Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


Leave a comment

Weekly Recipe: Homemade Tomato Soup

This tomato soup recipe is one that I first learned from my cousin’s wife’s blog – which you can check out at http://www.piercewholenutrition.blogspot.com/.  Ann is a Master Nutrition Therapist, and this is originally one of her family’s recipes.  My mom and I modified it a bit when we made it on Christmas Day, but it’s great just as it is.

I like it because it’s homemade, healthy, and easy.  It was also a good lunch option for a busy Christmas in Maine – warm and tasty without being labor-intensive.  You’ll need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup dry vermouth

2 lbs. heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (I have used regular tomatoes, and I also skip the peeling – the skins make it healthier)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth

2 tablespoons of mixed herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon)

Tomatoes!

In a large pot, warm the olive oil.  Add the onion, fennel, and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.  Add vermouth and cook until evaporated (in this case, we didn’t have any vermouth – although dear old Dad swore that we did until the moment of truth – we supplemented by adding roughly a 1/2 cup of sherry at the very end of cooking, and it truly made the soup something special).  Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down (8-10 minutes).  I didn’t cut the tomatoes into small enough pieces this time around – I usually cut them in eighths, and quarters isn’t quite enough.

Tomatoes, breaking down

Tomatoes, breaking down

Add broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.  Wait until the soup has cooled, and, using an immersion blender (also known as a stick  blender), puree the soup, leaving some chunks for texture.  If you don’t have one, you can use a regular blender or food processor (you should wait to do this until the soup has cooled, but when I’ve been in a rush, I have done it while the soup is still quite hot, and it didn’t cause any problems).  Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the herbs when ready to serve.

In this case, as I mentioned, we substituted a 1/2 cup of sherry for the vermouth, and we also added about 3 tablespoons of butter, which smoothed out the flavors nicely.

When I make this at home, I usually make grilled cheese sandwiches as well – the perfect complement to this soup on a chilly day.

The end result:

Truly - good enough to eat!

Truly – good enough to eat!

Try and enjoy!  Happy Holidays to all.


2 Comments

Dropping A… Sardine?

So I came across this Down East magazine article because I follow them on Twitter, and I was absolutely compelled to share the basic content of it here. (you can find me / follow me on Twitter as well, Eliza @mainerootsgirl).

If you take a moment and reflect on major cities’ New Year’s Eve celebrations, the dropping of the glittering ball in New York likely comes to mind, and perhaps the immense fireworks display in Sydney, Australia, or many others.  But the little town of Eastport, Maine, drops two objects on New Year’s Eve – no small feat for a town of 1,331.

They first drop a red maple leaf, in honor of their New Brunswick neighbors, at 12 am Atlantic Standard Time, and then an enormous sardine one hour later, at 12 am Eastern Standard Time.  Sculptor Bill Schaefer created both the maple leaf and the sardine – the maple leaf is five feet wide and made of plywood – and the sardine is eight feet long, painted canvas on a wooden frame.

This unique celebration, which is classically, creatively Maine, has been featured in other news outlets in past years as well.  For the full story and information, please do check out the Down East article – Kiss the Fish (which the revelers line up to do after the sardine is lowered – for good luck in the coming year!).

Harbor in Eastport, Maine

Harbor in Eastport, Maine

Eastport, Maine was once home to thirteen sardine canneries, and possesses the deepest port on the East Coast.  Natural phenomenons seem abundant here: the powerful tides and currents of the bay actually create reversing falls.  Near Pembroke, the rapids that course over Cobscook’s rocky bottom actually reverse direction with  the tide.  In addition, passengers on the ferry between Eastport and Deer Island will catch sight of Old Sow, believed to be the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere.


Leave a comment

Merry Christmas from Maine!

Merry Christmas from Maine!

Christmas_IMG_0822

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick and I have been enjoying our time in Maine for the holiday – we’ll head back to NC early tomorrow morning.  During our visit, we’ve enjoyed venturing everywhere from North Waldoboro to the Old Port.  And now, it’s snowing as I write… what could be better?

I also want to apologize for having fallen silent for over a week.  I can assure you many great posts will be coming as a result of the adventures that have kept me too busy to write these past few days.  Please stay tuned!


3 Comments

HoME Grown: Blueberries!

Welcome to the first post in my HoME Grown category!  Through this category, I hope to bring recognition to the agricultural industry in Maine and to some of the local farms themselves – one of the characteristics I love most about this state is the pride in local business and the commitment to entrepreneurial endeavors.

