Summer Opportunities to Connect People to Place through Wild and Cultivated Food

Summer Opportunities to Connect People to Place through Wild and Cultivated Food

Summer offers learning opportunities that integrate culinary arts with botany and agriculture. In addition to many, year-round offerings of culinary workshops and resources in Western Massachusetts, seasonal events such as guided wild plant walks can open up new doorways of interests and add local, fresh ingredients to your cooking practice.

Whether you are interested in wild plant walks, gardening, farming, or cooking, there are ample opportunities for you and your family to connect with your community through food and plants. Here are several community-based educational resources and events to support your interests while engaging in your community this summer: Read the rest of this entry »

Culinary & Cultural Education via Local Resources & Events

Nutritional Anthropology and Culinary Education

Every culture has its own set of values, rituals, and traditions surrounding food. The staple ingredients, indulgences, and forbidden fruits of a given culture are influenced by agricultural systems, habitat, ethical concepts, and religious beliefs. Holidays and celebrations around the world are associated with traditional and ritual foods. Have you ever wondered why birthday cakes are round? Or why latkes are fried during Hanukkah and Buche de Noel’s are baked at Christmas? Food traditions from fish on Friday to turkey on Thanksgiving are rich in history and a delicious lens for learning about culture.

In western Massachusetts, community meals and culinary workshops offer opportunities for learning about culture through food. The Italian Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts, for example, periodically offers culinary classes, teaching participants to make traditional Italian foods such as gnocchi and tortellini. You can also learn about nutritional anthropology through other culinary art traditions by attending cultural events like the Greek Glendi in Springfield, dining on authentic Tibetan cooking at Lhasa Cafe in Northampton, or shopping at Tran’s World Food Market in Hadley can also expose you to new cultures via food.

Pair your interest in culture via food with a documentary on Israeli cuisine on Sunday, June 5 at 2pm at the Yiddish Book Center. This documentary will teach viewers about the culture of Israli cuisine at a community film screening. The 2016 documentary In Search of Israeli Cuisine poses the question: What is Israeli cuisine? Israel is made up more than 100 different cultures. This film profiles chefs, home cooks, farmers, wine makers, and cheese makers of Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, and Druze faiths. Watching this film can help you connect with your heritage or learn about a new culture through food. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA.


Related archived posts:

GIVEAWAY: 2016 CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm

Enter to Win a 2016 Summer Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm!

Enter for a chance to win a Small Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, MA for the 2016 season by sharing ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences in the comment field. Deadline: March 29th, 2016.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a fabulous way families can support local farmers.  By purchasing a CSA share for your family, shareholders pledge their support of a local farm and receive weekly shares of fruits, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy and meat products.  CSA’s are also great opportunities for community-based learning! Here on Hilltown Families we highlight educational opportunities in the region that integrate our local food culture, encouraging families  to engage with our community while learning through the lens of local food. For a list of CSA’s in the Pioneer Valley, check out CISA’s list of local farms.

FOOD-BASED EDUCATION

How does your family participate in our local food culture?  Maybe you have a garden in your yard, a plot at the community garden or container pots on the front stoop or windowsill? Do you buy your food at farmers’ markets or roadside stands? Is volunteering to support food security and sustainable agriculture in our region a priority to your family? How does Hilltown Families support your family in your food, farm and garden-based interests?

We invite our readers to share ways your family engages in our local food culture and how you use this lens of community engagement as a way of supporting the interests and education of your children. Hilltown Families sponsor, Crimson & Clover Farm, a community based farm on the Northampton Community Farm land, is partnering with us by offering an incentive to our readers to share their stories. Share ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences, and be entered to win a Small CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm, a $420 value!  Deadline to enter to win: March 29th, 2016, by 11:59pm (EST). Details on how to enter to win are below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Symbolism of Food on New Years Eve

The Tradition of Food Has a Major Part to Play in Celebrations All Over the World

Families can celebrate the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year.

On December 31st, most of the world celebrates the coming of a new year. Throughout the last day of the year, many countries mark the new beginning with different cultural celebrations. Food in particular plays an important role in these celebrations, and is thought to serve as a  symbol of things to come in the new year. This year, learn about cultures around the world while adding fun and delicious customs to your family’s traditions for marking the new year.

