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Crafts from Our Bounty

2017 is our first harvest from our gardens at the D.D. Collins House. As our crops are harvested and prepared, we will update the crafts our talented Master Gardeners and members of the Collinsville Garden Club make and share with our community.  

Click gold outlined images to learn more about the history, fun facts, and recipes of that crop.

Wreaths & Apple Cones

Wreaths and apple cones that were popular for decorating the home in the mid-1800s.  We'll have an update soon, of pictures from our crafts.

Please check back for how-to photographs so that you can make your own simple wreaths and apple cones.

Teacups with Portulaca

Vintage teacups with portulaca are a wonderful way to add a special plant that's easy to care for with beautiful blooms!

Luffa Gourd

Luffa Gourd on the vine

Luffa Gourds ~

As we stroll down our garden path, we come across a fruit of the vine that looks a bit like a cucumber. Ahh, this is no cucumber, indeed, as we explore the "vineage" of this gourd as you will see.  Yes, it is a member of the "Cucurbitaceae" or cucumber family, but there is much more to this fellow. There are more than 800 different varieties of gourds and the label "gourd" means something a little different to us, in the United States, than in Europe where melons are also called gourds.

Follow the trail of this vine ~

The luffa, or loofah, or smooth-angled gourd finds its roots in Asia and Egypt. Remnants of this special gourd found in America have been carbon-dated to nearly 10,000 years ago as a domesticated plant that was cultivated for a purpose. The common name, "luffa" is derived from the Egyptian Arab word,  لوف "luff" which is the name for this plant.  A botanist, Johann Vesling, described the artificial irrigation and cultivation of the plant he observed while visiting Egypt in the 1620s.  It was formally given the botany genus name "Luffa" in 1706 by the botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort.

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708)

Luffa Gourd botanical drawing

Johann Vesling


More than meets the eye ~

Admittedly, it's not the most beautiful of the gourd family on the outside; but the inner beauty here is two-fold. While in the Western world it is not known for use as a food crop, it is rather highly regarded as a nutritional vegetable by the Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai cultures (recipes below). It is fairly easy to grow in hot and wet areas; but does not fair well in colder climates even as close as Wisconsin, where the young plants must be cultivated early and protected to full maturity before a fall frost.  

Can you think of another fruit or vegetable (depending on your point of view) that you can eat before it reaches full maturity and bathe with when it has dried?  Yes, that's right, bathe with. Sure you know the advantages of the Loofa for exfoliating your skin; but did you realize you were bathing with a piece of dried fruit? The beauty (besides its beautifying results for your skin) is that unlike sea sponges that are also used for bathing, the Luffa gourd is a plant, easily harvested; not an animal important to the ocean ecosystems.

Luffa Gourd trellis

Peeling the gourd

Gourd off the vine becomes Loofah

Peeled Luffa gourds

Dried Luffa Gourd

Unbleached ready to cut

A good harvest

Some are kept a natural color

Luffa ready for the spa

Porifera (sea sponges) are simple-celled, filter feeding living animals. They are colorful and vital to every coral reef in every ocean. More than 1,000 of the world's top marine scientists have called for a moratorium on deep-sea trawling that destroys this delicate ecosystem. Whereas, in the United States alone, there are now more than 11,000 Luffa gourd growers that grow and sell their produce.

Phylium Perifora (Sea Sponge)

Yellow Tube Sponge

Green Perifora

Art of the ancient monasteries and baths ~

The old Hebrew proverb, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," takes on a new meaning when we explore two ancient archeological sites:


The ruins of Kursi by the Sea of Galilee where two of Jesus' miracles are memorialized in the Byzantine Monastery depicts Luffa gourds in the floor mosaic.  This is the first time the Luffa gourds, which were used for food and bathing, appear in the art of the Byzantine era (330 A.D. - 1430) in the mosaics of churches and Jewish synagogues located specifically in Palestine.  


Mosaic floors that are 1,500 years old were discovered in 1929 when people of Beit She'an, a town located at the foot of the northern slopes of the Gilboa mountains in Israel, were digging irrigation channels for their fields. Although excavations exposed several mosaics that same year, more were uncovered in 1974. Bet Alfa is a sixth-century synagogue and a National Park in Israel. 

Luffa gourds in mosaic floor of Kursi

Photo by Anatavital ~ Dec. 2009

Byszntine church & monastery at Kursi  ~ on the

Sea of Galilee - northeastern shore.

