Friday, June 29, 2012


Why so soon this gift of summer?

According to the Sweet Corn Report in today's UMass Extension Vegetable Notes,  "The first early corn harvest, mostly in the Connecticut Valley not far from the river, has started this week. In many other parts of the state, first corn harvest is still 10-14 days away." Of the corn now available, "This mostly represents the early varieties that were started under plastic. Hand picked ears are full and sweet with nice color...." Asparagus was a month early this year and tomatoes are already up in at some farms. Many are taking the 'eat it while you can' approach which is sensible.

RECIPE: Early Corn 


6 ears of corn, preferably picked the day you eat it
1 stick of butter, or thereabouts
1 bunch basil, or thereabouts

Fresh corn from farm preferably picked that day.
Shuck enough corn for each person as per request
Fill stock put with enough water to submerge corn. Add salt to water and boil.
Plunge the corn in boil water and turn off heat.
Cook around 5 minutes.  The corn io quite young so it doesn't take much time for it to yield to heat.)
Melt enough butter for each ear, shred basil leaves and add to butter.
When corn is ready, drain and slather with basil butter.
Serve al fresco.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Recipe: Strawberries with Fresh Ricotta

Strawberry Sundae......

Photo: Mary Nelen, ValleyLocavore

This is the one and only best way to eat fresh strawberries.

All you need is a big stock pot, a thermometer that goes up to 200 degrees, something called citric acid, a white salt-like substance you can buy at the hardware store (or online), some cheese cloth and a gallon of milk, raw is good if you can get it. Mint would be nice as a garnish if it is up yet in your yard.

Here is the recipe for fresh ricotta. I got it from the Cheese Queen who is never wrong about these things. Ricki Carroll earned her crown after decades of teaching homesteaders and artisan chefs cheese making technique. Just a regular gal in Ashfield whose range runs the gamut for those who are just learning to boil milk to romano, the Italian hard cheese. If you want to bask in her spirit and knowledge, take a class or pick up her book "Home Cheese Making," Storey Publishing 2002. But ricotta is pretty easy. Here's my version of her recipe. The strawberry sauce is my own, cooked up with grade b maple syrup for dimension and depth. Enjoy!

Strawberries with Fresh Ricotta

1- quart fresh, local strawberries
1- gallon whole milk
4- tablespoons fresh mint leaves
2- tablespoons grade b maple syrup
1- cup cool water
2- teaspoons citric acid


1- Food Thermometer that goes to 200 degrees
Cheese Cloth
Slotted Spoon

Dissolve citric acid in water and stir. Pour gallon of milk into a stock pot. Stir in ½ cup of the citric acid into the milk. Heat milk on low to medium and stir to prevent scorching. Tiny curds will begin to appear as they separate from the whey. Bring the mixture to between 180 and 190 degrees. When the mixture gets to the temperature range, the curds will become much more fluffy and rise to the top of the pan. When the whey is no longer milky, remove from the heat. Let the curds and whey rest for ten minutes in the stock pot off the heat so they continue to set.

Line colander with cheese cloth and place over a pan. Slowly remove curds from stock pot with slotted spoon and place into colander with a slotted spoon. Work slowly to prevent the curd from breaking up. When you have all of the curd collected, take the corners of the cheese cloth and tie together to create a small hammock for the cheese. Hang from the faucet of your sink or over a wooden spoon straddling over a bowl. Allow to drain for between 10 minutes and several hours depending on the consistency you desire. The longer it rests, the more dense the cheese becomes.

Wash strawberries and slice in half, length wise, removing the stem. Set aside four sprigs of mint for garnish and cut the rest of the mint into thin ribbons by rolling them and slicing width-wise. Combine mint, strawberries and maple syrup and heat over a small flame. Cook down until the sauce is somewhat thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and cool down

Scoop ricotta like ice cream into small bowls and drizzle the strawberry sauce over it. Garnish each plate with a big strawberry and some mint leaves.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What is in your share? Week 1

Photo: Mary Nelen ©
What's in your share this week?

Let's say somebody's coming over and you have to make dinner with only what is in your share?

If you remember the show "Ready, Set Cook!" you will remember that contestants were assigned a similar task. They were outfitted with a kitchen full of equipment and condiments including flour, water and other basics that you would have at home anyway.

CSA Share: Week 1

Bunch Turnips
Bunch Breakfast Radish
1-large head Chinese Cabbage
1- large head Bok Choy
1- small head lettuce, green curly
2-garlic scapes


Breakfast Raddish in brown butter and greens.
Asian Greens poached and tossed with sliced garlic scapes, shaved turnip and ground pepper.
Cold spring strawberry salad with creamy mint and honey dressing. 


Vegetables: Mountain View Farm, Easthampton MA 
Strawberries: Neighbor

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Photo: Mary Nelen ©

Been very busy implementing some changes to my operation, namely, I am expanding my landbase slightly by renting some acreage ....... I'm using the greenhouses there and a few nooks and crannies of the field that don't lend themselves well to baby greens but are quite suitable for vegetables.....staying away from the flood plains..... 

........from a grower's e-mail this morning. 

This year I went out on my own and decided to rent a plot at the local community farm. Ambitious mix of tomatoes and herbs. The end. Between agonizing about hay vs. wood chips, vs gravel for mulch, the wide variety of staking methodology, I am way behind the curve. 

The tomatoes have to be replanted because they are too close together, which means re-staking, the nobel and ambitious 6' stakes I put in (the Florida weave method) and because they are so leggy, they must be trench planted, meaning submerge the things sideways up to there necks so they grow bushy. Who knew? Now, even more than before, I bow down to my farmers, how, how do they do this year after year? 

Here it is only June fifth and I yearn to jump in my car and drive away to my latte place after two hours in my 10 x 20 plot. The setbacks! Slugs on the strawberries, a short-terms planting due to a gift from a permaculturist in Hadley. They didn't take but the slugs took them. Out, damn strawberries, mulch and all, to make room for the wily tomatoes. 

Now, today, mud and what, take a day off? Slug it out with the slugs and try to replant in squishy soil? When I go to the farmers' market, when I pass a big farming vehicle with it's muddy claws on the road, when I pick up my share, a prayer of thanks. These people are gods walking among us.