Make and Share: DIY Food Gifts for Cooks of all Ages

Make and Share: DIY Food Gifts for Cooks of all Ages

When my family moved to Northampton two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that our new street had an annual holiday tradition. Just days before Christmas, each neighbor arrived at our door bearing a gift—mostly homemade goodies, and all quite delicious. There was a jar of honey one had harvested from his backyard hives, a bottle of boozy raspberry syrup, cookies, chocolates, and more.

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The Edible Pioneer Valley Gift Guide

The Valley’s bounty runneth over, especially as a resource for gift giving! There are endless options for locally produced presents. We asked some of our favorite local foodies for their recommendations and are pleased to serve them up to you!

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2015_Oct20_EdiblePioneerValley_001 copy

Thank you to the members of our food-lovin’ crew

The whole crew at CISA 

 Kim Nyiri,

Meat & Cheese Department Manager,

Franklin Community Coop

 Lisa Ekus, The Lisa Ekus Group

Rus Peotter, General Manager, WGBY Springfield 

Michael Kusek, Publisher, Take Magazine 

Aurora Sjostrom, Culinary Demonstration Specialist, Whole Foods Market 

Natasha Latour, Marketing Manager, River Valley Market 

Scott Soares, State Director, Rural Development, United States Department of Agriculture 

Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director, The Western Mass Food Bank 

My favorite small gift (for adults) is a bottle (or more … ) of Black Birch Winery Corot Noir. It’s local, made by great people who run a wonderful, fun, responsible, and committed operation.  Even better, it’s a relatively unknown varietal and, frankly, pretty good wine. (At press time, Black Birch had sold through its stock of Corot Noir, but they have other varietals in stock and ready for gifting!)––Rus Peotter 

Picked up a bottle of Valley Vinegar’s apple cider vinegar at Atkins and loved it! Plus it’s cool that they have vinegars named after places in the Pioneer Valley, and a New England collection too. ––Lisa Ekus

An oyster or shiitake mushroom-growing kit from Mycoterra Farm—these make a great gift for kids (who love to water them and watch the mushrooms grow) or adults (who can enjoy several rounds of delicious mushroom harvests). ––CISA

Gift baskets are a fun and delicious way to give the gift of local flavor. Here at Franklin Community Co-op we have a generous selection of locally produced cheeses, charcuterie,  grocery items, and gift cards that would make a delicious gift basket anyone would enjoy! ––Kim Nyiri

Sriracha from The Kitchen Garden for its perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and sassy. I keep one bottle in my fridge and one backup in my cupboard at ALL times.––Lisa Ekus

A local beverage—to add local flavor to holiday festivities; this could be a bottle of local wine or mead (paired with local cheese?), aStoneman Brewery beer jug, or a bottle of local hard cider (maybe together with local apple or pear varieties in a taste-of-the-orchard basket?)––CISA

Farmers’ market tokens––a great gift to encourage the ones you love to pick out exactly what they want! ––CISA

Here at the Food Bank we’re huge fans of Shabadoo Black and Tan Ale from Berkshire Brewing Company. 10% of all Shabadoo sales benefits the Food Bank! ––Andrew Morehouse

Old Friends Farm Ginger Syrup for sure! It’s great for cocktails and warm drinks. ––Aurora Sjostrom

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2015_Oct20_EdiblePioneerValley_002 copy

A taste of summer from Bug Hill Farm for when winter hits and you forget what fresh fruit tastes like. (They offer cute gift boxes as well.) ––CISA

Hilltown Blue Cheese from Grace Hill in Cummington is among my favorites. It has a great flavor sure to make any cheese lover happy.––Scott Soares

Grace Hill’s Wild Alpine is a gruyere-style raw milk cheese that will grace any table. ––Natasha Latour

Pekarski’s sausage in South Deerfield has a range of great products … but I particularly like their linguica, a Portuguese sausage that brings me back to New Bedford and my heritage. Don’t be fooled by the Polish name, great job on a Portuguese favorite! ––Scott Soares

Shelburne Honey Company’s creamed honey is great on toast, or on a cheese plate. ––Aurora Sjostrom

Maple cream! ––Michael Kusek

Food for the Soul: Maintain Winter Health with Local Ginger and Turmeric


By Samantha Marsh | Photographs by Dominic Perri and Samantha Marsh

The cold weather has arrived. Although it can be a bit hard to cope with at times, I try to remind myself that winter is a time for relaxation—a time to stop doing quite as much and savor the hours spent swaddled up in sweaters and blankets.

