Today I'll talk about the difference between gourds and squash.
We'll also celebrate the man whose philanthropy made the Arnold Arboretum possible.
We’ll recognize the painter who said flowers made him paint freely.
We salute the English author who gave us a lovely poem called The Garden Year.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a cookbook from two chefs who teach authentic, seasonal cooking with ingredients from your garden in the most delicious and perfect ways possible.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the English naturalist who campaigned and won Green Spaces for England and her work lead to the National Trust.
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December 3, 1492
On this day, Christopher Columbus noted in his diary:
"I climbed a mountain and came to level ground, which was sown with many different crops and gourds."
The gourds Columbus was referring to were actually squashes that were turned into utensils.
Many people confuse gourds and squash. So here’s a little gourd and squash trivia to keep your knowledge of gourds and squash sharp.
Gourds and squash are members of the Cucurbitaceae ("coo-kur-bi-TAY-see-ee") plant family, including over 700 species.
Both squash and gourds are fruits because they are part of the flower that contains the seeds, and like grapes, they grow on a vine. The fruits of gourds, squashes, and pumpkins are berries known as a pepo (“pee-poh”).
Loofahs are a type of gourd, and they come from the inside of a gourd. Pumpkin is a squash.
And while most gourds are not suitable to eat, squash has a mild taste and is delicious.
The main difference between summer squash and winter squash is how long they can be stored.
Summer squashes are soft-skinned, they're harvested in the summer, and they need to be eaten quickly (i.e., zucchini and yellow crookneck squash).
Winter squashes are hard-shelled squashes that can be stored for months (i.e., acorn squash).
Here’s a little gourd joke:
What vegetable keeps your garden safe?
A security gourd.
Lastly, if you enjoy puns, gourd puns abound on the internet, and they are truly the worst puns.
"You’d butternut forget to grow gourds… because they’re ‘gourd’geous!"
December 3, 1868
Today is the anniversary of the death of the wealthy businessman, philanthropist, and botanist James Arnold.
James is the namesake for Harvard's Arnold Arboretum - the very first arboretum in the United States.
James was born to a Quaker family in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1807, James married Sarah Rotch. Had James not married Sarah, there would have probably never been an Arnold Arboretum. Sarah's father was part of an exceptionally wealthy whaling family, and James eventually became a partner in his father-in-law's business.
James used his wealth to buy an 11-acre estate in New Bedford, Massachusetts. As Quakers, James, and Sarah focused less on making their home ostentatious and more on developing their gardens. Together James and Sarah searched for interesting plants and trees for their home gardens during their many trips to Europe.
And history tells us that the Arnold property was so stunning that the gardens were open to the public on Sundays. In 1857, even the writer Herman Melville visited the garden.
The Unitarian minister, William Potter, called the Arnold estate,
"...the most conspicuous among all our homes for culture, for hospitality, for charity."
As both James and Sarah loved gardening and plants, their friends included many naturalists of their time: John James Audubon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Bronson Alcott (Louisa May Alcott’s father).
When James died in 1868, as part of his will, he left $100,000 in the hands of three trustees: Francis Parker, John James Dixwell, and George Emerson. Emerson and Dixwell personally knew Asa Gray at Harvard, and they also knew that Harvard needed a Botanic Garden. James Arnold’s trustees included a bodacious mission for the Arboretum: to collect every kind of tree and shrub that would grow outdoors in Massachusetts.
By 1873, Charles Sprague Sargent was hired to be the director of the Arnold Arboretum - a position he would hold for over four decades. And James Arnold’s gift and Charles Sprague Sargent’s leadership created the world-class arboretum we enjoy today.
December 3, 1919
Today is the anniversary of the death of the impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir said, when he was painting flowers, he was able to paint,
“freely and boldly without the mental effort, he made with a model.”
He also said,
“If you paint the leaf on a tree without using a model,
your imagination will only supply you with a few leaves…
But nature offers you millions, all on the same tree. …
The artist who paints only what is in his mind must very soon repeat himself.”
It was Renoir who said,
“What seems most significant to me about [Impressionism]
is that we have freed painting
from the importance of the subject.
I am at liberty to paint flowers and call them flowers,
without their needing to tell a story.”
And speaking of stories, there's a little-known story about Renoir. For many years, he hung a sign on his garden gate which read,
"No Renoirs sold here. Beware the dog."
January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.
February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.
March brings breezes, loud and shrill,
To stir the dancing daffodil.
April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daisies at our feet.
May brings flocks of pretty lambs
Skipping by their fleecy dams.
June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children’s hands with posies.
Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.
August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.
Warm September brings the fruit;
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.
Fresh October brings the pheasant;
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.
Dull November brings the blast;
Then the leaves are whirling fast.
Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire and Christmas treat.
— Sara Coleridge, English author, The Garden Year
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2018, and the subtitle is Cooking with Good Ingredients Through the Seasons.
In this book, Slow Food advocates and accomplished chefs Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann create approachable everyday recipes with the garden harvest.
This book was a 2018 Winner for Excellence in Book Design - which is a feature that readers will notice right away when they get this cookbook.
By advocating for a seasonal approach to cooking, Jeff and Bettina show you how to seek out the freshest ingredients for your prep table and dining table.
Earth to Table Every Day features 140 wholesome, effortless, everyday recipes. I love Jeff and Bettina’s cookbook because they infuse their book with brilliant stories and gorgeous photography that makes their recipes compelling and memorable.
My favorites include Arugula and Fennel Salad, Mushroom Tarts, Creamy Hummus with Fried Chickpeas, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Apple Bacon Pizza, Rhubarb Upside Down Cake, Chocolate Brownies, and Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake.
This book is 288 pages of authentic, seasonal cooking from two chefs dedicated to making and using ingredients from the garden in the most delicious and perfect ways possible.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
December 3, 1838
Today is the birthday of the English activist, conservationist, and naturalist Octavia Hill.
From the time she was 13 years old, Octavia worked to make life better for the working class. As Octavia matured, she crystalized her advocacy. And one of Octavia’s most passionate causes was getting access to nature for all of the folks living in large cities like London.
Historical records tell us that Octavia was a small woman, she didn’t care a lick for fashion, and she had beautiful brown eyes. She was also an exceptional speaker and persuasive advocate, as is evident by a comment the Bishop of London made after meeting with Octavia,
"She spoke for half an hour … I never had such a beating in all my life."
In 1884, Octavia's sister and fellow activist Miranda Hill remarked,
“It has come to the point when two peers and a cabinet minister call and consult her in one week.”
Octavia’s work to save green spaces throughout England led to the establishment of the National Trust.
It was Octavia Hill who said,
“The need of quiet, the need of air, the need of exercise, and, I believe, the sight of sky and of things growing, are human needs, common to all…”
And finally, gardeners will chuckle at this little passage from a letter Octavia wrote to her sister, Gertrude, on October 22, 1852:
“Oh, Gertrude! I am so happy, so very very happy. I wish you were with me. You would so love all my beautiful things...
I have a little room, all to myself. When anything is wrong or unjust downstairs, I have only to come up into my own little room, and it is so still...
I usually have some flowers, for the ladies are very kind in bringing me them. I have a few poor little plants that I am fond of. Then I have eleven dear little snails. They are such darlings.”
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