It seemed only appropriate to begin with the blueberry, as it is the state fruit of Maine, has many health benefits, and is a major contributor to Maine’s economy.  There are two types of blueberries – lowbush blueberries, which are wild, and highbush blueberries, which are cultivated and are frequently hybrids, enabling them to be more easily grown in other parts of the world.  Maine is the leader of lowbush blueberry production in the United States.  In fact, 90% of the nation’s wild blueberry crop comes from Washington County alone.

BlueBerry_real

There are many blueberry farms in Maine – the state has over 60,000 acres of blueberries – and some farms are open for you to “pick your own.”  I’ll highlight a couple of blueberry farms below, but for a more complete listing, visit the Maine Living site on wild blueberries.

Merrill Blueberry Farm is located in Ellsworth, Maine, and has been growing and selling wild blueberries since 1925.  Through four generations, they’ve remained committed to growing and harvesting a high quality crop for their customers.  Today, Merrill Farm’s wild blueberries are frozen using the Individually Quick Frozen
method to ensure their long-lasting healthfulness and flavor.

Worcester’s Wild Blueberry Products, in Orneville, Maine, has been selling wild blueberries for over 30 years at local stores, farmers’ markets, and their own roadside stand.  In 2003, they branched out into other wild blueberry products including jams, jellies, syrups, and more.  Their emphasis is on small, high quality batches rather than large scale production.

Wild blueberries are smaller and have a more intense flavor than cultivated blueberries.  Blueberries have gained recognition for being high in antioxidants, which provide a great health benefit by combatting free radicals, particles that damage your cells and can lead to diseases like cancer and heart disease.  In addition, blueberries contain Vitamins A and C, zinc, potassium, iron, and magnesium.  So eat up!

This post will also be the first to be featured on my ‘Weekly Recipes‘ page.  Once a week, I’ll make a recipe from one of my Maine cookbooks and write a blog post about it – links to posts and recipes can be found on this page.  Today, I’m making a blueberry muffin recipe from my favorite cookbook (click here to see my favorite cookbook post), Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  This recipe can be found on page 213 and is called “Barbara’s Blueberry Muffins.”  These muffins will become our holiday gifts to our mailman and garbage collectors, as well a snacks for us here at home.  Yum!

The recipe makes 1 dozen muffins, I doubled it.  You’ll need:

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups wild Maine blueberries

Blueberry Muffin Ingredients

Topping:

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Sift flour, soda, baking powder and salt together and set aside.  Beat or stir butter for 30 seconds and add sugar, then stir to combine.  Beat in eggs, yogurt, and vanilla (this can be done with a mixer or by hand – I did it by hand, and it’s a heck of a workout).  Stir in flour mixture.  Fold in blueberries carefully, so as not to break them up, and spoon into muffin cups.

Mixing Ingredients

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffins.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes.

The end result – time to enjoy- yum!

Blueberry Muffins


1 Comment

What do you love about Maine?

One week from today, I will be back in Maine, and I can’t wait.  Each time I go home, I experience the most incredible sense of well-being.  I don’t know how else to describe it – it’s as if the place itself reminds me of who I truly am.

I’ve already put together an ‘itinerary’ of sorts (sorry Mom, Dad, Nick, K, and Eddie – who will all be ‘privileged’ with the opportunity to participate in this madness) of places I want to go to and document for future blog posts.  I hope that excites you as much as it excites me!

With that in mind, I wanted to ask you – what do you love about Maine?  Is there something specific you’d like me to write about, and if so, what is it?  Maybe I can research it during this trip – or at least prepare to do so during future visits.

A few of the things I love about Maine are:

  • the people (their ingenuity, commitment to community, work ethic, and so much more)
  • the coast (who doesn’t?)
  • the mountains (for their recreational activities – hiking, skiing, snowboarding, etc.)
  • the seasons
  • the way Portland is becoming increasingly recognized as a ‘foodie’ city

skiers

There are two very distinct moments in my life (so far) when I’ve realized what a special place Maine is. Even years later, the clarity of these memories is very strong. The first occurred when I was about 15, driving our 4-wheeler home from a day of working and riding horses at Vienna Farm.  I was near our neighborhood, and drove up a hill overlooking a meadow.  When I came to the top and saw the way the sun filtered in through the trees, I was immediately struck by the simple beauty of it. I remember thinking that I’d never really seen Maine as ‘beautiful’ before – it was just where I lived, not necessarily special – it was the first time I could understand why Mom and Dad chose to live here and not leave. Now, as an adult, I’m sure there were other, more practical reasons as well, but as a fanciful fifteen-year-old, the beauty was what mattered to me.