Countries on Asia’s Pacific coast celebrate the new year hours before we do here in western Massachusetts, and families can celebrate the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year. In English, the dish’s name means “year-bridging,” and it’s very important to slurp entire noodles (rather than biting them in half) in order to ensure that toshikoshi will in fact ensure a long life. Since Japan’s new year begins about fourteen hours before ours does, make toshikoshi for a New Year’s Eve lunch!

On New Year’s Eve in Spain, tradition dictates that everyone eat grapes at the stroke of midnight. Grapes are eaten quickly – one for each stroke of the clock – and symbolize the twelve months of the upcoming year. Taste them carefully, though – while each sweet grape symbolizes a sweet month to come, a sour grape symbolizes a month to watch out for! Begin your dinner with grapes in order to celebrate along with the Spaniards, whose midnight comes six hours before ours… Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Connecting Across Generations Through Food Traditions

A Holiday Reflection

This holiday, start a new tradition… dig out your old recipe cards, and host a Holiday Food Share, where family members and friends cook a recipe that’s most meaningful to them, while sharing a memory of what makes it so special. What a great opportunity to bake that casserole your great aunt was known for, and to share stories rich in history and nostalgia.

The inspiration for this month’s column came a few weeks ago when my grandmother surprised me at work with a fresh batch of her homemade applesauce. Coincidentally, I had forgotten to bring breakfast that day so you can imagine my delight! As I sat at my desk and enjoyed this unexpected treat, and all of the love and labor she put into it, I felt a heart swell of emotion. I imagined her in the kitchen, peeling each apple by hand, slicing, cooking, stirring, cooling…just to give it away to the people she loves. She bakes pies for the holidays, and surprises us with stuffed cabbage because she knows it’s our favorite.  Read the rest of this entry »

GIVEAWAY: CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm

Enter to Win a Farm Share from
Crimson & Clover Farm this Summer!

Enter for a chance to win a Small Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, MA for the 2015 season by sharing ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences in the comment field. Deadline: April 28th, 2015.

Locally grown food is a great community connector! This past winter families could enjoy Winter Farmers’ Market in the Pioneer Valley while connecting with friends and neighbors during these festive weekly markets.  And during the growing and harvest season Farmers’ Markets happen nearly every day of the week and have quickly become places the community not only shops for fresh produce and local products, but a place they can participate in collaborative consumption by taking free workshops and learning from farmers who freely share their knowledge on growing a better garden or preserving food.

But Farmers’ Markets aren’t the only way the community can participate in farm-based learning while connecting with their neighbors and supporting local farmers… Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another fabulous way families can support, participate and learn through the lens of our local food culture.  By purchasing a CSA share, shareholders pledge their support of a local farm and receive weekly shares of fruits, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy and meat products.  For a list of CSA’s in the Pioneer Valley, check out CISA’s list of local farms.

FOOD-BASED EDUCATION

How does your family participate in our local food culture?  Maybe you have a garden in your yard, a plot at the community garden or container pots on the front stoop or windowsill? Do you engage in with farmers, buying your food at farmers’ markets or roadside farm stands? Is volunteering to support food security in our region a priority to your family?

We invite our readers to share ways your family engages in our local food culture and how you use this lens of community engagement as a way of supporting the interests and education of your children. Hilltown Families sponsor, Crimson & Clover Farm, a community based farm on the Northampton Community Farm land, is partnering with us by offering an incentive to our readers to share their stories. Share ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences, and be entered to win a Small CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm, a $420 value!  Deadline to enter to win: April 28th, 2015, by 11:59pm (EST). Details on how to enter to win are below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Family Apple Pie Recipe from Iconic Red Lion Inn

Apple Pie for the Holidays
with Executive Chef, Brian Alberg of The Red Lion Inn

Apple Pie is an American staple. First brought to the colonies in the 16th century, the pie has gone through several alterations over the centuries to become one of the most popular desserts in the country. There are almost unlimited ways to create an apple pie and Executive Chef Brian Alberg of The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA, has an Apple Pie recipe that is delicious! Read the rest of this entry »

