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July’s produce log has proved a little challenging to get finished. I could blame it on the fact that I’m too busy eating but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

If this is your first visit, you’re seeing a month-by-month log of fresh produce, with a tally to see how my local versus non-local dollars compare. See April Produce Log for an introduction to the project. Here are May and June. You can download each one as a PDF. Here is July. Each month includes recipe ideas, links and PDFs to download.

Scroll down for more on July’s produce, reflections on eating in summer and recipe ideas.

It’s about this time in August that I want to push the pause button. I have yet to consume vast quantities of artichokes and because of that I’m not ready to see cantaloupe or even corn. Oregon’s artichokes are about a month late due to less-than-optimal weather.

This feeling of wanting to slow the tide of earthly delights is really just silly anxiety, stemming from a desire to savor as much and as deeply as possible. No one is stopping me, of course. To savor can imply taking time to create a spectacular dish. But savoring can just as easily mean standing at the kitchen counter eating a peach and licking the juice that drips down your arm.

I wrote about the comforts of seasonal eating and how limiting to what’s in season simplifies and allows you to enjoy eating on a different level. The desire to freeze the moment is that the overabundance from the garden and the sheer variety from the market begs for more time to enjoy it. There are only so many opportunities to cook for friends, which is the best way to celebrate all this bounty. In the absence of guests, I bang on my neighbor’s window with a big zucchini, hand a big bunch of basil to the teenager walking down the sidewalk, or give strawberries to the guy across the street.

Freezing the moment is what seasonal eating does, for better or worse. You’re up to your eyeballs in basil but you have to enjoy every leaf. For soon it won’t be there (except in frozen form, which is pretty darn good).

What’s Cooking?

Berries. Three visits to a local farm yielded 11 pounds of berries (a couple more visits needed), most of which go in the freezer. But not before making blueberry sorbetto topped with raspberries, with a little pinot noir thrown in for fun. And also not before making berry crisp, with marionberries and peaches. For those who don’t like to bake, this is a crowd pleaser and idiot proof (unless you burn it under the broiler). Make your own raspberry vinegar by tossing a handful of raspberries in some champagne or white wine vinegar in a mason jar and let sit in the sun. Strain out the berries once the vinegar has turned nice and red.

Carrots & Zucchini. I bought a large bunch of carrots and then pulled more from the garden, which is too many if you don’t love carrots. So I experimented with pickled carrots (refrigerator style) to make use of them. I loosely followed this recipe but I think I should have cooked the carrots longer. Together with my pickled zucchini (which I modified to make savory with no sugar, added garlic, dill, onions and coriander seed), I have ready snacks to put out when guests come over. See June’s log for other zucchini recipes.

Arugula. It’s growing like gangbusters this year which means eating a salad a day, sometimes two. Because of arugula’s peppery flavor, the sweetness of a raspberry vinegar dressing compliments the kick. When you have too many greens you have no choice but to start eating breakfast salad. There’s at least one other person out there who wants savory for breakfast. Use any lettuce or vegetables you like. Pictured is my take on it with arugula, shredded carrots and sunflower seeds, along with the soft-boiled eggs.

Beans. Last year, my beans died a horrible death. This year, I can’t keep up. I’m growing the Italian romano beans—a long, flat, wide bean with a nutty, sweet flavor that almost double in size overnight. My father used to make stewed beans that we had with polenta—the polenta being a poor man’s substitute for meat in Italy. I loved this dish; there was something wonderful about how the beans almost fell apart. I now know it’s called fagiolini in umido. Like many Italian recipes there are no hard and fast rules, unless it’s the rules of the person whose recipe you’re using. I don’t blanch my beans first and I also add torn fresh basil and shaved parmigiano at the end.

Artichokes. Sorely missing from this month’s log, a bag of baby artichokes are sitting in the fridge. I couldn’t want till next month to encourage trying this recipe. La vignarola is a Roman spring vegetable stew. Because Oregon’s artichokes are late, one can enjoy a spring dish in summer. The Italians are always improvising with what’s available. The catch here is that fava beans are called for and the planets didn’t align properly for the two vegetables to co-occur. The overabundant beans (see above) will have to be the understudy for favas.

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Phew. A long post but there’s a lot to say. If you use one of these recipes, let me know how it goes. If you have a favorite recipe using one of these fruits or vegetables, please comment!

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This week ends National Farmers Market Week. Even with access to one of the consistently rated-top farmers markets in the country—Portland Farmers Market— I’m still surprised there is such a week. In spite of the gloomy picture of the health of the average American and the crushing power of the industrial food complex, we have something to celebrate. There are now about 6100 markets across the country, a 16 percent increase over last year. Go here to find a farmers market near you.

Following is a tribute to the impact of farmer’s markets, with a focus on the Portland Farmer’s Market and highlighting one of their sustainability efforts. Their clearly defined mission and success at executing goals is an inspiration for any business or nonprofit.

