Celebrating the Swan Song of Summer: Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions & Pecans . . .

September 22nd, 2013 § Comments Off on Celebrating the Swan Song of Summer: Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions & Pecans . . . § permalink

Grilled Peaches stuffed with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Pecans with Balsamic Glaze - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Toasted Pecans & Balsamic Glaze

Gloria Peaches at Scott Farm Orchard - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comGloria Peaches at Scott Farm Orchard, Vermont. According to Scott Farm orchard manager, Zeke Goodband, these beautiful, sweet, firm-fleshed peaches are the perfect choice for grilling and roasting!

Scott Farm Peaches in a Bowl - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comBeautiful Scott Farm Peaches, Almost too Good to Eat

Oh summer, summer, summer . . .Where have you gone? As I sit here in my garden chair —surveying the red-tipped Viburnum leaves and orange-tinted Flame Grass— once again I marvel at the quick passage of time. In just a few short hours, autumn will officially begin in the Northern Hemisphere, (20:44 UTC or 4:44 pm ET). Much as I love the fall —always my favorite season— this year I feel more than a touch of melancholy as I let sweet summer go.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' in Autumn - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Blushing Limelight Hydrangea (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’) in the Garden this Morning

Canada Geese and Harvest Moon - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com  Canada Geese Slip Away by the Light of the Full Harvest Moon

Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' in late summer - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Morning Light Maiden Grass Dances in the Cool Breeze (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’)

Although this has been a rather cool and rainy season, the months were also filled with warm riches and delights; kayaking on the river, a trip to Block Island, Christmas-in-July fireworks, a picnic in the orchard at Scott Farm, milestone family birthdays, and exciting projects at work. This has also been a year of culinary exploration and adventures thanks to delightful produce from my kitchen garden and fruit from nearby farms.

Swan Song of Summer - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com The Swan Song of Summer 

Recently, after picking up fresh, late-season peaches from Zeke Goodband at Scott Farm, in Dummerston, Vermont, I decided to experiment with savory recipes featuring this delightful fruit. Grilling peaches has always been a favorite late-summer pastime, and after sampling a delicious appetizer of blue cheese, caramelized onion and pecan stuffed peaches at Magpie Restaurant in nearby Greenfield, Massachusetts, I decided to give the idea a whirl. Simple to prepare and delicious as an appetizer or side dish, these grilled, stuffed peaches are the perfect way to say farewell to summertime.

So as we listen to the swan-song of summer —crickets in the meadow and bluejays in the scrub— here’s a touch of sweetness to send the gentle season on her way . . .

Grilled and Stuffed Peaches on Platter with Balsamic Glaze - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com

Grilled Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Toasted Pecans & Balsamic Glaze

 Appetizer or Light Side for Six

Ingredients

6 Large Gloria Peaches (sliced in half & pitted, skin on)

1/8 cup Pecans (toasted, chopped fine)

1 small, sweet onion, caramelized and chopped fine

1/4 cup Crumbled Blue Cheese (or more)

Salt to taste

Butter for Grilling

Balsamic Glaze for Drizzling Platter

Grilling Peaches - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com

Method

Caramelize onions, chop/toast pecans, and crumble high-quality blue cheese in advance. Mix the three ingredients together in a small bowl and salt lightly to taste. Set aside.

Slice and pit peaches. Scoop out center neatly to make a bit of room for stuffing if pits are small, and set aside on a platter for grilling. If grilling over flame, brush peaches with melted butter and set on medium-hot grill, away from direct flame. If grilling indoors (Foreman grill or the like), heat the grill and then rub with butter. Grill the peaches until fragrant and soft, but still firm. Remove from heat and fill each peach with a tablespoon or more of stuffing. Arrange on platter and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grilled, Stuffed Peaches with Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Pecans and Balsamic Glaze - Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden.com Grilled, Stuffed Peaches Make a Great Appetizer or Side Dish with Other Grilled Foods. Serve Warm or at Room Temperature.

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Oh, Sweet-Scented Orchard Blossoms! Selecting & Growing Fruit Trees at Walker Farm with Zeke Goodband…

April 29th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Apple Blossoms at Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont

The Sweet Scent of Spring: Filling My Hands with Fragrant Apple Blossom Petals as They Fall from the Trees

A Inspirational, Springtime Stroll through the Heirloom Apple Orchard at Scott Farm in Vermont

Many gardeners dream of an orchard filled with homegrown peaches, plums, pears, quince, cherries and apples, fresh for the picking. Fruit trees make wonderful additions to the home landscape, and given proper selection and care, they will provide both beauty and sustenance to the gardener for many years. Spring is the best time of year to plant young fruit trees, and I’m often asked to incorporate them into my garden designs. It’s important for all gardeners —including professionals— to refresh and supplement their horticultural knowledge from year to year, and stay on top of trends. So over the weekend, I joined an eager audience of backyard gardeners at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, to listen to our local fruit tree expert and orchardist extraordinaire, Zeke Goodband of Scott Farm, share his tips on selecting, growing and pruning fruit trees. I always learn something new from Zeke, and here’s a bit of what he had to offer by way of advice on choosing and caring for young trees in the home orchard…