6 Remedies to the Pre-Dinner Snack Dilemma

6 Ways Community Can Support Family Dinners

It Takes a Village to Have Family Dinner

It’s true.  Committing to family dinner as a community makes sticking to family dinner easier in so many ways.  First, you know you are part of something meaningful for all of you.  Being part of a movement helps in those moments when you are teetering on the edge of throwing in the towel and deciding to leave a pot of spaghetti and sauce on the stove and letting people fend for themselves.  I also think it helps our kids stick to the routine when they know that your expectation is the same in their friends’ homes; no kid wants to be called to dinner from a game knowing that she is the only one. Also, as a community you can share ideas, food, and time together.

So here are six ideas for how families can help each other… Read the rest of this entry »

The Dinner Table: Family Dinner Resolution


For the New Year I made a resolution – a family dinner resolution – to actually get home for family dinner. It is a bit difficult on the conscience to be the Director of the Family Dinner Project and not get home for dinner very often. So I resolved, and I have spent the last four weeks doing my best to stick to it. This post is a report on what is working, and what is not… Read the rest of this entry »

Four Foods for Good Luck & Prosperity in the New Year

Noodles, Grapes, Beans & Cake
Food to Bring Good Luck & Prosperity to the New Year

Here in the United States, Hoppin’ John is a food eaten in the southern states on New Year’s Day, thought to bring prosperity in the new year. If you don’t finish the whole batch on New Year’s Day, called it Skippin’ Jenny when you enjoy the leftovers – thought to symbolize frugality and further prosperity.

On January 31st, most of the world celebrates the coming of a new year. Throughout the last day of the year, many countries mark the new beginning with different cultural celebrations. Food in particular plays an important role in these celebrations, and is thought to serve as a  symbol of things to come in the new year. This year, learn about cultures around the world while adding fun and delicious customs to your family’s traditions for marking the new year.

Countries on Asia’s Pacific coast celebrate the new year hours before we do here in western Massachusetts, and families can celebrate the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year. In English, the dish’s name means “year-bridging,” and it’s very important to slurp entire noodles (rather than biting them in half) in order to ensure that toshikoshi will in fact ensure a long life. Since Japan’s new year begins about fourteen hours before ours does, make toshikoshi for a New Year’s Eve lunch!

On New Year’s Eve in Spain, tradition dictates that everyone eat grapes at the stroke of midnight. Grapes are eaten quickly – one for each stroke of the clock – and symbolize the twelve months of the upcoming year. Taste them carefully, though – while each sweet grape symbolizes a sweet month to come, a sour grape symbolizes a month to watch out for! Begin your dinner with grapes in order to celebrate along with the Spaniards, whose midnight comes six hours before ours… Read the rest of this entry »

The Popover: Featured Holiday Recipe from The Red Lion Inn

Download recipe (pdf)

Rosemary Popovers
From The Red Lion Inn

The popover has been popular for centuries. Well, at least Yorkshire pudding, its predecessor from England, has. Yorkshire pudding has been around since the 17th Century, although it has evolved considerably.

The first ever recorded recipe for Yorkshire Pudding appears in a book, The Whole Duty of a Woman in 1737 and listed as ‘A Dripping Pudding’ –  the dripping coming from spit-roast meat. “Make a good batter as for pancakes; put in a hot toss-pan over the fire with a bit of butter to fry the bottom a little then put the pan and butter under a shoulder of mutton, instead of a dripping pan, keeping frequently shaking it by the handle and it will be light and savoury, and fit to take up when your mutton is enough; then turn it in a dish and serve it hot.”

Most American popovers today are not flavored with meat or herbs. Instead, they have a buttery taste. Chef James Beard, anointed the “dean of American cookery” by the New York Times in 1954, has argued that the resemblance between Yorkshire pudding and popovers is purely coincidental and that the popover recipe has changed several times before becoming the recipe that it is currently used by today’s cooks.

Popovers have been called puff pops, Portland popover pudding and Laplanders – from the name of nomadic Swedish reindeer herders. Also called the Dutch Baby and Hootenanny Pancakes, these delicious dough puffs are appropriate to eat with any meal.

