December 10, 2012

Plan ahead for home-grown holidays

During the holidays, families, friends and neighbors enjoy many ways of getting together. 

These celebrations usually include presents, often gifts of food. While wine and candy treats may be traditional, in our region there are many varieties of locally grown products that also make wonderful — if somewhat unusual — presents. 

These days, with the increasing cost of food, families are looking for ways to extend their food budgets. When you’re invited to join a meal, consider bringing a small gift or hostess present for the family to enjoy later. Think about colorful winter squash, sweet-scented apples, rich maple syrup and locally produced honey. Stalks of Brussels sprout and heads of cauliflower are fun and also a great way to introduce new foods to kids.

Here are a few ideas that may inspire you:

▶ Fill a basket, tote bag or bowl with different types of local apples, polished and arranged with a few sprigs of evergreen.

▶ Arrange interesting types of winter squash together with apples and kale to form an edible centerpiece.

▶ A stalk of Brussels sprout looks amusing. For a whimsical addition, tie a few ribbons to the stalk.

▶ Set a large cauliflower with the leaves still attached in a flat bowl to make a beautiful centerpiece.

▶ Children are intrigued by fruits and vegetables in their raw, just-picked shapes and love to be given the chance to “dismantle” the produce. With appropriate adult supervision, help them remove the Brussels sprout from the stalk, peel the leaves from cauliflower, and scrape the seeds out of pumpkins and squash. These experiences are also opportunities for you to help them understand that their food comes from the earth and is harvested by farmers (it does not always appear from the freezer in cardboard boxes or plastic bags).

▶ Locally grown cider, fruit juices, honey and honey products, and maple and maple-syrup products can introduce new flavors and alternatives to commercial products.

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