Wednesday, August 5, 2020

From the Garden of Historic Longstreet Farm: Tomatoes

Here in New Jersey, tomatoes are a summer staple, to the point that it was named as our state vegetable. Though they actually belong to the fruit family due to their seeds, tomatoes are considered a vegetable because of how they are prepared and served. Colors vary from red to yellow to purple and the vegetable is classified into three groups: cherry, plum and slicing.

People often assume tomatoes originated in Europe, but the history of tomatoes goes back hundreds of years in Mesoamerica, noted as being consumed by the Aztecs as early as 700 AD where they were called "tomatl." It is thought that around 1493 Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes introduced tomato seeds to southern Europe as they returned from expeditions in Mexico and other parts of Mesoamerica. As early as the 1540s, tomatoes were grown in Spanish fields and became a common food; however, in places like Italy they were only being used as tabletop decoration until the late 17th century by Italian nobility. 

The first reference to the tomato in the British Colonies was published in Botanologia by William Salmon in 1710 which places tomatoes in the Carolinas. It was considered an edible fruit and though most knew how to grow them, no one knew how to cook them. It wasn't until the 1800s that recipes began appearing, but there were rumors that tomatoes were poisonous for two reasons. First was because the tomato plant is in the same family as nightshade, an extremely poisonous plant. And then when the "Green Tomato Worms" were discovered people feared their frightful appearance so much that many thought it would impart poisonous qualities to the fruit. It wasn't until entomologist Benjamin Walsh argued that the tomato worm "wouldn't hurt a flea" that the rumors began to fade and farmers soon began learning more about the tomato's use and experimented with different varieties in their crops.

Today, tomatoes are used around the world in many varieties. But here is a look at recipes and techniques that may have been used in the 1890s by the residents at Historic Longstreet Farm and other local areas:

Baked Tomatoes (Plain.)
Peel and slice quarter of an inch thick; place in layers in a pudding dish, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper, butter, and a very little white sugar. Cover with a lid or a large plate, and bake half an hour. Remove the lid and brown for fifteen minutes. Just before taking from the over, pour over the top three or four tablespoons of whipped cream with melted butter.
From "White House Cook Book A Selection of Choice Recipes Original and Selected, during a period of forty years" by Mrs. F.L. Gillette. R.S. Peale & Company, Chicago, 1887.

Escaloped Tomatoes.
Scald the tomatoes and pare off all the skin. Line an earthen baking dish, well buttered, with a layer of cracker crumbs and small bits of butter. Then put in a layer of tomatoes with a very little brown sugar sprinkled over them; then another layer of cracker crumbs, seasoned with butter, pepper and salt, and then another layer of tomatoes, until your dish is filled; let the last layer be cracker crumbs; put flakes of butter here and there over this. Bake half an hour. One or two tablespoons of rich cream poured over the top layer is an improvement.
From "Aunt Babette's Cook Book. Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the Household" by Aunt Babette. The Bloch Publishers and Printing Company, Cincinnati and Chicago, 1889.

Tomato Bisque.
One quart water, one quart milk, one quart can tomatoes, one teaspoonful soda, two tablespoonfuls cornstarch; cook the tomatoes in the water half an hour, then add soda, then milk which should be hot, cornstarch, a piece of butter half as large as an egg, salt and pepper to taste, strain and serve. I prefer to cook in porcelain. Mrs. B.M. Nichols.
From "The Woman Suffrage Cook Book" edited and published by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr. Copyright, 1886.

Tomato Fritters.
1 can tomatoes
6 cloves
1/4 cup sugar
3 slices onion
1 teaspoon salt
Few grains cayenne
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup corn-starch
1 egg
Cook first four ingredients twenty minutes, rub all through a sieve except seeds, and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter, and when bubbling, add corn-starch and tomato gradually; cook two minutes,, then add egg slightly beaten. Pour into a buttered shallow tin and cool. Turn on a board, cut in squares, diamonds, or strips. Roll in crumbs, eggs, and crumbs again, fry in deep fat, and drain.
From "The Boston Cook-School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Principal of the Boston Cooking-School. Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1896.


Historic Longstreet Farm is currently open to the public, operating on their summer schedule from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through Labor Day. We ask that visitors continue social distancing and strongly recommend face coverings, especially when interacting with staff. We remind visitors that for both your safety and the safety of our animals, touching or feeding the animals is not permitted. We look forward to seeing you at the farm and be sure to take a walk past the garden to see what's currently growing.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Park & Recreation Month - Celebrating Our Staff

Each July, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) celebrates Park & Recreation Month. With the hurdles we have faced this year, the NRPA chose the theme of "We Are Parks and Recreation" in order to celebrate the people who make parks the best places for families to get outdoors, have fun, and enjoy time together. In sticking with this theme, we want to take this opportunity to thank the Monmouth County Park System staff that make our parks into places that attract over seven million visitors throughout the year.

