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edible flowers, oh my!

It’s true, April showers bring May flowers, but don’t forget: some of these flowers are edible!

Many farmers are bringing colorful mixes of edible flowers to the market, some are even mixed with delicious spring greens so you can just grab it and go straight home to enjoy. Flowers in the mix shown above are spicy and peppery like marigolds, mustard, and nasturtiums. This will add such a kick to your salad that you don’t even need a dressing.

Here are some common varieties that you’ll most likely spot at the market:

nasturtium: sweet, mild and peppery

marigold: intensely spicy and a little bitter.

mustard: tangy and spicy.

Besides making a salad, you can use edible flowers to add some spice to white rice or eggs. Sweeter varieties, like the nasturtium, are a great colorful garnish for cupcakes, cocktails and iced tea.

History:

– The Old Testament mentions bitter herbs, referring to dandelions among others.

– The Romans used violets and roses and later introduced the culinary possibilities of flowers to the English.

– During the Renaissance edible flowers were used to naturally color food and rose pedal water was a common beverage.

– In 1602 Hugh Platt published the book Delights for Ladies which featured recipes for candying flowers.

– In the 17th century French monks created Chartreuse, a green liqueur made from carnation petals.

We are seeking edible flower recipes and stories from the community, please email yours to carlipierce[at]gmail.com.

Ramps

It’s spring and ramps are all the rage. At the market farmers are putting their ramps front and center and you can smell them a block away.

Ramps (aka wild leeks) taste and smell like onions and garlic, and just putting one of their long green leaves under your nose will wake you up. You can treat them like onions or leeks and add to a soup, or scramble with eggs, or use them to add a little kick to steak or burgers. Be advised: ramps are not a good date food, ramp breath will kill even the steamiest evening.

Ramps have a white bulb and long green leaves — you can cook with both parts which makes them a great buy.

Ramps are only in season for a short period near the month of April, after that their flavor gets too intense so get them while you can. Consider stocking up on ramps and freezing or pickling them.

Look for ramps at the Mountain Sweet Berry Farm stand in the Union Square greenmarket, they have a great board on display filled with ramp recipes from local restaurants that buy ramps from them. Plus their ramps are $3 a bunch which is a pretty good deal.

You can also buy ramps from:

Max Creek Hatchery at Union Square on Wednesdays.

Wilklow Orchards at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Fort Green Park Greenmarket on Saturdays, Grand Army Plaza on Saturdays, and Staten Island Ferry/Whitehall Terminal on Tuesdays and Fridays.

To pickle ramps try this adaptation of Tom Collichio’s recipe published in the Gothamist:

3 bunches of ramps, white parts only
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup bottled water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon coriander seed, mustard seed, black peppercorns, fennel seed
1 dried hot chile pepper – de arbol, cayenne or other

1. Clean Ramps and separate white from green.  Keep greens for another use or freeze.

2. Prepare brine bringing vinegar, water, sugar and wine to a boil for 1 minute.

3. Add dried spices and remove from heat after 1 minute

4. Blanch Ramp bottoms in water with lots of salt (so it tastes like sea water) for 1-2 minutes.

5. Quickly drain and cool quickly using ice and running cold water.

6. Pour the brine over ramps and let sit for 3-5 days. Eat them right away or store for later use by using a vacuum seal.

Spring!

Today is the  first official day of spring and as the seasons change so do the colors of spoonful — time to put on our spring green. Even more exciting than changing into our spring colors are the newly in-season foods that spring will bring, here are some to keep your eye out for:

Right Now:

romanesco (Image A above.) This strangely beautiful vegetable is typically in season in the fall, but was spotted at the Union Square Greenmarket last week and was quite perfect (perhaps grown in a greenhouse?), so keep your eyes out for some and let us know where you find it.

In April/May:

asparagus (Image B above.)

beet greens

salad greens (Image C above.)

radishes

rhubarb

And here are some to continue enjoying from winter:

apples

cabbage

carrots

parsnips

pears

potatoes

Stay tuned for more on these spring treats and delicious ways to eat them.

How to Dry Mushrooms

Fresh mushrooms are delicious but sometimes it’s hard to eat them fast enough throughout the week. I talked with Dan Madura of Mycomedicinals Madura Farms in Goshen, NY to find out how to preserve your fresh fungi — the best part is that it’s really easy!

1. Buy mushrooms

2. Gently clean them off with a damp towel, mushroom brush (you can buy these online or at specialty stores), or a tooth brush (Dan’s preferred method.) You just want to wipe off any excess dirt — soaking them in water will ruin their flavor.

