Sunday, November 25, 2007

So, What Are We Eating?

When I tell people that we are eating a 100-mile diet, I sometimes get a mild form of disbelief. I say, yes, we are eating some things that I have on hand, because it is disrespectful to throw away food that you have because it didn't grow around here. I'm afraid some people think that we are eating only what we have on hand, and sometime in the future will be reduced to eating tree bark and squirrels that we shoot in the yard. Well, it just isn't so.

We've been on this diet nearly four weeks now, and have eaten up all the semi-perishable food, such as commercial dairy products and vegetables and non-local fruits. My husband's favorite chef salad has morphed over these weeks.

Leaf lettuce --- > escarole and Napa from Cresset Farm
Commercial carrots ---- > Cresset Farm carrots
Commercial tomatoes ---- > omit, mostly
Green peppers, Cresset all the way (we've been blessed with peppers this year)
Applewood Farms organic sliced turkey ---- > local chicken breast or turkey
Applewood Farms pepperoni ---- > local sausage, finely sliced
Commercial grated cheese ---- > Windsor Dairy cheddar or fresh Mozzarella
Commercial salad dressings ---- > homemade dressings

He has gone from a near-total non-local salad to a totally-local salad, an easy step at a time. I will write a later post on homemade salad dressings.


I am using some meat from my freezer, before buying very much local meat, but it is not for lack of excellent local supplies. It is very easy to find local beef (Cresset Farm, Rocky Plains, and other growers). Local lamb is also available from many sources. Rocky Plains has local pastured pork from Kersey (a little east of Greeley). Northern Colorado Poultry has chickens raised in Nunn. Eastern Plains Natural Food Coop has beautiful pastured heritage turkeys (one of them graced our Thanksgiving table). You can see the links for these suppliers in the sidebar, and there are many others.


Windsor Dairy is a godsend for us; we get fresh milk, and buy a variety of cheeses, cottage cheese, and heavy cream (too good to believe). I use the fresh milk and make my own yogurt and kefir (both VERY easy). There are a number of other small local dairies about, not hard to find. Cresset Farm runs a seasonal dairy, starting up again in the spring.


Hazel Dell, west of Windsor, grows fresh mushrooms: shiitakes, portobellos, oyster mushrooms and others. So we've had stuffed mushrooms, sauteed mushrooms, mushroom sauce for pasta, mushrooms in soups, and I'm just getting started.


I have Cresset Farm CSA summer and winter vegetable shares each year. Cresset is sold out for winter. The supply of seasonal vegetables is so good that I pass some along to friends. There are a number of other excellent CSAs in our area, and all across the country. You can find them at the Local Harvest website. Check out Grant's Family Farm; they sell their organic produce in local stores, as well as summer and winter vegetable shares. Once May comes, farmer's markets are available in every town.

We have some frozen peas and lima beans left in the freezer, and will gradually be using them. Next year, I'm going to buy a bushel of local peas!!!

Today I found some heirloom tomatoes, raised in Nunn (greenhouse, I'm sure, this time of year). I will occasionally buy these local tomatoes, though tomatoes are really a summer fruit.


Although there are no commercial fruit growers in our area, nearly every yard has some fruit trees, and if yours doesn't, you can plant them. One little apple tree can provide you with 200 to 500 lbs, of apples per year, after a few years growth. In this area we can grow plums, peaches (in a north-facing area), apples, table grapes, cherries, gooseberries, serviceberries, rhubarb, and loads more.

My cabinets are filled with applesauce and dried fruits, and the garage has the last 100 pounds from our trees. In August you can find chokecherries and wild plums growing along all the river and stream courses in our area. Wild plums, nicely ripe, are delicious for fresh eating. Chokecherries should be cooked into jelly, since the seeds are mildly poisonous raw.

It's a bit late this year, but next fall, look around your neighboorhood. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find a dozen neglected fruit trees, dropping their fruits onto the grass and sidewalk. Just stop and ask the owners if you can pick. They'll probably try to give you a hug, for saving them the trouble.


