Persephone’s six pomegranate seeds have been eaten and so we must enter the long tunnel of winter. (See Bulfinch’s Mythology). (Ironically, pomegranate season is just getting underway.) Our consolations are many, including that light at the end of the tunnel you’ve heard so much about. The days start getting longer on the first day of winter.
The big players of the fall are 1) brassicas, that amazing genus (genius?) of the mustard family, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Romanesco, Brussels sprouts, collards and kale, 2) squashes and pumpkins of many shapes, colors and sizes, 3) root vegetables, such as parsnips, radishes, beets, carrots and sweet potatoes, and 4) apples and their cousins, quince and pear.
The frost held off in our region until fairly late in the year, allowing tomatoes, grapes and green beans to linger in the markets through October.
The most interesting event of our foraging endgame was the gathering of wild and untreated apple trees for Bubby’s by Franklin Forager, Franklin, NY (Delaware County). [Read more about this here.] This was, for many, the best apple harvest in our region in living memory. Frosts had decimated the apple crops in many colder parts of the northeast for three of the last four years. Apple trees remember these things and make an effort to compensate for such losses. Many trees broke from the exceptional weight of the fruit built up by this year’s exceptional conditions. Nearly a ton of these apples were juiced at Bubby’s, producing prodigious amounts of cider, some of which was served as wild foraged apple cider in addition to the 30 gallons now being fermented into apple cider vinegar. This last transformation could take until May.
Here is a list of farms and farm markets that contributed to our table, along with some of the dishes they went into:
Frog Pond Farms, Bainbridge, NY (Chenango County):
- Brussels Sprouts
- Northern Spy apples
Finger Lakes Farms (a distributor for about 30 farms and artisanal processors from central New York):
- Quince: for making quince jelly.
- Romanesco broccoli: an ingredient in the Roasted Vegetable Plate. See the recipe for Mixed Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Platter
- Beefsteak tomatoes
- Cauliflower: malolactic pickles (see A Disambiguation of Fermentation) and the Roasted Vegetable Plate
- Acorn squash
- Butternut squash
Troncillito Farm, Marlboro, NY (Ulster County):
- Grapes: for grape soda and grape jelly
Toigo Orchard, Shippensburg, PA (Cumberland County):
- Jonagold apples: pie and pastry
- Bosc pears: pie and pastry
Prospect Hill Orchards, Milton, NY (Ulster County):
- Jonagold apples
Migliorelli Farm, Tivoli, NY (Duchess County) (see our profile of this amazing operation):
- Gala apples: apple juice
- Green beans: Stewed Green Beans
- Bartlett pears: Pear Cranberry Crumble Pie
- Carrots: Walnut Raisin Carrot Cake, Vegetable Chili
- Parsnips: Carrot and Parsnip Soup
Race Farm, Blairstown, NJ (Warren County):
- Italian plums: Fruit Salad
S & SO Produce Farms, Goshen, NY (Orange County):
- Spinach: Market Salad and spinach sides
Van Houten Farms, Orangeburg, NY (Rockland County):
- Sweet potatoes: Sweet Potato Fries, Sweet Potato Hash
- Brussels sprouts: Sweet Potato Hash, Roasted Vegetable Plate
- Acorn, Delicata and Kabocha squashes: Roasted Vegetable Plate
- Butternut squash: Curried Butternut Squash Soup, Vegetable Chili
- Beefsteak tomatoes
- Sugar pumpkins: pumpkin pies
Phillips Farm, Milford, NJ (Hunterdon County):
- Fennel: malolactic pickles, Roasted Vegetable Plate
- Purple Cauliflower
- Collard greens
- Beets: Farmers Market Beet Salad
- Acorn and Butternut squashes
- Yellow carrots: Roasted Vegetable Plate
- Sugar pumpkins
- Brussels sprouts
Trussbridge Farm, South Fallsburg, NY (Sullivan County):
- Kale: Kale Salad
The fast pace of finding and exploiting midsummer local farm products continued through August until the very end of the summer. Very few areas of our region had yet to experience a frost right through the end of September, though cooler temperatures and some fungal blights caused by unusual wetness slowed the production of some crops, particularly tomatoes and Kirby cucumbers, as the summer coasted into a mild autumn. In general, the heat and heavy rains that marked this year made for some spectacular results for late summer/early autumn crops. Apples and pumpkins arrived early to market and were of exceptional size.