This light and hollow pastry made from egg batter is typically baked in muffin tins. When cooked, the batter “pops” over the top of the muffin tin, which is how the popover got its name. Usually served alongside meat dishes at lunch or dinner, popovers may be served as a sweet, topped with fruit and cream for breakfast or with afternoon tea.

The following Red Lion Inn recipe of Rosemary Popovers is rooted in the British tradition using animal drippings as a base to create depth of flavor. The piney distinctive aroma of rosemary provides a delicious accompaniment to any roasted meat. Enjoy during the holidays or at any time of the year when a crispy, soft, flavorful roll hot out of the oven will do.


ABOUT THE CHEF

Brian Alberg

Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA, Brian is a staunch supporter of the local food movement in the region, establishing strong relationships with regional farmers and food producers. Brian is the founding chair of Berkshire Farm & Table and serves on the board of the Railroad Street Youth Project.

The Dinner Table: Giving is Inspiring

Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013,  is Giving Tuesday.  After years of hearing about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some folks created a day for giving back rather than consuming – and thus Giving Tuesday – the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  The Family Dinner Project got inspired by this opportunity and thought – what better place to talk together about giving back than at the dinner table? What better way to raise the next generation of philanthropists great and small?  So we went and built a whole new part of our website dedicated to helping families talk about and inspire giving together.  My favorite is this Decision Tree that Grace Taylor created. But the tips for inspiring giving in children is great, as are the conversation starters.
Here is how our giving conversations have started, but we need your help to see them through. Read on and share your thoughts…

The Dinner Table: Return of the Toast!

Prost! A Sente! Salute! Cheers! To your Health!

The toast is that moment of transition.

Ceremony is too often neglected in what has become a pretty unceremonious society we live in and our dinner tables reflect that.  Some families of course still light a candle, say a thanks, a grace or a prayer before a meal, but as fewer people have these traditions, we have not done enough to cultivate a replacement.

Ritual is an important part of family bonding.  Beginnings are an important part of ritual. Bill Doherty, the renowned family therapist, in his book The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties talks about the three phases of family rituals – the transitional phase, the enactment phase and the exit phase. He argues that our family dinners should have all three phases. “The transitional phase is used to move from everyday matters into ‘ritual space,’ where the sense of ceremony and connection are enhanced.” There are three things served here – marking the moment when we separate from the everyday, bringing some sense celebration, care and specialness to the table, and connecting with one another in a meaningful way.

It is for these three reasons that I am advocating the return of the toast.  The toast is a non-religious but ceremonial way of leaving the day behind and marking the beginning our meal together, of celebrating, and of connecting…

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The Dinner Table: Don’t Yuck on My Yum!

Don’t Yuck on My Yum

We don’t have a lot of rules at our dinner table – we try to make it as nag-free as we can. But one rule I insist on I learned from a fourth grader in Lynn, MA, as part of the Family Dinner Project’s lunch mentors program with the Lynn Public Schools.  Don’t yuck on my yum.  I had never heard it before this student used it to defend her choice of sandwich.

It means you shouldn’t criticize the food that someone else is eating and likes. Don’t yuck on my yum.  What I think is yummy, don’t say yuck about.  So often, one child embraces something interesting, healthy, uncommon, or ethnic and gets criticized for it.  What is unknown scares kids. What smells strong or looks different seems strange and weird.  Kids name that to make themselves feel less anxious about being different.  This happens over and over to children from certain traditions or with varied tastes or personalities. Eventually a child’s tastes get worn away to the lowest common denominator until everybody’s eating chicken nuggets and noodles…

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Parenting Green: Learning & Connecting Through Locally Grown Food

The Language of Local Food

One year my family planted brussels sprouts… We watched this plant grow and grow and it was almost fall and nothing had appeared at the top of the plant yet. I was expecting buds within the leaves at the top of the plant much like a cabbage or broccoli grows. Only later did we discover the whole time these little buds were being made along the length of the stalk beneath the foliage. It was so cool!

