Tropical Treasure

Last night my friend Kendall came over for a local foods dinner. We had quite a feast: roasted garlic and kale soup, CSA pork chops brined in a maple-juniper mixture, kraut and apple salad, spicebush ice cream. The ice cream was served with a few chunks of pineapple. Yes, pineapple. Kendall decided to take advantage of my “gift exemption” and surprise me with a bag of imported tropical goodies that she knew I hadn’t tasted much of since starting The 250. Her gift included pineapple chunks, a mango, a lime, and kumquats.

Kendall’s citrus gift

The juicy burst of pineapple in my mouth was a treat not so much because it was pineapple but because it was a fresh fruit in winter (that wasn’t yet another apple). I’ll be eating the pineapple and the mango for breakfast for the next couple of days, and I’ll figure out something to do with the kumquats. But what really has me perplexed is what to do with the lime.

A singular and, to a Northeast locavore, exotic treasure. One lime. I used to take limes for granted, using them in tortilla lime soup, Thai recipes, and salsa without much thought. But now I am like those 19th century children who thought getting an orange in their Christmas stocking was just the best gift ever. It’s a side effect of The 250 that I have a heightened sense of appreciation for non-local goods, and a cautious respect for the many costs of getting them here. I hope that when The 250-Mile Diet year is over I keep that acute awareness. It’s not that I will never again eat an orange or a lime or a banana or a pineapple, but I don’t ever want to consider them everyday foods. Not unless I move to a much warmer climate.

Meanwhile, Kendall’s lime sits on my kitchen table while I try to think of something suitably celebratory to do with it. It should be featured, not just added to the mix of whatever I cook. And since it is perishable, I don’t have forever to make my decision. Any suggestions?

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules


Is It Spring Yet?

There is a vintage clothes shop across the street that has a sign they change four times a year. It tolls the seasons for me, and today it said:


Today’s weather here was an “unseasonable” 63F degrees. I’m not sure what seasonable actually is anymore. Tomorrow we’re supposed to drop back down to 20F. Anyway, today felt like Spring, even though that season is still far in the distance according to the calendar. The balmy temps lured me away from my writing assignment at the computer to do a little garden clean up. As I was pruning back the dead stalks of last year’s perennial herbs I noticed that my garlic chives are back up. So are a lot of clumps of wild field garlic (Allium vineale) that somehow found their way into my garden.


The field garlic made me laugh because last year I was so paranoid about running out of garlic that I grew it and got it from my CSA farmer and bought a stockpile at the farmers markets. If I’d thought I would run out of garlic I would have added it to my exemptions in The Rules because I really don’t want to imagine cooking without it. But I should have remembered that field garlic is widespread here from fall through spring. After that, garlic scapes show up at the farmers markets, quickly followed by the summer crop of the heads of garlic we are all used to. Not that I’m out of “regular” garlic yet, but it’s nice to know that I have back up options.

Forager’s Factoid: there are poisonous lookalikes to field garlic, but there is also a surefire way to know you’re safe: Everything that smells like garlic or onions is edible. The poisonous lookalikes have no scent at all.

Here is another herb, chervil, that has survived our erratic winter weather this year, including having snow piled on it and occasional single digit nights.

chervil.jpgChervil is a cold hardy annual that will bolt and go to seed once the weather really warms up. It shows up in lots of French recipes because it is one of the four herbs in the classic Fines Herbes blend (tarragon, parsley, and chives are the others). You’ll rarely see chervil sprigs for sale alongside its relative, parsley, because it is so fragile that it wilts and dries out soon after harvesting. I am grateful something so delicate looking is also so cold hardy because I’ve been picking it all winter. This is a great plant for city dwellers to grow because it only takes a month from seed to first harvest, and it doesn’t need or even like full sun.

I just remembered that I haven’t dug up any of my Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) yet. They are much tastier after a frost and I usually dig them up in January whenever the soil isn’t frozen. Does our mild winter mean they won’t be as sweet? Only one way to find out.

Other random updates: I am officially past the halfway point of The 250.

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules


A Locavore’s Guide to Fast Food

THE winter fruitWhat does fast food mean when it’s February and I’m eating a 250-mile diet? It sure isn’t a stop at the corner deli to grab a bagel on the way to work, or stopping at the salad bar on my way home. But I have just as many times as anyone that I’m tired or running late or just plain don’t feel like cooking.

