A Week of Bentwood and Horseradish (and Fish Fries)

Display at the front of the room where the speakers lectured.

This was my first visit back to the Michigan Herb Associates since 1997 and it was fun seeing lots of old friends and making new ones. I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of earth showing between the patches of snow, and it only snowed about 2 inches while we were there. I'd expected it to be like upstate New York, with 6 feet of snow on the ground and no bare earth showing for another 2 months. Instead, it was 40-ish degrees each day, down to almost freezing at night, and a spot of sunshine one afternoon.
This is the herb garden at the Toledo Botanic Garden when I spoke to the Maumee Valley Herb Society.

Like most herb conferences, the MHA conference revolves around food. We had cooking demonstrations, a snack table each day of made-from-home herb foods, book sales, silent auctions, vendors and nice meals in the hotel each day. Most herb folks grow herbs because they like to eat, and herb events, no matter how large or small, make food the centerpiece.

One of the food demonstrations was given by Connie, who demonstrated salads, hors d'oeruvres, dips, cheese balls, soups and desserts. Then people lined up to have a taste.

The tablecloth makes these foods look a bit messy, but they were actually beautiful. There's a chicken salad stuffed into the red lily (edible lily) and a raspberry, greens and goat cheese salad in the yellow edible lily.
 It was fun to see Theresa Mieseler from Shady Acres Herb Farm. We served on the Board of Directors for the International Herb Association some years back. Lots of long time friends were there, too, so we got to visit with lots of folks we don't get to see often.

I gave 2 programs, Making Bentwood Trellises and Cutting Edge Plants and both were well received. The MHA folks were a great and generous audience and I always draw energy from such good groups. The bentwood trellis I made in the demonstration was given by my friend, Jon Hoffman (who had been one of my "wounded" Civil War soldiers back in 1997) and was auctioned off to benefit the 4-H Childrens' Garden in East Lansing, where the conference was held. (The Conference was on the campus of Michigan State University, home of the Spartans. We had great fun reading over the signs on campus like, "Enjoy our Spartan Hospitality" which no else seemed to think was funny. Spartan, sparse, it made us laugh).
Connie's great looking food samples had everyone excited.
Horseradish was the featured herb, since it's the Herb of the Year in 2011. Chuck Voigt, who has been the chair of the Herb of the Year committee for the International Herb Association for the past several years, made it his goal to see horseradish recognized. He's a professor at Illinois State Univ. and consults with the horseradish growers in his state. In case you don't know, Illinois is the leader in U.S. horseradish production. You can find more information about this Herb of the Year on the IHA website, as well as on the Herb Society of America's website and on my Herb of the Year blog. We dubbed Chuck, "Mr. Horseradish" some time back and his program, "More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Horseradish" was outstanding.
Dr. Chuck Voigt is the Principal Research Specialist at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Ilinois and a promoter of horseradish. He's been a tireless worker with the Herb of the Year project for many years.
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I helped auction off the bentwood trellis, then I was off to the Maumee Valley Herb Society for 2 programs at the Toledo Botanic Garden. Those folks, too, like herb food, and had a buffet table of cookies, cakes and other tasty desserts.

My hosts, Mark and Georgeann Brown, treated Josh and me to our first-ever, Catholic fish fry. (You may recall, I tried to buy fish in a pub in Madison, WI last spring, but it was Wednesday and no fish was to be had). Well, the tradition in the northlands, is, fish is a Friday food. During Lent, all of the Catholic churches have fish fries on Friday nights.

Our friends took us out for fish fry dinner and we were not disappointed. You pay at the door, told to get in line (get there early, the lines can be long) and folks on the other side of the service window pile your plate with perch and shrimp, along with scalloped potatoes, green beans and coleslaw. You can go back as many times as you want (3 for me, 2 for Josh) and there's desserts to choose from, as well.
The perch is from the Great Lakes and quite tasty. It reminded me of the suckers, a local fish here in the Ozarks, that are the feature of Sucker Day Festivals in the summer.
The herb gardens at the Toledo Botanic Garden are tended by the members of the Maumee Valley Herb Club and even though I couldn't see the plants because of the snow, the bones of the gardens were beautiful. I like to see the architecture without the plants, it makes it easy to see the shapes and forms of a garden.
The blue bench in an otherwise black and white world was a nice addition to the garden. It's a memorial to a long time member of the Maumee Ohio Herb group.
These are espaliered fruit trees along the back fences of the herb garden.
Our trip to Michigan and Ohio were enjoyable and we survived the cold. Wednesday I'm heading to Austin, TX where you may remember I found lots of fun stuff last fall (you can look through previous blog posts to see our adventures). I'm speaking at the Roundtop Festival Institute and you can see the gardens there if you follow this link. The redbuds are in bloom already and spring will have arrived by the time I arrive in a couple of days. They may even have some Catholic Church fish fries, who knows. Happy gardening!


jdmiller said...

Loved your comments about the fish frys. When we visit my sister-in-law in Wisconsin we often get carry-out fish fry from a local pub. Always good!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Oh wow you dapper dude,

Love the photo of you by the bentwood trellis, but it says "add the caption." So it should definitely be captioned, DAPPER DUDE.

I love every soul I met when I spoke at MHA. They are all so genuine and generous. Glad you did those talks. I don't know the Maumee folks.

So now Chuckie is "Mr. Horseradish?" Ok, I'll remember that.

Sending love across the miles,


GB said...

We sure enjoyed both of your presentations for the Maumee Valley Herb Society. We have had only positive comment from our members.

65 degrees today, snow all gone.

Rhonda D. said...

Sounds like a great trip! Nice to see Chuck Voigt, he's often present at various MG things and Illinois Specialty Growers conference (you should come speak!) So glad you got to sample the fish fry- they line up here every Friday night to get in,too :)