If it exists, you can pickle it.
No guarantees that it will be delicious; but if I learned one thing from René Redzepi of Noma when he came to visit Yale a couple weeks ago (and there were many things), it is that this method of preserving food is vastly underappreciated, and its potential deplorably underrealised.
His talk, entitled “Love Stories”, led us through the world of Noma’s philosophy via the significance of three of his most pivotal food memories: the first dish he made for culinary school (chicken with cashew sauce); the discovery of a coriander-like beach grass on the shores of Denmark; and the transformation of a ‘vintage’ two-year-old carrot into a delicious, meaty revelation. While telling us these stories, he served us three types of pickles that he makes at Noma: rose petals, young elderberries, and the fruit of the ramson plant, a type of wild garlic. He harvests them wild, packs them into huge jars, covers them with vinegar and lets them sit for six months, opening them in the wintertime to use on the menu.
They were simple, though each was a monumental affair for me. It was surprising to experience how round and unified each of the flavours had become. The vinegar had lost its sharp edge, buffed out by aromas and age, lending a slight tang as the base for each of the characters, which had become essentialised in a way I never imagined pickling could produce.
Needless to say I was inspired. So I took it upon myself to conduct a little experiment with pickling small batches of some of my favourite flavours on the farm.
Yellow rose petals.
Malabar spinach buds.
I also did a bottle of nasturtium flowers and leaves, which I don’t have a photograph of.
I just bottled these at the end of October, so I’m going to open them up in April and see how things go.
The day I harvested these was a beautiful late fall day – clear skies, crisp, warm and cool at the same time. My favourite kind of day, I think.
October is when our saffron crocuses bloom. They last for a day or two, and we harvest the three stigmas in that window, and dry them in our storage container.
The bud of the malabar spinach plant. It has the mild taste of spinach and a similar soft yet crisp texture. It grows like a vine, and produces these gorgeous, vibrant buds, that start a pink-tipped white and turn a deep purple colour. More experiments with this one coming soon.
Our hot peppers, hung to dry on the plant in our propagation house.
All sorts of salad greens going strong in our covered, unheated hoophouses. We’ll be growing them all winter! They’ve definitely made a name for the Yale Farm at the Wooster Square Farmer’s Market – they’re almost always the first thing to sell out, even when we bring pounds and pounds!
Winter greens are always something to look forward to, but I have my sights set firmly on the springtime, when I can try my pickles. So far, it’s only been a few weeks and the vinegars are already infusing – bright pops of orange, fuschia, burgundy, and sunflower each time I open my fridge.