My second ‘enlightening,’ you might say, came during a summer home from college as I was strolling through the Old Port. For the first time, I saw the Old Port through the eyes of a visitor – perhaps a prospective student – and the immense appeal of the place hit me at once.  I’d just taken it for granted – the charming cobblestone streets and brick buildings – the oceanfront – the great shopping – the excellent bar hopping.  And I could suddenly see why someone, anyone, would want to live here, whether they’d grown up here or not.

Old Port

Thanks for joining me in my trip down memory lane, and I do hope you’ll share a memory of your own with me, or a reason you’ve come to love the great state of Maine.  As I asked above, what do you love about Maine?

6 days to go…


4 Comments

Christmas Lights, Old Houses, Holiday Spirit

It’s no secret that I love the holidays – which may make me unoriginal, because most people do – but I don’t really care that much about being ‘original.’  What I love about the holidays isn’t the trappings (the gifts, meals, twinkling lights, sometimes gaudy decorations), it’s what they represent.  For me, the holidays mean time with family, and the bustling energy and excitement of these weeks do fill me with joy.

In particular, I adore Christmas lights – it surprises me (although it shouldn’t), each year, how those glowing, twinkling lights lift my spirits.  I remember riding around Westbrook and Portland in the backseat of my dad’s truck to look at the Christmas lights decorating local neighborhoods.  My grandmother sometimes joined us for these outings, and we would remark on the outrageous (Clark Griswold, anyone?), the religious, the classic, the subdued, and many more approaches to outdoor Christmas lights.  As a little girl, I particularly liked the colored lights and would do battle annually with my siblings and parents to get the tree inside, and the ones outside, decorated in colored lights.  Today, however, I love the classic, elegant glow of white lights.  Ironically enough, my parents’ tree this year is decked out in colored lights!  (photo below).  My mom actually emailed, “I know, colored lights… too many of the white light strands bit the dust this year.”

Mom & Dad's tree

I also really love old houses – their charming features, classic architecture, and how each has its own unique personality.  So today I’m bringing you an old house you can tour!  Each year, the Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine offers tours and celebrates the holiday season with a theme.  For 2012, their theme is The Gilded Age.  The house is open for self-guided tours from November 23rd, 2012 – January 6, 2013 (closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day).  The hours are 11am – 430pm. The rates range from free (if you’re under 6 years old) to $15 for adults, and they have a family package (which I thought was a great deal) of $35, for groups with two adults from the same household and up to 5 children, ages 6-17.  They can be reached by phone at 207-772-4841.  Not only is this a great opportunity to experience the past splendor of The Gilded Age and see a beautiful old home, it’s an educational opportunity as well.  Go, enjoy, embrace the holiday spirit!

The Gilded Age is the period following the Civil War from 1877 – 1893 (at which point the Progressive Era began).  The term was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.  They believed this period was truly an era of serious social problems covered by a thin layer of gold.  During this time, there was extraordinary growth and advancement in technology, and the belief was that any man could become a Carnegie, a Vanderbilt, a Rockefeller.  Those few who pioneered specific companies and advancements became enormously wealthy, and one demonstration of that wealth came through the design and construction of massive, elaborate homes.  The two pictures below are of Nick and me on our first anniversary at the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.  The Biltmore is America’s largest home and an exceptional example of the architecture of The Gilded Age.  Photography isn’t allowed inside, so I don’t have images to share, but we were both amazed by the opulence (and beauty) of this home.

Nick & Eliza at the Biltmore

Nick at the Biltmore

A bit about the Victoria Mansion – The Victoria Mansion is located at 109 Danforth Street, Portland, ME 04101 and was built prior to the Civil War, between 1858 and 1860.  The Mansion is also known as the Morse-Libby House.  An excellent example of pre-Civil War grandeur, the home changed hands once or twice before being seriously damaged in 1938 by a hurricane.  It was scheduled to be demolished in 1940, when a retired educator stepped in and saved it – Dr. William H. Holmes – and with his sister, Clara, turned it into a museum to honor Queen Victoria.  Now operated as a historic house museum, the Victoria Mansion was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Thanks for indulging me in that brief history lesson!  I love history and traditions – and the holidays present an opportunity for me to embrace those interests.  I can think of nothing better than getting into the holiday spirit by touring a historic landmark all decked out for the festivities!