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Beyond Food: A Success Story

One look and it’s easy to imagine how farmers’ markets nurture communities—piles of lush, colorful bounty and smiling people milling about. But behind the sights, sounds and scents are well-crafted success stories. Like many markets, Portland Farmers Market (PFM) has a mission to sustain local growers and food producers, strengthen the local food economy and create community gathering places. There are also peripheral, sometimes overlooked, side benefits that inspire, delight and sustain us all.

Sustaining Local Economies

Every dollar spent at a farmer’s market guarantees the continued existence of farms. The loss of these farms would mean a risk of overdevelopment; the reduction of healthy food options, jobs and local dollars; and an increase in reliance on fossil fuels used to ship food long distances. It is suggested that ninety cents of every dollar spent on locally grown food remains in the local economy as opposed to twenty-five cents if spent on food that is shipped in. In an inspiring reversal of a century-old trend, there has been a rise in new farms—many small and many women-owned—as consciousness rises about the need for more meaningful connection to the sources of our food.

Planning for Change

Farmers’ markets can be agents of change beyond creating thriving local food systems. PFM’s strategic plan includes a number of sustainability efforts—one being a 3-year waste-reduction program named Evergreen. PFM exceeded their first-year goal of a 50-percent diversion rate (from landfill to recycling/composting). With this robust program, PFM calculated waste, set attainable targets, created stations and signage, as well as education resources for vendors and shoppers.

All organizations face challenges when they embark on sustainability efforts. Recycling and composting standards change and vary from place to place, which means that the Evergreen program needed to be flexible to accommodate this uncertainty. An example is what is considered compostable in one jurisdiction might not be in another. Food packaging that claims to be compostable may not meet existing standards. Greenwashing is an ongoing problem, which makes it hard to validate products and services. And like most nonprofits, budgets and staff are often limited, making it hard to do all that you want with a program like this. But as Anna Curtain, brainchild of Evergreen, says, “We try not to let the perfect get in the way of the good.”

Collaborating

Without doubt, these efforts require pooling knowledge and resources. PFM collaborated with many entities—too numerous to list. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a great staff to use the village to create a vigorous commons. They took advantage of a Mayor’s grant to fund the planning and execution of the Evergreen program and sought the expertise of an event greening company to help them measure and predict waste. Adapting an existing model of a farmer’s market recycling station from another organization allowed them to put their energy into tailoring features specific to their needs and our local community.

Fostering Goodness

It is said that shopping at a farmer’s market creates ten times the interactions than at a typical grocery store. These connections that develop among and between shoppers and vendors satisfy a craving that people have to connect in more authentic ways than today’s world often allows. Musicians entertain, chefs inspire, farmers teach. Portland Farmers Market has created programs that range from greater access for low-income individuals to buy market produce, a market-friendly bike station, recipe station, and kids cooking events, to name a few. And many food purveyors like picklers, chocolatiers, popsicliers and bakers have had their start at the market. Over the years, 50 such vendors then blossomed into bricks-and-mortar businesses. There is a ongoing effort to nourish these budding foodpreneurs.

Pictured above (L to R): Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans from The Farmers Feast cooking up mushrooms, Patreece DeNoble with her artichokes, and a market shopper sampling from 30-plus tomatoes at the Tomato Fiesta event. Evergreen booth: photo by Allison Jones.

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Do you have a farmer’s market near you? What do you get out of visiting your market, aside from the food you take home? Has it changed the way you eat?

In April, I posted my first month tracking fresh produce expenditures—comparing local versus non-local produce. You can download a PDF of May, which is easier to read than the image below. To paraphrase a saying, eat the colors of the rainbow and you’ll be fine. May is already looking more colorful.

Two things I’m struggling with:

Defining local: If I were to use the 100-mile radius rule, then I would have to find out if the Washington apple I buy at grocery store is from a farm within 100 miles. My very loose definition of local is Oregon and Washington. Given that a big percentage of my local produce costs are from the farmers market, I’m fine with my definition.

Including garden costs: This project isn’t about tracking garden costs. Here is an example of a couple who tracked all input costs, labor and output from their garden. This is far too ambitious for me. An excellent read is Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Her family existed for a year on what they grew or could buy within a 50-mile radius. I am only tracking what I harvest (visually) and the cost of seeds or starts, but not compost or fertilizer. However, I haven’t devised a strategy for tracking every sprig of thyme! I’m a big proponent of having an herb garden. Given the cost of fresh herbs and the flavor boost your cooking, herb gardening is where I would put my effort if I had very little space. See this culinary herb primer  on Culinate.com.

 

Maybe you’re wondering what I do with all this. Here are a few links or suggestions:

Radishes and Fennel went into a Radish, Fennel, Orange Salad. The watermelon radish, if you can find it, is a visual delight—white on the outside, hot pink on the inside. Radishes make my stomach burn but my mother loves them. It was Mother’s Day. What can you do? The sweetness of the fennel and orange balance the peppery radishes. Plus the salad looks kick ass.

• In an earlier post, I wrote about Rabes (Raabs), and offer up a quick way to cook broccoli rabe. You can also download a recipe for Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa, a signature dish of the Puglia region in Italy.

