Eating Locally: Your Own Backyard
Friday, November 02, 2007
You can’t get any more local than your own backyard. Even though we live in the city, I always make a point to plant and harvest my own vegetables and fruit. This year we grew watermelon, herbs, tomatoes, raspberries, eggplant, squash, grapes, blackberries and lots of hot peppers. Because of an unseasonably warm Autumn, a lot of the plants are still producing because there hasn’t been a killing frost yet. I am sure it will happen any day now, so it is best to be prepared.
Here are some steps to maximize what’s left and prepare for next year:
1. Cover the eggplants/squash with a bag or fabric. Not 100% protection, but sometimes it is enough to ward off a light frost for a few days and allow almost mature vegetables to ripen.
2. Pick green tomatoes. I made chili with some green tomatoes and wrapped others in newspaper and stuck them in a dark place to ripen.
3. Bring delicate potted herbs indoors.
4. Dig up your pepper plants, plant them in a pot (with some fresh potting soil) and bring them inside. They can reproduce all winter if they are in a sunny spot and can be replanted in the Spring.
5. Compost any vegetables that will not ripen off the vine or plant them in the ground-you might get a “free” plant growing there next year.
6. Weed. It sounds silly, but if you get rid of the weeds now you might have less after the last frost and it discourages pests and disease.
7. Cover and mulch the garden area.
A brief note: This is my first post as a guest writer for Farm to Philly and quite an honor. I am a food writer and blogger based in Baltimore, which is just within 100 miles of Philadelphia. I plan to occasionally post about food, places and events in my area.
Posted by Guest on 11/02 at 12:44 PM
Winter Harvest Begins
I got my first order from the Philadelphia Winter Harvest yesterday. Winter Harvest is a buying club, run via Farm to City, that allows you to choose local produce, meats, dairy, and baked goods, among other things, during the winter and early spring. Items are paid for through a debit system from the member’s account. The order is then shipped to a pickup location on the weeks you specify per month.
The prices are a little too steep for me to purchase something every week, but I’ve seen other members buy things in great quantity. Last year, there were some problems with my orders that resulted in last-minute cancellations. As a result, I had some leftover credit and used it towards this month. I ended up inadvertently duplicating my order from my CSA, which resulted in more butternut squash and apple cider than I had intended. I love both, so it works out just fine.
This year, I hope to save up some money to buy some local meats. Stay tuned throughout the winter for updates!
Posted by Yoko on 11/02 at 11:41 AM
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Bad news from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: consumers will no longer be able to tell from looking at a milk label if the milk contains bovine growth hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. State Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff says using labels that read ‘rBGH-free’ or ‘pesticide-free’ only confuse all of us hapless, idiotic consumers because we mistakenly think milk produced from cows who aren’t chock full of drugs is somehow better for us.
Never mind that rBGH is banned in Canada and Europe, and even the U.S. General Accounting Office and the Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, fully admit that drinking milk derived from rBGH-treated cows is potentially hazardous to humans. Earlier this year, both the U.S. FDA and FTC ruled that rBGH- and antiobiotic-free milk labeling was appropriate and legal. Who would possibly want to know that their milk is rBGH-free? Sadly, Wawa only recently announced that they will process and sell milk that is free of artificial growth hormones. One has to wonder how this will affect their Pennsylvania stores. Under the new labeling ban, 16 Pennsylvania companies will have to ‘correct’ their labels by January 1. Rumor has it that Monsanto, the drug giant that produces rBGH, has been working overtime to pressure Pennsylvania Ag heads to get rid of the ‘confusing’ labeling.
Some of the dairies imply their product is safer than others through absence labeling, telling consumers what is not present in the milk as opposed to what is, Wolff said.
Claims such as “antibiotic-free” and “pesticide-free” are misleading, because all processed milk sold in Pennsylvania is tested a minimum of 10 times to guarantee it is free of such substances, which are illegal for milk to contain, he said.
