Sunday, March 29, 2009
Lately my Sunday cooking endeavors have begun to spiral out of control. I've gone from tortillas to artisan bread to yogurt, and this weekend I got bit by the Italian bug...so I had to try to make my own fresh pasta. Having just been blessed by a fresh harvest of organic baby arugula, I figured it would be exciting to experiment with making a fresh green pasta. I have never made pasta before so this was all a learning experience!
My sister was kind enough to lend me a spare hand-crank Italian pasta maker like this one. We tried hand-cutting some of the pasta we had rolled out, but getting the noodles to a uniform thickness and length was difficult, though I'm sure experienced pasta makers are able to do it. The machine is definitely worth the money if you want to make pasta more than once or twice.
We used the Joy of Cooking pasta recipe and doubled it. The recipe is as follows:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (when I doubled the recipe I did 2/3 white flour and 2/3 whole wheat)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
(optional) 2-4 tablespoons blended cooked spinach or other fresh green; make sure to drain the greens quite well before using.
Mix egg with water, salt and olive oil. Make a well in the flour and pour liquid into it. Work dough with hands until sticky and blended. Add greens into dough and work in. Knead for about 10 minutes, the way you would bread, then allow dough to rest for up to 1 hour. We chopped our arugula instead of blending it, and it turned out to be too coarse, so I recommend putting it in the food processer and making it the consistency of pesto before incorporating in the dough.
Cut the dough into sections. We did a preliminary rolling with a rolling pin, to form the dough into the right shape...then we passed it through the flattening part of the pasta maker. The machine has different settings for thinness, depending on what kind of pasta you want to make. Start on the thickest setting, then gradually roll the dough through on thinner and thinner settings until you get to the one you want. It got really long and we kept dividing the pieces into shorter chunks so we could manage them as we fed them into the rollers! Throughout, it's important to keep everything -- the work surface, your hands, the machine, the rolling pin and the pasta itself -- well dusted with flour. We also spread a sheet of parchment paper on the counter as a resting place for chunks of dough and finished pasta.
Cutting the flattened dough was fun, and took the least amount of time out of all the steps to the finished product. We slid on the cutting attachment and fed pieces through, careful to keep them well floured. Without enough flour, noodles tended to stick together. They also stuck together where larger chunks of arugula were lodged in the dough -- definitely a reason to puree the greens.
Finally, we cooked some pasta up and ate it, simultaneously strategizing about how to store the rest. We decided to create loose bundles and freeze them in a ziploc bag, hoping they do not re-form into a blob of dough. I'm hoping we can just take them out of the freezer and throw them right into a pot of boiling water. And the fresh pasta we tried? It was SO GOOD! Salt, pepper and a little pat of butter was all I needed. I am not a huge fan of 'normal' pasta and I can't remember the last time I was willing to eat plain spaghetti, but I could have eaten a mountain of this stuff. You could really taste the egg (organic & free range definitely helps with this...we are so lucky to have access to good eggs.), though the arugula was for all rights and purposes undetectable. Good for you though in terms of nutrients, and the pasta was pretty!! I'm looking forward to making some egg noodles and also roasted red pepper pasta this summer. I hope you are inspired to try your own round of pasta making, and readers who have advice on pasta or questions are highly encouraged to comment.
That's all for now...the verdict is still out on what I ought to try next, though I do have a notion to experiment with crepes...
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The draw of such a convenient assurance is huge for someone like me, and hearkens back to the time where milk was delivered daily. I am not sure why that practice stopped- perhaps we each got cars and wanted more control over our food choices. Yes, I romanticise that time, but feels right to know that we are getting back to these simple practices.
I have friends in Alexandria who get 'the box' delivered weekly, and I think it has made their cooking more adventurous. Think about it- if you are already in possession of a bunch of greens and some Japanese turnips, you will find a way to use them, whereas if you go to the store you might just pass these items by.
Farmers' markets seem to me to be a great transition between the vast amount of choices offered in the grocery store, and a more subjective experience. Someone, hopefully the producer, will be there to tell you why an item is good, and what to do with it. Personal, seasonal and local shopping. I can't wait for the season to begin!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Just a quick note for everyone who uses an RSS reader to check out our latest posts...I will be changing how our RSS feed is distributed soon. Please now use the URL http://richmondfoodcollective.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss to get our blogfeed in your reader. We have been using FeedBurner to syndicate our RSS feed for some time, but I have decided to eliminate it as it is causing some technical issues and not really affording us any benefits. If you are currently using http://feeds2.feedburner.com/RichmondFoodCollective to get our feed, please be prepared to change over to the default blogspot feed URL after this evening, at which time I will be removing our feed from FeedBurner.
