Edible Berkshires

FIELD LESSONS: Five Schools Cultivating Change by Hand

The reward (Photo by Jonathan Doster for the Hotchkiss School)

By Emily Armstrong Oberto

It’s a cool New England morning. A crackle of frost covers the fields, glinting as the sun comes over the ridge. You take in a cleansing breath and set to work bringing the cows in for milking. Your muck boots crunch on the crystalline grass as you encourage the herd towards the dairy. Though your mind is present on the task at hand, you prepare for the busy day ahead—breakfast in the dining hall, a math exam, the soccer game after school…

While not yet a mainstream activity, experiences like this one are becoming a curricular component at a growing number of schools in the region. In certain cases these endeavors may owe something to the resurgence of the “back to the land” movement or the work of such food luminaries as Alice Waters, patron saint … Read the rest



Photos by Caroline Alexander

Nestled on the side of the road on Route 23, heading west, just before the NY border, is a welcoming refuge for hungry locals and visitors. John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, has been around for so long, it’s an indigenous part of the landscape in the Berkshires.

Dan Smith, chef/owner, grew up on a farm in Iowa, then worked briefly as a sous chef in Florida before relocating to Salisbury, CT, in the late 1980s. He and his former wife purchased a two-story house—at the time, Sebastiani’s Restaurant—in 1990 on the outskirts of South Egremont, MA, and named the restaurant after his then father-in-law, John Andrews.

When Dan started out, his menu was American, with Northern Italian influences, and it’s still that way. But, his connection to local farmers has developed and deepened over time. As Dan’s culinary expertise evolved over the years, so has his … Read the rest


Preserving the end of season


Fire up the canning kettle when the days start to shorten. September and October offer a flood of local peppers, onions, tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables collected during farmers’ last passes through their fields. Blemished fruits like softened tomatoes or scarred peppers are especially useful in canning. Pack the local harvest season away for a February day when winter life in the Berkshires seems to drag on.

When canning with a hot water bath, refer to: nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda.pdf

The following recommendations should be observed:

  • Wash the jars and lids prior to beginning the cooking process.
  • Keep the jars and lids warm until you need them.
  • Don’t overfill jars, or they will leak or break during processing.
  • Screw bands on only enough to hold the lid in place prior to processing.
  • Make sure the water in the bath covers the jars.
  • After processing, cool jars
Read the rest


The Maremmas of Stonehedge Farm


On a bright early summer morning at one of the lower barns of Lila Berle’s Stonehedge Farm in Great Barrington, the day was well under way. After a few weeks of nonstop haying in between the record rains of June, there was a little time for a break from chores.

Lila and her Standard Poodle, Butter, greeted a visitor in the barnyard while ducks, geese and ducklings, adopted by the geese when their mother was killed by a raven, ambled about. Butter bounded into the cab of a truck, where four large stainless-steel dishes containing kibble, some wet food and hard-cooked eggs (from Lila’s hens) were perched on the dash and seats.

“Let’s take a ride to meet the dogs.”

The dogs are Maremmas, an Italian breed of working sheep dogs thought to be 2,000 years old, which guard and live year-round with the … Read the rest


Fall, a glorious season in New England!

It should be cool and crisp—oh, that was mid-August. Well, maybe it will be hot and humid—oh, that was mid-June. Time to harvest the potatoes—oh, we did that in mid- August, ready early and quite wonderful. Time to start putting up all the tomatoes that are so abundant in fall—oh, wait, I’m still trying to get my fi ll of fresh ones. Wasn’t that supposed to be in August?

I find it truly interesting just how so much is changing and how we can’t depend on the way things used to be. Yet I’m impressed with the farm community that deals with change pretty much from week to week.

The new generation of farmers has brought change to the plate. Local production has increased with more farmers and artisanal producers. The techniques employed yield healthier and amazingly high-quality fi nal products. Chemical-, hormone- … Read the rest



Congratulations to MAX GITLEN, the new butcher at THE MEAT MARKET. They report that Max sees his job as an “opportunity not only to provide a great product but to further the aspirations of local food, to provide the highest quality food to all people, to keep the lines visible between producer and customer and to build a community that can thrive on these principles.”


BERKSHIRE BLUE CHEESE: Handcrafted blue cheese made right in Berkshire County! WWLP Ch. 22 in Springfield, in a weeklong series called “Mass Appeal,” featured owner Ira Grable and his daughter Rori demonstrating how this wonderful cheese is made. To see the video, go to: WWLP.com/dpp/mass_appeal/taste/berkshire-blue


BERKSHIRE ORGANICS MARKET of Dalton, MA, was named one of the Top 12 Right to Know Grocers in North America by Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Berkshire Organics was selected from a field of more than 150 stores. The store requires … Read the rest


Autumn in Austerlitz

Becket Arts Center
7 Brooker Hill Rd. off Rte. 8, Becket, MA

Berkshire Botanical Garden
Corner rtes. 102 & 183, Stockbridge, MA

Berkshire Co-op Market
42 Bridge St., Great Barrington

Berkshire Food Festival
Downtown North Adams

Berkshire Grown Harvest Supper
Upper Lodge at Ski Butternut
Rte. 23, Great Barrington

Berkshire Museum
39 South St., Pittsfield

McKay St., Pittsfield

Chatham Open Farm Days
Chatham, NY

66 Main St., Great Barrington

Egremont Garden Club

Berkshire Wildflower Honey
282 Brewer Hill Rd., Mill River, MA

Founders Weekend Celebration
Main St., Lee, MA

Greylock Ramble

760 Main St., Great Barrington

1020 Rte. 7, Pittsfield, MA

Hancock Shaker Village
34 Lebanon Mountain Rd., Rte. 20,
Hancock, MA

Hawthorne Valley Farm
327 Rte. 21C, … Read the rest

Drunken Stuffed Pears


Stuffed fruits are very common in Mediterranean cooking. Serve them as a snack or an aperitif, as a first dish or as a side dish. Use firm fruits to avoid their falling apart while cooking. Because apple and pears when cut fresh tend to get darker due to oxidation, blanch them immediately with lemon or white wine when handling. Here is a recipe for a baked pear, using the advantage of the fabulous taste of Berkshire Blue cheese.

Yield: 4 servings

4 pears, peeled (optional), cut in half and core removed*
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup white wine

For the stuffing:

½ cup Berkshire Blue cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons cream cheese**
1/3 cup nuts, diced***
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs****

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Set pears in a baking dish with their open sides up. Pour wine on and around the pears. Sprinkle nutmeg on the pears. Cover the baking … Read the rest

Earthy Celery Root Salad


Yield: 4 servings

Celery root or celeriac is the root of the plant Apium graveolens. While in North America we are familiar with the aboveground stalks and leaves known as celery, the roots of a closely related plant are very popular in the Mediterranean and European cooking. In recent years celery root has started to appear in our markets too.

When shopping for celery root search for the heavier roots, as they have not dehydrated and so will be fresher and tastier.

Sometimes farmers sell them with the stems, and though these are less prominent than celery they can certainly be used too; just cut the stems from the root and store them separately.

I love celery root and add it to many of my recipes, as it adds taste to any stew or mashed roots. One can’t cook a healing chicken soup without adding celery root to the pot. … Read the rest