Farmers markets and CSA shares in early spring often include produce that’s unfamiliar to many people. Spring in New England produces a variety of bitter lettuces, pungent greens, spicy root vegetables and brightly flavored herbs. Finding a way to use these fresh local ingredients can be a challenge. However, other readily available ingredients can add balance and complexity to the assertive flavors of New England spring produce.
To soften the strong flavors, consider using two classic New England products: honey for its sweetness, and raw apple cider vinegar for its complexity.
The combination of honey’s sweetness and the cider’s sharp acidity brings balance to spring harvest dishes (see the following pan-roasted radish dish as an example). Honey and apple cider vinegar also can be used to make a refreshing seasonal cocktail, the recipe for which we’ve included below.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Radishes come in an array of varieties and sizes. Farms will be producing many different radishes this time of year, and this recipe works great for all of them. The roasting is best done in a cast-iron or enameled cast-iron pan. However, any heavy-bottomed metal pan will work well.
1 bunch of radishes (approximately 1 pound, washed, trimmed and cut in half if they are large)
1 tablespoon butter
1 ounce honey
1 ounce raw apple cider vinegar
4-6 sage leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Microgreens for garnish
1. Place a cast-iron pan on the stove at a medium-high temperature.
2. Once the pan comes to temperature, add the butter and cook until fully melted and no longer bubbling.
3. Add the radishes (cut side down if they are halved) and the sage. Cook on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown on one side.
4. After the radish is sufficiently browned, add the honey and vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
5. Plate, and garnish with microgreens. Best eaten immediately.
FARMER’S SWITCHEL COCKTAIL
Start to finish: 30 minutes
This is a take on an American classic. Traditionally, a switchel is a sweet and sour fermented beverage that farmers would consume during peak harvest times. It’s also great as a refreshing nonalcoholic drink — simply substitute additional seltzer water for the vodka. Note: You can purchase honey simple syrup from specialty markets, but we’ve included a recipe for those who prefer to make their own.
HONEY SIMPLE SYRUP
1 cup honey
1 cup water
1. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup honey. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture gently boils.
2. Remove from heat and cool.
4-6 basil leaves
1 ounce honey simple syrup
1 ounce raw apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 ounces vodka
1. In a tall cocktail glass, place the basil leaves and gently muddle until fragrant.
2. Add the honey simple syrup, apple cider vinegar and vodka. Stir gently until well combined.
3. Fill the glass with ice and top off with seltzer water.
While working for Mill City Grows, Christopher Horne was a FoodCorps service member and taught gardening and cooking classes to Lowell students. In 2017, Christopher graduated from The Farm School’s learn-to-farm program and now runs a half-acre market garden business that offers a small CSA service. He sells his produce to local restaurants in the Merrimack Valley area. Learn more at HorneFarms.com.
Marc Horne is a lifelong Lowell resident. He works as a community development professional, developing affordable housing in the Merrimack Valley for nonprofit organizations. Marc also assists his brother, Christopher, with farming operations at Horne Family Farms in any way he can. His personal interests are strongly centered on food and the natural environment, especially cooking family dinners with local agricultural products.