Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tofu at the Market

One of my friends, Krissi, is going to start selling Twin Oaks tofu at the SOJ market! She will have a booth on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Twin Oaks tofu is not just any tofu- it is substantial and flavorful protein. Just think- with all of the veggies, fruits, breads, cheeses, coffee, eggs, herbs, pasta and now tofu, a vegetarian could buy most of their weekly groceries at the farmers market! Sounds good to me...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

True Work

"Nature is morally messy. The only way to really learn it is to get your hands dirty and your feet wet. Distancing from food sources hides the morals of where food comes from, and disconnects kids. More and more kids aren't understanding the sacredness of life, because of that distancing. It's tough to understand the depth and meaning of life if it is covered in plastic."
-Richard Louv

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dogs and Corn

I was reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma when I got my dog, Clyde. So, I was really conscious of food ingredients when I was thinking about what food to buy for him. Guess what is one of the top three ingredients in most dog food? Yep- corn. In addition to being a significant contributer to all the reasons I am uncomfortable with industrial agriculture, corn is also an allergen for some animals. So, I decided that if I wasn't going to eat food that included processed forms of corn or soy, neither were my animals.

There are several brands of dog (and cat) food sold at major pet supply stores which do not include corn meal or corn gluten. Consider really reading the labels of the food you buy. It may be more expensive to buy a different brand, but consider your impact on the health of your animals and of the planet.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

King Corn Update

Thank you to everyone who came out to see King Corn out of doors!!
I would also like to thank Kirsten for providing a nice edible arrangement, and for helping to get the word out about this event. Thanks to Victory Farms for growing such wonderful tomatoes in such variety as well.

It was great to see so many familiar faces. It was also great to meet and talk with some of you about supporting local food.

Well, for all of you who did come out to join us, my "update" is that the very next day, July 18th, NPR did a story on the Bush Administration's plans to do away with a 30 year old conservation program that protects "wild land" areas on private property. The Conservation Reserve Program was described as "the most successful private land conservation program in United States history." To the best of my understanding, this program works by paying farmers not to plow under, or put animals to pasture on or near ecologically important land features (wetland marshes, shady streams). According to the NPR piece, this program has 450,000 farmers currently participating . Among other benefits, the program has prevented 400 million tons of soil erosion, and resulted in the addition of 2.2 million ducks each year. Apparently, that is about how many ducks are killed off by hunting each year, so these areas are holding the balance.
According to the story, the Secretary of Agriculture's plan to be announced any day now, would allow farmers to keep the money they were paid to protects these areas, and then pay them again to turn the areas in corn fields, in order to produce more low grade commodity corn for beef, ethanol, and High Fructose Corn Syrup production.
Most interestingly, the individual that spoke in this piece for the farmers need to lift the wild area protections was the spokesman for "The American Meat Institute".

Center for Rural Culture Education on Meat Safety

Brookview Farms sent out this e-mail to all of those on their listserve...

Dear Customers, There is still time to sign up!Join local farmers for education, discussion, food tasting, socialization and fun! The Center for Rural Culture will hold a workshop on "IS YOUR MEAT SAFE TO EAT??" which is an educational program on the benefits of locally grown, grass-fed meats. The workshop will be held this Monday, July 21, 2008, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Brookview Farm. Preregistration is required by calling 804/314-9141 or email Cost is $12 at the door (CRC members $10). All participants will get a coupon valued at $5.00 for the Goochland Farmers Market. "The Meatrix" dvd series will be showing at 5:30, 5:50 and 6:10 p.m. A moderated discussion with local farmers will follow, along with samplings of local, grass-fed meats including beef, poultry, pork and bison. Local cheeses, salads and veggies will also be offered. All vendors will have food available for purchase. Sorry, no children under 12 please.

King Corn Recap

You may remember that this Thursday, the 17th, the Richmond Food Collective held its first event: a free outdoor showing of the movie King Corn held at Once Upon a Vine, the wine and beer shop located on MacArthur Ave. in Northside Richmond. We are pleased to report the event was a great success and we hope to hold many more like it!

Natalie and Erin chatting at the RFC booth.

