Pick Your Own is OPEN ♥

Yes…Local as Usual, Safer than Ever.  

Pick Your Own strawberry farms opened this past weekend. Get out there and pick the delish! There is nothing like ripe berries. So good. Each berry that comes into season is better than the last. And Pick Your Own keeps the farms that feed us in business. If you are healthy, have cash flow, and are okay with the guidelines, you can impact local business success by picking strawberries and/or future PYO crops. A win-win. 

Here are the details on new guidelines for Pick Your Own, and remember, always call ahead before you go to be sure the farm’s PYO is open that day, as well as to familiarize yourself with the farm’s COVID-19 adaptations.

Pick Your Own is allowed in both New Hampshire and Vermont, and you can search for PYO farms in the Vital Communities Guide. New Hampshire farms have best practices from the state and Vermont farms have Guidance from the state, so you can be sure farm PYO guidelines are based on the known science and rules.

What is different this year: 

  • Kids under 13 may not be allowed to pick. As Edgewater Farm says, it’s the saddest rule ever. It’s the rule in Vermont and some New Hampshire PYO will be adopting the rule. It’s just hard for kids to stay in place, and not eat …
  • You may not be able to eat on site, including during picking. A rule in Vermont, possibly adopted at New Hampshire farms.
  • To create social distance, Vermont PYO must have no more than one person per 200 square feet of picking area, and people must maintain six feet of distance. Again, New Hampshire farms are largely following this rule. You may need to wait for space to open up before you can go into the fields, so get your patience ready.
  • Wear face coverings! It’s suggested, and farms are allowed to require it.
  • Picking containers will either be your clean ones from home, disposable ones provided by the farm for you to take home, and/or farm containers that stay on-farm and are disinfected after you use them. 

Upper Valley PYO includes currants, summer raspberries and fall raspberries, blueberries, pumpkins, apples, elderberries, flowers, and more. You can be sure we will announce each crop on Instagram as it comes in. 

To read the Guidance in Vermont, click here. To read the New Hampshire best practices, click here.

Berries: Delicious, versatile and in season now!

The Upper Valley berry season typically ranges from late June to early October. In our short, but fruitful season, we can enjoy raspberries and strawberries (although neither are technically real berries), then move into summer with black raspberries (aka black caps), currants, gooseberries, elderberries, blueberries, blackberries, and fall raspberries.

black raspberries to pick

At our place, at least one person exclaims “I ate more than I put in the bucket!”, a testimonial to the irresistible allure of the ripe, sun-sweetened fruits. With so many farms in the area cultivating these fruits and the luck of coming across wild or long-forgotten patches, harvesting enough berries for cooking and preserving isn’t usually too difficult to accomplish if you have the time and an empty container. Spending a morning at a pick your own farm is also a wonderful way to gather excess fruit for the winter, for those who can afford to do so. Fruit is also an allowable SNAP/3 Squares VT purchase, and most Upper Valley farmers markets will double SNAP dollars up to $10. That is, withdraw $10 of SNAP from your EBT card at the market tent, and the market will give you an additional $10 to spend on fruits and vegetables.

 Storing, washing, freezing and using berries is simple. Canning is another matter and your Extension website should have detailed information about safe canning methods.

 Storing and Washing Berries:

  1. Refrigerate right away. Chilling the berries for an hour or so before you wash them, helps keep these fragile, sun warmed fruits from falling apart under the water.
  2. Store on a shelf and NOT in the crisper or a drawer. Allowing air to circulate around the berries helps keep them fresher, longer.
  3. DO NOT rinse berries until you are ready to eat them.
  4. Rinse and drain in a colander. Do not soak or let them sit in water.

currants

Freezing Berries:

  1. Best Practice: Spread washed and dried berries on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, in one layer, and freeze for several hours. Transfer frozen berries to a freezer-safe bag or container, removing air if possible, and keep frozen for several months.
  2. My Reality: Loosely pack into quart size freezer bags, remove air with a straw and seal tightly. Lay on side in freezer. Leave there for six months in the way back, under freezer-burned vanilla ice cream, before discovering during a frantic search for sugar one late night.

 

Tips for Use:

  • Eat fresh on everything.
  • Simmer a pint of berries, with sugar to taste, until the berries break down. Eat this sauce on everything.
  • Simmer a pint of berries, with sugar to taste, until the berries break down. Squeeze a bit of lemon or lime juice in there, strain out the solids and store in the refrigerator. Use this berry syrup in everything.
  • Use frozen berries in smoothies, pancakes, waffles, muffins, pie, cake, parfaits and fools.

