May 31, 2022 Walt Whitman, Charles McIlvaine, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Virginia Woolf, The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman, and Louisa Yeomans King


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Historical Events

1819 Birth of Walt Whitman, American poet, essayist, and journalist.

A humanist, Walt is remembered as the father of free verse.

When Whitman was 54 years old, he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. He spent the next two years immersed in nature, and he believed that nature had helped to heal him. He wrote,

How it all nourishes, lulls me, in the way most needed; the open air, the rye-fields, the apple orchards.


Walt also appreciated flowers. He wrote,

A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.


In 1892, Walt wrote one of his most celebrated prose about Wild Flowers in a piece called Specimen Days.

This has been and is yet a great season for wild flowers; oceans of them line the roads through the woods, border the edges of the water-runlets, grow all along the old fences, and are scatter'd in profusion over the fields.

An eight-petal'd blossom of gold-yellow clear and bright, with a brown tuft in the middle, nearly as large as a silver half-dollar, is very common; yesterday on a long drive I noticed it thickly lining the borders of the brooks everywhere.

Then there is a beautiful weed cover'd with blue flowers, (the blue of the old Chinese teacups treasur'd by our grand-aunts,) I am continually stopping to admire [it] - [it's] a little larger than a dime, and very plentiful.

White, however, is the prevailing color. The wild carrot I have spoken of; also the fragrant life-everlasting. But there are all hues and beauties, especially on the frequent tracts of half-open scrub-oak and dwarf-cedar hereabout - wild asters of all colors.  Notwithstanding the frost-touch the hardy little chaps maintain themselves in all their bloom.


1840 Birth of Charles McIlvaine, American author, and mycologist.

Charles was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He served as a captain in the Pennsylvania Infantry. After the Civil War, he always went by "Captain."

When he was 40, Charles moved to West Virginia, where he wrote articles for magazines like Century and Harpers. After the war, food was scarce, and Charles started hunting and eating mushrooms. Charles ate virtually every specimen he encountered and even dabbled in mushrooms said to be poisonous. If he suffered no ill effects, Charles deemed a specimen edible. Before Charles's work, the USDA issued a report in 1885 that claimed there were only twelve edible species of mushrooms in the United States. 

Today Charles is best known for his 1896 book called 1,000 American Fungi. Charles was passionate about mycology, and he included his experiences with eating almost every species mentioned in his book.

He wrote,

I take no man's word for the qualities of a toadstool. I go for it myself.

Charles claimed to have eaten over 1,000 mushrooms and toadstools, and he said he enjoyed the flavor of most of them. 

His daring ingestion of so many species earned Charles the nickname Old Iron Guts. Charles lived to be 69 and defied the old saying, 

There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old bold mushroom hunters.

Charles was indeed an old, bold mycologist.

Charles's experimentation is all the more impressive given the challenging nature of mushroom identification. If you find plant identification challenging, mushroom identification is much more involved and often requires chemical reagents and microscopic evaluation. In our modern times, DNA sequencing can also definitively establish species.

Thanks to his excellent writing skills, Charles wrote about mushrooms in a friendly and conversational manner.

Here's what Charles wrote about the Oyster Mushroom:

The camel is gratefully called the ship of the desert. The oyster mushroom is the shellfish of the forest. When the tender parts are dipped in egg, rolled in bread crumbs, and fried as an oyster, they're not excelled buy any vegetable and are worth of place on the daintiest menu.


Here's how Charles described the Vomiting Russella:

Most are sweet and nutty to the taste. Some are as hot as the fiercest cayenne, but this they lose upon cooking. Their caps make the most palatable dishes when stewed, baked, roasted or escalloped.


Finally, here's a little-known poem that Charles wrote called Our Church Fight.

I'm that nigh near disgusted with the fight in our old church,
Where one halfs 'g'in the t'other, an' the Lord's left in the lurch,
That I went an' told the parson if he'd jine me in a prayer,
We'd slip out 'mong the daisies and' put one up from there.


Charles is remembered in the name of the journal of the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), McIlvainea ("Mick-ill-vay-nee-ah").


1893 Birth of Elizabeth Coatsworth, American writer of fiction and poetry for children and adults.

In 1931, She won the Newbery Medal for her children's book, The Cat Who Went to Heaven.

Elizabeth's poems invoke sentiment and thoughts of home. Her poem November begins,

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.


Her poem Nosegay is about a small bunch of flowers. Nosegays were typically sweet-scented and worn at the waist or bodice.

Violets, daffodils,
roses and thorn

were all in the garden
before you were born.

Daffodils, violets,
red and white roses

your grandchildren's children
will hold to their noses.


