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Posts Tagged ‘Organic Food’

Falling in Love

There are many things I love about springtime: the migrating birds that come home, the smell of lilacs in the air, the longer days, and the new palate of colors that make their way onto my dinner plate. One of the wonderful things about eating seasonally is how the arrival of each year’s crop feels like Christmas. In early spring, I particularly look forward to the arrival of asparagus. When it finally arrives, I can eat it almost everyday. I eat it marinated in salads, I put it in omelettes, puree it for soup, broil it with parmesan cheese, grill it with lemon…. I love it.

photo is NOT mine

My new obsession this spring is rhubarb. Rhubarb is a new item on my love list. Not being a very big jam or pie person, I must say I never really ate rhubarb. Last year, a friend of mine brought over rhubarb soda and I have been thinking about this wonderful vegetable ever since. When I saw that it was available in my CSA box this week, I was thrilled. The trick for me was trying to find a way to eat it without the sinful amounts of processed sugar and white flour. I searched Google and Bing for what seemed like an eternity trying to find “healthier” ways  to consume this delicious food and really came up empty-handed.

Sure I found plenty of savory sauces I could drown pork or fish in, and an amazing rhubarb compote, but I really wanted something I could make with very few ingredients and also feel good about feeding my kid.  I remember a while ago, I read a blog about woman who made rhubarb yogurt. Perfect. However, when I arrived at her blog, the recipe that she used was no longer available. Searching to web for a “rhubarb” puree, I found various combinations of white sugar and rhubarb which, with that and the help of Gourmet magazine gained me the confidence I needed to make up my own  recipe. Although a rhubarb puree is not something to start writing publishers about, I will say that I am very proud of the end result.

Granolamama’s Rhubarb Puree

  • 4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
  • 2/3 cup raw honey (you could totally use less)
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla (optional, but delicious)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice (optional, but delicious)

1. Add 3 cups rhubarb, honey, water to saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until mushy (like 10 minutes)

2. Puree in blender (Be careful with hot liquids. I put a rag over the top before I started pureeing). If you have an immersion blender, use that instead. 

3. Put back in pot, add remaining 1 cup of rhubarb. Cook until added rhubarb is mushy.

4. Take off the heat and add lemon and vanilla.

Alternative recipe ideas (in the spirit of Mark Bittman) and serving Suggestions:

  • Add a spoonful or two to REAL (plain, unsweetened) yogurt. Top with wheat germ. (optional)
  • Omit step three, adding all of the rhubarb at the beginning, serve with champagne or seltzer water. Some people prefer to strain purees with cheesecloth to make the beverage smoother and prettier 🙂
  • If you are going for decadent, add a few spoonfuls to tapioca or rice pudding
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If you are like me and have a fruit tree in your backyard, reaping the harvest can be both exciting, and well… a major pain in the ass. Don’t get me wrong, I love waking up every morning to fresh tree-ripened plums, but the 85% of the harvest that I can’t eat or give away fast enough is quickly becoming a nuisance. Trying to keep Liam from eating the worm-infested, rotten ones is a challenge all on its own. After an afternoon spent trying to pick up and salvage as many as I can, it was time to call the “gleaners”. What’s exactly is a gleaner you ask? Well, from the content in this paragraph, I am pretty sure you figured it out. While the more traditional definition of a gleaner is someone who goes in after the harvest and picks what’s left, a more modern definition describes humanitarian organizations that pick fruit and veggies that would otherwise go unused, and donate it to food banks and other organizations getting food out to those who need it.

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As people become more aware of thier connection to food in thier local communities, small scale gleaning projects are popping up all over the country. One such organization in Seattle is Solid-Ground.  While the scope of this organization is much larger than an annual tree harvest, it is just one of the services they provide that helps meet their larger goal to provide shelter, food, home care, transportation and other basic services to families and individuals in need throughout King County. By asking people to simply donate thier fruit that would otherwise go unused, they are able to help out a lot of families in the area who can’t afford local, organic produce. Being on the giving end, you end up with a much cleaner yard and on the recieving, a much healthier life. It’s a win-win for everyone involved and the community as a whole.

Another similar project in Los Angeles had taken gleaning to whole new level. Fallen Fruit, a lovalvore-activist art project, has taken on the large task of mapping out all the city’s public fruit trees. They believe that “fruit is a resource that should be commonly shared, like shells from the beach or mushrooms from the forest.” If you live in the area, you can simply log on to their website, check out where the local trees are, grab your basket, and start picking. Fallen Fruit is also involved in many other guerrilla-gardening projects and urge residents to plant food in as many public spaces as they can.

If you are sitting home right now with a fruit tree bursting at the seams with its bounty, find a local organization to help! If you find that you don’t have one, you can always pick the fruit yourself and drop it off at your local food bank. Even if you can only pick a bag full, if it will help one less person in your city go hungry, its worth it.

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You thought I was going to say organic, huh? Anywho, I am super excited because today is my first pickup for the CSA I recently joined. What is a CSA you ask? Well, its short for Community Supported Agriculture.  It’s a great way to support your local community, get amazingly fresh produce, become more aware about the “seasonality” of fruits and veggies. Most CSA’s basically works like this:

In the Spring, you invest in a particular farm in your area. You hypothetically buy a share of the farm in return for fresh, delicious produce during the growing season. Most CSA’s have 20-22 week programs. So, for 20-22 weeks, you drive to a local pick-up location once each week and pick up your fruits and vegetables. CSA’s range in price, but most average around $30-40 per week, depending on your share. Some farms offer different size shares, some do not. While most farms require you to pay upfront, there are many that offer payment plans. While it may seem like a lot of money up front, the farmer needs to make sure that you are totally invested and do not decide to quit half way through the growing season. Makes sense.

The farm I hooked up with is Full Circle Farm, located in Carnation WA. They actually offer weekly payment plans, and you can join anytime. This worked out great for me, since I was just a little busy in the Spring with my newborn baby (hope you caught the sarcasm!). They are also year round, which is another plus. I signed up for a small box ($30) and here’s what the contents included: a pint of raspberries, 1 lb. of apricots, 1 lb. of plums, 1 head of green lettuce, 1 cucumber, 1 lb. or red potatoes, a bag of spinach, a bunch of yellow carrots, 4 nectarines, 3/4 lb. green beans, a mango, and a bunch of yellow beets. 75% of the produce was all grown at the farm, while the rest of it was grown locally with “sister” farms, I guess you could call them (except the mango). I was so excited to recieve it, I think I tried a little of everything before I put it in the fridge!

yum!

yum!

If you visit the site, you will notice that all of the produce is certified organic, which is really good to know. I haven’t had a chance to actually talk to any of the farmers yet, but next time I visit the local farmer’s market, I will be sure to hit them up with some questions. Why, you ask? Well, I have recently come upon some research, and right now I just don’t know how I feel about the whole “organic” movement.  From what I have been reading, the entire system is corrupt. When the government gets involved, that’s pretty much bound to happen I guess. I mean it’s pretty evident when you start thinking about the slew of products that carry the organic label. I am sorry, but macaroni and cheese in a box should not be “organic”. Sure, the wheat used to make the pasta could be, but powdery. yellow cheese should not.  The entire “organic” movement has been stolen from a bunch of down-to-the-earth-biodynamic farmers and become something far too processed and far to commercialized. While I think its good that its has caught on to the mass public (like myself), I find myself having conflicting opinions about the whole process. Did you know that in 2005, the Organic Stanards Board (with an outlash from many organic farmers) approved a long list (low 30’s if I remember correctly)  of synthetic ingredients that are allowed in USDA certified organic foods?? To me that’s a total contradiction!! I even read one story about a person witnessing workers stuff conventional produce into bags labeled organic.! Craziness! Anyways, I could go on for ever about all of the info I have been learning, but the bottom line is, if you want to make sure that your produce is coming from a good place, visit your local farmers markets and TALK to some farmers. Ask questions. Many of the farmers in this area aren’t USDA certified organic, but I’ve asked questions and gotten great responses as well as invitations to visit some farms. (USDA certification costs an arm and a leg by the way… a lot more than most can afford).

There are some great resources out there if you want to tap into your community’s resources. Local Harvest is one of my favorites. If you are in the Seattle area, Seattle Tilth is an excellent resource for not only CSA’s but anything under the farming sun. You can even learn how to raise chickens in your own backyard! (more on this to come) And if there isn’t a CSA in your area, farmers markets are another great way to make sure that all of your dollar goes directly to the farmer (not just 19 cents of it).

Purchasing power is the greatest power we, as consumers, have. I would even argue that it is greater than our right to vote. With your purchases, you send a strong message…more powerful than you may realize.

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