Food on Fridays, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Better Than the Wish Book Ever Was

So obviously after we’ve gotten our containers for our container gardening, we’re gonna need some plants to stuff in them…empty containers are just not that exciting, right?!

So that’s where the catalog comes in…

 

The seed catalog, that is…

 

 

Seed catalogs offer a colorful glimpse into the past and  have a colorful and important place in history, not only in gardening history.

These publications offer so much of an interesting and informative glimpse into our past, that the Smithsonian Institute has gathered a collection of about 10,000 seed catalogs—dating from 1830 to the present day—which reveal not only details about the history of gardening in the United States…but also a fascinating look at how printing, advertising and fashion trends have also changed throughout these years.

 

 

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Seed Catalogs Way Back When

Seed catalogs have been around a lot longer than most of us would imagine…as far as back as the plant identification books used during the Middle Ages to identify plants to be used for medicinal purposes…books referred to during those times as “herbals.”

 

 

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Florilegia

During the British Colonial era of the 16th century, more and more exotic plants were imported from various British colonies to fill the estates of elite British society.

These British aristocrats quickly became enterprising gardeners with quite the green thumb…and soon began publishing their own personal catalogs, known  as “florilegia,”…catalogs that began to focus not only on the medicinal value of the plants, but also their ornamental value.

 

 

 

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Emmanuel Sweerts

The oldest surviving seed plant catalog is the Florilegium, a catalog that Emmanuel Sweerts, a Dutch merchant and garden prefect for Emperor Rudolf II, brought with him to the 1612 Frankfurt Fair.

The Florilegium was an illustrated list of 560 hand-tinted images of flowering bulbs, plants, and other novelties from distant lands that, like previous botanical publications, contained not only the typical illustrations of plants and their medicinal uses, but also a list of the bulbs that he had available for sale.

In 2010, Christie’s auction house sold a copy of the book for nearly $40,000.

 

 

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Examples of American Seed Catalogs

As more and more American pioneers moved out West, ordering seed through seed catalogs became a vital necessity for these pioneers to bring fruits, vegetables and flowers with them to their new homes.

 

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Burpee

Another major seed catalog that people have looked forwarded to getting each year is the catalog put out by the Burpee Company, a company that was founded in Philadelphia in 1876 by W. Atlee Burpee.

In 1915 the Burpee Company was mailing over a million catalogs per year across the country…..and the Burpee catalog was the first catalog to offer yellow seed corn.

 

 

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Breck’s Bulbs

Joseph Breck & Co. seed company was established in Boston in 1818 and published its first seed catalog in 1840..,.known as “The New England Agricultural Warehouse and Seed Store Catalogue”….an 84-page publication that included illustrations and horticultural details next to product listings.

 

 

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D. Landreth Seed Co.

Perhaps the first “true” seed catalog, the sort of publication that we think of whenever we think of seed catalogs, was published in the United States by 18th century horticulturist David Landreth, founder of the D. Landreth Seed Co., which was founded in 1784 in Philadelphia and still exists today as one of the oldest companies in the nation.

D. Landreth Seed Co. has made such important contributions to gardening as we know it today by introducing, through the pages of its catalog, several flowers and vegetables that no true garden of today would be without—such as the zinnia, the white potato, and various breeds of tomatoes.

 

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The Turn of the Century 

Seed catalogs had been little more than printed price lists, used mostly for wholesale and not retail sale up until the late-18th and early-19th centuries.

Gardeners simply saved and traded seeds, or bought things locally as needed, and most plants were grown strictly for food or medicinal purposes….not just for the heck of it.

 

But, boy was this fixing to change…

 

Seed catalogs would soon become an elaborate affair as the dozens of seed companies in the seed company business fought hard for the business of their new mail order audience.

 

Only now did North Americans begin growing flowers and ornamental plants,  as the Victorian-obsessed American population became inspired by traditional British gardens.

Gardening was becoming not only a way to get food on the table, but was also starting to be enjoyed for its many other benefits also.

 

Seed and bulb merchants also began using their catalogs to promote gardening as a respectable and desirable endeavor of the emerging middle class. Editors encouraged their readers to pursue this new hobby by telling them things like…

  • Nothing more conspicuously bespeaks the good taste of the possessor than a well cultivated flower garden,”
  • “When we behold a humble tenement surrounded with ornamental plants, the possessor is a man of correct habits, and possesses domestic comforts.”
  • “A neglected, weed-strewn garden…or the lack of a garden at all…is a mark of indolence and an “unhappy state.”