A number of farms that contributed to our seasonal ingredients in the first part of the summer (as described in the June/July entry), continued to do so in August and September:
Bubby’s continued to get a wide variety of items from Migliorelli Farm, adding parsnips, Bartlett pears, radishes and Ginger Gold apples to the year’s list of purchases.
S & SO Produce Farms sold us green tomatoes and zucchini in addition to the products listed in the June/July Foraging Journal entry.
Toigo Orchards added Bartlett Pears to a continuing supply of peaches and nectarines.
The extremely capable and diverse Phillips Farm supplied a wide range of fruit and produce, including more of the berries we received in early summer, eggplant, collard greens, beets, Beefsteak tomatoes, Honey Crisp apples, acorn squash, French Crisp lettuce and red bell peppers.
Trussbridge Farm continued to provide Bubby’s with kale, still the flavor of the month after many, many months.
New suppliers in August and September included:
Troncillito Farm in Marlboro, NY (Ulster County): Concord grapes.
Van Houten Farm, Orangeville PA (Columbia County): Sweet potatoes.
John D. Madura Farm, Pine Island NY (Orange County): Red leaf lettuce.
Sandy Acres Farm, Lawrenceville, NJ (Mercer County): Watermelon, cantaloupe, broccoli.
Sycamore Lane Farms, White Plains, NY (Westchester County): Broccoli, cauliflower.
Red Jacket Orchards, Geneva, NY (Seneca County): Ginger Gold apples.
Pineland Farms, Trenton, NJ (Burlington County): Heirloom tomatoes.
Race Farm, Blairstown, NJ (Warren County): Italian plums.
Russo’s Orchard Land Farm, Chesterfield, NJ (Burlington County): Cucumbers, jalapeno chiles, sweet corn.
Pie in the Sky, Otego, NY (Otsego County): Goliath Tomatoes
One unique farm stand in Bainbridge, NY (Chenango County), Frog Pond Farms, was a source for Rambo apples (an old variety, nothing to do with Sylvester Stallone), 20 Ounce Pippins (as you might guess, really big apples), watermelon, cantaloupes, tomatoes, Niagara grapes, peaches, nectarines, and bell peppers. Frog Pond is the only farm stand in the region we know of that routinely sells fruit and produce by the bushel and peck to retail customers. Another interesting thing about it is that customers are encouraged to freely taste and sample any item for sale.
Franklin Forager, Franklin NY (Delaware County) brought untreated Gravenstein, Cortland and Northern Spy apples, for juice and pie, as well at foraged wild apples of used to make an apple cider.
Finally, Bubby’s sponsored a garden in Franklin NY that grew a wonderful variety of heirloom tomatoes used in salads, for soup and to make Heirloom Green Tomato Pie.
Some of the other interesting special menu items based on these seasonal fruits and vegetables were:
- Raspberry Johnny Cakes
- Peach Muffins, Peach and Nectarine Jams, Peach Sundaes, Peach Pop Tarts, Peach Crumble Pie, Peach Scones and Peach Blossom Cocktail
- Pear Cranberry Crumble
- Fruit Salad
- Grape Soda and Grape Jelly
- Carrot and Parsnip Soup
- Walnut Raisin Carrot Cake
- Creamed Corn Soup
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Fried Green Tomato BLT Sandwich
- Heirloom Tomato Soup
- Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich (see recipe)
Our region experienced an unusual first half of the summer, with extraordinary quantities of rain in many places and extreme heat everywhere. The results for local fruit and produce has been weirdly mixed; corn and peaches thrive under these conditions, tomatoes and peppers generally do not.