Excerpt from an article by Charles R. Page, II, Jerusalem Institute for Biblical Exploration ~ 2001

Bet Alfa Synagogue Mosaic floor - Luffa gourd

click imge for Bet Alfa Park brochure

Bet Alfa Synagogue aerial view

Luffa Recipes
Now that we're clean, it's time to eat ~

Try a taste of the Near East and Far East with some simple recipes for the Luffa Gourd:

Fried Ridge Gourd

from Rasha's Kitchen

Click image to visit website

Ridge Gourd

from Jaisiyaram

Click image to visit website

Stir-fried Luffa Gourd and Chicken

from Hakka Cookbook

Click image to visit website

Chicken Soup w/Misua and Patola

from Panlasang Pinoy

Click image to visit website

Ridge Gourd Dose

from Archana's Kitchen

Click image to visit website

Thai Stir Fry Loffa Gourd

from Thai Table

Click image to visit website

Use Luffa gourds as planters for your favorite herbs!

Our Bounty ~

We'll post photos of our Luffa gourd harvest before too long and show the drying process as they come along!


Pumpkins herald autumn festivities

Pumpkins ~

It's just not autumn without a stroll through ye olde pumpkin patch. The bright golden-coppery spheres represent so much to young and old folks alike. From scary jack-o-lanterns, legends and tales new and old, to the warmth of a hearth and comfort of home, the pumpkin enriches the very soul of our being. Even creatures great and small in the animal kingdom love and enjoy these orange orbs of crunchy delight.

Join me now, into the glen ~
and through the pumpkin
patch we shall take a spin.
See what magic and tales unfold,
of pumpkin wisdom from times of old.
First stop, North America ~

First evidence of pumpkin seeds have been found in Mexico and date to between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C. Next we embark to Greece so we can name this botanical wonder. Pumpkin was considered to be a large melon, so the Greeks called it Pepõn (i.e. large melon, now that makes sense). It is a member of the cucumber family "Cucurbita" like the luffa gourd above. Next we stop in France where pumpkin was prepared as winter squash cuisine and in that wonderful French accent "pepõn" became "pompon." Next stop, England where the pompon became Shakespearized into "pumpion" in his comedy, "Merry Wives of Windsor."


Now full circle back to North America where the colonists referred to this squash as pumpkin. Henceforth we enjoy pumpkins here, but the scientific name remains, "Cucurbita Pepo."


Originally pumpkins looked more of a crooked-neck gourd looking fruit. Yes, the pumpkin is a fruit since it grows on a vine. It stored well and was cultivated by Native Americans as well will learn about further down the pumpkin path.

Pepõn means large melon

18th century illustration of pumpkin by Joseph Plenck

Pumpkin by

Ulisse Aldrovandi ~ c. 1550

Susannah Blaxill illustration

Universidad Complutense Madride

Turpin Botanical

illustration ~ c. 1815

What we learned from Native Americans ~

As we learned above, Native Americans realized early on the importance of pumpkin to their survival because it kept well to sustain them through the harsh winter months. They were the first who cultivated pumpkins; and they learned the trick of  the "Three Sisters" which many gardeners still use today. Now if you're not a gardener per se, you may wonder, "What is the trick of the Three Sisters?"  Therefore here is the answer to your query, excerpted from All About Pumpkins (click the excerpt to visit the link) :

Click image to visit The Micro Gardener site

Here's how to do it from Mother Earth News

This is how it looks . . .

Sunflowers are a nice addition!

What did they make with those pumpkins? ~

Recipes evolve over time, it's true. One of the first recipes from the United States colonies was in

John Josselyn's, "New-England Rarities Discovered,"   published in 1672.

Pumpkin Side Dish (1672)

Dice ripe pumpkin and cook it in a pot over the course of a day.

Once finished add butter and ginger and a little vinegar.


Nearly 150 years later they began making pumpkin recipes with a sweeter note.


Sweet Roasted Pumpkin (1818)

Hollow out a ripe pumpkin. Fill it with milk.

Add sugar and ginger.

Roast it on the fire until soft.

This recipe evolved into what became the rave in the 1800s and continues as a Thanksgiving tradition today. Hello, pumpkin pie!

On October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln made a Proclamation of Thanksgiving (click title to read transcript of proclamation):

"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Roasted pumpkin slices

a colonial dish

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

(click for zoomable PDF)

Abraham Lincoln

November 1863

Thankful for pumpkin recipes ~

It began with a seed,

that grew into a pumpkin, not a weed.

Harvest is here,

Thanksgiving is near.

Time to enjoy the fruits of our labor,

From breakfast to dessert, the pumpkin we savor.

