Archive for the ‘Fruits’ Category

Last Frost Date

April 10, 2011

It’s important for locavores to be aware of the agricultural cycle in their vicinity.  First and last frost dates are important to that cycle.  For the record, I am recording her my own “last frost” date:  on April 5, 2011 we moved the last items out of our chest freezer and into our refrigerator’s attached freezer, and unplugged and defrosted the chest freezer for the season.

There was some chard, corn, broccoli, carrots, tomato puree, and applesauce.  They joined mashed butternut, pumpkin puree, raspberry conserve, more applesauce, and vegetable stock already in our attached freezer.  (Our freezer is not a place of locavore purity.  It also contains commercial packages of veggie burgers, tortellini, etc.)  We still have 2 very large butternut squashes and 1 blue hubbard squash.  Were it not for the new winter farmer’s market, we would have finished our freezer stash long ago and resorted to buying grocery store produce.

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Inaugural Winter Market

January 9, 2011

We were very excited this week to go to the inaugural day of the local winter farmer’s market.  The only market within the reach of the subway (a mile by bus or walking from Davis Square), it’s in the Somerville Armory.  It runs from yesterday through the end of March, on Saturdays, from 10 to 2.

We went about 10:30, half an hour after it opened, and it was already crowded and getting more so.  There was lots of congestion as people mingled socially and browsed the wares.  We were among the many pushing strollers, which added to the navigational challenge.   Soon the preschoolers and their parents took over the mezzanine for running around.  It seemed a perfect arrangement.

The mix of vendors was good.  There was one orchard (Apex) selling apples and two farms (Winter Moon and Enterprise)  selling vegetables.  We bought a half peck of braeburn apples, on the recommendation of the sellers that they are among the last picked.  They’re excellent in both flavor and texture.  Next week, I plan to try their empire apples.

Winter Moon was selling only their own produce, all storage crops of roots, squashes, and dried popping corn.  I was very pleased with my $3 bag of a bit more than 3 cups of ruby red popping corn.  The kernels are red, but the popped corn is white like any other popcorn.  Enterprise Farm was selling the same mix of items that they include in their winter CSA:  some stuff from their greenhouses and storage, some stuff from other New England farms’ greenhouses and storage, and lots of fresh items from the Carolinas and Florida.  All of it was clearly labeled as to origin.  They had the longest shopping line of any stand I saw.

I expect and hope that demand this year will be high enough that the same and other farms will invest in storage, and more local vegetables and fruits will be available next winter.

As a vegetarian, I didn’t pay much attention to the meat stands, but I did notice that there were 3:  one with fish, one with red meat, and one that might have been poultry.  Reseska Apiaries was there selling honey and beeswax candles.  Apex Orchards also had some honey.  Cook’s Farm, who was mostly there as a bakery, had some maple syrup and applesauce, too.  I saw a total of 3 bakery stands.  I guess it’s nice to have them there, if I’m shopping for an entire meal, but it still feels weird to me that bakeries masquerade as farms.  In other sweets, Taza Chocolates, based nearby in Somerville, had a table.

It was the first modern farmer’s market in Massachusetts history to have wine vendors doing tastings and sales, because a new law finally allows them to.  There were 3 wineries at the market.

Other vendors are on the publicized list.  Maybe I just didn’t see everyone, or maybe more will be there in future weeks.

For more information:
Somerville Winter Market Vendors List
Massachusetts Winter Farmer’s Markets List

Counting Down

March 11, 2010

This is the season that I usually start counting down to CSA drop-offs and farmers’ markets.  This year, I’m more focused on counting down to my due date.  At the same time, I’m counting down the bags and tubs of vegetables we froze last summer.  Most of the greens we have left are Italian: chicory, escarole, broccoli rabi.  This year, I think we’ll achieve our goal of emptying our chest freezer by early summer, and having it unplugged (and not using electricity) for the 4 hottest months.

I was pleased to receive a comment recently from Morag Prunty, author of the novel Recipes for a Perfect Marriage.  She saw that I had written about trying one of her recipes in a post just about a year ago: March 11-18, Signs of Spring.  Her comment has a link to her blog, where she mostly writes long, intriguing essays on whatever topic is on her mind.  I particularly enjoyed the one about women’s changing feelings about working for pay.

Looking back a year also made me think about the weather.  Winter here never really settled in.  Snowfall was always quickly followed by melting.  The past week has felt like a false spring, but maybe it’s just an early spring.  Crocus shoots have been up in my yard for over a week, and they’re now joined by some shoots that I think are tulips, although daffodils would be more timely.  As for maple syrup, it is indeed that time of year again.  The boil-off of the Somerville Maple Syrup Project is this weekend, with the public encouraged to stop by Saturday, March 13, from 10 – 4 at the Community Growing Center on Vinal Ave, Somerville, Massachusetts. If you go, dress for rain. If you don’t go, look at my post with photos from 2009.

Eating seasonally: winter

January 31, 2010

Eating seasonally has been less local this year, because of pregnancy.  Which foods are appealing has changed, and that at least somewhat correlates with my different nutritional needs.  The biggest change from past years is that I fully succumbed to the citrus fruit cravings that I get every winter.  The only local fruit available over the winter is homemade applesauce.  While I’ve been eating some of that almost every day, it’s no substitute for raw, whole fruit. 

