Hilltown Families


For as long as human history has been recorded, the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been used as food and medicine across the globe. While not native to this continent, this nutritious golden flowering plant arrived with the European colonization of the 1600’s and is now commonplace in lawns and meadows across North America. In the spring, the dandelion is one of several common wild edibles foragers look for to supplement their dinner plates. Here’s a helpful list, which includes, of course, DANDELIONS!

Looking through the lens of dandelions, interests in culinary arts, pastry arts, baking, and even home brewing can be supported. Within these interests, lessons in chemistry and math are implicit, while the art of taste and texture is an explicit driving force…

It seems like maple is visible all over the place this time of year, but the trees themselves remain hidden to the untrained eye without their summer leaves. Learn to identifying sugar maples during the off-season for growing (but on-season for tapping) by looking closely at leaf buds and bark, and create your own March nature table filled with leaf buds of all kinds.

This month, our nature table focuses on an element of the fall season that, despite its usefulness in preparing families for winter, has waned significantly in popularity over the course of the past two generations: deer hunting.

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day is a meal when extended family and friends come together to celebrate and share the harvest. It’s a holiday when we talk a lot about food, sharing cooking tips and family recipes.

In year’s past we ask our readers to share what they serve for their Thanksgiving Dinner and to offer cooking tips, starting with kitchen tips on how to cook a turkey, followed by a request for favorite vegetarian dishes to cook up too

Apple Chutney When our vegetable garden begins slowing down, we begin apple season. We harvest our own apples, visit friends who have apple trees, and gather apples from wild trees and abandoned orchards. It’s apple time early in the morning before work, late at night when we return home, and on our day off. We dry dehydrators full of apples and line our shelves with many glass jars full of delicious apple… Read More

Summer offers learning opportunities that integrate culinary arts with botany and agriculture. In addition to many, year-round offerings of culinary workshops and resources in Western Massachusetts, seasonal events such as guided wild plant walks can open up new doorways of interests and add local, fresh ingredients to your cooking practice.

Whether you are interested in wild plant walks, gardening, farming, or cooking, there are ample opportunities for you and your family to connect with your community through food and plants. Here are several community-based educational resources and events to support your interests while engaging in your community this summer…

Nutritional Anthropology and Culinary Education Every culture has its own set of values, rituals, and traditions surrounding food. The staple ingredients, indulgences, and forbidden fruits of a given culture are influenced by agricultural systems, habitat, ethical concepts, and religious beliefs. Holidays and celebrations around the world are associated with traditional and ritual foods. Have you ever wondered why birthday cakes are round? Or why latkes are fried during Hanukkah and Buche de… Read More

Enter to Win a 2016 Summer Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm! Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a fabulous way families can support local farmers.  By purchasing a CSA share for your family, shareholders pledge their support of a local farm and receive weekly shares of fruits, vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy and meat products.  CSA’s are also great opportunities for community-based learning! Here on Hilltown Families we highlight… Read More

Food is a delectable lens through which to explore local history and culture: not only is it delicious, but it’s something that is a part of everyone’s life, no matter age or socioeconomic status. Eating is a universal human experience, and the what and why of this experience speaks volumes to the context in which we live our lives.

Covering the contents of local plates over the last 250 years, Historic Northampton’s “Table Talk” spotlights the changes that the city’s food-centric downtown has seen. Speaking to food and many other topics, the exhibit offers a unique opportunity for community-based learning.

Food traditions are at the core of many cultural and annual celebrations… And New Years Eve is certainly no different, especially across the world where there are some very interesting links to symbolism. To get a truly multi-cultural flavor for NYE, read on…

We’re giving away a Small CSA Farm Share from Crimson & Clover Farm this spring, a $420 value! Enter for a chance to win by sharing ways your family engages in our local food culture and the learning you glean from your experiences.

“…this Apple Pie has a crisp, buttery crust and delicious filling…” This is what awaits you if you follow the amazing recipe from Red Lion Inn Executive Chef, Brian Alberg for the holidays. Perfect time of year to roll this one out for the whole family, making a special occasion happen in your very own kitchen!

Do you struggle with what to feed your kids after school, especially as dinner time draws near? This month in “The Dinner Table: Ideas and Inspirations for Family Meals,” John shares a few rules his family follows regarding snacks before dinner. Share your own ideas too!