Pumpkin French Toast


Click image to visit website

Cheesy Pumpkin Macaroni

from DomestiqueSuperhero

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Fritters

from Second Breakfast

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes

from Reluctant Entertainer

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Cornbread Waffle

from Minimalist Baker

Click image to visit website

Creamy Pumpkin Soup


Click image to visit website

Best Pizza Ever

from Love Lola Blog

Click image to visit website

Lentil Pumpkin Salad

from Anja Schwerin

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Sage Biscuits

from Sweetpeas and Saffron

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Chili

from Julia's Album

Click image to visit website

Roasted Pumpkin

from Not Quite Nigella

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Sage Polenta

from Kitchen Confidante

Click image to visit website

Mighty mini pumpkin recipes ~

It may be tiny. It may be cute,

Yes, there's something special

about this wholesome fruit  . . .

It offers warmth and gaiety,

an autumn treasure for your family!

Bread Pudding Mini

from Broma Bakery

Click image to visit website

Veggie Harvest Mini

from 86 Lemons

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Cheesecake Stuffed

from Le Creme de la Crumb

Click image to visit website

Mushroom Stuffed Mini

from Simple Seasonal

Click image to visit website

Holiday Stuffed Mini

from Green Kitchen Stories

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin Pie Dip Mini

from Handmade in the Heartland

Click image to visit website

Roasted Garlic Mini

from Half Baked Harvest

Click image to visit website

Everything Good Mini

from Cheese and Chocolate

Click image to visit website

Lincoln Pumpkin Pudding

from Tori Avey

Click image to visit website

Pumpkin, the nutritional powerhouse ~
Family fun for everyone ~

We've had our appetizers, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Topped it all off with wonderful desserts, each a proven winner. Now 'tis time to tease our minds with some fun fact; yes, the pumpkin kind! . . .

How did the Jack-o-lantern come to be? ~

Carved potatoes

Carved turnip

Carved sweet potato

It all began so long ago,

when the Celtics hollowed out a large potato. 

Turnips were included in this, too.

For there was a purpose, yes, it's true.

Once the orb became a shell,

a scary face was carved as well.

This became a perfect place,

to set a candle, yes a sheltered space.

The lantern now would light their way;

while the candle-flickering faces scared all the goblins away.

Then it came to be,

in the late 1800s in America, you see.

We discovered the pumpkin oh so round,

made a perfect lantern; isn't that profound?

Back then "Jack's lanterns" is what they were called,

in reference to their roots in times of auld.

Now this is what you may not know,

but in the late 1800s it was we Americans

who wanted to show . . .

our celebratory spirit in each community

and our sense of unity.

So light the Jack-o-lanterns, yes, that's right;

and out they went to celebrate Halloween night!


Perfect for Halloween

Jack-o-lanterns light the way

Goblins and goulies beware ~

These lanterns teeth are bared!

(Angler and piranha pumpkins carved by Austin Welch)

More fun facts ~
  • Morton, Illinois produces nearly 95% of all canned pumpkin!

  • The current world record (September, 2017) for the largest pumpkin is held by Germany with the winner weighing a whopping 2,624.6 pounds!

  • World's Largest Pumpkin Pie. On September 25, 2010, they baked a 3,699 pound pumpkin, far surpassing their prior record of 2,020 pounds. Click image to visit website.

Storytime ~

Time for a story or two, that feature the pumpkin and some may even scare you! Grab some roasted pumpkin seeds and sit around the hearth and fire to let the shadows help enhance the tales . . .

Click book jacket to read the story as PDF

"The Legend of Sleep Hollow" is the tale of  Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman. Written by Washington Irving in 1820, this scary story is told time and time again. Many movies have been made as well as a popular television series. Do you know the tale? Well, here's a great surprise, just click the book cover and you can read the entire original story in a PDF!

Legend of Sleep Hollow illustration 1820

Washington Irving (1783-1859)

Fairy Tales ~

Click the book cover for a

PDF of the story from 1865

Illustration by Errol LeCain

(1941 – 1989)

"Cinderella," the classic fairy tale with glass slippers, pumpkin carriages, and happily ever after. We are thrilled and grateful to and the University of California for access to this beautiful rendition of the classic story by Edward Dalziel (1817-1905) and George Dalziel (1815-1902). This version was published between 1865 and 1889 and the illustrations are remarkable. Be sure to click the book cover to read the entire original story as a PDF!

Cinderella Wonder Books circa 1954

Illustration of Cinderella's

pumpkin carriage

Nursery Ryhmes ~

Illustration by Volland (1921)

Click image for zoomable PDF

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,

Had a wife but couldn't keep her;

He put her in a pumpkin shell

And there he kept her very well.

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,

Had another and didn't love her;

Peter learned to read and spell,

And then he loved her very well.

Illustration by Jesse Wilcox

1901 Illustration

by William Wallace Denslow


Phone:  Call Lavadna at 618.420.0288         

Mail: c/o 104 Irene Dr., Collinsville, IL 62234 

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