1920 On this day, a 37-year-old Virginia Woolf gardened with her husband, Leonard, at the new home they had bought the previous year. The garden covered three-quarters of a hectare and came with mature apple, plum, cherry, and pear trees. Of the two, Leonard was more the gardener, but Virginia was happy to assist whenever she got the chance.
In her diary on this day, she wrote,

The first pure joy of the garden… weeding all day to finish the beds in a queer sort of enthusiasm which made me say this is happiness.
Gladioli standing in troops; the mock orange out.
We were out till nine at night, though the evening was cold.
Both stiff and scratched all over today, with chocolate earth in our nails.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman
This book came out in 2012. It's an oldie, but goodie.

And the subtitle is From Apples to Zucchini, 150 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys & More.

Well, this is one of my favorite books. I use this every single summer.

And I love what the publisher says here about Andrea's book. They write

Blending your grandmother’s pickling know-how with today’s Internet resources, Andrea Chesman shows you how easy it is to fill your pantry with tasty homemade sauerkraut, Salt-Cured Dilly Beans, and Rosemary Onion Confit. Explaining classic techniques in simple language, guiding you to helpful websites, and making you laugh with humorous stories, Chesman provides inspiration and encouragement for both first-time picklers and dedicated home canners. With tips on pickling everything from apples to zucchini, you’ll enjoy exploring the stunning variety of flavors that can fill a Mason jar.


And I can tell you from experience that when the pandemic hit, and we had that first year of everybody rushing to garden, Andrea's book was a go-to resource for so many people as they were dealing with their first garden harvest.

Now I thought what I would do is walk you through the table of contents because that helps you understand Andrea's book's structure. This is really a book about pickling. There are other items and other recipes covered here, but this is primarily a pickle resource.

So, what is covered here is:

1 All About Pickling page 10
2 Fermented Pickles page 34
3 Single Jar Pickles page 72
4 Big-Harvest Fresh-Pack Pickles page 122
5 Salsas, Relishes, Chutneys page 148 (This is one of my most dog-eared sections in this book.)
6 Refrigerator & Freezer Pickles page 202
7 Recipes for Enjoying Homemade Pickles page 236


I also wanted to share just a little bit about what Andrea wrote in the introduction to this book because you'll get a little glimpse of her marvelous sense of humor. She wrote this in the introduction.

Naturally I wanted to pack all that freshly harvested goodness into jars to preserve it for the coming winter. I asked my grand- mother how she made her pickles. My grandmother was not a woman enthralled by the domestic arts, nor was she overly chatty. She told me to put cucumbers and dill in a crock, cover them with water, then add enough salt so "it's just before you gag.


Well, that sounds like my mom. That's exactly how my mom tells me about how to make our family recipes. So this one made me smile.

Now the other story that I wanted to share with you is this fantastic idea that Andrea came up with for sharing your pickle bounty. If you're part of a garden club or a group of gardeners in your neighborhood, maybe you can pool your resources when it comes to canning time.

I had the opportunity to collect pickle recipes and gather them together for a book. It began with a "pickle barter party." Because so many traditional recipes yielded seven or nine jars of pickles (a boiling-water-bath canner load), I thought it would be a great idea to swap jars of home-canned pickles the same way people swap cookies at Christmastime. My friends were all fellow back-to-the-landers, and preserving food by canning, pickling, and freezing was part of the lifestyle. Today's urban food swaps accomplish much the same thing.


Great idea. Isn't that? And such a fun thing to do this summer. You can do it outside. And not have to worry about catching COVID.

And here's what Andrea says about pickle preferences - and this is so true - especially if you have kids.

What I learned as I tasted my way through batch after batch of pickles is that preferences vary widely. For some people, no pickle is too sweet; others hate garlic. But inevitably, there is perfect pickle for every taste. It just requires collecting and inventing many, many recipes.

Over the years, I've watched many trends and pickle making And in the 1970s, just like today, many people rediscovered, pickle making as they moved back to the land.

And so what's old is new again.

Well, I tell you what, you could do a lot worse than having Andrea Chessman be your guide for pickling.

This is a hefty book. It is 304 pages of pickling everything - from cucumbers (so that you can make your dills, your half-sours, your bread-and-butters) to other vegetables (everything from carrots to rhubarb cabbage, to even pineapple.)

The bottom line here is you can pickle it - and that's Andrea's favorite saying.

Now, luckily Andrea's book is ubiquitous because this book has been around for a decade.

You can get a copy of The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for around $8.

And by the way, if you have a family reunion to go to, or you just want to have a little family picnic, this would be a lovely little hostess gift. It's so sweet and that cover is adorable.


Botanic Spark

1905 The Flower Garden Day by Day by Louisa Yeomans King

MAY 31. Take a part of this month if possible, and visit the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, for lilacs, Asiatic cherries, crabs, and general beauty; and Highland Park, Rochester, N. Y., for the great lilac collection. The notebooks should go, too; and while it is difficult to leave one's own garden at SO interesting a time, a great enlarging of the gardening horizon is the result of such travels.


Thanks for listening to The Daily Gardener

And remember: For a happy, healthy life, garden every day.

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