Citrus is in season now, not locally, but in season.  Relative to California, Florida isn’t so far away.  I’ve been buying Florida grapefruits and minneolas, although I also bought long-distance clementines while they were fully in season in December.  As long as I’m buying fruit at the supermarket, I figure I may as well get things that I can only get at the supermarket, so we’ve been enjoying a variety of tropical fruits:  mangoes (while they’re 50 cents each), papaya, and bananas. 

We’ve been eating greens from our freezer, and roots from our fridge.  Tonight it was pasta with broccoli rabe, veggie sausage, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, and Italian spices.  Yesterday, chard went into soup that started with a can of tomato bisque, but also included canned tomatoes (the blight this summer meant we couldn’t freeze enough local tomatoes).  Earlier this week, turnip greens from the freezer joined turnips from the fridge in a tofu stir-fry.  Turnips and parsnips made a lovely pureed soup a couple of weeks ago, with caraway seeds, salt, and pepper, and served with a pat of butter in each bowl. 

The most exciting of our local foods this winter has been sprouts that my husband grows in a jar on our kitchen windowsill.  When nothing else green, fresh, and crunchy is local, we can have nutritious, delicious sprouts that have traveled no distance at all.  Commercially grown sprouts are more likely than other vegetables to harbor bacteria, and are therefore off-limits to pregnant women.  Homegrown sprouts, though, seem perfectly safe.   Now I just need to figure out where to get sprout seeds locally.

Autumn Fruit Muffins

November 21, 2009

I know I haven’t posted in almost forever.  WordPress knows it too, and had to re-activate access!  I hope to be posting more again soon.  I made these muffins this morning and had to share.

The flour, baking powder, and spices are not local.  Apples, cranberries, maple syrup, milk, and eggs are all local ingredients for me.

Cranberry Muffins with Apple and Spices

Makes 12 muffins.

Mix together dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom (I like cardamom with cranberry, but if you don’t have it or don’t like it use cinnamon, maybe with allspice or cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger (unless you’re using fresh grated or jarred, in which case it goes into the wet ingredients)

Fold into the dry ingredients, to coat:

  • 1/2 bag cranberries (frozen are fine), about 6 ounces
  • 1 large apple, grated (I had to rip up skin bits by hand because they weren’t grating well), including its juice (or use 1 cup of apple sauce)

Mix together wet ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (if you use brown sugar you’ll need to add more liquid, either milk, water, or apple cider)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, if you have it (I used jarred)

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry-and-fruit mixture.  Distribute among tins for 12 muffins.  Bake at 400 F for about 20 minutes (yes, that’s a long baking time, but the fruit makes them very moist).  Enjoy!

 

Oven-Braised Cabbage

September 21, 2009

Sometimes it’s nice to cook things in the oven, so that the hour or so before eating is not the time you have to be in the kitchen cooking. Braising is usually a stovetop procedure, but the idea of cooking with very little liquid translates well to the oven. Here’s a recipe I made this week. It was fun to serve alongside roasted blue potatoes from the farmers market.

  • Quarter, core, and knife-shred one red cabbage.  (A green cabbage would probably taste just as good but not be as pretty.  They also tend to be larger, so increase all the seasonings accordingly.)
  • Quarter, core, and slice about 2 apples.  (I used only one but it was a hefty ten ounces!)  McIntosh have a wonderful flavor, although by the time the dish is cooked, they’ll have turned into applesauce.
  • Put half the cabbage into the bottom of a deep lidded casserole.  Layer half the apples over it.  Then the other half of the cabbage, and the other half of the apple.
  • Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper to taste, and a generous sprinkling of caraway seeds.
  • Pour about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and about 2 tablespoons of water over the cabbage and apples.
  • Bake at 350 (or whatever temperature your other food needs, but adjust time accordingly) for about an hour.
  • About 10 minutes before serving, remove the lid.  Stir together the cabbage, apples, and spices.  Leave the lid off to evaporate some liquid and gain texture.

I’d made similar dishes before, but this was the first time I tried it with caraway seeds, and I was very pleased with the results.  If you don’t have cider vinegar, you could use red wine vinegar, but the cider vinegar really kicks up the apple flavor.

My husband also found this tasty, but said he’d have preferred his cabbage and seasonings as colcannon, so I’m offering a link to my recipe for that, too.

Traveling and Coming Home

September 10, 2009

I think I’ve been away more than usual this summer.  I like traveling, and I was away doing things that I enjoyed or at least valued.  The food from a week at a camp and a week at a conference center, however, left me feeling lousy.  Dairy and eggs left this vegetarian craving beans.  Processed starches left me wanting whole grains.  And I acutely missed the abundance of fresh, local, delicious vegetables and fruits that I would have had at home.

At the end of the summer, I had the opposite travel experience.  We visited friends in Seattle and enjoyed plums and blackberries that grow on their property.  Then we went to a farmers market that was about 5 times the size of the larger of my local markets.  The variety of produce, cheeses, baked goods, and meat was overwhelming, in a good way.  The prices of fruits were much lower than what I’m used to paying.  I’ll admit a bit of climate envy.

