One Of My Four Favorite Seasons ~ Fall

Pumpkin-DisplayI admit it, I love Maryland. You can drive to the beach or the mountains in 3 hours and you have 4 beautiful seasons. And while Winter can be challenging for me I really do love them all!

This week was the beginning of Fall. A time of cool nights, football, chili and of course decorating with all the colors of Autumn. Today I noticed the first leaves changing which for me means time to get my porch ready. This year since my grandson, Aaron is 2 1/2 and of course loves everything he sees I have decided to go all out.

I have not told my husband yet but I have ideas! Lots of ideas! That include, a visit to our church’s thrift shop for some old clothes, some straw and my husband’s old hat. Then I need pumpkins! Lots of pumpkins and of course some mums and pansies. I have been all over Pintrest saving everything I can find to create just the right look that will make Aaron giggle. Yup, Fall one of my very favorite seasons!

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s in Beltsville, under the watchful eye of mother Sonja Behnke Festerling, and the doting eyes of grandparents Albert and Rose Behnke. She was weeding from the moment she could walk, and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run. So many weeds, so little time.

Stephanie met her husband Jon when they were working for Al Smith, a wholesale greenhouse grower near Mount Airy. It was love at first sight, and they married soon after. They opened their own wholesale greenhouse operation, Hillside Nursery, growing annuals, pansies, mums and poinsettias, and ran it for 27 years, while raising two wonderful children, Steven and Jaimie, both of whom are now public school teachers.

Seven years ago, Stephanie came to Behnke’s to work full time, when she and Jon realized that the 80 hour a week lifestyle of the greenhouse grower was more romantic in your twenties than your fifties.

Stephanie is Vice-President of Behnke Nurseries, and fills a number of roles. She is the buyer for our Christmas Shop, and is a member of the marketing/advertising team. She coordinates our social media outreach program, working with webmaster Larry Bristow. You may know her from our e-newsletter, which she creates each week. She writes a weekly article for the e-news, and through her articles we catch a glimpse of what’s going on with the Behnke Nurseries’ Family and Employees. If you read her articles, you will know that she is also the proudest grandmother in the world.

Jessica’s Garden: ‘Think Fall, Think Pumpkins’

Homemade Roasted Pumpkin

Homemade Roasted Pumpkin

Nostalgia [no-stal-juh]; n. A sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.  Or in other words–Fall bonfires.  On my way home this evening, I was graced with one of the strongest ties to my sensory memory. I love the smell of a campfire.  It brings me back to almost three decades of backyard bonfires at my parent’s home and camping with family and friends at Greenbrier State Park; where the main entertainment is a balance of great company and the mesmerizing and dancing flames.


Grayson at Swallow Falls in Deep Creek Lake

This weekend past, my family spent a weekend get-away at Deep Creek Lake with my parent’s best friends and my oldest and first friend. Beneath the twinkling stars and enveloped in the crisp Fall evening, we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows;  prefaced by a delicious homemade supper accompanied by homemade pumpkin pie. No flavor elicits Fall quite like pumpkin in its various preparations.

Honeycrisp Apple

Honeycrisp Apple

No need to wait until Thanksgiving to break into baking and chobbling on pumpkin pie.  Before we left for the weekend, we stopped by Larriland Farm and picked up a few autumn necessities; Honeycrisp Apples and Sugar Pumpkins.

It is very easy and cost effective to prepare your own pumpkin meat for baking versus store-bought.  I paid less than $3 for a sugar pumpkin that yielded enough pureed pumpkin for two pies.  Sugar pumpkins are higher in sugar and are not as fibrous as a carving pumpkin.   Most of the winter squash that are available for Fall and Halloween decorating are also edible.

For instance, Cinderella, Blue Hubbard, Boston Marrow,  Long Island Cheese, and Cushaw squashes, to name only a few, are wonderful pumpkin substitutions. They can be grown or purchased for decoration, and once enjoyed, roasted and repurposed into edible treats. Pureed pumpkin also freezes well for later use.  I usually measure 2 cups of puree into freezer bags for batch appropriate servings.

To Roast: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Remove seeds and cut squash into consistently sized chunks (about 2”).  Lightly coat chunks in olive oil to prevent sticking and burning.  Turn onto a jelly roll sheet or roasting pan, skin side down, and cover with foil.  Roast covered until fork tender; about 25-35 minutes.  Skipping the foil will result in unpleasantly dry and fibrous roasted pumpkin.  Once cool enough to handle, remove the skins.  In food processor, add roasted pumpkin with a touch of water and pulse until smooth.  If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could also mash through a mesh sieve or run through a food mill to remove any possible missed bits.

