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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label local foods. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label local foods. Show all posts

      Saturday, October 29, 2011


      Not exactly local foods, but at least local herbs flowers that I planted. Three floors up on the 18th floor roof garden, the "pinch an inch" herb garden that I tend each year for my building offered me a gorgeous array, even on Oct. 29. I had promised I wouldn't 'fuss' if I cooked instead of us four going to one of the 54 restaurants within a 3 block radius of my home. The rinsed thyme leaves flavor the vegetable soup I made with canned chicken stock and the wilted remains of onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and parsnip languishing in my veg bin. Snipped chives will grace the mashed butternut squash. I'll mince perfect parsley atop the chicken thighs baked with honey, mustard and fresh ginger. Plain baked potatoes or buttered noodles will accompany the main course. Ben will use the mint in his favorite mocktail, the Platonic, made with pineapple juice and tonic. The dessert comes straight from my freezer: bread pudding that I had made in quantity the last time my collage group was here, paired with blueberry/plum sauce made with lavender buds, also from the pinch-an-inch herb display. I couldn't resist two hydrangea branches at peak and threw in some greenery to welcome our friends tonight in the first snow of the season.

      Monday, August 31, 2009


      Jen in her NH garden. (Double click any image to enlarge.)
      When I lived and worked in the country, in a town of three thousand souls, I craved a city vacation: all noise and tumult, music and museums: Philadelphia, San Francisco, D.C., Boston, Barcelona, New York, Paris, St. Petersburg, Tokyo, it didn’t matter. Since I’ve been living and working in a great city, I crave the country and, of course, the gardens.

      Every summer, Daughter Jen generously allows me to weed her vast New Hampshire vegetable and cutting garden, pull the garlic, pick the beans, and encourages
      me to cut armfuls of her
      flowers and herbs for
      arrangements. She
      sends me home with
      samples of her blue-
      ribbon garlic, dried
      goldenrod and nigella
      pods among my dirty

      right, flowers & herbs from
      Jen's cutting garden, in-
      cluding dill seed heads and
      anise hyssop flowers.I love
      the way the bright orange
      of the cosmos flowers
      transforms a traditional
      pink/blue color scheme.

      Jen serves us beets picked ten minutes before roasting, Yukon Gold new potatoes, green and yellow beans, heirloom tomatoes, sweet tender carrots, patty pan squash. Her garden, fenced against deer, racoons, and to keep out her own playful dogs, was roto-tilled 8 years ago, and formed into raised beds, but never re-tilled. She top-dresses with compost, adds a couple inches of new wood chips to refresh the paths, and hand-weeds her pesticide free garden.(above, early broccoli a few weeds and spirea, coexisting happily together.)
      Vegetables are interspersed with annual and perennial flowers available for cutting all growing season, so there's always great a great play of sight, smell and taste. It's plain fun to walk in this garden.(above, cactus flowering zinnias, my favorite for cutting and showing off, no arranging skills necessary)

      Once upon a time Jen bought garlic to plant, and received seed garlic from friend Mary just down the dirt road, but over a few years saved her own best heads, and now plants only her own 'seed garlic', the biggest and best of her unblemished stock. Garlic adds fabulous flavor to almost any main course, but the stiff-neck species is also great in kitchen or dining room as a swag decoration with other dried flowers and herbs, here, chive flowers, orange calendula and sumac seed heads. Who's to stop you stealing a stalk when you need it and retying the swag to take up the slack?She's a consistent blue ribbon winner at the New Hampshire State Fair as she, like other garlic growers works her own survival of the fittest experiment, with garlic adapted to her own soil and climate conditions. My stash to take home to the City includes as many garlic heads as she allots me, and always a new treat like Red Chinese red noodle beans that she grew for the first time.

      Thursday, April 30, 2009


      YES, to Union Square Greenmarket, between 14th-17th Sts. along Broadway, Manhattan. Open Mon. Wed. Fri. and the big day, Sat. 8am-6pm.

      NO to cut flowers in full
      bloom. Expect to get only 2-3
      days in a vase
      before they'll expire. YES to
      cut flowers in the bud stage
      just starting to unfurl, so you
      can enjoy them for a full week.

      YES to a tasty,
      colorful selec-
      tion of potato
      varieties, care-
      fully stored
      since last sum-
      click on any
      photo for
      close-up view)

      NO to any variety of basil plants
      unless you're willing to baby
      them for three weeks until time
      to place in the garden. Basil is
      the herb most damaged by cold
      weather and cool soil. YES, buy
      for cooking now if
      you like.
      YES to tasty, hydroponically
      grown tomatoes.

      YES to a wide variety of salad
      greens, red and white kale,
      Swiss chard, all greenhouse
      grown. YES to mushrooms
      and pungent wild ramps.
      More about those next week.

