In the early 1960s, Euell Gibbons wrote Stalking the Wild Asparagus and introduced millions of North Americans to the virtues of harvesting wild foods. Since that time, gathering wild edibles has become increasingly popular, and in our region, woods-grown delicacies such as ramps and fiddlehead ferns appear in grocery stores each spring.
Yet you don’t have to lace up your hiking boots to enjoy the wild repast. If you resist the urge to use herbicides, you are likely to find a diverse array of edible wild plants growing in your lawn and vegetable garden. » Continue Reading.
Scratch and then sniff a black or yellow birch twig, and the pleasant aroma will likely put a smile on your face. What you are smelling is oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate). This chemical compound is present in the inner bark in both species, although typically to a greater degree in black birch. In the trees, as well as several edible berries that grow in our region, the compound serves as a defense against herbivorous insects. Most people, however, enjoy the taste.
You can make a very nice wintergreen-flavored tea from peeled black or yellow birch twigs. I advise against trying to brew this the traditional way, though (i.e., steeping twigs in boiling water). The reason is that oil of wintergreen is volatile and easily driven off by heat, so if you attempt to make tea with hot water, your kitchen will smell great but there will likely be little if any flavor in your tea cup. » Continue Reading.
My family looks forward to this time of year, not only because of the change in season, but because that change brings maple time. Though we have just a few maple trees to tap, larger producers are already starting to make my family’s favorite sugary treat, maple syrup.
What started in the mid 1990s as a simple open house dubbed Maple Sunday has now grown across New York State into two Maple Weekends. The next two weekends, March 21-22 and March 28-29, the New York State Maple Producers Association are opening their properties and sugarhouses for tours, pancake breakfasts, activities and tastings. » Continue Reading.
The public is invited to meet Northern New York farmers, food processors, wine and cider makers, and chefs with a diverse array of products at the 5th annual Food from the Farm event on Saturday, March 7 from 2 pm to 5 pm at the Plattsburgh Recreation Center gymnasium on the US Oval in Plattsburgh, NY.
Visitors will have the opportunity to sample and buy locally-grown or produced foods, wine and cider; pick up recipes and gardening tips; meet local food producers, and support the local economy and food movement. Products for sale may include overwintered storage crops such as carrots, beets and potatoes; winter greens, frozen meat, maple, honey, wine, and hard cider. » Continue Reading.
It’s January and my dining room table is covered with seed and garden catalogs. I you’re a gardener and you’re not getting catalogs, something is wrong! Most have toll-free phone numbers and websites, so just let them know you’d like a free catalog and you’ll be set for life.
If you have high speed internet and like to surf the web, the online catalogs have a lot of information and links, but I enjoy having the catalogs around the house, and I’ll often grab one to flip through as I drink a cup of coffee or wait for my toast to brown. » Continue Reading.
When the doldrums set in, winter farmers’ markets can brighten your day with fresh local food and other products. Many stores have “local” sections. As I visited a larger one in our neighboring Vermont recently, with a bustling melee of shoppers, vendors, veggies, maple, hard cider, and other foods and crafts, it occurred to me that I’m long overdue in encouraging readers to visit the winter markets throughout Northern New York. For example, I’ll bet you didn’t know that we not only have one, but now two indoor winter farmers’ markets in Plattsburgh and Upper Jay. » Continue Reading.
Though Friday nights do hold a few scheduled happenings, the main events take place over the weekend for most locations. According to Christmas in Essex Co-Organizer Kenneth Hughes, this year’s festival on December 13th is a mixture of traditional activities and new events.
“Christmas in Essex has been happening for at least 20 years so we have the traditional activities people look forward to, like the Reindeer Run and Pancake Breakfast, but we added some things that are brand new. This is the first year that I’ve been an organizer,” says Hughes. “My other Co-Organizer is Susie Smith.” » Continue Reading.
As you put together a dinner plan for this Thanksgiving, perhaps you’re looking for something to add a little variety to the traditional holiday meal, or ways to eat healthy food while supporting good environmental practices. How about adding insects to the menu?
Along with crackers and cheese, grasshopper fritters make excellent appetizers. Or consider adding sautéed crickets and greens as a side to your potatoes, turkey, and gravy. What about cricket flour fruitcake instead of the typical pumpkin pie? » Continue Reading.
The sound of the furnace startles me a little every time it fires up. It sounds like a car pulling in the driveway or something like that, and I am still not quite used to the sound and commotion. Not that it’s not welcome. We’ve got about six inches of snow on the ground, not terrible, but it did seem kind of sudden.
Last week it was warm and nice out, and even though we know it’s inevitable, the snow just sort of seemed to come out of nowhere. After moving an old set of tires into the garage and digging out and picking up a few other things that were out in the yard, I feel like our outside stuff is all set. Except for the huge new chicken coop that is sitting in the middle of the driveway. Audrey’s not all that happy about the current location of our new coop, and with the temperatures dropping, it would be nice to move the girls into the new coop. » Continue Reading.
