The Local Food Report: black raspberries

The black raspberries are red. They were white a few weeks ago, a sort of greenish white, and yesterday morning when I went out to check on them they'd blushed a deep, burgundy red.  

As you can see up there, red is not ripe, but it is moments away. I talked with Carrie Richter from Peach Tree Circle Farm in Falmouth for this week's radio show, and she said she ate her first (slightly under ripe) berry on Monday. Black raspberries have turned out to be a kind of social network—something I didn't realize when I took in the extra plants that had spread out from my friend Tracy's yard and under Dotty's fence. But they're unusual enough that growers seem to congregate, and I now have quite a few black raspberry friends. 

I met Carrie through a black raspberry friend of a friend. She sells her fruit at the Falmouth Farmers' Market, and I interviewed her last summer when the season was in full swing. 

The variety she grows is one called Bristol. Apparently it's the most common cultivar on the East Coast, and I'm pretty sure based on the description that it's the same one we inherited from Tracy. The canes get very tall, and the fruit forms in upright clusters right at the top, which makes picking both easy and hard, depending on how well you prune. It's nice that the fruit is all on top, but you have to make sure you cut the canes down to about waist height each winter, otherwise you'll never reach the berries. Carrie recommends pruning in February or March, and she says it's also important to cut all the dead stuff out.

Otherwise, the most important thing to know about black raspberries is that they make top-notch ice cream. I'm sure you've had commercial black raspberry chocolate chip or purple cow or some other black raspberry-based flavor, but believe me when I say that until you make your own you have not tasted the real thing. I learned this from Andrea, who when I posted about black raspberry & lemon thyme jam informed me that while jam is nice, the higher calling of black raspberries is ice cream. She shared her recipe, which I have since adopted as my own, and today, I'd like to share it with all of you. The black raspberries should be showing up at the markets any day (in years past I've seen them in Falmouth and Orleans), and I want you to be ready.

And to my black raspberry friends, enjoy the season.


Andrea's original recipe called for 1 and 1/2 cups sugar. I cut it down to 1 cup, and she said  since typing it up she has too. I've used this same recipe for red raspberries and blackberries, and it's absolutely delicious with all kinds of fruit. I haven't yet tried subbing maple syrup or honey for the sugar, but I think I will this year. I'll let you know how it tastes!

1 pint black raspberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

Mix the black raspberries, half of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a bowl. Put the mixture in the fridge and stir every half hour or so for about 2 hours. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk for about two minutes, then add the remaining sugar and whisk it in. Pour in the cream, milk, and any juice from the black raspberry mixture. Pour this mixture into the ice cream maker, and add the remaining black raspberries near the end of the freezing time. Chill for several hours before serving.


Come & see

Hi all. I have some exciting news to share: I'll be managing the Wellfleet Farmers' Market this year. It's already got great momentum, and I think it's only going to get better as the summer goes on. If you have a chance, stop by tomorrow (Wednesday) and see us behind Preservation Hall in Wellfleet.  

We'll be there from 8am to noon with summer squash, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes, rhubarb, baked goods, coffee, and every green under the sun. (Ok, maybe not all of them, but I've heard Pan-Asian baby stir-fry mix, spicy salad mix, beet greens, Romaine lettuce, arugula, and leaf lettuce at the very least.) Victoria will have the usual eggs, plus there'll be garlic, herbs, Wellfleet-made jewelry, and of course, homegrown music. 

Coming up next week: carrots, blueberries, beans, raspberries, and more! We'll see you soon, bags in tow.


We made a tenth

Let's see, what do we have to report? We finished baking our nine cakes before the heat wave hit and most importantly before the wedding, and we even made a tenth yesterday to celebrate my dad's birthday.

It has been a whirlwind of festivities around here, and we are showing no signs of slowing or stopping. Siobhan and Rob—hi!—are officially married. It was beautiful, as you can see from the picture up there, and we had so much fun and danced for so long that I have blisters on my toes and bruises on the balls of my feet. It's a good sign, I think. Tomorrow Sally and I leave with my mom to head back to my parents' house in Maine, and tomorrow also happens to be my parents' 35th anniversary. Thursday is my sister's birthday, and Wednesday we'll be doing our annual 40-quart strawberry pick in Maine. It's a big week.

