Creating the New

Very often those of us who are trying to break into a new field or localize a globally based industry struggle because we are competing with established norms.  Whether it is an organization or societal structure there is a real need for dynamic change over time in order to establish a balance that meets the needs of a healthy system.

Planting the seeds of change
Planting the seeds of change

What we are faced with right now is a very unhealthy Earth system.  There is obviously need for drastic change.  One of the first things that we can do as a culture is is part of what keeps the system healthy.  We need to develop new systems that are in line with the Earth’s processes. While it wouldn’t do to look at all the reasons that what we’ve done hasn’t worked we CAN seek to make decisions based on sustainability.  Logically, any principle not based on how the Earth’s systems function seems doomed to failure.  Based on the Permaculture Design Certificate I completed this summer I know that the principles of permaculture provide a solid foundation to working with the Earth and can be adapted to society as well as business. Continue reading “Creating the New”

Food Security in the Valley

PVGrowsA Food-Secure Pioneer Valley- from Our Fields to Our Tables

While I couldn’t possibly capture the whole of the wonderful energy and information that flew through the air at the PVGrows Fall Forum, I can certainly try to grab some of the highlights and bits that I held onto in order to enlighten those who couldn’t make it.

The first big handy chunk of information was the description of a healthy food system.  The elements of this included: vibrant gardens, justice & fairness, healthy people, sustainable ecosystems, thriving local economies, and strong communities. Continue reading “Food Security in the Valley”

Vacation Nightmares Reversed

-or- How to save your community garden plot after time away.

So you went on vacation or perhaps to a conference this summer and come back to find your garden a jungle. Things flourished while you were away, which is good because you can now easily feed a family of 16, unfortunately the other things that are doing well are the weeds…

Don’t fret! Your garden can depart from its current status of being in a shambles without backbreaking, sweat-running-into-your-eyes work. Here are a few tips to get back in shape before the next round of inspections without losing your mind or hurting yourself. Continue reading “Vacation Nightmares Reversed”

Deep Winter Eats

While Deep Winter is typically a time of rest, especially for local foods, this year I’ve seen an increase in activity. Many local food CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) have stepped up to creating a local food system by offering Deep Winter Shares, some going as far as freezing the bounty of the harvest for winter distribution. Various local communities (Greenfield, Northampton, Amherst, Springfield, etc.) have sponsored Winter Fairs to connect growers with the community.

My household gets our Deep Winter CSA from Red Fire Farm every two weeks and we’ve been thrilled with the offerings. To be fair, everyone I know, whether they are getting their winter share from Enterprise, Mountain View, or another local farm, has been happy with what they’ve gotten. I personally appreciate Red Fire’s variety; while we might have sweet potatoes each share they are various types and offer different flavors to the palate as well as increasing (or at least maintaining a little piece of) bio-diversity of our ecosystem. Continue reading “Deep Winter Eats”

Italian Food Part 2: Tuscany

The market at Monterci in Tuscany introduced me to a new gastronomic passion, porchetta.  Porchetta is a whole sucking pig, de-boned and stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel and liver.  This juicy and delicious meat is a regional favorite which makes for a delicious and inexpensive lunch at the market when topped with a crunchy piece of skin and stuffed in a crispy roll, its exact flavors varying based on the chef.

It was here in Tuscany that I was made aware that not only were the restaurant menu items, and market items locally grown, but that they are also seasonally available.  What this means is that should I go back to Tuscany in July the foods available would be what is ripe at that time.  Fortunately for me ‘in season’ during December is cingale (wild boar), black truffles, chestnuts, porchini mushrooms and persimmon.

In the Caprese Michelangelo area, locals who harvest the mushrooms, truffles, and chestnuts from the forest are able to bring the fruits of their labor to market with the assistance of a local Co-op.  Sounds like an easy and exotic way to get those truffles that you love?  It isn’t.  Each of the trees in the forest is ‘owned’ by someone and you would very literally be taking their livelihood.

Overall I have really enjoyed the regional flavors and the lessons that are evident when a locale seems to have  a more sustainable food system.

Learn more about the foods of Tuscany from our hostess.

Italian Food Part 1: Sorrento

I’m sitting in a kitchen in Caprese Michelangelo in the hills of Tuscany with a glass of a local white wine.  There s a fire going to keep the room toasty warm.  Jay is busy in our hostess’ kitchen preparing a tomato and fennel fish stew with ingredients that we picked up from the market that day, all of which were locally grown or brought in from the coast.

Is ‘local’ a theme here?  So far, it is and not just because it is a passion of mine.

Let’s start from the beginning:

In Sorrento, where I spent my first few days, the streets are lined with orange trees.  Small orchards of a few trees, herbs, and grape vines seemed to occupy all available space in backyards and on balconies.

Limoncello, a lemon based liquor, is not only regionally unique but also varies by producer.  One variety I tasted on a whim was far better, in my opinion, than others to the point that I might have though it was a different drink all together.

At night while enjoying a stroll down Sorrento’s small side streets, I caught a glimpses of the day’s catch – frutta di mare – in display cases visible from the outside of the restaurants.  No doubt this is meant to entice you in, and also to let you know what the fresh catch is for the day.  Fresh meaning that it was caught that day and brought up from the harbour.

Once seated at the restaurant for the evening I was pleasantly surprised with a local and superior in quality bottle of vino rosso – red wine.  This left no need to spend money on the otherwise pricey wine list, a pleasant occurrence which repeated itself throughout the trip until Rome.

Sorrento’s ability to not only feed me, but to do so locally and with great flavor was definitely appreciated.  I appreciated knowing that the locally produced and harvested foods comprised the entire menu.

Would this be repeated?  Find out about Tuscany in Italian Food Part 2: Tuscany.

Nothing’s free

Cheesy 80’s pop fills the air. That is why I first noticed Lovebakken’s existence. 

The fairly simple, boring menu of Christiana (on the map) drove me to check out this place next door (off the map).  Initially the prices almost scared me off.  In the end what made me walk through the front door was the pan-fried Monkfish with citrus risotto and pickled red onion.  I just couldn’t walk away from a treat like that, despite the nearly $40 price tag. 

I went in.  A clean atmosphere that bustled in a busy yet low-key way, greeted me inside the door.  Next came the hostess who sadly informed me that they had a special function going on that evening and that I could only get the 12+ tapas they had out for free, there was no access to the regular menu.  Seriously?  Yes.  I walked in thinking I would be spending at least $50 on dinner and it actually was more like zero.  I was out of luck with the wine menu as well.  The were only offering one special (which tasted like a Merlot) that was cheaper than my previous glass by several dollars and tasted good. 

American Pie ends and now ‘What a feelin’ comes on. 

Among the tasty treats set out for guests (customers isn’t the right word when it’s free) 
– Watermelon, feta and cucumber salad with red onion
– Tomato, olive and rosemary Focaccia
– Piles of soft smoked salmon
– Pork with either a slice of bacon or a strip of its own fat- either way it was delicious!

‘Take your passion.  Make it happen…’

I am so happily full right now.  Feeling tired, as well, as the lack of sleep catches up with me.

In the end I paid for two glasses of discounted wine and left with my belly full.

Old fashioned carrots

carrot1Someone I know was recently sitting on a bus in the Pioneer Valley and two college-aged women were nearby. One of the women pulled out a carrot and started to eat it.

“Where’d you get that old fashioned carrot?” the other girl asked.

That comment shows us the disconnect that many people have to the food that they eat and where it comes from. It also tell me that education is important so that people know what vegetables look like out of the ground and before they are processed.