For those of you who don't understand this stuff, I don't blame you, and you can go ahead and disregard this post!
And for the RSSers...thanks for your understanding!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Dirt is the kind of book that, despite its academic tone and a profusion of dates and historical facts, still manages to scare you. David Montgomery, a geomorphologist and professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, seems to be both fascinated and terrified by his studies of the patterns and changes in the earth beneath our feet. Throughout the book he takes us to Egypt, the Amazon basin, the American Midwest, China and Peru (among others), providing countless examples of civilizations that succeeded or failed due to careful stewardship or careless mining of soil, unquestionably (as I have concluded) our most precious natural resource.
It's simple, see: without fertile soil we can't grow plants. No plants means no food. Without food...well, you get the idea. And we have been mining our soil, using up the natural fertility, and moving on since time immemorial. A repeating pattern of fertility loss, erosion and human migration emerges as, across the world, humans continue to make mistakes. The problem is that soil time is much slower and harder to percieve than human time: these changes take place over hundreds of years. So those farmers who neglected to return nutrients to the soil through manuring and cover crops had little to no perspective on how they were permenantly changing the landscape of their own agro-ecosystems. Societal and cultural pressures don't help; slavery, economics, poverty, agrochemistry, monoculture crops for export, corrupt governments, those in power motivated by little else than money. It's all in here, and yes...it's scary.
I guarantee this book will permenantly change your perspective on food and agriculture. Erosion, in particular, is a predominant theme. Many of us are concerned by the contamination and depletion of soils by 'Big Ag,' using gallons upon gallons of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These issues are addressed as well; however, it's important to realize that we have been ruining soils since long before anyone had any idea about NPK. Erosion of fertile topsoil is a huge concern, and we come to realize that clearing land for farming is a dangerous prospect.
Another revelation in this book (for some) is that poverty and hunger will never be solved by increasing the worldwide supply of food. Hunger is a food distribution issue, not a food availability issue, illustrated by the example of Ireland's infamous potato famine: shiploads of meat were being sent off to England as the peasants starved on fungus-infected potatoes. They had been forced to move away from Ireland's already small area of fertile lands (which were being farmed for export of crops and animals) and ended up in marginal locales where little else was possible to grow. It stands to reason that Montgomery is against GMO crops, as he believes that the companies who distribute them, regardless of what they say, are motivated by other desires than to end world hunger. We need to be teaching substinence farmers how to conscientiously grow crops and build soil so that they can grow what they need to survive.
It takes thousands of years for topsoil to form: once it is gone, it is gone for our lifetimes. And we are already farming, says Montgomery, almost all the arable land on the earth. With the population expected to double in the next century, it will be impossible for modern agriculture to continue to deplete the soil at its current rate--that is, unless we want to lose a lot of those new people to starvation. Where have we been, and where are we going? Montgomery quotes Marie Antoinette: There is nothing new except what has been forgotten. This book is a journey: one that takes you through time and across the earth, then pulls you from blind indifference into a passionate, disturbed understanding of what lies beneath our feet.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
A great article out in today's edition of the NYT asks, "Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?"
In mid-February, Tom Vilsack, the new secretary of agriculture, took a jackhammer to a patch of pavement outside his headquarters to create his own organic “people’s garden.” Two weeks later, the Obama administration named Kathleen Merrigan, an assistant professor at Tufts University and a longtime champion of sustainable agriculture and healthy food, as Mr. Vilsack’s top deputy.
Mr. Hirshberg and other sustainable-food activists are hoping that such actions are precursors to major changes in the way the federal government oversees the nation’s food supply and farms, changes that could significantly bolster demand for fresh, local and organic products. Already, they have offered plenty of ambitious ideas.
For instance, the celebrity chef Alice Waters recommends that the federal government triple its budget for school lunches to provide youngsters with healthier food. And the author Michael Pollan has called on President Obama to pursue a “reform of the entire food system” by focusing on a Pollan priority: diversified, regional food networks.Check out the entire article here. It's good to see that the big names are still out there, agitating for change! I didn't know Vilsack had jackhammered up the pavement to plant a garden until reading this -- great gesture, I must say. Let's see how things go, though. The reality of implementing regional food distribution systems, etc. will take a lot of hard work from grassroots people like us...we've still got plenty to do, even as the government slowly catches on to these ideas!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
IT IS TIME TO START COLLECTING THE SPRING RAINS! SUNDAY APRIL 5th, 1-4pm Participants will receive a 55 gallon #2 plastic food grade barrel with all the necessary components to make a usable rain collector. Tools and helpers will be on hand to assist in the assembling. We will discuss and explain set up and maintenance of your rain barrel as well as offering a few suggestions for the more adventurous DIYers for converting heavy duty plastic garbage cans into functional rain collectors. We will discuss how the use of rain barrels can be a component in reducing our negative impact on our local waterways and help foster a stronger connection with the health and well being of our diverse and complex ecology.