Hot showers. Man, I could literally write an entire column about how much I love hot showers. It is such a pleasure to take a shower each morning. I used to get up and throw wood in the stove and then stand there and let the heat wash over me for a while before I got my day going, but now I can let the heat of a hot shower actually wash over me. It’s one of the main reasons I get out of bed every day. Well, that and work and animals to take care of and my soon-to-be wife and stepson. But really, the shower is the best part of my morning. » Continue Reading.
This is a revival of a column I wrote a few years ago about community gardens. I couldn’t resist digging it out of the mothballs because, like other local food and gardening efforts it’s gaining momentum with wide interest.
When I last encouraged folks to look into community gardens there were just a handful in the North Country. Last summer, when Adirondack Harvest published its annual local food guide, we listed 21 community and school gardens, just in Essex County!
My introduction to community gardens took place 25 years ago when my husband and I, devout gardeners and homesteaders, abruptly moved from the rural green of Vermont to Minneapolis and St. Paul (yes, we started out in one city and a year later moved to the other one).
While we adored the Twin Cities, there were no backyard gardens for us. And so there entered a new concept in my life: community gardens. We discovered that plots of land had been cordoned off in, among other places, parks and vacant lots. Each area was divided into many 20’ by 20’ plots with water access. For a small fee, we were able to secure a space, tilled for us at the beginning of the season. » Continue Reading.
I’ve considered raising chickens for many reasons, and not just because of the recent popularity of the backyard chicken movement. Raising my own chickens would be more than the bucolic setting where my children skip (they must skip) out the backdoor to the chicken coop to collect eggs. (If the scene is to be complete, my daughter is most likely wearing gingham and some sort of bonnet.)
The reality is less picturesque. The fewer miles my food needs to travel, the better off my family is. With constant food recalls and salmonella poisoning as just a few reasons to be wary, finding a local source for eggs, dairy and meat is one step, in my opinion, toward good health. So for those that haven’t jumped on the chicken-raising bandwagon, attending a seminar is the perfect opportunity to find out if this is the way to bring your own food source closer to home. » Continue Reading.
Well, the low temperature last night was still above zero for the first time in a week. It’s not much, but it’s something to look forward to. And then tomorrow they’re saying that the highs will be above freezing. It has been a wild winter so far, weather-wise.
While the rest of the nation was experiencing record cold last week, we were watching the snow melt and the ruts in the driveway disappear. Then we had bone chilling cold with nasty wind. So much so that if I didn’t check the chicken coop every hour or so for eggs, the eggs I did find would be frozen and cracked.
One nice development out here at the cabin is that Brownie the chicken has started laying eggs too. Nice light brown ones that make the egg carton look so pleasant. With Whitey and Brownie laying now pretty much every day, I’m getting more eggs than I can eat. At least when I find them unfrozen. » Continue Reading.
I have often said that I am blessed because I get paid to do something I love. And I often put in more hours in my week than I get paid for in my pay check, but it is a balance. I also for the most part set my own schedule. Of course we have set office hours, and I have a desk and a chair I am supposed to be in during the work week. But I also have meetings and consultations outside those office walls. Because of my job, I have gotten to travel to places I probably wouldn’t have gone on my own. Have seen and experienced places I would not have done if I hadn’t had the job I do.
At the end of the day, I am fairly certain that I am paid for the work I do and the contributions I have made to my organization and community I live and work in. So it is rather distressing when many of the people I work with (yep I am talking about farmers) don’t feel they are paid or even that their customers could pay them what they are worth. So they end up settling for what they feel customers can afford, or that customers expect to pay. For someone who is trying to inspire farmers to raise good quality products for their customers that they as farmers can be proud of raising, growing or making, it is disheartening to hear the heavy sighs followed by such statements. » Continue Reading.
Shared community freezer space may prove to be a boon to farmers selling meat in bulk quantities and consumers seeking an economical way to purchase and store local meat.
The local food movement is still going strong here in the North Country. During the winter months we tend to be focused less on the fresh fruits and vegetables and more on the products we can access out of season: honey, maple, dairy, eggs, storage crops, value-added items like jams and mustards, and especially locally-raised meats.
We have many Northern New York farmers raising beef, poultry, pork, bison, lamb, goat, and rabbit, but buying meat from your farmer down the road can seem like a puzzling prospect. The cuts may not look exactly as you’re used to, the price may seem too high, and depending on the method by which they were raised (e.g. grass-fed vs. grain-fed), the cooking styles may need to be adjusted. This is a great example of why it’s to your advantage to get to know your farmer. The farmers I know are chock-full of information about how their animals are raised, the various cuts of meat and great recipes to help you turn that brisket into a melt-in-your-mouth meal.
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