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Jessica’s Garden: Thanksgivings Past and Present

With all this talk of snow, Christmas commercials on television, and shops setting up for the holidays, like most people, you’re probably already starting to feel the spirit of the holidays. And it’s right about time with this week kick-starting the holiday season by giving thanks. Whether celebrating small or large, I think it’s safe to say we’re all ready for a slow-down, good friends and family, and eating some seriously delicious grub.

Dad-with-his-Parsnip-Crop
Dad with his Parsnip Crop

In the Spring, my dad planted a raised bed in his back garden and has been diligently tending and checking on its growth. Earlier in the season he harvested carrots, but we have since been anxiously waiting for the parsnips to mature. Usually, after the first couple of heavy frosts and the temperatures have shifted, they are ready to be picked. My parents are hosting Thanksgiving this year so it was only appropriate to head out to the garden this week to check on progress. With bag in hand, my dad and Grayson headed out to the back garden and pulled about half of the parsnip crop for Thanksgiving supper. I cannot wait for fresh parsnips; it’s a family staple and without a doubt our favorite root vegetable. Roasted, parsnips get dark and crispy and have a floral and earthy flavor. And there’s quite possibly nothing better than roasted parsnip soup.

Freshly-Baked-Pumpkin-Roll
Freshly Baked Pumpkin Roll

Even with the beautiful and uncharacteristic weather this week, there were still moments where Grayson and I were looking for something fun to work on inside. I had roasted a Boston Marrow squash over the weekend, left over from our Halloween display. We recently discovered that Grayson not only has the attention span now, but actually enjoys baking. So using the Libby’s recipe for a pumpkin roll, we substituted the homemade squash puree for store-bought and got to baking. It’s been extremely difficult to resist sampling ahead of time for quality control.

Grayson-Baking-Pumpkin-Rolls
Grayson Baking Pumpkin Rolls

Some of my most vivid and best memories are centered on Thanksgiving. This weekend always marked the beginning of the holidays for our family. When I was very young, my father would head off hunting for the week and my mother would tote us up to her sister’s gorgeous farmhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania. As we would arrive, so would my uncle and his family. My grandparents would always fly over from England for the occasion. They would usually stay with my aunt and uncle for several weeks and head to Maryland for the remainder of their trip.

My aunt owned a gift shop in Erie for about twenty years until in recent years when she and my uncle moved to Massachusetts. We loved eyeing up all the new shop treasures, making our wish lists, returning to the shop several times, forcing her to let us help around the store, and finally days later shelling out some hard earned allowance money on Christmas gifts. My mother was the worst; we’d usually spend the ride back home to Maryland crammed between luggage and all my mother’s new finds; which usually also included a new piece of furniture.

During our week stay at my aunt’s house our main focus was family and re-uniting. We always knew this was the one time of year we would consistently and reliably all be together under one roof. With my uncle in Connecticut, us in Maryland, my grandparents in England and my aunt in Erie, this was harder to do than you’d think.

As I’ve gotten older, life has definitely changed. My father no longer hunts, my aunt and uncle retired to Massachusetts and my grandparents are no longer able to travel to the states. So in recent years, Thanksgiving has been in a different home and state each year. But this year, my parents are hosting Thanksgiving. Which means my husband’s family, my father’s family and my mother’s family will all be joining in celebration together. This year I will personally be giving thanks for my humble life, the success so far in our farmhouse renovation, my husband and our son, my friends and bringing all three of my families together.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. 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. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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