INSTRUCTORS: Danny Finney, Allison Mesnard, Stacey Moulds
LOCATION: Tricycle Garden’s Office, 211 West 7th Street, RVA 23224 (in Old Manchester)COST: $75, 50 spaces available, Please send a check to reserve a space! Thanks, The Tricycle Gardens Crew
If you can't make this April 5th class, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is also offering a "Bins and Barrels" Class that will offer a straightforward Make Your Own Barrel workshop as well as information on other means of conserving water in your garden. Check www.lewisginter.org for more information.
This Wednesday and Saturday Market at Gayton and Ridgefield Parkway sounds great. With 25 vendors, strict limits on craft vendors, and a specified 100 mile origin restriction it should be a wonderful addition to Henrico Countries blossoming market scene.
Watch for details about another brand new market starting soon in the near-westend within the city limits off Three Chopt Road.
The second seems to be that there is really no recognizable difference between HFCS and sugar in taste or effects on the human body. I do take issue with this. It is my understanding, (and I am no scientist), that HFCS is a man made sugar in which an entirely new molecular structure, not found anywhere in nature is created by multiple industrial processes in order to provide a sweetener that is higher in fructose than glucose ( so it taste sweeter), and is more stable under the high temperatures of industrial manufacturing as well as for the long shelf life necessitated by the industrial/commercial food system it is created for.
The lesson I have taken away from authors such as Nina Plank, Michael Pollan, and Sandor Ellix Katz is that history has shown that when we allow the traditional foods Man evolved along side to be replaced by industrial man made 'equivalents' our health suffers in ways never imagined at the time these new foods are introduced. If this has been true for the relatively simple process of creating white bread then why would we not be suspicious of a product that contains entirely new chains of sugars?
For other perspectives on this issue Check out these links...
Here is short piece on the Mayo Clinic sight concerning the question of HFCS and personal health.
Here is a link to an interesting and detailed article on the FDAs choice to refer to HFCS as Natural, as well as a discussion of the general problem of this increasingly popular food labeling term.
Here is section from a 2001 article entitled The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup at the Weston A. Price Foundation website
"Consumers may think that because it contains fructose--which they associate with fruit, which is a natural food--that it is healthier than sugar. A team of investigators at the USDA, led by Dr. Meira Field, has discovered that this just ain't so.
Sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose. When sugar is given to rats in high amounts, the rats develop multiple health problems, especially when the rats were deficient in certain nutrients, such as copper. The researchers wanted to know whether it was the fructose or the glucose moiety that was causing the problems. So they repeated their studies with two groups of rats, one given high amounts of glucose and one given high amounts of fructose. The glucose group was unaffected but the fructose group had disastrous results. The male rats did not reach adulthood. They had anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy--that means that their hearts enlarged until they exploded. They also had delayed testicular development. Dr. Field explains that fructose in combination with copper deficiency in the growing animal interferes with collagen production. (Copper deficiency, by the way, is widespread in America.) In a nutshell, the little bodies of the rats just fell apart. The females were not so affected, but they were unable to produce live young.
"The medical profession thinks fructose is better for diabetics than sugar," says Dr. Field, "but every cell in the body can metabolize glucose. However, all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of the rats on the high fructose diet looked like the livers of alcoholics, plugged with fat and cirrhotic."
HFCS contains more fructose than sugar and this fructose is more immediately available because it is not bound up in sucrose. Since the effects of fructose are most severe in the growing organism, we need to think carefully about what kind of sweeteners we give to our children. Fruit juices should be strictly avoided--they are very high in fructose--but so should anything with HFCS.
Interestingly, although HFCS is used in many products aimed at children, it is not used in baby formula, even though it would probably save the manufactures a few pennies for each can. Do the formula makers know something they aren't telling us? Pretty murky!
About the author
Linda Forristal, CCP, MTA is the author of Ode to Sucanat (1993) and Bulgarian Rhapsody (1998). Visit her website at http://www.motherlindas.com/.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2001
This page was posted on 12/03/03"
For a bigger picture read Nina Plank: Real Food, What to Eat and Why, The seven chapters on Corn in Michael Pollan's Book The Omnivores Dilemma, Pollan's latest book, In Defense of Food, and Watch the Documentary King Korn, or do some of your own research.
I also recommend that you check out the You Tube videos made in response to the HFCS promotional videos, for pure entertainment value if nothing else.
Friday, March 20, 2009
On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them) but arugula will make the cut.