It's important to note that there are many roles that go into making your Monmouth County Park System one of the best around. It takes a variety of staff to facilitate different tasks so visitors have plenty of places and activities to enjoy. Take these roles for example:
  • Park Rangers make our parks a safe place to visit, but they also maintain the grounds and buildings at over 40 sites, inspect and maintain recreational facilities, establish and protect natural resources and wildlife habitats, assist visitors when they are lost, hurt or just need a helping hand, and much  more.
  • Programmers from our Visitor Services department create and plan the thousands of programs, camps and events our visitors attend each year, as well as teach some of them too. 
  • Marketing & Communications staff keep you in the know with duties such as keeping our website up-to-date; publishing our Parks & Programs Guides, newsletters and brochures; taking photographs to keep a visual history of the parks; sending out emails to remind you of upcoming activities; and maintaining our social media presence.
  • Administrative staff gets you the information you need. Whether sending out camp forms or fielding your questions over the phone or via email, they're always happy to assist.
  • Reservations staff will not only help you reserve a spot in your favorite programs, but they also help with getting you permits to take those special photographs in the parks or to rent space for your special day with a gorgeous park as the backdrop. 
  • Our graphic design team uses their artistic talents to design the banners that remind you of upcoming events, the signs that point you in the right direction, and the brochures that give you the information you're looking for.
  • Acquisition & Design staff has a huge role in creating the parks you've come to love, from acquiring park lands to designing buildings or positioning the perfect playground, this team is behind so much of what you see in the parks. 
But these are only a few of our staff divisions. It takes a variety of staff with different skills and ideas to give Monmouth County Park System visitors the experiences they've been enjoying for the past 60 years. We hope when you're out in the parks and you see one of our staff members you'll offer them a smile or a wave; we're sure it will make their day.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Celebrating 60: Clayton Park

The Clayton Farm in Upper Freehold survived into the late 20th century as one of the county’s best-preserved historic rural landscapes. Paul Clayton had farmed the land from the time of his purchase in 1906 until he retired in 1972 at the age of 87. Paul and his daughter Thelma lived in their 1840s farmhouse without plumbing, electricity or telephone, and they pumped water from a well outside the back door. Paul farmed with horses until his son helped him with a tractor for the last few years. 

Doctor’s Creek runs through the farm’s majestic woods, and lumbermen pestered the Claytons for years to log them. The high ground affords panoramic views of the Upper Freehold farmlands, and developers tried to buy the farm to subdivide it. Instead, the Claytons chose to sell their land to the county to preserve it, and they held on for five years while Park System staff secured financing with help from the N.J. Conservation Foundation and Green Acres. The Park System purchased the farm in 1979 and the Claytons donated a six-acre woodlot in 1982. 

Paul Clayton & daughter Thelma Clayton
In 1990, two years before Paul died at 107, Thelma told a Newark Star Ledger reporter (August 18, 1990), “Monmouth County was all agricultural years ago. Then to see so much development — it looks quite sad. There were so many beautiful farms then and now they’re all gone…We sold to the county by choice. We didn’t want the farm torn up. We had many happy days there as a family. We wanted the happiness to stay so the children of tomorrow could be happy too.”

Clayton Park lies on the western end of the cuesta ridge that extends to Hartshorne Woods Park, and it was the Park System’s first large land acquisition in the rural western part of the county. From a high elevation of 240 feet, the parkland slopes down to 110 feet at the lowest level of Doctor’s Creek, which drains to Crosswicks Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River. 

Due to better soil and moisture conditions, the Piedmont environment typically hosts more species than those found on the outer coastal plain. Because the Clayton woods have not been logged for many decades, they contain some of the highest quality hardwood forest in the county. The old growth woods are dominated by American beech, white and red oak, and birch trees and have a diverse and lush understory. Black oak, white and green ash, tulip poplar, and shagbark hickory trees are also plentiful. An 18-acre field released from agriculture in the 1950s shows the successional transition from the pioneer red cedar trees to the tulip poplars and oaks that now dominate them. 

A small manmade pond at the intersection of forest and fields provides habitat for many species, including beaver, turtles, and wading birds like egrets, heron, and snow geese. The forest and field juncture also provides habitat for quail, pheasant, and wild turkey. Spice bush and greenbriar shrubs and skunk cabbage thrive in wet areas. Interesting perennials include strawberry bush, beechdrops, rattlesnake plant, roundlobe hepatica, hobblebush, American golden saxifrage, trumpet vine, ladyfern, and cinnamon fern. Six miles of trails through Clayton Park provide access to some of the best forest landscapes and spring wildflower sites in the county.

