Winter

oystersplainEveryone has an event that ignites the holiday spirit. Maybe it’s a family outing to cut down a tree or baking spicy, fragrant cookies but for me it’s that annual telephone call a week in advance and the magical ride to Glidden Point Oyster Farm in Edgecomb, Maine.

The phone call and the ride is the start of the holiday season for me, it’s even better then listening to Handel’s Messiah. I order plenty to last from Christmas Eve through New Years Eve, and I serve them in copious quantities.

Barb Scully, the owner of the oyster farm, dives 40 foot deep into the ‘brisk’ water of the Damariscotta River in front of her business/home-that is her description. I should add that the brackish water is almost frozen by Christmas and she generally stops diving for oysters by the 25th, closing her operation down for a few months.

She is a skinny, short-haired woman with pasty white skin and a constant indentation circling her face from her diver’s wet suit. She has a rather abrupt manner to her, but boy, are her oysters the Rolls Royce of shellfish. When I get them they are barely hours old and she dives for the big ones, especially for me. I’ll eat little oysters if I have to but I prefer the older, jumbo ones - luncheon plate size.

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kiwimuffin.jpgJust when I thought fava beans had a lot of names, along comes the kiwifruit (kiwi) originally known as the Chinese Gooseberry. It's also known as the Macaque peach, the vine pear, the sunny peach, the hairy bush fruit, and my personal favorite, "strange fruit."

Call it what you will. Just make sure you eat these edible berries. The kiwifruit is the edible berry of the cultivar group of the woody vine Actinidia deliciosa and hybrids between this and other species in the genus Actinidia, which is native to Shaanxi, China. But who doesn't already know that?

Kiwis are grown in mild climates all over the world. Surprisingly, New Zealand is not the leading world producer of their famed fruit. The land of pasta, balsamic vinegar, and buffalo mozzarella is – Italy. Though I wouldn't recommend eating kiwi with any of the aforementioned foods.

Kiwis are both delicious and nutritious. With a flavor that tastes like a mix of citrus, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, a kiwi is both sweet and tart. Though the hairy outer skin is edible, I'd advise against eating it. That is, unless you really need the fiber – a kiwi's fiber is tripled with the skin on. If you do eat it, then have a new container of dental floss at the ready. You'll need it.

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pomegranates.jpgMy appreciation of certain foods is only enhanced by the symbolism associated with them. As an example, in Italy it's a tradition to eat lentils on new years day. The individual lentils are supposed to represent the coins that will come to you in the new year. Ever since I heard that, the thought of a big sausage and lentil stew on new years day seems like just the right thing. Jewish new years or Rosh Hashanah has its own traditional foods. I grew up eating apples dipped in honey to represent the sweetness of the new year, but I just learned that another traditional food for the Jewish new year is the pomegranate. Moroccan Jews say that the seeds of the pomegranate represent the good deeds or mitzvah that will occur in the new year and I have to say I think that the two-fold symbolism is as sweet as an apple dipped in honey.

Pomegranates like figs, feature prominently in Greek mythology, as well as the bible. They have long been a symbol of fertility in many cultures. Have you ever noticed how often they show up in religious paintings? Christians have so many different interpretations of the pomegranate it's tough to keep track.

 

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grapefruitwreathFrasier Fir, boxwood, magnolia, grapevine – all traditional bases for wreaths. We can pick them up at garden centers and Christmas tree vendors and even grocery stores, but sometimes it is fun to spice up ye olde wreath with some seasonal flair.

In December’s issue of Southern Living, I took some traditional wreaths up a notch or two to festively deck our halls, doors, windows and tables with versions of wreaths donned with a bit of Holiday zest.

Rosemary and grapefruit – two of this Farmer’s favorites! From their scents to their colors and flavors, the combo of these two can be appealing to many of the senses. Sliced grapefruit and Meyer lemons combined with Savannah holly foliage and berries on a boxwood wreath is garden glam at its best!

Add fresh cut red roses in varying shades and sizes for a boost of elegance and fragrance. The jewel tones of the fruit and flowers on the deep green base are luscious!

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rutabaga.jpgMe and my big ideas. Take rutabagas. I thought it would be just nifty to plant a row of these, late in the season, to use in our winter kitchen. (You can keep them right in the soil—how handy!) They’d be exclusively for us, not for the farm stand. Like the onions. Yes, but onions are a tad more versatile than rutabagas, you might point out. Duh.

There are only so many rutabagas one can eat. It’s not even November and Roy is already looking a little rutabaga-weary. And this despite the fact that miraculously, Roy, who is not a huge veggie lover, is not turnip-averse. (Rutabagas are basically big, purple-skinned, yellow-fleshed turnips.)

I guess I got all rutabaga-smug because I figured I knew a bunch of tasty ways to cook them. This week, in fact, I slipped some into a potato gratin, and that was a definite hit. (Couldn’t have had anything to do with the cream and cheese.) And one of my favorite techniques—slowly caramelizing root vegetables in a crowded pan—works wonders on rutabagas, so I’ve been using this trick frequently. And Fall Veggie Minestrone is another great destination for rutabagas. 

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