While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”
Michelle also said, for those who don't have the time or yard to garden, “You can begin in your own cupboard by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables." I'm so excited to see the Obamas encouraging Americans to take little steps toward a better lifestyle! I have heard so many people talking about this garden, including the Eat the View campaign, Michael Pollan and Alice Waters. The garden plan is already available here, and they are planning to fertilize with in-house compost and crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay. Congratulations to everyone who helped this dream to become reality.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
With that in mind, one of my efforts this month has been to avoid eating out. As an aspiring foodie, I admit I thoroughly enjoy sampling the vegetarian fare (yes! I'm a veggie) at restaurants around town, and as I have gotten more interested in quality ingredients and good cooking, my tastes have started to range into the expensive. It's not just expensive restaurants. No, it's that I want the full experience: appetizers, salad, white wine, dinner, red wine, dessert, and maybe dessert wine or coffee or tea. As a college student I used to go places and order a glass of water and a dinner plate, but now I find myself forking over serious cash whenever I go out. So this month, restaurants and I are on a 'break.'
In the meantime, I have managed to satisfy my desire to be 'out' on weekends, chatting with friends, soaking up a lively atmosphere, by somehow managing to attend five potlucks in the last three weeks. Gone are the days of taco dip, goulash and jello...these potlucks were absolutely delicious! I highly recommend what I would like to call the New Potluck as an economically sound alternative to the expensive night out. I want all of you to stop imagining potluck dinners as a mishmash of unidentifiable slop on a paper plate, and reenvisioning them as opportunities to celebrate food, friends and the season! Just like our famous RFC potluck parties, most of the items at these meals were in-season, characterized by late winter veggies like fennel, butternut squash, beets, and early greens.
My first potluck of the month was during my trip to the VABF conference, which yielded a mountain of food cooked by organic farmers: highlights included a sweet potato phyllo tart and a warm black bean soup. Following that I attended the Tricycle Gardens volunteer meeting, where participants brought brunch dishes to share: Nellie Appleby (TG kitchen gardener extraordinaire) had delicious pickled beets for us to try! Next was a birthday party where I ate grilled winter veggies seasoned with garlic and butter. Last weekend were two more dinners, one a fennel bonanza featuring 4 dishes including parts of the fennel plant, then an Indian food fest at Erin's, where I ate homemade chapatis, raita, curry and macaroons.
Needless to say, I have not felt the slightest craving to head out to the restaurant scene! I would love to see other members of Richmond's locavore community following this trend, maybe even going to far as to start a 'movement!' Potlucks are easy because you only have to cook one item, not a whole meal, and they are also a great way to share ideas on how to make the most of the limited late winter/early spring options for fresh vegetables. Remember to give your events that sustainable touch by asking participants to bring their own fork and plate or by supplying people with compostable goods from a company like Green Duck (see post below!). Anyway, I hope you plan your own potluck soon...and if you do, be sure to invite me.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Later in the season, beginning May 29th, the 17th street market will have a weekly Friday evening event from 4-8pm involving Legend Brewing Co.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
The Richmond Food Collective is always trying to think of new ways to grow, enjoy and spread the word about local food, sustainable agriculture and seasonal cooking. With much excitement, we have now leapt into the podcasting world with Collective Kitchen, a short podcast in which we will hopefully take you on some great adventures in the world of local food!
Click here to download Collective Kitchen, Episode 1: Cooking with Pumpkin! Use our RSS feed to subscribe through iTunes or your favorite podcast subscription software!
For our first set of podcasts, we will invite you into our homes to investigate our ingredient of the month as we cook, learn about and eat a seasonal item. Sometimes these dinners will also include some of our good, local food lovin' friends, whose opinions you may hear during the podcast. We will offer plenty of facts on our featured ingredient, as well as information on the Virginia wines, brews or spirits we pair with the meal. Look for other kinds of broadcasts in the future when the RFC 'steps out' to visit local businesses, farms and markets on our quest to learn more about finding, growing, and preparing great local food.
Our first podcast features pumpkin as the ingredient of the month! I played host this time, and for our meal I used a pie pumpkin I had purchased this past October from the Agriberry stand at Lakeside Farmers Market. For the entree I made a creamy roasted pumpkin sage sauce over fresh cheese and spinach ravioli from Cavanna Pasta; Natalie contributed a wilted white bean, rosemary and spinach salad; my dessert was a roasted pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.
First and foremost, the wine!
We drank some delicious wines during dinner! Here is a reminder of Erin's picks: the vineyard was White Hall Vineyard. The white we started off with was the 2007 Viognier, followed by the 2007 Cabernet Franc during dinner...dessert was the 2006 Touriga.