In 2015, the Park System acquired the Imlaystown School on Davis Station Road. Once home to the offices of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education New Jersey (D.A.R.E), the building is now called the Clayton Park Activity Center which has allowed the Park System to offer a variety of programs, from crafts to health & wellness, in the western most section of Monmouth County. This summer, our Naturalist staff planned and planted a pollinator garden at Clayton Park to help attract a variety of pollinators which are vital to food production around the world.

Information for this post comes from "The Monmouth County Park System: The First Fifty Years", published and funded by the Friends of the Monmouth County Park System in 2010. Check out the book in its entirety by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

From the Garden of Historic Longstreet Farm: Cucumbers

Originating in the foothills of the Himalayas, cucumbers have been cultivated as a food source for more than 3,000 years. They belong to the Cucurbitaceae family which make them close relatives to watermelon, muskmelon, pumpkin and squash. It's thought that early cucumbers were most likely bitter, but over the years they have been bred to eliminate some of the bitter compounds. 

The history of cucumbers can be seen at its earliest through mention in the Bible of Egyptians eating them, and other historic texts discussing Egyptians making a weak liquor from them. Tiberius, the Roman emperor from AD 14 to 37, was said to have demanded cucumbers be served on his table daily, causing his gardeners to create portable containers to grow them. In the 8th and 9th centuries, Charlemagne grew cucumbers in his gardens in Italy, and it was during the reign of King Henry VIII that the cucumber made its way to the tables of England when his first wife demanded them for her salads.

Columbus brought the cucumber to the New World and introduced it to Haiti in 1494. Interestingly, in the 17th century, physicians were noted as prescribing feverish patients to lie on beds of cucumbers since they retained water; this is where the phrase "cool as a cucumber" came about. And by 1806, at least eight varieties of cucumbers could be found growing in the colonial gardens of America. 

Today, cucumbers are known to have many nutritional qualities, offering potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. They are planted in the spring and need to be planted around 4-6 feet apart to allow for plenty of room as their vines grow. Smaller cucumbers with bumps on their skins and growing about 1-5 inches are often considered pickling cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers are larger, ranging from 4-12 inches, and have smoother skin. 

Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel, is known for recreating the sights and sounds of the 1890s. Check out these traditional cooking techniques and recipes for cucumbers from the late 19th century in the U.S.:

Cucumber Salad.
Pare thickly, from end to end, and lay in ice water one hour; wipe them and slice thin, and slice an onion equally thin. Strew salt over them, shake up a few times, cover and let them remain in this brine for another hour. Then squeeze or press out every drop of water which has been extracted from the cucumbers. Put into a salad bowl, sprinkle with white pepper, and scatter bits of parsley over them; add enough vinegar to just cover. You may slice up an equal quantity of white or black radishes and mix with this salad, which is very good.
From "Aunt Babbette's Cook Book, Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the Household" by Aunt Babette. The Bloch Publishing and Printing Co, Cincinnati and Chicago, 1889.

Boiled Cucumbers.
Old cucumbers may be pared, cut in pieces, cooked until soft in boiling salted water, drained, mashed, and seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper.
From "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Principal of the Boston Cooking-School. Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1896.

Fried Cucumbers.
Pare cucumbers and cut lenghtwise in one-third inch slices. Dry between towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dip in crumbs, egg, and crumbs again, fry in deep fat, and drain. 
From "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Principal of the Boston Cooking-School. Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1896.

Cucumbers, Duchesse.
No. 625. - Pare half a dozen Cucumbers, then cut them into quarters and scoop out the seed. Parboil them for two minutes in water lightly salted, to which add a little vinegar. Then immerse them in cold water and dry them on a towel, after which, put them in a flat saucepan with a little clarified butter. Season them with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a pinch of sugar, and put them on a brisk fire and fry them lightly on both sides (not letting the butter get browned). Then take them out with a small skimmer, without breaking them, and dish them up. Prepare separately a reduced Supreme sauce, in which add two spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese, and pour it over the cucumbers. Then serve.
From "Harder's Book of Practical American Cookery in Six Volumes, Volume 1, Treating of American Vegetables, and All Alimentary Plants, Roots and Seeds," by Jules Arther Harder, Chef De Cuisine, Palace Hotel. San Francisco, 1885.


Historic Longstreet Farm is currently open to the public, operating on their summer schedule from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through Labor Day. We ask that visitors continue social distancing and strongly recommend face coverings, especially when interacting with staff. We remind visitors that for both your safety and the safety of our animals, touching or feeding the animals is not permitted. We look forward to seeing you at the farm and be sure to take a walk past the garden to see what's currently growing.



