. As you can see by the photo, the front framing is almost complete. The back is nearing its completion as well. Height was definitely an issue with this house as the land sloped away to a grade of almost two feet. While that is great for the water flow that we always had issues with after a heavy rain, it was tough getting a greenhouse even and plumb. We're nearing a finish date of next week on the framing. 6 mil plastic has been ordered and is expected today. It would definitely be nice to get the plastic on before the really cold weather comes. The other two greenhouses are stuffed full with over 6,000 plants. Can you tell we're getting ready for wholesale spring sales?

Monday, October 23, 2006

My Partner and Friend....

My wholesale partner, growing buddy and good friend, Pat Stewart, was recently featured in our local newspaper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Chattanooga, TN. Here is her story...

Cook: Herbs figure importantly in Pat Stewart's cooking
By Karin Glendenning
Community News Writer

Pat Stewart is a busy woman. With a job as a quality systems manager at William Wrigley Jr. Company as well as growing herbs for Possum Creek Herb Farm and a business, called Down to Earth, where she makes and sells garden-inspired gifts and gourmet treats, she still finds time to cook and experiment with recipes.

She has entered the Hamilton County Fair on three occasions and each time came away with a blue ribbon for her entries: Tomato Juice, Tomato Bread and Parmesan Cornbread.

"Not only do I enjoy cooking, but I enjoy people enjoying my cooking," she said.

Except for baking, when she always follows recipes exactly, she likes to experiment with food. "It's Katie bar the door for me. It's always a pinch of this or a pinch of that," she said.

"I come from a family of cookers. I grew up where the family revolved around the hominess of the kitchen and breaking bread together. Lots of my recipes are ones I got from my mother and grandmother," she said.

"When I cooked Thanksgiving dinner the first year after my mother died, my dad said "If I'd closed my eyes, I would have thought Eileen (her mother) cooked it.? That was the greatest compliment I've ever received. I thought I had arrived," she said.

Mrs. Stewart said she makes everything from scratch and likes making recipes her own. The Parmesan Cornbread is a good example of this. When she wanted to enter the fair, her husband suggested she enter her cornbread, so she went out to her backyard herb garden and gathered several varieties and came up with the prize-winning recipe.

Mrs. Stewart was born in Hixson, but her mother came here from New York, so she said her cooking reflects both Southern influences and Yankee ones. When it comes to Thanksgiving dressing, she said she always prepares her mother's recipe that uses regular bread instead of cornbread, but she has tweaked it so she uses half white bread and half whole-grain bread.

She said her specialties are her cheesecake, which she calls "the widow-maker," and her bread dressing. "I'm a purist when it comes to cheesecake. Mine is very dense and not fluffy. It's my mother's recipe," she said.

Mrs. Stewart partners with Michele Brown to grow herbs that they sell at Possum Creek Herb Farm in Soddy-Daisy. In two greenhouses she raises a huge variety of savory plants, including pineapple sage, Greek and Roman oregano, rosemary, salad burnet, lovage, sage, dill, cinnamon basil, Genovese basil, anise hyssop, chives, chamomile, chocolate mint, fennel and a selection of medicinal herbs. She also grows scented geraniums, and this year harvested a crop of garlic in her vegetable garden along with heirloom tomatoes, green beans, okra, cucumbers and squashes.

Several of the recipes she shares with readers today make use of many of the herbs she has learned to use to make her food interesting and tasty.

(Once Michele Brown of Possum Creek Herb Farm introduced me to the world of fresh herbs, I was hooked," said Mrs. Stewart. "I use Herbs de Provence, which is a combination of rosemary, thyme, savory, fennel seed, basil, lavender and marjoram. This is a great combination for any poultry or pork chops or loin." She said this recipe works best on a gas grill with indirect heat, or it may also be cooked in a 350 oven.)

Chicken breasts.
Herbs de Provence
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat grill or oven. Rinse and dry boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Lightly coat chicken breasts on both sides with olive oil. Coat the tops of each breast with Herbs de Provence. Cook chicken breasts until done, without turning. The herb crust can be eaten with the chicken or scraped off. (The flavor will still remain.)

("As a child, I remember my grandmother and mother making these dumplings every time we had beef stew. I always thought they looked like clouds," said Mrs. Stewart.)

1 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon shortening
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening. Add enough milk to make a drop batter. Drop by spoonfuls on the top of simmering stew and cover. Cook, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Don't peek!

(Mrs. Stewart came up with recipe when she decided to enter the 2005 Hamilton County Fair and won a blue ribbon for it.)