At home, food this week has been about combinations.  A ratatouille included tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, and fresh garlic along with garbanzos, dried oregano, salt, and of course lots of  olive oil.  It would have included fresh basil, too,  if we’d had energy to pick some from out back.

A stir-fry included green beans, broccoli, turnips, turnip greens, radishes, radish greens, and some cilantro.  As has become usual, we firmed up the tofu by heating it without oil in a single layer on a nonstick skillet, flipping it when the first side browned.  To work with the cilantro’s sweetness, the sauce used a generous amount of jarred hoisin sauce along with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

We brought back a salad we particularly enjoyed last fall:  arugula with cheddar and apples, with a balsamic vinaigrette.  We’ve started to get apples from our CSA, and the rainy summer means this should be a particularly good apple season.  Flashback: last year I posted a catalogue of apples.  So far, we’ve gotten Ginger Gold.

Maps for Gastrotourists

August 5, 2009

A couple of Boston Globe articles alerted me to the existence of two types of gastrotourism maps for Massachusetts.

At hungrynomadmaps.com you’ll have the opportunity to buy maps of bicycle and walking routes to visit farmstands, vineyards, ice cream stands, and picnic spots.  There’s also some information available directly on the website.

At www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/wineries.htm you’ll find a list of Massachusetts wineries and the chance to order a Wine and Cheese Trails map that covers the entire state.

Ridiculously Easy Biscuits

July 24, 2009

Inspired both by MangoChild and a novel that involved everyday sodabread, I’ve been playing around with soda-based quickbreads.  Tonight I made up a biscuit recipe that was so easy and came out so well that I have to share.

Mix together the dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Then mix in the wet ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons oil (I used olive)
  • 1 1/4 cup water (this is approximate, start with 1 cup, then slowly add more as needed)

Drop biscuits onto a cookie sheet.  I like to use 2 spoons: one to pick up dough, the other to push it into the sheet.  Leave an inch between biscuits because they’ll puff up during baking.

In an oven preheated to 400 F, bake for 10 minutes.

Yields about 20 biscuits.

***

Totally unrelated, but I might forget to write about this otherwise, a fruit report:

We have lots of blackberries growing this year.  It’s fun to watch them plump up, because some of the lobes plump up much sooner than others.

Our raspberries have been doing okay.  We’ve been able to pick a few at a time, every few days, for a couple of weeks.  Our total yield might be about 20 berries.  Since we only have 2 canes and we planted them only a year and a half ago, that’s just fine.

Unfortunately, birds (or maybe other critters) got our blueberries before they were ripe enough for us to have any.  Last year we only got 8, though, so it’s not like high expectations were dashed.  I splurged and bought a pint at the farmers market this week.  They’re good, but not as good as fresh-picked wild or homegrown.

CSA starts and Apple Bread

June 10, 2009

Our CSA began this week with greens, greens, greens, greens, and some more greens.  Specifically, we got two bunches each of red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, pea tendrils, spinach, chicory, and bok choy.  The bunches were so big that they wouldn’t all fit in our refrigerator without difficulty.

That gave us the push we needed to start right away saving for winter.  My husband washed, chopped, blanched, shocked, and froze one of the heads of chicory.  It will be good over pasta with cheese and mushrooms.  Between the time they were first cultivated and the time air conditioning was introduced, mushrooms were a winter crop.

We also cooked the spinach, both bunches, because it takes up so much less space that way. It ended up in a pasta sauce that is basically bechamel sauce with chopped spinach and parmesan cheese.  It made a lot of sauce.  When we have the leftovers, I think we’ll puree the sauce so that it spreads over the pasta better.   I hope that pureeing it doesn’t take away its fresh, green, spinach-y flavor.

We can almost defrost our chest freezer for the summer.  Everything but a few tubs of soup fits easily into the freezer attached to our refrigerator.  I could probably make it all fit, with some time and effort.  We’re reducing what’s in the freezer, still.  The night before our first CSA drop-off, we enjoyed a stir-fry of tofu with tatsoi and Asian eggplant, both from the freezer.  I am pleased to report that both froze satisfactorily.  The tatsoi stems became even tougher and harder to chew than when they’re fresh, and the eggplant was on the softer side but it did still have texture.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well just about everything freezes.  Putting Food By seems to get it right, every time.

The apple bread I wrote about in my last post turned out pretty well, so here’s the recipe.  If you didn’t save a glut of apples this year, come back to this recipe in October when there are lots and they’re cheap.

Apple Quickbread or Muffins (vegan)

Most quantities are guesses.
2 1/2 cups flour, white or whole wheat (dark spices make it brown anyway)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cloves, nutmeg, ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 or 3 tsp salt
3 apples, diced small
1 cup water, or less
1 1/2 cup applesauce

Mix dry ingredients.
Mix apple pieces in to coat with flour mixture.
Add half of water and then applesauce, stirring to mix evenly. If dough is too dry, add the remaining water.
Oil and flour a 9×9 baking dish (or a dozen muffin tins).
Pour in batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.