home bookshop feed the hungry   earthly pursuits logo
what's new old book library safe seed pledge  
contact about books about food & recipes  
links I  II   garden tips  
search flower language blether  
  alphabetized flowers     flowers by meaning companion planting  
    click here to make a
"free" contribution to earthly pursuits

November 2003
Gardening in
"Little Siberia"

Advice and tips on
Companion Planting

© 2003 Janelle N. Seavey

Companion Planting – a gardening system using the natural affinities of plants to promote or inhibit growth in their neighbors. Knowing which plants like each other and which ones don't can increase the health and vitality of your garden, improve the taste and nutritional value of your vegetables, confuse pests so you can eliminate toxic chemicals, attract beneficial insects and add to the enjoyment of gardening.'

Janelle gardens on about four acres on the Messalonskee Stream, an outlet from Messalonskee Lake, one of the Belgrade Lakes Region Lakes, one of which is Great Pond, made famous in the movie "On Golden Pond". 

She is an "enthusiastic and a tad obsessed" gardener who has been companion planting for over 20 years.

Gardening in "Little Siberia" index

also see Books - Companions

A Gobble, Gobble Here, A Gobble, Gobble There

Prepare to have your feathers ruffled. Prepare to have the stuffing knocked out of some of your long-held perceptions concerning the Big Day that makes November what it is. Your idyllic visions of recreating a Norman Rockwell scene around your table? Mashed!

I am throwing down the gauntlet of gravy; I am tuning up the turnip; I will smugly smile as easily as peas roll downhill; I will cream your dream of a proper Thanksgiving like so many pearl onions!

The reason, you ask? Because this is Little Siberia (a.k.a. Maine), and until 1820, part of Massachusetts! You remember, don’tcha? Plymouth Rock? The Mayflower? Pilgrims? Native Americans? Then, of course, you’ve got those other states nudging up against us, and along with us, collectively known as New England. Ok, get an image of me standing on Plymouth Rock thumping my own chest…ready? Here goes; "WE OWN THIS HOLIDAY!!!!"

My goodness, I did not realize how serious my protective streak was around this particular holiday! (My husband, reading over my shoulder, has mentioned that I am out of line with my declaration.) I do think there is a justified reason for my thinking. My paternal Great-great Grandmother was Native American. For years it was thought that she was from the Mic Mac nation, which originated in New Brunswick and migrated south and west into Maine. Now, after some relative decided to re-climb the family tree, it has been decided she may have been from either the Penobscot or Passamaquoddy nation. These two nations are still well represented in Maine, while the Mic Mac nation is not.

As I figure it, whenever people around me are talking about their ancestors immigrating to this country, I’m safe in saying that my ancestors were standing on the shore, waiting to greet them, not to mention getting ready to teach them a thing or two about growing pumpkins and corn.

That first Thanksgiving was not much like we all grew up believing. Yes, there were wild cranberries and a turkey or two. There was also venison, lobster, cod, clams, pheasant and other fruits, nuts and berries. I also have it on good authority that Pilgrim hats, feathered headdresses and white collars made from colored construction paper were not present, either.

We here in little Siberia have a very well defined thought process on most things, Thanksgiving being no exception. It is quite simple; there is our way of doing things and then there is, well, every other way. We have our gobble here and you have your gobble there. Pity the poor "person from away", as we call them, who has the great misfortune (depending on whom you talk to) of marrying into a New England family. Every Thanksgiving dish that is a sacred tradition in their "from away" family will be dashed at the door.

The infamous green bean casserole? Fugeduhboutit. And that sweet potato thing topped with…marshmallows? In our kitchens, the marshmallows are stored somewhere near the hot cocoa mix and nowhere near the sweet potatoes. I mean, really! May I also just mention; no Brussels sprouts, broccoli or cauliflower, either? A New England Thanksgiving dinner has a very basic menu. We are taught to recite this along with our time’s tables in third grade. It is: Roast turkey, celery and onion bread stuffing (never "dressing", too fancy sounding), mashed potatoes, plain ol’ gravy (don’t even think of throwing chopped giblets in there), squash, turnip (both simply mashed with butter, salt and pepper, same for the potatoes), creamed onions and frozen peas (which, traditionally, should be overcooked to the point of being as wrinkled and gray as school cafeteria peas). Rounding out the traditional spread will be cranberry sauce, from a can and sliced into rounds, homemade yeast rolls and the infamous relish plate, which consists of black olives, green olives, sweet mixed pickles, small dill pickles and celery stalks stuffed with cream cheese and sprinkled with paprika. The paprika borders on being "too fancy" for some true New Englanders. That’s it in a nutshell, as they say.

To the amusement (meaning envy) of many of my extended family and friends, I am, well, ok, a pretty good cook. Well, actually… bordering on gourmet. For that slip into vanity, forgive me. I am obsessed with more than the things I’ve mentioned in earlier articles. To me, the cookbook section in any bookstore is a treasure trove of beautiful photographs and mouth-watering descriptions. I read cookbooks like some people read novels. I subscribe to more food/cooking magazines than I have time to read in a month. And I constantly try out what I’ve discovered on my family and friends.

With Thanksgiving, however, I really feel it best to not rock the boat (or the Plymouth Rock) with too much wandering from the sacred New England traditions. Then again, I always try to make something new, trying my best to smuggle it onto the table, discreetly, of course. I urge you to try to do the same, wherever you live and whatever your traditions. Following are some of the sly surprises I may try this year.

Cranberry-Pineapple Salsa

(Bon Appetit magazine)

Makes about 4 cups)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 12-ounce package cranberries, rinsed
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice partially drained
1 large green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped drained canned pickled jalapeno chile
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Bring 1-cup water and sugar to boil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts. Add cranberries. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pineapple with remaining juices, green onion, chiles, lime juice, and cumin. Continue to cook until cranberries are just tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer salsa to bowl, cover and chill for up to three days.

Turnip Casserole

(From our local paper, stating that it is from Finland)

2 medium turnips, peeled, diced and steamed or simmered until tender
¼-cup plain breadcrumbs
¼-cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
½-teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter

After turnip is cooked, drain and mash. Add crumbs, cream, nutmeg, salt and beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Dot with butter and bake in a 350F degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Happy Thanksgiving!