Friday, June 25, 2010

Eating Where You Live and Work

(who wouldn't want to eat this? rainbow chard anyone?)

Margot and I are fortunate enough to have several farm stands of local farms (Elwood, Macks & Sunnycrest) within a few miles from home in Londonderry, NH. We patronize them weekly, sometimes daily, in the summer and fall months when their produce is available. The combination of it being grown right there with minimal transportation and the ability to inquire about what is about to ripen and when is fantastic. We have picked our own berries, apples and pumpkins almost every year we have lived in Londonderry. I have used produce from all of the farms to make wines, ciders and beers several years running.

When we can, we eat where we live. In 2009 friends of ours offered a half share in a pig, being raised by their neighbor next-door, and we have cheerfully eaten most of our score. I grow kitchen herbs, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and lavender in my own garden and freeze everything I can in the fall to use when it is no longer in season. These choices have ushered in home cooked food with fresh and clean flavors, a reduction of chemicals and processing and a lower impact on our natural world.

I recently began working in Boston again and was very excited when I first saw the Dewey Square Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Bread, fruit, vegetables, cheese, roasted nuts, fresh cut flowers and sandwiches are available almost every day. The vendors vary from one day/week to the next, but their products always look and most certainly taste great! Being able to eat where I work while avoiding fast food and packaged choices is fantastic. The addition of the Clover Food Truck, which I wrote about last week, has attracted even more buzz and more patrons. If you work in Boston in the area of South Station you should follow Clover on Twitter at @cloverdwy. The daily updates on their menu are a fun way to decide where to eat when you didn’t bring from home.

Last week I interviewed a few vendors at the Dewey Square market to understand the benefits of the market to them and their patrons.

Allison Chase from Keown Orchards said that from the market “city residents have access to fresh produce and products they might not otherwise get” and “the farm gets good exposure which often results in visitors to the farm”. When asked about which products are their most popular Allison indicated that their honey is very popular and that in the fall they can bring up to 60 varieties of apples to the market. I can’t wait to try some types of apples I have never had before!

(Keown Orchards at the Dewey Square Farmers Market)

Beth Quinn co-owner of Q’s Sweet Roasted Nuts said that “patrons at the farm markets are more open to experimentation with flavors” and that they sell many more of their more exotic flavors here than at other retail locations. I have personally tried the Key Lime Ginger, Cayenne Mango and Mexican Chocolate flavors, none of which lasted long at all. Beth also feels that the farm market offers a great support network amongst the vendors and she hopes that the Dewey Square market becomes a permanent farm market in the city.

(Beth and a parton talking sweet roasted nuts!)

This year we have joined the Local Harvest CSA (community-supported agriculture project) run out of Concord, NH. We saw an article on the CSA trend in the Hippo Press and sought out what was available nearby. While we already eat healthy, we often return to the same vegetable options week over week, and we though a CSA might give us options that we would have to learn how to use and would definitely come to enjoy. Bingo! This is week two and we have already enjoyed baby pak choi for the first time. We have garlic scapes on deck from this week, something I am looking forward to working with.

The Local Harvest CSA is a cooperative of eight local organic farms with produce offerings of cantaloupe to kale greens, and all of the classics like tomatoes and lettuce as well. A bread share is also available for an additional fee. Margot and I signed up for the single share priced at $29 per week. Some back of the envelope math based on organic (for a fair comparison) produce available at our local markets suggests the price and quantities are competitive. We are sure to be challenged to come up with new recipes to use a wide range of produce we haven’t enjoyed before. We also get to support local farmers, ingest fewer chemicals and live a bit more gently. Mission accomplished.

(members, with Joan's help picking up shares)

This week we received the following items:
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic scapes
  • Chard
  • Mixed field greens
  • Dill
  • Green onions
(is Margot really happy about green onions?)

Yesterday was a special day at the CSA pickup site, with visiting chef Mario Capozzoli (see photo below) of preparing recipes using ingredients’ from this week’s share. We talked with Mario a bit and found his down to earth philosophy on eating and living well to be consistent with our own, and a nice balance between not caring at all and the zealots who claim we shouldn’t eat almost everything. Mario prepared the following items using items we were taking home:
  • Spinach and chickpea pesto style spread with garlic scapes on crusty bread
  • Pea risotto wrapped in lettuce
  • Orzo (maybe) pasta salad made with his own handmade cider vinegar
We talked to Joan O’Connor, the site manager to the Local Harvest CSA. Joan was so enthusiastic to talk with us, even turning us on the idea that earthworms were good food. She quickly explained that they can be dried and ground into a high protein flour that you wouldn’t know came from a worm. I’ll have to reserve another day to check that out and let you all know what kind of adventure that creates…

Joan is also the market manager for the Manchester Farmers Market and an earthworm vendor at the Concord Farmers Market. As a member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association she has a strong commitment to local, organic and sustainable farming and her list of involvements certainly supports those ideas. She indicated that Local Harvest has grown considerably since it began, and while it isn’t without a few glitches here and there, it runs smoothly and members are happy with the variety of items they get. So far we would have to emphatically agree.

I’m not one of the facist foodists that is going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat with hellfire and brimstone awaiting all your “bad” choices. What I can say is that every one of us can benefit from more local and a less packaged junk and overly processed foods. Try to eat where you live and work. Look for fresh, local produce where you live and work and replace other things in your diet with them. Look for local bakeries, livestock cooperatives and producers of food that comes from the shortest distance away. Be adventurous. Look for things you haven’t used before, find good recipes and experiment at home. You’ll never believe what you will find. When you do, all of us will eat and live better.




Wonderful post...and great motto! my local farm stands are my favorite place to shop!

Will Stewart said...

Michelle and I joined a CSA — Middle Branch Farm in New Boston — for the first time this year.

The farm had an open house this past Sunday and we picked up a mini-share of salad greens, garlic scapes and bok choy. We're looking forward to grilling the latter tonight!

Just Food Snobs said...

Great post I am a supporter of local farmers markets, the produce is fresh and colorful and you get to mingle with other people in a relaxed setting outdoors!

Magic of Spice said...

Great post Jason...Fresh food markets are just the best way to spend a morning:)

Lisa | Authentic Suburban Gourmet said...

Great post! Love the rainbow chard - such a treat to find. Nothing better than locally grown.

The Food Apprecianado said...

My grandfather used to grow what he called "Sweet Chard" with his Italian accent in the backyard. Nothing quite as gorgeous as that! What color! Great photos~