• Farm Stays

    Farm Stays

    A number of farms in Vermont double as B&B’s. The next time your relatives come to town, they can have a bucolic, back-to-the-land experience—or you can take a weekend and have one yourself! 

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  • Editor's Note Summer 2011

    Editor's Note Summer 2011

    It’s practically a requirement for any journalistic publication (such as this one) to keep tabs on what’s new and exciting in the field it covers. Not only is it the publication’s responsibility to keep readers up to date, it also makes for good copy. Journalists find it hard to write about “what hasn’t changed since yesterday,” even though the fact that something hasn’t changed is often, in its own quiet way, newsworthy. Journalists and editors get a frisson of excitement when something new(s) crosses their path.

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  • Set the Table with Hot Sauce

    Set the Table with Hot Sauce

    Vermont is known for many things, but spicy food is not one of them. Fortunately for the spice lovers among us, many local farmers have bucked the trend and have been cultivating delicious, spicy chilis for us to enjoy. Hot peppers need heat to grow, but with a good dose of sunlight and perhaps some black plastic over the soil, peppers can thrive in Vermont’s warm summers.

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  • Growing Backyard Mushrooms

    Growing Backyard Mushrooms

    Even for the most adventurous gardeners and avid wild mushroom foragers, the idea of growing one’s own gourmet mushrooms may seem mysterious. But there are a number of methods that gardeners and farmers use to incorporate gourmet mushrooms into their landscapes, and these methods are fairly easy for anyone to try at home.

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  • A 10-Year Stroll

    A 10-Year Stroll

    With hundreds of spectators lining Main Street in Brattleboro, the groomed and bedazzled heifers are led down the center of the street to the cheers of onlookers. Hundreds of cows preen for the delighted crowd, followed by more farm animals (bulls, goats, and horses), tractors (also decorated for the parade) floats, clowns, marching bands, street performers, and all manner of groups touting their various farm affiliations.

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  • After the Fire

    After the Fire

    Barn’s burnt down…now I can see the moon. –Chinese proverb

    Yet the converse is also true: Yes, we can see the moon, but it won’t shelter tractors, nor can vegetables be washed, packed, and stored inside its lovely glow. Oh, the moon is beautiful, but what can it do for food and a business after the fire is put out?

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  • Micro Milk

    Micro Milk

    Local food and slow food frequently mean small food: small farms, small producers, small quantities. The English language happens to provide a nice term for very small: micro. So it follows that the antidote to a huge, consolidated milk production system might be a micro dairy.

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  • A Charcuterie Cure

    A Charcuterie Cure

    Here in the kitchen of Pete Colman’s barn-apartment in Plainfield, a small banner on the wall bears the magnanimous face of the Italian priest and saint Padre Pio, with the words “Don’t worry, soon you will be cured.” In the context of this home—just steps away from a sparkling new meat-curing shop that shares the same barn—it’s hard to know just who the saint is addressing: the cook who lives there or…the pig.

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  • Farming in a Changing Climate

    Farming in a Changing Climate

    Seems like the weather’s been extreme in recent years: heat waves, ice storms, and floods. How is this related to climate change? The answer is, indirectly. Weather events are not a good tool for assessing the climate, since climate is made up of weather patterns over many decades. There are ups and downs within seasons, but the trends over time are what counts. They include both temperature and precipitation patterns, and these affect environmental conditions, which in turn affect plants, animals, and ecosystems.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Bella Basil

    Farmers' Kitchen—Bella Basil

    Pesto is summer. It is the bright flavor of fresh basil, the bite of raw garlic, and the smoothness of olive oil. Tasting pesto can bring the visceral sensations of warmth and sunlight to us, even in the darkest days of winter. At Bella Farm, my small crew and I grow eight varieties of basil, as well as seven varieties of garlic and many culinary herbs. We process the basil and garlic into our signature dairy-and nut-free pesto, called Bella Farm Organic Pesto.

