PRESERVING THE HARVEST : PICKLED ASPARAGUS

For lazy gardeners—or for anyone who wants to grow some of their own food but has no time—perennial vegetables are the answer: you plant only once and reap the harvest year after year. Rhubarb, collards, kale, and radicchio can all be grown as perennials in this climate, but asparagus stands head and shoulders above its peers. Not only is it a delicious, versatile, nutritious, and downright classy vegetable, but once the harvest is done, a bed of it produces a lovely screen of tall, airy ferns.

Asparagus Collage

To start an asparagus bed, in early spring dig a fairly deep trench and add compost, manure, or other soil improvements. If you’re converting a patch of lawn, you might line the sides of the trench with boards to keep out grass roots. Then buy asparagus crowns, each of them a gaggle of wormlike roots. Male plants are generally sold because they put all their energy into making the stalk, which is what you eat when it’s a day or two old. If you do end up with some females (you’ll know them by their pretty red berries), you can dig them out and replace them with more productive males.

After mulching the bed, you need only water it in dry weather and feed it in the fall. You could even neglect it entirely and still get food, but there will be less of it.

In the first year, forego harvesting to let plants build their strength. You can take a few spears in the second year, but let most of them go to fern right away. By the third year, you’ll be able to shake hands with chilly asparagus fingers every morning until they turn gnarly in late June. And if you initially acquire 2- or 3-year-old crowns, you can harvest freely the first year without stunting the plants’ growth.

You can also hunt for wild asparagus which likes water. One spring day when you can smell the earth, try foraging at the edges of streams, ponds, or the ocean. Out of season, seek clumps of the telltale ferns, which look much like the domestic kind, and note their locations for next spring.

Some people prefer thin spears, but I find that thick ones are often tastier. To get the most from each spear, instead of snapping off and discarding the apparently tough lower end, I usually peel it; the flesh beneath the peel is tender.

Asparagus is delicious grilled, roasted in vinaigrette, braised, wrapped with prosciutto, sautéed, or lightly steamed and dipped in a sauce. But after a few weeks of eating it almost daily, fatigue can set in. Though asparagus doesn’t freeze or can especially well, the slight effort of pickling this succulent vegetable can really pay off.

The following easy recipe retains much of the fresh vegetable’s flavor and crispness. Use the crunchy spears to top a green salad, dress up a dinner plate, or garnish a Bloody Mary long after asparagus season is over.

PICKLED ASPARAGUS
Click here for recipe

Asparagus

Besides writing on food and cooking, Joan Kocsis writes for students from elementary to high school, sneaking in vegetable-growing instructions whenever possible. Her asparagus bed is 15 years old.

Reprinted from edible South Shore & South Coast magazine. 

Posted in Cooking, Recipes, Spring | Leave a comment

Tasting Wine & Cheese (Join us May 19th)

Reading Adam Centamore’s Tasting Wine and Cheese is akin to taking a course in the art of pairing. It’s no wonder; Centamore teaches sold-out interactive pairing workshops near and far. He knows his wine and cheese!

5 Stars on Amazon!

5 Stars on Amazon!

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CROCUS FOCUS

Every hard-core locavore maintains a private list of foods that will simply never be locally-produced, but without which life is not worth living. Which exotics are deemed indispensible varies by palate; citrus, olive oil, bananas, and rice are a few from my roster. We rationalize by buying fairly traded and organic versions of luxurious essentials. We support local companies trading in them. We tell ourselves that the world would not be a better place if we gave up morning coffee. Continue reading

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Filling Up Never Felt So Good

On March 24th, foodies and locavores alike will gather at Lombardo’s in Randolph for the 20th annual Taste of the South Shore fundraiser. More than two dozen area restaurants, caterers, bakeries, wineries, and breweries will fill the bellies of attendees—all in an effort to help under-served families on the South Shore. One hundred percent of the money raised goes to scholarships and financial aid for camps affiliated with the South Shore YMCA.

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BEYOND BOILING: LEARNING TO LOVE CABBAGE

When I first lived on my own, I compared prices for iceberg lettuce and a similar-looking head of cabbage and opted for the cabbage, thinking it was almost the same thing but cheaper. When I cut it into the same big chunks as iceberg and tried to eat it as a salad, however, my mistake became obvious. Read more here…

By Joan Kocsis

Beyond boiling…Here are two unique and delicious recipes for you:

Spiced Smothered Cabbage Recipe
An Indian friend went into ecstasies upon tasting this dish

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Buttery Cabbage Lasagna Recipe
Like an exploded wonton, if wontons were ever this good.