In celebration of the harvest time, we spend a lot of time as a family eating.  And it’s good eating. Super fresh and delicious plums like you’ve never had from the supermarket in the winter, delicious corn that pops right off the cob (and lets not forget about the butter and salt, that’s super delicious too), cucumbers so crisp and refreshing it almost replaces the need to shower, and soon to be soups of fall squashes put to puree.

Creating an association with eating that starts with where our food is grown, is a certain way of instilling a language around vibrant and healthy living. Weather you only have room for pots of veggies growing on your patio, or you can dedicate a spot in your yard for a garden, or even if none of those apply to your family’s ability to integrate growing food at home, taking regular visits to a farm can certainly help create that context. Just as we pick up our language, as infants being immersed in the spoken word, so is true of the rest of the information we store, especially around food choices and where we get it…

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Women and Food Photographic Exhibition in Easthampton

Women and Food Photographic Exhibition
September 3rd – September 30th
Easthampton City Arts+ Gallery

Springfield Attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, her daughter, Mahmooda, and son, Dawud.

Easthampton City Arts+ Gallery will display local artist and writer Sarah Platanitis’ photographic project, “Women and Food,” this September.  Platanitis edits and writes for the blog Sarah in the Kitchen, and developed The Women and Food Project while working on articles for the blog, for which she visited women from many walks of life in their kitchens and food-related spaces.

“During interviews, I would hear such great side stories that I sadly couldn’t include in the pieces. Still, I wrote them down anyway, hoping that one day I could go back and spend time again with these women,” says Platanitis. “I wanted to learn more about why they do what they do when it comes to food.”

When asked how she thought this exhibit would appeal to a younger audience, Platanitis explains, “I think a younger audience would benefit from seeing the exhibit because the women in the Project are great role models.  They are successful at their work, they give back to their communities and they love what they do…”

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Q&A: Healthy & Vegetarian, Kid-Friendly Restaurants in the Pioneer Valley

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

In addition to this great list of reader recommended restaurants with kid-friendly vegetarian meal options, check our archived post, 18 Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Western MA! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Tara Winters of Williamsburg asks: “What are your favorite Pioneer Valley restaurants that offer affordable, healthy, vegetarian, kid-friendly meal options?”

Tara Brock Winters responds: “Awesome suggestions, and thank you for reminding me of a few we have not visited in a while. We are so lucky to have such great options in the Valley!”

Dinner Ideas: Local Beets & Fennel Salad

Roasted Beet Salad

Check your local farmers’ market or organic produce section for a selection of sweet & colorful beets! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Wow, what a wacky growing season this has been! The extremes we’ve been experiencing are challenging. From drought to flooding, cold to heat and heat to cold, the conditions this season have been erratic and stressful to the plants. Our local farmers need our support to weather difficult growing seasons. Look for locally grown produce at locally owned markets and frequent many of the area farmers’ markets.

Despite the rivers that were flowing in our garden paths a week ago, our garden is producing beautifully. We’ve been eating loads of salad greens and radishes, and about fifteen different types of cooking greens. The strawberries and peas are coming on strong now. Lots of herbs have been enhancing our meals. Garlic scapes are ready, we still have a few stray asparagus stalks, and the rest of the garden is looking promising for abundant harvests. Here’s a recipe for Roasted Beet Salad. It uses several types of vegetables and herbs that are showing up at area farmers’ markets.

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5 Easy Composting Tips for Your Family Garden

Environmentally sound garden practices for the family garden

Most people know about composting, but as a busy parent this can feel like a lot of work.  Try these five tips on how to add organic matter to your family garden and discover an easier way to “compost.”

One of the major keys to a successful garden is the incorporation of organic matter into the soil every year. I remember taking a soil class at UMass 15 or so years back and hearing my professor say, “the answer to almost any question I ask this semester will likely be to add organic matter to the soil. If the problem is nutrition, drainage, pH, disease & insect problems, etc… the solution often can be solved with the addition of organic matter.”