For my super secret pumpkin pie recipe, I actually use the recipe on the back of Libby’s canned pumpkin, but substitute the homemade stuff.

Pumpkin Pie

¾ C Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Ground Ginger
¼ tso Ground Cloves
15 Oz (Approx 2 C) Pumpkin Puree
1 (12 oz) Can Evaporated Milk
9” Pie Crust

In small bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves.  In large bowl, beat eggs and stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mix.  Gradually incorporate the evaporated milk and pour into pie shell.  Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees for 40-50 mins until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for 2 hours and serve with a dollop of whipped cream (optional).


Sugar Pumpkin and Sweet and Smokey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I also like to roast the pumpkin seeds for a healthy and guilt-free snack.  They are quick, easy and a great way to use a part of the fruit that is often tossed out.  I also saved a few seeds for drying so I can attempt growing my own next year.  Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:  Clean pumpkin seeds of any remaining fibers or pumpkin meat.  Coat generously in 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil.  Season with your favorite dry rub.  Roast in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, checking and turning every 5 minutes to roast evenly and prevent burning.  As a lifelong Marylander, I made Old Bay pumpkin seeds and also a batch seasoned with a sweet and smoky dry rub.  Be cautious of using a rub that contains a lot of sugar; this can burn very quickly and ruin the seeds.


Drying Lemongrass Stalks

In terms of dirt therapy this week, my pineapple sage and lemongrass are really thriving so I harvested another large bouquet from each plant.  The pineapple sage is also in bloom.  They flower an edible and brilliant crimson red flower spike. Both the leaves and blooms can be dried for teas or fresh leaves and flowers can be bruised to infuse and flavor iced  beverages. I made jelly last year from pineapple sage, which admittedly was not my favorite use of the herb.  I cut the stalks from the lemongrass leaves and hung the leaves for drying. The stalks were cut into 5” segments which I dried in a 225 degree oven, rotating and turning every 30 minutes until all moisture was removed.  I stored them in sealed mason jars for infusing soups, rice and quinoa this Winter.


Dilly Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

I also hopefully canned the last tomato product I want to see this season.  I pickled a final batch of Cherry Tomatoes, pictured in last week’s entry.  This time I canned the ripe, under-ripe and green fruit, rather than solely the ripe, and pickled them in a dill brine rather than a rosemary brine, hoping they taste more like dill pickles.


Upcycled Oil Print

With the garden tasks at a minimum this week, I’ve had some extra time to dedicate to my up-cycling passion.  I am a scourer of yard sales and sides-of-roads for diamonds in the rough in need of some TLC.  This week I finished converting an old and tired oil painting into a bold and functional corkboard.  By popping out the oil print and giving the vintage frame a facelift, I’ve now got a fun and funky piece for the farmhouse.  And no need for concern, no oil paintings were harmed during production.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger



Last Winter my son-in-law Gene Shirokobrod wrote an article for Behnke’s about the proper way to shovel snow. I am so proud to share with everyone a new product that he developed. The ARC is a revolutionary device to alleviate neck pain, relieve headaches and establish perfect posture. It’s a natural, effective way to be pain free…without side effects! Heres a little information from The ARC website….


The ARC is a simple. elegant. effective solution for neck pain relief and correction of poor postural mechanics. By simply lying down on The ARC for 10 minutes a day, the neck is placed in a neutral position, which relaxes the joints and muscles. The custom designed pressure inserts mimic a physical therapist’s hands to provide release of tight and achy muscles that can cause pain and headaches. Use it in sitting to make any chair an ergonomic chair! Place it behind your upper back to establish perfect postural mechanics every time! Lean back and raise your arms up to relieve tight muscles. IF you have to sit, at least do it right with The ARC!!

Designed by a physical therapist, created by an engineer, made in the USA. I love mine!

Posted by: Stephanie Fleming

Last of the Cherry Tomatoes

Last of the Cherry Tomatoes

This week was deceiving. While the harvest was declining and seasons are shifting, I certainly did not feel any less consumed by the garden’s need for attention. Which is really a part of the reward for growing my own goodness. It’s something that requires months of dedication but turns around and rewards me ten-fold. Something that started as a hobby years ago has now become much more of a lifestyle.

