Monthly Archives: December 2010

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I oversee, in all probability, the biggest pomegranate farm in Ulster County, perhaps New York State, even the Northeast. My planting recently expanded by 200 percent with the 4 new plants that arrived at my doorstep a couple of days ago. My farm is biggest because so few people in this part of the world grow pomegranates and, if they do, they might have one plant.

Pomegranates are an up and coming plant. Their health benefits have been highly touted, perhaps with some hyperbole. They are beautiful shrubs or small trees with traffic-stopping red (sometimes white or pink) blossoms. Best of all is the fruit’s flavor, combining the richness of berries with the tang of citrus.

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Walking in the woods this time of year, my friend Bill and I always play a game of tree identification. We don’t even bother with white birches or shagbark hickories. They’re too easy.

I might be able to stump Bill if we happened upon a European birch, another white-barked birch distinguished from our native paper birch by the dark, diamond shaped fissures on its bark. (Of course, we’re unlikely to find that birch in the woods.) I’m often snagged by cherry birch, whose bark isn’t white at all, but whose young bark resembles young cherry bark, then morphs with age into longitudinally elongated plates. The giveaway for cherry birch comes with breaking a small twig and …

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I’ve said it before and Yogi Berra said it before me, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” A recent night’s temperature plummeting to 15°F. was still not enough to put the brakes on the vegetable garden. Arugula, mâche, kale, and spinach are looking as perky as ever and, most important, taste better than ever. Lettuce is surviving, not exactly perky though.

It’s a wonder that these tender, succulent leaves tolerate such temperatures. You’d think the liquid in their cells would freeze and burst the contents to smithereens. That would have been the case if the 15° night temperature had come on suddenly, without any precedents.

Plants aren’t passive players in the …

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Okay, I’m braced for an attack. Imagine a fruit, ripe for the past few weeks, with a pleasantly aromatic, sweet-tart flavor. My informal “surveys” have shown very positive response to plates of the fruits brought to various gatherings; the fruits disappeared. The berries are small, yellow or red, with a silvery flecking on the outside and a soft, edible seed within.

The bush bearing these fruits is no slouch in appearance. It’s got silvery leaves and pale yellow flowers that individually don’t amount to much but together suffuse the plant with a soft haze in spring, a sweetly fragrant haze. Care needed for this bush is zip, nothing, rien, nada. And with that beauty, fragrance, …

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