Leave a comment

Merry Madness!

With a name like that, who could resist?

There are so many interesting, holiday-related activities in Maine this week and next – so brace yourself to see posts on several of them!  Today is a quick post about Merry Madness.  I’ve never participated in this ‘insanity,’ but I wish I could.  Merry Madness is a shop-til-you-drop event and a great opportunity to check out some of the fantastic stores I mentioned yesterday.

The event is this Thursday, December 13, 2012, and kicks off at the Portland Regency Hotel, located at 20 Milk Street.  From 5pm – 6pm at the Regency, enjoy free hors d’oeuvers, raffles, and music, before venturing out to shop.  You can also purchase souvenir 2012 Merry Madness wine glasses & mugs.  Stores participating in the Merry Madness event will remain open until 10pm.

The Regency is offering a special package to stay the night in their boutique hotel following the event.  The Merry Madness Package includes Deluxe Accommodations for two, two “Merry Madness” keepsake wine glasses, a bottle of sparkling wine (per room), and includes access to Portland’s Downtown District Event on Dec.13th from 5-6pm.  Rates from $129.00.

portland-regency

I can personally attest to how phenomenal the Regency is – my husband and I had our wedding reception there and spent the night in the Honeymoon Suite.  From the planning to the night itself, everything was executed smoothly, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere of history and luxury was superb.

This is the 10th Anniversary of the Merry Madness event, which effectively promotes local Portland shops, restaurants, and hotels during the holiday shopping season.  Please visit the event website for a full list of sponsors and participating stores (also listed below).  Merry Shopping!

Participating Stores:

Adorn Salon 1 Union St
Alex and Ani 215 Commercial St
Arcana 81 Market St
Asia West 219 Commercial St
Cabot Farmers’ Annex 163 Commercial St
Carla’s 414 Fore St
Casablanca Comics 151 Middle St
Coast City Comics 634 Congress St
Company C 123 Commercial St
Constellation Gallery 511 Congress St
Cool As A Moose 388 Fore St
Country Noel 57 Exchange St
CS Boutique 424 Fore St
D. Cole Jewelers 10 Exchange St
Daydream Bodyworks 164 Middle St
Designs by CC 7 Pleasant St
Dobra Tea 151 Middle St
East End Cupcake 426 Fore St
Edgecomb Potters 49 Exchange St
Fetch 195 Commercial St
Fit to Eat 164 Middle St
Fore River Gallery 87 Market St
Freak Street Imports 10 Exchange St
Harbor View Gifts 4 Moulton Street
justkim 615A Congress St
K. Colette 100 Commercial St
LeRoux Kitchen 161 Commercial St
Liberty Graphics 44 Main St
Life is Good 428 Fore St
Lisa Marie’s Made in Maine 35 Exchange St
Longfellow Books One Monument Way
Lovell Designs 26 Exchange St
Lovely Things 332 Fore St
Maine Potters Market 376 Fore St
Mainely Frames 541 Congress St
Maxwell’s Pottery 384 Fore St
Mensroom 8 City Center
Mexicali Blues 9 and 10 Moulton St
Motifs 221 Commercial St
Mount Desert Island Ice Cream 51 Exchange St
Nomads 100 Commercial St
Nomia 24 Exchange St #215
Old Port Candy Co. 422 Fore St
Old Port Card Works 3 Moulton St
Old Port Wine Merchant 223 Commercial St
Ollo Hair Salon 41 Wharf St
Pandamonium 2 Exchange St
Pinecone + Chickadee 6 Free St
Port Boutique 2 Wharf St
Porte 4 366 Fore St
Portland Rock Lobster 8 Exchange St
Portland Trading Co 157 Middle St
Portmanteau 3 Wharf St
Salt Cellar 172 Middle St
Se Vende Imports 4 Exchange St
Second Time Around 28 Exchange St
Shine Salon & Barber 9 Union St
Siempre Mas 377 Fore St
Simply Home Studio 75 Market St
Somethings Fishy 32 Exchange St
Stonewall Kitchen 182 Middle St
Swiss Time 86 Exchange St
Tavecchia 52 Exchange St
Ten Thousand Villages 33 Exchange St
The Alpaca Shed 23 Temple St
The Black Dog 215 Commercial St
The Blazin’ Ace 432 Fore St
The Leather Exchange 38 Exchange St
The Mind Gift Shop 399 Fore St
The Paper Patch 17 Exchange St
Treehouse Toys Ltd. 47 Exchange St
Twist 425 Fore St
Vervacious 227 Commercial St
Videoport 151 Middle St
Waterlily 26 Milk St
White Cap Grille 164 Middle


