Friday, May 28, 2010

wintergreens: How We Started

wintergreens is a presence at Hudson Valley farmers markets selling pickled local produce and vegetarian staples (tofu, seitan, cashew cheese). In the winters we run a winter C.S.A. that distributes local produce all winter long. We do that by practicing some of the oldest methods for storing food: root cellaring, fermentation, dehydration, and more.

Here's how wintergreens came to be.

I moved to Beacon, NY several years ago. The most amazing thing about living here, for me, has been participating in community supported agriculture (well, and my beautiful porch. and the Hudson River.) My summers have been filled with so many gorgeous veggies, a weekly visit to the fields, picking flowers, and the smell of warm tomatoes and basil on my hands. But each year there comes a time when the days get shorter, the air gets a chill, and C.S.A. distributions end. It's a tragic time. I look at all the pathetic produce at the supermarket and want to cry. Then I look at the prices, and really want to cry. For years I'd been fabulously healthy during the summers, and weird and anemic in the winters.

There were winter C.S.A.s all over the country feeding hungry locavores, and it was time for Beacon to finally get its own. I took a fermentation workshop with Sandor Katz, and that really set the wheels in motion.

wintergreens is based on the belief that everybody should have access to local food. That's what a community food program is all about: rich, poor, fat, skinny, vegetarian or no, everybody should be eating food that's grown in their backyards. Living in the fertile Hudson Valley, there's a lot of food in our area! We all have a lot to gain to by supporting local farmers.

Therefore, I introduce to you wintergreens. It is food made from the same beautiful (organic and certified naturally grown) fruits and veggies we're getting in our farm shares. No pesticides, no wilting while traveling. Just beautiful, healthful food, preserved so that you don't have to get pale, weak, or hungry in the winter months, and you don't have to rely on Key Food!

*The photo is from that first fermentation workshop, and shows our "bruiser" breaking down the vegetables so they could brew in their own flavorful juices.

Summer Farmer's Market

wintergreens will be at the Cold Spring Farmer's Market every first and third Saturday of each month, beginning June 5, from 8:30 to 1:30.

We'll have a variety of fermented vegetables, chutneys and mustard, quick pickles, and vegetarian staples, like fresh tofu, handmade seitan, and cashew cheese. See you there!

Berries Begin

The heat is making a lot of berries ripen very quickly. If you belong to a C.S.A., you might be getting urgent calls to come pick strawberries. Today, we answered that call, and picked as many no-spray strawberries as we could stuff into our mouths, plus some to take home for later. We paused on Main St. in New Paltz to eat some already ripe mulberries, too, off the tree squeezed between the falafel place and the tie-dye incense place.
The mulberries by my house are on the verge of ripening, too: the birds, the squirrels, and I are all waiting eagerly.

If you don't have mulberries in your yard, some good, public picking trees are these: Beekman St. (on the way to the train station) over parking spots #565 and #556. These two trees have branches that hang low over the road, so it's easy to reach the fruit. If you're by the sloop club, check to see if the two June berry trees by the walkway have ripe berries yet, or harvest from the mulberry tree by the tracks, about 10 parking spaces to the left of the entrance to the tracks.

If you're up for a walk, some trees on the way to the old brick factory on Dennings Points have the biggest mulberries I've ever seen.

Happy foraging, and happy eating. Here's hoping you don't get berry juice on your clothes, like me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hobo Stew

Secret ingredient = fire.
Fire makes food taste good. It's a fact.

When it comes to potatoes, they are exponentially better when roasted than when boiled or fried. When you roast potatoes on a fire, they are, in my opinion, the best they can be. Thank goodness I was a girl scout and learned to make hobo stew! There's plenty that's weird about scouting, and sometimes wrapping your food in foil and covering it in charcoals seems like one of those funny scout things. But if you've had this fire stew, you understand.

It's simple: cut up your onions, potatoes, celery, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, seitan, drizzle with olive oil, a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put everything on a double layer of foil, and fold it into a secure packet. Snuggle that packet into the coals of a fire, and sit back and enjoy the heat.

Maybe it's the pleasure of sitting outside by a fire that makes the food taste better. It's pleasant, surely, especially when you have a beer and the sun is setting and opossums wander by, but even when I eat leftovers (which I make sure there are), they taste better than if they were cooked indoors.

When the foil is blackened, flip the packet. The veggies will cook faster than they do in the oven. When you unwrap the foil packet, avoid the burning steam, then enjoy the tastiest "stew" possible. These days, it doesn't matter what we're grilling, we always prepare a packet of potatoes, onions, and garlic to fire roast, and enjoy later. Great payoff for two minutes of prep!