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Happy St. Patricks Day!

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One Loaf of Soda Bread – HOLD THE BLARNEY

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Readers of edible South Shore & South Coast who reside in the suburban sector jocularly known as the ‘Irish Riviera’ will find this hard to believe: I grew up here without knowing a single person who advertised Irish ancestry. That’s right. After a thorough rummaging of the (admittedly meandering and poorly-insulated) halls of my memory, I am forced to conclude that the familiar tropes of Irish-American culture were entirely absent from my Rehoboth upbringing. While I was well acquainted with people whose surnames I now know to be Irish (Foley, Fleming, Roarke, O’Connell) I don’t remember hanging around with kids who self-identified as Irish-American until I was in college, where it seemed half my friends’ parents had emigrated from Ireland; the other half were Jewish, from NYC.

Based on a scientific survey of those aforementioned drafty memory vaults of mine, I’d say the ethnic core of my hometown, back in the seventies, was a composition of Portuguese, Yankees, and Italians (a distant third), orbited by a smattering of us outlying ‘others’. So my youthful exposure to Saint Patrick’s Day, including its de rigueur culinary components, was limited. Some years Mom actually tried making the standard-issue boiled dinner, but the metallic-tasting unfamiliarly-colored corned beef and the way-beyond-al-dente vegetables were so unlike her usual Julia Child-inflected cuisine that the meal may as well have been delivered to our table via space probe. Mom’s efforts were all the more valiant considering her upbringing. Her father was not shy about exhibiting the reflexive hatred borne by his immigrant forbears for the “maudite Irlandais”…(damned Irish).

Questioned about this today, my parents, who were at the time generally slippery about translating our Grandpapa’s outbursts, rationalize that linguistically challenged immigrants from many lands resented the seemingly easy entry into American employment that had, to all appearances, been granted to the English-speaking Irish. But my grandfather was born in Rhode Island, into a respectable, professional-class Franco-American family who all spoke perfect, educated English, so I’m unclear as to the direct source of his beef. A reliable crank, he may have just been gratuitously delighted to perpetuate the views of French-Canadian laborers of earlier generations. (I remember that he was a bit taken aback by the ethnic mix of my college friends, but surprised me in turn by trying to engage some of them on topics like the writings of Spinoza and the culture of ancient Phoenicians. An interesting, infuriating, guy.)

All this is to say that Saint Patrick’s Day was not a red-letter day in the calendar of my youth. As a result of this childhood vacuum, this non-exposure, I had no memorable personal experience of the material known as Irish Soda Bread until I was around twenty. And I realize now what a stroke of luck it was to start right at the top, with the stellar recipe massaged into being by the Irish mother of my college friend Siobhan O’Duffy.

In her effort to recreate the flavor and texture of the Brown Bread of home for her family here in America, Mrs. O’Duffy had been compelled to winnow methodically and critically through packaged ingredients available in Minnesota grocery stores in the 1960s. Where most bakers ‘improved’ and Americanized Irish bread into a sweet, stark-white, puffy tea cake of a thing, Mrs. O’Duffy looked deep into its heart and saw the stone-ground whole grains as the crucial ingredients. Her brilliant, adaptive, solution: coarse-textured Ralston hot cereal and thick-rolled oats. The resulting bread was toothsome and gristy, with an honest level of tasty sweetness. I was lucky enough to scribble down her recipe.

Now Ralston Cereal has disappeared from supermarket shelves, and Siobhan’s mom has passed on, I hear, but I’m left with the taste-memory of that truly wonderful bread. In the spirit of Mrs. O’Duffy, I offer you a darn good version of the recipe using the ordinary whole-wheat flour found in baking aisles today. But you can, if so motivated, adapt this recipe to be even better. In fact, the general uplift in the quality of ingredients available to American cooks makes it possible to get closer to Mrs. O’Duffy’s childhood bread. Many grocery stores now carry an array of far more esoteric products than those I suggest. And for those of you who enjoy foraging as you travel, or scouring the internet, the real score would be getting flour freshly milled from locally-grown grain: something completely possible in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Quebec, and even parts of Massachusetts—a bit of a challenge, but well worth the trouble for a proper celebration.

by Paula Marcoux

Mrs. O’Duffy’s Soda Bread Recipe

Posted in Bakery, Cooking, EVOLUTION OF A DISH | 1 Comment

To Dress Noodles, Do We Need to go to China?