Orchardist Zeke Goodband demonstrates proper technique for staking young, semi-dwarf fruit trees in the first two years after planting. Pointing out the need for care when strapping trees to stakes, in order avoid damaging the living cambium layer of the tree, Zeke explains that wire, twine and rope may cut through this important layer of bark. Never tie directly to the tree. Zeke recommends using soft, pliant material —such as cloth or rubber— to create a sling around the bark, in order to protect the tree when anchoring and tying it to stakes.

The most important step to take when planting fruit trees —whether an entire backyard orchard or a single specimen tree in the garden— is to properly assess the site. Fruit trees of all kinds require full sun and excellent drainage. In order for trees to flower and develop fruit, they need light from sunrise to sunset throughout the growing season. A little bit of shade in early morning or late afternoon is acceptable —though not optimal— for fruit trees, but a half day of sun or full shade will not provide fruit trees with the conditions they need to grow and produce fruit. In addition, keep in mind that all fruit trees are intolerant of wet soil. So before you get your heart set on a backyard filled with apples and peaches, explore your site with a shovel. Is it poorly drained? If so, choose another site. When the roots of fruit trees sit in wet soil, the tree will slowly decline and eventually die. Equally important, be sure to provide your fruit trees with plenty of room to grow. Even though many modern fruit trees are referred to as semi-dwarf, they still need to be positioned at least 10′ from buildings and other objects, and 15-20′ from other trees. This is important. In order to grow and flourish —and avoid diseases— trees need ample sunlight and airflow.

Another site issue worth considering when planting fruit trees is the presence of wildlife. Deer can cause a tremendous amount of damage to unprotected fruit trees —both to fruit and branches in all seasons— so if deer are common guests to your property, building a fence —at least 8′ tall— is advisable to protect your home orchard. Apple trees are particularly vulnerable to deer browse. For a single tree or small grouping, a more economical, shorter fence may be used to surround and protect the trees.

Zeke discusses some of the differences between the cherry tree varieties available at Walker Farm, and talks about how to select, and care for young trees after planting

Once a site has been carefully chosen, fruit trees may be ordered bare-root —from an online source or mail-order catalog— or they may be purchased in pots at local orchards, nurseries and garden centers, where they may be hand-selected. Walker Farm sells many kinds of beautiful, hardy fruit trees —apples, cherries, peaches, plums and pears, to name a few— and most are three years old. Peaches begin to provide fruit at a very young age, and although they are short-lived (Zeke suggests re-planting peaches every 10 years or so), they are quick to provide a sweet reward; making them a great choice for that first tree.

Once your fruit trees arrive to their new home, how well they are cared for will determine your success and future yield. Bare root trees will need to be planted soon after they arrive. If you must wait, be sure to keep the trees in a cool, dark place (such as the box in which they arrived). Soak the roots briefly —while digging the holes— and settle them in with a long, slow drink of water after planting (a 5 gallon bucket of water with small hole for steady drip works well). When planting fruit trees —bare root or potted— Zeke discourages improving the subsoil with compost or manure. The goal is to get the trees to settle in; spreading their roots beyond the planting hole. If the soil is over-enriched, the roots of the tree will likely remain confined to the planting hole, instead of spreading out and properly anchoring the tree. When planting a potted tree, dig the hole slightly bigger than the container and back-fill with the same soil. When settling the tree into the hole, be sure to leave the graft-union —looks like a knobby elbow— exposed 2-4″ above the soil, and then back-fill completely —avoiding air pockets— tamping the soil very lightly with your foot when complete. There’s no need to fertilize or add compost as top dressing until the tree leafs out. Once it does, fertilizer (10-10-10) or compost may be sprinkled around the root area and lightly worked in. Young trees do like nitrogen for the first 3-4 years (and peaches grow and fruit best when given nitrogen every year, throughout their lifetime) but never feed your trees after the 4th of July (and always avoid using tree spikes. Zeke really dislikes these —as do I— because in seasons with dry springs and wet falls, they neglect feeding when needed and then provide it at the worst possible time: when trees need to go dormant). In order to discourage pests and eliminate root competition, it’s very, very important to keep the root area of fruit trees clear of weeds and grass. So, a layer of mulch (2-3 inches at the base), plus regular weed patrol, is a good idea.

