photo credit: Grant Butler
Not a day goes by where we’re not inspired by the food and culture of our little Island. We are lucky enough to have an abundance of it all within the confines of our 20x9 rock. A connection to farm, field and sea is weaved into the island lifestyle as has been the tradition here for hundreds of years. It can make an accidental foodie out of almost anyone.
Ever had a sea bean? Foraged from the shore, these strange but highly nutritious thin bright green stalks have a salty flavor and crunchy texture available for just a couple of weeks in June, Island chefs love to use them when they are in season and can be seen scooping them up on the water’s edge on their way to the kitchen.
It’s not out of the ordinary for a friend to stop by for a quick hello with a freshly caught bluefish in the back of their truck. Or a big bouquet of lilacs from their yard; or a bag full of foraged watercress; or a basket of colorful eggs...does everyone have chickens here?!
By default, what America deems 'fast food' is absent from our everyday. Dairy Queen made its way here almost 25 years ago and seemed to stay, McDonald's tried to put their golden arches where wooden boat builders Gannon & Benjamin have a shop on the shore (they were unanimously thrown out) and we hear there was a Subway once upon a time in Oak Bluffs. Yes, there is fried chicken at Stop & Shop, hot donuts at Back Door Donuts and a plethora of burgers and fries at the summer take out joints - but the reality if it weren’t for trips off island, kids wouldn’t know what a Happy Meal was.
We live in a community that supports all things Island grown, where even fast food is good food, and where our kids grow up with an appreciation for our local bounties, often growing, catching and eating the whole foods that surround us. Increasingly so - food they eat in school is locally sourced too. A couple of weeks ago, students at the West Tisbury School hosted Island fisherman and shellfish growers so students could meet the folks who catch the fish that they’ve been eating for lunch on Fish Fridays.
This July, Island Grown Initiative is launching a mobile farmer’s market. With food equity in mind, the mobile market plans to bring affordable produce to Island neighborhoods that may not have access to or be able to afford the farmer’s market. SNAP benefits will be accepted as well.
Besides being sustainable and community-minded, eating locally is also incredible nutritious. Talk to any local farmer or fisherman or food creator and the conversation always includes information about the vitamins and minerals that make up what they are producing.
Scouting new collaborators, we got to meet the fabulous fellas of Martha’s Vineyard Mycological’s shiitake farm last month. In the woods of Chilmark, Tucker shared with us some incredible information about log-grown wild shiitakes. Not only do they contain high levels of protein and immune boosting agents selenium, potassium and vitamins B6 and B12, but he said they also contain immense amounts of lentinan, which supports cholesterol reduction, immune system enhancement and tumor suppression through T-cell boosting properties. So we were happy to munch on a couple of meaty shiitakes we plucked off the logs on their farm. We even passed some wild fiddlehead ferns on the way out!
Soothing medicinal teas and tonics can be found across the island. Morning Glory Farm has Aqua ViTea kombucha from Vermont on tap this year, so you can fill a bottle or a growler of the raw, organic kombucha flavors including blood orange, hibiscus ginger lime and turmeric. Not Your Sugar Mamas whips up dairy-free anti-inflammatory turmeric lattes at their shop in Vineyard Haven. Friends share nettle tea to help battle seasonal allergies. And many people make their own fire cider, especially during the cold season.
And kelp! Our friends and co-collaborators at Cottage City Oysters started growing the sustainable superfood in Lagoon Pond this winter. With its high vitamin and mineral content (it has more calcium than kale), antioxidant properties and its ability to be consumed in many forms, kelp is emerging as the next big food trend. Along with sea beans and shiitakes, kelp is making its way onto island menus as well.
As we get ready for summer we are so looking forward to the experiences we will have - shopping for fresh veggies and flowers at local farmstands, indulging in long sunny beach days, hosting barbeques with friends and family, eating lobsters on the docks waiting for Menemsha sunsets. And sharing our love of the island with our guests through our summer series, getting our hands dirty alongside of folks who are passionate about farm, field and sea. We can’t wait!