3. With your hands, break up the mushrooms that you want to dry (I like to set aside a few fresh ones to enjoy). Place the pieces in a brown paper bag, or wrap in a paper towel, and set aside in a dry cool place. In the dry cool months you can even put them out on your windowsill to speed up the process. I suggest using a rock as a weight or tie a string to the bag and run it through your window so the mushrooms don’t blow away.

4. In a few days your mushrooms should be dry, then you can transfer the mushrooms to a more solid container like a glass jar (which looks pretty nice sitting on your shelf).

Why Dry? Dried mushrooms are great in everything from salads, to pizza, to tea. Dan likes to use dried oyster mushrooms in his omelet for breakfast. I have been trying this and it’s such a fast and easy way to have a mushroom omelet in the morning because you skip the step of chopping and having all those dishes to clean.

Drying is a way to really stretch your mushroom purchases. Dried mushrooms have a stronger flavor than fresh so a little will go a long way and they keep for years.

You can find Mycomedicinals Madura Farms mushrooms at their booth on:

Saturdays at the Abingdon Square, Greenpoint / McCarren Park and Grand Army Plaza Greenmarkets.

Sundays at the Columbia and  Cortelyou Greenmarkets.

Thursdays at  the Columbia Greenmarket.

Dan Madura (right) and his assistant Andre at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket.

How to Make Butternut Squash Soup for Under $10

We talked to Elly Hushour of Patches of Star Dairy at her booth in the Union Square Greenmarket to find out how to make a butternut squash soup with little time and money. Their hard to resist line of goat cheeses includes several flavors of spreadable chevre, creamy feta and a firm ricotta-type Queso Blanc. But it’s their drinkable goat yogurt (at just $2/bottle) that’s the secret to a quick and delicious butternut squash soup.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves chopped

2 large butternut squash
(see post below for how to select, store and chop butternut squash)

½ cup water

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bottle of Patches of Star Dairy drinkable goat yogurt

  1. Peel and chop butternut squash into ½ inch cubes
  2. In a large pot heat the butter and garlic until light golden (3-5 minutes)
  3. Add water and chopped butternut squash to pot
  4. Season evenly with red pepper flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper
  5. Cover and cook on medium heat until soft (20-30 minutes)
  6. Remove pot from heat when squash is soft enough to squish with a spoon
  7. Blend the cooked squash in a food processor or blender until creamy
  8. Add the drinkable yogurt and stir until well mixed

Patches of Star Dairy is an all-natural goat dairy farm in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. You can find them at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  For more on their products and holistic approach to farming visit their site.

The Basics of Butternut Squash

If you haven’t already, meet the butternut squash. This winter squash has a hard, inedible, peel but the inside is sweet, soft and creamy when cooked. Inside, its color has a beautiful orange glow.

To select: Feel for squash that are hard as a rock and have no bruises or soft spots. If the stem is still on look for ones that are firm, full and cork-like. Avoid squash with green or skinny stems.

Select butternut squash that are large but have a somewhat small bottom and long neck. The neck has no seeds, making it easier to cut up than the bottom.

To Store: A dry cool spot is perfect for storing butternut squash. In the right conditions it will last several months.

To Prepare:

  1. Wash with cool water
  2. Cut in half horizontally so you have a flat base to stand it up on
  3. Cut the round bottom portion in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon
  4. Cut the skin off with a sharp knife or peeler
  5. Once peeled Chop into desired size pieces

Go here for video instructions.

Another option is to cut the squash in half before peeling, spoon out the seeds and bake in the oven until soft. Then scoop the cooked squash away from the skin with a spoon.

Taste at GRAB

GRAB Specialty Foods has their Brooklyn pantry stocked with many delicious brews and foods. They specialize in the 5 C’s: cheese, craft beer, coffee, chocolate and charcuterie, with a focus on local products. Stop by any day to get your hands on one of their refillable growlers (a 64oz jug— that’s a little less than a 6-pack) full of a draft beer of your choice.

Most Saturdays you can sample beer with the brewers themselves which is a great way to find a new favorite and meet the faces behind it. It’s also not far from the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket in Prospect Park, which makes it easy to swing by and pick-up what you need to go with your market finds. Owner Laura Nuter and her helpful staff can recommend the perfect accompaniments.

This Saturday from 4-7 pm sample the work of Left Hand Brewing Company.

Next Saturday from 4-7 pm  you can taste beer from Victory Brewing Company of  the nearby Downingtown, PA.

GRAB Specialty Foods
438 7th Avenue, Brooklyn
M-TH 11-8:30 // Fri 11-9// Sat 10:30-9 // Sun 10:30-7:30


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