In a pinch the other night, I picked up a jar of organic pasta sauce from Shaw’s (their new O Organics brand) – and I, the loudest advocate for ‘local’ in the room, did not read the label. Only the next day, as I was peeling the label to save the jar, did I see that it was made in China. I was horrified. We are seeing more and more organic food products from China in our grocery stores, (don’t get duped by distributor addresses on labels, you’ll have to hunt to find the original source of the product, but it should be on there). We’ve all had to become chemical, agricultural, and labelling experts just to buy groceries these days, who do we trust?  We are going to map out the process for you, so to speak, in order of preference for anything not grown in the U.S.:

  1. Countries that have the same standards and similar process as ours, where the organic label is interchangeable – only Canada.  Certified organic produce grown in the US may be sold in Canada under that label, and vice versa.  We are in discussions with the EU to develop the same equivalence for the purpose of trade but we are not there yet.
  2. Countries that have trade agreements and National Organic Program accredited agents, who are able to certify producers according to the US standards provided by the NOP/USDA – European Union, India, Israel, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Switzerland
  3. Rest of World – we have no direct USDA organic trade agreements anywhere else for product certification, and no other accreditations (that I can find information on) that link or tie countries or organizations directly to the NOP or USDA under the organic label. 

So what about that pasta sauce from China? Well, there is still a process which can be followed, but it’s complicated, so bear with me. The retailer or distributor responsible for bringing the food into the country (let’s say Shaw’s) appoints a U.S. based and USDA/NOP accredited certifying agent (let’s say Quality Assurance International or QAI).  This accredited agent can certify growers, distributors or manufacturers under the ‘certified organic’ label, but they can also conduct an assessment of a foreign certifying agent (let’s say Beijing Organics) based in the source country (China) to ensure that their certifying/record keeping processes are in accordance with the USDA standards and requirements. China Organics can then go ahead and certify producers in China for products destined for kitchen tables in the U.S.

Why do it that way? Why don’t QAI just certify the growers themselves? Well, they may not have offices in the source country making it challenging to keep tabs on the farm/processing plant regularly and conduct required periodic inspections.  If it were a handful of sites, it still wouldn’t be economically viable to set up offices and pay trained staff.  Language could be a barrier too. This way, Beijing Organics can do the legwork, and QAI can fly in for annual and extensive audits of all records, and perhaps some on-site visits and inspections. It is a question of practical economics, you see?

So now, as a consumer, you can consider the practicalities of the system too, even if we put any doubts or fears about the certification process aside because grocery store chains will uphold the ethics of the label on behalf of their consumers, right? The certification itself will not answer all our questions. –How long has the product has been in storage? –What is its’ carbon footprint? –Were the tomatoes grown on a small scale family farm, or a large scale industrial one? –Were they grown in China, or were they imported from somewhere else? If they were imported from somewhere else, are those records also audited by the same firm? –What about the environmental impact of the farm in that country – was virgin land cleared? –Where is their water coming from? –How are farm workers being treated?

Doesn’t this process feel like we’re playing broken telephone? The USDA/NOP sets the standards, hands them over to an accredited certifying agent, who hands them off to a foreign certifying agent, who hands them to a farmer on foreign soil – it doesn’t invoke confidence, does it? And it’s PASTA sauce! We grow tomatoes and can make it here – so why don’t we?

We used China as the example, but it could be frozen carrots from Russia, canned peaches from Argentina or marmalade from South Africa. I would like to think that no U.S. based accredited certifying agent like QAI is going to risk its license and entire business operation on a questionable foreign certifying agent, but I think the best peace of mind you can hope to find will be in sourcing your food as close to home as possible. Let’s keep it simple, grocery shopping should not be this complicated.

By Pamela Denholm
Re-posted  from South Shore Organics with her permission.