The turn of the century was an exciting time here in America…a time just right for such publications as mail order catalogs…thanks to the latest and greatest “apps” of that day…”apps” such as…

  • Better printing presses that would for the first take make it econimically produce nice, thick catalogs filled with color illustrations
  • Cross-country rail travel
  • Improved agriculture, botany, and plant breeding methods
  • Improved commercial and postal networks
  • Introduction of cultivated home gardens
  • Shifting consumer preferences and cultural trends

 

Newly developed mail-order services meant that the previously isolated individual was no longer limited to  whatever fruit and vegetable seeds the local merchant had in stock, but could expand his horizons by buying products from all over the country and having the items shipped directly to his own home….(a novel concept in that day…long, long, long ago from our current days of Amazon Prime)

 

Increased competition meant that the previously boring lists of what seeds plants were available and at what price would now have to become more appealing to the newly liberated farmer…meaning that catalogs would now not only have to provide basic information, but also need to start using marketing gizmos for the first time if they were going to stay competitive…gizmos such as…

  • an introduction or message of greeting from the company owner
  • articles from gardening experts across the country
  • contests
  • detailed descriptions of how to cultivate the seeds and bulbs
  • lists of awards that the nursery’s plants had won at recent horticultural fairs or exhibitions
  • more and more ornate illustrations
  • more detailed descriptions…such as more use of superlatives like “Superb”, “Majestic”, “Giant” or “Perfection”
  • more elaborate and artistic catalog covers
  • more space given to illustrations and descriptions
  • novelty varieties
  • quirky art. hand drawings, and romanticized illustrations
  • special offers
  • testimonials

 

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WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII

World War I, the Great Depression and World War II impacted the gardening industry in several ways.

The fact that a dramatically fewer number plants were now being exported meant that the farmer was once more turning to local sources for their seeds.

The focus once again shifted to finding the basic staple foods—such as corn and potatoes—at the lowest cost possible…instead of exploring the novelty fruits and veggies from around the world that mail order catalogs had previously given him.

Exotic seed catalogs during this time frame were once again replaced with simple, boring  lists…especially given the fact that many countries put a ration on paper during World War II.

 

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Post World War II Seed Catalogs

Catalogs from 1945 celebrated the end of the World War II with colorful pictures and the advice that soldiers returning home from the war should now settle down and celebrate by decorating their homes with flowers bearing victory-related names. …such as the ‘Purple Heart’ viola shown on the back cover of the Jackson & Perkins catalog in 1945…or the V-For-Victory red Swiss chard plant displayed in the 1945 Burpee Seeds catalog.

After World War II, the soldiers return back home…and seed catalogs also returned to home mailboxes—in full size and color…as they still are today.

 

 

 

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Or are they?!

Actually, sad to say, seed catalogs may quickly become dinosaurs of the past only seen in museums…

Kinda like the real pianos that every single living room in America, both “in town” and “out of town,” but don’t get me started…oh yeah, kinda like hymnals in Southern Baptist churches…definitely don’t get me started on that one…

Seed catalogs seem to become few and far between as we are turn to our closest friend and companion, the internet, to order everything under the sun…(no pun intended)…

Thanks to our new BFF…the internet, though…printed seed and nursery catalogs are an endangered species these days, as almost all of us rely on the convenience of online browsing and same-day or next-day delivery.

Fewer and fewer seed companies are publishing seed catalogs at all any more because they can’t justify the increasing costs of printing and postage…given that the typical consumer is driven more by online shopping.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Muesli…The What

Breakfast of Champions?!

Yeah right…

It’s gonna take way more than a bowl or two of cereal to make anyone a “champion”—things such as self-discipline, determination, and experience…

But this is not a motivational blohg…and I am by no means a motivational speaker…

I am simply a wife and mother is who is trying to make better choices and learn as much as she can in order to take care of her type 2 diabetic husband and ADHD/ODD grandson.

So let’s look at how grains can play an important role in breakfast…how breakfast itself can contribute to the self-discipline, determination, and experience that we are all trying to gather during the course of the day ahead.

First of all, let’s look at meusli…later we will look at granola and oatmeal and see how they differ from each other…and look at a few recipes that caan help us make our mornings more perfect.

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Muesli—The Story Behind It

But in this post…I am gonna talk about what meusie ls…and where it originated.

People have realized two things that anyone striving to live a healthier lifestyle eventually learn…

  1. Food is medicine.
  2. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  3. Mornings totally suck.

In fact someone back around the year 1900 realized these facts so much that he created muesli as a way to control the madness.