The first step for a roasted pumpkin sauce or a homemade pumpkin pie is roasting the pumpkin. This looks like a long process in print, but it actually goes very quickly. I estimate about 30 minutes of prep and 40 minutes for the cooking (during which time you can be working on the other portions of your recipes.)
First, using a sharp chef's knife, carefully cut the top out of your pumpkin, just as you would when preparing a jack-o-lantern.
Then cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom.
Once your pumpkin is opened up, scoop out all of the seeds and stringy parts from each half. To save the seeds, put the stringy, seedy mess in a large bowl with cool water and, using your hands, remove as much of the fleshy strings as possible. Then dump into a colander for the final cleaning.
Lay wet seeds out on a flour sack towel folded over them to dry. You can rub the seeds between the two layers of towel to catch any remaining pumpkin bits if necessary.
Once the halves are cleaned out, spray or brush a light coating of olive oil over the flesh, then place both halves flesh-side down on a baking sheet. Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake until the skin has taken on a slightly darker color and a fork can easily pierce through the skin. For a 4lb pumpkin this takes about 40 minutes, give or take. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Next scoop all of the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds with Cumin
To make use of the whole fruit, I toasted my cleaned pumpkin seeds on a baking tray in the oven at 350 degrees. All you have to do is toss the raw seeds with enough butter or olive oil to coat them and then spread them out in a single layer on the tray. Place the tray on the middle rack of the oven. Stir the seeds once or twice and take them out once they have turned slightly golden. Toss with salt and a little cumin. I used cumin just because I thought it would complement the pumpkin dishes well, and left the seeds out as a snack for the guests while the finishing touches were being put on the meal.
Roasted Pumpkin Sage Sauce
This recipe is my own concoction: a mix of ingredients I had around the house. I loved the way this turned out! One of the rewards of playing in the kitchen.Ingredients:
1 medium onion finely chopped
3-4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter (I use Kerry Gold brand, unsalted for sauteeing)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Note: we went all out and used unrefined grey Sea Salt or "Fleur De Mar." This salt is a bit pricey, but after some discussion, I think we all agreed it was well worth it. French grey sea salt should not be used for cooking, but instead sprinkled over the finished dish as a garnish. Penzey's Spices in Carytown offers both machine-processed and hand raked versions.
Sautee the onions in the butter until they become translucent (about 3 minutes). In a medium pot mix the pumpkin puree, milk, and cream. Begin to heat on low. Add the garlic to the onions in the skillet and toss with the sage. Remove the onion mix from the heat and stir it into the pumpkin mixture. Add the parmesan and pepper and stir. Simmer on low to medium-low for 10-12 minutes to let sauce thicken a bit. Immediately spoon sauce over plated pasta of your choice. I used a cheese and spinach ravioli from Cavanna. My husband added meatballs he made from CCL Farms' sage pork sausage and was very happy with his meal. Another great addition would be coarsely chopped toasted walnuts. This dish was fantastic and it was matched perfectly with Natalie's wilted spinach side dish. Most of us placed the salad alongside the pasta on the same plate so we could easily add a little spinach to our pasta as we liked.
Wilted White Bean and Spinach Salad
1/2 lb. Spinach
2 cups Cannellini or other white beans
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2-3 cloves garlic
Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Saute garlic until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Take off heat and pour over cooked cannellini beans. Add rosemary, and allow to marinate while you wilt the spinach. Put the skillet back on the stove, adding a little more olive oil if necessary. Throw spinach into the skillet and toss until just wilted. Don't cook it for too long or it will get soggy and dark green. Remove from heat and put spinach on a nice serving plate. Spread beans on top. Cover with an ample dusting of parmesan cheese.
First let's make the crust. My crust recipe comes from the 'The Enchanted Broccoli Forest' , the old Vegetarian cookbook by Molly Katzen of Moosewood fame. Her basic pie crust recipe is so satisfying and simple to make that it has become a staple in my kitchen for everything from quiche to tomato-zucchini pie, to the wonderful winter dessert we are discussing here.
Here is Molly Katzen's basic pie crust recipe:
6 tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups flour (up to 1/4 of flour can be whole wheat)
Between 4-6 tablespoons water, milk or buttermilk (the amount depends on the humidity level of your kitchen)
As I mentioned in the podcast, a lot of recipes for pumpkin pie call for evaporated milk. The RFC makes every possible effort to eat as close to home as possible, but also to limit our use of ingredents that have been industrially processed, so ith that in mind I wanted use only fresh cream and not evaporated milk.
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tsp flour
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
A pinch of fresh-ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp brandy (optional)
The Crossroads market is now the second Thursday Market in our area. The 17 street market, long open on Thursdays from 8:00am- 2:00pm. will now be open from 10:00a.m to 7:00 p.m!