      YES to thyme and other
      perennial herbs that are ready
      to be planted
      Use creeping
      thyme be-
      tween the
      cracks of any
      garden path
      for an aromatic
      and cushiony

      YES to an orchid, though it may not feel like a spring flower. If you've been itching for one, try Silva's Orchid Farm.
      I've known them over the years
      for their fantastic displays at the
      Philadelphia flower show, never knew they sold in New York City. At Union Square they have a
      wide selection of healthy and attractive plants. Select one with lots of buds and little bloom, to get the most enjoyment this season.

      YES to a sweet treat before
      you go home. From all the
      muffins, scones and lemon bars, I opted for a small sack of pure maple sugar candy studded with pecans from the Deep Mountain Vermont maple syrup guy. They've been coming every year for 25 years, Grandfathered into the New York City Greenmarket despite their distance from the city. The 1/4 pound of deliciousness lasted for almost a week, as I nibbled my way through the bag wondering when I could go back for more.

      Saturday, December 20, 2008


      I’ve gotten spoiled by having fresh herbs available all summer, just an elevator ride away. When I took over gardening chores on the rooftop a few years ago I planted an assortment of herbs in big and small pots and announced to one and all that they could come “pinch-an-inch”. I needn’t have worried that with 100 apartments in the building the three parsley plants, two rosemarys, four basils etc. would be denuded instantaneously. In fact there were only about five of us who were avid herb pickers.

      Perennial herbs like mint, thyme, chives and tarragon will winter over here in New York City quite well in 12” pots or bigger, but the leaves die back after hard frost. I replant tender herbs like dill, fennel, basil and cilantro every year, though I often find self-sown seedlings in surrounding pots in the spring, a big thrill for me and I nurture them wherever they pop up.

      This fall for Ben’s special daily mocktail dubbed the Plattonic by friend Dan T, I took the entire pot of mint and placed it in a south-facing window where it will produce leaves all winter. The Plattonic is composed of one part tonic water for reducing muscle cramps, one part pineapple juice for masking the bitterness of the tonic, and six crushed fresh mint leaves for flavor, over ice. The pot will be returned to the roof in spring.For a small evening gathering in mid- December we prepared a buffet of tasty food. Ben baked the bread; I made the rest, including roast turkey which when piled up on the platter looked exceedingly WHITE. I ran up to the roof garden and found the rosemary still very happy despite three periods of 20-degree temperatures. I cut lots of stems, rinsed and shook them off, surrounded the turkey with the rosemary. That made it look better instantly and infused a marvelous flavor into the meat. The rest I allowed to dry and sealed in a freezer bag to use all winter as needed. Frozen herbs are far tastier than dried.

      Coming soon: growing windowsill herbs in a New York apartment.

      Monday, November 17, 2008

      Community Supported Agriculture

      In case you haven't noticed, there's not a lot of room for kitchen gardens in NYC. Oh sure, you can grow tomatoes on rooftops and herbs in window boxes, not to mention lettuces in Brooklyn and maybe even a respectable spread of eggplants and zukes in Queens or Staten Island. But not many of us have enough room to grow all our own fruits and vegetables, which is why green markets and CSAs are essential to any New Yorker who wants fresh, local food.

      You all know what greenmarkets are, but how about a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture is a coop arrangement between a group of local foodies and a farmer. The farmer sells shares to members who pay in advance for fruits and vegetables throughout the year. By paying ahead of time you share some risk with the farmer. Will the spinach be attacked by beetles? Will the butternut squash be drowned by late summer rains? Maybe. That's the chance you take for seasonal food grown by a farmer you actually know.

      And did I mention, you never know exactly what you're going to get until the food arrives? The delivery includes whatever is in season, meaning you won't get tomatoes in June or cucumbers in October. My share this week included: garlic, beets, carrots, potatoes, acorn squash, celeriac, parsley, dry beans, kale, cauliflower, pears, and apples. A cornucopia of autumn goodness.

      Now's the time to subscribe for 2009! My own CSA sells out fast, so I re-subscribe nice and early. To find a CSA in New York City, check the Just Food website. If you're living somewhere else in the U S of A, check out Local Harvest. Type in your zip code and get a list of the CSAs nearest you.

      Most groups recommend a half share for couples and a full share for families, but Michael and I easily get through a full share with just the two of us. You can buy an extra fruit share and supplement with monthly meat, egg, and cheese deliveries. There's maple syrup, honey, yogurt, bread...even fresh flowers if you're in the mood.

      The point is that just because you live in a single room with one window that faces a brick wall (no wait, that's me) it doesn't mean you can't have fresh fruit and vegetables in the middle of this big, bad, hungry city.

      Photos 2, 3 & 4 were taken by Adam Mastoon for my book: Down & Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky First Time Projects & Activities to Get You Gardening. I'm allowed to use them in conjunction with promoting the book, so consider this a promo!

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