The First Herbs of Spring

Seventy degree weather today is rapidly melting what was left of the snow from our April Fool’s Day snowstorm. Now the little bits of life that have been hibernating under the ground all winter are starting to reappear. In the herb garden today I found the tips of chives pushing their way up through the soil, and some tiny salad burnet leaves spreading open. There was just enough to snip off and toss into a salad I was making.

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They added a fresh taste of spring to the rice salad, which also included some of the carrots I got at the farm stand last week.

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Carrot Rice Salad

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 large carrot, grated

2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, salad burnet, mint, parsley, whatever you have available)

2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup raisins

balsamic vinegar

salt to taste

Toss together the rice, carrots, herbs, ginger, walnuts, and raisins. Add the vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a taste you like. Add salt. This tastes best if chilled before serving.

You can use lemon, lime, or orange juice in place of the vinegar. You can also add a tablespoon of olive oil if you like.

 

Local analysis of today’s salad:

Local – carrots (from farm stand), herbs (from my garden)

Non local – rice, ginger, walnuts, raisins, vinegar, salt

 

 

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Carrot Cookies

I picked up some rather hefty carrots at the farm stand this week.

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They just seemed to be crying out, “Grate us up and bake something with us.” So I did. I decided on these carrot cookies:

Carrot Cookies

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup flour (all purpose, whole wheat, or a combination)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

a pinch of salt

2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup of add-ins (raisins, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, trail mix, shredded coconut — in any combination you like)

Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, butter, and vanilla. Stir in the maple syrup. Add the dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Fold in the carrots and then the add-ins.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie slightly. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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Here’s the local analysis:

Local – carrots (from the farm stand) egg and butter (bought at the co-op, from local farms) maple syrup (from a local farm)

Non local – oats, flour, baking powder, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, raisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds

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Winter Berries

Have you ever heard of jack fruit? I hadn’t either, until I heard a segment about it on a radio cooking show the other day. The recipes sounded fun but I thought to myself, why would I bend over backwards to seek out some obscure tropical fruit in the depths of a New England winter? Other tropical fruits, such as bananas and pineapples, are a lot easier to find around here, but still, even though I like them, I rarely buy them. Why would I when we have such delicious local fruit from right here? Fruit that I can enjoy without contributing to the use fossil fuels to transport them from far away places.

Last summer, I picked 6 pints of red raspberries and 10 pints of blueberries at local pick-your-own farms, some of which I enjoyed fresh and some of which I froze and am enjoying throughout this winter. I also picked 3 pints of wild blackberries and 7 pints of wild black raspberries. In addition, I picked enough berries to make three batches of jam. All the while, I enjoyed pleasant times in the outdoors, picking berries, watching butterflies, listening to birds sing, enjoying the New England summer.

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You don’t have to live in rural New England to enjoy picking your own fruit. When I lived in the city, several times a year I made the 45-minute drive to a farm where I could pick strawberries, black raspberries, grapes, and apples, depending on the season.

And you don’t have to buy exotic tropical fruits to have fun experimenting with recipes. Here are some fun ways to use berries, fresh or frozen:

  • on your morning cereal
  • in pies and crisps
  • as a filling for crepes
  • mixed in with yogurt (add a small amount of sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, or granola for crunch)
  • to make yogurt-berry smoothies
  • as a filling for a layer cake
  • to make a berry shortcake
  • to make a sauce to use as a topping for ice cream
  • on a cheesecake
  • in muffins
  • in cornbread (blueberries are really good this way)

…and many more ways that I have yet to try!

 

 

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Winter Vegetable Soup

In winter time in northern New England, local eating consists largely of root vegetables, cabbage, and squash. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious ways to prepare them.

I get my winter vegetables from a farm stand in the next town over. It is the only one I know of that is open all winter. We also have several CSAs in the area that deliver a box of vegetables to their subscribers once a month during the winter. Another option is to buy vegetables in bulk from local farms in the fall and store them yourself. And of course, many people grow and store their own crops.

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You can make a winter vegetable soup with any combination of storage vegetables that you like and have on hand. I have experimented with different combinations, and below I offer the favorite of all my experiments. I think it is the combination of celeriac and winter squash that creates a flavor I particularly enjoy.

