The family — Holly, Heather, Andy, baby Jett, and Peter — at Maitland Mountain Farm in Salem reminds us that local foods can be extraordinary, exceptional, and worth tracking down.
I’ll start with Holly’s Spicy Pickles, considered “menu-worthy” by many local restaurants. Two years ago Holly Maitland began playing around with a bumper crop of Maitland Mountain Farm’s cucumbers, and developed a product beside which any sandwich should consider itself honored. In fact, I think this way: “I’ll have a sandwich with my Maitland Mountain Farm Pickle.” Just imagine a fresh cucumber steeped in red chilis, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, ginger, mace, coriander and on.
In this complex, spicy brine, the cuke spears aren’t too sweet, too garlicky, too dilly, but crunch and pack a punch of flavor. They’re so delicious I’ve actually served them wrapped in wax paper at a cocktail party.
Duckworth’s Bistro in Gloucester and the Blue Ox in Lynn both use Holly’s Spicy Pickles in their martinis. Finz in Salem serves a relish made of Holly’s Spicy Pickles with its crab cakes. The Lobster Shanty in Salem serves them on all its sandwiches. Hunt them down: Vidalias in Beverly Farms, The Meat House in North Beverly and Milk & Honey in Salem all sell Maitland Mountain Farm pickles.
In 1976 Peter Maitland bought 2
acres of land in Salem. An entire neighborhood grew like weeds around him, but Peter built a barn, started a garden, and kept raising his family.
Now his two daughters, Heather and Holly, and Holly’s partner, Andy Varela, grow some of the prettiest, most unusual produce on those 2
acres. Set up in farmers markets this summer, the Maitland people will have green zebra tomatoes, epazote, all kinds of beans and gorgeous little boxes of edible flowers — calendula, violets, coriander, nasturtiums, and broccoli rabe flowers, a delicate little yellow flower that tastes meaty. Of course, they’ll have lots of other New England farm standards, too.
The Maitland folks will be at the Gloucester, Salem, Swampscott and Marblehead farmers markets. Come fall, they’ll be selling carnival-colored bunches of hard-to-find dahlias, too.
Lastly, mark your calendars now. In October, the Maitlands will harvest and prepare their horseradish, making one of the most flavorful local condiments you can set on your holiday relish tray.
Here’s yet another innovative way to honor the flavors in a Maitland Mountain Farm pickle: guacamole. Andy Varela mixes diced pickle with avocado. It’s not authentic Mexican, but chips and Maitland Mountain Farm Guac should be what’s served with every beer and margarita in Salem.
Maitland Mountain Farm Guacamole
3 avocados, small dice
2 pickles, small dice
1 tablespoon pickle brine
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh chives or scallions
Combine all ingredients but avocado in a medium bowl. Fold in avocado gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.
Food for Thought runs weekly in the Times’ Taste of the Times section and is written by Heather Atwood, an author and mother from Rockport. Questions and comments can be sent to Heather at email@example.com. Follow her blog at www.heatheratwood.com.