Posted in Food Politics | 1 Comment

Buoy The Winter Blues

 

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Interested in an entertaining distraction from the winter doldrums? Buoy the Winter Blues may be just what you need to set you sailing toward spring. Brainchild of Gay Gillespie, a longtime supporter of Westport River Watershed Alliance (WRWA), Buoy the Winter Blues has become a much anticipated annual event and an important fundraiser for the organization. Invited artists are supplied with a cedar lobster buoy, handcrafted by Maine Wooden Buoys. Each becomes a canvas, and artists are encouraged to create innovative and decorative final products which become part of a silent auction. In past years, buoys have varied in design from clever to whimsical—and have been painted, forged, and even bedazzled!

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The auction is now in its’ third year, and the number of local participating artists has increased annually with over sixty entries expected this year! Artists, both professionals and dabblers, donate their time to decorate the buoys, their generosity allows 100% of the auction’s proceeds to be utilized by the WRWA. According to Community Engagement Manager, Steve Connors, the auction supports the Watershed’s education and science initiatives—including a program in the Westport Schools, which serves more than 2,000 students in grades K-12.

The decorated buoys will be on display at the Dedee Shattuck Gallery beginning Saturday, February 27. The event is open to the public who are encouraged to view the display at the Gallery or online at www.westportwatershed.org. All are invited to bid on a favorite buoy (or buoys) during the silent auction that will take place on Saturday, March 5. A celebratory reception will follow. With more than 300 in attendance at last year’s reception, the event has become a respite for many winter-weary residents on the South Coast!

The Westport River Watershed Alliance, founded in 1976, has grown from 15 concerned individuals to an impressive 2,000 members. The Watershed encompasses 100 square miles and includes the communities of Westport, Tiverton, Little Compton, Fall River, Freetown, and Dartmouth. WRWA is an established leader in the grassroots environmental movement and is considered a role model for many communities.

Westport River Watershed Alliance
1151 Main Road
PO Box 3427
Westport, MA 02090
(508) 636-3016
www.WestportWatershed.org

Dedee Shattuck Gallery
1 Partners’ Lane
Westport, MA 02090
(508) 636-4177
www.DedeeShattuckGallery.com

Elle Maynard is a life long New Englander and current resident of the South Shore, Elle is always on the lookout for creative ways to keep winter-weariness at bay.

Shared from edible South Shore & South Coast

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How On Earth – Cafe and Store

By Kendra Murray

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It isn’t hard to find a farm when driving around Southeastern Massachusetts. With over 1,700 farms across Bristol, Plymouth, and Norfolk counties and the continual growth of farmers’ markets, it’s easy to find fresh, local, and delicious ingredients. What about dining out, though? Stumped as to where you can find local lunch and dinner (without having to cook it yourself)?
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Look no further than How on Earth, a local eatery and whole food shop situated in the seaside community of Mattapoisett. How on Earth, founded in 2007 by Margie and Michael Baldwin, was originally designed to be a CSA pickup site, where community members could collect shares of local produce. Eight years later How on Earth has evolved to a health and wellness store also offering local lunches and dinner. Lunch is served Monday through Saturday from 11 am – 3 pm. Dinners are offered on Thursday and Friday evenings through Labor Day and then once monthly during the fall and winter.
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Recently I stopped in for a local lunch with a friend and we were more than satisfied. With vegetarian, as well as meat and seafood offerings, there is something for everyone.

How on Earth offers a selection of local beers and wines, as well as Massachusetts made Kombucha on tap. We opted for cucumber soda and root beer. For our meals, my friend had the lobster BLT, piled a mile high with fresh seafood, and crisp, local greens, and tomato. The fries on the side were oven roasted, coated with a delicious blend of seasonings. I went for a Cobb salad, made with fresh local greens, Great hill blue cheese, turkey, eggs, bacon, avocado, and cranberries. Both meals were plated wonderfully and were quite filling.
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We talked to the current manager of How on Earth, Mary Ann Buckley, and asked a little more about the store and restaurant, as well as our meals. Mary Ann has been working at How on Earth for about two and a half years, just coming into her management position about a year ago. Chef Chris Chapet has also been with How on Earth about two years. The prior chef was from Brooklyn and had many southern style dishes, such as biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and collards. When Chapet came on as chef, the menu was completely revamped.
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We asked about our meals and Mary Ann was able to tell us where everything came from, right down to the bread that Todd’s BLT was served on (Hyannis, for those curious). Everything on my salad was local, including the dried cranberries, which are from a bog in Carver. Although the meats were not from Massachusetts, they still came from small, humane farms in New Hampshire and Vermont. “You feel good about what you eat here,” said Mary Ann.