This someone was a Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a dietary supplement for his patients. His was already feeding his hospital patient—long-term patients who were chronically ill—s a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables as part of their treatment, but he created

After creating the following recipes, he began prescribing this mixture as if were medicine.

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The Recipe

The original Bircher-Benner recipe consisted of the following ingredients:…

  • Apples…two or three small apples or one large one….the whole apple…including skin, core, and pits
  • Nuts…more specifically 1Tbsp walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts
  • Rolled oats…1Tbsp…that have been soaked in 3Tbsp  water for 12 hours
  • Lemon juice from half a lemon
  • Cream or honey or sweetened condensed milk…1Tbsp
  • Intructions…Mix the cream with the soaked oats and lemon juice. Grate the apple and then stir it into the mixture.

But there are many ways that you can make your morning muesli more exciting—by making things such as bread and cookies….But let’s next learn the difference between muesli and granola…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What In the Heck Is “Pullum Frontonianum”…(and what does it have to do with frying?)

At this point we have already learned about two bsasic cooking methods—sauteeing and pan-frying.

The next dry-heat cooking method is deep frying.

And living in Texas one of the highlights of each year is going to the State Fair to see just what new fried concoctions have been created this yrar.

For example, here is a list of the top ten finalists for the State Fair of Texas’ 2018 Big Tex Choice Awards, the annual contest celebrating fried foods. Note that each year, five finalists are chosen in two categories—savory and sweet.

The savory finalists this last year were…

  • Deep Fried Shepherd’s Pie
  • Deep Fried Skillet Potato Melt in a Boat
  • Fernie’s Hoppin’ John Cake with Jackpot Sauce
  • Texas Fried Hill Country
  • Texas Twang-kie

The sweet finalists this last year were…

  • Arroz con Leche
  • Cotton Candy Taco
  • Fernie’s Orange You Glad We Fried It?!
  • State Fair Fun-L Cake Ice Cream
  • Sweet Bakin’ Bacon

Can’t wait to see what these creative people come up with this year.

I honestly have always been too scared to deep fry anything at home, especially when you can easily find deep-fried foods at nearly every gas station and restaurant in America…

But deep-frying is still a cooking method…and my goal is cover each of the cooking methods in detail…

So let’s dive in deep…


The Why

My goal in this section is to learn how to make deep-fried foods that have the same crunchy golden brown surface and the same tender interior of any of these prize-winning foods.

Deep-frying differs from any of the previous methods because you are completely submerging your food into oil that has been heated to a much highter temperature typically around 375 degrees.

Instead of breading your food, your food will be completely covered in batter..more on this later….

So what are the benefits of this method of cooking…especially considering that I am writing this blog primarily for people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes…

  • Crispiness…Deep-fried foods typically have a crispy crust because of the high temperatures remove any surface moisture and dry out the exterior. If you have successfully deep-fried your foods, the crust will be properly formed, the food should be less greasy,  and item being fried will retain its shape.
  • Faster…Bexause the entire food is completely submerged and cooked in the oil, deep-frying is a relatively faster way of cooking.
  • Flavor…Cooking your food at such a high temp improves the flavor of food by caramelizing it and producing the Maillard reaction…more on this later too…
  • Nutrition…yeah even deep-fried food can be nutritious…When you deep-fry food, only a small amount of oil will stay on the crust.
  • Tenderness…If you have succrssfully deep-fried your food, the batter will seal in any moisture that the food contains and keep extra oil from being absorbed.

The Recipe

Even though the term “deep frying” and many of the foods that we deep-fry these days were not invented until the 19th century, people have basically been deep-frying for thousands of years

Even though the term “deep frying” and many of the foods that we most commonly deep-fry today were not invented until around the early 1900s, people have been using this cooking methods for thousands of years.

The first recorded recipe using this method appeared around the year AD400. This recipe was for a chicken dish called Pullum Frontonianum.

Pullum Frontonianum

  • 2Tbsp olive oil
  • 3# chicken
  • 1/2C olive oil
  • 1 chopped leek
  • 2Tbsp ground coriander
  • 2tap salt
  • 1/2tsp pepper
  • 1/4C chopped fresh dill weed
  • 2Tbsp ground coriander seed
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan.
  2. Fry whole chicken over medium heat.
  3. Make the seasoning…olive oil,, dill, leek, fresh coriander, salt, rose petals, pepper, and coriander.
  4. Add about half of the seasoning mixture to the chicken in the skillet.
  5. Continue to fry until chicken just starts to change color.
  6. Bake at 425 for 1 hour, occasionally basting with the seasoning mixture.