The Piedmont Virginian's Blog

Serving and Celebrating America's Historic Heart

Category: Gardening (page 2 of 17)

Fried Green Tomatoes



When you say the name, you think one of two things — the 1991 movie, or the southern food staple. I can’t say I remember much of the movie, but I can assure you, I remember the taste of that bitterly sweet and fried goodness on a muggy Summer night. Front porches and sweet tea have never been complimented so well — and you’re not a true Piedmont food enthusiast if you’ve never eaten fried green tomatoes.

So many of our Piedmont restaurants offer this appetizing treat, but it’s the season of tomatoes, and as we do well here in the Piedmont, we like to make things ourselves when the opportunity arises. Most of our local Farmer’s Markets now offer hard green tomatoes for frying. So, even if you don’t have a garden of your own, there’s still hope for you.

There’s been an ongoing debate for the past few decades as to where fried green tomatoes actually originated. Is it even a southern food at all? Some believe that the method came from the Northeast with Jewish immigrants. While others believe that it was always a preferred way to use up unripened tomatoes before the autumn frosts hit, all across the United States.

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Breakfast for Dad — Father’s Day Weekend Recipes

I have the pickiest eating husband in the entire world. The madness never ends — one day he likes something, the next day it’s the worst thing he’s ever put in his mouth. So you can imagine how hard it is for me to choose what things to create for meals on special occasions like birthdays, our anniversary, and Father’s Day. Over the past decade of our marriage I have mastered a few recipes that he enjoys no matter what. If you have a picky Dad in your house, then these recipes will work perfectly for you this Father’s Day Weekend!


©Amy Fewell

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

1 Tbs or package yeast
½ c warm water
2 c milk
½ c butter
2 Tbs salt (unless you’re using salted butter)
1/3 c sugar
7-8 c flour



In a mixing bowl add yeast to warm water. Set aside.
Warm milk (just slightly) on stove.
Add butter, sugar, and salt to milk. Stir until somewhat dissolved or until butter is almost melted.
Add milk mixture to yeast mixture. Combine.
Add 5 cups of flour and mix well. Keep adding flour until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Dough will be slightly sticky but not too sticky where you can’t get it off of your hands.
Flour your surface and knead dough for 5 minutes. Continue to flour your surface while kneading should dough start to stick.
Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled. (I like to put in a bowl on a heating pad for faster rising)

Once dough is risen, divide dough in half and roll each half out into a ½” thick rectangle. If you’ve done it right, you’ll notice that your dough is very light and airy feeling as you roll it out.

1/3 c butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
2 tbs cinnamon

Melt butter. Mix sugars and cinnamon together in a separate bowl. Drizzle melted butter all over rolled out dough. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon mixture over top of butter until completely coated.

Roll dough, starting from a long side. Don’t roll too tightly, but make sure it’s tight enough to keep your filling in place.

Next, take a piece of thread and cut ¾” to 1” cinnamon rolls, depending on what size you’d like. Place in a buttered pan (I use 4+ round cake or pie pans, but you could use a rectangle baking dish). Let rise for approx. 20 minutes and then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes OR until tops are hardening and start to color around edges. You do not want your cinnamon rolls brown on top. As soon as they start to turn, take them out. This keeps them extra moist. Allow to cool until warm to the touch, then add frosting while still warm.

2 Tbs soft butter
4-6 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ tbs vanilla extract
3-4 Tbs hot water

Stir together all ingredients, starting with just 4 cups of p. sugar. Add sugar gradually until just “spreadable”. Frost rolls when they are still warm but not too hot. This allows the frosting to start melting, but still keeps frosting on top of rolls.


© Amy Fewell

Quick and Easy Homemade Pancakes

1 + 1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1 + 1/4 cup milk
1/4 sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cooking oil

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.

Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients in large bowl.

Heat up a cast iron or non-stick skillet to medium heat. Melt a small pat of butter in skillet or use cooking spray. Pour pancake batter of desired sizes into skillet. Flip when golden brown. The key is to only flip the pancake once, otherwise it will become too dense.

