Tulsi Tincture Video

This summer I spent the better part of July on the west coast of Canada. It was a work trip combined with a family trip. One of the projects I worked on was this short video, which demonstrates how to make a fresh tulsi tincture.

Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is a sacred plant in India. It has been used for thousands of years for detox, to help alleviate stress, and to increase stamina. My sister uses tulsi in her Ayurvedic practice.  My brother grows the herb in his greenhouse at the Earth Lab on Hornby Island. I photograph food stories. We put our passions together and this is one of the projects we created.

Hornby Island Farm Holiday

We took a quick trip to visit my family and the Hornby Island farm this December. We spent the holidays with friends & family, and we checked in on The Earth Lab, my family’s farm project. This winter, my brother is starting mushrooms in the greenhouse. Sheets of insulating foil are laid out over wood chips and earth, and under that, millions of mushroom spores are developing into mycelium, which look like long white threads. In the spring, my brother will transplant those threads. He is excited about increasing the biodiversity of the forest. I am excited about the possibility of a big harvest during our next visits. I look forward to picking, cooking and eating copious amounts of oyster mushrooms and shiitakes, and another which sounds promising: The Garden Giant.

hornby island farm Jennifer May photo
My brother in his greenhouse in winter. Beneath the foil insulation, millions of mushroom spores are developing into mycelium.
farmer in greenhouse with mycelium Jennifer May photo
My brother showing one of his winter projects – mycelium developing in a pot of wood chips. These will later be transplanted into the forest.
mycelium mushroom spores
Mushroom spores developing into mycelium in a winter greenhouse
farmer child carrots
Digging up carrots from a winter garden

 

Nova Scotia Road Trip

I have always wanted to explore Nova Scotia. My grandfather grew up in Cape Breton, during the Depression. He wrote a memoir for his family, and it is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. When Angela’s Ashes became a literary sensation my family and I nodded in unison. Frank McCourt’s story reminded us all of my grandfather’s, William O’Hagan. As a child, he had to help support his family. He gardened with his brother and was compensated in carrot thinnings. His mother bathed the children twice a year, and boiled their clothes. To his classmates, he was known as Stinky Billy. We grandchildren called him Buzz.

How someone could have survived what my grandfather lived through with an endless sense of humor, and whose favorite taste descriptor was “Beautiful,” is beyond me. Home-pickled herring, with a slice of onion, and a smear of mayonnaise on toast: Beautiful. My grandmother’s piroski (a recipe passed down from her mother, who was raised in Russia): Beautiful. Pan-fried cod, steamed clams, grilled salmon… we caught all of these things on the west coast, we ate them, and Buzz declared: Beautiful.

nova-scotia-jennifer-may-2
Walking along Rissers Beach on the South Shore
Nova Scotia South Shore
Shelburne, on the South Shore, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia jennifer may food photographer
Shelburne, NS

This summer, my husband, daughter and I took an impromptu Nova Scotia road trip. Our route started in Yarmouth, after a 5-hour catamaran ferry ride from Portland, ME. We camped in as many provincial parks as we could. We swam in beautiful beaches along the South Shore. We visited Lunenberg and stocked up on reading material at Lexicon Books. On our way to somewhere else, we found a white sandy beach and swam at the side of the road. We arrived on the Northumberland Shore, walked on red sandy beaches, and swam in the famously warm ocean waters. The rest of our trip took us through Halifax and then along the Bay of Fundy where, in some places, tides rise and retreat 50′ in one cycle.

We sought out seafood. I’m sorry to say it, but we had high expectations and were often disappointed. Of course, I probably should not have ordered lobster poutine at a touristy lobster pound.

Nova Scotia fish chowder jennifer may food photographer
The best bowl of fish chowder I had, of many. The Beandock, Shelburne, NS.
Nova Scotia Road Trip Camping
Graves Island Provincial Park Campground. Not a lot of shade, but a lot of blackberries, and a swimming beach nearby.
Nova Scotia Road Trip Camping
The best food is the simplest.
Coffee when camping takes on mythic importance
Coffee when camping takes on mythic importance
Nova Scotia Sandy Beaches
We found this unmarked beach on the side of the road, and we set up for swimming alongside some locals
Rissers Beach Nova Scotia
Rissers Beach Provincial Campground, Nova Scotia
Lunenburg Nova Scotia Lexicon Books
Gathering reading material at Lexicon Books, Lunenburg
Fish and Chips Lunenberg Nova Scotia
We had great fish and chips once, in Lunenburg, at the Fish Shack
Bay of Fundy AirBnB Nova Scotia
We had pre-rented this cute little cabin on AirBnB. The porch overlooked a harbor on the Bay of Fundy. It was a great place to dry the tent in the woodshed overnight.
Nova Scotia Road Trip
Watching the famous tides from an AirBnB cabin on the Bay of Fundy.