The short answer for instant appetite gratification during a local foods diet in winter in the Northeastern U.S., is:

an apple

a piece of cheese

popcorn (if I’m home, feeling lazy, and deciding which Netflix DVD to watch)

If I’m running out the door with no time to make lunch, an apple and cheese are the easiest things to grab. I learned the hard way that if I headed out for a long work day and hadn’t packed lunch, I’d be one hungry locavore by the time I got home. Unless work that day happened to be near a farmers market, in which case I could run out and get my apple and local cheese there.

More often, even when rushed I can dig into something I prepared back on a day when I did have the time and energy. Leftovers have become a big part of my local eating strategy. Though I live alone (excluding my cat G.T.), gt-gets-pets.jpgnowadays I almost always cook for two or three or four. I either eat the remainders for lunch the next day or freeze them for future fast dinners. I also try to keep myself stocked with bread, crackers, and pasta–all homemade with local ingredients. For example, I make big batches of homemade pasta and dry what I don’t eat right away to have on hand for quick meals later on. Doesn’t always work though. I ran out of bread yesterday and just didn’t have the time today. I won’t have the time tomorrow or the next day either. So bread will have to wait until I can bake some on Sunday. Have I mentioned that planning is a big part of this locavore business?

Popping open a jar of food that I canned back when the ingredients were in season is another “fast food” option. I am so grateful I put up lots of pasta sauce, soups, beet salad, dilly green beans, ratatouille, and salsa. Now that I have dry beans again, I’ve taken to cooking big batches of them. I freeze some of each batch in one cup amounts for a quick thaw and reheat when I don’t have time to cook from scratch. It’s almost as convenient as canned beans.

But back to those apples. I like apples. I really do. And they travel well in my work bag. But since they have been the only fresh local fruit available for several months, I am really grateful for all the other fruits I put up when they were in season: peaches, nectarines, blueberries, pears, elderberries, currants, mulberries, plums. I don’t have any more strawberries in the freezer, though. I finished them up this week as an act of faith because strawberries will be the first fruit to ripen here in June. I suppose when that season comes around and it’s been nothing but strawberries for a few weeks, I’ll be glad to mix it up with some of the applesauce I’m canning now. But I bet that first strawberry is going to taste really, really good.

Meanwhile, the apples I’ve dried in my food dehydrator are another favorite grab-and-run snack.


Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules

A Midwinter 100-Mile Feast

Leda stirs the compoteThe occasion was Imbolc, a pagan celebration halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s a grand time of year to throw a blow-out feast in my opinion, because the holidays are long over but the winter is still stretching ahead many weeks on the calendar, and a gal’s gotta do something to cheer herself up. Maybe it’s similar thinking that puts Mardi Gras on the calendar at approximately the same time.

For the meal I narrowed my local eating radius from 250 miles to 100. Three friends joined me for the feast, Ellen, Rault, and Jenny, ellen, rault, and jennyand doggie bags were sent to two others unable to make it. For the menu, I canceled my olive oil exemption. What did I use instead? Local duck fat, butter, and schmaltz. But before you scream that this was not a heart-healthy meal, you might want to check out this article on fats, and read Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. I did still allow myself the salt exemption because technically we could produce salt here, but we could not grow olive trees in our climate.

The Menu:Appetizer of sauteed lamb’s quarters greens from my freezer, ringless honey mushrooms that I dried last fall, leeks, and Long Island duck confit served with toasted acorn bread.

Moussaka. moussakaThis is like a lasagna recipe with lamb, tomato sauce, and bechamel sauce. But instead of pasta, mousaka is layered with eggplant. Since eggplant is a summer vegetable, I used the dried eggplant I put up last August. Moussaka also relies on the classic Greek combination of sweet and savory seasonings, particularly cinnamon and oregano. The latter was no problem since I dried plenty from what I grew in the garden last year. For the cinnamon I substituted spicebush and a little honey.

A salad of watermelon radish, apples, lacto-fermented cabbage and carrots, and roasted squash seeds.a winter salad

Warm apple compote served with spicebush ice cream and butter cookies.

The wines were from Long Island’s North Fork region, and we drank plenty of them but I’m still working on the leftovers.

One of the traditional things to do on Imbolc was to throw a feast using up much of what was in the pantry even though winter was far from over. A bit of bravado, a culinary prayer. Still, the days are noticeably longer and there are buds swelling on some trees. I’m sure there are freezing nights and snow ahead, but the Imbolc landscape is saying, “Soon…”leda’s window midwinterWhich is a nice thing for a locavore to hear. Because the change of season will mean a change in recipes, and I’ll get to set aside winter squash and root vegetables and cabbage (my standard non-feast day fare these days) for fresh-from-the-field greens and…Soon.


Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules