A Statement of Purpose

Since 2012 I have been responsible for
the garden at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum on Antietam National Battlefield. The Pry House garden began as a 19th century style medicinal and kitchen garden, including medicinal plants, herbs, and vegetables. As close as possible, these plants mirrored those available to the Pry Family in the 1860s, meaning heirloom varieties. Since then, the garden has transformed to focus exclusively on medicinal plants, becoming an exhibit of the flora that was employed by military and civilian caregivers in the Civil War Era.

I am strictly an amateur, with no real experience in growing a garden. The purpose of this blog is to document my experiences as I learn by doing. It is anything but authoritative and I welcome any comments and advice for a greenhorn. Please be kind!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Out of my gourd

It has been a month since I last posted to this blog, so this entry will have to be particularly interesting to make up for it! I had a fall and badly broke my left wrist last month, and since I am left-handed it has put me behind on everything, including the garden. It is quickly on the mend though, and I have been back out in the weeds doing some work.

I have heard local farmers and gardeners say that we are about two weeks ahead in the normal growing season. Judging by progress in he Pry Garden, I would believe it! We are already enjoying a bountiful harvest of a fruit I would normally associate with the fall: pumpkins!

This year I decided to grow Connecticut Field Pumpkins in the garden. It is a very old, traditional American vaiety, believed to date from the 1600s. The Connecticut Field Pumpkin is well-suited for both eating and carving into a Jack O' Lantern.

The pumpkins are producing better than anything else in the garden right now, and I am very surprised to be harvesting them in August. It is a little early to start carving Jack O' Lanterns, so I decided to cook one up and turn it into a pie! It was a little difficult to process the big orange fellow while one arm is in a cast, but otherwise it was a lot easier than I expected. The experience made me reluctant to ever use canned pumpkin puree again if I have a fresh pumpkin available.

I was skeptical about my pumpkin as I began cutting it and scraping out the inards. I have always understood that the pumpkins we use for carving at Halloween are not good for making pies, but this pumpkin sure did look just like those. I continued anyway, and was rewarded with two lovely pumpkin pies! I would highly recommend to anyone that they try making their pumpkin pie from pumpkin rather than a can. It tastes much better and you just might be impressed with yourself!

Pumkins are not the only thing I have been harvesting lately though. I have more summer squash than I know what to do with! The variety is called yellow crook-necked squash. It is fairly versatile and has good flavor, but the drawback is that it really needs to be peeled before you can enjoy it.

I am also harvesting my winter squash, a variety called green hubbard this is a very old and familiar kind of winter squash, and hubbards of various stripes are still some of the most popular at the market. Winter squash are good because they can be stored through the winter, but the have to be cut open and only the inner flesh is eaten. Connecticut Field Pumpkins are really a kind of winter squash and can be stored and eaten much the same way.

One of the more exotic crops in the garden right now are calabash gourds. I have two plants growing up my homemade trellis and I think I will get at least a few gourds form them. Calabashes are not generally used for eating in the United States, but are dried and used for a variety of purposes, including canteens, drinking vessels, serving bowls, musical instruments, and smoking pipes.

Young gourds om the vine

Me enjoying my calabash gourd pipe