For a long time I found myself disappointed with the quality of apricots I found at the greenmarkets. I remember desserts of bright orange with vibrant flavor and sweetness. Yet with every (pretty expensive) apricot I bite into, I feel underwhelmed. It was only after I did some research online that I learned those bland apricots I tasted are perfectly right. Apricots are amazing in the way that they are the only fruit that truly comes alive after being cooked. You’ll never get the same satisfaction from a raw apricot as you would a juicy peach but cook them up in a bread pudding or even can them and you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts.
After being blessed with such an early harvest last year, everything feels late. It’s like spring will never come. Of course, there’s greens (there’s always greens), but I wanted real spring. Asparagus, garlic scapes, strawberries. I religiously follow GrowNYC’s twitter feeds. It’s honestly the best way to see what’s at the markets right now. When I noticed rhubarb had hit the markets I was beyond excited. That is until I remembered I had designated Mother’s Day dessert duty to my sister-in-law. What else could I possibly do with rhubarb besides stick it in a pie, crisp or spoon a sauce of it over a panna cotta?
I love granola–a bit over plain yogurt, drizzled with honey, or even by the handful. My husband on the other hand eats it like cereal, by the bowlful. I’ve encouraged granola like cereals, but apparently not the same. Sorry, but granola isn’t exactly cheap and the cup rather than quarter cup makes us run through it pretty quickly. Not to mention eating that much adds a lot of calories, but that’s besides the point. So I decided buying these 2-3 cup bags for $5 was not working for our budget.
The two biggest food items I took away from Maine were blueberries and honey. One of the winemakers we visited noted, “We’re in Maine, so there’s practically a law that blueberries need to be in everything.” Both were everywhere. I was very disappointed to learn when we got there that Maine’s blueberry season starts in August, meaning no fresh blueberries or blueberry picking for me. But I still tried to indulge when I could–blueberry jam, blueberry ice cream, even blueberry butter at the Lucerne Inn! I did pick up some blueberry honey at the Blue Hill Food Co-op, but stayed away from the blueberry syrup (I’ll stick with good old maple syrup, thank you).
So, when I got back to Brooklyn, I still had blueberries on the brain. Plus, I recently read Romancing the Bees blog post about honey cupcakes. I was inspired. Honey’s tasty and blueberries are pretty awesome, how good could they be together? So I experimented and whipped up some pretty tasty blueberry cupcakes with blueberry honey icing, kind of a last goodbye to our vacation in Maine.
So, I’m a bit of a dork, if you haven’t already noticed. I mean, think about it, I get super excited about things like fresh produce, canning and foraging (still on my to do list). So while on vacation in Maine, rather than going to the lake to swim or taking a boat tour, I’m most excited to visit a food coop. Now, of course, I’m a dedicated member of both the Park Slope Food Coop and Bay Ridge Food Co-op, but if I’m not in Brooklyn, I need to get food somewhere, so there’s nothing wrong with sampling another coop, right?
The Blue Hill Co-op interested me most because it was founded in 1974, just one year after the Park Slope Food Coop formed. Both coops have a long history, but the similarities end there. Park Slope is a member working model, meaning you must be a member to shop (which is open to anyone, of course) and you must put in 2.75 working hours a month. Blue Hill, like many other coops around the country, does not require you to be a member to shop. By being a member, however, you do receive extra discounts and a portion of the coop’s profit at the end of of each year. Blue Hill has about 1,600 members (no stat for how many additional nonmember shoppers though) and Park Slope has about 10x that, so as you’d imagine the shopping experience was a little different.