We had a small booth where we set up some books from the 'RFC Library' -- great volumes on food, gardening and eating. There were several arrangements of flowers from edible plants, and of course the delicious tomato tasting! Tomatoes were all locally grown and acquired at the market. The tasting list included Cherokee Purple, Valencia, Pink Beauty, Green Zebra, Black Brandywine, Roma, Sungold and Yellow Pear.

Shannon prepares tomatoes.


There was a great turnout -- at one person's count we had 70 people present for the film. Some brought picnic dinners and sat on the ground as the movie began.

The crowd settles in.

King Corn starts.

And yes -- we did watch the movie projected on the side of a building! It's a great place to hold summer events, and the atmosphere was very relaxed and enjoyable. I was happy to see all the members of the neighborhood community had shown up to support and learn about great eating in Richmond! Afterwards some interested attendees even asked to write guest posts for the RFC -- look for their contributions soon!

We welcome and encourage your input on future goings on and/or your comments on the King Corn night if you attended. What did you think? We had a great time and we hope you did too!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

This Week in Food

Thursday, July 17th, 8:30 - 10:00
Richmond Food Collective hosts a free, outside showing of King Corn at Once Upon a Vine in Bellevue. The film will begin at sundown. Click here for more details. We hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 19th, 8:00 - 11:00
Market Vibe Chef's Challenge, a free, friendly competition of chefs using South of the James market wares for their dishes. Chefs will begin shopping at 8, they will post menus by 9 and tasting will begin at 11:30. Sounds like a raucous, good time!

The Goods on Garlic

So my first garlic 'adventure' started this past fall when I ordered my "starts" from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This western Virginia company actually recommends that you order your garlic starts now if you want to be sure the varieties you want are available. Garlic is planted in the fall, overwinters and then is harvested in early to mid summer, depending upon variety and if you planted in September or November etc. I chose two kinds, a hardneck variety and a softneck French Silverskin that is the variety commonly found at grocery stores. There are differences in size, color, flavor, as well as storage length for different varieties. In general the hardnecks offer good variety, but do not store well.

I planted 88 cloves of garlic in my 4x8 raised bed back in September. We started pulling a few green garlic heads in may and harvesting for drying in mid June. We just pulled the very last of our garlic this past weekend and think that we may have waited just a bit too long. I also planted five cloves of elephant garlic.
So far I have greatly enjoyed harvesting and cooking with my fresh garlic. And at cost per head ranging from $1-$2.50 per head at market, growing your own is an easy and delicious way to save a few bucks. For people like my husband and I who go through at least two heads of garlic a week the savings add up. An additional bonus, garlic is great to plant around other crops like tomatoes to help deter various pests. You can surround your tomato bed with garlic- that will help to protect young plants. Just remember that for garlic to reach a good size it cannot be over crowded.
This time of year in addition to heads of garlic, you can still find Garlic Scapes these delicious green stems from maturing garlic heads tend to provide a wonderful garlic flavor with a little less "bite." Click on the above link to find a great website full of recipes and info for garlic scapes and other fare.

I found a fantastic sounding White Bean and Garlic Scapes dip recipe in this week's food and drink section in The Week magazine. It called for 1/3 cup fresh chopped garlic scapes some lemon juice, salt, pepper, a can of cannellini beans (rinsed), 1/4 cup olive oil all tossed in a food processor. I also so a nice idea on a PBS cooking program Sunday evening for a fast garlic prep for marinades. The whole head of garlic was sliced across horizontally with skin and all intact to form disk of exposed garlic.

Here is one more link to a great site that could tell you every thing you ever wanted to know about garlic, it's history, medicinal uses, pest control and more.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Prairie Grain Bread Co.

One of my favorite locally made breads is the 9grain bread with flax seed made by the Prairie Grain Bread Co. in Midlothian VA. I get this bread at the Ukrop's on Forest Hill Ave. They carry several of their pre-sliced sandwich breads. The Prairie Grain Bakery in Midlothian carries other products including muffins, and soup. Their website has photos of the husband and wife team who own the company, and information about the products. The wheat is from Montana and stone ground on site at the Midlothian shop. Honey is the only sweetener they use.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Richmond Farmer's Markets on Google Maps

Thanks to Jonah for this excellent resource -- a map of all our area farmer's markets. Clicking on each location reveals detailed information on that market.

