A 1910 Picnic (With Thoughts of Cape Gooseberries?)

(Received?) your letter and wanted to answer long before this but was very busy. Will write before the pic-nic. Have you made all arrangements for that eventful day. I expect to see you then. Anna.

(Miss? Mrs.?) Harriet S. Kunkle must have stuck this postcard into a book with tape, as the back is torn in just that manner. I wonder how many years it stayed there, allowing for reminiscing of the picnic and of her friend Anna . . .

That was one hundred years ago. 1910. And the picture is of Cape Gooseberries. Also called Lantern Fruit, a relative of tomatillos, a pretty thing wrapped up in tissue paper by nature itself, dangling dancing so temptingly from its greenery-touched stems!

There are some lovely things you can make with this fruit if you happen to have it growing near you. Jams, of course – and tarts too. Here’s a story with some history of the fruit, right alongside a flavorful cake.

Somehow the way they look implies a sense of the precious, of the guarded – of treasures to be unfolded. Perhaps Anna had a similar feeling about the picnic she soon would attend, which she wrote of in such an almost-stiff manner?

Today is the start of a new year. I hope the corners peeked around in all our various ways will hold more treasures to be unwrapped than banana peels to slip upon! (And I also hope Anna’s dreams came true!)

Why Florida Worries Me



They really grow ’em big & juicy down here – plenty fresh cucumbers, tomatos, corn on the cob etc to eat. We arrived Sat P.M. – not too tired after being on the road so long – Dad Hattie and Eloise start on their journey to the “Deep South” – really beautiful here about 76 degree here now & was 82 degrees here Sat. The nites get cool, sleep under two blankets. “Dick” is out trying to mow the 2 x 4 lawn. Lois.

First the giant oranges, two of them, on a little fake trainbed, with the stark warning: ‘ORANGES – The Kind that Grow in Florida’. Then the note – so innocuous, so brainless, so dull. Sleep under two blankets??? What is this, a tutorial? And finally, the last straw, the thing that really worries me is her last line. I’d say there’s plenty to be worried about there.

Let’s add some Northern quasi-Lutheranism to this whole thing. Let’s erase these worrisome thoughts and add some tart cranberries to those oranges. Let’s make Oranges in Cranberry Coulis. And for god’s sake let’s get Dick in the house and off the lawn.

Recipe for Oranges with Cranberry Coulis (It’s a nice, light fruit dessert)

For more on oranges, here’s a Zesty History of Florida Oranges

The (Beach) Plum Survives Its Poems

Beach plum jams and jellies are known the world over – and always associated with Cape Cod. Experiments are now in progress which may elevate the purple-hued beach plum to the commercial status of the Cape Cod cranberry.

This postcard appears to be from the 1960’s. It is now close to fifty years later and the beach plum’s struggle is apparently still on – people want to make it a commercially viable fruit, and it seems to still be refusing to cooperate.

In 2007, with the help of the USDA, several universities, and some cooperative extensions, a bumper crop of 800 pounds was gathered by this group. Of course, it wasn’t Cape Cod so maybe that was the problem. The card claims that beach plums are always associated with Cape Cod.

The beach plum has a most romantic sound to it. Both beachy and plummy it floats along, unattainable to the common person unlucky enough to not be foraging along the beach at the right time and right place . . . and the recipes which beach plums are now going into also have the right stuff to maintain this romance!

A Recipe For Romance
1 part romantic fruit (beach plum, pomegranate, quince, persimmon)
1 part goat cheese
1 part bacon
1 part greens

It’s a bit odd how the beach plum seems to be refusing the promise of ‘becoming elevated to the status of the cranberry’. In 1948 a Beach Plum Grower’s Association was started, but after ten years it mysteriously disbanded, with no word as to ‘why’.

Maybe the beach plum wants to stay small. Maybe it doesn’t really care if the foodies in other places feel the need to know it. Could it be that (as Wallace Stevens wrote) ‘the plum survives its poems’. (?)