Welcome to the inaugural issue of Edible Berkshires, the newest member of the Edible Communities group of locally owned and edited publications that celebrate fresh, seasonal, local food. Widely recognized for their role in transforming the way people shop for, cook, eat and relate to food, Edible magazines have taken root in about 70 communities across the United Sates and Canada—and the seeds for our own local edition have quickly sprouted.
[pullquote]A new crop of young farmers is rediscovering the beauty (and value) of working the land. White-tablecloth restaurants are challenging their patrons with innovative new dishes that draw upon world cuisine while staying true to our regional sources. And innovative entrepreneurs are canning, baking and ice cream making their way into the hearts of locals and tourists alike. [/pullquote]
The support from farmers, restaurants and local food artisans has been tremendous. Like most great ideas, Edible Berkshires began in the kitchen: the one of my youth as well as the one I have created with my own family, embracing a new ideology of how we approach what ends up on our plates.
My childhood kitchen was overseen by my mother. She would come home from the supermarket every Friday night with a dozen bags of groceries—it was all of our food for the week. While it was fresh and delicious, it never occurred to our post–World War II heads that there was another way to buy food.
Cut to the 1970s and Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s game-changing federal policies that said to farmers, “Get big or get out.” This set our country on course for the development of major agribusiness and crop commodities and the further decline of the small family farm. It would be decades before a resurgence of local farming took place, but when it did, the Berkshires would be at the forefront with the country’s first community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription program at Indian Line Farm in South Egremont. The rapid spread of the CSA model, along with farmers markets, school and backyard gardening, and increasing partnership between farmers and chefs, are all both cause and effect of the nationwide passion for local food.
Today, the local food movement flourishes in the Berkshires and it is with this enthusiasm that I felt compelled to launch Edible Berkshires. A new crop of young farmers is rediscovering the beauty (and value) of working the land. White-tablecloth restaurants are challenging their patrons with innovative new dishes that draw upon world cuisine while staying true to our regional sources. And innovative entrepreneurs are canning, baking and ice cream making their way into the hearts of locals and tourists alike.
Consider this issue our amuse-bouche, a delectable taste of what awaits as we begin to explore the Berkshires together. We travel to the top of Mt. Greylock, where the staff at Bascom Lodge hauls their own supplies to the tallest summit in the region. Author Sam Bittman lures us with easy tips on growing lettuce (manure tea, anyone?) while Jacqui Joyner shares the benefits of zucchini. If you’re looking for comfort food, Carol Murko takes us on a food-obsessed journey through her Italian roots and even divulges her family’s secret recipe for chicken cacciatore. Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include “Edible Discoveries,” a column dedicated to the latest local food-related finds.
I hope this Issue One whets your appetite for all that the Berkshires has to offer. Summer’s abundance is fleeting, but not to worry—we are already canvassing the region for our October edition. Until then, enjoy the fruits of our labors. We’ll meet again with a whole new season to share.
Edible Berkshires is a local, independently owned publication dedicated to covering the unique culinary culture of Western Massachusetts.