forget the champagne this NYE: we found lost apple cider

posted December 27, 2016

Shacksbury Orchard out of Vergennes, VT is collecting  lost apple varieties and creating remarkably distinctive hard ciders from them. In the best thing since Rodolph came to the Island of Misfit Toys, the orchardists have grafted a Lost Orchard, propagating 12 carefully selected wild and heirloom apple varieties to over 1000 trees. No where near VT? Not to worry! You can find their ciders around the country and even order online.


purple straw wheat- an heirloom wheat for whiskey, cake and biscuits

posted March 24, 2016

In their ongoing quest to revive and preserve ancestral grains, a Clemson University scientist and his collaborators have begun the process of restoring a nearly extinct variety of wheat that traces its American roots to the 1700s.

Purple Straw is the only heirloom wheat to have been cultivated continually in the South from the Colonial Period into the last quarter of the 20th century. While most other ancestral varieties of wheat were annihilated in the 19th century by a multipronged assault of pestilence and pathogens, Purple Straw continued to thrive. Perhaps, this was due to it being a short-growing winter wheat that matured before it could be seriously threatened.

Ironically, Purple Straw’s fall into disfavor came not from disease or infestation but rather from the rise of modern hybrid wheats and foreign introductions that were genetically designed for disease resistance, grain size and massive production using petroleum-based fertilizers. Even if fully restored, Purple Straw will not be able to compete with these hybrids when it comes to quantity, but it will stand out admirably in terms of flavor and nutrition.

“Purple Straw had certain culinary qualities that impressed people from the first,” said South Carolina food historian David Shields, who is the author of “Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine.” “It has a purplish stem and husk – hence its name. But it’s a high-protein, low-gluten wheat that mills white and is soft and easily handled, making it great for whiskey, cake flour and biscuits. And of course, what’s more Southern than whiskey, cake and biscuits?”


heritage grass discovered in wisconsin

posted January 21, 2016

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A forgotten forage grass imported from Europe in the 1800s could soon begin to help boost cattle and dairy production in parts of the Upper Midwest. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Madison, Wisconsin, recently released the grass for commercial production.

The grass, named “Hidden Valley,” was discovered on a farmer’s shaded hilltop in a long-time pasture that had never been seeded with commercial forages. Cattle thrived on the grass, and it gradually spread from the hilltop into gullies and open areas. The farmer fed hay made from the grass to more cattle and spread the seeds in the manure. He also eventually began consulting with Michael Casler, a plant geneticist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service(ARS).

Casler and his colleagues at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center spent more than a decade evaluating Hidden Valley, named for the farm where it was discovered. They found that cattle digest it more easily and eat more of it than other forages, thus gaining more weight when it’s available and producing more milk.

DNA tests show that the grass is a meadow fescue that has adapted to the Upper Mississippi River Basin since its arrival in the 1800s. It is drought tolerant and will survive freezing temperatures and repeated grazing. Surveys of the Upper Midwest “Driftless Region,” which includes parts of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, show that the grass can be found in a wide range of habitats. It also grows well on land taken out of crop production and allowed to revert to pasture.

To read more, click HERE!


a beautiful book about pears

posted January 7, 2016

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The Book of Pears is a one-of-a-kind guide to this extraordinary fruit, following its journey through history and around the world, accompanied by beautiful botanical watercolor paintings and period images. Noted pomologist and fruit historian Joan Morgan (The Book of Apples) has researched and crafted the definitive account of the pear’s history and uses, from fresh eating to cooking and baking to making perry, the delicate and sophisticated pear equivalent of cider.

Featuring a directory of 500 varieties of both ancient and modern pears with tasting notes and descriptions for every one, The Book of Pears reveals the secrets of the pear as a status symbol, introduces readers to some of the most celebrated fruit growers in history, and explains how the pear came to be so important as an international commodity. This unique and fascinating book will prove indispensable for historians, horticulturists, and all fruit lovers. – See more at: http://www.chelseagreen.com/the-book-of-pears#sthash.6wdpw55G.dpuf