Soil needs organic matter for a host of reasons, including moisture retention, aeration, microbial life, a slow release fertilizer… but maybe you’re wondering how to increase the organic matter in your soil…  Most people know about composting (see my post, The Dirt on Dirt) but as a busy parent this can be too much work for too little return. Here are five tips on how to add organic matter to your soil that my family often does, many of which you might not find in the pages of Better Homes and Garden:

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Food Security in Summer Months in Western MA

Food Security in Summer Months in Western MA

For children across America, the end of school means the end of book reports and spelling tests, and the end of school breakfast and lunch-their most reliable source of nutrition. In Western Massachusetts, 38,870 kids don’t always know where they will get their next meal. That’s one out of every five kids in the region. Across the country, more than 16 million children live in food insecure homes.

In the summer, these households that struggle to make ends meet all year long are faced with additional challenges. The meals children receive in school are not available and more families with children turn to their local pantries and meal sites to help fill this gap. As a result, these assistance sites can face increased strain on resources during the summer as they try their best to meet demand…

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Growing Raspberries this Summer in Your Family Garden

5 Simple Steps for Pruning Raspberries

Stop by one of the many plant sales happening over the next few weekends around Western MA and pick up raspberries dug fresh out of someone’s garden to take home and grown in your own!

Picking ripe raspberries straight off of their canes and popping them into your mouth is a summer delight that kids can carry with them into adulthood as fond memories from their childhood! But perhaps no other small fruit commonly found in Western MA  gardens mystify their owners as do raspberries. And there is no shortage of information out there on how to prune these thorny canes!

As a professional and homeowner I can tell you I am often perplexed on how to prune them after reading one of the numerous tomes written on the subject. To make it easier for families to grow the berries in their home gardens for their children to enjoy, I’ve demystified their care here with 5 simple steps.  These steps assume that you have “summer bearing raspberries ” as opposed to “fall bearing raspberries.” Even if this is not the case, this system of care will work fine:

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Fresh Berries from the Garden!

Pruning Blueberry Bushes

Here you can see a blueberry bush that has not been pruned for 5 years! It has dozens of branches that are too old to produce much in the way of quality fruit. The interior is cluttered with deadwood and the canopy is filled with branches rubbing against one another.

April is a great month to get the family outdoors and getting their landscape ready for the spring. Families can rake the leaves missed in October, pick up fallen branches, cut perennials back… But the pruning of shrubs is not quite as obvious of a spring chore. While many varieties of shrubs can be pruned at this time of the year, our native blueberries will thrive with regular pruning. Pruning is one of those subjects that often can cause a state of paralysis to even the most seasoned gardener. But when it comes to blueberries, fear not. It is so simple that even your child can do it (providing you tell her that her goat can stay near by)…

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Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

I wake up in the morning thinking of the billowing steam from maple sap boiling. I love going to sugar houses to see the dramatic plumes of steam rising, to smell the sweet maple aroma, to taste the first of the season’s delicate, delicious syrup…to experience the promise of spring again. My seasonal rhythms are tied to sugarin’; it marks the final gasps of winter and the arrival of daffodils and forsythia and fruit tree blossoms and spring greens and warmth and sunshine.

But this year winter isn’t quite letting go. So when I think of what’s for supper, my desires still lean toward hearty, winter foods. Tonight we’ll have Mushroom Barley Soup. We still have some oyster mushrooms from the grow-your-own kit that we got at the Creamery! I’ll bake a loaf of rye bread, roast some delicata squash, and cook some of our frozen shell beans with our garlic and fresh rosemary from our indoor plant. Amy will make a salad from just-picked fresh and crisp mixed greens from a friend’s hoop house (thanks, Penny!), with the last of our stored carrots and Jerusalem artichokes and red cabbage, and we’ll be reminded that we’ll soon be eating more and more nourishing local foods.

♦ Print Recipe: Mushroom Barley Soup [V/Vg/NF] . Stock instructions.

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)| *With Moderation


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Jessica Spengler]

5 Late Winter Family Gardening Tips

5 Gardening Tips for Late Winter

Starting seeds in early March is an excellent way to get the whole family excited about the arrival of spring.