2 cups self-rising corn meal mix
1 egg, beaten
1/8 cup oil
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1/8 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Mix ingredients together. Pour into a preheated 9-inch cast iron skillet or greased 9-inch square pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle some extra Parmesan on top as soon as cornbread comes out of the oven.


1 1/2 cups dry black beans
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Clean and rinse beans. Put beans, stock and oil in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer beans approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 medium potato, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons chopped green pepper
1/4 pound chopped or shredded ham (not a sweet, honey variety)
2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dry oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 minced garlic clove
3 tablespoons parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Juice of 1 lemon

Sauté onion in olive oil until tender, then add shredded carrot and potato. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

At the 1 1/2 hour mark, add vegetables, ham and seasonings to beans. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for the remainder of the bean cooking time. The beans and vegetables should be tender.

Add lemon juice and stir.

Optional additions of any combination of chopped green onions, rice, sour cream or Louisiana Hot Sauce add spice and variety to the servings.

("This is a kind of 'make it your own' tuna salad. There ends up being less tuna in it than anything else," Mrs. Stewart said. "My husband told me years ago that he didn't like tuna salad. I love it, so I set out to find a way to get him to like it. This was the result. This makes enough for a crowd. You can play with the recipe and reduce it or just come up with a combination of your own," she added.)

4 to 5 cans light or white tuna in water, drained and flaked
Chopped Kosher dill pickles
Chopped red onion
Chopped celery
Chopped red and/or green bell pepper
Shredded carrot
Mayonnaise to taste or enough to hold mixture together

Combine ingredients, using amount and type of vegetables to suit personal taste. Serve with savory bread or chips.

The Garden's Last Hoorah

The autumn weather has been just incredible the past few days. We're spending as much time outdoors as we possibly can by walking through the woods, gathering leaves and pinecones for future projects and just enjoying the fantastic fall colors. A hot mug of apple cider rewards us after the nippy walks.
Walking through the last vestige of the summer gardens one can't help but notice how even the weedy herbs are changing to their autumn colors of gold and brown. Elderberry and witch hazel leaves are changing to their golden colors while the Joe Pye Weed is a deep burgundy. Goldenrod's bouquet of golden flowers are still hanging on but the north winds are making short work of denuding the stems. Coneflowers are brown and spiky early this year. The goldfinches, titmice and other small birds are gathering a harvest of seed. And the Sweet Annie in its greenish gold splendor is slowly being feasted on. We couldn't help but notice the crabapple trees were completely bare of their leaves but the crabapples are hanging on for dear life awaiting a bird's hungry beak.
I can't complain about this weather because I know the cold and wet winter is coming just around the corner. Time to bring in tiny pots of chive, parsley, lemon verbena, rosemary and sage for winter time cooking. I will keep the pots going on a windowsill facing the western afternoon sun. Turning each pot weekly and going lightly on the watering, I should have fresh herbs all winter. A little snip of chive for the baked potatoes, a little leaf of lemon verbena for my afternoon tea, a little nibble of parsley for that extra boost of Vitamin C...good for what ails the winter body.
This picture is of the crabapple tree that is growing next to the newest greenhouse. I couldn't believe how all the leaves had already fallen but I see now why they did....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sunday's Chattanooga Market

Since the beginning of August we have been participating in a large farmers market in downtown Chattanooga. The Chattanooga Market brings in area farmers, crafters and artists each Sunday afternoon from mid-April till December. Each Sunday has a theme. Some of the upcoming themed Sundays are Oktoberfest, Native American Day, Holiday Market and so on. Farmers bring their wonderful produce and canned goods while crafters and artists bring their jewelry, woodworking, tie-dyed apparel and wreaths. The local bakeries also bring their wonderful baked goods such as breads and cookies.

We have really enjoyed the crowds and the response to what we offer has been amazing. We set up a display with our quart size and four inch cups of herb plants on one side of the table and offer our bath brews, potpourri, salts and simmering mixes on the cool stair step display that Pat built on the other side of the table. People can walk around the booth choosing to sniff, touch and sample the herbs or sniff the scents from the brews, salts and potpourri.

Each week we try to bring something new to entice the shoppers to spend time at our booth. Last Sunday we brought in our garlic braids made from California white garlic, a mild and tasty garlic. The braids were decorated with a swag of rosemary, chili peppers and thyme. We also brought in a wreath, booklets and tons of handmade soap. In the weeks to come we would like to bring more seasonal items such as little decorated rosemary trees, holiday scented soaps and potpourri. Maybe even a wreath or two will show up. You never know what we might bring. We're there every other Sunday through December 10th.