The lion’s share of Bubby’s foraging is made possible by that brilliant addition to the life of New York, the NYC Greenmarket system, which brings dozens of the most creative and resourceful farmers in this region into the heart of the city, to Union Square especially. Without the critical mass of the Greenmarket, restaurants like Bubby’s could not manage the logistics of trading with many of the farmers we work with, particularly the smaller and more specialized operations. Nevertheless, Bubby’s van does travel on foraging expeditions throughout the growing season, most often to the Trenton, New Jersey area, to buy from Jersey and Pennsylvania growers who do not routinely bring their crops to New York City.
Bubby’s has relied heavily this year, as we did last year, on three farms with very diverse programs: Russo Fruit & Vegetable Farm of Tabernacle, NJ, Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli, NY and Phillips Farms of Milford NJ. All three grow dozens of crops and participate intensely in marketing to wholesale and retail customers. In addition, Nikki Russo acts as an agent for other farmers in her area to supply customers like Bubby’s with items Russo’s does not grow itself.
Through July, Bubby’s has purchased the following from Russo’s:
- sweet corn
- tomatoes, green and ripe
- cherry tomatoes
- collard greens
- sweet potatoes (last year’s)
- white onions
- kirby cucumbers
- yellow summer squash
- pole beans
Migliorelli has provided:
- Romano beans
- Green beans
- small purple potatoes
- small red potatoes
- wax beans
- purple Haze carrots
- rainbow radishes
- green bell peppers
- yellow summer squash
- Sugar Cube cantaloupes
- sugar snap peas
- mustard greens
Phillips Farms sold us tour first local strawberries of the year in mid-June, followed by red and black raspberries, blackberries, red currants, blueberries, cantaloupes and watermelons.
Other providers include:
Berried Treasures Farm in Cooks Falls, NY, which supplied early red and purple potatoes, strawberries, basil, oregano, and sugar snap peas.
Terhune Orchards, Duchess County, with sweet and sour cherries.
Toigo Orchards in Shippenberg, PA, which has sold us peaches, plums, nectarines and Aphrodite cantaloupes.
Norwich Meadows Farm, located in Norwich, NY, provided us with a variety of beans, including cranberry beans, purple Velour beans, Romano and wax beans; also, Kirby cucumbers and fairy eggplants, as well as a virtual rainbow of peppers, green, red, yellow, white, banana, cherry and jalapeno.
S & SO Produce Farms of Goshen, NY grew arugula, Swiss chard, basil, carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes and miniature eggplant.
Among the many unusual and interesting crops that local farmers are introducing to the market are micro-greens and vegetable blossoms that most of us have never seen or tasted. Bubby’s purchased a variety of these, including mizuna (a peppery green with fringed leaves), tatsoi (a hardy brassica with spoon-shaped leaves), dandelion greens, sorrel (an herb green that is popular in many parts of the world), pea sprouts, radish blossoms, kale blossoms and arugula blossoms. Remarkably, Bubby’s has bought all of them at different times this summer from two growers who come to the city on different days, Bodhitree Farm, from Burlington County, NJ and Windfall Farm in Orange County, NY.
A number of other local farmers have contributed something here and there to Bubby’s seasonal foraging of our foodshed, but one other supplier should be mentioned here, Blue Moon Fish of Mattituck, NY, which works through its own calendar of local ”crops”. Our summer buys from Blue Moon have been Littleneck clams, squid and red hake, which is sold and put on our menu as “scrod”.
Another seasonal provider of sorts is Trembley Apiaries in Chemung County, NY. We use their Linden and Summerflower Honeys in an “immune booster” drink, our granola, and it goes on tables in cute little bear squeeze bottles.
How have other foraged items worked there way through Bubby’s kitchen and onto its menus and plates? Many of the vegetables, such as the fairy eggplant have been an element of a “Market Vegetable Plate” entrée that evolves and changes with the availability of ingredients. Many of the greens have contributed to a “Market Salad” that reflects what is fresh and interesting from the fields. The blossoms have generally ended up as garnishes.
Cherries and currants have been the base for seasonal sodas. Bubby’s also used cherries in a cherry lime ice. Sugar Cube cantaloupe has been used as the flavor of a dessert ice. Blackberries and blueberries have been the bases of special gin fizzes. Strawberries and blackberries have been processed into jam. In addition, strawberries were made into ice cream and pie and used as a topping for tiny Swedish pancakes and French toast. Pureed watermelon was an ingredient in another gin drink called an “Oklahoma Summer”. Nectarines and plums were used in a special summer sangria.