Spring is just around the corner and planning your garden with your kids while there’s still snow on the ground can be both fun and educational.  There’s no shortage of garden prep that you can be doing right now. Here are five things you can do to plan and prepare for your gardens this summer:

SEED CATALOGS: Gather your kids around and peruse thorough seed catalogs. Not only do some make for good reading (Fedco Seeds is my favorite), but it will give you the opportunity to learn a bit more about the culture of growing specific favorite plants.  Let your kids pick out veggies and flowers they’d like to grow in the garden and get them involved in this late winter tradition.

START SEEDS: This is a great thing to do with kids!  You have not capitulated on getting them that Golden Retriever they have been asking for, but what about giving them that…eggplant they have been asking for?! Ok, they never asked for it, but think what fun for the whole family it would be to start veggie seeds indoors while there’s still snow on the ground? This morning my 5yo daughter Priya was scooping the soil into planting cell for our garden veggies, while my 8yo son Forrest labeled all the plant tags and I sowed the seeds.  It’s a great family activity!

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Maple Syrup Time: Eight Featured Sugar Shacks in Western MA

Maple Syrup Season

The moment that we have been waiting for all winter is here: Maple Syrup Time!  The ground is thawing and the sap is running… maple sugaring is everywhere, giving great reason to get out with your family to learn about the maple sugaring process while enjoying the first harvest of the year!

Below, I have listed several sugar shacks where there is a restaurant and the sap run is a sweet and joyful event.  However, do not disregard the people around the corner or the trees in your own back yard! A directory of sugar shacks in Massachusetts is available at www.massmaple.org. Check to see if there is someone making syrup in your neighborhood that you do not know.  Call ahead to see if they are boiling and if you bring your kids to come watch the process.

Sugar Shacks with Breakfast

If you want a list with highlights, this is the list for you:

  1. Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield serves breakfast weekdays 8am-1pm, and weekends 8am-3pm, through April 13th. Their menu includes pancakes, Belgian waffles, and maple frosted donuts.
  2. North Hadley Sugar Shack is open weekdays 7am-1pm, and weekends from 7am-3pm. They are known for their great pancakes.
  3. South Face Sugar Shack in Ashfield is open 8:30am- 3pm, weekends only, through March 30th. They have homemade pancakes, waffles, corn fritters, maple milkshakes and many other special maple goodies.
  4. High Hopes Farm Sugar House in Worthington serves weekends from 7am- 2pm. They are the home of the exclusive “All You Can Eat” Sugar House Buffet.
  5. Red Bucket Sugar Shack in Worthington is open 8am-2pm on Saturdays and 8am-3pm on Sundays through mid-April. on weekends.  They have a lot of wonderful variations on the pancake, including carrot cake and zucchini bread pancakes.
  6. Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse in Shelburne is open on weekends.  Call to find out the particular hours. They have candy, cream, fudge and syrup in addition to a full breakfast.
  7. Pomeroy Sugar House & Restaurant in Westfield is open Fri-Sun 7:30am-1pm through the first of April. In addition to breakfast, there are farm animals to meet and pet.
  8. Hanging Mountain Farms & The Strawbale Cafe in Westhampton is open Fri- Sat 7am-1pm, and Sun. 8am-1pm. They have a full menu, including buttermilk, multigrain and gluten-free pancakes & french toast! Yum.

For a quick, complete, and unannotated list, with hours, dates and directions, check out the Mass Maple Sugar House with Restaurant directory.  And while there is a definite joy in celebrating the harvest with comrades and pancakes, have you considered tapping a tree or two yourself?  Here is a quick guide from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association to get you started: Make Your Own Maple Syrup.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family.  She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology.  Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.

Hey Y’all… Alice is Bakin’ Up Some Southern Biscuits!

Southern Biscuits Enjoyed with Local Western MA Ingredients

Biscuits

Here’s something you can make for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack…how versatile is that!  Biscuits are great any time of day.  They taste best slathered with butter, and even better with local honey or your favorite fruity jam.  When I first met Amy, my choice of bread to go with any meal was a crusty Italian/French-type bread or a dense, whole grain loaf.  Amy grew up in the south, and the way to make a southern gal very happy is to make the very best biscuits imaginable.  Brown and crunchy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside; this was my goal.  I quickly became an expert, and in the process I also got hooked on this delicious treat.

