This summer, Tim Connors, a Chatham Creative Writing student and poet interned with us at Eden Hall. He has shared one of his poems with us that we are delighted to share with you.

Thank you for your hard work with us all summer, Tim!

As a boy of maybe eight, I picked docks and thistle
out of freshly cut, drying grass for silage. No gloves, my hands
raw from piling stone walls with my other American cousin,
after we Americans knocked it over playing tip-the-can with our Irish kin
the night before. Warm bright light fell down gentle like silk between
sunny showers. The smell of lunch, fresh ham and black currant pie,
pulled our hearts towards Nanny’s through our stomachs.
We never questioned that grassy field, the one never felled—
less work for the hands, more time for youth’s flitting feet.
We were more than glad it was left to fallow.
Sixteen and I was coming home for the first time
since I’d been cut open, since my heart had been repaired,
since the growth of scar tissue was cut out and the leaking hole
was patched. My brother and sister were children I remembered,
but didn’t know. Dad’s family, at the time, living in a cottage, in a field,
in a town that’s name I did not know; not too far from Nanny’s, I was told.
Later that summer, I revisited a field we used to play in, down the road from
uncle Oliver’s house, a family plot. The skeleton of my home
had begun to form. The field between the two houses
was barren, unfit to graze this season, left this year to fallow.
Twenty four and I haven’t seen Irish soil in two years now,
missed a trip because my passport slipped my mind
in all the chaos of grad school, surgery, moving, life.
Haven’t seen my family since last summer passed. For two days
and a night, I saw my brother’s loud smile and heard my sister’s coy laugh.
I miss the questions they piled on me like stones, mountainous,
how they picked every detail out of me like weeds,
how they collected my words around them like Christmas card reminders,
how tight they held me the night I left again,
faces wet like the fields as we prepared to grow apart.
I wonder if they’ll remember me rightly or fondly.
I wonder if this distance has led our hearts to fallow.

The Week of Tomatoes!

About a year ago, I started working at Eden Hall and was quickly impressed with the way the farm abounds with beautiful tomatoes of varying shape and color.  After a year of graduate school and working at the Eden Hall campus in different capacities, it is amazing to be part of the tomato harvest again and to utilize these tomatoes all week long.


To kick off the week of tomatoes, several Food Studies students and I worked at the Phipps Conservatory Tomato and Garlic Festival frying up beloved green tomatoes that have become a part of the annual festival.  Fried green tomatoes are a great conversation piece for us to connect to people and tell them more about the Eden Hall Campus and the Falk School of Sustainability.

Later in the week, I made an Eden Hall tomato sauce with ingredients grown or cultivated on campus.  I learned how to identify and harvest chicken of the woods mushrooms that were growing wild on campus.


Chicken of the Woods mushrooms spotted!


The chicken of the woods in all of it’s glory

Later that day, I boiled down Amish paste and several kinds of heirloom tomatoes into a thick, sweet tomato sauce.


Boiling down tomatoes into sauce

Next, I sauteed the chicken of the woods with garlic, red wing onion, and herbs from the farm.


Chicken of the woods, red wing onions, and garlic!

Garnishing it with fresh basil, this simple pasta dish was a great celebration of this week’s harvest!


And, then our farm crew harvested and delivered 100 lbs. of tomatoes to Parkhurst Food Services process and use in Anderson Cafe.  I continue to be impressed by what we are able to produce at Eden Hall Farm and how the produce connects us to each other and others in the community. I am proud to be part of this farm season and look forward to learning so much in the year to come!


Today’s Harvest!

Summer 2015 highlights from Eden Hall

Summer term has come to a close and we welcomed the incoming Food Studies and Sustainability students to Eden Hall this weekend. Before summer slips away, here’s a recap of whats gone on at the farm this season:

Spring and early summer in the solar high tunnel –

The solar high tunnel provided us our first growing season for winter, spring and summer. When it was too cold early this spring, we were still producing greens, peas and some root vegetables.

Carrots means goodness

Thinning carrots multiple times produced the best looking carrot crop yet. It was a tedious yet cathartic endeavor. I can remember a few especially stressful mornings driving to the farm, being overwhelmed with thesis problems and work deadlines, not in the mood to deal with much of anything. Sometimes, you can find the answers you’re looking for in the soil. I was lucky enough to spend some time working on this task, hidden between rows of tomatoes, and letting some that stress melt into the background. The student garden, my lifeline I as refer to it, shifted my perspective as it often does.  and A few of us have renamed this carrot bed “The Kelterborn”, after Matt, our farm assistant, who’s persistence and dedication made it the best carrot crop our student garden has seen.