Consumers rely on product labels to decide what to buy and feed their families, Wolff said. The department must approve labels for milk sold in Pennsylvania and there has been more and more marketing that makes it hard for consumers to make informed decisions, he said.
Posted by Nicole on 11/01 at 12:57 PM
CSA Weekly Report: Blooming Glen Farm
This week is the second to last pick up of the season. How sad!
(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names and quantities of this week’s share.)
Looking at that incredible harvest and all those vibrant colors, it’s so hard to believe that in just a few days, we’ll be receiving the last share of 2007.
Blooming Glen has some great cheerleaders and received fabulous press and publicity, which all seems to have contributed to a flood of requests for 2008 CSA subscription registration. What a wonderful testament to the farmers’ hard work, dedication and passion - and too, to the supporters and members of the community. Knowing that so many families, when given the choice, prefer naturally grown food from a local farm is reassuring and smile-inducing. I do hope that Blooming Glen’s continued success and their neighbor’s continued support inspires the CSA model to grow in this area.
As they say, “If you build it, they will come!”
Posted by Mikaela on 11/01 at 09:22 AM
CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The penultimate share of the season for me had:
bok choy (because I love this stuff)
butternut squash (these two for a butternut squash risotto I plan to make)
The apple cider, from Bauman’s, was a bonus for sending in a response to the CSA’s survey. Delightfully thirst-quenching!
Posted by Yoko on 10/30 at 11:39 PM
Market Report: Rittenhouse Square
I took a walk at lunchtime today to check out the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market. I was looking for apples, and I was not disappointed. There were just two stands but both were well-stocked. One of them was mostly apples and Asian pears. The other stand had a broader mix of Lancaster County-grown fruit and veggies from Amos Fisher Farm (Quarryville) and Rineer Family Farms (Pequea).
The selection of apples from Amos Fisher Farm was great (all were $1.59/lb). In addition to the usual suspects, I tried some Razor Russet apples that are worth seeking out. I had to promptly sample one and it was crisp and firm with a nice sweet flavor. Perfect for eating out of hand. I think it will also cook up well in some apple cake later this week.
I also got some huge heads of broccoli and cauliflower from Rineer Farms (2 for $7 is a steal for these big beauties!). I’m thinking a nice, cheesy bubbly-warm gratin is in order for this crisp weather. The stand also had a lot of peppers, tomatoes, beans, spinach, mesclun, potatoes and, of course, plenty of winter squash.
The Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market is on Walnut Street (west of 18th Street) on Tuesdays from 10 – 1 and Saturdays from 10-3. I had read that the Tuesday market ends in October, but the woman staffing the stand where I bought my stuff said that they’re going to be around until Thanksgiving.
From the depths of the freezer
Soup weather has officially arrived here in Philly. To mark the occasion, I trolled through my freezer full of locally grown produce and settled on the many bags of corn hibernating there. Corn chowder! Woohoo!
3 cups of corn kernels (CSA share)
1 large red onion (CSA share)
2 tablespoons butter (Fair Food)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken stock (homemade from a local chicken)
6 new potatoes, cubed (CSA share)
2 cups milk (local)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
Heat the butter and oil in a large soup pot and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the chicken stock and then the potatoes. Bring this to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Now add milk, thyme and pepper. Let this simmer for about 8 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
Add the corn and the heavy cream. Let this simmer for 5 or 6 minutes until the corn kernels are cooked. Depending on how you like your soup, you may want to use an immersion blender to puree a bit of the soup.
Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
It was exactly what I wanted on a cold Fall night. Yum!
The green thumb
Monday, October 29, 2007
Feeling how nippy the air is today, I’m feeling much better about my decision to take the garden down two Saturdays ago…even if I did have to pick a ton of green tomatoes. Not that I have anything against green tomatoes, mind you. There’s lots to do with them, other than the now infamous fried green recipe.
- green tomato jam
green tomato curry
green tomato sauce
green tomato and lemon marmalade
green tomato soup
Speaking of gardening, I’ve been giving some thought to next year’s garden adventure. Four varieties of garlic are already in the ground for next year, and I think I’m committed to growing Hakurei turnips. But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people participating in the Dark Days Challenge talking about local lentils. And I’m jealous.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to find locally grown dried beans around these parts. I have no idea why. Every now and then you see them at markets, but not too often. I grew a variety in the garden a few years ago, so I know it’s not difficult. So I’ve been thinking maybe it would be a good idea to grow my own supply again. Of course, my concern with lentils is just growing enough plants to get a decent yield. So far I have not found much information about that. Victory Seeds does sell several varieties of lentils. Perhaps I could email them and ask.
Other than lentils, I’m thinking it might be good to grow Flageolet and White Marrowfat beans.
Posted by Nicole on 10/29 at 11:15 AM
Dark Days: steak and hookers
The other day I did my first volunteer shift at the Fair Food Farmstand. Sadly, I spend so much time perusing the produce there I didn’t need much of an orientation as to what goes where. At one point, though, I was mystified when I opened a box and pulled out what I thought were radishes - giant radishes and baby radishes. Sarah, the manager, set me straight - they were Hakurei turnips. In my head, I heard “hooker eye” turnips, which sent me into giggles.
The Hakurei turnip is a Japanese salad turnip. They are quite sweet, and much softer than a regular turnip. And they’re gorgeous. I kept eyeing them up the entire time I was working at the Farmstand, and after my shift ended I bought two bunches of them, along with a porterhouse steak from Natural Acres, to make for dinner on Sunday night.
It turned into a great meal for the Dark Days Challenge - the only things not local: walnut oil, salt and pepper. In addition to the steak (cooked rare, just the way I like it!) and turnips, I also sauteed some local mushrooms in local butter.
This is how I cooked the Hakurei turnips:
2 bunches of Hakurei turnips with greens
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small red onion, diced
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. of walnut oil
Heat walnut oil over low-medium heat in a large skillet.
Trim greens from turnips and set aside. Trim turnips and slice in half. Add to the skillet with a sprinkling of salt and cook for 10 minutes or until turnips are just starting to brown. Stir the turnips now and then to turn them. Add garlic and onion; saute for five minutes.
Tear greens into bite sized pieces and add to the skillet. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until greens are wilted, another couple of minutes.
The turnips were excellent - even my husband loved them! And that makes me think perhaps I should consider growing them next year. Johnny’s Selected Seeds sells Hakurei seeds. They appear to be relatively easy to grow - and it takes only 38 days to reach maturity. It’s definitely something to consider for next Spring!
End of season limbo
Sunday, October 28, 2007
This is my first entry, so bear with me!
I sliced up apples to dehydrate today, getting close to the bottom of the half bushel box M’s mother and I picked at Linvilla Orchards a few weeks back. It always pleases me how long good apples last, stretching the season of fresh things. We’ve started in on the freezer, though, getting out a quart of blueberries and one of strawberries to put on our breakfasts of oatmeal or granola. I made some semi-successful blueberry muffins with lemon and lime juice, but M’s amazing apple muffins with a crunchy sweet crumble on top were softer and tastier. It seems like my food cravings are very weather related. On those warm indian summer/global warming days, I want the fresh stuff—the last greens of the CSA season, crisp apples, potato salad. But when the snap comes, the cool snap that reminds me we will soon be in my favorite season of winter, I want soups, soups, and more soups. That’s when I start baking again, too, making chocolate chip and chocolate crinkle cookies for my honey. The cats are back, sleeping on our bed again, as if they hadn’t disappeared from this activity since May. I look forward to talking with you all about your winter foods and loves!
Posted by Eliza on 10/28 at 10:25 PM
October Tomato Sauce
The recent weather has kept our garden overflowing with summer crops as well as the colder weather stuff. So this morning I got out in the garden at sunrise (literally…the Sprout woke up at 4:30 and I couldn’t go back to sleep) and picked as many tomatoes as I could, as well as loads of parsley and some green beans. I feel like I’m tempting fate by leaving this stuff in the ground so close to November, so I feel better having harvested a lot of these hot weather foods. With at least 30 pounds of tomatoes to work with, I set out to make a big batch of sauce to divide up for the freezer.
