The Local Food Report: with a good dose of pudding

I wish today that I could turn your screen into a real, live scratch-n-sniff. I wish that all through the florescence I could send out silver spoons and white napkins and tiny porcelain bowls, and then, if I could, I would go out ladle in hand and fill them each up with a little dollop of blueberry lemon delight. I could be the world's first Benevolent Online Pudding Fairy. That would be lovely, don't you think?

Unfortunately, instead, you're going to have to content yourself with a recipe. It is a very easy, very high bang-for-your-buck sort of recipe, but still. You do have to go ahead and make it. So that you can get right down to business, here is a shopping list:


1 lemon
all-purpose flour
2 eggs

But hold on. You can't rush out to the store just yet, because before you do, I have to tell you about the blueberry guy. He's where the idea for this recipe really came from, after all—before him and his radio interview it was just my mother's heavenly lemon pudding, no blueberries involved.

His name is Bob Wells, and he's from Eastham. I talked with him the other day at the Orleans Farmers' Market about his carbon negative farm, and how he's actually growing blueberries not just without a carbon footprint, but in a way that sequesters CO2 and puts it back into the ground, and I had to buy a pint. (Actually, I bought four, but there was a long line behind me, so please don't mention that to anyone else. I felt a little greedy.)

The way he does it—and this went waay over my head the first time I heard it, so don't be embarrassed if you need to slow down, or take a nap, or maybe eat a cup of pudding while you sort through it all—is through a process called pyrolisis. Basically, this involves burning biomass, like poison ivy or black locust or really anything else you might find in the woods around here, at very high temperatures with very little oxygen until it turns into a type of charcoal called biochar. The biochar traps the carbon that the plants have sucked up over their lifetimes—the carbon that would normally, in the natural cycle, be released back into the air as CO2 as the plants decompose—and instead puts that carbon in solid form into the ground.

That's where the blueberry plants come in. Bob adds the high-carbon, fine-grained residue to their soil, the carbon is officially sequestered, and the high bush berries thrive.

It sounds like a new idea, and I'd very much like to give Bob the credit, but it's not. Natives in the Amazon were doing it before Columbus arrived—smoldering agricultural waste beneath dirt until it turned into a fine, dark earth—terra preta, in their words. Rather than simply burning what they'd taken from the soil, they returned it in charcoal form—a kind of carbon composting I guess you could say.

Anyways, whether he can take credit or not, the whole carbon negative farming thing is a very good reason to like Bob. The way I figure, if you make lemon pudding with carbon negative blueberries, it kind of offsets the fact that the lemon came from far away. I'm not sure how this reasoning works on any official level, but I'm willing to go with it.

If you're interested in learning more about Bob and his blueberries and biochar, track him down at the market this weekend. He partnered recently with a local blacksmith, Peter Hirst to design and build simple metal burner units so that other small farms can start making biochar, too, and they're planning to teach some seminars in the fall. I'm sure he'd be glad to fill you in. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the international biochar movement you can head on over here. I think you'll find it's a little overwhelming, but with a good dose of pudding, well worth the ride.


Just so you know, I haven't crunched any numbers on this. But if you take carbon negative blueberries and cook them with a carbon positive lemon, you get carbon nuetral pudding, I think. Beyond that, there are no tricks to this pudding. It is simple as simple can be and pretty heart-stopping, too.

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs, separated
1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pull out a good sized mixing bowl and whisk together the sugar and the flour. Pour in the milk, the well-beaten egg yolks, the juice of the lemon, its grated rind, and the salt, and stir well. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Then fold them gently into the lemon mixture along with the blueberries. Pour the pudding into a small, deep, well-buttered casserole or baking dish (roughly 6 or 8 inches square and 3 inches deep should do the trick). Bake it in a water bath for about 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a knife comes out clean. Serve at once.


Emily Qi Wheeler said...

you spelled neutral wrong. or you spelled it like a brit... after a summer of woods, im back on the world wide web E! lotsa love.

Elspeth said...

thanks em! how was it all?


Anonymous said...

Elspeth, Genie made this for us last week -- fabulous! xo, MOTB

Elspeth said...


I am so glad! It is one of my favorite puddings, and you did invent it after all...so you deserve to try the improvisation.



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