Blog Category: Farms

Selling seafood by the seashore on Martha’s Vineyard

Life on Martha’s Vineyard revolves around our relationship with the sea. We worry about making time to get to the beach, making boat reservations to get off-Island, and most importantly, making the most of the resources the ocean provides for us. This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight seafood as their Harvest of the Month–a sustainable and viable part of our Island economy and history, and a delicious and nutritious addition to our plates.

Hundreds of Island fishermen work through every season, in often dangerous conditions, to guarantee stocked local fish markets and restaurants. These men and women work to assure the livelihood of commercial fishing, and the future of Island fishing families and the trade.

If you don’t personally fish on Martha’s Vineyard you likely know someone that does. Drive by the Menemsha jetty most days and you’ll find fishing enthusiasts of all ages, ‘dropping lines’ into the water, maybe catching mackerel or fluke that they’ll use for lobster bait or that they’ll bake or bread for an easy fish fry. Drive by Edgartown harbor after sundown and you’ll see another contingent of locals jigging for squid. They’ll take it home, clean it, cut it, sauté it and have it for dinner, or even serve to their guests.


Scup is another commonly found fish, but it hasn’t historically been a popular fish to eat here. I was happy to see it recently featured on the menu at Port Hunter in Edgartown–an indication of the restaurant’s creativity and commitment to offering a local catch.  Conch has the same stigma, but Chef Deon Thomas is working to change that with the launch of his new cookbook, Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery, which will explore the range of  possibilities of cooking the affordable, sustainable mollusk.

As a food activist I was especially happy to provide my photography services for the book, part of my ongoing commitment to promoting sustainable food practices on Martha’sVineyard.


You can do your part to support the Island seafood economy by asking for the local catch at Island fish markets and restaurants. Quahogs, oysters, scallops, and mussels are especially important aquaculture and make for a delicious and nutritious dinner. IGS’ featured farm, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, works to preserve and expand the Island’s traditional shellfisheries by farming shellfish from from seed, and we thank them for it. Not only do we benefit from the food and economic boost, but these useful bivalves help provide us with cleaner seas–they serve as a sort of water filtration system, unintentionally ridding water of any pollutants present like herbicides or harmful bacteria.

 

Recently the group also began experimenting with sugar kelp, or seaweed, in hopes of bringing about a new enterprise on the Vineyard, it’s available in limited quantities on-Island so if you see it available you’re in luck!

Stay tuned for my new cookbook Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery by Chef Deon Thomas for more inspiration on enjoying local seafood.

 

Enjoy this Simple Fish Ceviche recipe from IGS

Ingredients:

3 haddock, sea bass or any white flakey fish filets

½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh ripe mango, chopped

¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

If using raw fish: Soak the fish in the lemon juice, lime juice, salt and pepper for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Then cut the fish into small ½ inch bites.

If using cooked fish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place fish filets in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes until fish is flaky and moist. When fish is done let it cool completely and cut into small ½ inch bites.

Place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and toss together with the fish until well combined. Place in refrigerator to marinate until ready to eat. Serve with tortilla chips and sliced avocado and enjoy!

We’re wild about wild edibles, April’s Harvest of the Month

Spring is upon us and we’re all hungry to get outside. After a long, dreary northeast winter we’re aching for some vitamin D and fresh food. Luckily our friends at Island Grown Schools are highlighting wild edibles as their Harvest of the Month and we’re happy to help them spread the word about delicious, locally available food you can find on Martha’s Vineyard–for free! Now’s the perfect time to get outside and get foraging, your mind and body will thank you.

There’s an air of secrecy that comes with foraging, similar to how the local fisherman are about revealing their spots–they’ll give you pointers and tell you what to look out for, but they’re not telling you exactly where to go. Likewise, we’ll share some tips and let you know what’s out there but it’s on you to hunt it down, plus the pursuit is half the fun! Just make sure you know exactly what you’re doing before you go eating things in the woods.

As a food activist I’ve always been a fan of foraging. Not only are there tremendous health benefits to locally sourced food, but foraging encourages resourcefulness and promotes food security. Plus a journey out to the beach or the woods to go picking brings you closer to the land and its offerings, as well as the seasons and our weather.