Bay of Fundy's famous tides

seafood Nova Scotia lobster poutine
Overcooked deep fried clams, haddock, shrimp and scallops. Mac-n-cheese using cheese as a garnish on a bechamel sauce. I really should not have ordered the lobster poutine. The Lobster Pound, Halls Harbour, NS.
Nova Scotia Road Trip Northumberland Shore
The red sandy beaches and warm Atlantic Ocean waters of the Northumberland Shore
Nova Scotia Road Trip Camping
Our last night of camping in Nova Scotia, this year. Northumberland Shore.

Overall, it was an incredible trip. Different, in some ways, than what I had expected. We looked for places to buy fresh seafood near the docks, and found we were out-of-season, or the fish shacks were only open once a week and not on they day we were there. We did not make it to where my grandfather grew up. Cape Breton Island, and the Cabot Trail, await us on a follow up journey. There would be no sense driving a magnificent roadway with a carsick and road-weary child in the back, I figured. More camping awaits us, more beaches.

More than anything, as a west coaster, who only really feels home when I am in sight of an ocean, I think of Buzz. I imagine how he must have felt, when he left the east coast for the west, and made a home on the Pacific.

 

Pacific Northwest, Summer 2016

This July, we returned to my homeland, in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. I have already made a couple of posts about this trip, below, but before the summer completely gets away from me, I wanted to collect a bunch of images together. Below, in order of appearance: The wide open beaches of Tofino, BC. The view from the new family home on Hornby Island, BC (complete with rainbow). My brother, the permaculture farmer. The view from where we stayed 10 nights on Cortes Island, BC. The seaplane that delivered friends from Vancouver. My sister running with her dog. My dad swimming. A last bonfire on the beach. My girl looking out the ferry window. July, Pacific Northwest, I miss you.

 

tofino ocean jennifer may food photographer Pacific Northwest

Hornby Island British Columbia Jennifer May

digging for potatoes

digging for potatoes

heart potato by Jennifer May

garlic hanging in a farm

chard in the farm garden

cortes island bc Pacific Northwest

sea plane on the water

swimming in the pacific ocean pacific northwest

running on the beach with dog

pacific ocean swimming

bonfire on the beach

ferry boat by Jennifer May Pacific Ocean

Honey Roasted Fresh Figs

Scott noticed them first. “Come here,” he said, beckoning with his finger. “Did you see these?” He pointed to a fig tree in the front yard of our rented house. The figs were just beginning to ripen, and he had picked some to roast with blue cheese, honey & walnuts. After few more days of heat, more figs ripened. Then they began to over-ripen. Sap oozed from their bottoms. “Better use these,” Craig said. He picked a soft one and ate it on the spot.

I had been trying to keep my daughter off of the tree’s slender branches, but once she realized the prizes were fair game, up she went. We picked a basket full, and I roasted them for breakfast. Simple, if you’ve got a tree full of fresh figs nearby. Recipe below.

fig tree

fresh figs in basket

fresh figs in basket

honey roasted fresh figs

honey roasted fresh figs with ricotta

Honey Roasted Fresh Figs, with Ricotta:

Fresh figs, halved
Butter, a couple of tablespoons
Honey, a couple of tablespoons
Kosher salt, a pinch
Fresh ricotta, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Lay the halved figs, cut side up, in a baking dish. In a separate pan, melt the butter, honey & salt. Drizzle the syrup over the figs. Roast for 10 – 15 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Serve with fresh ricotta, drizzle on the sauce.

My Brother, the Apple Forest, and Wild Salal

When my brother, Ryan, walks through a forest, he carries a machete. He has spent a great deal of time in Brazil, and there are dangers in those forests greater than brambles. Here in Canada, on Hornby Island, my brother uses his machete to carve out trails through a second-growth forest that had been logged, farmed, and left fallow for decades. My brother is remaking this forest.

Permaculture Farmer
Cutting a trail through salal berry bushes

Bit by bit, he will make room amongst the standing trees for the new ones he has collected. He has a small fenced area he calls the nursery, and in it are 100 varieties of apple and nut saplings.

He emailed an apple tree catalog to our family in February asking for help narrowing down the choices. But in the end, he grafted one of each. They have names like Pendragon, which is a 12th century red-fleshed cider apple from Wales. There is Kandil Sinap, from Turkey circa 1880, with creamy, yellow porcelain-like skin and a cylindrical shape. The crab apple Wickson is said to be so prolific that the small yellow and red apples will garland a tree with fruit.

