Edible Monterey Bay

LAST CALL

LAST CALL

Artichoke Bitters

A Bonny Doon homestead’s delicious spring tonic

By Amber Turpin Photography by Michelle Magdalena 

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Artichokes grow like weeds for us on the Central Coast. Almost 100% of all commercially grown domestic artichokes hail from California, 75% of which come from Monterey County alone. So we know a thing or two about enjoying the prickly orbs, and most people will say that the best way to consume an artichoke is simple… with lots of butter! But Carin Fortin and Delmar McComb, of Blossom’s Farm in Bonny Doon, have much different ideas about how to use artichokes. Their artichoke bitters employ the thistle’s beneficial antioxidants—along with juniper, rosemary, lemon peel, cinnamon and cloves—to promote healthy digestion as well as pleasure.

In Switzerland, Fortin’s homeland, as in much of Europe, bitters are taken before and after meals as a very popular and gentle liver cleanse. But the difference between the European brands we see at the bar, such as Cynar and Averna, and Blossom’s Bitter, as they call it, is that this local bitters is made with homegrown, biodynamic ingredients, way less sugar and no artificial colors. The current batch is made with a small amount of grain alcohol, but in the near future, Fortin and McComb plan to distill vodka out of sunchokes grown on their homestead. This kind of alcohol synthesizes more naturally and carries a smaller glycemic load, leading to less blood sugar disruptions upon consumption.

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Fortin is no stranger to seeing nature as a healing tool. Her grandmother was the very first female naturopath in Switzerland, followed by both of Fortin’s parents, and they passed their recipes on to their daughter. One of the tenets of their philosophy is that our immune systems thrive when we consume foods grown close by. “If you eat food that has the imprint of the local environment, you eat out of your own ecosystem,” explains Fortin. And since “your stomach is the center of your health,” she says, bitters can be an important and delicious aid. Meanwhile, McComb is a certified permaculturist and brings a long career in garden design and biodynamic farming to the enterprise.

In addition to their artichoke bitters, the Blossom’s Best line also features traditional Italian bitters made from Angelica seeds, elderberry tincture, and various salves and balms. The holistic, hyperlocal approach that goes into these medicinal products extends to everything else in the works at the farm. For example, Fortin and McComb save and package their own seeds, grow specialty nursery plants, whip up a variety of pestos (including their favorite, with stinging nettle), preserve lemons and ferment various krauts.

This past fall, the farmers were in desperate search for new land, but at the 11th hour, they found a new homestead just three miles down the road. The short distance allowed their beloved cows (one of which is the farm’s namesake) to partake in a traditional Swiss walking procession to their new address, complete with bells and flower- adorned horns. Friends and volunteers helped dig everything up and relocate the rest of the farm in four short weeks.

Although the move put farming and production in limbo for a while, it will not hold back Fortin and McComb’s vision. In their new location, they aim to create a space for biodynamic farming workshops, medicinal gardens, a small CSA and milk share program and a base for an online store. In the meantime, you can find Blossom’s Best products on sale at the Slowcoast Airstream in Davenport.

Blossom’s Farm • Bonny Doon • www.blossomsbest.com

RECIPE: To make the Blossom’s Bitter Negroni, go to www.ediblemontereybay.com/recipes.