Serve with organic maple syrup or King Syrup.


© Amy Fewell

 Spinach, Bacon, Tomato and Cheese Quiche

6 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste (about 1 tsp each)
Onion and garlic powder to taste (about 2 tsp each)
1 to 1.5 cups of shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 box of spinach (10 oz, thawed and drained)*
Bacon (to taste), fried, drained and crumbled
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (again, as many as you’d like)

*You can use fresh spinach, however, you’ll need to wilt it in a skillet with some bacon drippings before adding to your quiche mixture.

Break open eggs into large bowl, mix until yolks are completely broken up and combined. Add heavy cream and seasonings, mix well. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. If you wish to  make a fancier top, you can place the tomatoes on top of the quiche instead of mixed into the quiche.

Place mixture in pan with raw pie crust (homemade or store bought) and bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

You can use this same recipe for all types of quiche. The photo above is a spinach, mushroom and cheese quiche.

I hope that some of these breakfast dishes can bring joy to your sweet Papa’s face this Father’s Day weekend!  As always, these recipes can be tailored to suit your picky eaters needs if necessary (for example, my husband hates onions, so I use onion powder instead of onions). The best dishes are the ones made with love and thought!

Have a beautiful Father’s Day weekend.


photo (4) Amy Fewell is the Advertising Manager of The Piedmont Virginian Magazine. She resides in Rixeyville, VA along with her husband, son and loveable lab. They run a small “mini-homestead” and Amy owns her own photography business. For more information, visit their homestead website and Amy’s personal photography website.




Homemade Strawberry Jam

Last year was the very first year we went strawberry picking. It was a no-brainer this year. We had to go strawberry picking at Messick’s Farm again this year. And then when we discovered that they were running a special of buy two-gallons get one free, we were on it! When we got home with this years pick, I instantly knew what I would make first — strawberry jam. Last year I wanted to make it so badly, but never had a chance to make anything but a quick strawberry jamy-syrup topping for ice cream. This year, it was much different.
There was some amazing, yummy goodness going on in my kitchen the other day….
strawberry jam 2 strawberry jam 3 strawberry jam 4
And I just have to share the recipe with you!

This is a recipe that is found all across the internet, in cookbooks, and in your grandmas memory. It is quick and easy, and not to mention, very simple. It has been tried and tested for years, and it’s about time you put it to test for yourself.

Homemade Strawberry Jam
2 quarts of fresh strawberries (de-stemmed and sliced in half)
1/3 to 1/2 cup fruit pectin (depending on your preference of thickness)
4 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp butter
7 cups refined sugar (organic cane juice works too)
— Before you begin — 
Whenever making jam, you want to make sure that you have all of your utensils and ingredients together before you begin. All jars need to be sterilized and set aside before starting your jam. Make sure you have jars, lids, a ladle, and a jar funnel for pouring the jam into your jars. Have all of this ready before proceeding to make the jam.
Measure 2 quarts (I just use quart jars) of de-stemmed and sliced strawberries into a large bowl.
Smash strawberries to break into smaller pieces and to release juice from the berry. If you prefer not to have larger chunks in your jam, then you’ll need to pulse your berries in a food processor a few times.
Pour crushed berries into a large (6 qt +) pan.
Add pectin, butter and lemon juice to crushed berries.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat — stirring constantly. Do not allow it to scorch on the bottom.
Pour in pre-measured sugar until it is completely dissolved. Stir constantly.
Bring mixture back up to a boil that cannot be stirred down, stir constantly for 2 minutes while it boils.
Make sure you are careful and do not burn yourself! Boiling jam is extremely sticky and painful!
After 2 minutes, immediately remove from heat and immediately skim off what little foam may be on top of jam.
Quickly ladle into jars, cap with lid and ring. Do not tighten too hard — fingertip tightening.
Over the next few hours your jars will begin to seal themselves. They will last in your pantry for well over a year or more.
If any of your jars do not seal, remove the lid, replace with new lid, and place in a hot water bath canner for 20 mins.
Don’t want to use commercial fruit pectin? Try making your own! Click here to find out how.
photo (4)Amy Fewell is the Advertising Manager of The Piedmont Virginian Magazine. She resides in Rixeyville, VA along with her husband, son and loveable lab. They run a small “mini-homestead” and Amy owns her own photography business. For more information, visit their homestead website and Amy’s personal photography website.

