"Land snails spend most of their time in the leaf litter layer. There, they consume the dead and decaying vegetation, helping to decompose it. With the nutrient-rich feces they leave behind, snails play a role in soil formation. As environmental clean-up crews, snails’ nutrient-cycling activity extends also to fungi, and some species even specialize as consumers of dead animals. From insects to mammals, snails and slugs rasp away at soft tissues, leaving exoskeletons and bones clean, all the while enriching the soil with their droppings." -Marla Coppolino
Another a bit of snail magic: some species pollinate wild ginger and trillium when few other pollinators are out on those wet early spring days!
Read more on "The Nature and Microcosm of Snails" here.
Thanks for your patience with this week's menu release! You'll find local mushroom duxelles with ground elder, black walnut shortbread and an herby, black garlic, sunchoke salad.
Looking forward to feeding you!
My sunchokes arrived by way of Vermont today from Pete’s Greens. I’m starting to hold these tubers with the same affection I have for potatoes. They may have an earthy acquired flavor, but I believe the tremendous joy they bring to my digestive system has flipped a switch, the microbes are starting to file requests, and I crave them. I’ve been probing for local(ish) sources ever since my cache ran out this winter.
They’re very easy to grow but you need a solid storage system. Well, it doesn’t have to be perfect, actually. The place I used to live I’d store mine in an unheated front porch entryway and a few times they froze solid. I thought they’d be gonners in the way potatoes don’t survive a hard freeze but they were fine!
A checkout line chat sharing praise for sunchokes, concluded with my neighbor declaring sunchokes an ideal zombie apocalypse food. She’s right, they’re a (native) perennial staple food that grows easily and benefits from being harvested. Not to mention a viable summertime privacy screen if you’re looking to stack functions. I finally got some in the ground last fall and their little leafy heads poking out of the ground this spring makes me feel tucked in and safe. Thanks sunchokes.
Last week in class we were exploring the gut microbiome and the new wave of methods to test for specific strains and imbalances. The vastness of villages, improbable cooperation, and micro-dramas playing out inside of us is astounding. There are more bacteria bodies inside me than stars in the milky way and we barely “know” anything about it.
Frankly, studying the microbiome is overwhelming. It’s so fresh and new and there’s constant revisioning, but certain things are clear. We know that some of the species that do good deeds in our colon just adore inulin. And guess what?! Sunchokes are loaded with inulin. Get down with sunchokes and you’ll go a long way to befriend your digestive system.
My parents grow them and slice them up like chips in their air fryer. It has almost convinced me to get an air fryer. I don’t know why diners don't sell these chips across the country instead of fries. Someone start a petition please.
This week's menu includes a sunchoke dip with local flavors, those flatbreads you all love reimagined, and mushroom wild rice burgers are making a come back, now egg-free. Get that fiber!
This is my friend Forest's garden. I found her deep in a cultivating fever yesterday when I stopped by to drop off her food. She'd rearranged and multiplied stands of her favorite plants, and showed me her work snaking behind the house into a private paradise. Despite what looked like hours of hard work, she was buzzing with energy, running on the same unstoppable force that pushes grass to grow inches in between blinks.
My eldest nephew Clark, about to turn three in a few weeks, was caught on candid camera singing Dolly Parton's "I am a Rainbow" after a quintessential spring wander with his grandmother picking dandelions, watching squirrels, and inspecting overwintered acorns. He too seemed fully rocking a spring mood.
Making my journey to Schenectady last night I listened to "I am a Rainbow" on repeat, chanting the lyrics alongside Dolly. It felt like a visualization, see the rainbow, be the rainbow, feel spring, be spring.
The opportunity to take in the glory of living is fully upon us, spirit food abounds. Flower love is everywhere and rain makes life grow! Forest is doing it, Clark is doing it, I am a rainbow, let's go!
New treats this week for your rainbow bodies. Roasted knotweed coconut chutney, wild seed bread, and chicken n' nettle acorn dumplings all offered up to keep to you connected and grounded to this vibrant life.
Spruced up mushrooms, coming soon to a table near you.
I love being an auntie. I’ve got two nephews and another gestating womb side. The stamina, patience, and courage it takes to be a parent I likely will never know, but I am feeling grateful to stand in awe and support of my sisters’ journeys.
My youngest sister Chelsea gave birth last August to a creature resembling a hungry caterpillar, very serious about eating (and growing). He’s now looking like a tiny human with an infectious smile, penchant for jubilant screeching, and robust appetite, which I had the great fortune of experiencing in person for the first time two weeks ago.
He’s in a very special stage between 4 months and walking (not there yet), where he’s inclined to stuff anything within reach in his mouth. This moment, as I’ve learned from books, is a critical window to expose new people to as many flavors as possible and an especially important moment to initiate them into food culture (Greene, 2009). Once they start bi-pedaling around, the culinary adventure instinct temporarily shuts down, perhaps a protective mechanism as their toddling can easily put them out of a guardian's reach (Greene, 2009). When seized, this is an incredible opportunity to shape a person’s preferences and openness to new foods for their lifetime (Greene, 2009).
Chelsea took a poll on which foods family members wanted Cy to have as a first taste. I pushed liver, as it’s a flavor I regrettably never encountered till adulthood so it rarely makes me swoon (unless doctored with loads of butter and cream). Given it’s one of the most inexpensive, incredibly nutritious foods available, I endorsed it. Much to my amazement, Chelsea complied and Cy devoured it with glee. Here’s the video:
One of my favorite moments hanging out with Cy was patrolling the fenced backyard behind Chelsea’s place with him on my hip. Every single plant we visited he grabbed at, urgently wanting to know more via his mouth.
I remember reading a puppy training book once that described a puppy’s tendency to explore the world with their spikey teeth, a desire “to penetrate the essence.” I suppose I can relate to both puppies and babies.
I made sure to show him only edibles and we slowly took a tour of flavor and texture tasting dry, spicy bee balm, mucilaginous violet, bitter dandelion, sweet basil, and lastly, citrusy spruce tips. The towering spruce tree in the corner of their yard was flush with neon green tips. It felt especially meaningful to show Cy food is possible from plants of all statures.
Once back home my sister sent me the below video. I’m so proud; with a belly full of liver and spruce tips, he’ll be unstoppable.
References Greene, A. (2009). Feeding Baby Green: The Earth Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During Pregnancy, Childhood, and Beyond. John Wiley & Sons.
Carly lives and eats from a hilltop in Cummington, Massachsuetts and part time in Schenectady, NY.