Mushroom Harvesting

I have never picked a wild mushroom in the woods, taken it home, sautéed it up, and eaten it. I’m terrified to find myself experiencing a 5 day psychedelic trip, like my puppy found herself on, after a quick unthinking snap of her mouth on a mushroom early one morning a few years back, or worse, dead. So a friend, Wendy McCormack, recently invited me on a Mushroom Walk, put on by the Sandown Garden Club, and led by Ross Huntington, an experienced mushroom forager of 25 years.

We showed up on Sat., September 7th at 1pm, with the expectation of about 10 – 15 people would also be interested in learning about how to safely pick and eat wild mushrooms. We were wrong. Cars lined the parking lot and up and down the road outside of the Sandown Town Forest. There were about 60 people of all ages present for the walk.

Huntington, did his best to accomodate the large crowd. We circled around a picnic table and learned about common edible mushrooms in the area, and the ones to avoid. Afterwards, we walked thorough the woods foraging for anything that was possibly edible and a fungus.  We learned to look for mushrooms that looked like sponges versus your stereotypical Alice and Wonderland mushroom with the gills underneath.    We were warned that as novice mushroom foragers, to always avoid the mushrooms with gills. Another common and prevalent mushroom in the fall without gills, is the chicken mushroom that grows high on trees in layers.

We found two sponge like mushrooms, a little larger than the size of a pea growing off of old rotting trees on the ground.  I suppose it wasn’t bad for a start, but nothing to take home and make a meal out of.  We reconvened with the group and people were sharing their finds.  During this time, a young boy about 6 years old kicked up a bee hive in the leaves, and was stung.  Many bees started to swarm around our group.

My friend Wendy, was stung on the ankle and we decided to make our way out of the woods and back to our car.  Once we were in, what we thought, was the safe parking lot, more bees stung us, and made their way up our pants.  We hid behind a parked car, and stripped off our clothing to remove them from places the bees should not be.  I’m not sure what happened to all the other 60 people present, but we didn’t stick around to find out.

My first mushroom foraging was not the best experience, but I won’t give up.  I learned to only start looking for spongey looking mushrooms to eat and then always double and triple check with an experienced mushroom guide before actually eating what I find.   Foraging for wild edibles has a rebellious and dangerous feel to it, which sound perfect to me, but only if I learn to do it safely.

Food Donation Possibilities for Most Excellent Home Gardeners

Are your neighbors growing tired of finding your zucchini on their doorstep? Are they retaliating by leaving their summer squash in your mailbox? We have a solution for you!

Calling all skilled home gardeners that have an overabundance of vegetables flowing out of their garden right now. If your stomach is unable to eat one more cucumber, cabbage or cherry tomato right now, and your neighbors are locking there doors when they see you walk by, think about donating all those fresh healthy vegetables to your local food panty.

They also accept eggs from overzealous chickens that lay too many for you to eat.

Here’s a list of a few pantries that accept fresh perishables in the seacoast area:

Cornucopia Food Pantry, Durham, NH

Footprints Food Pantry, Kittery, ME

Seacoast Family Food Pantry, Portsmouth, NH

Exeter Congregational Church Food Pantry, Exeter, NH


If one of these food pantries are too far for you, please check a more complete list on the Seacoast Eat Local pantry list.


Be An Earth Day Hero At The Dover Children’s Museum

The Dover Children’s Museum will be hosting an Earth Day event again this year on Monday, April 22nd from 10am – 3pm. Seacoast Eat Local will be there to teach about fun and tasty heirloom vegetables. You will get to take home a seeded pot from a selection of either a:

Green Zebra tomato, Cherokee Purple tomato, Brandywine tomato, Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomato, Lemon Cucumber, Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash or a New England Pie pumpkin (that yes, you can make a homemade pie from for Thanksgiving).

If you have success growing your vegetable plant, then you can save the seeds from it and grow it again next season!

Be An Earth Hero!
An Earth Day Celebration
Monday, April 22, 2013 from 10am – 3pm

Celebrate Earth Day the Dover Children’s Museum and explore the many ways you can support a healthy planet, thanks to sponsorship by D.F. Richard Energy.

10 am – 1 pm: Make suncatchers using recycled materials and found objects with ReVision Energy.
10 am – 1 pm: Make your own bird feeder with Strafford County River Conservancy.
11 am – 1 pm: Learn all about roots with Norm Fracassa from Fracassa Design Works.
11 am – 2 pm: Plant flowers to take home with Wentworth Greenhouses.
12 pm – 3 pm: Plant heirloom vegetable seeds from Seacoast Eat Local.

Composting can be as easy as 1-2-3! Come meet Mr. Fox Composting, check out his worm tank and try your hand at a sorting activity.

From 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, there will be rotating demonstrations about the Cochecho River watershed, oil spill clean-up, and viewing of the live brook trout hatchlings being raised in the museum.

Snowy Days Are For Ordering Spring Seeds

If you haven’t already, now is the time to order seeds for the garden. In the past decade, more and more people are ordering seeds for their farms and home gardens, so therefore it’s become important to order seeds in the snowy months to ensure receiving the varieties that you want most. Fortunately, for us in the New England area, there are some outstanding seed companies available to order very high quality and diverse seeds. By selecting from the companies listed below, you are choosing to not support the giant seed company of Monsanto, but local companies that highly value seed diversity, non-GMO’s, and healthy local economies.  As the Fedco seed company of Maine states:

Monsanto is the leading proponent and practictioner of genetic engineering. Monsanto seeds and biotech traits accounted for 88% of the total acreage of genetically modified seeds planted worldwide in 2004, an area that has multiplied more than forty-fold since 1996 to encompass 167 million acres.