I grew up in the forests across the water from Hornby Island. I used to look out my bedroom window, through tall pines, across the Georgia Straight, past Denman Island and the Chrome Island Lighthouse, all the way to Hornby Island. It took two ferries to get there. When I fished with my grandfather, we would jig for cod around its perimeter.

My family has an anchor on Hornby Island now. We visited this July. “What do you want to see?” My brother and sister asked me. “Wild edibles,” I answered.

Wild Salal Berries

My brother demonstrates the one-step bit technique for eating a stem full of salal berries... before
My brother demonstrates the one-step bit technique for eating a stem full of salal berries… before
foraging for salal
…after

NYC Food Photographer Jennifer May Forage

My brother grabbed his machete, and our small troupe followed him into the woods. We walked through grove after grove of salal. My sister and I picked a basket of the berries and I made a shrub, aka drinking vinegar. This acidified syrup is my summer theme. I have been drinking it in sparkling water. I also made a salad dressing with it, substituting a couple tablespoons of shrub for the sweetness and vinegar I might have added.

Salal berries are a highly localized plant, native to the part of the world where I grew up. I remember them, although I did not eat them. Their dark purple and plump berries are appealing looking, but eaten fresh they are bland and mealy. Heat and a little sweetness brings this fruit to life. I did not believe in tricks like that when I lived here.

I will wait for the apple and nut trees to mature. Plants grow fast in the west coast. I will be back, and often.

Foraged Salal Berries
Fresh salal berries
Salal Berry Shrub Drinking Vinegar
Salal berry shrub with seltzer

Kelli Cain, Ceramicist

Today I did a studio visit with ceramicist Kelli Cain. I fell in love with Kelli’s work this fall, when I saw it at Field + Supply. She had invited me to visit in person one day, and I had been waiting for the right time. My dad is visiting from out of town this week, and what better than a long drive to show him more of the area. We drove deep into the Catskill Mountains. The traffic all but disappeared. The landscape became hilly farmland. The studio is located down a long dirt driveway, in a converted farmhouse. Kelli had made us tea and cookies, and we chatted while I picked through dozens of her beautiful handmade pieces. I love Kelli’s palette. I love her glazing techniques. Each piece is more beautiful than the last. It was a lovely day, rewarded with a bag full of beautiful treasures that I can’t wait to use in life and in pictures.

studio visit kelli cain ceramics
Ceramicist Kelli Cain in her studio in the Catskill Mountains

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

studio visit kelli cain ceramics

catskills road

Sea Beans, Sea Asparagus, Pickleweed

I don’t know if I ever bit into a crunchy, salty sea bean when I lived on the shores of the Pacific. I certainly remember walking on them. I remember the crunch and pop of them underfoot.

sea beans sea asparagus on the beachsea beans growing on the beach

This summer, while walking with my dad along a rocky beach, near where he lives in British Columbia, I asked him if he knew of any local, wild edibles. “Well, there is sea asparagus,” he said. He gestured down beneath his shoes. He hadn’t eaten it either, but his girlfriend, a poet and a kayaker, knew that if she ever found herself stranded and starving on the Pacific coast, she could eat them. It would be a mighty salty survival food, and my lips still pucker when I think of my first taste. They taste like a sea water reduction.

sea beans

Chefs love them. And if they love them, there has to be something going on. I set to work harvesting a bowl full with my dad and daughter, and then I looked up recipes. We parboiled them, and flash fried them in butter, garlic and lemon. We did not salt them. I used them to garnish a beautiful wild Pacific salmon my husband cooked. The meal made so much sense, but they are still something of an acquired taste.

sea bean sea asparagus garnish

Then, because we had far more than we could eat as a garnish, I continued my research. Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook wrote of an experiment dehydrating them. Since my dad just happened to be driving around with a dehydrator in his truck, we gave it a whirl. I have yet to complete the final step in the mortar and pestle to make sea bean salt. I can’t quite imagine ever wanting so much ocean flavor in a dish.