I can't stay here long today—there's too much work and packing and laundry!—but I wanted to say a quick hi, and as a tide-me-over, share the wedding cake recipe. I have it memorized at this point, but the original comes from over here, which in turn came from Je Veux du Chocolat ! by Trish Deseine

It's very, very simple. There are only five ingredients, and if you were going to list them the way they appear on a nutrition label in descending order, they would go like this: sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate, flour. That's it. The batter takes about 5 minutes of hands on time to mix up, and the cake only takes 23 minutes to bake. Which is all to say that if you were thinking of baking one, if you had a special occasion, you could have it on the table in about 45 minutes start to finish.

Happy summer, everyone.


Needless to say, when you make a cake that involves only 5 ingredients, they ought to be of top quality. You want to use high-fat European-style butter, very good chocolate, and top-notch eggs.

7 ounces butter, plus extra for the pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (between 60 and 70%)
1 and 1/3 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Get out a 9-inch cake pan and cut a parchment circle to line the bottom; butter the sides.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a pot over very low heat. (You could also use a double boiler; I didn't because I don't have one.) Stir in the sugar. When the mixture has cooled a bit, whisk in the eggs. Add the flour, whisk until just mixed, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is shiny and crackly and the middle is just slightly jiggly. It goes fast at the end—a lot of jiggly to a little is a matter of minutes—so keep a close eye. You don't want to overcook this cake.


The Local Food Report: brigadeiros

In 1945, Edward Gomes ran for president of Brazil. He lost. He ran again in 1950, and he lost again. But he did make a lasting contribution to Brazilian culture, and that was the Brigadeiro.   

The Brigadeiro is the truffle you see up there, and it is now the national sweet of Brazil.  Women who supported Gomes started making and selling them to raise money for his campaign, and the truffles got wildly popular. 

Grasiela Roper was raised in southern Brazil and came to the United States 12 years ago, and in 2006, she met her husband and moved to Bourne. Now she runs a business called Brigadeiro Barn. She says any kid who grew up in Brazil after the 1940s knows how to make Brigadeiros. The basic formula is simple: stir together butter, condensed milk, and cocoa powder in a pot over low heat until the mixture gets thick and smooth. Let it cool, then roll it into little balls and cover them with sprinkles or nuts or cocoa powder.

Grasiela's versions are a bit more nuanced. For starters she uses 60% cacao chips instead of cocoa powder, which she says gives the truffles a deeper, richer flavor. She also makes different varieties: tiramisu, dark chocolate, sea salty caramel. The best way to describe them, I think, is to say they taste like the center of a really moist, chewy brownie. They're delicious.

Grasiela is just getting her business off the ground. She started making Brigadeiros this winter, and she started selling them at the Plymouth Farmers' Market last week. If you have a chance to try them, do. They'll give you a little taste of Brazil—for Grasiela, a taste of home.


A lot of cake

There is a lot of cake going on around here. One of my best friends is getting married on Friday, and I'm two cakes into my nine-cake share of the wedding production. Every morning before breakfast Sally plays her xylophone on the floor while I melt 14 ounces of chocolate and 14 ounces of butter, pour in 2 and 2/3 cups sugar, crack and whisk in 10 eggs, add a measly 2 tablespoons flour, and bake. After we've had eggs and coffee we lick the bowl, pot, whisk, and spatula, because batter that good would be a terrible thing to waste.

And then of course, there was Father's Day. After all those requests for something sweet, we thought Alex also deserved a cake. His favorite is rhubarb, so we made him a pan of my friend Sarah's rhubarb upside down cake. (You may need to scroll down, but it's there.) It's from her new cookbook, The Newlywed Cookbook, and it landed her on the Martha Stewart show. That was a good enough recommendation for me.