• You can read about rhubarb and download a recipe for a Rosemary Rhubarb Galette.

• Chef in the Market, Jeremy Eckel of Bar Avignon in Portland, OR, made a wonderful farro (This has become my favorite grain. Stay tuned for another post.) salad with grilled asparagus and spring sweet onions. Add some olive oil, fresh lemon juice and zest, and chopped hazelnuts for a great Spring BBQ salad.

New Seasons market has a nice kale and carrot salad that I’ve recreated at home. It uses an Asian-inspired dressing of cumin, canola oil, fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesami oil. No need to cook the kale first; the vinegar breaks it down so make it a little ahead. I also use the Italian kale in minestrone soup. Sadly, it is still soup season in Portland!

If you have any questions and comments, let me know! Share some of your favorite seasonal recipe ideas. Cheers!

Having wondered where my food dollars go, specifically local fresh fruits and vegetables, I decided to log a year’s worth of purchases—from the farmers market, local produce at stores and not local at stores. Starting with April, at the end of each month I’ll post a new log.

Numbers on a page don’t appeal to me the way visuals do, so I decided to do a visual log. I have no goal other than to see if I put my money where my mouth is. As a big supporter of our local farmers markets and as a volunteer at Portland Farmers Market, I want a better idea of how my food dollars shake out.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m only logging fresh produce even though bread, eggs, grains, dried beans and nuts can be purchased at the farmers market. Maybe next year! I am logging expenses on seed packets because what comes out of the vegetable garden is a reflection of what I eat. And there are true costs like seeds, fertilizer and compost. As to whether I track what I reap from the garden, we’ll see. As my garden is organic, so will this process be.

In the meantime, here is April. You can also download April as a PDF. I expect future months to be a bit more colorful!

Despite thinking the other day that I should build an ark, the frequent heavy downpours punctuated by bold sun and dramatic clouds hardly has me down. One reason is that farmers market season is in full swing and, once again, I can make my weekly pilgrimage in search glorious produce.

One twist this year is that, having just moved into a new place with a large organic garden bed, I find myself holding back on planting too much for fear that I won’t need to visit the market. It’s an activity that is part errand, part community spirit, part sensory stimulation…the colors, the sounds, the smells. It’s woven naturally into my life.

The new King market opened last weekend at NE 7th and Wygant. I was asked to take photos and was happy to see a huge turnout, not to mention a bit of sun. Needless to say, the asparagus tent was one of the more popular. And now begins the Spring asparagus feeding frenzy that started with making never-ending asparagus risotto (recipe link below).

asparagus

The folks at EcoMetro Portland, and creators of the Chinook Book, wrote a useful article on how to understand organic certification. This is something I often wonder about because I know certification for small farms can be costly. But one reason I choose to shop at our farmers markets is that I can talk to farmers. The lack of anonymity in a venue likes this means you can feel more comfortable with your shopping choices. You can learn about a farmer’s growing practices, whether they’re certified or not. Personally, I want my produce to be at least pesticide free; I’m more interested in buying local and I trust who I’m buying from.

The article also has a link to a wallet-sized pesticide guide that will help you understand which produce is more harmful than others if grown with pesticides. Produce that you peel is less harmful, for example, than a strawberry.

A side note: During the month of May, the PSU market has bike workshops each Saturday to help you get your bike market friendly, So, get thee to the farmers market.

carrots+bikes

Risotto alla Primavera

This recipe is from Bon Appetit via Epicurious.com.

It’s easy to underestimate how much risotto expands, as well as one’s waistline if you made as much as I did. I’ve eaten it for the last five days, once for breakfast with a fried egg on the side and another as pan-fried risotto cakes. Wet your hands a little, form a cake, pan fry in a little olive oil and serve with a side salad.

I didn’t have enough parsley so I added thyme instead. I also added shiitake mushrooms which I probably would have sauteed a bit first, but I threw them in as an afterthought. They added a nice complexity.

I might have added half as much more asparagus than the recipe calls for to add a bit more green.

Enjoy!

I have a growing collection of odd-shaped foods usually found at the wonderful Portland Farmers Market. Some Saturdays I can be found cooking at the Taste the Place tent, letting market shoppers try various seasonal foods. Otherwise, I’m found wandering in a daze trying to remember just what it is I need to buy. I’m often so overtaken by the abundance of gorgeous produce that I will have made several loops and still have nothing in my bag. A display of purple cauliflower sitting next to orange pumpkins leaves me speechless. Despite my obsession with artichokes, I’m almost paralyzed at the mountain of greenish purple thistles not knowing if I should eat them or paint a picture. Or I consider buying an array of peppers, each one representing a color of the rainbow, all except for blue…thank god.

The “carrot guy” as he is unofficially known, has the most splendid pile of just-dug beets, potatoes and carrots in more colors than you knew existed. Aside from the dual-colored purple and orange ones, these two carrots were my most inspired purchase. (I never claimed to be a poet.)

kindred-carrots1