By Kyle Reid for The Pearl
Ferryland’s Colony of Avalon takes no shortcuts when it comes to re-creating the experiences of the area’s early 17th century settlers.
That re-creation includes the colony garden, planted and tended every summer, where site staff run their own sustainable food operation much like early colonial settlers would have.
According to Coleen Crane, Executive Director of the Colony of Avalon Foundation, the lost growing techniques can teach modern farmers a thing or two about creating a sustainable agricultural system.
“I think that it’s really important for society today to maybe start digging back into our bare roots,” said Crane. “There’s a new trend nowadays with more subsistent living and we’re kind of keeping in line with that — being able to grow what you eat.”
The garden, tended by the Colony of Avalon’s historical gardener Rodney Hynes, endorses this effort by supporting the traditional 17th century menu available to colony visitors. Each year the colony also hosts a colonial cook-off, which challenges home-cooks to recreate some of the colony’s menu items over an eight-week period throughout the summer.
Crane said this year’s cook-off was the most successful to date.
“We had a really good audience for it, as well as participation this year,” said Crane.
The cook-off challenges anyone visiting the colony’s kitchen, or anyone following the colony’s Facebook page, to recreate some 17th century-inspired dishes and post photos of their creations to add their names to weekly prize draws. The finale for the cook-off featured a grand-prize draw won early this month by Bonnie Piatt, who participated in all eight weeks of the cook-off. Piatt won a new mixer for her efforts.
Some of this year’s dishes in the colonial cook-off included tasty creations such as blackcaps— a baked stuffed apple found in medieval recipe collections — or moonshine with cat’s tongues — a lemon jelly alongside a classic biscuit.
In the Colony of Avalon’s kitchen the dishes are re-created with traditionally grown ingredients such as blue curled scotch kale, red lettuce, fava beans and perennial herbs grown just outside of the traditional 17th century kitchen. For anyone participating in the cook-off, the ingredients are adjusted slightly to accommodate for more readily available ingredients.
With the cook-off concluded for this season, and the Colony of Avalon finishing the year’s final school tours on Friday, Crane said the non-profit colony restoration is already looking ahead to next year’s round of sustainable crops and new dishes.
“It’s all about getting back to our roots and getting down and dirty with vegetables,” said Crane.