The secret ingredient is marshmallows, which is funny because Sarah is very much not the marshmallow type. Neither am I, which is how I ended up barefoot in Cumby's in my bathing suit and towel on my way home from the pond counting out $2.69 for a bag of Kraft Jumbo Jet Puffed Mallows. It was not a typical Sunday morning, but it was a good one, and well worth it once we tasted the cake.

For those of you tempted to skip the marshmallows (like I was), don't. They give the cake its signature texture—as it bakes the marshmallows turn into melty, oozy, delightful pockets of sweet with a little bit of burnt sugar crispness on top. The rhubarb gets soft and stays tangy, and the batter brings it all into a form that you can manage on your fork.

I'm not going to type out the recipe here, because I want you to see it on Sarah's site. She's a great writer, a great friend, and a great cook, and she deserves a visit. Because this, my friends, is a great cake.


The Local Food Report: permaculture

Have you ever heard of permaculture?

It's a noun, and the definition is: the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. It's an old idea. Native Americans practiced it to a certain extent—tending and maintaining natural ecosystems to encourage wild food production. More recently, in 1929, a guy named Joseph Russell Smith wrote a book called Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture, a summary of his experiments with growing tree crops with annual crops and foraging livestock underneath. An Australian named P.A. Yeomans followed that with Water for Every Farm in 1973, also championing the idea of a permanent, self-sustaining agriculture. Ruth Stout and Esther Dean promoted a technique called "no-dig gardening," and in Japan, a man named Masanobu Fukuoka called for no-till orchards.

But it wasn't until the mid 1970s that permaculture got a real name. Around that time, two guys named Bill Mollison and David Holmgren started looking at sustainable agriculture in Tasmania. They were having a serious problem with dependency on non-renewable resources and loss of biodiversity and topsoil. They wrote a book called Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements. It took off, and they started a center called the Permaculture Institute dedicated to getting the word out and teaching other people how to grow sustainably.

These days it's having a revival. Young people like Kevin Brennan—the forager I told you about last week—are enthusiastic about the idea of an agriculture that doesn't need so much human input. In our area UMass Amherst is a particular leader—this year they won the White House Champions of Change award for their new permaculture gardens on campus. They're hosting a Permaculture conference next weekend, and their are still spots open for people who're interested.

I wish I could go. I'll be at the wedding of one of my best friends, so instead I've checked out a book from the library called Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Homescale Permaculture

From what Kevin's told me, a lot of permaculture is based on planting fruits and nuts. These things tend to grow on trees or long-lived bushes, which means that once you plant them, they will feed families and communities for years and years to come. They don't require much labor, and if you select your varieties properly, they don't require much water or fertilizer or other care either. The idea is to mimic natural ecosystems by planting and maintaining species that do well here on their own.

On the Cape, a few obvious ideas are cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. But Kevin mentioned others. The new Hybrid American ChestnutHazelnuts, or Filberts. Butternuts. Tropical-ish banana/mango-esque fruits called Paw-Paws. American Persimmons! It's all pretty exciting. 

There's a group called the Northern Nut Growers Association that has a lot of info on what species of nuts do well up here. The Fedco Tree Catalog is also a great resource—the company is based in Maine, which means that all of the plants are hardy enough to thrive here.

And finally, here's some inspiration. Kevin told me about a guy named Mark Shepherd who runs a 106 acre permaculture farm in Wisconsin. It's one of the first big perennial farms in the U.S., and it's profitable. It grows chestnuts, hazelnuts, apples, hard cider, pastured pork fed on hazelnuts,  grass fed beef, organic produce, and more. 

Kevin's hoping to start a permaculture farm on Martha's Vineyard. He says he's not quite to the land-buying stage yet, so he'll have to farm on someone else's land, but he thinks this will be a great way to build community and relationships. He's hoping to grow local organic nuts, fruits, and raise livestock. He think's they'll sell like hotcakes, and I think he's right. 

Good luck!

P.S. About the photos: the chestnut photos were taken on our honeymoon in Italy, where fruit and nut trees—and perennial agriculture—are common.


