Edible Berkshires

the last bite: WHO’D A THUNKED IT

Market Magic Captivates Kids

Child with Cookie

Over the last few years that I have worked at the farmers market in Great Barrington, I have found that children are the market’s best customers. Sure, many little ones enter the transformed parking lot as if they didn’t want to be there, stubbornly trailing behind. But after 10 or 20 feet, anyone can witness the change— and then it is the small hands that touch the radishes and rhubarb first. While their parents run into this or that friend, the kids inhale the smell of fresh food just dug and picked, and they will even take a vegetable from the table and shove it into their mouth before anyone can tell them otherwise.

Each year, the farmers market begins in May, and winter-weary customers emerge from their houses in search of fresh food, rubbing their eyes in the sun. This year, the first market … Read the rest


Backyard Homestead bookThe Backyard Homestead
Edited by Carleen Madigan
Storey Publishing, 2009

This readable, useful guide tells you how to produce your own fresh, organic, better-tasting food all the time.

The solution is as close as your own backyard. With just a quarter of an acre you can grow the vegetables and fruits your family loves. Keep bees. Raise chickens, goats, even a cow. And when the harvest is in, you’ll learn how to cook, preserve, cure, brew or pickle the fruits of your labors.

Simple instructions make it easy to enjoy canned, frozen, dried and pickled produce all winter; use your own grains to make bread, pasta and beer; turn fresh milk into delicious homemade yogurt, butter and cheese; make your own wine, cordials and herbal teas; and much, much more. It truly is possible to eat entirely from your backyard.

Food for Thought

Consider the contrast in the following

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edible adventures: CHASING THE WHEY

Artisans spin milk into gold

 Goat Kid

One of the best ways to explore an area is to eat foods that come from there. Local foods and beverages offer an opportunity to enlist and enliven all five senses and, through them, to develop a deeper sense of place. To seek out and enjoy “place-based” foods is a great way to discover a community’s heritage and local identity.

CowIn the Berkshires, as across the world, eating local, traditional dishes connects us to the human stories and traditions behind the meals. The Berkshires is home to a growing number of artisanal food producers who are busy crafting foods that reflect the region’s soil and climate. These farmers, chefs and foragers are building an exciting cultural cuisine rooted in Berkshire-sourced ingredients. A rich selection of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences can be found in the Berkshires.

Berkshire food culture emphasizes sustainability, seasonality, flavor … Read the rest


Young farmer sees oxen as key to greener farming


ox (noun): A castrated bull trained as a work animal.

Embarrassingly enough, I didn’t know this definition a week ago. I always assumed an ox was a specific breed of animal similar to a buffalo, spending its days roaming the prairie or something. I never gave much thought (apparently) to how things were in the times before cars or machinery.

I recently sat down with Rich Ciotola to hear his story. Farmer Rich (as he goes by around here), age 34, is among the rapidly growing new generation of farmers concerned by where today’s food comes. They are driven to take action and create their own sustainable and self-sufficient practices, along with spreading the ideas throughout the community and beyond. Rich’s passion is reviving the use of oxen for heavy-duty farm work to replace expensive, fuel-guzzling, polluting tractors.

Rich attributes his … Read the rest


Coffee Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche at 3,491 Feet

Bascom Lodge atop Mt. Greylock in Adams offers a restaurant unlike any other in the state. For starters, it sits on the summit of our tallest mountain and, at 3,491 feet, it’s the highest you can dine anywhere in Massachusetts. But you won’t be roughing it.

Everything that goes into a meal at Bascom has to be driven up the mountain by one of the staff: Delivery trucks won’t come here. And everything that isn’t used has to be driven right back down before winter sets in. When the lodge shuts down for the season, the inside temperature matches that of the rugged, frigid landscape outside, and anything that can’t take the cold has to be packed out. Last year the restaurant’s chef, John Dudek, accidentally left the plastic top of an ice cream maker in the lodge over winter. … Read the rest


Outdoor feast headed our way


Maybe you shouldn’t read this.

