In 1979 a group from Westminster, Vermont stopped by in the hometown of Harry Weiser. This bunch was traveling through New England performing a somewhat newfangled practice – pruning orchards. Pruning has not always been a common practice, but has evolved over the years to become one. Harry, looking for work during the winter months, joined in the pruning business, invigorating trees by encouraging them to replace old wood with new growth. Some of the benefits of pruning include better airflow and sunlight penetration.
The pruning season, while weather dependent, usually starts after January 1st, and can continue until the trees are blooming. Harry now works to prunes his orchard, Hackleboro Orchards located in Canterbury NH, consisting of roughly forty acres and includes nine varieties of apples, pears, peaches, and plums (unfortunately this year there are no peaches and plums due to the fluctuating weather conditions this past winter). At Hackleboro Orchards, Harry also grows blueberries, strawberries, both of which you can do as pick-your-own along with apples in the fall, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, peas, tomatoes, pumpkins, and more. Along with produce, Hackleboro has addictive cider doughnuts and coffee to offer at his stand at the farmers’ markets. During the apple harvest season, Harry also makes unpasteurized cider that still contains the good bacteria and has its own “body and efflorescence” as Harry describes it.
This year marks the 25th year that Hackleboro Orchards has been working to bring us beautiful fruit and vegetables, and delicious products. It is Bill Lord, a retired tree fruit specialist from the University of New Hampshire, we have to thank for helping Harry find the old apple orchard in Canterbury to lease.
The credit of Hackleboro Orchards’ charm, however, is fully due to Harry and his 85-year-old mother Elsie. When picking up some summer squash and cucumbers from Hackleboro’s stand at the Rochester Farmers’ Market, I was greeted with Harry’s infectious smile and a chipper greeting, and chit-chatted with Elsie who told me stories of what it was like to grow up on her family’s farm in Massachusetts, such as how her skilled mother would make beautiful dresses for her out of grain bags. Rochester is not the only farmers’ market where you can find Harry and Elsie – check out Hackleboro Orchards at the Penacook Farmers’ Market on Mondays from 4:00-6:30 pm, the Canterbury Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays from 4:00-6:30 pm, and at the Manchester Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 3-6:30 pm.
Harry and Elsie’s cheerfulness inspired me to make an old favorite recipe using the summer squash – Nigella’s Happiness Soup. This soup’s bright joyful color yellow inspired its name, and is a simple yet scrumptious dish to prepare. The recipe to make this mood-lifting soup is attached below.
Recipe notes/conversions: I used two medium sized summer squashes, 4 cups of broth, and 1/3 cup of rice