A classic combo

I made dinner last night the way I do most nights: I plopped Sally in her high chair, rummaged through the fridge, and started pulling eggs and cheese and veggies out. I steamed and buttered a bundle of asparagus and a few spears of broccoli rabe. While she smeared greens and grease and hamburger on her cheeks and up her nose and even in her hair, I tried to figure out how to make a meal from a fridge that was nearly bare. 

I didn't have a plan. I hardboiled a few eggs; I made a pot of oat groats; I put a pot of pinto beans on to simmer. I went upstairs to sit with Sally while she tried to make sense of the funnel in the tub, and when she was clean and in bed I washed and combed my own hair. Then I walked out to the garden in pajamas and slippers and filled a colander with bolted arugula and spinach. I soaked it clean and spun it dry, then minced a shallot, melted a pat of butter in a pan.

It came together quickly in the end: fragrant shallots and red pepper flakes sautéed with butter and al-dente asparagus spears. I put these over a bed of spinach and arugula drizzled with olive oil, and I remembered a salad we have at Blackfish—local greens and asparagus with a runny poached egg and a dollop of honey creme fraiche. I whisked together Cloumage and honey and a bit of EVO and scooped a spoonful onto a quartered hardboiled egg, put this on top of the greens and asparagus. Finally, I put a pile of steamed oat groats on the side, drizzled with olive oil and spiked with Bragg's liquid aminos for salt. It was simple, homey, fresh. And it was a nice reminder that dinner at home can be easy and fast, with no need to sacrifice local or fresh.


I feel like I make some rendition of this salad while asparagus is in season every year. Eggs and asparagus are a classic combo, and the greens and soft, sweet cheese make it a perfect meal for a warm June night.

1 bundle asparagus (roughly 1 pound)
1 tablespoon butter
1 small shallot, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 pound mixed greens (I used half spinach, half arugula, which was a nice blend)
2 hard- or soft-boiled eggs
1/2 cup Cloumage
1/2 teaspoon honey
extra virgin olive oil
2 lemon wedges
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Steam the asparagus until the color just changes to bright green. Drain and set aside.

Put the butter in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and red pepper flakes and warm over medium heat until they are just fragrant. 

Arrange the mixed greens in two big single-serving salad bowls. Lay half of the asparagus on top of each, then drizzle the warm butter/shallot/red pepper mixture over each bundle. Quarter the eggs and arrange these on top. 

Whisk together the Cloumage, honey, and EVO to taste (I used about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons oil). Spoon half of this cheese mixture in a scoop on top of each salad; drizzle the greens with more olive oil to taste. 

Serve the salads with a lemon wedge and salt and pepper to taste. We ate ours with warm "rice" (oat groats) and beans, which made a nice accompaniment.

P.S. Has anyone ever tried saving arugula seeds? My plants look like they're getting close, but I've never collected the seeds. If you have any tips about drying, collecting, and saving them, I'd love to know!


The Local Food Report: Vineyard foraging

A few weeks ago, Sally and I went out to the Martha's Vineyard on a tugboat. It was a decked-out tugboat, one with a kitchen and a bathroom and three tiny bunks. We spent the night in the harbor in Oak Bluffs, and we had dinner at a place called the Lambert's Cove Inn in West Tisbury.

It was spectacular. The idea behind the trip was to go visit my friend Siobhan's cousin Abe, who cooks at the Lambert's Cove Inn restaurant, and at the same time, for me to interview his foraging friend Kevin Brennan. Kevin is 17 and about to graduate from high school and in the best way possible, very idealistic.

He is passionate about food and natural history and tradition. Two years ago he read a book called Tending the Wild, and it changed his whole outlook on food production. The book is about how Native Americans in California managed the land to make it productive—how they harvested, tilled, sowed, pruned, and burned wild plants. The idea was to live sustainably through eco-system management, to get the most food by taking care of the wild plants that already grew on it rather than planting annuals every year.