I had one other sea bean experience this year. Days after I returned from the west coast, I found myself shooting a campaign for Neuman’s Kitchen, a high end catering company in NYC. They feed the corporate crowds, and they create extraordinary feasts for benefits. Chef Robb Garceau is a pleasure to work with, and for each of the photoshoots we have done, he visits the Greenmarket early in the morning for inspiration. Imagine my surprise, when one afternoon he suddenly appeared with an herb-salt encrusted Arctic char, a whole variety of beautiful shellfish preparations, and a bowl of pickled sea beans. I do think this is the best way to go. The salt, crunch, and pop of them is just meant to blend with vinegar, and is why sea beans are also known as pickleweed.

herb salt crusted fish

As for the dehydrated sea beans in a little baggie on my desk, they await grinding. I keep wondering what to do with the salt once I make it. Could I rim a glass in sea bean dust for an updated version of a Caesar (a classic Canadian cocktail made with clam juice)? How about sea bean salted wine for steamed clams? A dusting on white fish? And then I take a nibble of the now dry (but still very salty) sticks, and I’m right back on the shores of Hornby Island, picking them with my dad.

sea bean harvest

dehydrated sea beans
Dehydrated sea beans in the hands of a 3-year old

West Coast of Canada: Cortes & Hornby Islands

We just returned from an extended visit to my homeland on the west coast of Canada. A few years ago, when our daughter was born, my husband & I started an annual tradition of renting a big house on the ocean and inviting friends and family to stay with us. It is the most beautiful place I could ever imagine, and we love to share it. It is a place where food literally falls from the trees – apples, walnuts, hickory nuts, grapes, and any number of berries. We cook, eat, and drink. We walk and swim. I photograph everything. It’s refreshing to be in a new place, with different light, and surrounded in ocean-weathered textures.

From where I live in the Hudson Valley, NY, it takes two travel days to reach these Northern Gulf Islands that I love. But it is worth it. Miles and miles of shoreline are uninhabited. And the people who live there are island-folk. They make pottery, they paint, they farm. I will follow up in coming posts with some of the fun cooking projects we did. But for now, a glimpse to the remote islands of Cortes and Hornby.

Hornby Island BC
A beach on Hornby Island, BC. I will be seeing a lot more of this spot over the coming years
ocean view
My dad, daughter, and husband on Cortes Island, BC
BC Ferry boat
The ferry boats get smaller as you move toward the smaller islands.
apples on tree
I have never seen so many apples as I did this year. One house we rented was surrounded by different varieties.
raspberry picking
My daughter picking raspberries in her grandfather’s garden on Vancouver Island
grapes on the vine
A bunch of grapes hang on a vine in my dad’s garden
walnut tree
Walnuts on a family tree ripen and fall to the ground
table outside
An outdoor table at my mom’s became the ultimate picnic spot
West coast of Canada barn window
An old barn window on a farm, Hornby Island, BC
ferry view West Coast of Canada
Leaving is bittersweet. I love the west coast and I love NYC and the Hudson Valley.

Mini-Vacation on Block Island, RI

Sometimes a mini-vacation is all you have time for, and all you need. My in-laws love Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. They visit at least once a year, and they always ask us along, but between work & life schedules, it’s been about 10 years since Chris and I were there. Earlier this month, we made them very happy when we all found time for a long weekend together. It was my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday, so he and his girlfriend also took time away from their busy jobs in NYC. The drive is just a few hours, the ferry is an hour, and off-season you are rewarded with wide open, empty sandy beaches.

Block Island RI ferry
A ferry shuttling people from the mainland to Block Island
Beach on Block Island RI
Me in my beach best black capris
Kite flying on the beach
What mini-vacations are made of: sandcastles and kites

We packed our cars full of our favorite foods to cook (bone-out rib eye steaks & hamburgers from the Applestone Meat Company, endless salads, asparagus and ingredients for another attempt at Béarnaise sauce), and we bought fresh lobsters from the local fish purveyor, Finn’s. We flew kites, walked on the beach, dug holes in the sand, breathed deep of the salty air, grilled, and went to bed early.

I aspire to take more mini-vacations. I want to explore in short bursts. NYC & Brooklyn I see a lot. Boston we visit maybe once a year. Last year we rented a tiny cottage on a bay in Mystic, CT. If anybody can recommend great spots withing a 4-hour driving radius of the Hudson Valley, let me know.

sand castles on beach

Finns Fish Market
Fresh from Finn’s Fish Market. These lobsters were fiesty.

Grilling on Block Island RI
Steaming lobsters

Steamed lobsters
Freshly steamed lobster
Toddler tries lobster claw
My girl’s first taste of lobster

Block Island RI Beach
Block Island RI

 

West Coast Travels

I spent three weeks in my homeland, the West Coast of Canada, this summer. We cooked, ate, swam, took pictures. Most of the time we were with friends and family on the remote Cortes Island, British Columbia – surely one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Friends, fishing.
Friends, fishing.
A friend took us on his boat to the grocery store to buy eggs & beer. On the way home we caught some crabs.
A friend took us on his boat to the grocery store to buy eggs & beer. On the way home we caught some crabs.
A friend caught a salmon, and grilled it. I adapted a recipe from Alana Chernila's upcoming book for slow roasted tomatoes & garlic.
A friend caught a salmon, and grilled it. I adapted a recipe from Alana Chernila’s upcoming book for slow roasted tomatoes & garlic.
Boats at a dock.
Boats. dock.
My sister explored the beach with my daughter.
My sister explored the beach with my daughter.