The new Crossroads market will serve the near westend from noon to 6pm on Thursdays.
This market is run by the Market Umbrella, the same people who manage South of the James market Saturdays in Forest Hill Park , the new Tuesday Bryan Park market, and the Quirk Gallery market on First Fridays.
According to the e-mail I received from Victory Farms, the Crossroads market has already begun and its vendors include Faith Farms, Koralee Coffee, Wildwood Carver, Handmades by Linda, Bread for the People, Kizmets Klozet. Victory Farms hopes to be at this market for the last couple weeks in April to serve CSA members as well as non-members. With so many new markets starting up this year vendors are doing quit a bit of stretching and shifting. By the first weekend in May Victory Farm will be selling at Forest Hill on Saturday mornings, Bryan Park on Tuesday afternoons , and 17th Street on Thursday mornings. Notice they have switched their Tuesday location from Oregon Hill to Lakeside.
Friday, March 13, 2009
"One day I was in my kitchen eating leftovers. My leftovers were in three petroleum-based plastic containers ... one large, two small. When I was finished eating, I rinsed my recyclable containers out (because I had heard that they don't recycle containers with food left on them in some areas of the country). After I finished rinsing, I put them in my recycle bin. I suddenly realized that a lot of waste we generate is created by "to-go" food packaging.
I started thinking about how many people actually recycle their recyclable containers. Sadly ... most people probably don't take the time to recycle, I thought to myself. Then I learned that only 1% of plastic is recycled in the US and in many areas Styromfoam isn't recyclable at all!
That evening I learned about packaging made from plants like sugarcane, corn, reed and potato. I decided to make it my mission to educate consumers about compostable food packaging and waste bags. A short time later Green Duck was created..."
Apparently some vendors at the Richmond Folk Festival used Green Duck products this year, and Savor Cafe (one of Richmond Magazine's 'Best New Restaurants 2009!') uses the entire product line, including hot cups for coffee as well as your standard plates, bags, etc. I was happy to find out that Savor is also composting their kitchen waste, and of course I've known for some time that Savor's chef is a big proponent of local foods. Other businesses around town using these products are Sticky Togogo (the Sticky Rice takeout place) and GlobeHopper Coffeehouse and Lounge. It's definitely important to question the environmental practices of the restaurants you choose to dine at, perhaps electing to actively support places that take a stand on environmental issues.
Of course, we all must be aware that after we're done eating on compostable products, we have to compost them, not toss them in a trash can destined for the dump. This is where we need someone we can call 'Richmond's Will Allen,' an activist dedicated to implementing a citywide system of compostable waste collection and processing.
When I met Jocelyn the other day, she also reminded me to watch out for 'greenwashed' products that claim to be 'biodegradable.' Anything, she says, biodegrades, or breaks down, as it is slowly weathered by the forces of nature. The question, she says, is whether or not an item breaks down into natural materials that can be incorporated into soil as nutrients, the same way leaves, food waste, or anything else organic does. Certain plastics, we know, do not do this; so, claims Jocelyn, if you're looking for eco-friendly disposable products, make sure they are compostable.
Anyway, Green Duck is a great effort, one anyone in the restaurant/cafe business should seriously look into. If you just want to try it out, Jocelyn offers a 'picnic kit,' including 50 cups, plates, forks and a roll of plastic bags. Just remember to put them in your compost pile when you're done!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The press release from Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners says:
“It’s like an Amazon.com for vegetable varieties, only we don’t sell the seeds,” says Lori
Bushway, the Senior Extension Associate in Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture who coordinates the website. Gardeners can register at the site to rate and review their favorite vegetable varieties, as well as those that didn’t work so well for them. Anyone can visit the site to read those reviews and ratings to find varieties that will work best in their gardens.
Launched in 2004, the site has grown to include:
• More than 5,600 vegetable variety descriptions with seed sources.
• More than 3,400 reviews/ratings from more than 2,300 registered users.
• Online tools to help you find the best varieties for your garden.
“We’re calling on passionate vegetable gardeners to help us spread the word about the site and improve it by contributing more ratings and reviews,” says Bushway. “The more ratings and reviews we get, the more reliable and valuable the site becomes.” The site also links to other Cornell gardening resources, including online growing guides for more than 60 vegetable crops, and a new project, Vegetable Varieties Investigation (VVI). This intergenerational citizen science project bridges the technology divide, helping youth connect with gardeners in their community, learn survey skills, and explore biodiversity through the whimsical world of vegetable varieties.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Ron and I attended the volunteer orientation meeting on Saturday, where we found out about lots of exciting projects going on this year at Tricycle Gardens. More volunteers are always welcome, especially those who are interested in helping out at TG's various learning gardens throughout the city...Allison, the children's program horticulturist, noted the importance of a constant mentoring presence in the lives of kids who rarely eat fresh produce and have never been in or worked on a garden. If you're looking to make a difference, the time is now -- you can contact Tricycle here. Watering help is also always needed for the greenhouse, where volunteers and staff are busy growing plants to sell at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden plant sale (slated for March 30th-April 2nd) as a major fundraising effort.