View Larger Map

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer Fruit Desserts

Early Summer Fruit Gallette with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

Ok, I know that is a mouthful, but check it out:

A gallette is a rustic fruit pie without the pie pan. This dessert is a fantastic way to celebrate summer fruits. I went crazy and used blackberries, red plums, and pluots (which, ok- who named those? They are a cross between a plum and an apricot, but come on- a pluot? Certainly there is a lovelier word for this lovely fruit. I guess that is a project for another day...) I used the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook(although the Barefoot Contessa has a recipe for this too- she calls hers a crostata- same thing) for the crust. Then, we topped it off with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream at my Aunt Cynthia's suggestion. Whooo- whee!

Creme Fraiche Ice Cream
2 Cups whipping cream
1 8 oz tub of Creme Fraiche (perhaps sour cream would work as well- give it a go)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix well and chill in ice cream maker.

Then, when that dessert was gone, I luckily ran into nectarines and blackberries at the market last Saturday. They became:
Nectarine and Blackberry Crisp with Ginger Ice Cream

I have a small (about 8x 11x 2 in) pan that I use for crisps. I like a high crisp to fruit ratio, so use more fruit if you like. Fruit cooks down, so pile it on!

I used:
1 pint (about 6) nectarines, sliced with skin
1pint blackberries

(Also, I had about 1/3 of the crisp mixture left over, so I am saving it in the freezer, you know, in case I run into some peaches or something....)

Oven to 350 degrees

Mix together until butter is well coated:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) cold butter, diced
spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg (or both)
optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Scatter generously over fruit and bake for 1 hour or until top is browned and fruit is bubbling.
Serve with:

Ginger Ice Cream

Mix together in medium sized pot over low heat (don't cook the eggs!) for about 5 minutes:
1/4 cup ginger root, peeled and chopped
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
a couple of TBS of water

Add 1 cup of milk

Let cool. Strain the mixture through a sieve into:
2 cups of whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

I put the ginger in cheesecloth, immersed it in the mix and chilled it overnight.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

I added about 1/4 cup sliced, crystallized ginger near the end of the freezing part.

Enjoy your summer!

New berry CSA from SPROUT

Just in time for dessert!

From Sprout Richmond:

We are pleased to announce the start-up of a new berry CSA for Richmonders. Here are the details:

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 a 5 lb+ tray of up to 6 pints, which includes- always blackberries, blueberries and/or peaches, plums or nectarines, and if available- raspberries. Although not certified organically grown, all products are grown with sustainable farm production practices.

WHEN: Starts Wednesday July 9th thru early September 2008 for weekly delivery! 9 weeks total.

WHERE: CSA share trays will be delivered and available for pickup every Wednesday evening from 5-7pm at the Lakeside Farmers Market at the Lakeside Town Center, 6116 Lakeside Ave. Richmond, VA 23228.

COST: $28 per week. Three scheduled payments of $84 OR pay in full to receive DISCOUNT of 10%. Space is limited- act fast!

HOW: Simply email and request your interest in joining. We will send you additional information and tell you when you can start enjoying fresh, local sweetness.

ABOUT: Agriberry LLC- 25 years ago Anne Geyer established and began directing the marketing program at Westmoreland Berry Farm near Oak Grove, VA with her husband, farm co-founder, and current farm manager Charles Geyer. With this vast expertise in dozens of summer berry varieties- Anne is eager to share with a wider consumer base. Anne is applying her range of experiences and her passion to establish other small acreage summer Agriberry sites in rural/urban counties across Virginia; starting in Hanover County in 2009. Anne is also an active board member on the National Berry Crop Initiative; a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Specialty Crop Committee; a District 17 representative for the Virginia Extension
Leadership Council; and a Hanover County Master Gardener Volunteer.

Sprout Richmond! is proud to be partnering with Agriberry to bring you the best, freshest, locally grown fruit in the region.