3 Comments

Christmas Shopping in the Old Port

Shopping in the Old Port is a pleasure at any time of year, but the holiday spirit adds a sense of excitement and anticipation to the atmosphere.  As the time until Christmas morning grows shorter, I wanted to quickly highlight a few of my favorite Old Port stores and recommend that you stop in – you might find the perfect gift for someone on your list!

My puppy, Lexi (pictured below – isn’t she cute?), will surely be getting a gift from Fetch – located at 195 Commercial Street, this pet store is right on the waterfront.  Since opening in 2000, their mission is to improve the quality of life of animals and their people with healthy natural diets (and other edibles), a great selection of gear, a depth of knowledge, and a spirit of good fun.  Based on my shopping experiences there, I certainly feel they’re delivering on their mission!  They have a great set up for browsing and an excellent selection of food, gear, and pet accessories.  Check out their website and stop in – their hours are Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm and Sunday 10am – 5pm.

Lexi

Portland offers a number of quality jewelry stores, but I have to highlight D. Cole Jewelers, located on Exchange Street in the Old Port.  I’ve known the owners, Dean and Denise Cole, for most of my life, and I have incredible respect for them and their family.  My brother and I are close in age to their son and daughter, Ryan and Emily, who also work in the store now, and we used to carpool to school together.  Dean and Denise were fun and easy to talk to – no small feat when dealing with teenagers – and their entire family reflects the best of Maine: generosity, kindness, and a willingness to lend a hand whenever it’s needed.  For purposes of this post, I can tell you this jewelry store is well worth the visit for its quality – their designs are beautiful and unique – and they also provide excellent customer service.  My husband worked with Ryan to design my engagement ring (check out their bridal gallery), knowing how much it would matter to me that it came from their store.  Please stop by and experience what a special place this is – their hours are Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm and Sundays noon – 5pm (on Friday nights, they stay open until 8pm).  You can reach them via phone at 207-772-5119.

It’s no secret that I love to cook, so naturally, I love LeRoux Kitchen, located in the Old Port on Commercial Street, with additional locations in Portsmouth, NH and on Martha’s Vineyard.  This is an exceptional store for the home cook – whether you’re a beginner or a culinary whiz.  My mom and I go in every time I’m home.  They have everything from unique kitchen gadgets, to bakeware, to beverage and glassware, to cast iron pots and pans (my personal area of interest at the moment), and much, much more.  LeRoux is also offering a gift registry service now.  Call them at 207-553-7665 or stop in, Monday – Saturday, 9am – 8pm, Sunday 10am – 6pm.

LeRoux Portland

There are many wonderful stores in the Old Port, each with their own unique style, and offering a variety of merchandise from clothing to children’s toys to antiques.  Visit this great part of Maine in person to experience it for yourself – I know you will love it!  Here are a few more stores, with website links, to wet your whistle:

Bliss Boutiques

Cool As A Moose

Helene M

Old Port Card Works

Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine

For a more complete listing of local stores, click here and spent some time on the ‘Portland Maine’ website.  Good luck with your shopping this holiday season, and be sure to indulge in a little hot chocolate from Maine Bean Cafe!


7 Comments

Keeping Maine in My Kitchen

I have a favorite cookbook, and it’s not Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, or Giada, although I have theirs as well.  My favorite cookbook is Recipes from the Maine Kitchen, a compilation of favorite Maine recipes put together by Friends of the Cancer Community Center.  All proceeds from this cookbook benefit the Cancer Community Center, a non-profit that provides support and information, at no charge, to adults living with cancer and their family and friends.

Recipes from the Maine Kitchen

I’m not saying this is my favorite because it’s from Maine and that fits neatly with my blog, or because it benefits a non-profit, although I love those things as well.  It is the cookbook I reach for the most frequently by far, I love every recipe I’ve tried, and, in particular, I appreciate that the ingredient lists aren’t two miles long.  Rachael Ray is wonderful, but whenever I try a recipe of hers, I seem to find myself buying a multitude of ingredients I’ll never use again, and they inevitably go bad.  This cookbook incorporates many of the basics – the seasonings, spices, and foods I keep in my house all the time – into their recipes, which works beautifully for me.

