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Mrs. Ruth Holcomb's Pineapple Fluff: Holcomb Gardens-3 1/3 Miles North of Town

While each of the posts featured in the Castle Museum's historic recipe blog are independent stories, there are often interconnected themes – then again, every story in Saginaw County is interconnected. And this post is a continuation of a story started in “George Holcomb the Court Street Grocer": https://www.castlemuseum.org/post/george-holcomb-the-court-street-grocer-where-to-purchase-sunkist-oranges-in-1918

 

In 1914 Harry and William Holcomb Sr. took over the operation of their father’s grocery store at 1202 Court Street. Renamed Holcomb Brothers Grocery, the store continued to flourish. However, a closer reading of city directories indicates that the brothers were slowly shifting their focus and occupations. By 1921 William Holcomb Sr.’s occupation was listed as a farmer and by 1927 Harry’s was listed as a gardener. The grocery store was no longer listed.

Brothers Harry and William Holcomb Senior in Holcomb Bros. Grocery Store Store, 1202 Court Street

About 1921, they purchased property on Bay Road, between Pierce and Kochville Roads in Kochville Township, where they developed a produce farm. The business grew and by the 1930s the A&P Store in Saginaw was advertising produce grown by Holcomb Gardens.


By the mid-twentieth century, the farm was described as one of the largest vegetable growers in Saginaw County. Eventually, their operation included a retail store on their farm. A 1952 article, “Like to Run A 100-Acre Garden? When Weeds begin Sprouting, You’d Better Love it!” from The Saginaw News, May 7, 1952, describes the operation:

“If a general farmer can till 100 acres all by himself, a vegetable farmer can take care of only about 10 acres alone. A general farmer sometimes has only one hired man, but a vegetable farmer must have many.”

The author details the type of labor and the need for hand labor – the Holcombs often employed high school students. The article continues:

“‘The close attention you must give your work, crop by crop and plant by plant, makes vegetable growing something like being a florist,’ said Harry Holcomb as he sorted the weeds from tiny pepper plants. He raised the plants from seed in a hot bed 100 feet long and 12 feet wide.


‘You have to an optimist, something of a gambler and not afraid to work if you want success at this game.’

Perhaps many general farmers have said this same kind of thing about their own work, but you get the impression from Mr. Holcomb that the statement is more actually true of vegetable farming where everything seems to be more intense.”

This week’s recipe, Mrs. Ruth Holcomb’s pineapple fluff, is from a c.1925 cookbook published by the Kochville Methodist Church. Ruth Ferguson Holcomb was born in Saginaw in 1892 and married William Holcomb Sr. in 1915. She was an active member of the Kochville Methodist Church and its W.S.C.S.

Holcomb Gardens included a retail store on Bay Road – or what was in the 1920s known as Westside Bay City Road. The operation was taken over William and Ruth Holcomb’s son, William Holcomb Jr., who operated it until he retired in 1977.

Photograph of the Holcomb Market, William Holcomb, Jr. is standing by pickup truck, c. 1961

Tim Holcomb, William Jr’s son – Ruth and William Sr’s grandson - recalls:

 “I had the good fortune of working in the fields and the market with both my father and grandfather. I was continually impressed and proud of the business created by my grandfather. Of course, he could not have done this without the acceptance and support given by Grandmother Ruth.”


The Recipe


Pineapple Fluff: Whip ½ pt. cream, Dice 1 can and ¼ pound marshmallows, add part of whipped cream and stir thru it. Set in a cold place. When ready to serve, fold in remainder of whipped cream, place in individual serving dishes and garnish with a cherry. Oranges and dates may be added to the pineapple if desired.

-Mrs. Ruth Holcomb, Kochville, The Jubilee Cookbook, Kochville Methodist Church


Interpretation –

1/2-pint heavy cream, divided, whipped

1 can pineapple

¼ pound marshmallows

Maraschino cherries for garnish

Directions:

Drain pineapple. Dice marshmallows and pineapples. Combine with 1/2 of whipped heavy cream and refrigerate. Immediately prior to serving, fold in the remainder of whipped cream. Place in individual serving cups and garnish with maraschino cherries.


Notes:

Straight forward and simple, this is the perfect recipe for early summer – or winter – before Michigan’s harvest starts. (Although, one could imagine variations – perhaps strawberry or raspberry fluff?)

When dicing the pineapple and marshmallows, follow the original instructions literally and chop them together - at the same time. The slight amount of moisture from the pineapple makes it much easier to slice the marshmallows. The recipe makes about four servings.


One could imagine pineapple fluff served at an event held by Mrs. H. W. Kuhlman, the Holcombs’ neighbor and wife of the minister of Kochville Methodist Church, when the members of the Caro Wixom Club visited and “Guests enjoyed an all-day social session, with a basket luncheon served at noon. The Holcomb gardens were visited.” Then again, would pineapple fluff be appropriate for basket lunch? And it does not appear the meal was actually prepared by Mrs. Holcomb.



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