Today my daughter and I went on our first ever, cranberry-picking mission. We were led by a friend (TGB’s Theresa) to a beautiful bog that was situated like a postcard against a bright blue sky and the Long Island Sound. Luckily for us the bog was relatively dry and the sun was shining hot so crawling around on our hands and knees was actually an enjoyable experience. Our cranberries are destined to be turned into sauce a little closer to Thanksgiving. This year I think we’ll try a rendition with orange zest and chopped dates – finished with a syrupy, aged balsamic vinegar. What’s your favorite way to use cranberries?
This weekend I was lucky enough to have participated in a “Wild Edibles” foraging class. While the session took place on the property of an organic farm, we looked everywhere except within the neatly maintained beds of the identifiable veggies. To begin, our teacher made an incredibly simple, yet profound, point. “This row of lettuce was planted by someone who wanted it to grow here – someone who committed to care for it.” Wild vegetation chooses for itself, and it therefore must be that much more determined to support its own growth and survival. This hardiness almost always translates into a nutritional powerhouse of a plant. Our class was served a simple tea of white pine needles to begin the day. To prove our teacher’s point this gentle, simple preparation had 5x the amount of vitamin C when compared to an equal amount of orange juice. I was now paying very close attention!
The following are some of the photographs with the notes I took during our walk. I hope you will seek foraging experiences in your own communities. Here are a couple of strong, general recommendations our teacher made as well:
*Always consult at least two resource guides before you eat a plant you are unfamiliar with. Plants look different throughout the year and in various stages of development. When shopping for said guides, look for authors who speak from personal experience; “I ate this when…” “When I cook this…” These are much more trusted sources than someone just throwing together pictures and facts.
*Forage at least 50-100 feet from any roadside, railroad, etc. Toxins from exhaust, metals and other substances can fly into roadside areas and/or be carried even further with rain water.
*When trying a new food, start eating it in small quantities. It’s probably been a while since you introduced a completely new food into your body and everyone has different constitutions.
I’ve been lucky in life. I have an amazing husband, a beautiful child and a very supportive family. I’ve also had the privilege of living on the island of Maui for two years. Despite the way this sounds, it was hard for me. A fierce contrast from the New York I was accustomed to, it took some time before I was truly able to embrace the island life. It helped that when we first arrived we were lucky enough to live with friends. We would often dine together and share chores. The year was 2000 and it was then that I had my first experience with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.
Our friends were members of a local farm and, in return for a membership fee, they received a weekly “share” of that week’s harvest. We lived Upcountry in Kula, a village on the hillside of Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano. Stunningly beautiful, the land there is not what you think of when you picture Hawai’i though. It’s more like the rugged, emerald, rolling terrain of Ireland. The island’s unique volcanic, nutrient-rich soil produces spectacular vegetables, citrus, and the famous Maui onion. Each Friday we’d return home from a long day and eagerly scamper to see what delights awaited us inside the basket.
CSA programs are win-win for the farmers and for members. It provides the farm with financial support at the beginning of each season for seeds, plants and materials. For members it ensures the freshest, seasonal produce one can find for about 22 weeks. I love it because the shares often include herbs or vegetables that fall outside of my comfort-zone, forcing me to expand my horizons and experiment.
Fast-forward 11 years and I’ve finally discovered a local farm that has a CSA program close to our home on the mainland. Sunset Beach Farm is located in the village of North Haven, New York and is owned and operated by Karin Bellemare and Jon Wagner. They are dedicated farmers and lovely human beings. Karin and Jon write about their farm on their website. I will also chronicle this season’s CSA and include ideas for how to enjoy it all. Happy Memorial Day!
To find a CSA program in your area visit localharvest.org
Welcome to The Good Bowl – we’re so happy you’ve joined us!
The Good Bowl is a culinary round table – a destination that promotes healthy choices, responsible practices and delicious ingredients. If it was created by neighbors or nature, we want to know all about it. The Good Bowl’s core mission is simply to share and learn from one another. So pull up a chair and tuck in your napkin – this is going to be one heck of a potluck.