How on Earth serves about fifty people each day for lunch, in peak season, with many folks just visiting the area for summer vacation. A lot of people who come in for lunch do end up becoming regular shoppers at the store, which offers seasonal, local produce (sourcing from about ten local farms within 30 miles of the store), humanely raised meats, local cheeses, jellies, honey, health foods, and sustainable, eco-friendly cleaning and hygiene products. If products cannot be sourced locally, they are organic. All of the artwork in the store is also local! How on Earth also offer full-service catering, partnering with Life’s Epiphany to take care of composting, as well a community kitchen. Mary Ann told us about how they recently catered a wedding and was surprised when the mother of the bride got up to make a toast and, didn’t toast her daughter, but rather How on Earth. Yeah, it’s that good.
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How on Earth
62 Marion Road
Mattapoisett, MA 02739
(508) 758-1341

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Get a Buzz on at Bee School

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Want to take the sting out of a long winter? As the cool weather sets in, take advantage of indoor time and learn a new hobby. If you’ve ever considered bee’ing a beekeeper, or just want a better understanding of these amazing pollinators, join one of the local Bee Schools gathering this winter. Each year swarms of people attend Bee School. Attendees may be complete “new-bees”, others are seasoned beekeepers who want to refresh their skills, and then there is everyone else in bee’tween. This creates a mix of students who freely share their stories, know-how, successes, and failures in the buzzing hive that is the Bee School experience.

Ready to take flight? Okay, let’s take a look at local options:

Plymouth County Beekeepers Association

(PCBA) offers an 8-session course from January to April which meets every other Thursday from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Classes are held at the Pembroke Community Center, session topics include: Anatomy of the Honey Bee, Woodenware, Diseases & Pests, and Local Pollen & Nectar Sources. The $50 enrollment fee includes a text book, course materials, and a 1-year membership to the PCBA Club. Mentors are also available to assist you throughout your apiary adventure. Tuition covers ALL family members in the same household!

Bristol County Beekeepers Association

(BCBA) Beginner’s Beekeeping Course runs from February 2 through March 22 and meets every Tuesday from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Classes are held at the Bristol County Agricultural High School Library in Dighton, and topics covered include: Biology of the Honeybee, How to Acquire Your First Bees, Buying or Building a Beehive, Diseases, and Bottling Honey. Students have the option to pair up with a “Bee Buddy”, a BCBA veteran beekeeper who will continue to help you after school has ended. The enrollment fee of $50 includes a text book and 1-year membership to BCBA for all family members.

Northeast Organic Farming Association, MA

(NOFA) The Massachusetts NOFA chapter was established in 1982 and welcomes “anyone who eats, anyone who grows food, and anyone who tends the landscape or lives the activist lifestyle” to join them through educational workshops and/or advocacy efforts that promote organic agriculture. Their 29th Annual Winter Conference is on January 16 at Worcester State University, offering Beekeeping Intensive Pt. 1: Overwintering Bees & Spring Management (all levels) and Pt. 2: Working with Honey Bee Queens (all levels).

These Associations are passionate about bees and beekeeping. They work yearlong to promote the well-bee’ing of our local bee population, mentor fellow beekeepers, and educate our community. Beekeeping has a positive environmental impact, and is a hobby you can enjoy with family, friends, and dare I say, neighbors—just be sure to bring them a jar of honey.

www.PlymouthCountyBeekeepers.org
www.BristolBee.com
www.NOFAMass.org

This just in! Beekeeping at Plimoth Plantation with guest instructor Kevin England meeting 5 Wednesday evenings starting March 23 2016, from 6:30 to 8:30pm, $75 members, $90 nonmembers. Price includes textbook, The Beekeeper’s Bible, and optional sixth session. www.Plimoth.org

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Michelle Berry and family are local bee school grads, and are now the proud hosts of eight hives in Pembroke.

Reprinted from Winter 2016 edible South Shore & South Coast.

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