Eat. Meet. Buy. Flavors of the Valley 2019 Vendors are here!

Check out the hottest new vendors and returning favoritesSamples are listed if the vendor has provided sampling information. Vendors will also have many delicious items for sale!

April 7, 11 am – 3 pm at Hartford High School. Advance tickets are required to enter the gym from 11 am-12 pm. ADVANCE TICKETS ARE SOLD OUT. Tickets at the door for 12 pm-3 pm admission.

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors!

Mascoma Savings Bank, Co-op Food Stores, King Arthur FlourThe Skinny Pancake

Yankee Farm Credit, NH Dept. of Agriculture, Great Eastern Radio

Photo by Molly Drummond

Zero Waste for the Win!

We had an amazing Flavors of the Valley, our annual local food tasting expo, with a record-breaking 1,200 attendees! From savory to sweet, the flavors were out of this world and all of them oh so local. 50 vendors connected with their neighbors over their delicious offerings, shared samples, and sold some food and farm products, too. We had music, kids’ activities, even a series of bike tire changing demos. We had a blast reveling in the bounty of our community, and of course popping from sample to sample in the event’s characteristic bustle.

We’re excited to announce that with all the food distributed, this year’s Flavors of the Valley was also zero waste! Sampling events can generate a lot of garbage–cups, plates, napkins, utensils–it can really pile up. While we’re generally waste conscious, this year we gave it our all and re-directed the event’s waste stream entirely. We sourced compostable cups, plates, napkins, and utensils for the big day, and of course considered all the food scraps, too. Instead of sending waste to the landfill, we sent bags and bags of compostable material to the new Upper Valley Compost Company (who was also a vendor this year!)

The folks at Upper Valley Compost partner with composting facilities in Vermont and New Hampshire to turn food waste and other compostable materials into rich soil. We are thrilled to report that we had but one wee bag of trash by the end of Flavors of the Valley–the rest of the event waste is on its way to becoming soil, and feeding our local food system yet again!

Check out these comparison shots of last year’s trash pile versus this years:

2017 trash pile                                                 2018 trash pile

…and then there was one!!

Farm to School Forum: King Arthur Flour Bake for Good Kids Program

Join Upper Valley Farm to School Network as we learn how to make the dough!

 

 

KAFBFG

King Arthur Flour Bake for Good Kids Program

  • Kids LEARN to make bread from scratch. Math + science + reading + baking know-how = something delicious!
  • Kids BAKE. They practice their new skills and use ingredients we provide to bake bread or rolls.
  • Kids SHARE within the community, and give part of their baked goods to those in need. (They keep some to enjoy!)

How does BFGK Self-Directed Group Baking work? 

  • 5-50 kids, grades 4-12
  • Kids watch BFGK video with you
  • KAF provides flour, yeast, recipe booklets, dough scrapers, video lesson, and more
  • Kids work in teams, bake together with you, and donate rolls

Learn how easy (and fun!) it is to bring our very popular free BFGK Self-Directed Program to YOUR students. We’ll show you how it works, how to access helpful information, and practice some roll shaping skills! Take home BFGK Program materials and enjoy some homemade pizza!

Instructor: Paula Gray, is the Manager of the Bake for Good Kids Program. She has been an educator/presenter for over 30 years, and is an employee owner of the King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich, VT

When: Monday October 30, 2017, 5:30-7:00PM

Where: Culinary Learning Center, COOP Food Store, 12 Centerra Parkway, Lebanon, NH 03766

Fee: FREE!

Register: Contact Beth Roy at Beth@VitalCommunities.org or (802)291-9100 x105 or register on-line

Flavors 2017 Recipes

Another delicious and fun Flavors of the Valley yesterday! Thanks to all the wonderful vendors who spent so many hours preparing for and tabling at the big event. A special thanks to Hartford Area Career & Technical Center, Edgewater Farm, and Piecemeal Pies for supplying the samples at the Vital Communities tables.

Curried Carrot Soup

  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion until tender and translucent. Stir in the curry powder. Add the chopped carrots, and stir until the carrots are coated. Add ginger. Pour in the vegetable broth, and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the carrots and broth to a blender, and puree until smooth (be careful blending hot liquids!). Pour back into the pot, add coconut milk and season to taste. Thin with water to your preferred consistency.

Jam Squares

Thanks to Emily Malnati at Edgewater for making these sweet treats for Flavors of the Valley

Inspired by the original recipe by Gretchen Taylor in the Plainfield cookbook.  Revised by The Things We Cook. Reworked by Kathleen Maslan from Edgewater Farm.