Voles and string trimmers —both of which damage the tender cambium layer of bark— are the enemy of young fruit trees. Protect your trees by creating 18″ high, circular wire cages from hardware cloth. Avoid use of plastic tree-wraps, as they harbor harmful pests, including borers. Hardware cloth (made from 1/4″ metal mesh), settled into the ground surrounding the tree, is what Zeke recommends to protect young trees from girdling by hungry rodents and/or nicks from unwieldy lawn crews. You may recall my mention of wire tubes for protecting ornamental trees in winter. The construction of hardware-mesh protection for fruit trees is quite similar (click here for previous post).

Young, semi-dwarf trees should also be supported with stakes for the first couple of years (fully dwarf trees should be supported throughout their lifetimes). Be sure to use a non-binding and non-chafing sling when strapping the tree to the stakes. Never use wire or twine —which may cut through the tender, outer bark— and avoid tying twine directly around the tree. Rubber or canvas slings, secured to the stakes with twine, work well to support young trees and prevent them from toppling or rocking in the wind.

Zeke demonstrates fruit thinning on a peach tree  —to one peach every 6″ or so— and explains the importance of this technique. Failure to thin heavy crops of fruit may result in broken branches or limbs and poor fruit production the following season

When selecting young trees, buy early in the season from a reputable orchard, nursery or garden center, and always have a careful look at the entire tree, including the root zone (lift gently at the base and slide the rootball from the pot to insure a healthy, non-pot-bound tree). Also, have a look at the leaves, bark and the basic structure of the tree. Does it look healthy; free of wilted or skeletonized leaves? Avoid bringing trouble home to your garden, and once planted, keep a regular look-out for tent caterpillars and other pests by checking on your trees, and supplying water if necessary, every few days.

Zeke demonstrates how vertically-inclined branches on this pear tree are trained to a more horizontal shape through tying techniques

After fielding some pest-management questions, Zeke went on to demonstrate formative pruning and tying techniques for training young fruit trees for best production. Pollination of fruit trees by honeybees and other insects is very important, and although many fruit trees are cross-pollinated by wide variety of local, flowering trees, Zeke points out that planting fruit trees in multiple usually gives the best results in terms of fruit production. Getting young, upright trees to flower and produce  —particularly upright pear, plum and apple trees— can be a challenge. To encourage fruit production —which takes place on horizontal branches— Zeke demonstrated how vertical limbs are gently trained in a more horizontal or angled position and tied down. This technique can be used with the more upright varieties of pears, apples, plums, peaches and other fruit trees, to encourage a more horizontally-tiered shape. If you have ever trained a climbing rose to flower (using horizontal fan shape) you will be familiar with this concept. Some trees have a naturally open, horizontally-branching framework and require little tying or pruning to produce fruit. For example, the Japanese ‘Shiro’ plum (Prunus ‘Shiro’) has a lovely, open shape; making it aesthetically pleasing as an ornamental and productive as an edible. In addition to tying, Zeke explained the process of thinning apple blossoms from the average of five per cluster to one or two blossoms per cluster. What about pruning? Zeke advises that over-pruning young fruit trees is a mistake. Other than correcting tight crotch angles and removing competing leaders —or other obvious problems like rubbing or broken branches— avoid pruning fruit trees for the first few years. Later on in the life of your fruit tree, prune trees during winter dormancy to keep the shape low, open and horizontally branching, as well as to remove diseased or seasonally damaged wood.

Zeke demonstrates how he would prune this young Honey Crisp apple tree; selecting a strong, central leader and removing a competing, vertical branch

If a gardener is hoping to harvest fruit in the near future, adding a few early-to-bear peach and pear trees would be a great place to start. Walker Farm had several varieties of each on hand; including golden ‘Bartlett’ pears and north-hardy, sweet and juicy ‘Redhaven’ peaches. Zeke  discussed some of the best varieties of cherries for our area, noting that trees producing tart fruits —such as ‘Danube’ and ‘Montmorency’— do better than the sweet cherry varieties this far north. But he quickly dispelled the myth that hardy fruit trees grown locally will do better than those grown outside of this region. Because fruit tree varieties are genetically identical, and grafted upon rootstock, a tree raised in Washington (hardy to your zone) has as good a chance of survival as one grafted and raised up the road. Still, I plan to shop for fruit trees locally to take advantage of the expert advice given by lifelong farmers like Zeke Goodband and Jack Manix. An experienced, successful farmer’s words-of-wisdom —and quick wit— are worth their weight in gold.

Thank you to Zeke Goodband for an incredible seminar, and to Walker Farm for sponsoring a spring’s worth of Saturday morning gardening seminars, free to the public! (Click here for information on upcoming seminars, and register to save your seat)

To read more about Zeke Goodband & his work at Scott Farm Orchard, click here and explore my previous posts (including recipe posts).

