A merry medley of veggies sprouting in the Scraper garden
Doug Scraper grows heirloom vegetables in a patch set aside by a local horse ranch.
A former cow barn has become a garden of eatin,’ Doug Scraper wielding the hoe.
The patch of produce is located on Strait Rail Ranch, just a short gallop out of Nevis. It’s home to horse events throughout the summer, equestrian competitors invited to sample the veggies growing in the garden.
The garden is based on memories of recipes from Doug’s childhood. “I’m half Lebanese,” he explains. His immigrant grandparents’ and mother’s recipes – a snap green bean-hamburger-tomato-onion concoction, served over rice mixed with vermicelli - tops the list.
Doug’s endive salad begins with a slurry of boiled potatoes, vinegar, chopped onion, bacon drippings and bacon bits poured over the endive. He serves this with sauerkraut and pork ribs.
And the original recipes are augmented by inspiration from chefs on the Internet, the former Fargo restaurateur said.
His dad and grandfather were avid gardeners. Doug’s weeding tasks as a child seemed arduous. “I hated it; now I love it.” His carefully tended garden bears witness.
“I have always held a fascination with gardening,” Doug said. “You are so close to God. You plant a little seed in the ground and a miracle happens.
“This has always been on my bucket list.”
He considers turkey manure key to the garden’s success, added to the garden each spring. Horse manure – readily available – holds undigested seeds, he discovered, resulting in a plethora of weeds. But turkeys’ digestive systems eradicate these seeds – and the manure is high in nitrogen.
The former Air Force pilot, who flew B-52 bombers, retired in 1988, purchasing an art gallery and subsequently Monte’s Restaurant in Fargo.
A vacation on Belle Taine in 1987 spurred the decision to purchase a cabin, originally just a weekend destination. After three remodels, it became their permanent residence.
The site of the garden was originally made available by Strait Rail’s Ann Lewis, wife Kathy’s first cousin. Strait Rail Ranch is now owned by Marty and Sue Ellen Brown and son Dylan and daughter-in-law Mary Lou, who have “graciously allowed” the continuance of the garden.
The garden is home to Celebrity and Fantastic tomatoes and an heirloom Syrian variety. Recommended by a woman at his former restaurant, he acquires the plants from a nursery in Ada. Roma, black krim and cherry tomato plants also bear fruit – “beautiful on a plate.”
Black seed Simpson lettuce, pole beans, peas, potatoes and zucchini are added to the menu.
“An old guy in bib overalls on the Internet” suggested using hog fencing as a means to send cucumbers upward, advice which he followed.
Broccoli, cabbage, jalepeños, kale, bell peppers and eggplant are harvested. He recalls his mother substituting eggplant for meat on Fridays for the Catholic family.
The tomatillos are the base for his chicken enchiladas. He steams parsnips and carrots with dill and butter. The arugula arriving from the garden becomes the base of a pear salad, replete with goat cheese and walnuts.
Beets are charred on the grill, then skinned and sliced, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and mixed with blue cheese and walnuts.
Zinnias grace the garden’s border, replete with plant signage created by his sister and brother-in-law from Chicago.
“This year, I was bound and determined to stay ahead of the weeds.”
But the garden is not the only reason for sojourns at the ranch. As a child, he’d spent time on his grandparents’ five-acre ranchette in Arkansas, home to Dixie. “I spent every waking moment with that horse.”
Now Skeeter comes to greet him, the duo riding several times a month.