Edible Berkshires

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

NO BULL

Young farmer sees oxen as key to greener farming

 oxen

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

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?

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

THE AGRICULTURAL GOV

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

 governor

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

GATHER ’ROUND THE GRILL

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: 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

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

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

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.

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