You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘local’ tag.

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.

………………………

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!

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.

…………

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.

……………….

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?

I bought tomatoes today.

This is not earth-shattering news. But they were the first fresh tomatoes I’ve bought in months except for some romas for a friend’s Mexican-themed dinner party. This didn’t take a heroic feat of delaying gratification. But that’s what is so interesting about seasonal eating. It can come on slowly and naturally to the point where it’s just comfortable and sensible.

Aside from the obvious benefits of seasonal eating—health, taste and supporting local agriculture—there are several no-less-important aspects to it.

The joy of novelty.

There is a certain kind of joy when we experience newness. This is why the anticipation of a first kiss is so good. The desire for the taste of basil or sweet corn never dies. But the wait makes the getting so much better. What comes with nearly always getting what we want when we want it, is often an unsatisfying gratification. The forced slowing down and waiting till the tomato seed germinates, flowers and then bears fruit makes tomatoes taste much better than if you’d been eaten them all year—whether it’s you or someone else doing the growing.

Cupping the velvety warm tomato gave me a little jolt of excitement. It was just waiting for a drizzle of good olive oil and some basil that finally decided to produce some leaves. A mouthful of summer.

Simplicity and creativity.

The tyranny of too many choices can suck the potential joy out of any endeavor, leaving you spending more time deciding than enjoying. Within the limited parameters of eating with the seasons, you’re free to be more creative. Without limits, there’s more chaos.

Take asparagus, for example. If you ate asparagus only during the weeks it was in season near you, you’d be more likely to make soup once, try a risotto next time, toss it on the grill after that, add it to a salad one day, throw it in a pasta another day. Frankly, till you’re sick of it! This simplicity of choice forces culinary creativity. If you ate asparagus whenever it appeared in the grocery store, you’d prepare it the same way you always do.

The clarity of seasonal.

There is no doubt that you become more sensitive and aware of what grows when, how it grows, what it pairs well with, how weather impacts a harvest and what is involved in getting it to you, when you eat with the seasons. In other words, the whole picture becomes clear, and with that clarity comes knowledge, intelligence and respect.

Once, heavy rains prevented the artichoke farmer from showing up at the market, which meant nixing my dinner party centerpiece of grandma’s stuffed artichokes. I could picture and appreciate mud-caked wheels and freeing a tractor stuck in the earth.

Many wince at the cost of raspberries. But there’s no better way to appreciate their high cost than to squat next to a raspberry bush, scratched arms and all, gingerly plucking the succulent jewels off the vine. You can only get this kind of clarity when the fruit is in season.

The conviviality of local.

By definition, seasonal eating is local eating. It is said that shoppers at farmers markets have 10 times the number of interactions than at a typical grocery store. The visual appeal of markets and farms puts people in a more open and engaging frame of mind. Recipes, stories and information shared among shoppers and farmers fosters a sense of community. This lively exchange is not happening in the cereal aisle at Safeway.

…………

I often remind myself that I live in a bubble here in the Pacific Northwest. There are many food wastelands in this country. In the middle of the heartland in Peoria, Illinois, for example, where my mother lives, fresh, seasonal food is nearly nonexistent. This, despite the ocean of corn (for animal feed, sweeteners and additives) spreading out for miles and miles. I am under no illusion that access—not to mention a 10-month growing season here—makes seasonal eating much easier.

This is just [good] food for thought. Do you have a seasonal eating tale? Is it easy to do where you live? Do you grow your own food? Share your thoughts.

…………

There are many great sources on seasonal eating. Here are just a few:

• Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

• Epicurious: An Interactive Seasonal Ingredient Map, including other goodies on that page like interviews with Alice Waters and Michael Pollan.

A New Way to Think About Eating, review by Jason Epstein on Michael Pollan.

Here it is July 2nd already. June required several new drawings as more and more produce is becoming available. The color palette is opening up, which, in addition to beautiful meals, also means a larger variety of vitamins and minerals. An Eat the Rainbow post is soon to come that explores the range of antioxidants in the many colors of foods, and their benefits.

If you’re new here, visit April and May produce logs for an introduction to my yearlong project to track my fresh produce dollars. You can download each one as a PDF. Here is June.

Even those of us who cook often find ourselves stymied by what to do with our market or garden loot. The pressure to be creative or break out of eating ruts can conspire to overcomplicate what can be simple. Most foods that grow in the same season go well together. Foods that are fresh and seasonal don’t need much fussing. Instead, let the real taste of the fruit or vegetable sing. Two great sites I refer to often are Culinate, which posts wonderful food stories and seasonal recipes, and Epicurious, which is my go-to recipe source. Instead of trying to figure out what to cook for the week, I simply buy what looks good and is in season. Then I plug in what I’ve got into the search field and modify recipes if I don’t have an ingredient the recipe calls for.

How did I eat this month’s produce?

Artichoke: I lamented to chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans of The Farmers Feast that I preferred the versatility of baby artichokes and had lost my interest in basic steaming of large artichokes. She suggested tucking chopped fresh herbs like basil, mint and parsley and chopped garlic into the leaves. For a dipping sauce, I melted a little butter and added slivered garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. Wonderful! But I await the baby artichokes to make one of my favorite dishes, a Roman stew called la vigniarola, with fava beans, pancetta and peas. See my artichoke piece in last year’s farmer’s market newsletter.

Kohlrabi: Veggie Borg, I like to call it. A truly bizarre looking vegetable. Kohlrabi has a nutty, fresh flavor and is wonderful shaved onto salads or cut into sticks and used for dip. It reminds one of jicama.

Cabbage: The reason for all this cabbage? Homemade sauerkraut, which is brewing in the kitchen. It smells, like, well, sauerkraut…in a good way.

Zucchini: Though many say baby zucchini are tastier than large ones, they can be expensive. I’d rather get more bang for my food buck. Summer squash is great grilled or slow sauteed in a skillet till they caramelize. Just add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and crumbled feta. See my piece on summer squash in last year’s farmer’s market newsletter. I’m also making refrigerator zucchini pickles. Here’s a recipe from the Zuni Cafe, but I’m cutting down on the sugar and may add other herbs. You don’t need to do special canning. They’ll keep in a jar in the fridge. Pictured is Deborah Madison’s recipe for zucchini circles. Saute on low heat for a long time till zucchini starts to brown and the sugars caramelize. Squeeze some lemon, sprinkle crumbled feta and chopped herbs like basil, parsley or mint…or all three.

Farro Salad with Roasted Beets and Peas: I roasted chioggia beets, and cut them into cubes for a farro (substitute any grain like wheat berry or quinoa) salad. Fresh shelling peas were added along with spring onions, a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette and fresh dill and chives from the garden. Stay tuned for a post about grains and how to incorporate them more into your diet.

Farro (or Quinoa) Salad with Zucchini and Peas: Another great grain salad, but rather than use zucchini raw, grill or saute it till browned for extra flavor, then chop and add it to the grains. A can of chick peas makes this a complete protein—great for your vegetarian friends. Add the herbs, lemon/olive oil vinaigrette and crumbled feta or goat cheese. You can use shelled fresh peas or cut sugar snap peas.

Please share! More to come. Happy 4th!

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!