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Ode to Eggplant

2 Sep

Even a hot droughty summer must be good for something!

Turns out it’s eggplant!  As corn crops wither in the fields, eggplants are thriving.  One of my favorite CSA farms is even calling in the gleaners to harvest the eggplant overload.  Other members of the nightshade family – like peppers and tomatoes – are also doing well this hot dry summer.  But this is a blog about my love for eggplant…

The farmers market is overflowing with eggplant.  And the big purple Italian variety is just the beginning! Continue reading

Hard farming in the high country

10 Jun

Seemingly solid rock seems to yield to the plow.

I escaped the Kathmandu valley this weekend and set out for Pokhara – renowned for quaint mountain valley lake, mountain top temples, and the gateway to Himalayan trekking.  As the bus takes off on the winding mountain highway toward the north, we begin to leave behind the city haze, and I finally get to see the country side of Nepal!  The mountains are striking, the mountain life is astounding.  We curve and careen up and up through rocky mountain passes, looking over the precipitous edge of the highway, the valleys are filled with towns, the hillsides dotted with red clay brick farm houses, and entire mountain sides terraced for farming.  It’s hard to imagine the person power involved in forming and farming terraced gardens around 5,000+ ft elevation, on slopes reaching 60 degree angles!  And some of the valleys are so dry you have to wonder what reward is reaped for all that work anyway?!

Greener valleys.
Photo credit – NOT ME – thanks E.P.!

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Yum Luquillo

20 May

It’s easy to eat like a tourist at the Latin fusion gastro pubs of Old San Juan.  It’s fun to eat like a local at the kiskos in Luquillo.

Walk up from the beach or pull off the highway into this little strip of garage door-fronted food kiosks.  Each a unique blend of colors and decor – from trendy Caribbean chic with beach glass and thatched umbrella tables, to plywood booths swollen by sea air and walls decked with random plastic cartoon idles.

Kiskos of Luquillo

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Saps Making Syrup

16 Mar

As the cold Midwestern winter gives way to crisp spring chill, the sap starts flowing and the saps make for the maple forest.  Maple syrup season is a fleeting spring fling!  Too cold, the sluggish sap won’t flow.  Too warm, bacteria grow and stimulate the tree to start heeling its wounds and close up the sap taps.  So in just a few short weeks between afternoon highs reaching the 40s and climbing to the 60s, the maple farmers have to make the most of their sweet time.  This year is warming up fast!  And the beautifully balmy spring days are cutting the sap season short!

I got a brief chance to spend a short weekend in the woods helping my family harvest sap from my uncle’s Ohio tree farm.  (Ironically, the “Pancake” tree farm was named for the nearby road years before the idea for a family-run maple business ever occurred to the Berg family.)

It’s a family affair!  The Berg family takes to the woods as a trio (or more when they can convince friends and family to help).

The serious sappers:

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Chicken chokin’

23 Aug

[This story is also available in audio form!  Click here for an audio postcard originally aired on the “In Our Backyard” news program on WORT 89.9 fm in Madison]

These days more an more people are increasingly conscious about where food comes from – how it’s raised, what it’s fed, how it’s treated, what it’s treated with.  The surest way to have all those answers is, of course, to raise your own food.  Sure gardens are easy – but what about meat?  Animals take space . . . and  work . . . and killing!

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Life is just a bowl of…

5 Aug

mmmm fresh Door County Cherries!

Cherries drip from trees during the peak of the season.

It’s cherry season on the coasts of Lake Michigan.  I just wanted to share a few quick juicy tid-bits from a fantastic  weekend in Door County – Camping at Peninsula State Park and picking cherries at a little farm nearby.

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Eating well on a hungry planet

21 May

It’s Saturday morning, and I’ve just returned from my weekly excursion to the farmer’s market.  It’s a favorite weekly ritual.  I get up early enough to beat the crowds and crave the coffee and bakery treats at my favorite booths.  I have favorite goofy old farmers in overalls.  I tend to shop by color and end up with a wonderful variety that’s a little different every week.  This year I can tell the climate is odd because we’re weeks behind – just getting into asparagus and I’ve yet to see a garlic scape!

Colorful produce of the Madison farmers' market.

As I loaded my greenery into the fridge I recalled recently seeing an exhibit showcasing the photo art from Peter Menzel’s and Faith D’Aluisio’s book “Hungry Planet: What The World Eats”.  The photos were beautiful – and thought provoking.  The simple picture of a family’s pile of groceries says so much about culture – how we spend time with family, what we enjoy, what we value.  I passed along the wall of photos:

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