So when you sit down in front of your woodstove and in your comfy chair to draw out your garden map and select your favorite vegetables, herbs and flowers for the season, you can feel good about the plants that will be growing for many more reasons than the best tasting super fresh products on your table.  These companies listed also only sell seeds that grow well in our short season harsh New England climate, helping to ensure a beautiful bounty.

FEDCO:  They have been around since 1978, and are a cooperative business with a very large selection of seeds.  Their catalog is filled with interesting facts and stories, that makes it fun to read every winter when it comes in the mail.

High Mowing Organic Seeds: Started in 1996, in Wolcott, VT, this company has grown exponentially since opening, because of the continued supply of high quality seed product and community oriented philosophy.  They are excellent at trialling the varieties to give the customer the best ones to grow in our climate.

Turtle Tree Seed:  This is a small non-profit seed company in Copake, NY that supplies all bio-dynamic,organic  and non-GMO seeds.  They also are a part of Camphill Village, which includes people with disabilities help with growing, cleaning and packing the seeds.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds:  Since 1973, Johnny’s has been supplying seeds, tools and information to us from Winslow, ME.  They have a large selection of seeds to choose from and are well known for their innovative development of new tools and helpful advice, spreadsheets, and service to assist the farmer or backyard gardener succeed with their growing goals.


If you are really interested in Heirloom seeds, the best heirloom seed company with the most diversity is in Decorah, Iowa.  Seed Savers Exchange can help you get started with keeping your own very distinct vegetables that you may want to continue passing down to your own grandchildren.

Seed Savers Exchange:  Open since, 1975, members have been collecting and distributing thousands of rare samples of garden plant varieties.  There catalog is a feast for the eyes, and a trip back in history with stories of seed travels.

Happy Ordering!

What’s In Your Freezer? (said in a voice like Alec Baldwin)


Every year I get more efficient about preserving food. This year I narrowed down which vegetables we like to eat more and the amount of each. We used to freeze LOTS of zucchini and summer squash, since there always seems to an over flow every season.  We saved much less this season, knowing how much we use them in our favorite soups and dishes. Peaches are another one that I pared down on, because you can only eat so many pies. And I find homemade canned peaches to be tastier as a side dish on the dinner or snack plate. But whatever your individual taste, the fact that my family has a freezer empty of bar codes, but full of high quality vegetables, fruits and meats means many things to us. We are supporting the local economy, environment, and ourselves by eating the best foods the local farms have to offer in our area. What’s in your freezer? I’d love to hear about others venture in preserving food.

Pizza Cooking Class by Willow Pond Farm

TED McCORMACK – July 24th
Sign-up Deadline: July 15
Come enjoy a hands-on fun learning
experience with Ted and others
from our farm community. Make
and eat pizzas with fresh, local
tomatoes, basil, oregano, and other
in-season vegetables. Use mozzarella
and a sampling of other local cheeses
and sausages. Learn to make your
own dough. Enjoy the taste of fresh,
local, and homemade together with us.

Email Ted at [email protected]

12 person limit/$25.00 per class

Willow Pond Plant Sale

Looking for organic plants and herbs for your garden this year?

Please stop by the Pilgrim Church on Saturday, May 23rd from 9 am to 12 noon for Certified Organic vegetable seedlings, including 16 varieties of tomatoes. To pre-order seedlings, download and print the pre-order instructions, plant selection and order form and mail the order form in with your payment. Pre-order deadline is May 16th, more plants available day of sale.   To insure you are able to purchase the heirloom or particular plant you would like, make sure you pre-order.  The plants sell quickly.  

The Pilgrim Church is located on Middle Rd., Route 111A, at Haigh Rd. in Brentwood. 

For more information and pre-ordering forms click HERE.

Maple Syrup

As the sap is literally running like a stream out of our over 100 year old Sugar Maple tree, damaged from the ice storm this past winter, my family and I headed up to SugarMomma’s for some good old fashioned maple syrup products.  We tried popcorn, ice cream, cotton candy, maple covered nuts, and yes they even served a pancake breakfast… delicious!   The actually Sugar Momma was feeding the fire for the making of the syrup and telling wonderful stories to whoever walked into the sugar shack.  Did you know that Maple Syrup contains vitamins, folic acid and enough calcium to match a cup of milk, unlike it’s copy cat of corn syrup, syrup?

Last night I tried a new recipe with our  maple syrup and I highly recommend it.

Maple Parsnip Soup

3 Tbsp of Butter

1 lb of parsnips chopped

2 medium onions chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

6 cups of chicken or veggie broth

1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1/2 cup of evaporated milk

1/3 cup of maple syrup

2 tbsp of Dijon mustard

Salt to taste

3/4 cup toasted pine nuts or nut of your choice

Melt butter in heavy bottomed pan.  Add parsnips, onions, and garlic until onions are translucent.  Add stock and nutmeg, simmer until parsnips are soft, about 40 minutes.  Add the evaporated milk, and remove from heat.  Pour into a blender and puree until velvety smooth.  Stir in maple syrup, mustard and a little salt.  Serve with 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts or other nuts.

Serve with homemade baked bread.   ENJOY!

from Simply  in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert

For the Shrimp Lovers

Shrimp Creole Recipe

3/4 lb shrimp, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

1 clove of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup butter

3 T. flour

1 tsp chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups canned tomatoes

serve with rice

Saute onion, green pepper, and garlic in butter.  Blend in flour and seasonings.  Add tomatoes and cook until thick, stirring often.  Add shrimp and simmer uncovered about 20 minutes.

I love making this simple quick recipe and On the Vine in Exeter carries local Maine popcorn shrimp that are perfect for this meal.  And all the ingredients, except for rice can easily be grown/found local, especially if you plan ahead for a warm winter meal.