Saturday, April 21, 2012



The world is divided into to four groups of people. Those who can do math, those who can't do math, those who like rhubarb and those who don't.  It isn't for the faint of heart but worth pickling.

Why rhubarb? It is like lemon, when pickled provides a juice that makes a killer cocktail and outrageous salad dressing. Plus it is free.

Rhubarb requires creativity. Very fibrous, available in backyards across New England right along with skunk cabbage, rhubarb is not an obvious choice for bringing brightness to food. But rhubarb is the citrus in the locavore toolkit.


Timing is everything. Seek the rhubarb in spring, best from people's yards. Stealing rhubarb isn't the worst crime. It isn't as bad as stealing laundry off the line. One way to get it is canvas everyone you know. A friend has a single patch outside her porch. People trod on it all summer long. So I harvested that yesterday.

In spring, make a pie with rhubarb once the strawberries. This combination is legend. Then preserve it, in the form of pickling. If anything is worth the time to boil jars it is the humble rhubarb. Juice from the pickled mixture is worth its weight in gold for flavor, funky different flavor, not unlike pomegranate.

The pink stalks of rhubarb make a nice ingredient in whole grain salads. Jars of pickled rhubarb can hold up in the pantry for over a year. Come January, having the jars there on the shelf is as good as getting a box of grapefruits in the mail from Florida.


    ⁃    1 pound rhubarb stalks (4 to 6 large stalks)
    ⁃     1 cup apple cider vinegar
    ⁃     1 cup water
    ⁃     1/2 C honey
    ⁃     1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, combine the apple cider vinegar, water, honey and salt and bring to a boil.

Wash rhubarb stalks well and trim to fit into two, clean, wide-mouth mason jars. Slice lengthwise for uniformity.

Pack the rhubarb pieces into the jars.

Once the pickling liquid has boiled and the honey is dissolved, pour it into the jars over the rhubarb, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Tap the jars gently to dislodge any air bubbles. If the headspace level has dropped significantly, add more pickling liquid.

Wipe jar rims, apply lids and rings and process jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars from canner and set them to cool on a piece of newspaper or cardboard.

When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. If jars are at all sticky, wash them to remove that residue. 

Let this pickle cure for at least 48 hours before eating.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Permaculture Garden: Volunteer Day @ Umass

Monday, April 9, 2012

Farm 2 School Pizza Garden

Human Carrot with Maddie Gatzounas 
The Farm-to-School movement in the Commonwealth is having an impact on the town of South Hadley.

A couple of weeks ago on an unseasonably warm day in March, Claire Lamberg and Maddie Gatzounas visited Old Sturbridge Village to learn about the future of school lunch. Politicians, farmers, food service directors, nutritionists and a movie director were on hand for the 2012 Farm-to-School Convention.

Presenters included Kurt Ellis, producer of King Corn, who spoke about his latest initative, Food Corps, Scott Soares, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources who cited a 600% increase in the Farm-to-School participation over the past five years in Massachusetts and others.

From the farming community, Dr. Joe Zgrodnik of Hadley spoke on a panel of growers and said that the biggest challenge to selling food to schools is making it ready for lunchroom kitchens. “We have to get a way to get our peppers processed,” said Dr. Z, a retired orthodontist who farms with his son in Hadley.

Addressing that issue was James Arena-DeRosa, Northeast Regional Administration, Food & Nutrition Services for the USDA. He stated that the federal government is making $5M available for “tech assistance.” “I will make sure Massachusetts gets a shot,” he said.

Both Claire and Maddie came away with the same goal: start composting at home and at school, to start. Since they have worked with teachers and administrators to get the program going in the Fall of 2012 at the High School.

Claire Lamberg, left, Maddie Gatzounas and Dr. Z.
The trip planted a seed. That seed and several others will create a Pizza Garden at Town Farm in South Hadley. ValleyLocavore and members of the Youth Commission will join forces this summer to grow basil and plum tomatoes. These ingredients will be grown for pizza sauce to be shared by all who participate.

Being part of the project means six work days throughout the summer. Those who commit to a day of clean up, planting, mulching, weeding, harvesting and canning, will to to six area farms to see how the experts do it.

There is not grant for this project. It is entirely volunteer. Seeds are donated by Ace Hardware, soil is donated by the town and labor donated by participants. At the end of the season the sauce will be used on pizza made near the farm and enjoyed by all.

This Saturday, April 12, is the first work day. We will be clearing paths, spreading wood chips and planting seeds at the Town Farm on Hadley Street in South Hadley. All town residents over the age of 12 are invited. Those interested should bring a pair of work gloves. For more information call 413-427-4949.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ryan Harb of UMass on Permaculture - Video Series

If you're like me, you woke up one morning and thought, "what the _____ is Permaculture?"

In the video above, the Permaculture Committee at UMass demonstrates "NO TILL" gardening on the former lawn of the Franklin Dining Commons. The 12,000 foot sustainable garden will require less resources and is more drought resistant than its more conventional relatives.

How to Permaculture:

Step 1 -  Maintain the micro organisms in the soil by loosening up the dirt with shovels.
Step 2 -  Lay 4" organic matter -- compost over the entire surface of the garden.
Step 3 - Cover with a layer of cardboard to prevent further grass growth.
Step 4 - Add layer of mulch in the form of grass clippings or hay.
Step 5 - Wait five months for micro-organism enhancement such as worm enhancement and then plant.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Is Permaculture for You? For all of us?

Volunteer times at the UMass Permaculture Gardens all throughout April: Tuesday-Thursday mornings at Franklin Permaculture Garden, 9:00am - 10:30am. Fridays at Berkshire Permaculture Garden 9:00am - 1:00pm! Gain hands-on permaculture experience with no prior experience required.....