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Monday, July 6, 2020

From the Garden of Historic Longstreet Farm: Kohlrabi

When you mention kohlrabi, most know little, if anything, about this root vegetable. A member of the brassica family, kohlrabi is closely related to cabbage, kale, turnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Its origins are northern European, and is known to be developed from a wild form of cabbage called marrow cabbage which grows on the English channel coast and on the Spanish peninsula. 

In 1554, botanist Matthiolus wrote the plant had "come lately into Italy" and by the end of the 16th century, kohlrabi was grown in Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Tripoli and the eastern Mediterranean. In the United States, records of kohlrabi aren't noted until the early 1800s.

Kohlrabi is often planted in late spring for harvesting in early summer, or in summer for harvesting before the first frosts of autumn. They are harvested when the bulbous stems are approximately two inches in diameter for a sweeter flesh and more tender leaves. The flesh is similar to that of a turnip, but has a taste more closely related to Brussels sprouts, and the leaves can be eaten as greens. 

Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel, is known for recreating the sights and sounds of the 1890s. Check out these traditional techniques and recipes for kohlrabi from the late 19th century in the U.S.: 

(2708). Kohl-Rabies, Housekeeper's Style (Choux Raves a la Menagere).
Cut some medium-sized kohl-rabies in four equal parts, or if very large, then in six or eight; peel and pare them into crescent olive form, obtaining about three pounds in all. Blanch these in boiling salted water, refresh and drain once more. Put six ounces of butter into a sauce-pan and when very hot and cooked to hazel-nut (No. 567) lay in the blanched kohl-rabies and toss them so they do not color; moisten with broth (No. 194a), let cook, reduce to a glaze and when serving dilute with a pint of bechamel sauce (No. 409), also adding three ounces of fresh butter, a very small lump at a time.
From "The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art" by Charles Ranhofer. Charles Ranhofer, New York, 1894.

(2709). Kohl-Rabies, Stuffed (Choux Raves Farcis).
Shape them perfectly round and all of uniform size; empty out the insides and stuff them while raw, or else blanch them first in boiling salted water for a few moments; the stuffing consists of godiveau forcemeat (No. 85), having truffles, mushrooms and parsley, all chopped up, mixed in with it; range them in a sautoir lined with fat pork and moisten with a little gravy (No. 404); when done drain and strain the stock, remove all of its fat and reduce it with as much espagnole sauce (No. 414). Lay the kohl-rabies over the sauce and serve. 
From "The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art" by Charles Ranhofer. Charles Ranhofer, New York, 1894.

36. Kohlrabi. 
After washing and peeling, cut them into fine slices or pieces, being careful to remove everything that is tough or hard, and then cook in boiling water until tender. Brown some flour in kidney fat or butter, add either fresh milk or meat broth according to taste, and also nutmeg and salt as desired, in which the kohlrabi is to be stewed. If the kohlrabi is quite young and tender, the small inner leaves are chopped quite fine, cooked in a separate vessel, butter and meat broth stirred through them and then used to garnish a dish of kohlrabi that has been stewed like cauliflowers. If the leaves are not tender enough for this purpose, then sliced sweetbreads or little pork sausages can be used to garnish, or else serve with cutlets, meat balls or steak. 
Time of cooking: 1 1/2 hours.
Remark - The blue kohlrabi is preferable to the white because it is milder and does not become touch so easily as the other kind.
From "Practical Cook Book" by Henriette Davidis. H. H. Zahn & Co. Printers & Publishers, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1897.

Kohl-Rabi Salad. 
The kohl-rabi, or turnip-rooted cabbage, is used in salads. Boil three of the vegetables slowly twenty-five minutes; remove the outer layers and cut the remainder into slices; put it in a salad-bowl with three sliced potatoes and two spring onions; add one minced pickle, and pour over the salad a plain dressing. Many prefer a bacon-dressing with this salad. The stem being the principal place of deposit of the nutriment in the kohl-rabi, it consequently becomes the edible portion of the plant. The stem just above the surface of the ground swells into a round fleshy bulb, in form not unlike a turnip. 
From "Salads and Sauces" by Thomas J. Murrey. Frederick A. Stokes Company Publishers, New York, 1884.

Historic Longstreet Farm is currently open to the public. We’re operating on our summer schedule from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through Labor Day. We ask that visitors continue social distancing and strongly recommend face coverings, especially when interacting with staff. We remind visitors that for both your safety and the safety of our animals, touching or feeding the animals is not permitted. We look forward to seeing you at the farm and be sure to take a walk past the garden to see what's currently growing.


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