Living the Small Farm Dream….


For Throwback Thursday this week I was looking for something to also serve as a preview for our upcoming Farm to Table themed summer issue, and I found it in the Summer 2010 issue, which contains an article written by Rose Jenkins about a course given at Airlie called “Exploring the Small Farm Dream. ” The course was developed by the New England Small Farm Institute and sponsored by the PEC and the Local Food Project at Airlie. The purpose of the course was to guide potential farmers through starting a farm or food business. One of the couples profiled was Holly and James Hammond, who, after doing an internship at Waterpenny Farm in Rappahannock County and completing the course at Airlie, started their own small farm in Culpeper County on 3 acres, raising vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers.

I chose this article because in our upcoming issue we have articles that update us on both subjects: James and Holly’s farm and business, which will be covered in an excerpt from Our Local Commons in Charlottesville, and Airlie’s continued role in the Farm to Table movement, by our regular writer, Hardie Newton.  Enjoy, and pick up the summer issue to read more!

Photo: James and Holly Hammond entering their first growing season (2010) at Whispering Hills Farm in Rapidan. “Something like this is exactly what [we’ve been] hoping for,” Holly says. Photo by Rose Jenkins

Read the Summer 2010 article here.

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Failed Garden Gadgets: Some Things Work Great, Most Things Don’t

By Carla Hogue

Gardening is really just a big science fair project, minus the tri-fold cardboard display board. First you generate the hypothesis, and then you plan and perform experiments to test it. Ricky and I are excellent at the hypothesis phase. We regularly crank out strings of gardening hypotheses over coffee, on the way to the bank, in emails to each other. In their fledgling form, they are brilliant and rock solid. In reality, most are dim-witted and shaky.

In the spring issue, we focus on some of the blue ribbon ideas that worked out beautifully. In gardening as in life, though, the goof-ups are usually more entertaining.

Tomatoes, for example…

Tomato, Prisoner In The Cage.After storing conical tomato cages year after year, battling to pry them apart each spring, risking tetanus when the rusty frames burst their welds, we decided to explore some alternatives.

Not wanting residue from treated wood to leech into the soil, we tried stakes made from untreated wood. The rich dirt pushed the tomatoes way past the tops of the stakes, and we found ourselves adding stakes around each plant just to keep up. By mid-summer, we had what looked like Tinker Toys on steroids. Vines were velcroed to the closest pole. If there wasn’t one close by, we simply jammed another into the dirt.

Completely disgusted with the poles, we turned to the Florida weave. I checked out google images, read a few articles, and even pulled into a stranger’s driveway to get a closer look at his perfectly woven tomato plants. It seemed amazingly simple. It was not.68eadfa4ce12ec20b768bdd360ec5780 copy

From a distance, the wall of vines in the back box made you think of Boston’s Green Monster. Up close, it was a train wreck. The twine sagged, the limbs broke. Eventually plants started overlapping, chocking each other out. And the blight! The blight was at its worst that year.

At this point, the rusty cages weren’t looking so bad after all. That’s when we hit on the collapsible, powder-coated tower-style structures, because when you can’t solve a problem, throw money at it. Alas, the towers were smarter than the gardeners. We couldn’t figure out how to secure them with the accompanying clips. We tossed the clips and wedged the frames into the dirt as best we could.

While you will no doubt see examples of each of these failures in the garden this year, we have a fantastic new technique for supporting the tomatoes. You can read about it in the spring issue, on the stands now!

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Photo credits: Tomato cage via, Florida weave via pinterest.

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