As a community, when it comes to family dinner time, we can share ideas, food and time together to support sharing our meals together. This month in “The Dinner Table: Ideas and Inspirations for Family Mealtimes,” John shares six ways we can support family dinner time as community members…

“For the New Year I made a resolution – a family dinner resolution – to actually get home for family dinner,” writes, John Sarrouf this month in “The Diner Table.” This post is a report on what is working, and what is not…

On January 31st, most of the world celebrates the coming of a new year. Throughout the last day of the year, many countries mark the new beginning with different cultural celebrations. Food in particular plays an important role in these celebrations, and is thought to serve as a symbol of things to come in the new year. This year, learn about cultures around the world while adding fun and delicious customs to your family’s traditions for marking the new year…

Brian Alberg, Executive Chef at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, shares his recipe for Rosemary Popovers, a pastry that is rich in history and delicious at any meal. Read about the history of the popover, and it’s predecessor, Yorkshire pudding, and print out Brian’s recipe to cook up for your family dinner tonight!

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013, is Giving Tuesday. After years of hearing about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some folks created a day for giving back rather than consuming – and thus Giving Tuesday – the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving… and what better place to talk about giving back with your family than at the dinner table? Read John’s post this month in “The Dinner Table: Ideas and Inspiration for Family Mealtime” for resources to help your family discuss giving together and get inspired! Share your own ideas too… we want to hear them!

This month in “The Dinner Table: Ideas and Inspiration for Family Mealtime,” Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, John Sarrouf advocates for the return of the toast, a ceremonial way of leaving the day behind and marking the beginning our meal together, of celebrating, and of connecting…

This month in “The Dinner Table: Ideas and Inspirations for Family Mealtimes,” Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, John Sarrouf takes a look at how the dinner table is a child’s first classroom for diversity…

Local Food! Growing it, harvesting it, cooking it, eating it, making sure others have access to it too… these are ways Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Angie Gregory, helps her family learn and connect with a vibrant and healthy way of life! This month in “Parenting Green: Earth Friendly Ideas for Raising a Family,” Angie talks about the idea of integrating local food into raising her family…

Women and Food Photographic Exhibition will be display in Easthampton for the month of September. Local artist and writer Sarah Platanitis’ photographic project, “Women and Food,” has an appeal for a younger audience with healthy role models of local women giving back to their communities, doing what they love to do…

Looking for affordable, healthy, vegetarian, kid-friendly meal options in the Pioneer Valley? So was Tara Winters of Williamsburg who submitted her question for our readers to answer. We shared her search with our readers, resulting in these 22 recommended Valley restaurants. Peruse the list and find a new favorite restaurant for your next night out with your family!

Roasted Beet Salad Wow, what a wacky growing season this has been! The extremes we’ve been experiencing are challenging. From drought to flooding, cold to heat and heat to cold, the conditions this season have been erratic and stressful to the plants. Our local farmers need our support to weather difficult growing seasons. Look for locally grown produce at locally owned markets and frequent many of the area farmers’ markets. Despite the… Read More

Environmentally sound garden practices for the family garden One of the major keys to a successful garden is the incorporation of organic matter into the soil every year. I remember taking a soil class at UMass 15 or so years back and hearing my professor say, “the answer to almost any question I ask this semester will likely be to add organic matter to the soil. If the problem is nutrition, drainage,… Read More

Food Security in Summer Months in Western MA For children across America, the end of school means the end of book reports and spelling tests, and the end of school breakfast and lunch-their most reliable source of nutrition. In Western Massachusetts, 38,870 kids don’t always know where they will get their next meal. That’s one out of every five kids in the region. Across the country, more than 16 million children live… Read More

5 Simple Steps for Pruning Raspberries Picking ripe raspberries straight off of their canes and popping them into your mouth is a summer delight that kids can carry with them into adulthood as fond memories from their childhood! But perhaps no other small fruit commonly found in Western MA  gardens mystify their owners as do raspberries. And there is no shortage of information out there on how to prune these thorny canes!… Read More

Pruning Blueberry Bushes April is a great month to get the family outdoors and getting their landscape ready for the spring. Families can rake the leaves missed in October, pick up fallen branches, cut perennials back… But the pruning of shrubs is not quite as obvious of a spring chore. While many varieties of shrubs can be pruned at this time of the year, our native blueberries will thrive with regular pruning…. Read More

Mushroom Barley Soup I wake up in the morning thinking of the billowing steam from maple sap boiling. I love going to sugar houses to see the dramatic plumes of steam rising, to smell the sweet maple aroma, to taste the first of the season’s delicate, delicious syrup…to experience the promise of spring again. My seasonal rhythms are tied to sugarin’; it marks the final gasps of winter and the arrival of… Read More

5 Gardening Tips for Late Winter Spring is just around the corner and planning your garden with your kids while there’s still snow on the ground can be both fun and educational.  There’s no shortage of garden prep that you can be doing right now. Here are five things you can do to plan and prepare for your gardens this summer: SEED CATALOGS: Gather your kids around and peruse thorough seed catalogs…. Read More

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