In Aquinnah foraging was a way of life, and for many it still is today. When we first moved to Martha’s Vineyard we resided in Gay Head and I became familiar with a lot of the locally available wild edibles. Resident gatherer Kristina Hook-Leslie is a local authority on wild edibles and has amassed a tremendous amount of knowledge since childhood, foraging for everything from wild carrots (Queen Anne’s Lace), to rose hips, grape leaves, sassafras, cranberries, beach plums and more. You can learn a lot just by watching this fantastic video of Kristina foraging in Aquinnah. Her advice for those who want to forage their own wild edibles is to do your homework–make sure you know what you’re picking and be respectful–take only what you need and give thanks to the plants before harvesting.

Personally, one of my favorite things to forage on-Island is stinging nettles. You’ve probably seen them, or accidentally brushed up against them (ouch!). They’re a prickly, leafy green that gets its name from the small, stiff hairs that cover them. They’re one of the first plants that arrive with spring and I’m always careful to wear gloves when picking. When cooked or dried, nettles completely lose their stinging property, making them perfectly safe for consumption. They’re high in vitamin A, C, full of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium as well as being a high source of protein. They have an earthy wholesome flavor, making them the perfect addition to smoothies, eggs, omelettes, or quiches–you can basically use them in place of spinach or a similar leafy green.

Another thing I do in spring is scout out beach plum plants. They grow all over the Island, along our roadsides, backyards and beaches, and I take note of the most abundant flowers–this later translates to bearing the most plentiful fruit. I then return in late August or early September, when the fruits turn to a deep purple color. My husband Philippe and I use them to make cordial and jam for the holidays. Like most fruits they are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, and can help strengthen the immune system and lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.

There really are so many wild edibles with impressive health benefits on Martha’s Vineyard, ready for the picking if you know where to look. Obviously we have our namesake grape vines, and there’s no shortage of wild grapes. The grape’s fruit can be eaten raw (just watch out for the seeds) or turned into jams, jellies or wine. And the bountiful grape leaves are perfect for stuffing–steam them and stuff with rice or fish. Rose hips are also scattered about, and the hearty fruit of the rose plant can be turned into jams, and jellies, as well as soup, tea or stewed with meat–plus they’re also a great source of vitamin C.

Rampant too on-Island is sassafras, popularly used for tea or root beer, while providing a boost to the immune system or anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin. Lastly, purslane and dandelions are two popular greens most people trample over without giving second thought, and they can both be eaten raw or added to salads and soups for an extra dose of vitamins.

Feeling inspired to step outside and get picking? Just make sure you always know what you are harvesting before you eat it. Island Grown Schools recommends “that you go with someone who is experienced, as some pictures of edible plants can be misleading. And make sure you know the rules about picking wild plants in your area. For example on Martha’s Vineyard fiddleheads should not be harvested because some species are rare and can be difficult to identify, but they are often available at Cronig’s.”

If you’re interested in learning more about wild edibles check out this story I collaborated on with Holly Bellebuono and Catherine Walthers for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

Feeling adventurous? Try this wild edible recipe from Island Grown Schools:

Watercress Chimichurri

Ingredients:

1 cup watercress, tightly packed (if foraged- wash well and discard stems)

1 garlic clove

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

¼ cup sherry vinegar

½ cup olive oil

¾ tsp honey

½ tsp kosher salt or sea salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Place watercress, garlic, red pepper flakes, honey and vinegar in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed (or you can finely chop everything by hand and combine with the vinegar.)

Transfer to a small bowl and add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Combine well. Store in refrigerator until ready to eat. Serve with your favorite sourdough bread or over roasted veggies, tofu, cooked fish, chicken or steak. Enjoy!

 

Randi Baird is a founding member and president of Island Grown Initiative’s Board of Directors and has long been committed to promoting local, sustainable food choices on Martha’s Vineyard.

What spring brings: Life, light and love!

Spring has officially arrived, and I couldn’t be happier–there’s actually a spring in my step. The weather hasn’t quite caught up yet but I’m patiently waiting for the temperatures to rise and the flowers to start blooming. The solitude of winter on Martha’s Vineyard has begun to dissipate, and a noticeable shift in the tempo of the Island is upon us. Spring brings new life and new opportunities, and as far as I’m concerned this is the most wonderful time of the year. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this season:

1. Planting my garden – While the temperatures are still too cold to be planting outside, I’ve been getting things going indoors. Fortunately I have access to an unheated greenhouse, or tunnel, that allows me to begin planting seeds in preparation for moving them outdoors once the weather turns. The tunnel is available to our entire neighborhood and I take full advantage of it, especially during the winter months, by eating kale, mache, chard and arugula.


