Road trip to Arkansas, Part 2

Published 11:44 am Wednesday, March 24, 2021

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

Today’s Special

Finally, jonquils are blooming at our house, not as many as I had in Batesville, but a good start. It’s looking like spring with the pear trees blooming and other beginning to leaf out.

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And, soon the red buds will be glowing in the sun with their purple flowers.  It would be so nice if some of the blooms would last through Easter Sunday. We’re counting on a beautiful day for the big egg hunt and dinner which didn’t get to happen last year. Everybody’s coming!

So I’ve much to do and so does DW, but we took a day and a half off to take in the jonquils at Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas. Our hundred or so bulbs don’t begin to compare with the millions of blooms we enjoyed last week.

We left inspired to plant more and with DW figuring out the best way to plant them and what kind of tools we would need to prevent us getting down in our backs.

This was our second trip to Roland, Ark., to P. Allen Smith’s farm and home on the banks of the Arkansas River. We went last October and enjoyed the remains of his summer landscape highlighted with pumpkins and fall flowers. But, after hearing about a hillside covered in narcissus blooms, we decided we should make the trip again in the spring. I called some friends and we planned a trip.

Again, we toured his landscaped terraces and gardens. This area is in planting zone 8 which means they average slightly warmer temperatures than we do in zone 7.  His espaliered pear trees were blooming.

In this very interesting French growing technique, branches of young trees are trained to grow horizontally then up, which is perfect for fruit trees making the fruit easy to find and harvest. I haven’t talked DW into this one yet, but I think we could do it.

We toured his lovely home and again enjoyed lunch under the big tent. The tables were set with vases filled with daffodils…of course. This menu included a niçoise salad with the most wonderful mustard vinaigrette and I’d been disappointed if we didn’t have a slice of his buttermilk pecan pie. I was not disappointed. And Mr. Smith joined us for after lunch conversation. We enjoy his quick, dry wit.

After lunch we walked (you definitely need your walking shoes for this 4-hour day on the farm) on down to tour the pretty little guest cottage and then to Poultryville. Back in October this part of our tour was rained out, but this spring day was warm and absolutely gorgeous so we didn’t miss anything.   

Chickens, ducks, turkeys, swans and geese lived royally in the biggest backyard chicken coop in Arkansas. Here, Smith and poultry science researchers work to keep heritage breeds of chickens from all over the world from being diluted and disappearing.  I do believe they were some of the largest and prettiest chickens I’d ever seen.

They were preparing for next Saturday’s Chicken Chat where eggs would be sold for raising these fine feathered fowl.

But the highlight of the day was seeing over a million blooming daffodils and jonquils, all from the Narcissus family.  The drive into the farm just hinted at the blooms beyond with a smattering of daffodils growing naturally along the drive.

The entire hillside beside the home was covered in shades of yellow, orange, cream, pink, coral… looking as if an artist poured his colors down the hillside. And, they had created a meandering path for visitors to stroll down to enjoy the flowers up close and personal.

My friend Priscilla and I chose our favorites and took pictures. Smith’s garden staff has planted almost 900,000 blubs over the past 10 or so years. And it showed! My what a sight.

So meanwhile back in Tennessee, DW and I are back to getting ready for our Easter weekend…cleaning out flower beds, putting out fresh mulch, potting a few gerbera daisies, washing off lawn furniture and hoping for another warm gorgeous spring day and maybe a dozen or so daffodil blooms for all to enjoy… but who’s counting?

Recipe of the Week

Ham & Asparagus Cheesecake

Perfect for an Easter brunch buffet.

1 sleeve ritz crackers, crushed

6 tablespoons butter, melted

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 large eggs

8 ounces sour cream

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon white pepper

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded swiss cheese

1 ¼ cups diced cooked ham

1-pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 green onions, minced

Stir together cracker crumbs and melted butter, press mixture into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake in 350° oven for 10 minutes; cool on wire rack. Reduce oven to 300°. Beat cream cheese with mixer 2 – 3 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each. Add sour cream, flour, pepper; beat until blended. Stir in cheese. Pour ⅓ of mixture into baked crust; sprinkle with ham, then top with half of remaining cheese mixture. Sprinkle with asparagus and onions. Top evenly with remaining cheese mixture. Bake in 300° oven for 1 hour or until center is set. Turn off oven and let cake stand 1 hour with door partially open. Can be served warm, or cover and chill to serve cold.