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Berkshires’ farm and forage fete

By Aaron Kagan
Globe Correspondent / May 18, 2011

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Asparagus may be an iconic spring vegetable, but wild edible plants like fiddleheads and morel mushrooms also pop up now. They will star across the Berkshires at the third annual Farmed + Foraged: A Weekend of Spring Flavors, hosted by the organization Berkshire Grown this weekend. More than 20 chefs are creating dishes for their menus that showcase locally grown or gathered foods.

The Dream Away Lodge in Becket is preparing a savory tart made with ramps, a wild relative of the onion. Educational foraging walks called “Where the Wild Things Are’’ are offered and are led by experts such as Russ Cohen, a voice for the culinary and nutritional qualities of plants often dismissed as weeds. On a recent walk in Stockbridge, Cohen chose a spot on the edge of a soccer field where edible plants included stinging nettles, Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, staghorn sumac, wild grapes, winter cress, cuckoo flower, and ostrich ferns.

“I think it’s very satisfying to have things that are so part of the local ecosystem,’’ says Adam Zieminski, owner and head chef at Cafe Adam in Great Barrington. “These things come in the back door that day, so it’s very exciting to use that level of fresh ingredient.’’ For Farmed + Foraged, Zieminski is making sweet potato gnudi (similar to gnocchi) with ramps, morels, fiddleheads, and beurre blanc splashed with pale ale from the Berkshire Brewing Co. For dessert he is serving goat milk panna cotta with strawberry-rhubarb compote and shortbread containing poppy seeds from his garden.

Katharine Millonzi, manager of the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Program at Williams College, is the walks’ main sponsor. “I advocate a diet that includes regionally appropriate, nutrient dense, wild foods,’’ she writes in an e-mail. She and Cohen insist that wild edibles should be gathered with care. “You do it respectfully and are gentle in the foraging, then that will help ensure that we don’t degrade the place while we nibble on it,’’ says Cohen.

Farmed + Foraged: A Weekend of Spring Flavors May 20-22, with two wild edible walks on May 21. For more information, go to www.berkshiregrown.org.