At the beginning of the month I began by planting spinach, leeks and lettuce–vegetables that can withstand the cooler temperatures. If you’re looking to get your own seeds started I’m a big fan of Johnny Seeds and Fruition Seeds, online retailers of organic, non-GMO seeds that yield beautiful, healthy plants. On Martha’s Vineyard you can also pick up seed packs at our local nurseries including Donaroma’s, SBS, Middletown, and Vineyard Gardens.


Get your own seeds started by referencing Johnny Seeds helpful seed-starting date calculator, which figures out when it’s safe to plant early crops outside based on your area’s last frost date. I’d also recommend picking up a copy of Simple Green Suppers, my cookbook with author Susie Middleton, to get inspired by all of the delicious, veggie based meals she shares. Before you know it the plants will be thriving and I’ll be enjoying a fresh, colorful summer salad with my bounty.

2. Flowers in bloom – I just love when I’m out walking or driving around and bursts of daffodils start to appear, and the purple climbing vines of wisteria, or the arching branches and bright yellow buds of forsythia pop up around town. And the lilac, oh the lilac. It grows like weeds on Martha’s Vineyard and the fragrant, sweet smell is intoxicating.


There’s just something so peaceful and comforting about spring flowers, especially after a harsh New England winter–these natural pops of color simply spread a smile across my face. When I want a real flower fix I head to Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury, one of my favorite places to visit and shoot in the spring. I could spend a whole day just walking the grounds snapping photos of their diverse collection, like their famous North Tisbury azaleas, crabapples, rhododendrons, and magnolias. It’s a great place to breathe deeply, connect with nature, and go to recharge. While the season is still in flux I get my indoor flower fix at Morrice Florist in Vineyard Haven, during their Tulip Tuesday events. Every Tuesday through April they offer fresh bunches of tulips for only $10, a simple pleasure and the price is right! 


3. Shedding some layers – Sure, I love the cozy comforts of winter fashion, but I’ll happily shed my warm sweaters and scarves for lighter, more colorful layers. I’m especially looking forward to the new spring fashion designs from my friend Stina Sayre, a talented, Swedish designer who’s known for the form, function and quality of her versatile pieces. Stina’s spring collections often focus on bright colors and vivid patterns, and after a season of drab, dark colors a few new pieces will be a refreshing addition to my wardrobe.


Another spring fashion treat calls for a scenic drive up to Menemsha to Pandora’s Box, an eclectic boutique of fabulous finds, where beachy meets Vineyard chic and my inner shopaholic let’s loose. Pandora’s Box doesn’t reopen until May but I’m already counting down.


4. Longer days and more light – We can all appreciate the longer days, but as a photographer prolonged, natural light is critical to me and my work. I’m in constant pursuit of the best quality light for my subjects. I love the light in the mornings and late afternoons, as the sun is still rising up and then making its way back down. The added daylight just makes me happier in general, not to mention the warmer temperatures of spring make for tolerable, frequent outdoor shoots.


5. Wedding season – The Island continues to be a sought-after destination for weddings and our popular wedding seasons are typically spring and fall, known as the “shoulder seasons.” As Martha’s Vineyard wedding photographers, our spring wedding season typically gears up in April and this year we’re looking forward to seeing what’s the latest in wedding trends and meeting new couples that are lucky in love. The rebirth of spring corresponds nicely to the new beginnings of the many couples who marry this time of year. Spring is life and life is love!



February’s Harvest of the Month: What’s all the buzz about honey?

Our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight a locally available crop on Martha’s Vineyard as part of their Harvest of the Month program and this month it’s honey, honey. As a beekeeper for over eight years honeybees have a special place in my heart, and in my diet. I first became inspired to keep bees after reading The Secret Life of Bees and understanding just how marvelous (and truly democratic!) they are.