First, I blanch all of the tomatoes in boiling water for about three minutes to loosen the skin. As one batch is in the pot, another is draining over the sink and I’m working on coring and peeling the drained tomatoes. Then, I just throw the skinless, cored tomatoes into the food processor and puree them for a few minutes. This whole process can take quite some time if you have a lot of tomatoes and you’re working by yourself (or with a toddler “helping”). It’s also pretty messy, especially if, like me, you’re not the neatest cook in the world. Once all of the tomatoes are pureed, I saute some onions and garlic in olive oil, and add the tomatoes along with whatever fresh and dried herbs I feel like using. Today I harvested bunches of parsley to freeze in cubes for the winter, so I added a lot of that as well as basil leaves whose days were numbered. Of course, lots of salt and pepper go into the pot too.
Depending on the types of tomatoes, it may take a few hours before the water cooks off a bit and the sauce is a good consistency. The smell is divine and the taste of fresh tomato sauce in January is definitely worth it.
Preserving the harvest is such an important part of eating local. I’ve seen deals on tomatoes from local sources recently, so it’s a great time to stock up even if you don’t have a garden before these gems are gone for another year.
Clark Park Market report, 10/25-10/27
This has been an excellent week for me at the Clark Park farmers’ market.
On Thursday, I picked up chicken legs and ground lamb (not pictured) from Quaff Valley Farm and Royalty and Stellar apples, Hosui and Yoinashi Asian pears, and red sweet peppers (not pictured) from North Star Orchard. On Saturday, I bought Northern Spy apples, brussels sprouts, an onion, and carrots of various colors from Keystone Farm (Rome), banana sourdough from Slow Rise Bakery (no, I’m sure the bananas aren’t local), and butternut squash and broccoli from Shenk’s Berry Farm. I was sorely tempted by their cauliflower and romanesco, as well, but they were huge as well as beautiful—much more than I can eat by myself this week.
Review: Restaurant Alba
Today is our seventh wedding anniversary. We used the occasion to try one of several restaurants out our way [the Delco burbs] that focus on locally grown ingredients. Restaurant Alba won out, and we had our anniversary dinner there last night.
Being slightly snobby about suburban restaurants, we didn’t count on how hard it would be to get a reservation! It’s in Malvern, for pete’s sake! Who flocks to Malvern on a Saturday night? Well…people do, apparently. We couldn’t get a reservation until 9pm. So let this be a lesson: call early. I think I made the reservation last Tuesday and that was still late to get in at an earlier hour.
Restaurant Alba is a BYOB, so we arrived with a bottle of Chenin Blanc (not local, alas) in hand at the appointed hour and were graciously shown to our table. The place was absolutely packed solid. I won’t bore you with details about the decor or whatever, because we both know what’s important: the food. But I will say that the waitstaff was absolutely lovely, and attentive without being annoying.
My husband, Craig, and I decided to order the antipasto (which changes daily) and the wood grilled octopus to start with. The wood grilled octopus was a plate of large chunks of slightly blackened meat in a very light lemon vinaigrette, along with a few bits of potato that were supposed to be ‘pesto dressed’. The octopus was delicious. It really was - perfectly cooked. It reminded Craig and I of octopus we had last year on Mykonos. It was so good that I could overlook the very plain potato with it.
There wasn’t a single bad thing about the antipasto. The star of the plate was large marinated shrimp in lemon-infused chickpea sauce. Also on the plate: seared tuna with a pine nut salsa, bruschetta with Shellbark Hollow goat cheese and fig, crostini with baccala, and a slice of sopprasetta. Everything was fabulous. We practically inhaled it.
A word here about the bread. The staff keeps the bread basket filled, and bring a little dish of olive oil for dipping. The bread was…OK. It was bread. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t excellent. The overall quality of their food makes me wish the bread was better.
Anyway, moving on. Dinner for me was North Carolina fresh water trout, spinach crema, crab risotto cake, tomato jam, and spinach salad. Craig ordered prosciutto wrapped Chatham cod, pistachio butter, spaghetti squash, and braised endive. Both the trout and cod were perfectly done and absolutely delicious! The tomato jam topped the risotto cake, and the spinach salad topped the jam. The spinach crema was beneath the trout. A bite of trout with the spinach crema was a great combination. The spinach salad was very nice - little bits of goat cheese accompanied it. The tomato jam was good and so was the risotto cake - but I couldn’t taste any crab in it. Craig’s cod was good and salty because of the prosciutto wrap. I was thrilled to see spaghetti squash on the menu, and it was very tasty with the pistachio butter. Craig liked the endive (I didn’t have the chance to try it).
By this time I was absolutely stuffed. For a restaurant that is supposed to focus on locally grown food, I felt like I hadn’t really had very many in my meal. Just about the only thing I knew for sure was local was the goat cheese on the antipasto plate. Would the menu have indicated if the spinach or the squash or tomatoes for the tomato jam were locally grown? I don’t know. I mean, the menu clearly stated if the cheese was local, and on the dessert menu there were desserts with local apples and local honey. My point is that aside from a few things clarified on the menu, you really don’t know if the restaurant is sourcing a lot of their produce locally. Do we trust them, or don’t we? I don’t know.
Anyway, because I felt like I should go out of my way to order the locally grown thing, Craig and I decided to split the apple betty made from locally grown apples. It came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It was absolutely delicious! The apples were tangy and warm and lovely.
The food at Restaurant Alba was very, very good. I just wish we were able to discern a little easier how much of the produce is locally sourced. Still, being able to get locally made cheese and a dessert made with locally grown apples is more than most restaurants around these parts will do!
As a snarky aside, there was a table next to us full of people talking about how awful foie gras production was. Restaurant Alba normally has foie gras on the menu (last night they had sweetbreads instead), so I’m shocked that people so concerned about it would eat there. They were talking about it pretty loudly, and I was so tempted to lean over and direct them toward an article on foie gras production that appeared in City Paper this year written by Farm to Philly’s own David Snyder. I understand why people might be concerned with how foie gras is made, but it pays to be well informed about the subject - not just content to accept one side of the story.
7 West King Street
Malvern, PA 19355
New to the Neighborhood
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I’ve lived in the Philadelphia area for just over a year. Starting to write for Farm to Philly seemed like a good time to take an inventory of the local food discoveries I’ve made in the past year. I live in the northwest suburbs and work in Center City, so I’m able to take advantage of the local food offerings in both places. In other words, I really have no excuse not to make more local foods part of my regular diet…
My favorite local food finds of the past year:
Milk from Penn View Dairy (Perkasie) – Gotta love the reusable glass bottles. There’s something so wholesome and charming about them! I’m good about getting two bottles a week from The Old Dutch Cupboard on Rte. 113 in Harleysville. With a milk-guzzling toddler, this is a reliable local foods purchase for our family. If I don’t make it to Dutch Cupboard, I sometimes stop at two other local dairy farms on my way home from work: Merrymead Farm (Lansdale) or Freddy Hill Farm (Lansdale).
Seven Stars Farm Yogurt (Phoenixville) – I usually buy the scrumptious maple yogurt at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal to keep at work for snacking during the day. I also buy the plain yogurt for my older daughter (the Bean), but I’ve also gotten it at Whole Foods and Willow Creek Orchards. Steven Stars is a 350-acre bio-dynamic farm, and they also buy milk from a few other local dairy farms.
Eggs from Deep Springs Farm (Harleysville) – This farm is within walking distance from my house. It’s even more convenient because the eggs are kept in a fridge outside so you can pull up (or, heaven forbid in the suburbs, walk up) anytime, grab a dozen eggs and stick your $2.50 in a box inside the refrigerator.