Workshops are also coming up! I plan to attend Lisa Taranto's lecture on 'The Nitty-Gritty on Community Gardens,' described on the TG website as follows:
"What is the story about community gardening and the local agriculture movement? Learn about the history of community gardens in America, and the nuts & bolts of what it really takes to create and sustain a garden in your community. Learn about the work of Tricycle Gardens, and what they are doing to make community gardens a part of the story of Richmond. Lively discussion encouraged."
The class will be held this Thursday the 12th, from 7-9pm. If you're looking to learn more about rain barrels, and hopefully construct one of your own, check out the 'Build Your Own Rain Barrel' class on Sunday, April 5th...."Participants will receive a 55 gallon #2 plastic food grade barrel with all the necessary components to make a usable rain collector. Tools and helpers will be on hand to assist in the assembling. We will discuss and explain set up and maintenance of your rain barrel as well as offering a few suggestions for the more adventurous DIYers for converting heavy duty plastic garbage cans into functional rain collectors. We will discuss how the use of rain barrels can be a component in reducing our negative impact on our local waterways and help foster a stronger connection with the health and well being of our diverse and complex ecology." Check out the programs listing on the TG website for more information on how to register for these courses.
More workshops will be held as the season continues. There are also several workdays coming up, which will inevitably require lots of manpower and willing individuals...I heard something about trench digging. Again, contact TG if you're interested in volunteering in the new community garden at the corner of Patterson and Thompson (inside Humphrey Calder recreation center), or at any of the other existing gardens! Tricycle Gardens and the Richmond community will really appreciate your help!
The AgriBerry CSA is now accepting applications for 2009! My dad joined last season and was picking up his fruit every week after work at the Lakeside Farmers Market. They had some delicious looking fruits for sale as the summer went on, and they were even nice enough to sell me some peaches one week, though I wasn't a CSA member. If you're a fruit lover, take note!
WHO: Fruit and berry fans can now get in on enjoying an array of sun ripened, just picked, local berries and fruits delivered nearby!
WHAT: A weekly share consisting of seasonal goodness- asparagus, strawberries, sugar peas, cherries, black raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, red raspberries, plums, peaches, nectarines, fall red raspberries, and apples. Although not certified organically grown, all products are grown with sustainable farm production practices.
WHEN: Starts May 19th thru September 24th for weekly delivery! 20 weeks total.
WHERE: Shares will be delivered and available for pickup at a variety of locations on Tuesdays, Wednesday or Fridays.
COST: Three payment options available- see application. Space is limited-act fast!
HOW: Go to www.agriberry.com and download the application under the "CSA" tab.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Before we jump in to my report from the 2009 VABF conference, I wanted to draw your attention to the organization as a whole: the VABF is, according to the website, "an active network of citizens in and around Virginia whose primary focus is to provide information and services to farmers, gardeners and consumers about biological agriculture. Biological agriculture involves the use of natural methods and materials, and focuses on soil building, recycling of organic farm materials, and protection of wildlife and water resources." It's obvious the VABF and the Richmond Food Collective share some important goals. So with that in mind, you won't be surprised to hear that the conference was great!
Speakers I heard included the following:
Gary Scott, owner of Twin Springs Farm in Nelson County, VA. Since they are located outside the range of Richmond farmers markets and natural foods stores, I had never heard of Twin Springs, but it turns out they are a great little organic farm dedicated to 'ecological' farming practices, working towards sustainability and avoiding the use of pesticides at all costs. Scott's lecture was focused on production: the practicalities of growing crops for market. Though I'm not running a farm, I liked this lecture because the realities of making a living as a market farmer were set in the context of sustainable practices. Twin Springs focuses on high value cash crops like blueberries, strawberries and salad greens. Ron and I just bought a bunch of blueberries from Edible Landscaping (also in Nelson County) last week, so the detailed information on blueberry growing was very timely for me! I'd also like to mention that Twin Springs does U-pick blueberries in June and July...guaranteed clean fruit and a nice drive: can't beat that!!
