Green Tomatoes

On the Eden Hall Farm this fall, we had an abundance of green tomatoes! We wrapped many of the tomatoes in newspaper and put them in boxes in the Mueller House to ripen, and they’ll be sold to dining services on campus as they’re ready. All of the Graduate Assistants and Associates got to take home and experiment with the bounty of green tomatoes. I had never cooked with them before, so naturally I made fried green tomatoes first. I also made a green tomato lemon jam and fermented some of them to turn into a fermented salsa.


Green tomato jam, raw ingredients


Finished product!

Green Tomato and Lemon Jam Recipe:

Modified from Cork and Spoon and NYT Cooking

2 lemons, zest and juice

About 4 lbs green tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced

2 cups sugar

2 inch piece ginger, minced

Seeds from 4-6 cardamom pods

Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook, transfer to a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 50 minutes, or until jam coats the back of a spoon. Pour into jars and store in the refrigerator. This jam is great just on toast, but it’s even better as a chutney with curries.


Green tomatoes fermenting with crushed garlic cloves and mustard seeds (EH butternut squash in the background)

Mycelium Moving through the Student Garden!

The Eden Hall campus farm doesn’t only provide us students with resources through our weekly harvests, our demonstration garden, and all of the student-based, community work embedded into our agro-ecosystem.  It also provides us with a space to create meaningful and innovative research projects that enhance our learning experience and truly allow us to explore new sustainable agriculture techniques that we are passionate about.

Last spring semester, in the harsh cold of the winter, I began dreaming of the green colors of spring and the fresh harvests ahead of us. As I looked through seed catalogs in my growing sustainably lab, I thought more about how extending our growing season may not be limited to fruits and vegetables.  Thinking back to a conference session about mushroom growing in greenhouses or hoop houses, I decided this would be my research topic for our semester long project.  Meanwhile, the undergraduate mycology club began writing up a research plan for a similar project. After meeting as a team, we decided on different garden beds in the student garden to begin the project.  This is a perfect example of how this space and the support of the farm staff and faculty fosters creativity and exploration for us as we learn about sustainable agriculture through hands on experiences.


The project used the methods of companion planting, a practice already used in the student garden, with fungi and plants. We examined how mycelium, the rootlike structure of fungi, affects the growth rate of both annual and perennial crops. The growing habits and pH tolerance of plants helped determine which fungi would grow best in each condition. We decided to use blueberries, black currants, and a variety of herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and borage. We inoculated sectioned areas of mulch around the plants with species of fungi, such as Pleurotus (Oyster), Nameko, and Stropharia mushrooms.

We began with bed preparation and sterilizing the substrate that the fungi would inhabit.  We used different types of mulch, including straw and woodchips. Then we spread each of the bags of spawn into the substrate, managed the irrigation, and monitored them.


Our bag of spawn for inoculation

photo 1

Spreading the first layer of straw mulch


Annual bed with separated sections of fungi and control groups

Last week, we witnessed the first flush of the beautiful Stropharia mushrooms, commonly referred to as wine caps.  Deep burgundy caps congregated around the base of herbs.  The group harvested the precious fruits and took them home to prepare various meals. Whether added to a hearty vegetable soup dish or a simple vegetable omelette, the Stropharia bring a deep earthy and slightly nutty flavor into every bite. We are excited to continue to document the fruiting mushrooms and understand more about creating effective polyculture techniques!


Stropharia growing alongside basil crops


Fruiting in the blueberry bed!


Incorporating stropharia into our meals!

(A special thanks to all of the staff, faculty, students, and club members who put in work to make this project successful.)


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!