I also try to embrace the change in the foods that we eat during this colder season. Winter foods tend to be richer and heavier than the lighter, brighter foods that are so abundant in the summer.

While very nourishing, these heavy foods, perhaps coupled with a few too many festive cocktails and sweets during the holiday season, can make anyone feel bogged down. Cooking with ginger and turmeric, both of which are grown locally at Old Friends Farm in Amherst, MA, is a wonderful way to lessen the impact of too many eggnogs or third helpings of Thanksgiving turkey.

We are lucky here in the Pioneer Valley to have access to fresh, local ginger and turmeric, crops that are typically grown in much warmer climates. Old Friends Farm pioneered ginger production in this part of the country about 10 years ago. Co-owner Casey Steinberg says the farm began growing ginger when they realized that one of their greenhouses got too hot during the peak of summer to grow much of anything. When thinking about what could grow in that type of climate, they asked themselves, “What do we love to eat? What is there good demand for?” And so, Old Friends Farm began growing ginger.

Old Friends Farm ginger is harvested when it is still young (the growing season lasts from about early September through mid-November) so it is less fibrous and tough than much of the ginger sold in supermarkets. The farm has grown quite a reputation around their ginger production, and Casey and co-owner Missy Bahret are continually seen as the authorities on the subject.

“We’ve made a very conscious decision not to grow everything and sort of specialize in a handful of things. It feels good to be able to choose to do a few crops well instead of spread ourselves really thin,” Casey explains.

“There’s something that’s kind of magical about [growing ginger],” Casey says. “It’s not something that we’re used to seeing every day.”

Casey describes that he loves watching people that are in their 80s or 90s see his young ginger for the first time at the farmers’ markets. “It’s not often that someone who has seen so much in this world sees something they’ve never seen before.”

The farm started growing turmeric about five years ago, and it is a popular item at the farmers’ markets during its growing season (September through November). Both ginger and turmeric freeze very well and can be enjoyed throughout the year. Casey’s favorite way to use ginger is to make homemade ginger beer, and he enjoys eating turmeric as an ingredient in curries or grated raw in salads.

Brittany Nickerson, herbalist and owner of Thyme Herbal in Amherst, uses ginger and turmeric in many of her winter health recipes and remedies. Brittany describes ginger as a “warming digestive aid that can increase metabolism and the absorption of nutrients.” She explains that ginger stimulates digestion, allowing us to consume heavy foods with more ease. Ginger can also help with digestive upsets such as stomach aches and nausea.

“I like to start the day with ginger tea or chai,” Brittany explains. Consuming ginger first thing in the morning is a great way to boost metabolism and rev up the digestive system. Brittany explains that turmeric is a great food to include in winter diets because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. She describes the bright orange root as being excellent for the liver as it eases some of the “damage caused by stress and exposure to toxins,” and explains that it helps break down fats and oils.

I am grateful to have ginger and turmeric, both wonderful winter health aids, grown just down the road. I buy in bulk and store it in the freezer to enjoy all winter long!

Old Friends Farm ginger and turmeric can be found at the Amherst Farmers’ Market, River Valley Market, Greenfield Market, the Brattleboro Co-op, and Whole Foods Market during the growing season (September–November).

Old Friends Farm
413-253-9182 ◆

Samantha is a writer and food lover based in the Pioneer Valley. She holds a BA in journalism and anthropology from UMass Amherst and works as a literary associate at The Lisa Ekus Group in Hatfield, where she spends her days obsessing over cookbooks and working with authors to bring their book ideas to life. When she is not writing about food, Samantha can be found teaching dance, practicing yoga, or testing out new baking recipes at her home in North Amherst.

Recipe for Homemade Turmeric Fire Cider 

Recipe for Ginger Chai