Michael Clark of Planet Earth Diversified, a specialty produce operation with a focus on hydroponics located in Stanardsville, VA, showed a video from his project Meet the Farmer TV. Sporting a jaunty straw hat, Clark showed us around his own hydroponic greenhouse and introduced other farmers, chefs and extension agents. Check out the pilot episode:
Later on in the day, I noticed Clark interviewing Keith Langley of the Virginia Farm Bureau about his own green project of the moment: Save our Food, an effort to "educate consumers about the foods they eat and encourage everyone to seek out and sauté, bake, roast, fry and otherwise enjoy all of the delicious locally grown foods available." The Farm Bureau has just come out with a glossy mag called Cultivate, available to all Farm Bureau members, featuring local foods and farmers.
David O'Neill, owner of Radical Roots Community Farm, a market and CSA farm located in the Shenandoah Valley with a focus on education, including 3 interns each season, and permaculture design and practice. O'Neill explained some of the basics of permaculture, then went on to demonstrate how they are implemented at Radical Roots. There were some neat illustrations of the 'concentric circles of use' often seen in permaculture designs, wherein the resources on the farm most often needed are located closest to the living quarters, while rarely needed components are placed on the edges. We also saw some swales and some nice solar buildings. Very inspiring. I will say that it seems that whenever I talk to people or read about permaculture, there is some discussion of the impending agricultural apocalypse...the idea is 'peak oil' and 'peak soil' are either drawing near or have already occurred, and we urgently need to learn skills and implement systems that will allow us to live without oil and replenish soil as we look toward the greener lives we will be forced to live...it's definitely something to think about. Though folks disagree as to when these peaks will occur, these are very real concerns and permaculture is an amazing ideal I think we could all aspire to. O'Neill is doing some great things on his farm, and also happens to be a teacher at the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network, which is currently running an intensive course in permaculture design.
Will Allen of Growing Power Inc, an amazing urban farming and composting group located in Milkwaukee and Chicago, was the keynote speaker for the conference. Allen was a candid and warm speaker, inviting questions from the audience throughout his lecture. He talked about his massive composting operation in Milwaukee, where he collects food waste from all over the city and combines it with brewery waste and woodchips to generate massive amounts of compost. He discussed the importance of engaging the community, especially when initiating controversial urban projects. I was amazed to learn of Allens aquaponics projects (growing thousands of fish for local restaurants) and Growing Power's outreach programs.
That was Friday. On Saturday, we started bright and early with more Will Allen, and a workshop on vermiculture. A big part of Allen's farming operation uses worms to digest precomposted waste, transforming it into an ideal fertilizer. In the keynote speech we saw pictures of Allen's home 'worm bins,' which were atually huge wooden boxes full of dirt and worms. Here at the conference, he showed us how to make a small bin for home use. Owning worms, one must keep in mind, is like taking care of any small livestock -- you need to feed and monitor them frequently. However, there is nothing better for fertilizer, claims Allen, than fresh worm castings. Growing power has its own page about vermiculture: check it out here.
After Allen's lecture, we moved on to a really fun workshop on Farmscaping for Biological Insect Control by Dr. Richard McDonald, a passionate entomologist who energetically lectured on how to plant trap crops and control common crop pests. McDonald runs his own business doing consulting for insect control called Symbiont (check out their website: it's a great resource). I was really excited by his recommendations for different 'filter crops' and 'trap crops' to attract bad bugs away from cash crops, and draw predatorial insects onto the farm to eat the bad bugs. McDonald is clearly excited about his work and his mood was infectious.
The final lecture of the day turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. During lunch on Saturday, I ended up with a winning raffle ticket, meaning I got to choose from an array of prizes donated by attendees and speakers at the conference. When I got to the table, I knew what I wanted: a 5 pound bag of oyster mushroom spawn! I've been interested in the idea of growing oyster mushrooms for some time now, and free spawn was just too good to pass up. I ended up getting to personally chat with Mark Jones, the owner of Sharondale Farm in Keswick, VA and a serious fungi fanatic. He gave me some tips on how to inoculate a log with my newly acquired spawn, and told me how long I'd have to wait before harvesting some delicious mushrooms (6-9 months). I was so excited I headed to Jones' mushroom lecture for my final session of the day, where we learned about different kinds of mushrooms and how to grow oysters and shiitakes. I hope to experiment with both kinds of mushrooms soon, though we won't know if we're doing it right until September, since it takes the spawn quite a while to grow through the log and put out mushrooms. Jones will hold a workshop on his farm on March 14th for those interested in further investigating mushroom growing. Click here for more information.
That final lecture brought the conference to a close. I really enjoyed all the lectures, as well as my visits to the Trade Show, where I chatted with folks from the Permaculture Activist magazine, Dominion Harvest (featuring home-delivered produce in the Richmond area), Cindy Connor and the Backyard Gardeners. All in all, a great time, and very inspiring! Now, if this darn snow would just clear up...we could get to planting!
Monday, March 2, 2009