1. Preheat oven to 350’F.
2. Mix together:

· 4.5 c. flour

· 1.75 c. sugar

· 1/2 tsp. salt

· 2 eggs

· 1 egg yolk

· 1 tsp. vanilla

· 2-1/2 c. butter, chunked

3. Press 4 cups in bottom of ½ sheet pan.
4. Bake 8 minutes at 350’F.
5. Let cool a bit, spread 3 c. fruit (preferably berry filling!) over the bottom
6.  Mix together topping:

· 2c. flour

· 2c. oats

· 1.5 c. brown sugar

· 1 c. butter, cubed, cold

7. Sprinkle on topping.  Perfect stage to freeze at.  Otherwise…
8. Bake at 350’ F for about 45 minutes, or until top is golden with filling bubbling on side.

 

Piecemeal Pies Chocolate Beet Brownies

Thanks to Justin Barrett for creating this recipe just for Vital Communities.

3 medium red beets
18 tablespoons butter
9 oz dark chocolate, preferably 70%
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoon strong coffee
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
  • Grease a 9″x13″ pan and dust with cocoa powder.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Boil beets in unsalted water until tender.
  • Peel the cooked beets by rubbing off their skins.  Place in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate, coffee, and salt. Stir to melt.
  • Stir in 1 cup of the beet puree.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium high speed until thick and pale. When the whisk is lifted, the mixture should slowly fall in thick ribbons.
  • With a spatula, gently fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs, followed by the flour.  Do not over mix.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 35-45 minutes, just until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool completely before cutting.

Enjoying the Fruits of their Labors in Newbury

Newbury Elementary School: “The Newbury Elementary School has beboy in garden dec 16en enjoying the fruits of many labors with the success of our first “Grow-a-Row” program. Throughout the summer, green-thumbed and generous community members tended an extra row or two in their gardens and then sent along the harvest to Chef Paul, our energetic food service director. Instead of piling up produce in the kitchen and walking away, these same folks and others met on certain days to help Paul process and freeze the offerings so that they could be used throughout the school year in our lunch program. It’s such a win-win and the program continues to gain interest and develop. We enjoy wonderful community support here.
We’ve added two new components to our program that helps support the Grow-a-Row program and our commitment to eating more locally: we Newbury Elementarypurchased a large, walk-in freezer and a small greenhouse. The freezer has already been pressed into action holding the processed vegetables we acquired over the summer. The beautiful new greenhouse will be utilized by the students and teachers as we continue to learn together about gardening and botany.
We held our first of the year staff meeting about our Farm to School program. Staff members learned about our plan for the next five years, the resources available to them, and in the process, made a really delicious “massaged kale salad” to enjoy during the meeting. The Farm to School team did a great job informing the rest of the staff about easy ways to build in farm to school lessons and values into the curriculum through project based learning. Students helped “put Newbury Elementarythe gardens to bed”… all except one: our 5/6 team planted a bed of garlic to be used in the kitchen next year. It is now sleeping under this first snow of the year!
We wish all of our Farm to School friends happy holidays and a great start to the new year. The attached photos show our 5/6 grade “Falcons” and “Otters” working in the permaculture garden and harvesting squash in one of the raised beds this fall. The top photo shows Chef Paul addressing our Grow-a-Row community group.” Kim Goody, Farm to School Coordinator

Grilling Pizza

Most people think of summer as grilling season, but I have my grill going year-round. It’s easy, makes fewer dirty pans, and the food just tastes better with the smokey grill flavor. And, one of my favorite grill meals is pizza.

Pizza is already one of the most universally loved foods, and grilling it takes it to a new level of deliciousness. Most stores have ready to cook pizza dough, but you’ll find an easy dough recipe below.

Trek 2015 1

Easy Grilled Pizza

Turn on grill to medium heat. Roll out pizza dough to desired size on a floured surface. Sprinkle some corn meal on a baking sheet and transfer rolled out dough to sheet. Brush dough with olive oil.

Transfer dough to heated grill oiled side down. Cook for around minutes and remove from grill back onto the baking sheet with the grilled side up. Add desired toppings to pizza. Reduce grill heat to low and return topped pizza grill and cook with the grilled cover closed until done.

The fun part about pizza is that you get to  make it your own by adding your own family’s favorite toppings, or throw on the leftovers lurking in the fridge. This is the ultimate in quick, easy, versatile, and delicious. Mangia!!

