Archive for the ‘Eating Locally and Seasonally’ Category

Eating in April

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

I  am working hard to be creative these days, finishing the last of the vegetables in my root cellar and making lots of sprouts.  I find it amazing that the carrots that I bring up are still of the highest quality, crispy and sweet.  They should remain that way well into May.  The cabbages are looking somewhat worse for wear, but I peel off the outer layers and then store them in the fridge for the next few weeks.

I am trying to eat a meal or two with Jerusalem artichokes every week.  I think I have finally found my favourite way to cook them. Basically I just scrub them well – this is much easier if you eat them on the same day that you harvest them.  Then I cut them in 1″ cubes, with the skin still on, removing any parts that look sketchy.  I parboil the cubes for about 5-10 minutes, drain them and then saute them in oil with some salt and pepper.  They go nice and crispy and brown, just like fried potatoes.

I will soon begin to scrounge my garden.  There is kale and green onions that have survived the winter, as well as some garlic that seems to have naturalized itself on the south side of my house.  All of it is big enough to eat.  Also I see that the sorrel leaves are poking their heads up and should be big enough to pick in a week or two.  My chives are also about a week away from being ready to pick.  Sometimes it feels like these little bits of food don’t add up to much, but I am always surprised by how much food there is when I go to harvest something.  And now that I can get my bicycle out, I should take a trip down the road to my little patch of fiddleheads and see how they are doing.  All in all, there is much more to April than meets the eye!

Cooking in Late March

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

I find it gets more difficult to feel creative about eating locally and seasonally in late March, at least here in Ontario.  I start to feel like I have eaten enough squash and mashed carrot and turnip for this year.  We are enjoying an early spring this year and so I have been harvesting some Jerusalem artichokes – they are nice roasted or parboiled and then sauteed with some salt and pepper.  There are also many interesting recipes for Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke soup on the internet, and one in my book, From Seed to Table!

I also like to make a few salads with chick peas or other legumes, grated carrots, and some kind of sprouts.  Sometimes it helps to think out of the box when it comes to salads -  toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, hard boiled eggs, grated cheese, all help to liven up these salads while making them nutritious enough to stand on their own at a meal.  Try adding a grain such as quinoa or barley or making  a vinaigrette with grainy mustard for another nice change.

And know that in a month or so, those first salad greens should be large enough to pick! (If it stays warm like this I think I will plant my first batch of salad greens next week and cover them with a double layer of floating row cover and hope for an early harvest).  For detailed instructions on planting salad greens see the April chapter of From Seed to Table.

In the Kitchen

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

February and March are challenging times if you are trying to eat locally and seasonally. If this is your first year at this, you are probably limited to what the grocery store has to offer in terms of local produce. In my little local grocery, that includes carrots, parsnip, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and apples. If you can manage to build a small cold storage in your basement (I will talk about this in the fall) you can have a larger selection of winter vegetables – also it is much more likely that these can be organically grown. I only have a small garden and do not grow my own winter vegetables but I place an order with a local, organic farmer each fall and stock up my cold storage room sometime in November each year. I have been doing this since I left my farm and my very big garden 10 years ago and it has worked amazingly well for me. If you are looking for sources of local foods, try going online and seeing if your area has a local food initiative that publishes some sort of directory. In Kingston we have www.fooddowntheroad.ca, in Toronto there is Local Food Plus at www.localfoodplus.ca, and the Vancouver area has Farm Folk/City Folk at www.ffcf.bc.ca. Another great resource is Canadian Organic Growers (www.cog.ca) – this organization publishes a quarterly magazine as well as a monthly e-newsletter and has chapters all across Canada. Often local chapters will publish a producer’s list which can be very helpful.

I have finally managed to be diligent about making sprouts in the winter and I find this makes a great difference to our winter diet. Each year I seem to like a few different kinds of sprouts – this year it is the year of the lentil! I sprout ordinary green lentils from the health food store, though you can buy a smaller variety that is perhaps more delicate tasting. I mix my lentil sprouts in a grated carrot salad or add them to coleslaw, but mostly I find that I eat them fresh, by the handful and straight out of the sprouter. Putting them in salads gets my children to eat them. I also make a finer sprout mix of alfalfa, fenugreek, clover, and radish that we use for sandwiches and wraps. I don’t buy lettuce in the winter so eventually the imported lettuce eaters in my family tried the sprouts and realized that they like them!

I was browsing through a friend’s very beautiful cookbook from China. Most of the recipes were fairly complicated and had ingredients that I do not have in my kitchen but there was one simple salad that caught my eye. It called for

4 cups of finely sliced cabbage – better to slice that to grate

2 cups of mung bean sprouts – you can buy them at the grocery store or make your own.

⅛ to ½ tsp of red chili flakes

½ – 1 tsp salt

1-2 tbsp oil

2-3 tbsp rice vinegar

The original recipe did not call for oil but I find that it mellows out the taste somewhat. It also called for a full tablespoon of salt, which seems to me to be too much. After you combine the ingredients, it is a good idea to let the salad sit for several hours. The chili flakes are spicy and hot but not overwhelming and the salt brings out the moisture in the cabbage and in doing so loses some of its salty flavor. It’s a nice fresh tasting salad with a good bite to it. Enjoy.