Living La Vida Jersey Fresh
Matt Hershberger connects to his new home in the Garden State, we kick off "The Dirt" gardening series, plus a recipe for strawberry shortbread cookies!
When Matt Hershberger moved from Cincinnati to New Jersey, he felt a little out of place. Withdrawn from the local community in his new home he started experiencing depression with a whole cavalcade of symptoms that were only exasperated by growing anxieties around climate change and the uncertainty of our planet’s future.
Over time, Matt found that cooking simple things, whether it was perfecting his tomato sauce, making bread, or whipping up some fresh pesto with his children, helped to alleviate his depression. On top of that, exploring the bounty of local ingredients that New Jersey has to offer gave Matt a new way to connect with The Garden State.
“For me, [New Jersey] was just this weird place that I didn’t get,” says Matt, “and so food was something that was like — I could actually start interacting with New Jersey a little bit through its food. You can do that by going to restaurants and Jersey diners, but also eating local vegetables and trying to seek out stuff that’s super fresh and doesn’t have much of a carbon impact because climate change was this big thing that played into all of my anxieties.”
Food became this point of connection to a lot of areas of Matt's life. Exploring New Jersey's local foodways gave him a meaningful way to interact with his new home state, focusing on local foods gave him actionable ways to help lower his own carbon footprint, cooking has become an enjoyable activity he shares with his family, and starting up a seed library at his local library is helping him spread the word of climate change and food sovereignty.
In the latest episode of the Amuse-Bouche podcast, Matt and I discuss the many ways that food connects us to the land and each other. Plus, we dig into awesome topics like how Guerilla Gardening can help rebuild local habitats, what small things we can do in our everyday lives to live more sustainably, and how Jersey Fresh blueberries deserve to be a Protected Geographical Indication.
The Dirt: A New Gardening Series
Gardening season is upon us, so in addition to stories and recipes I’ll also be including updates on my home garden! I’ll be tracking my progress, giving tips and tricks, and of course, sharing my mistakes all season long.
I started my produce by seed a couple of months ago and after a few weeks of hardening planted them in their respective garden beds. If you haven’t started your produce by seed yet, it may be a bit too late depending on what your agricultural zone is. But don’t worry! You’re not behind on your gardening. There are plenty of garden centers that have beautiful seedlings available, or you can check out your local farm to see if they’ve got any seedlings to spare.
This year I’ve got Rutgers tomatoes, a true Jersey tomato developed in 1934 by Rutgers University in partnership with the Campbell’s Soup Company. They’re a hefty, meaty tomato that’s perfect for eating sliced, making tomato soup, and canning sauces.
To go with the Rutgers tomatoes I have a classic Roma. Though they’re not that juicy, they are perfect for thickening sauces (or making a straight up tomato paste) but also sautéing or roasting.
I’m growing White Velvet Okra for my second time this year. These were seeds I purchased from Truelove Seeds, a seed company focused on collecting rare, heritage and culturally significant seeds. I wrote a story about the art of seedkeeping and its role in food sovereignty last year for KitchenAid.
I’ve got some high eggplant that will hopefully not be eaten by squirrels (I only got one eggplant last year), as well as some bell peppers. Even though my jalapeños were planted on the opposite side of the yard, they still managed to cross-pollinate with my bell peppers, developing a batch of sweet and sour pepper. The progression from bell pepper to jalapeños hybrid looked like a lost cover for Animorphs.
This isn’t all I’ve got growing in my garden! Stick around for some surprise plants that I hope work out!
Are you gardening this season? What are you growing? What’s your favorite piece of gardening advice? Tell me in the comments!
Strawberry Shortbread Cookies
New Jersey’s strawberry season has just begun! To get the most out of one of my favorite berries, I’ve workshopped this recipe for a shortbread cookie that’s perfectly cakey and has an aromatic sweetness that really brings out the flavors of the fresh strawberries.
(for the cookie)
2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of salted butter (softened)
1/4 cup milk (whole milk, cream, or even cream cheese if you’re feeling extra creamy)
1 large egg
1 tsp of vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
(for the strawberries)
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp of granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir 1 tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tbsp of sugar into bowl of chopped strawberries and set aside.
Mix flour together in a bowl with baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter with brown and granulated sugars. When thoroughly mixed add egg, vanilla extract and nutmeg.
Once mixture is smooth, slowly add flour to mixing bowl.
When dough is thoroughly mixed, fold in strawberries.
Portion out dough on cookie trays and bake for 12 minutes or until cookies are fluffy and slightly golden around the edges.
Remove from oven and let them cool before enjoying.
This episode of WHYY’s Delishtory explores the concept of Protected Geographical Indications — essentially ingredients or foods that are so synonymous with a place that they’re protected by some international trade laws, similar to as if it were a copyright for intellectual property.
What local foods do you think deserve a PGI?
Rethinking the Culture of Caviar: For KitchenAid stories I dig into the history of caviar, how fluctuations in the caviar market led to its exclusivity, and how Russians perceive it a little differently than Americans.
Vampire Weekend’s album “Father of the Bride” still gets me.
Nomadland swept the Oscars winning Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director (second time for a woman and first time for a woman of color). I finally watched it this weekend and it is absolutely deserving of all of those accolades. The plot is mostly driven by conversations with real life nomads who appear in the film as well as through situations that slowly reveal how the main character, Fern, became a nomad in the first place.