Christopher Humes & Melodie Franklin
Sprout Richmond!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Median Garden Update

As you may recall, a few months ago I hassled the City of Richmond into allowing me to plant a garden in the median of the road where we live. I tilled up the dirt and planted a variety of veggies and a few ornamental plants. As you may recall, my garden looked like this the day I planted it:

Well, I am pleased to report that, so far, my garden has been an amazing success. I applied a bit of organic fertilizer, mulched with compost, watered regularly, and gave it lots of love; now it looks like this:

My dad was kind enough to help me build the lovely 2-foot high fence, which has succeeded in keeping out rabbits and other small animals, which I believe were eating the leaves off my vines and some of the flowers. My climbing beans have taken over the cast iron pillar, and peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are all upcoming. In fact, I just picked my first 'Lavender Touch' eggplant today:

I am happy to report that this garden has been amazingly easy to grow. I attribute my success to the full-sun location and the fair quality of the base soil, but I also want to remind all of you interested in urban greening projects that anyone with an interest can successfully grow plants.

While I am not living off this garden, I have certainly been cooking out of it -- so far, I have used home-grown kale, basil and lettuce, and I'm looking forward to ripe tomatoes and peppers. I definitely have plans to expand my gardening space next year, and I know I should already be looking into the next crop I'm going to plant at the end of the summer. I'll probably consult the book How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons, which is a great resource on small-scale, biointensive gardening that I highly recommend.

King Corn showing!

The Richmond Food Collective presents...

A free outdoor showing of the documentary film by two college grads who set out to grow an acre of corn, and discovered disturbing truths about where our food comes from and where it goes.

When: July 17th, 8:30PM

Where: Once Upon a Vine, 4009 MacArthur Ave., Richmond, VA 23227

Bring: Your own chair!

Also, celebrate food by meeting your Richmond Food Collective bloggers and participating in a 'tomato tasting!' This is our first event, hopefully to be followed by many more. We'd LOVE to see you there!

Virginia Grown Certified Organic Listings

So for those who haven't had the time to local the Virginia Grown web site here is one link that is rather uplifting to look at and helpful to those of you out there just getting started trying to find locally produced organic products. Click on this address to find everything from organic feed and compost to meats and vegetables or coffee roasted in VA.
Just remember this is just a short list that includes only those businesses or farms registered with Virginia Grown and those who have gone through the process and cost of becoming certified. For example on the coffee question, Forest Hill's Blanchard's coffee offers their "Can Can Voila" and that is fair trade and organic. There are also links on the Virgina Grown site set up to help new Virgina growers find a market for their produce. Happy Hunting.

Find Your Food Festivals

For those of you who love Food Festivals you can click on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Site and get a listing of dozens of food festivals around Virginia listed for the year in order by month. Coming up soon is The 18th Century Summer Market Fair in Mclean VA, The Shockoe Tomato Festival @ 17th St. Farmers Market on July 19th, and if your feeling adventurous there is the annual Pork, Peanut, and Pine Festival at Chippokes Plantation State Park in Surry V.A. which promises plenty of shade, gospel, bluegrass, "colloquial food," Hundreds of craft vendors and lots of information on the traditional agricultural resources of Surry County.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Urban Homestead

Here is a link to Homegrown Evolution, a blog written by the authors of the book The Urban Homestead. Amazon's description of the book is as follows: "The Urban Homestead is the essential handbook for a fast-growing new movement: urbanites are becoming gardeners and farmers. Rejecting both end-times hand wringing and dewy-eyed faith that technology will save us from ourselves, urban homesteaders choose instead to act. By growing their own food and harnessing natural energy, they are planting seeds for the future of our cities."

I'm convinced that urban farming is in the future of local food production, and I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of this book soon. Farming and gardening are certainly not just for those living in rural areas; urban gardening can be creative, exciting and innovative, if you're willing to invest just a little time in self-sufficiency and sustainability. I watched a video recently in which an 'urban homesteading' couple from England was interviewed; they claimed that, once their garden had been built and the soil cultivated, they only had to spend a couple hours a week harvesting produce and performing general maintenance.