Peaches have been made into pies and into cobblers in combination with blackberries. See recipe.
We have pickled a spectrum of peppers that have shown up on s striped bass special and in a potato salad.
Green tomatoes have been fried and pickled paired with pickled watermelon rind as a side dish. Pickled watermelon rind has served as the base of a chow-chow.
Kirby cucumbers were pickled as company for the hamburgers.
The summer squash and zucchini have been turned into squash fritters and in a special Veggie Romesco sandwich.
Eggplants have been served as part of an eggplant Parmesan sandwich.
One interesting thing we did with corn on the cob was to smoke it in our barbecue pit and serve it with a Mexican cheese aoli.
Mustard greens were a topping for a special chicken and biscuit sandwich.
And so the days lengthen in the northern hemisphere and another cycle of seasonal foods gets underway. This part of spring always seems to gain traction with agonizing reluctance but this year is clearly off to a better start than 2012, with its warm “winter”, March heat waves and brutal April frosts that damaged up to 90% of our regional apple and stone fruit crops.
The very first forage of the year is maple sap, which had a really strong March this year to contrast with last year’s disastrous yields. Bubby’s offered maple sap as a beverage just as it comes from the tree or slightly concentrated by removing layers of ice from the tops of sap buckets as the Algonquian people did in pre-Columbian days. We also used the sap for poaching wild Atlantic salmon, which we served with root vegetables. Of course, we are a bit sick and tired of roots by this time but fresh maple sap always reminds us that winter has been defeated, so roots seem perfectly welcome as part of the introduction to spring.
In mid-April we spotted some weirdly early asparagus from New Jersey and the first local strawberries (certainly greenhouse grown) appeared at the Greenwich Street Greenmarket. We grabbed what we could of these to make buttermilk strawberry ice cream. It is unusual to find local strawberries before local rhubarb, which, as of the first week of May, has not yet arrived. We did find rhubarb from Virginia that we juiced to make a very well received rhubarb-ade.
Ramps, our local species of wild leeks, began to arrive from Franklin Forager of Delaware County in the beginning of May. Ramps are the signature foraged food of Appalachian spring. They are a truly wild plant that cannot be farmed away from a very particular set of conditions found in on local slopes of hardwood forest. Bubby’s uses ramps with a vengeance. So far, they have been an ingredient in a maple/ham omelet; they have been served in ramp butter to accompany strip steak; sautéed ramps have been included in the vegetable platter and as a steak side; pickled ramp bulbs are part of a goat cheese salad and a potato salad; ramps are one of the lilies in our Seven Lily soup and they are found in a pork sausage also flavored with parmigiano cheese.
A late arrival in May, also from Franklin Forager, was wild watercress. Wild watercress is found in the water along the edges of brooks and is quite a bit sharper and more peppery than the domestic variety. It will make its way into a variety of salads and perhaps a cold soup.
Another welcome aspect of spring for us is the return of local seafood. Blue Moon Fish brings its first fish and shellfish to the City in March after a winter hiatus. We have served their Little Neck clams (with a ramp and white wine sauce, of course) and their scrod (red hake) as the main ingredient in fish tacos. Another gift of spring has been “free range” trout from Esopus Creek in the Catskills, fish that are grown in screened-off pens in the freely flowing creek. These trout are brought to us by Sullivan County Farms.
Just as pomegranates from California begin appearing in markets, the major fruits of the harvest in our area begin to dwindle down to root vegetables and what the greenhouses can provide. There is some poetry in this, considering that Persephone condemned our world to a season of darkness and infertility when she ate a few pomegranate seeds as Hades’ captive in the underworld.
Nevertheless, we do our best to extend the harvest of our local farms as far as possible into the gathering gloom. Once again, we relied on Phillips Farm and Migliorelli Farm for most of our ‘farm to table’ ingredients. Bubby’s late purchases, from the middle of October until the end of November, were:
-Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, both of which were, along with bacon, major ingredients in a sweet potato hash.