Today, I want to share one of my favorite recipes from this favorite book.  Last night, I had my friend Bethany over for some girl time, and this is what I made.  It’s on page 157 and is called simply, ‘Pasta with Olives, Tomatoes and Cheese.’ And it is extraordinary – after all, how can you go wrong with a title like that?  It has these little chunks of Havarti that positively melt in your mouth, a parmesan cheese topping, and a great tomato flavor.

You’ll need:

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 3 cans (28 oz.) Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 lb. penne pasta (I use whole wheat)
  • 3 cups Havarti cheese, grated or chopped
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cooking Instructions:

Heat the oil, in a large, heavy pan, over medium high heat and saute the onion and garlic until translucent (about 6 minutes).  Add the tomato, basil, and crushed red pepper and bring to a boil.  If you’ve bought whole plum tomatoes, break them up at this point (a wooden spoon works well).  I buy the diced tomatoes so I can skip this step.

Ingredients

Add the broth and bring back to a boil, then reduce to simmer until mixture thickens into a chunky sauce, stirring occasionally (this takes about an hour).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and return to the same pot.  Mix with the sauce, adding the Havarti cheese and olives.  Place in a 9″x13″ baking dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

A bottle of Chianti goes well with this yummy dish!

Here are the end results:

End Result!

If you’re interested, I highly recommend reaching out to the Cancer Community Center to procure a copy of this cookbook and support a great cause in the process.  Happy Cooking!


6 Comments

HoME Grown: The Maine Potato

It appears that I come by my love of potatoes quite naturally – after all, one side of my family has a heavy dose of Irish, and the great state of Maine is the fifth-largest potato producing state in the US.  Yum!  It seems only fitting to feature the Maine potato in this HoME Grown post.

potatoes

I enjoy potatoes in almost any form.  My husband calls this a “problem” when I devour an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips in one sitting, or eat my whole baked potato before touching my steak, or… well, you get the idea.  Unfortunately, potatoes have been villainized in recent years for being perceived as ‘unhealthy’ as a result of many popular low carb diets.  The potato can be an incredibly healthy side and important source of nutrients – the key is how you prepare it.

When baked or boiled, the average size potato only has 110 calories.  Compare that against some of the 100-Calorie snacks that are so popular – what is really better for you? A vegetable, or a preserved, packaged snack?  Potatoes are not only naturally fat free, they have more potassium than a banana, more fiber than an apple, and more Vitamin C than an orange.  I’ll be honest – I was as surprised by these facts as you probably are.  Of course, just like everyone else, I like to add butter, sour cream, bacon, salt, and other yummy toppings to my potatoes.  These items do make the potato less healthy, but I am a big believer in moderation in all things – so I use these toppings sparingly and avoid the ‘loaded’ baked potato.

Potatoes grown in Maine that bear the Maine Quality Trademark provide a guarantee that these potatoes are of the highest quality.  In fact, before the potatoes can bear that trademark, they are inspected and pass requirements stricter than the United States Department of Agriculture’s U.S. No. 1 grade.  That’s a great assurance!  To find them, just look for the red, white and blue State of Maine trademark the next time you’re shopping for potatoes. (from the Maine Potato Board)

Maine Potato Field, with blossoms

Maine Potato Field, with blossoms

A few fun facts about potatoes:

  • Clinical studies have concluded that, in fact, due to the vitamins and fiber in a potato, humans could actually survive on them alone with just the addition of a tablespoon of butter or milk (if my husband is reading this, he’s probably horrified and envisioning a long life of nothing but potatoes and butter).
  • “French Fries” were introduced to America when Thomas Jefferson had “potatoes served in a French manner” at a White House dinner.
  • The first people to cultivate potatoes were the Indians in Peru over 4,000 years ago.

The Maine Potato Board is a great resource for information on Maine grown potatoes.  Their two websites, www.saypotato.com and www.mainepotatoes.com, were both great sources of information for me as I wrote this post.

A few upcoming posts that will relate to the Maine potato – a weekly recipe for Northshore Potatoes (decidedly unhealthy, but delicious) and a post on Cold River Vodka (made in Maine, from Maine potatoes).