If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that good health is everything, and here on the farm I have been focusing (in between cocktails) on immune-boosting foods. I was raised in London and, growing up, ate a lot of curry. It was this dish that I continually cooked throughout this past winter – developing sauce recipes from scratch – that helped stop us from getting sick. My recipe will be in the upcoming print version of Upstate Dispatch. My people, whenever they felt a cold coming would cook up a strong curry: the hot peppers, coriander, ginger, cumin, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and turmeric, all of which I am now growing on the farm, so that we will have an endless supply this year. I’m calling it pandemic PTSD because I don’t usually do themes. Corny alliteration, yes, but not themes. Last fall, I planted 200 cloves of garlic and they are just now sprouting.
Ginger, a miracle root, grows wild in the Catskills, but I have never foraged it. Grated, raw ginger can also be soaked overnight in juice for a morning pick-me-up, and put into cocktails. You can harvest the root while it’s still growing in pots in your house. If you’re feeling run down, peel and chop one cup of ginger; boil it in a large saucepan full of water until the water goes brown; strain out the ginger and let the water cool to a drinkable temperature; drink the water. In previous years, I’ve bought ginger from Straight Out Of The Ground in Roxbury, and now there is a company here that cultivates the wild plants of the Catskills called Barkaboom Native Plants. You will also find them at the Pakatan Farmers’ Market that begins its season on May 14th, 2022.
Black cumin seed, like turmeric root, is used in Ayurvedic cooking and considered a medicinal herb, but this plant likes warm weather. It is grown in the Mediterranean and beyond. It may not make it here on the farm where winter is six months long, and if so, it will be going in pots on the radiator by a window along with the turmeric. Alan White of Two Stones Farm told me to plant whatever grows well on your land and swap with your neighbors, so we’ll also be planting roots, tubers and all manner of greens.
Growing mushrooms is more complicated. I will be inoculating a tree with mushroom plugs after the last frost. And once the ramps come up, I’ll be transplanting some of them in wetlands closer to the forest. More on that later.