Food: Becoming a Master Gardener
People often ask me how I got into the newspaper writing business and since I’ve been creating “copy” for almost 35 years, I guess it’s a legitimate query. But to tell the truth there was nothing in my childhood to indicate that I was going to grow up to become a journalist.
That journey began when I was a young mother and saw an article about a Master Gardening course that was being sponsored by the UW-Extension. I was reminded of that last week, when I got a press release offering a Master Gardening course right here in Oneida County.
I smile to myself thinking about the journey from Master Gardener to newspaper reporter. And to tell the truth, I never saw it coming.
From toddler on I have been an avid gardener, and so when I saw the article about the Master Gardener class I decided to sign up. Jake was just a baby and I was a stay-at-home mom but needed some outside stimulation and figured this class would fit the bill.
It did too and I was amazed at how much I learned. This course was held over a several week period and at each class I gained more knowledge about one of my favorite hobbies. After several weeks the classes concluded but I had an obligation to fill. One of the requirements of the course was that each participant had to fulfill 40 hours of a volunteer project (related to gardening) in their community and I was perplexed at what I could do to complete this assignment.
I have no idea where I got the idea, but one day on a whim I walked into the local newspaper office of the little town I was living in at the time and asked if they would publish a weekly column about gardening. I told them I would gladly write it for free to fulfill my obligation to the Master Gardener course and the publisher eagerly agreed.
And so for a few months I was the gardening guru of that publication until one day the editor called in a panic and asked if I had ever covered any governmental meetings. I laughed out loud at this absurdity but he convinced me to attend a meeting after a reporter quit.
I did attend that meeting thinking the entire time I was in way over my head, and then almost choked on panic when I handed in the story. But that editor thought it was suitable, published it and then offered me a job as a reporter. I had my first official “beat.”
Things seemed to expand from there. Pretty soon I was freelancing for publications all over southern Wisconsin, covering town and school board meetings mostly, but it wasn’t long before I was submitting feature stories and then being called out on photo assignments.
I have to admit, my status as a Master Gardener and all the knowledge I gained by taking the course, has landed me in some pretty interesting, yet fun, scenarios over the years. One time, I helped a local pre-school create and plant a small garden for the kids to grow their own veggies. I’ve planted flowers at nursing homes, showed the neighbor kids how to plant seeds and on more than one occasion I’ve been asked my opinion, as a Master Gardener, which always makes me feel like a big shot, if only for a short while.
I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about how things grow to enroll in the Master Gardener course being offered in Oneida County. Participants need to register with the UW-Extension by March 3. Classes start Monday, April 7 and run every Monday night from 5 to 7 p.m. until June 30. It costs $90 and they are held at the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport. To find out more call Anna Gauthier at 715-365-2750 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For this week I’ve included a couple of recipes from a book I used in my master gardener course that I took so many years ago. In the back section are recipes for preparing and cooking vegetable produce and I’ve included a couple of my favorites.
It still amazes me though, that becoming a master gardener afforded me so many unique opportunities. You just never know what kind of doors it may open for you.
Bacon Brussel Sprouts
¼ lb. sliced bacon
½ olive oil
2/3 cup pine cuts
2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, cored and shredded
3 green onions, minced
½ tsp. sea salt
Pepper to taste
Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoons grease, crumble and set aside. In the same skillet, add oil with reserved bacon grease over medium heat. Add pine nuts, and cook, stirring until browned. Add Brussels sprouts and green onions to the pan, and season with seasoning salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until sprouts are wilted and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in crumbled bacon just before serving.
Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Line a non-insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
Bake until the edges brown, 10 to 15 minutes