I'd love to hear from readers of the blog who are working on their own urban sustainability projects. I would also encourage you to include Homegrown Evolution in your RSS feed or list of blogs to check out regularly: the authors have some great updates and tips on the day-to-day of gardening and living a self-sufficient lifestyle.

July 5 Market Wonders!

So I just got back from the South of the James Market and our local farms are indeed in full swing. Vendors from places like Colonial Beach, Virginia help to provide a wide variety of produce and there is so much to choose from.
Today I walked away with...
baby red cabbages,
mix bunches of red and white onions,
red leaf lettuce,
purple Cherokee tomatoes,
large ripe red tomatoes,
a pint of some amazingly sweet orange "cherry" tomatoes,
golden zucchinis,
nice small tender yellow squash,
a five pound bag of red potatoes from "Bill's Produce"
hot sausages,
goat cheese,
green bell pepper,
white Hungarian pepper,
amazing smelling golden melon from Amy's Organics.
a bunch of green beans,
a pint of blackberries,
a quart container filled with five or six nice looking peaches From Walnut Creek Farm
a homemade "ultimate brownie" and mix of chocolate chip cookies from "Simply Delicious",
and probably something else I'm forgetting.

Other stuff I saw today....pints of fresh blueberries, quarts of fresh nectarines, carrots, tons of eggplant, Several kinds of lettuce , micro greens, eggs, honey, chickens, beef, pork, breads, broccoli rabe, cantaloupes, Asian melons, yellow tomatoes, three varieties of cucumbers, garlic, green onions, big yellow onions, kale, Swiss chard, and fresh herbs, fresh made pasta, Blanchard's coffee whole bean bags, okay I'll stop but not because I 've run out of stuff to mention. There was even someone selling $1 doggie ice cream treats made from yogurt and peanut butter with a little doggie biscuit "spoon."

Friday, July 4, 2008

HFCS Fights Back...?

Here is a recent article I read concerning efforts to bolster the reputation of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Quote:

"In recent years, there have been a series of research papers and studies linking HFCS to the rise in obesity in the U.S. While sugar has to some degree also been blamed for America's growing weight problems, HFCS, because it is manufactured, has come under greater criticism by consumers and some health professionals.

Now a Washington trade group is trying to rehabilitate the reputation of the longtime sweetener. Beginning today, the Corn Refiners Association is launching a big ad and public-relations campaign to convince consumers that HFCS isn't the evil it has been made out to be."

Read the entire article here.

I checked out the Corn Refiners Association website, and some other related sites that are 'speaking out' on this topic. For example, has a whole list of statements about HFCS that are touted as 'fact.' One of these statements claims "HFCS...enhances fruit and spice flavors," completely neglecting to mention that these 'flavor enhancements' are based on the fact that the sweeter something is, the better it tastes to us, meaning that anything containing HFCS has a much sweeter, and therefore 'better' flavor.

It's amazing how easy it is to create this kind of propaganda surrounding any topic -- even if many people don't read these exact articles, the message behind them creeps into the public zeitgeist and gives people a vague reason to doubt claims that HFCS could have an adverse health effect. Combined with the fact that it's easier to continue eating the way we do (inertia, inertia, inertia), this kind of misinformation could be quite dangerous. When people start thinking "Maybe HFCS isn't so bad," it gives them an excuse to continue eating it, in spite of all the press and studies telling us HFCS is bad for you. This reminds me of the enormous effort that continues to be expended in convincing the public that climate change 'might not be that big of a problem.'

I would like to encourage everyone in reading any media source that speaks on lifestyle choices to remember that the simplest and most moderate choices are usually, in my opinion, the best ones. Use natural sweeteners and eat whole foods. Don't drive SUVs. No matter what scientists say, I think there is something in us that tells us what's right here...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Blueberries Are Here!!!

My sister-in-law just sent me an e-mail on July 1st that said

"The blueberries are in at Swift Creek Berry Farm!
Call 739-2037 before going out to pick. I was just given a free pint and they are delicious! "
I will be calling. You can visit for more information and directions. They are open for blueberry picking mon-fri from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday 8:00-3:00Pm. Closed on Sundays. Or Call up your favorite berry picking spot and see if they have ripe blueberries yet as well.