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The Gardener Wife Newsletter

Hi folks!

Now that my garden is put to bed, I’m preparing for the holiday season. I will continue doing garden related things, of course, as well as keep using my garden harvests in my cooking. For several ways to use garden ingredients in your upcoming holiday meals, check out this newsletter from last year. It includes a link to the recipe for Cranberry Jalapeño Pinwheels, one of my most popular posts ever.

WINTER PREDICTIONS – garden-style living

As we enter the holiday season, I can't help but wonder how bad this winter will be. Last year’s polar vortex made it one of the coldest winters ever here in the Chicago area. We’re all hoping that the Farmer’s Almanac prediction of a warmer winter this year will come true. But what about the folklore that says the size of the black and brown segments on a banded woolly bear caterpillar can predict the next winter’s weather? Not true! Sorry to bust another myth for you, but research has shown that the size of this caterpillar’s segments indicate its age–which is influenced by last year’s weather–not next year’s. That's good news, judging by the one I saw a few days ago (bottom left of photo below). That longer black band probably reflects last year's brutal winter, not what lies ahead. Whew! 

In any case, these caterpillars are fun to spot and easy to recognize. I first spotted this one on my driveway while I was out emptying the potting soil from my vegetable containers. It’s not unusual to see them crossing roads and sidewalks in the fall: they’re looking for a safe place to overwinter during the cold weather, when they go into quiescence. The above photo also shows other fuzzy caterpillars I’ve seen over the past year or so. A banded woolly bear caterpillar will develop into an Isabella moth. The yellow woolly bear, seen in my strawberry bed this past summer, is the larva of the Virginia tiger moth. The salt marsh caterpillar was in my driveway in October of 2018. I photographed the caterpillar of a Sycamore tussock moth on my friend’s hand at the Morton Arboretum this summer. Keep an eye out for these guys when you're outside in the coming year.

SAGE ADVICE – practical growing tips

With Thanksgiving approaching, I'm getting ready to harvest and use some sage. Sage is an herb that’s definitely worth growing because it’s so easy and hardy. I planted this one in my herb bed many years ago, and it’s still going strong. It gets full sun and has very good drainage because it’s in a raised bed on high ground. Good drainage is especially important for this perennial. 

Even though sage can be grown indoors, I don’t bother because it holds up well out in the garden until Thanksgiving and even Christmas. This fall, for example, it’s already been through snow and temperatures below 10°F. You could also dry some to use later in the year if needed.

While I like using sage in turkey and other poultry, it’s also delicious with brown butter sauce on pasta. Or you can fry the leaves and use them to add crunchy, savory goodness to soups, squash, and a variety of dishes. You could also tie ribbon or raffia around sprigs of sage, either alone or bundled together with other herbs, and use them as favors for a garden-style party. It's such a tasty and useful herb to have in your garden!

TALKING TURKEY – garden-to-table eating

And now, just in time for Thanksgiving, I am going to share my top tip for cooking turkey. As you can see in the photo at the top of this letter, I’m a big fan of grilling turkey–but that’s not my number one tip. I also like to cook turkeys breast-side down (good eye if you noticed that in the photo!). But that's not my best tip either. My secret to a perfect turkey is what I've circled in that picture. Do you see it? The key to a good juicy turkey works with any cooking method. I don't care if you're roasting, frying, smoking, brining, basting or bagging your turkey: the secret to moist white meat is to stop cooking it as soon as it is done. For that I recommend using a digital thermometer probe–like this one*–that beeps at you when the turkey hits the right internal temperature, 165º F. When you hear the beep, you know that the turkey is done and that you should take it off the heat immediately instead of letting it get overcooked and dry. These thermometers also come in handy when cooking any kind of meat–beef, chicken, or pork–not just turkey. I like this kitchen tool so much that one year I gave one to every cook on my Christmas gift list. If you prefer, here’s a newer, spiffier version of that thermometer.*

And that’s it! Of course, it would be great to use any garden grown ingredients you have. Besides sage and other herbs, I have homegrown celery and onions (or even shallots or leeks) to use in our turkey’s stuffing. But whatever ingredients you use and however you choose to cook your turkey, I guarantee that it will come out nice and moist if you don’t cook it longer than necessary.

I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving–full of feasting with family and friends and the joy of giving thanks to God for all your blessings!

Digging it,

The Gardener Wife

*NEW: Product Links

As always, the information I share in my newsletters, on my blog, and on social media is free. But now I can earn a little income–at no cost to you–when you purchase garden, home, and cooking supplies (like the thermometer mentioned above) through the affiliate links I share. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you look at any of those items and decide to purchase them later, please go back to them through my links so I get credited.
Thank you very much!

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