Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In search of local produce

I recently decided that I wasn’t enough of a hippy (85% hippy according to John G), so I joined the local food Co-Op. The Co-Op is in progress of moving to a bigger store, which is good news because their current location is in a church basement and that kind of freaks me out. Unfortunately, I’ve been a little disappointed with the Co-Op thus far. I had been very excited about the prospect of having access to local organic produce, etc, but after my first shopping spree, I spent a ton of money and didn’t even come back with enough stuff to make dinner. There were a few vegetables from a farm about 25 miles away, but still a lot of the produce was from California (such as the obscenely expensive potatoes I bought). Strawberry Fields (a local health food store) pretty much has the same stuff for less money, though it is still all obscenely expensive. On the plus side, the Co-Op does carry Burt’s Bees products for less than I’ve seen them anywhere else. I think that in principle, the Co-Op is a great thing and I hope that once it moves out of the church basement, it will be a lot better. I’ve been told that they will carry 3 times as much produce in their new location, so that’s good news. Considering that I’ve got 9 cucumbers in my fridge right now and another 60 or 70 still growing on the vine out in my garden, I’m wondering if I could become their cucumber supplier.

Cucumbers from the garden

At any rate, I was unrelenting in my quest against the corporation and continued my search for local produce to supplement the cucumbers in my garden. Luckily, I didn’t have to go too far. Just about a half a mile away over in Orchard Downs there is a group of Chinese gardeners who sit out at picnic tables selling their produce all day long. When I discovered this, I was overjoyed for a couple of reasons. First, the local Farmer’s Market is held only on Saturday mornings, and what with Rob’s triathlon and bike racing schedule, we are almost never in town for it. And secondly, I really, really wanted to support these people. Their gardens are right along Race Street—where I run just about every day. Over the months, I’ve seen them preparing the ground, planting the seeds, tending the seedlings, and trying to hold back the flooding that surely destroyed some of their crops. During our rainy, rainy June, so many of those garden plots were completely submerged by the rains, and I’d felt so bad that after so much hard work they might lose everything. But once the rains subsided, many of the green rows were still there, and now they’ve got vegetables to sell.

So I hopped on Iris 2 and rode over to Orchard Downs. When the farmers saw me approaching, everybody got up from the picnic tables and surrounded me, thrusting lovely vegetables towards my nose and excitedly saying things in Chinese. I was a little overwhelmed. As it turned out, nobody spoke any English, except for one woman who smiled kindly and said, “Little English,” then pointed to a lovely bunch of green onions and said, “One dollar.” I ended up buying some of the onions (which are the best green onions I’ve ever tasted), and I will definitely return the next time I need anything green. The piles of green things they had displayed on the picnic tables was about twice the size of the selection at the Co-Op, and this produce is really local.

Green onions

I came home to make dinner and listened to a “Learn Chinese” podcast so that when I go back to visit my new friends, I will at least be able to say “Hello” and “Thank you.” If anyone who lives around here is reading, I highly recommend this truly local market!

Meanwhile, my own garden continues to expand its borders. So far the only things I’ve been able to eat from it are cucumbers, kale, basil, and cilantro. But in another couple of weeks I will be inundated with more tomatoes than I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve been eating cucumbers like other people might eat potato chips, and I’ve had to get creative to find uses for the kale. While searching for kale recipes, I ended up getting confused and combining this one and this one. What resulted is actually pretty good:

Kale and Adzuki Bean Farfalle
3-4 cloves garlic
6-8 cups chopped fresh kale
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
about 2 cups (cooked) Adzuki beans
1 box of tri-color farfalle pasta
Feta cheese
Tamari sauce or salt (optional)

Saute the garlic in olive oil. Add the kale, you may need to add a little water. You will soon see what was once a giant and nearly unmanageable quantity of raw kale disappear into nothingness. Add the cumin and coriander, stir to coat. Add adzuki beans.* You might add a little salt or tamari sauce (for more of an Asian kick), but I usually don't.

Meanwhile, boil water and cook the pasta according to instructions. Drain. Serve the kale mixture over the pasta and top with feta cheese.

This is usually enough for 2 nights worth of dinner for a hungry cyclist/triathlete and a hungry marathon runner.

* You can either use canned beans or make them yourself. For dry adzuki beans, you can put them in water to soak when you leave for work in the morning and then cook them for 40 min to 1 hour when you get home. You can also use the quick soak method: you boil them for 2 minutes, then let them sit for an hour, then boil them again for 40 min to an hour and they are good to go.

That’s all for now. I’ve got to get back to the Tour de France and my increasingly unwieldy chapter on the howler monkey diet. Thanks for reading!


Ragfield said...

Phil just said "Christian Vande Velde looks as cool as a cucumber."

Anonymous said...

WOW-- I am SOOOOOO IMPRESSED with your garden and your search for LOCAL produce, and your grampa george would have been ,too!!!! How interesting , that the ONLY' LOCAL 'gardeners seem to be CHINESE???? something is wrong with that picture!!!!!!! even your PRODUCE IS "FROM CHINA" well, not really FROM, but you know what I mean!!!!! Hope your CO-OP continues to IMPROVE..... Your cucumbers are MASSIVE and LOOK so YUMMY, makes me REALLY wish I was CLOSER to YOUR garden....... You might find it missing some produce.. :) hoping your 'day' with the HOWLERS, ( on paper) is good....... good luck on the CHINESE!!! luv you, foxy mama

Jodi said...

I love those little Orchard Downs independent "markets"! I've bought from those ladies before too; their stuff is good. Do you know if the co-op is moving into the Lincoln Square mall? We had thought that they were moving into the space where that new piano bar just opened up. And hey, if you're looking to unload some of those cucumbers... ;-)

Logan's Mama said...

You are the cucumber and kale queen! The lavendar and limes you gave me are growing well. Any suggestions for using the lavendar?

gutzville said...

The co-op may bump you up a % or 2, but you will have to do alot more work to break the 90% mark. Maybe join a commune. Or @ least mover to California.