January 2022

From Cheese Sandwiches to 52 Pints of Pickles

This post first appeared on on Feb. 2, 2013

As a teenager, I had decided that I was never going to do traditional household work such as cooking. I was going to be a professional woman and live solely on cheese sandwiches and ice cream.

Though Pete still does most of the cooking in our house, I do sometimes cook. And I certainly do engage in food preservation: canning, freezing and storing produce in our basement.oakley_0202b

So what changed?

What changed is that I started growing my own food.


Even though I didn’t want to cook, I still had this desire to plant things – edible things. So I planted. And edible things grew. And then I needed to do something with the produce that I had grown. I wanted to cook with it. And, before I knew it, I was making more than cheese sandwiches.oakley_0202a

Even more than cooking the bounty from my garden, I wanted to store it so that I would have my homegrown produce over the winter months. Looking back over my preserving tallies from 2009 and 2010, I think I may have gotten a little carried away. Fifty-two pints of sweet pickles and 45 half-pints of red hot sauce seems a little excessive. We’re still eating those pickles and that hot sauce from 2009 and 2010 (and likely will for years to come).

I wonder if others have experienced this change in attitude toward cooking (and canning) after growing one’s own food.

(I still do like cheese sandwiches.)



What is that in your garden?

By far the most awesome looking plant in the garden is the cardoon.

Standing tall and full, and dwarfing all the other plants, it makes a pretty impressive sight.

It is the plant that catches the most attention and gets the most questions. So what is cardoon?

Apparently, cardoon is not grown much in this country, but it is more common in Europe, especially Italy and France. We purchased it as a wee little plant from Prairie Trail Farm. Little did we know that it would come back year after year. This is its third year in the garden. It either survives the winter or reseeds itself.

Cardoon is related to the artichoke and you can see some resemblance in the emerging flower.


The flowers look like some kind of giant thistle.

The recipes that we’ve found for cardoon call for cooking, not the flower, but the stalk. The stalks are tough and covered with spiny things. So they have to be peeled and boiled for a long time otherwise the taste is rather bitter. The texture of the cooked stalks is somewhat like celery and the flavor is a bit like artichoke.

Cardoon likes cool weather and our summers can get pretty hot. So sometime in July it starts looking rather withered. But until then, we enjoy looking at this most impressive plant.