-Purple carrots, carrot-colored carrots, baby cabbage, fennel and parsnips, all of which appeared on our constantly mutating roasted vegetable plate.
-Broccoli rabe and mustard greens; the former went inside a lamb meatball sandwich while the latter was served as part of a fried chicken and biscuit sandwich.
-We pickled banana peppers as part of cheesesteak sandwich.
-We made butternut squash into a soup, as well as serving it as a steak side.
-Mutsu and Braeburn apples in combination were the basis of pies, turnovers and apple cider.
-Everyone’s favorite, kale, was the main ingredient in a special salad that we featured for weeks.
-We used the celery root that came attached to bunches of celery stalks in a gratin with mashed potatoes.
‘Foraging’, the term we use to describe our search for ingredients that are directly obtained from the farms, fields, streams and woods of the New York foodshed, can be extended to include the seafood we buy from Blue Moon Fish. In October and November, these included red hake, for scrod fish tacos, squid, and finally herring, 100 pounds of which we filleted and pickled for use in December.
In fact, local apples, root vegetables, cabbages and other well-storing produce will soldier on through the winter and early spring. The first event of the new foraging year, besides maple syrup, will be wild leeks (or ramps) that emerge from the forest floor of our Appalachian ranges in late April.
Late September through mid-October is an interesting month in the local/seasonal game, sort of the playoffs, if you will. Some of the high summer crops are still around, tomatoes, lettuce, even corn, and the fall fruits and vegetables start to seriously settle in: apples, grapes, pumpkins, parsnips, garlic, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and all their relations.
We have relied heavily on our three mainstay farms this past month, Migliorelli Farm in the Hudson Valley, Phillips Farms in Milford, NJ and Russo Fruit & Vegetable Farm of Tabernacle, NJ. Migliorelli and Phillips work through the Union Square Greenmarket; Russo sells through the Trenton Farmers Market, also a very serious greenmarket with many active participants. Russo Farm now often acts as a conduit for Bubby’s for fruit and produce from other central New Jersey farms. All three of these farms are very diversified and energetic operations.
Migliorelli Farm has supplied Bubby’s with mustard greens, broccoli rabe, Swiss chard, carrots, beets and salad greens, as well as apples and pears.
We have gotten fennel, Russian and red kale, Brussels sprouts, baby eggplants and carrots, and collard greens from Phillips Farms. We just got the last of Phillip’s field tomatoes for this year. From here on, the hothouses take over.
Nicky Russo arranged for Bubby’s to get late sweet corn, turnips, zucchini, spaghetti squash, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and the last batches their field tomatoes from her own farm and neighboring farms. Russo also provided several varieties of apples, Macouns, Macintosh, Golden Delicious and Cripps Pinks.
This has been an odd apple season. The quality of the crop is outstanding, with larger and firmer fruit than in most years, but the regional crop itself is much smaller than usual, not because of a late frost in April but because of freakishly warm weather in March. The ‘œyear without a winter’, as the last one is now known, tricked many trees into flowering well before normal, making them vulnerable to absolutely ordinary deep frosts in April. Orchards in upstate New York and in other major apple-growing states, from Maine to Michigan to Washington, experienced some of their worst frost losses since 1945. This is the third year of the last four that some areas of the Catskills have gone without apples. A mid-summer drought also affected virtually every apple-growing state, resulting, interestingly, in fruit with more concentrated sweetness and flavor than is usual. Bubby’s apple-based specials this month have included apple soda, Jewish-style apple-walnut coffee cake, Macoun apple pop tarts and buckwheat pancakes with sautéeed Macouns, in addition to pie.
We made really large buys of Concord grapes for the past month from Stone Arch Farms of Schuyler County, about one hundred pounds per week, though the season is closing out now, the middle of October. (Concords are the only important variety of grapes native to the United States.) Bubby’s has made really large batches of Concord grape jelly, eight to ten gallons a week, for the past month or so. Concord grape soda has been a special over the same period.