Last week, I began letting go of the tomato plants that were no longer thriving. This week, we definitely parted. The last few plants were looking nothing short of pathetic. I decided we needed a trial separation. There was no sense in letting a great friendship get ruined. I needed a break– they needed a break. So until next year, we just cannot see one another anymore. I harvested the last of the tomatoes that were salvageable off the vines.

Some were ripe, some just shy and others still green. I have an overflowing basket of ripe and under-ripe cherry tomatoes ‘Principe Borghese’ that are destined for another round of pickled cherry tomatoes. The first batch turned out so beautifully that I have decided to prepare another batch for Christmas gifts.

Wedding Gifts

Wedding Gifts

This past weekend, some of my husband’s and my best friends finally tied the knot. He’s a chef and enjoys funky and interesting flavors. And she married a chef so she’s down for deliciousness too.

For such events, I try to stamp a personal touch on my gifts. As I’ve mentioned in entries past, my family is English. So for bridal showers I like to give a tea set with several homemade jams and jellies.

For our wedding we attended this past weekend, I also combined my heritage with my hobbies and put together a basket full of pickles, relishes, chutneys and jams to compose a basket for making ‘Ploughman’s Lunches.’

Last week I harvested the heads from my two sunflowers. I let them dry in the sun for a few days and when the seeds were ready to give, I shucked them. Never having roasted sunflower seeds, but having lots of experience roasting pumpkin seeds, I prepared them similarly. I tossed them with a tablespoon or so of sesame oil, lots of fresh cracked pepper and a tsp of coarse kosher salt. I popped them in a hot (375 degree) preheated oven and roasted for about 20 minutes, turning a couple times through the process. Olive oil would work just as well. Sesame oil needs a little more monitoring since it smokes much more easily and gets hot much more quickly.

Sunflower heads

I managed to turn all the available and ready space in the garden for my fall crops. I planted cauliflower and bok choy seedlings and sewed two varieties of beets—heirloom red beets and a gourmet blend of beets that have colorful rings when cut open. I have started using a new- to-me seed company this year, Botanical Interests, and have had excellent results. Not only do they provide a quality product, but it’s also beautiful. Each packet displays an artistic rendering of each plant. I’ve starting looking for vintage frames to display empty packets for my future potting shed.

Grandpa and Grayson Carrot Picking

Grandpa and Grayson Carrot Picking

Grayson and I also did a little foraging and gathering at my parent’s home this week. My dad has been tending to his raised garden where he grows carrots and parsnips. We were able to pull a few carrots this weekend for supper that evening. Grayson was pretty amazed when he saw the carrots emerge from the earth and has been talking about it ever since.

He has also taken to the Asian pear tree that my dad planted this year. Amazingly, the tree fruited nicely given that it has only been grown in a plastic pot until a couple of months ago. Grayson walks right up to it, plucks a pear and lets the juices dribble all the way down his chin and onto his ‘football shirt,’ as he calls the one article of clothing he will no longer remove.

We also foraged around their property for fungi; I like to collect it for drying and crafting. They had a 200+ year old oak tree that started leaning towards the house last year: that quickly had to be taken down. You have never seen a family cry over a tree like we did; for each member of the family it held its own special memories.

I remember my mother meeting me under the tree with an afternoon picnic after I’d hopped off the school bus in elementary school. Now, the pieces that my dad is still working on splitting for firewood, are covered in gorgeous velvety fungi that keep their color when dried. For my sister’s wedding last fall, I made table numbers from wood rounds cut from smaller branches embellished with fungi and moss harvested from the same tree.

I also need to share my most recent up-cycling and repurposing find. At the farmhouse, we have almost entirely renovated our son Grayson’s, bedroom. I painted a 6’x4’ chalkboard onto the plaster walls and my husband Chris framed it out with trim. And then destiny happened. I’ve been wanting a vintage school desk for Grayson’s room but can never justify antique store prices for one.

Refurbished School Desk

Refurbished School Desk

As we were driving around last Sunday, there was one for free on the side of the road! It needed a little TLC, but after some cleaning, sanding, staining, polyurethaning and painting of its legs, it looks awesome. This project is being considered “free.” I did not have to spend an additional penny to fix it up. I already had the sandpaper, stain left over from the cabinet resurfacing kit during the kitchen renovation, poly from staining the floors and a can of left over spray paint from my mother-in-law. I cannot wait for the polyurethane to cure on his freshly stained floors so his school desk and chalkboard can unite.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

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