I’m a vegetarian, but my husband and the Bean eat meat occasionally if it’s from a responsible source. Our two favorite spots to get local meats:
Bolton’s Farm (Silverdale) – Fresh turkey (order now for Thanksgiving!) and frozen turkey burgers are favorites. They also usually have chicken.
Blooming Glen Pork (Blooming Glen)– My husband is in love with all of the pork products at Blooming Glen, from the tenderloin to the sausage.
We have a big garden, so we try to get as many fruits and veggies out of it as possible. (Our hope is to sell some of what we grow this year…we just need to figure out some logistics.) I also frequent The Fair Food Farmstand and Willow Creek Orchards.
Now that I have some of the basic of local foods shopping in Philly down, it’s time for me to expand. I’ve been sampling some cheese, wine and branching out in search of other local foods and restaurants supporting small farms in the area. I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you.
Valley Shepherd Creamery, Long Valley, NJ
Yesterday my husband, Ben, took a personal day from the office so that we could go on a little autumn excursion. After lunch in historic Lambertville, NJ, we headed for the Valley Shepherd Creamery, where we had heard that very good cheese was to be had.
Some of Valley Shepherd’s cheeses are in fact available through Williams-Sonoma, and they’re all available at the farm, which also hosts educational farm tours tailored for ages K-4 and all the way up to college level, featuring specific tours in food sciences, entrepreneurship, animal management and biology. Valley Shepherd’s cheeses are East Friesian sheep and Jersey cow milk cheeses, some mixed milk, some pure. The farm will continue to make cheeses over the next few weeks into November, when the cheesemaking stops for the winter, but cheeses aging now in the farm’s hillside cave will still be sold through the farm’s shop. (Fresh lamb meat begins to become available in the shop right around the time of year when cheese production ceases.)
We purchased a mixed-milk blue, a very sharp Provolone-like cheese called Fairmount, a ball of ricotta, and a wedge of a soft, orange-rinded wheel that I pulled indiscriminately out of the back of a refrigerator. We were sorry that no cream cheese was available that day, and Ben drew the line at the cheese with the stinging nettles in it—both of these, I will perhaps get another shot at on a future visit. In addition to cheese, sheep’s yogurt, and aracauna eggs (naturally light blue in color and naturally lower in cholesterol than white or brown eggs), the shop features many sheep-themed gifts (I actually got some sheep chopsticks) and fiber items. I also purchased yarn from the farm’s alpacas, and for those who are not knitters, blankets woven from the farm’s fibers are also for sale.
In the time we were shopping, someone came in and asked if any raw milk was for sale; they were, of course, told that it was not, but Valley Shepherd supports Garden State Raw Milk, a grassroots campaign to legalize the sale of raw milk in New Jersey. Tours of the cheese caves are only available on weekends, so we did not get to see the caves this time around… but we will be back, for sure, and not only for the cave tour—for the day-long artisan cheesemaking class that is offered, where participants can make their own wheel of artisan sheep’s milk cheese and leave it to age in the hillside cave, then return for it when it is at its best. What an amazing gift! (The classes, or a wheel of handmade cheese!)
Regular weekend tours include, in addition to the visit to the cave, the Ewe Barn (where, depending on the calendar, baby lambs may be seen), and North America’s only rotary milking platform, which can milk over 300 sheep an hour.
Ben and I left the farm armed for the long drive home with a lot of very earthy-smelling cheeses. Our ride was blindingly bucolic—the Garden State is awash in color right now, and it was a windy, blustery day. We tried all of our cheeses except the ricotta on the ride home, at least one of which—that orange-rinded devil—was not meant to be opened in a damp, closed car under any circumstances. All things being equal, however, it was one of the most enjoyable “stinky cheeses” I have ever had, and the Fairmount—the sharp Provolone-like hard cheese—was the clear winner of the day.
(guest posting by Amber Dorko Stopper)