 

grilling-cabbage-and-pizza1-credit-julia-a-reed

 

Easy Pizza Dough

courtesy of Food.com

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 14teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2cup lukewarm water (plus an additional 2 tbsp)
  1. Mix 1 cup of flour with all other ingredients.
  2. Gradually add 2nd cup of flour until it forms a ball. …
  3. Let the dough rest 10-15 minutes in a bowl covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap to keep it warm.

grilled-pizza1-credit-julia-a-reed

All photos Julia A Reed

 

 

 

Grilled Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, is a popular vegetable found in CSA shares and at farmers’ markets all around the Upper Valley. Here is an easy and surprisingly delicious way to enjoy this plentiful local food.

napa cabbage

Grilled Napa Cabbage

adapted from Martha Stewart.com

  • 3 tablespoons hot mustard
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated garlic
  • 1 medium head napa cabbage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (OPTIONAL)
  1. Heat grill to high. Mix together mustard, agave nectar, 1 teaspoon oil, the garlic, salt, and pepper and put aside.

  2. Cut cabbage lengthwise into quarters, leaving core intact. Brush cabbage on all sides with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  3. Grill cabbage, flat side down, 3 minutes. Flip, and continue to grill until charred. Remove from grill.

  4. Brush cabbage on all sides with mustard glaze. Arrange cabbage on a platter, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

grilled-chinese-napa-cabbage3-credit-julia-a-reed

Photo credit Julia A Reed

Hot Sauce is Cool

Do you have a handful of shriveled chili peppers at the bottom of last week’s CSA box? And now a new CSA full of more chilies? Make hot sauce and use them up! Late summer and early fall is hot sauce season. Almost all the ingredients you need are available now from Vermont and New Hampshire farm stands and farmers’ markets.

Homemade hot sauce is easy and delicious. Also, it’s super cool.

My dad makes a sweet and vinegary hot sauce that can sit on the shelf for months, corroding the lid of the jar and getting more and more delicious. I grew up eating it on fried eggs and stir fries. After spending a year working in a barbecue restaurant, I started making my own versions. Now I make a few different kinds each August and September with whatever hot peppers are around.

There are so many ways to make hot sauce – ingredients and technique vary widely by culture and household. You can ferment it (like Sriracha and Tabasco) or use vinegar (like the recipe below). You can keep it plain or add sweetener and other flavors (herbs, fruit, oils, and spices). You can cook the peppers or leave them raw. Make what you like! A quick Internet search brings up a huge range of hot sauce recipes if you are looking for a specific style.
Most of my hot sauces are secret preparations, and sometimes the peppers just tell me what to do. But here’s a very simple formula for making your own.

The first step is to put on a pair of disposable gloves. Hot peppers will burn your skin for longer than they burn your mouth. I have made hot sauce without gloves with mixed results, but that habit ended abruptly after I spent most of a hot summer night last August lying on hot-pepper-herb-sauces-credit-julia-a-reed-2my bed alternately clutching a cold washcloth with both hands and dipping my fingers in ice water while trying to catch snatches of sleep.

If you are fearful of your hot sauce being too hot, remove the seeds and white membrane that holds the seeds and just use the pepper flesh. Absolutely wear gloves for this.

 

Simple Fresh Hot Sauce Recipe

Makes about 1 ½ to 2 cups

Ingredients

10 – 15 chili peppers, any kind
1/2 sweet bell pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 garlic cloves
teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoon sugar or maple syrup

Directions

  1. Put on a pair of disposable gloves.
  2. Wash the peppers and cut off the stems.
  3. If you want a hotter sauce, leave the seeds in. For a milder but still hot sauce, split the peppers lengthwise and remove seeds and the white membrane.
  4. Puree peppers and all the other ingredients in food processor or blender.
  5. Taste and adjust salt, sugar, garlic, and vinegar as needed. If it’s too thin, add more peppers and puree some more. If it’s too thick, add more vinegar.
  6. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge and eat within a few weeks.

hot-pepper-herb-sauces-credit-julia-a-reed-4

Shelf life of hot sauce

I don’t have one simple answer for this, but in general, if you have a lot of vinegar in the sauce, you can keep the sauce for a long time. What’s enough? Enough that it tastes pretty sour and is fairly thin, like commercial hot sauce. If you want to keep that fresh not-too-sour taste, use less vinegar and use up the hot sauce within a couple weeks. If you ferment or cook the hot sauce and use a sterilized jar for storage, the sauce may last longer. Discard if the hot sauce grows mold, gets slimy or discolored, or develops an off taste or smell.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

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