Bee Sharp

A bee on its way to work

A bee on its way to work

Sunflowers doing what they do best

The sunflowers have put on a good show this summer, and they have been a wonderful habitat for our native pollinators.

Root vegetable love

One of my favorite farm tasks is harvesting root vegetables. Especially potatoes. Sowing early in the year, they are crops that require especially loose soil, repetitive mulching, and patience. But being able to dig, bare handed through the layers of mulch and soil to unearth these treasures is something I will never get tired of doing.

Preserving the harvest

In late August, I harvested elderberries and chokecherries for the Eden Hall harvest dinner in September. The plan is to make them into jam to compliment wood fired bread and goat cheese.  Last year our berries were under intense pressure from pests, and our harvest was weak at best. The extra care taken this season was rewarded with healthy plants and a good harvest.

Garden Visitors

We often come across all kinds of creatures in our daily work. We do our best to identify them and learn about their roles in the garden and the larger ecosystem. Here are a few finds:

Shiitake surprises

We are cultivating shiitake mushrooms on the farm and by soaking the logs, we can control when the mushrooms start fruiting. Sometimes when the conditions are just right a pallet of logs will produce mushrooms unexpectedly. One day I encountered another surprise. As I approached the logs, I saw a very odd looking mushroom, but the closer I got, I realized it was a baby robin. I was quite curious and he was naive. He let me get about 6 inches away to take his picture before he hopped down and ran into the trees.  One of our favorite things to do with the shiitakes is to dehydrate and pickle them!  This year we also made a delicious shiitake pate for the ASFS conference.

Color and wonder 

Harvest Tuesdays

Every Tuesday, we harvest produce for Parkhurst Dining Services. They cook forstudents at our Shadyside campus, East End campus, and starting this fall at Eden Hall. After we harvest, we wash, sort, pack and weigh it before delivery.

Daily activities

Each day at the farm we are faced with a multitude of tasks and problems to solve. This year we had a bigger garlic harvest and couldn’t enough room to cure the garlic in proper conditions (covered, dry and well ventilated).  The solution was to use the pool house.

Work and Pick

Each summer, a team of students, faculty and staff volunteer at Eden Hall in exchange for produce. Allen treated them to a wagon ride out to the Elsalma field before hand weeding the popcorn.

Grain to bottle

This season, we took on growing rye for Wigle Whiskey. It was a constant challenge, but we learned a lot along the way. With our fearless leader Allen Matthews at the helm, we relied on the support of surrounding western Pennsylvania farmers and many others to get the job done. In the end, we produced about 3200 pounds of grain that should be enough for 2 batches of rye whiskey. It was a quite an adventure and we cant wait until we get to taste the the finished product!

Eden Hall Skies

As my term as a graduate farm assistant is ending, I will miss so many things about this very special place. Being able to escape the city, learning about sustainable agriculture and problem solving on a farm, working with an amazing crew of students and Allen who oversees it all has been one of my most meaningful experiences as a part of this program.

The view that I will miss the most. Eden Hall skies:

The future of Eden Hall

I would encourage any new student to get involved with the farm work at Eden Hall. You will be contributing to an incredible legacy and will be changed by it. You wont regret it!

Elderflowers blooming in the garden!

Elderberries blooming!

                Elderberries blooming!

Elderflowers are in bloom in the student garden and their sweet smell is wafting through the air! Elderberry, or Sambucus canadensis, is native to the eastern United States. Their flowers are edible and can be made into a delicious and easy elderflower syrup.

Tiny elderflowers!

            Tiny elderflowers!

To make your own elderflower syrup, harvest about 20 bunches of flowers for one quart of syrup. Make sure not to take all the flowers on one shrub–they’ll produce berries and they’re a friend to the bees!

For the base syrup, a 1:1 simple syrup mixture of sugar to water works perfectly. While your simple syrup is cooling, remove the flowers from the stems. This can be done by hand or with scissors. I know this may seem tedious (and it is!), but it’s necessary because the green stems can make your syrup bitter!

Elderflowers in a syrup made from Eden Hall honey!

Elderflowers in a syrup made                   from Eden Hall honey!