Another occasional supplier this month has been the unusual Frog Pond Farms in Bainbridge, NY, just west of the fringe of the Catskill Mountains. Frog Pond grows some crops, but its main activity is selling products from other farms and orchards within a day’s drive of Bainbridge. Frog Pond specializes in marketing all kinds of produce and fruit, peppers, beets, potatoes, apples, peaches, tomatoes, in bushels, pecks and boxes to retail customers. Often the prices are incredibly low. Early fall buys from Frog Pond have been green tomatoes, Brussels sprouts on the stalk (like 50 tiny cabbages festooned on a trunk of broccoli), cheese pumpkins (for pies), Hubbard squash (potentially the largest and most gnarly vegetable of all), Crispin and Fortune apples.
Fried green tomatoes are not just a way to use a failed tomato but really great on their own terms. We also made green tomatoes pie with a lot of the same spices one might put in an apple pie with really good results.
Seasonal foraging has resulted in some interesting early fall dishes on the specials menu.
Fresh pumpkin pie is actually a rarity, even in the best bakeries and even at the height of pumpkin season. Almost all pumpkin pies are made from canned pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin pie filling. This year, we have made fresh pumpkin pie for several weeks, benefiting from the excellent pumpkin crop this year and a much better idea for preparing the pumpkin pie filling. For years, previously, we would make our filling from boiled pumpkin; now, we bake the pumpkin before pureeing it with greatly improved results.
This is a high point of the year for our market vegetable plate, which is served throughout the year with seasonal roasted and braised vegetables, along with several grains and a couple of sauces. October versions have included these unusual heads of baby cabbage, baby eggplant and spaghetti squash.
Other fall crop specials have been James Beard’s parsnip soup and sweet potato/Brussels sprouts hash.
We have taken advantage of the fall return of really excellent local oysters supplied by Blue Moon Fish to make an extraordinarily rich dark gumbo, the base of which is an intense seafood broth that also includes head-on shrimp Blue Moon’s clams.
As a boy growing up in Utah, Ron was an amateur explorer, the de Soto of Salt Lake City. He imagined his route home from school as a kind of adventure game, sniffing out the best paths based on impulse and curiosity, rambling through woods and fields, swatting sap beetles and grabbing ears of corn to nibble for sustenance. When spying on the stout farmer’s wife one April, he found a knotty bunch of vines packed with tender English peas in the bush where he hid. They gave way to his gnashing teeth with a sweet, delightful burst, and proved even more appealing when gathered in a bunch and stomped on. In September, he laid claim to a tree on a nearby property full of tiny dangling crab apples that tasted terribly bitter, but proved ideal for chucking at oncoming traffic, and another tree loaded with larger, sweeter fruit, equally fine for lobbing at his sister’s head. And so a fledgling forager was born, armed with the tools he’d need to navigate his surroundings and reap the fruit of the seasons.
Ron’s keen nose, tastebuds, and sense of mischief led him to begin charting an instinctive map of the bounty of the landscape. Today, he brings that mental map along on trips to the farmer’s market and when planning out the week’s menu at Bubby’s.
As part of the Bubby’s quest to defend the tradition of American dining and protect our fellow gastronomes from falling back on factory-raised beef or big box produce, Ron will share his expectations, disappointments and reflections from the market to keep you informed of what’s going on with our local farms, how we plan to use the gems we come across, and what to anticipate in the coming season. We’ll be checking in every month or so to let you know what’s new with Bubby’s and the producers and distributors we work with, and any other cool stuff that comes up along the way.
By starting a conversation about where our food is coming from and who grows it, we hope you’ll learn a little about the way Bubby’s works and a lot about how to cook and eat with good intention, proactively utilizing the abundance available to all who plot out their own path on this great green globe.
We’re using the term ‘foraging’ here a little loosely, actually, to refer to our efforts to find seasonal ‘farm to table’ ingredients from the farms, fields, woods and waters of our local foodshed. For us, the foraging year begins in late April with wild leeks (or ramps) from nearby Appalachian hills and wild watercress from clean, upland streams. It ends with the root vegetables of late Fall and the herring from Blue Moon Fish in December. The Journal gets a late start in this venue, starting with our Final Entry and going back through only the penultimate report of September-October 15. In 2013, we’ll gather the whole year here. – Allegra Ben-Amptz