Edible Berkshires

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

edible gardening: FROM SEED TO SAUCE

Heirlooms, not your salad bar tomatoes

Nothing says summer quite like a perfectly ripe tomato fresh off the vine. Bright, juicy and acidic, this messenger of long days and humid nights needs no decoration— perhaps just a quick dash of salt and a grind of pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a basil leaf if you’re feeling fancy.

Take a drooling, fleshy bite out of a conventional fruit. Now try it again with an heirloom variety. Taste the difference? Heirloom plants (open-pollinated cultivars not used in modern large-scale agriculture) have been nurtured and handed down from farmer to farmer with legacies that enrich each slice with the richest possible flavor.

But you probably know that. In fact, chances are that if you’re reading this publication, you are already buying heirloom tomatoes over conventional when given the choice. You know that a tried-and-true, crater-laced Brandywine will dole out more … Read the rest

edible gardening: THE LURE OF LETTUCE

Freshness, variety make it a home-garden champ

Lettuce Ah, lettuce—soul of spring, jewel of the summer garden and heart of the salad bowl. Though summer is upon us now, lettuces in a variety of pleasing shapes and colors—some green or bronze, some with leaves blushed pink and red, still others a deep crimson—can still, with a little attention, be brought to table right through to autumn.

Lettuce has an interesting past. Ancient Egyptians worshipped it as a phallic symbol (likely the upright Romaine or Cos, which was, much later, introduced to France from Italy by none other than Rabelais, himself ).

These days, gardeners think of lettuce along more botanical lines, dividing the species into four primary groups, of which dozens and dozens of varieties are available to the home gardener, the number growing each year. Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Albion, Maine, offers no fewer than 13 pages of options … Read the rest

market watch: EXCEPTIONALLY SPEAKING

From Our Delicious Cornucopia

farm signWe opened our shop and café in Great Barrington eight years ago. We chose the Berkshires over New York or Boston, despite the vigorous protest of our sales projections, because we wanted to be in the country. We wanted to live and work among the farms and farmers and artisans we so depend on for our livelihood. It wasn’t enough for us just to know where our milk comes from, or our eggs, or the greens for our salad. We wanted to see where they come from, every day, and to know the farmers and the animals and the land.

This is old farming country, and our food traditions are strong and growing stronger. A new generation of small growers and artisan craftsmen has embraced the principles of organic and sustainable production and our grassy hills are given to free-ranging heritage-breed cattle and hogs and … Read the rest

COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE (CSA)

CSA farms sell shares of the season’s harvest to a predetermined number of members. From early June through early November members come to the farm on a designated day each week to pick up their share of the harvest. Some farms offer only vegetable shares, while others include fruit, berries, flowers, eggs, honey and even baked goods. Members typically pay in advance, helping the farmer’s cash flow, and share some of the farmer’s risk—if weather or other factors reduce the harvest, shares may be slimmer—as well as accepting that there may be some items in the share that the buyer might not have purchased otherwise. Many CSAs offer recipes for making the most of unfamiliar fare. Although member shares are likely taken at this time of the year, it doesn’t hurt to make a call if you’re interested in joining.

Indian Line Farm is just one of the hundreds of … Read the rest

SIMPLE GRILLED CHICKEN

1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

2 whole chickens, cut into pieces Preheat grill to medium-high.

Drizzle olive oil over chicken, and rub with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Place chicken on grill, skin side down. Close cover and grill 8 minutes. Flip chicken, and close cover again. Grill until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes more.

Transfer chicken to a plate, and let rest 15 minutes. Serve with panzanella.… Read the rest

GRILLED PANZANELLA

Panzanella  

1 fresh ciabatta, cut into 1-inch slices
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1 whole shallot, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
4 bell peppers, cut into 1-inch strips
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick quarters
1 cup chopped parsley and basil
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil plus more for grilling

Combine shallots with vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Turn the grill to medium. As it heats, drizzle olive oil over
ciabatta, peppers and tomatoes. Add to the grill when it
reaches the proper temperature.

Char ciabatta, peppers and tomatoes on both sides. When
they are thoroughly grilled, remove from grill and place on
a large platter.

Break the bread into smaller chunks and toss together with
the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, shallots, vinegar, herbs
and olive oil.

Serve warm.… Read the rest

ZUCCHINI BROWNIES

Makes 18 servings

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup walnuts
3 cups grated or diced zucchini
1 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla
¼ stick butter (2 ounces), melted
4 tablespoons applesauce

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix dry ingredients with a fork. Add grated or diced zucchini.

Beat egg; add vanilla and melted butter. Add wet to dry.

Pour into a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 350°; Rotate dish 180° after 25 minutes.

In 1 serving:

170 calories
6 grams fat
30 grams carbohydrate
18 grams sugar
3 grams protein… Read the rest

DIJON VINAIGRETTE

From Castle Street Cafe, Great Barrington

3 cups soybean oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine egg yolk, mustard, shallot and 1/3 cup of the vinegar in a mixing bowl. Whisk together well.

Slowly add the oil, just a little bit at a time, whisking well before each addition of oil. If you add the oil too quickly, the dressing will break.

Alternate adding the oil with the remaining vinegar, whisking well with each addition.

Season with salt and pepper. Store refrigerated.… Read the rest

market watch: SHOPPING THE AVENUE

Today’s farmers markets recall 1940s grocery stroll

I am a home cook from a food-obsessed family. And I mean food-obsessed. Everything that happened in my childhood home centered around food. After all, I grew up in a three-generation household with my Italian-American grandparents and my parents, of course. I like to imagine that I grew up in a unique household. Specifically, yes, but food culturally, no and yes. And what I mean by that is that while many of the foods and recipes are similar, the stories are what bring the food to life. The best way to delve into Italian-American cuisine and stories is through a typical family meal.

And that, of course, starts with shopping for the ingredients. Let’s go back to my mom, Josephine Lanzetta Murko—here’s how it all started for her as a little girl in the 1940s. Mom was born on an apple farm in … Read the rest

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