 Autumn Apple Harvest at Scott Farm in Vermont

Heirloom Apple Treasures

And of Course, the Best Part of Fruit Trees is … Experimenting in the Kitchen with Orchard-Fresh, Heirloom Fruit! Click here for French Apple Cake Recipe 

Resources for the Home Orchard …

The Best Apples to Buy And Grow (BBG)The Best Apples to Buy and Grow (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide Beth Hanson

Growing Fruit RHS Harry BakerGrowing Fruit (RHS Encyclopedia of Practical Gardening Harry Baker

the Backyard Orchardist stella ottoThe Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden Stella Otto

The Apple Grower, Michael PhillipsThe Apple Grower: Guide for the Organic Orchardist Michael Phillips

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Inspiration: Cottage-Style Charm… Flowers, Fruit & Vegetables Combine With Whimsical Touches to Create a Colorful, Welcoming Potager…

May 13th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

A Riot of Annuals (Mixed Zinna) Creates a Bold Splash of Color in the Center of Carol Hillman’s Country Potager

One of my favorite, near-by New England farms is a one-hundred-and-twenty-five year old orchard, belonging to the owners of New Salem Preserves, Carol Hillman and Robert Colnes. Together, this couple has created a beautiful homestead, tucked into the hills overlooking the Quabbin Reservoir in Western Massachusetts. Visiting their orchard after a hike in autumn —with the sugar maples surrounding their two-hundred-and-sixty year old farm all ablaze— is one of my most treasured seasonal traditions. After taking a stroll through the magnificent old, McIntosh apple trees, I always pick up a gallon or two of fresh cider, homemade donuts and as many of Carol’s preserves as I can manage to juggle in my arms. Even after all these years, and dozens of visits —every late September or early October for more than a decade— I marvel at the simple perfection of their landscape and the beauty and whimsical, personal details in Carol’s potager.

Proving that outstanding design needn’t involve outlandish expenditure, let these images inspire you toward the creation of a garden that blends in with your surrounding landscape; capturing the spirit of place. With a vegetable garden design seminar coming up on the weekend, today my mind happens to be on old farms, gorgeous orchards and pretty, welcoming potagers. If you are attending my vegetable garden design talk at Walker Farm on Saturday (see bottom of post for details) this is a bit of a sneak peek at the visual part of the presentation. But not to worry, if you can’t make it, you can catch up right here next week. I’ll be writing much more on the subject of enchanting edible landscaping all summer long…

Where Deer Aren’t A Problem, A Low, Hodgepodge Fence Works Well to Keep Out Wandering Dogs, Geese or Chickens. A Fence Like This One Sets the Country-Casual Tone, Yet Helps to Keep Things Looking Ordered…

With A No-Nonsense, New England-Style Layout , the Beauty of this Garden is all in the Artful Details. Frog Faucet by Flora & Fauna

Both Practical and Whimsical, the Birdhouse Attracts Organic, Winged Pest Control and Offers a Bit of Charm

Annuals are Perfect Potager Companion Plants: Attractive to Pollinators like Bees, Butterflies and Other Beneficials, They Also Provide Armfuls of Flowers for Colorful Arrangements All Season Long (the whitish film on the Zinnia leaves is a homemade, organic fungicide: click here to find a recipe for this homemade remedy)

This Pretty, Productive Vegetable Garden is Welcoming Throughout the Seasons. I Snapped All of These Photos Last September

And to the Side of the Fence, a Well Planned Raspberry Patch Remains Orderly with Two, Neatly Pruned Rows and Wire Guards to Hold Canes

And Here’s Proof That Even Compost Bins Can Be Attractive When Kept Tidy and Crafted with Natural Materials That Weather Beautifully Over Time…

And With a Sweet Bird Faucet, Trips to Fill the Old Watering Can Seem Like Less of a Chore and More of a Pleasure…

Simple. Pretty.

Isn’t it Lovely? Working in This Garden Would Hardly Seem Like Work at All!

A Weathered-to-Perfection Red Stain Feels as Comfortable on this Outbuilding as Old Blue Jeans on the Weekend (Note the Bat House on the Upper Right Corner Near the Eve)

I Couldn’t Resist Including a Photo of Their Old Chevy Truck. Oh What a Beauty!

Together with organic farmer and owner of Vermont’s legendary Walker Farm, Jack Manix, I’ll be talking about the Art and Science of Vegetable Gardening, this Saturday morning, May 14th at 10am (click here for details).  And on Sunday, May 15th, Scott Farm orchardist, Zeke Goodband, will be discussing “The Beauty of Shade Trees”, from 10-11 am, at Walker Farm (read more about Scott Farm and its heirloom apples in this past post: click here). Gardening Seminars at Walker Farm are Free and Open to the Public. Please see the Walker Farm website for details and to reserve your seat.

Many thanks to Carol Hillman of New Salem Orchards for her kind hospitality over many years. Visit their website here.

***

Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation, of any kind, for editorial mention of any businesses or products in this post.

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links and Terrain Garden & Home). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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