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 t ground ginger

1 t  turmeric

1/2 t cinnamon

1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, chopped

3 medium potatoes, chopped

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped

4 cups vegetable broth

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

salt to taste

water

Saute the garlic and onions in a bit of oil until the onions are translucent. Add the spices and stir and saute for a few minutes more. Add the rest of the vegetables, the broth, and the canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add  water as needed, and salt to taste.

Turnips are also good in this soup. Kohlrabi would probably also work well, and sweet potatoes might make a good substitute for the squash. I think beets would completely change the nature of the soup. Have fun experimenting, and let us know how it turns out!

Local analysis for the soup I made this week:

Local – garlic (leftover from last fall’s CSA), onions, celeriac, carrots, potatoes, squash (from winter farm stand), vegetable broth (home made from vegetable scraps)

Non-local – spices, salt, canned tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

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A Gingerbread Recipe

I love gingerbread. I love applesauce. I love recipes that include pumpkin or winter squash. So I love this recipe for gingerbread.

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Applesauce or Pumpkin Gingerbread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup applesauce  or pureed pumpkin or winter squash
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup milk

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and soda, and spices. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, applesauce/squash/pumpkin, melted butter, and molasses. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Bake in a greased 9×13 inch pan at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.

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This is not an overly sweet recipe, but you might want to reduce the sugar a little if you use sweetened applesauce.

This gingerbread is delicious served warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (easy to get locally-produced versions of these here in Vermont). It also still tastes great the next day, if there is any left.

Here’s the local analysis for the batch I made the other day:

Local — eggs, butter, milk (from local farms, bought at the co-op), acorn squash (from the CSA)

Non local — flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, spices, molasses

 

 

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Autumn Vegetable Stew

Here’s a tasty seasonal dish that’s easily adaptable to use whatever root vegetables you have on hand. I always like to include some beets because they give the stew a pretty red color, but any combination of root vegetables will work well.  It’s a perfect dish for the cold months of the year — tasty, warm, and filling.

 

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Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. each cumin, coriander, ginger

4 cups winter squash (any kind), peeled and cubed

4 cups chopped (and peeled, if desired) root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac, rutabaga

3/4 cup barley

3 cups water

salt to taste

Saute the onions with the spices. Add the squash and root vegetables, barley, and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all the vegetables are cooked, about 30 minutes.

 

 

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Freezing the Harvest

In this part of the world, this is the time of year when fruits and vegetables are abundant. It’s hard to keep up with so much delicious eating! Fortunately, freezing produce for later enjoyment is really easy.

I like to use these plastic freezer boxes.

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Because of their square shape, it’s really easy to pack a lot of them into my small chest freezer. Plastic freezer bags are also popular. However, if you prefer not to store your food in plastic, you can use glass mason jars instead.

Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and elderberries are really easy to freeze.

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You just rinse, pack, and freeze. Or, you can spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them that way first, then pack them into your containers. That keeps the berries from sticking together. Then it’s easy to remove just the amount you want when you’re ready to eat them. They’re great on cereal, or you can use them for baking muffins, crisps, pies, or any other recipe that calls for berries.

Sweet peppers are also easy to freeze. Just rinse, chop, and pack. Then they can go right from the freezer to the pot when you’re making spaghetti sauce, soups, beans, or casseroles.

Most other vegetables require blanching – cooking briefly in boiling water – before freezing in order to preserve their freshness.  I am partial to a book called Putting Food By (by Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene), that explains the freezing process and gives blanching times for each vegetable. I am sure there are many other good books out there on the topic. Generally, it’s a simple process — chop, blanch, pack, freeze. I’ve had lots of success with green beans, corn kernels, peas, spinach, and kale, as well as berries and peppers.

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I also freeze spaghetti sauce and applesauce every year. They go right from the pot to the freezer.

In the middle of a New England January, snow may be abundant and sunlight scarce, but I just open my freezer and enjoy the fruits of the summer harvest. My freezer helps me eat local all year round.

 

 

 

 

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