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  • One Wild Potluck

    One Wild Potluck

    The Peterson Field Guide Edible Wild Plants has a recipe for clovers that says clovers are not very digestible but can be soaked for hours in salty water to make them so. Christopher Nyerges book Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants tells you that the seeds of the plantain, a common weed around these parts, can be soaked in water until soft and then cooked up like rice. It goes on to say that the result is slightly “mucilaginous and bland.”

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  • Summer Cartoon—Post Peak Oil

    Summer Cartoon—Post Peak Oil

    Scenes we'd like to see: Post Peak Oil

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One Wild Potluck

Rhus typhina L. (staghorn sumac)
Rhus typhina L. (staghorn sumac)

Written By

Diane Grenkow

Written on

June 01 , 2011

The Peterson Field Guide Edible Wild Plants has a recipe for clovers that says clovers are not very digestible but can be soaked for hours in salty water to make them so. Christopher Nyerges book Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants tells you that the seeds of the plantain, a common weed around these parts, can be soaked in water until soft and then cooked up like rice. It goes on to say that the result is slightly “mucilaginous and bland.”

If you’ve ever read wild edible recipes in a field guide, you know that they don’t generally make your mouth water. Surely the recipes in these guides couldn’t be the pinnacle of wild food cooking, could they? Is it possible to make a delicious meal from what can be found taking a walk through the woods or the fields right by your house?

The answer is: absolutely. Our wild edible potluck in Hardwick was born when Rachel Kane of Perennial Pleasures Nursery in East Hardwick suggested in the Buffalo Mountain Bullsheet (the Buffalo Mountain Co-op’s newsletter) that people interested in wild edibles get together. When the group started up in the early summer of 2009, everyone talked about how they wanted to learn more about the wild food around them not just by identifying it, but by actually eating it.

And so, in the spring, summer, and fall our potlucks are usually preceded by a walk for foraging purposes. When everyone is back together at the host kitchen, something will be made out of what was just found. People bring dishes that they’ve made ahead of time, as well. We’ve eaten noodles tossed with a pesto made of lamb’s quarters, sunflower seeds, and garlic scapes; purslane that was dipped in egg and cornmeal, baked, and then dipped in a cider vinegar and maple syrup sauce upon eating; a wild green salad including purslane, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, and sorrel; scrambled eggs with leeks and daylily buds; a selection of iced teas including mint, sweet gale, and sumac; black raspberry crisp, wild blueberry fritters, and a mint and chocolate cheesecake with cacao that was wild picked in Trinidad by one of our members. (Alright, that cacao wasn’t local but it was awfully good!)

The potlucks happen in the winter, too, and they are just as delicious. There are foraged root foods that can be kept in cold storage, such as burdock and Jerusalem artichokes. There are canned jams and jellies made from wild blueberries and rosehips. There are still tea fixings from last summer that use dried mint and comfrey. Nettles and stewed Japanese knotweed frozen months ago are used in lasagna or a crisp, respectively. There is the venison and duck that were taken in the fall.

The purpose is not to leave cultivated foods out of the mix, but to figure out what else we can eat that’s right there if we know where to look for it and how to see it. It’s a happy medium to be able to use the best of our gardens as well as the bounty that just happens.

One thing I love as much as a potluck supper is a tall glass of pink lemonade on the porch in the summertime. Here’s the wild version:


Fill a gallon glass jar with bright red staghorn sumac “berries.”* They look more like tiny flowers than berries to me, but are actually seeds covered in hairs. The berries grow in large clusters that are shaped like flames, and when you find sumac you usually find a good deal of it in the same place. The more sumac clusters you can stuff in your glass jar, the tastier the brew will be. Add cold water to cover. Mash it all around with a spoon and then let it sit somewhere to cool. The longer you let it sit the stronger it will be, but a couple of hours will do. Strain the tea into another container. If you want to sweeten it, add maple syrup or honey. Delicious.

* If you’re unsure what staghorn sumac is, consult a wild edible field guide. Always consult more than one source before picking a new-to-you wild edible, as some wild edibles are poisonous. Better yet, find someone who knows what sumac looks like and ask him or her to show it to you.

About the Author

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Diane Grenkow

Diane Grenkow lives with her family and 25 chickens in Hardwick.

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