Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Five Gallons of Carroty Goodness April 12, 2009

Filed under: container gardening,gardening — blueheronlocal @ 11:10 pm
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I went out into the garden for the first time this year. Well, I had passed it while gathering firewood, or bringing something heavy around to the back of the house, but today was the first day I actually put my hands in the dirt. I got in touch with my inner weeder, because don’t you know, the herbs were straggling up but the dandelions and long-haired-weed-number-seven were so green and lush it could have been June (I wish).

One of our surprise gardening successes last year was the five-gallon pot of carroty goodness. I had received a packet of carrot seeds as a favor from a wedding a few years back; but I’ve never been much of a gardener. (In my bachelor days, I kept one spider plant and one pot of basil in the window of my JP apartment, and considered myself a success.) I had been using the carrot seeds as, um, a bookmark, when No Egrets saw them and liberated them from a life of dormant literacy.

Not having a clear idea how old the seeds were, No Egrets proceeded cautiously. He filled a five-gallon pot one-third with sand and two-thirds with rich beautiful soil and sprinkled the carrot seeds. We waited. A month later, we had scads of baby carrots. We harvested a few, and many grew in their place. Every time we were in the garden, we picked one and ate its fresh, almost peppery, carrot self, reminding ourselves why it was worthwhile to weed out the dandelions. Again.



Creepy, crawly, all-natural fertilizer producers March 3, 2009

Filed under: Indoor agriculture — blueheronlocal @ 12:50 am
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Sometimes, it just takes a New York Times article (or two, or three…).
This time, it’s urban worm-binning.  I’ve had one for just about two
years. It produces lovely potting soil and reduces my trips to the
compost bin.  I sort of have pets that I can vaguely be fond of but
leave alone when I go off on three-week jaunts across an ocean.
Generally, it’s been a good experience.  But nobody took me up on
offers of worms for their own bin until the New York Times wrote about
them.  The irony: I seem to have had a mysterious die-off of worms and
can’t share at the moment.  In fact, I may need to acquire some
breeding stock myself. (more…)


Seed Catalogs and Black Lung Kale February 16, 2009

Filed under: gardening,In Season — blueheronlocal @ 5:46 pm
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(Black Tuscan Kale from

(Black Tuscan Kale from digital flowerpictures.

Mid-winter: the point where I am perfectly happy to eat virtually the same thing for dinner for almost two weeks in a row. Stored apples are no longer worth eating, and my stash of frozen blueberries is sadly decimated. And yet there remains two feet of snow/ice/frozen goop on the ground and I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to get the lid off the compost container in the garden. I’d say there is no hope, except that seed catalogues are starting to arrive and the days are getting longer (daylight! after work!). Seed catalogues are remarkably reviving. I’ve ordered some of the basics for my community garden, but the exciting varieties are still to be chosen. The standards– green/yellow bush beans, peas, turnips, broccoli, spinach, and even a few tomatoes (yes, heirloom) for the masses– have all been ordered. What I’m contemplating is what new things to try this year, or what oldies to bring back. Ground cherries? Flying saucer summer squash (supposedly they do quite nicely as winter squash as well, but I find there is too little flesh for the effort)? Should we even bother with carrots? Maybe some hot peppers? Some weird type of eggplant?


Definitely, I’m ordering the black lung kale (known to much of the rest of the world as Black Tuscan kale). It’s the one vegetable that I’m truly enamored with. I find it to be downright beautiful: graceful on the plant, complex and deeply green on the plate. This variety of kale is surprisingly tender, with a mottled texture that takes well to both eating raw (when muddled aka tenderized) and cooking lightly. Even better, kale is one of the best vegetable sources of minerals out there as well as having numerous handy little vitamins and anitoxidants. Basically, it’s good for your blood, your eyes, your bones, your brain, and your digestive tract.


Some people have been known to overwinter it, but I’ve never tried. Generally, I just have a day of boiling water, dripping kale, and freezer bags towards the end of the season. It defrosts quite nicely, for eating plain or tossing into pasta, stews, stir-frys or almost anywhere else you want something green and leafy. I threw a bag in a pan of cooked onions, garlic, oregano, sliced roasted red peppers, chickpeas, and a little block of frozen basil this weekend and was surprised as always how much better it is than a box of frozen spinach from the store. The kale held its shape well, and provided a nice earthy counterpoint to pasta and a sprinkle of feta and that was equally lovely as leftovers without the pasta the next day. Not to mention it was mostly organic (non-organic seeds) and pretty much free.