Add your simple syrup and elderflowers to a mason jar, or other container that can be sealed tightly, and shake it up! Let it sit on your counter for 2 to 3 days, depending on how strong you’d like it, and shake it every day. When it’s ready, strain out the flowers and store in the fridge for up to a month.

You can use your elderflower syrup in sodas and cocktails… try it with Wigle’s Ginever!


This summer, we are growing a small ‘Asian Garden’ section in our student garden at the farm. I worked with Lei Shen (another Food Studies MA student) to select Japanese and Chinese crops and varieties to grow. Some have been more successful than others!

One of the Japanese crops we are growing is hinona kabu, a variety of turnips. These turnips are often used to make a quick pickle in Japan called ‘sakura-zuke.’ Sakura means cherry blossom, and zuke means pickle. Hinona kabu are purple on top and white on the bottom, so when they are pickled, they turn pink like sakura/cherry blossoms- thus they are called sakura-zuke.

I tried making some, and they turned out delicious! Crisp, sweet, and sour, with a little radish bite to them. If you’d like to try it yourself, you can order seeds here, and the recipe is below!

Sakura Zuke or Cherry Blossom Pickle

(From Kitazawa Seed Company’s website)


1 bunch Hinona Kabu turnips
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Trim the top off the turnip to make a flat base. Place 2 pencils or other sticks on a cutting board to stop the knife from cutting all the way through the root. Place the turnip on its top (now a flat base) between the sticks. With a sharp knife, make 4 to 6 cuts the full length of the turnip ending carefully at the sticks. This way there will be a piece of turnip intact to hold it together. Turn the root 90° and make another 4 to 6 cuts, stopping at the sticks. Repeat this with all the turnips.

Put the cut turnips in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and lightly massage it in. Place a plate that is smaller than the diameter of the bowl on top of the radishes. Put a weight on top of the plate to force some of the liquid out. After 30 minutes remove the plate and drain the liquid.

Stir the vinegar and sugar together until dissolved, heating a little if necessary. Pour over the turnips and leave at least 8 hours or longer to marinate.

Drain well before serving. Use with green leaves as a garnish.

Will keep well at least 3 weeks.

Gooseberry Pie

When it’s the Forth of July and Eden Hall is bursting with gooseberries, there’s only one thing to do…make pie!

Our gooseberry bushes have fruited tons of berries this year, partly because of the mesh netting that has protected them from birds and critters.  We also mulched the beds so that we could keep the weeds under control.IMG_2187

Gooseberries grow on bushes similarly to blueberries.  They hang off the branches, and will fall off into your hands when they are perfectly ripe.  However, the bushes are scattered with thorns that can make harvesting slightly painful!  I kept forgetting about the thorns, harvesting greedily until again I would be reminded of the bush’s built in protection system.  My fingers ached, but my heart was happy as I walked away with a full harvest of gooseberries.


I had never had a gooseberry until a couple weeks ago at Eden Hall.  I picked one of the very first ripe berries so that I could taste this interesting fruit.  To me, gooseberries taste like a perfect mix of a grape and a kiwi.  They are slightly tart (especially the greener berries) but have a sweet brightness to them as well.


washed and ready to become pie

For the pie crust I just used a classic dough recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour                                                                                                                   1 tsp salt                                                                                                                             1 tbsp sugar (because it is a sweeter pie)                                                                     Pulse these in a food processor just to mix                                                                     add 1 stick of COLD butter, cut into cubes                                                                     mix in food processor until pea sized clumps form, and then while the processor is mixing, slowly add cold water until the dough comes together.                                                   Chill in refrigerator for at least a half hour before using

Here is the recipe for the filling!

Gooseberries (as many as I could pick…probably around 4-5 cups)                                     1 cup white sugar                                                                                                                 1/2 cup brown sugar                                                                                                           2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger                                                                                                   the zest of 1 orange                                                                                                             1/2 tsp lemon juice                                                                                                               1/4 cup corn starch

I put all of the above ingredients in a pan, and reduced it for about 15 minutes.  I let it cool (mostly) and then put it into my pre-baked pie crust!  The mixture was still a little bit runny (maybe i should have added more corn starch?) so i used a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture.  I covered the pie with the remaining dough, using the lattice design, and baked it at 400 until the crust was golden brown.


The finished product

Needless to say, the pie was devoured, and I can’t wait to see what other delicious treats these new berries will bring!

Cassandra Malis                                                                                                                   Masters Candidate in Food Studies                                                                                     Intern at Eden Hall