My sister.

 

Winter Holidays 2013

Our winter holiday in Quebec included a seated dinner of turkey & all-the-trimmings for 27 guests; fresh-from-PEI malpeque oysters on the half-shell (and a braver-than-I-was-at-that-age ten year old); big ole bottles of wine; a Quebecois fiddler & guitar duo; a bonfire in 3-feet of snow; and snow every day of the trip.

 

County Cork, Ireland

This spring we took a trip to Skibbereen, in County Cork, Ireland. We sourced fresh sole, scallops, soda bread, butter, eggs, and great cuts of meat for the grill. We cooked and drank beer in a house that looked like it was built in the 1700s, spent one night at the famous Balleymaloe House, we ate black and white puddings, more rashers and beans than I can remember, and fell in love with Gubbeen cheese. This is what a food photographer & her food stylist friend, and their families do while on vacation!

Landscape winding road in Ireland. Photo by Jennifer MayLake view in Ireland. Photo by Jennifer MayIrish cheese, soda bread, ireland, county cork, travel photography, Jennifer MayStreet scene in Ireland. County Cork. Photo by Jennifer MayBallymaloe, Ireland, chicken, egg, white pudding, black pudding, rashersIreland, soda bread, butter, Jennifer May Photography, County Cork, SkibbereenIreland, county cork, fisherman, fish monger, sole, jennifer mayCows, Ireland, country side, Jennifer May

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I spent a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, just for fun. Fun, of course, being the photo walks I took in between reading and beach strolls. May is mango season, and I ate the juiciest, freshest mangoes I’ve ever tasted. Below are two grids with my favorite food and street scenes. Puerto Vallarta is totally dependent on tourism, but retains its own identity. It’s a town where you might come across a man running down the street with a severed, skinned bull’s head (below), and three blocks away another man is dressed up like a blue shrimp, trying to lure diners into a restaurant called The Blue Shrimp (not shown).

Grapefruit trees at the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden, coconut truck, margarita, salsa, chips, street meat, mangoes, flan for breakfast, papayas at the market
Street & beach scenes in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
The less and the well beaten paths. I came across this man running with the bull’s head to the butcher shop (left), beachfront (right).

Pacific Northwest Vacation

I just got back from two weeks visiting family & friends on and around Vancouver Island. We took 6 ferries in 12 days and…

valdez boat access only island british columbia
Spent 3 nights on Valdez, a boat-access-only island
that has no electricity or fresh running water
but is deluxe all the same
We sourced goods from local islands
camped on a hill in a tent that became target practice
went fishing
and rested in a hammock overhanging a cliff.
Back on Vancouver Island, my dad and I visited what used to be our front yard
butterfly brand smoked scallops on the beach
and had a snack.
pork roast rotissserie
My mom and step-dad hosted a pork roast
and invited the neighbors.
fishing on salt spring island bc
We took a ferry to Salt Spring Island where my brother tried to catch a fish
and later I swam with my sister.
Off to Deep Bay on Vancouver Island where my second family lives
fresh caught prawns to grill
they caught a whack of prawns and grilled us a feast.
Then we took one last ferry on the way to the airport.

Kitchen Tour of Mexico

Hopping around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my brother was a blast. He has been bicycling around the world for ten years (favorite stops: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, India, France, Ireland, and Greece) learning languages and planting trees. His olive skin has turned a darker shade from years of exposure to the sun and elements and he speaks Spanish with a Portuguese accent. Everywhere we ate in Mexico he asked the chefs if his sister could take pictures in the kitchen.

Preparing chili peppers
Way off the beaten path we ate spicy beans with eggs and fresh tortillas. Dipping into the salsa pots would have made Anthony Bourdain proud.
Cooking for an outdoor patio setting
The chefs behind my mother’s favorite restaurant
Not exactly the kitchen scene I’m used to seeing in NY, but tasty food none-the-less
This woman cooks out of her open-walled kitchen & living room. She told my brother she is not much of a cook, but for $1 it was pretty good.
A typical produce stand
Brother Ryan
Food stories in New York's Hudson Valley and beyond from photographer Jennifer May