But what else to plant…




International Kitchen Garden Day August 20, 2008

Filed under: Ethical Eating,gardening — blueheronlocal @ 7:26 pm
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from kitchen gardeners internationalWhat?  Join a subversive element by hanging out in your local kitchen garden.

When?  Sunday, Aug 24.

Why?  Because it’s good for your body and soul, the planet, and your community.

Who?  Kitchen Gardeners International and gardeners worldwide like you, or your neighbor.

What?  Celebrations of home, community, and other public gardens.  Plant/harvest/taste/cook/teach/learn.


If you are so unfortunate as to not have access to a kitchen garden, post your location, and perhaps someone else will offer to host. 


Groundcherry regrets she will be spending her weekend garden time away from the Boston metro area and cannot throw a garden party.  Raindate: Kitchen Garden Day 2009.


Really want to join the movement?





The Chile Harvest August 19, 2008

Filed under: gardening,In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:06 pm
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(thanks,, for the photo!)

(thanks,, for the photo!)

The chile peppers are growing quickly in our garden. I watched no egrets pluck one small purple pepper off the stalk and eat it. “How is it?” I asked. “It’s a nice slow burn,” he said, as sweat started forming on his forehead.


We have found peppers easy to grow and beautiful on the vine. No egrets started them as seedlings and now they are ouside in pots. The longer you wait before harvesting them (or eating them straight from the vine), the hotter they get. Slicing up peppers is fun, but don’t touch anything until you wash your hands. The chile oil, called capsaicin, burns. Should you get chile oil on your face or on other sensitive areas, use rubbing alcohol to dull the burn. Aloe vera and yogurt are two other soothers.


Here are some tasty things to do with your harvest or CSA stash.

Heirloom Pico de Gallo

Take an assortment of heirloom tomatoes (Non-heirloom tomatoes work well too, just make sure they are local, otherwise you risk pale pink tomatoes with the consistency of celery.) and dice very finely. Chop up an onion (I prefer a red onion for this, no egrets prefers Vidalia onions) and as many of your home-grown peppers as you can stand. Add a clove or three of garlic. Put them in a bowl with a handful of cilantro. Douse liberally in lime juice.* Add a good dollop of olive oil. At this point I usually add cumin, paprika, and a little chili powder for a diversity of spiciness and leave it at that. You could also add salt and pepper.

*Lime note: I am not a true localvore, I just have localvore tendencies. To make this entirely local, you could use a local vinegar instead of lime. Green tomatoes can also add sourness.

Peach-Cucumber Salsa

(I adapted this from a recipe I found on Seasonal Chef)

Dice a bunch of peaches and a small cucumber. Add a bunch of cilantro, lime juice, 2 Tablespoons of apricot preserves, and as many home-grown peppers as you can stand. Sweet and spicy. No egrets says it’s all the rage these days.

No Egret’s Pad Thai Sauce

Saute 4 or 5 cloves of garlic and one Tablespoon of whole coriander in olive oil. Add your chile pepper of choice (sliced and seeded, if you want it milder, keep the seeds if you want it spicy). After the garlic gets all sizzly and light brown around the edges, deglaze the pan with 1/8 cup of rice wine vinegar. Add 1/8 cup of fish sauce and 1/8 cup of soy sauce. Add most of a jar of all natural peanut butter. Mix it all together and until the peanut butter becomes saucy.


Serve over one-and-a-half pounds of rice noodles. Add some combination of shrimp, tofu, chicken, julienned red peppers, bean sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts, cucumbers, and limes. It tastes good plain, too.



Weeds. It’s What’s for Dinner July 21, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 1:01 pm
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What’s a weed?  Everyone who’s ever had so much as a row of radishes knows that weeds are every gardener’s foe.  Weeds—those plants you are not trying to grow—even more than weather, neighbors who burn their brush pile under your black walnut tree, marauding deer, hedgehogs, and rabbits, are always a gardener’s problem.  They appear even if you haven’t had rain in three weeks, you’ve mulched heavily, or if your garden is simply a large mud puddle.  You, as the gardener, then feel guilty for not removing them or else grouchy from having spent 4 hours on your knees pulling them up.  Twice.  In the past week.  How can a gardener stay sane?


Unfortunately, a recent New York Times Magazine article kindly pointed out to us that the weeds are only going to get worse with increasing climate change. This does not bode well for gardens in the future, but there is one way to turn this twist of climate to your favor.  Two summers ago, my battle with weeds changed shape.  I started eating them.  If I was going to spend that much time dealing with them, I thought we’d better be getting something from it.  Most people know a few classic weeds are edible, but don’t bother separating them out.  I suggest that you do, particularly early in the season.  Here are a few options: