From its beginnings almost four years ago, Diary of a Tomato quickly grew from a record of the garden to a kind of love letter to a particular time, place, and person. How I savored every moment of it — from nurturing seedlings to full fruition, taking what we grew and making something delicious, to the pleasures of our shared table. Things change, however, such is the way of life. I now find myself living in different circumstances and, save for a narrow swath of herbs, without a garden. In a way, this brings me closer to and very much dependent on the larger local food community that surrounds me, and I’m grateful for how it sustains and nourishes me, body and soul. Food has always been a personal subject for me, and when one knows the people who grow, prepare and serve it, it becomes even more so. Thank-you, dear friends, for visiting me here as I continue exploring this remarkable world — snacks and field trips included — and for joining me in celebrating all that we together are creating.
While on a quick trip to Chicago this past weekend, I spotted wild razor clams from Massachusetts at the Eataly fish counter. Though harvested in our own region, most of these bivalves get shipped off to other places like Chicago, and are only very rarely available in local seafood cases. They’re sometimes featured as a special at such restaurants as Anju and Eventide, so it’s with great delight to see this native food claim a place of its own on the menu at the newly opened Franklin Oyster House in Portsmouth.
By the timing of this year’s leaf-out, spring has only just arrived, and has been making up for its tardiness mightily ever since — one day bare branches, the next fully draped in tender greenery. To celebrate this turn in weather and in honor of National Bike Month, I grabbed my newly tuned-up steed and took it out for a spin. Several sections of the nearby Eastern Trail are off-road, affording long stretches of traffic-free riding, making it a terrific place to train for the upcoming Maine Women’s Ride. Remember to get outside this long week-end, dear friends, and enjoy some wind in your hair and sun on your skin.
– The Eastern Trail: www.easterntrail.org
– Bicycle Coalition of Maine: www.bikemaine.org
– Maine Women’s Ride: www.mainewomensride.com
– Gridded Spring Indices, National Phenology Network: https://www.usanpn.org/data/spring
A recent dinner at Vinland in Portland, a restaurant known for its commitment to sourcing locally, featured Maine seaweed from Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company in each of the tasting menu’s five delectable courses. The evening was part of a series of special events hosted by Maine Fare in celebration of Maine’s bounty, and sponsored by Maine Farmland Trust. The next tasting event will focus on Maine’s hard cider revival, with samplings from six cidermakers from across the state.
Above: Sparkling fresh halibut served with wakame, lovage, oyster mushrooms, and parsnip whey.
Hand-picked Peekytoe crab with fried nori, radish, and strained yogurt.
Bang Island mussels with kelp, garlic, coriander, and yogurt whey. House-made brown bread made with parsnip puree and fermented oat flour.
Monkfish with dulse emulsion, shiitake mushrooms, sunchokes, and nettles.
When it comes to asparagus, it’s hard not to feel greedy. Their season is long-awaited and, up until recently, hard to find unless homegrown. It’s with great pleasure that I’ve watched increasing numbers of farmers make the commitment of the land and time it takes to first harvest — up to three growing seasons — to supply us with this springtime treat.
As I drove past Emery Farm on my way home this week, I spied “asparagus” featured on their roadside sign and quickly turned in. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get to the weekly farmers market, but still had a craving for something spring-like to cook with. Situated in Durham, this is one of the many wonderful farm stands in the Seacoast that make local food available on a daily basis.
The asparagus beds at Emery Farm are only in their second year, and, once the beds get established, they expect the harvest to last for up to 8 weeks. I came home with three bunches, knowing that they’ll easily keep another week left on the counter. Simply place them upright in a bowl or glass with the cut ends submerged in an inch or two of water, just as you see here. Consider them like a bunch of flowers — change the water every so often, and the stalks will continue to lengthen and grow.
– Asparagus recipes: www.pinterest.com/seacoasteatlocl/asparagus-recipes/
– Emery Farm, Durham, NH: www.emeryfarm.com
– Seacoast Farmers’ Markets: www.seacoastharvest.org/market/
– Seacoast Farm Stands: http://seacoastharvest.org/?s=&meta_key=farmstand
– Storing vegetables without plastic: www.washingtonsgreengrocer.com/everything-else/storage-tips
After an intense weekend of training in wilderness first aid, it was a relief to spend the rest of the week decompressing and hiking in Acadia National Park. It’s early in the season and not everything’s open, especially with this spring’s late thaw causing unexpected delays. Even now, the unpaved roads remain closed, and icy piles of snow can be found on the shadow side of the mountains. Still, the carriage roads were accessible by foot, one of my favorite restaurants had just reopened in time for my visit, and it was splendid to be able to enjoy the park crowd-free. Above: The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain, across Bar Harbor to Frenchman Bay.
Ever since I learned that it’s even possible, I’ve been enamored of the idea of locally grown rice, and have gone as far as to attempt to grow it. So it was with great excitement to discover that Wild Folk Farm in Benton, Maine, has taken on the challenge of researching, educating and experimenting with the cultivation of Oryza Sativa here in Maine. They’ve started an Indiegogo campaign to launch their Maine Rice Project, and your support would mean so much to our incredible and ever-expanding community dedicated to growing local and sustainable food. [Video link.]