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Rachael Krupski and daughters (Photo Credit: Victoria Caruso)

A Southold native that grew up foraging in forests and climbing ancient trees, Rachael Krupski was destined to become a lifelong plant lover. Married into the 5th generation of a farming family, Krupski is both a farmer and a gardener. While she would say that being a stay-at-home mom to her two young daughters is her main gig, she also runs Krupski Farm’s social media and helps at the family farm in Cutchogue. Krupski also began Cultivated Apothocary last year creating and selling her own homegrown products on Etsy.

Krupski planted her backyard garden eight years ago when she and her husband Nick moved into their Cutchogue home. She started only with culinary herbs but her desire to grow more was fierce. Now, in the Krupski’s backyard, you’ll find an array of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Besides whipping up delicious homegrown meals for her family, Krupski wild crafts with the herbs and flowers growing in her yard. She’s currently making Lemon Balm tincture and plans to make St. John’s Wort tincture, and Echinacea tincture to utilize for the next flu and cold season. Especially with a new baby coming this fall, Krupski and her family utilize homegrown remedies to stay healthy. She also enjoys teaching others how to create remedies.

When asked why a farming family would need a backyard garden, Krupski had very clear answers. Gardening in her own backyard allows her to grow on her own timeline. For example, her tomatoes will be ready before the farm’s tomatoes. Right now she has the ease of growing most of her needs for her family’s meals from her own harvests. 

For Krupski, backyard gardening only deepens her connection to the family farm. The main difference between home gardening and farming; “I have much more control over my tiny ecosystem in my yard garden versus the farm where there are constantly things to battle like fungus and insect pests, and animals like raccoons and deer. I can always remedy the situation in my garden easily by pulling out a plant or replacing something which isn’t as easy on the farm,” said Krupski.  “If I get a bumper crop of something in the garden, I can share it with friends. If it’s a famine, it’s not the end of the world.” 

Krupski also gardens as a way to experiment and branch out from the crops that are grown at Krupski Farms and most importantly to show her daughters “what Dziadziu does on the farm but on a small scale” as she puts it. Dziadziu is Polish for grandfather and Krupski is referring to Al Krupski, a current Suffolk County Legislator who is running for Southold Town Supervisor this fall. Inspired by their love of watching their father and grandfather farm, the Krupski family garden has truly become a teaching garden for Krupski’s daughters, ages 4 and 2 years old. This past spring, they were lucky enough to enjoy observing a handful of swallowtail caterpillars who chose the garden’s dill plants as their host home.  Krupski was proud to share that her eldest daughter is already choosing her own crops this year for the garden. Every time Krupski gets her Seeding Square out, even her 2-year-old gets excited. The family’s backyard garden continues to solidify that their love of plants will be passed down to the next generation of the Krupski family.

Garden Gushing with Rachael:

WHY DO YOU GARDEN: To connect to Mother Earth. Gardening is a form of meditation for me. It calms me down and releases stress

FAVORITE PART OF GARDENING: Harvesting! Watching the girls pick and forage green beans recently in the garden is a highlight. They love to eat right from the garden. 

LEAST FAVORITE PART OF GARDENING: Fighting the pests in the garden is the most frustrating part. Companion planting like nasturtiums and using a dish of soapy water to catch bugs/slugs overnight helps. We also use sound deterrents for moles. I am trying to work with nature instead of against it.

FAVORITE CROP: Tomatoes! I can’t wait to pick and eat them fresh with sea salt. I am trying new varieties this year but my favorites are always heirloom beefsteak varieties.

FEELINGS THE GARDEN EVOKES: The garden brings me peace. I sit with a cup of tea and observe what is happening around me. I love watching the birds flying overhead and the bees pollinating the flowers. It’s my zen place. 

LESSONS FROM THE GARDEN: I’ve learned not to be upset with failure because it teaches you lessons. I’ve planted things and realized I’ve made mistakes. Growing and learning every year from what I’m planting in my garden is so valuable. I look at the garden as a fun learning experience instead of an upset. I’m always learning! 

LOVES TO GROW: I’m growing a lot more flowers this year, like borage. My girls get very excited when I tell them a flower is edible. Okra and beets are new additions. I love medicinal flowers for apothecary purposes. Lemon Balm, Nettles, Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, and Calendula are growing in my new apothecary garden.

Lemon Balm Tincture

Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. It is both calming and a mood booster. Krupski uses the folk method to create a tincture with this beautiful easy-to-grow herb. “A few drops on the tongue will do it,” she said.

Step 1: 

Fill a jar 3/4 of the way full with the herb, and cover with 80-proof vodka leaving about 1/2 inch of room at the top of the jar. 

Step 2: 

Place the lid on the jar and label it with the date and herb contents

Step 3:

Place the jar a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily.

Step 4: 

Strain the herb out when you’re ready to use.