I make them in the same amount of time it takes the oven to pre-heat, so it’s a quick addition to any meal.  For breakfast, they’re out of the oven in the time it takes to set the table, fry the eggs (local of course!) and light the candle.  For lunch or dinner, I make them after I get a pot of soup on, chill them in the refrigerator to make them extra flaky, and then bake them right before serving.  Our favorite afternoon snack is hot biscuits, soft butter, sweet jam (from our own fruit), and a smoothie with yogurt that we make from Cummington raw milk (Taproot Commons Farm), blended with frozen fruit and a drizzle of  maple syrup. Use Vermont-grown Nitty-Gritty Grain Company unbleached flour for a truly local feast!

♦ Print Recipe: Biscuits [V/NF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)| *With Moderation


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Steve Mohundro]

Indian Potato Fritters for Dinner Tonight!

Indian Potato Fritters

Potatoes Bonda

Amy and I were in local food heaven! We were visiting her folks on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is incredulous to everyone that I chose to go to every farmers’ market within two hours, rather than go for another walk on the gorgeous, tropical-blue-water-white-sand-almost-empty-of-people beach. We did all spend a lot of time together in the woods and salt marshes, watching birds and enjoying the tropical beauty, but if it was a farmers’ market day, the family knew they’d lost me. We ate just-harvested strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, satsumas, eggfruit, red limes, lettuce, mesclun, collards, kale, chard, tatsoi, broccoli, green beans, carrots, red and yellow peppers, chilies, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions, and every kind of fresh herb. Amy’s mother graciously shared her kitchen with me, and I joyfully prepared meals from fresh foods grown by farmers that I enjoyed meeting. Simple pleasures. I was in bliss.

Now we’re back in snowy Cummington, and I have to say I’m happy as a lark. My local food choices are limited, but I love our seasons, our land, our foods here. We’re using up our supply of stored foods, so tonight’s dinner choices are potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, winter squash, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, carrots, and beets. That’s enough variety for this Hilltowns girl! We’ll have a multi-ethnic menu with sweet potato gnocchi (recipe coming in the future!), roasted Brussels sprouts, snow-covered kale, and today’s recipe, Potatoes Bonda, an Indian potato fritter.

♦ Print Recipe: Potatoes Bonda [V/Vg/NF/GF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)| *With Moderation


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Kirti Poddar]

Comfort Food: Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne

Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne

Amy might be a southerner by heart and spirit, but she and I are Yankees by practice; we light our first fire as late into the season as we can bear. This necessitates cooking on as many burners (we have 8!) and in as many ovens (we have 2) as possible when we are home and awake for more than a couple of hours.  Fortunately, we still have a lot of food preservation happening, so on Wednesdays the burners are going full tilt, along with two heat-producing dehydrators.  We are warm while we joyfully put up food to feed us through the rest of the year.  But we still try to prepare our meals with heat-generating potential in mind.

We dug the last of our sweet potatoes, and these precious few coveted tubers are beckoning our culinary creativity.  Aha!  One of Amy’s favorite entrees…Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne.  It requires a nice long burner time to caramelize some onions, and TWO turns in the oven…one to roast the potatoes and one to bake the lasagne.  Perfect.  I prepare this recipe by making or buying fresh egg pasta sheets.  This delicious entree begs to be presented with candlelight and soft music, and in the company of cherished friends.  It will open doors to conversation and camaraderie.  Trust me…you’ll see!

♦  Print Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato Lasagne [V, NF, GF*]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF) | *With Alteration


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Cozzolino

Alice has been co-owner of The Old Creamery since 2000.  She and her partner and spouse, Amy, have lived in Cummington since they built their home in 1986.  Alice and Amy are very deeply connected to their land; they grow a lot of their own food, eat well (especially during the growing season), feed many friends and loved ones and preserve as much food as possible.  Rarely a day goes by that they don’t say “Aren’t we blessed to live here?” Feeding people feels like a calling to Alice.  She was brought up with her Italian Gram and her Dad putting something wonderful to eat in her mouth and saying “Here, eat this.”  Nothing brings her greater joy than feeding people that she cares about or people that are in need of kindness and nurturing.

[Photo credit: (ccl) David Lifson]

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