Kevin got a job last summer in the Lambert's Cove kitchen. The chefs there—Max Eagan, the head chef, and Siobhan's cousin Abe—were also into foraging. Max took Kevin out and showed him the best spots for berries and herbs on the island, and Kevin built a trailer for his bike so that he could ride around with a cooler collecting wild foods for the kitchen. He found raspberries and black raspberries and blackberries and blueberries, and even raspberry-esque fruits called wineberries. He collected beach plums, grapes, stinging nettles, and glasswort or sea beans along the shore. Max and Abe featured them in their cooking, and Kevin got even more interested.

When we were there, they made us a foraged feast: striped bass baked in an egg white and salt cast, littlenecks, local fried squid, Vineyard oysters, pickled local ramps, sautéed mushrooms, and a watercress salad made from greens foraged on the island. Dessert was local strawberries with homemade ice cream and bruléed sugar—amazing!

In a few weeks Kevin will be back on the Vineyard. He's graduating from high school, and his plan is to enroll in a low residency agricultural college, get more involved with the farming community, and to settle down on the island. He wants to forage and start planting for permaculture. I didn't know much about permaculture until I talked with him. I'll share what I learned in next week's Local Food Report, when I talk again with Kevin.

Until then, here's a starter list of common wild edible plants:

Beach pea: Lathyrus japonicus
Beach plum: Prunus maritima
Blackberry: Rubus fructicosis
Black raspberry: Rubus occidentalis
Dandelion: Taraxacum officinale
Evening primrose: Oenothera biennis
Fiddlehead: Osmundastrum cinnamoeum
Lowbush blueberry: Vaccinium angustifolium
Red raspberry: Rubus strigosus
Serviceberry: Amelanchier spicata
Stinging nettle: Urtica dioica
Sumac: smooth, staghorn, & winged
Wild grape: Vitis riparia
Wineberry: Rubus phoenicolasius


A wicked sweet

Remember that post I wrote a while back? The one about being more careful about organics and pasture and hormones and plastic and asking more questions about how our farmers are raising our food? 

Well, that meant asking myself more questions too.

I have a wicked sweet tooth. I love baking and bowl-licking and tasting the final product. I like to imagine I eat a lot less sugar than the average American, but the truth is I could do better. I could do better in the all-purpose flour category, too, and so I decided to do something about it. Why should I be eating foods I wouldn't give Sally?

The result has been a lot more homemade breads and a lot fewer home-baked treats. We've been having all whole-wheat sourdough and spelt soda breads and plenty of all whole-grain cornbread. It hasn't felt like deprivation. The breads have been smeared with pasture butter and dipped in olive oil, and they've been tasty. We've still had a few squares of 70% dark chocolate after dinner, and even sometimes, if need be, with coffee. 

But I still believe in some treats. Alex asked the other day if I might make Something Sweet, so I  paged through book after book and finally settled on a batch of oatcakes from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. My mom got it for me for my birthday, and it's a gem. It's where that crispy kale recipe comes from, and it's choc-a-bloc full of whole grains and alternative sweeteners. The original of the oatcakes recipe calls for natural cane sugar, but I used honey instead. I figured you couldn't make a baked good too moist, and that turned out to be a safe bet. These oatcakes are nutritious, delicious, easy to make, and produce a very tasty batter to lick. 

Best of all, I have no qualms about sharing them with Sally.


Heidi calls these oatcakes, but I'm already too confused about the true definition of oatcakes to call them that. Since they're baked in a muffin tin, we're going with sweet oat muffins packed full of good nuts, fats, grains, and sweets. 

3 cups organic rolled oats (we buy ours in 50lb bags from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine)
2 cups whole grain spelt flour (from our grain CSA)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup flax seeds
3/4 cups chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup pasture butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Stir together the oats, flour, baking powder, salt, flax seeds, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl. 

Combine the coconut oil, butter, maple syrup, and honey in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the butter is just melted; you don't want to get the mixture too hot or it will curdle the eggs. 

Pour these wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and start to mix. Add the eggs and mix until the dough just comes together. Divide the dough evenly between the muffin tins; it should just fill each one to the top. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges of each muffin are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then use a fork or knife to loosen the muffins and tip them out. Enjoy warm or cold. We like ours with a tall glass of milk.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.