It is dusk; the evening is warm and we are standing together with many friends beside a long, lovely, white-clothed table set for dinner in a beautiful field. Music is playing; we’re drinking wine, our spirits high, expectant. The smell of earth hangs in the air: dew and fertile ground and the fragrance of late summer flowers. Night creatures begin their enthralled chatter.

Where am I? Am I about to sit at a table in a field where food has been grown and harvested for generations? I guess so. From the field kitchen now a cadre of servers comes with trays of food—in waves, one after another—starting with rich-flavored soups and warm breads, then colorful salads, followed by sumptuous courses of roasted meats and fish and vegetables, some of which we have never seen, and every taste an epiphany.… Read the rest


Deval Patrick talks about farming, gardening,
cooking, eating, and sharing


Don’t be fooled by the natty suit. The 71st governor of Massachusetts, Deval L. Patrick, is a farmer at heart. It wasn’t the cute chicken motif on his tie that gave him away when he lunched with Edible Berkshires at Nudel restaurant in Lenox, but his boundless enthusiasm about helping farmers throughout the state and in the Berkshires where he and wife, Diane, own a second home. In fact, he’s often referred to as “The Agriculture Governor” and proud of it. He even was spotted at a recent lecture about how to raise backyard chickens, though he says his motive was sheer enjoyment rather than to give away eggs to Democratic fundraisers.

After lunching together, we can confirm another moniker: Foodie. He’s eager to eat unusual and different foods, especially those locally grown, and sample what’s on your plate … Read the rest


Backyard cooking is key to savoring summer

As children we are led to believe that for the rest of our lives “summer” will be synonymous with “vacation.” Despite our highest expectations, each and every time the days get longer and the trees get fuller, life speeds up and we’re whisked from June to September without so much as an afternoon on the playground. But the one thing we always count on—and take the time for—is a good barbecue.

Summer is the best time to host a party: no-bake meals, disposable plates (compostable, of course) and the opportunity to unwind with good friends as the day cools around you. But it even for die-hard entertainers it’s tricky to find the time to put together a big meal, or the energy to stand in a hot kitchen for longer than it takes to pour a glass of lemonade.

That’s where the … Read the rest

edible gardening: ZUCCHINI, A TO Z

How to grow and enjoy summer’s most versatile veggie

When I think of summer in the Berkshires I think of my mom’s flourishing garden in the backyard and the tons of zucchini growing there. It’s like we had zucchini coming out of our ears, and I know we weren’t the only ones.

If you have a garden or if you visit the local farmers markets you’re bound to happen upon an abundance of zucchini, but have you ever thought about how good zucchini is for you? Or how about the seemingly endless possibilities of what to do with it? Well, as a nutritionist and self-proclaimed foodie, I sure have.

The zucchini is related to both the melon and cucumber and is actually considered both a fruit and a vegetable. Biologically, the zucchini is a fruit because it is the ripened ovary of a seed-bearing plant, but in the kitchen … Read the rest

edible gardening: SAVE YOUR SEEDS

Ancient practice is good for the earth, your garden, your belly

 Seed Packet

For many of us, the gardening season starts in January with a seed order. We stack up catalogs and sit for hours, reading descriptions of juicy tomatoes, sweet carrots and crispy lettuce. Plant listings are often short stories that spin tales of taste. After all, when you’re growing your own vegetables, flavor is important.

Carrot SeedsWhen you grow heirloom vegetables—those that have been passed along from one generation to the next—you’re also participating in the story of the seed. Take, for example, Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg bean, which is offered by Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.

Lina Sisco was one of the original members of Seed Savers Exchange, and her grandmother brought the bean to Missouri in a covered wagon, sometime in the 1880s. Just imagine the trip that bean took (never mind what Lina’s grandmother must have … Read the rest