Honey is a superfood with super powers, and its creation is an amazing process that requires intense efficiency and perfectly orchestrated teamwork on behalf of the hive. These incredible creatures buzz about, foraging sugary nectar and pollen from the plants and flowers they visit, while staying within only a few miles of their hive. They store their findings in a special part of their stomach where it’s not digested (unless they’re hungry and require some for energy) and they’re capable of carrying almost as much as their own weight–a pretty impressive feat among the animal kingdom.


Then, once a bee’s nectar sac is full they return to their hive to pass off the substance, where it’s transported mouth-to-mouth from bee to bee. Enzymes in the bees’ stomachs turn the nectar into a simple syrup, then other bees vigorously fan it with their wings until it becomes the thick, golden honey we’re used to seeing. Bees store the honey in a honeycomb and seal the top with wax that they also produce. Meanwhile, the coveted queen bee concentrates on laying eggs, ensuring the legacy of the hive by producing new bees. Just listening to the whole process sounds exhausting, hence the expression “busy as a bee.”

Bees truly are one of our greatest natural assets–and they don’t just produce honey. They’re critical to the entire world’s food production and ecosystem health. They pollinate a majority of the crops that provide most of the world’s food. Without bees we’d be without apples, potatoes, broccoli, avocado, celery, cauliflower, onions, cabbage, cucumbers, lemon… the list goes on.

More than ever we must respect the bee population and appreciate the goodness of honey. It’s been linked to some pretty impressive health benefits including healthy weight management, helping to prevent cancer and heart disease, providing energy and allergy relief, promoting antioxidants and restful sleep, wound healing, reducing diabetes, strengthening the immune system and acting as a cough suppressant, among others. It’s pretty sweet that we have access to such benefits both naturally and deliciously.


On Martha’s Vineyard we get to enjoy the delicious yields of Island Bee Company, a local business that collects between 1500 and 3000 thousands pounds of honey annually, from towns all across the Island. As a beekeeper myself it’s a process I value wholeheartedly. In my house we’ll use raw honey in place of white sugar, and we’ll put it in our tea, in our smoothies, on our ice cream, and even in our salad dressing. My husband suffers from seasonal allergies and he starts each day with one of our farm fresh eggs, toast, and a spoonful of local honey to help keep his symptoms at bay. The theory is that by ingesting the local pollen in your local honey you can become less sensitive to the pollen in the air, therefore experiencing fewer effects of seasonal allergies.

Whether you have allergies or are looking for an easy route to improved general health (and who isn’t?) make sure to get your hands on some raw local honey and incorporate it into your daily diet, we promise your insides will thank you.

If you need some inspiration to get started check out IGI’s mouthwatering recipe for Honey Golden Milk below. And if you’re looking for additional insight into the mind of the honeybee and what more we can learn from their decision-making pick up a copy of Honeybee Democracy–in our political climate it’s more significant than ever.

 

Honey Golden Milk

Ingredients:

2 cups milk of choice (dairy, almond, coconut, soy)

1.5 tbl raw, local honey

1 tsp powdered turmeric

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tbl coconut oil (optional)

Directions:

Place all ingredients, except honey, in a small pot over medium heat.

Whisk together and bring to a boil and then let simmer on low for 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in honey.

Strain into cups and enjoy! It is delicious cold as well, just let cool and store in refrigerator.

 

Randi Baird is a founding member and president of Island Grown Initiative’s Board of Directors and has long been committed to promoting local, sustainable food choices on Martha’s Vineyard. 

Simple Green Suppers ~ A New Cookbook

Randi Baird Photography is excited to announce the release of the Simple Green Suppers cookbook published by Roost Books! A collaboration between yours truly and writer, cook and Vineyard farmer Susie Middleton focusing on healthy one-dish vegetarian meals. Susie is a seasoned four-time cookbook author, and her most recent book Fresh from the Farm  was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Cookbooks of 2014. Susie and I have previously collaborated on food articles in multiple publications including Martha’s Vineyard Magazine and Cape Code Life. Susie was an inspiration to work with, we ended up sampling most everything we photographed and the recipes were fresh, distinctive and delicious.
Roost will be releasing Simple Green Suppers on April 11, 2017 and you can preorder on Amazon by clicking here.

A few productions stills from our photography sessions. Food preparation by Amy Miller.