These are the troublesome items, which I'm still working on. Lots of grains and beans are grown in our area, but they mostly disappear off into the commodity market, and show up anonymous in markets all over the country. In this case, I've been using what we have in the pantry.

Since I have celiac disease, we don't have any wheat products in stock, but I have several kinds of rice, and alternative flours such as teff, tapioca, and amaranth. After a while, these items will be gone. I'm hoping to find a local supply for some grains and beans before that time.

What I expect to find: wheat (though not for me), oats, barley (plenty is grown for the microbrewers), spelt, amaranth, quinoa, millet, pinto beans and other dried beans. As a local market develops, more local farmers will see the considerable advantages of selling a premium product direct to consumers or a consumer buying coop. So stay tuned.


Coffee: the universal exception for most people, and for Jim also.

Tea: I've got lots on hand, and will be using it up slowly. When it's gone, then what? An exception? (I've still got a few esxceptions I haven't specified.)

Spices: some just won't grow here no matter what, they are tropical trees and vines. Barbara Kingsolver (in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle") made "spices" her exception; her husband's was "coffee", her daughter's was "dried fruit", and they did eat non-local grains, such as rice. I haven't decided.

Herbs: I have some herbs growing in the yard, and plan to get some in pots for the house, such as rosemary. Most herbs grow here just fine.

Salt: I have a lot of salt on hand, and will be using it. Salt is not produced in Colorado; the closest is Utah. When I run out of our stock, I will buy it, as an exception. Salt has been traded among people way back into paleolithic times, so I don't feel bad about it.

Baking soda: sodium bicarbonate; practically the whole world's supply comes from south-central Wyoming. Unlike salt, which has marvelous variations depending on where it came from, baking soda is just the same everywhere; it's a chemical, a cleaning agent, a tooth-brushing powder, and a leavening agent. So I use it, not counting it as food.


Honey is available locally in every part of the country. Just look for roadside signs. Sugar, no go unless you have a sugar cane field across the road.

OUR RESULTS -------------------

I am keeping a food diary. Approximately half (by number) of the items we eat now are local, but in terms or weight or quantity it is easily 85%, and going for 90%. Most of the non-local items are teas, salt, spices, and occasional grains or beans. I have not knowingly bought any non-local food. We have certainly not gone hungry, and in fact are eating a healthier and more satisfying diet than before. I am doing more cooking.

A few favorite dishes:

Chicken soup: Make broth with chicken backs, bones, etc. Strain the broth, pick the meat off the bones. Cut up one local sausage link. Clean and cut up leeks (Cresset Farm), fingerling potatoes (Cresset or Grants Farm), sweet potato (Cresset Farm or Monroe), herbs to taste (local or not), salt and pepper. A delicious hearty soup.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Local heritage turkey, mashed potatoes with local milk and butter, boiled local sweet potatoes, gravy made with broth and non-local rice flour, frozen peas (yes, not local, on hand). Dessert was pumpkin pie from a Cresset Farm pumpkin, local honey, milk, and eggs, baked in a gluten-free pie shell (non-local flours, but local lard), and topped off with local heavy cream.

Caprese Salad: Slice and chop local mozzarella, slice and chop local fresh tomatoes, and mix together. Sprinkle on (non-local, exception) olive oil and herbs. Yum. This plus a local beef patty and green vegetable is a meal.

Spiced apples: Cut up local apples (for us, our own apples). Put in saucepan with a little butter and (non-local, on hand) spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon. Stew gently for about 10 minutes. Top with local heavy cream. All the flavor of apple pie with about 1/10th the work and time.

--I'll report each month on what we're eating, and on the progress I have made in figuring out some of the more difficult items.

Week 2 - Return to Our Roots

Yes, this is the time of year we need to return to our Roots. The green leafy things are mostly done for, except for Napa, cabbage, collards and kale. Most root vegetables are biennials: they spend their first growing season storing away lots of energy, so that the second year they can pour it all into sending up a seed stalk and making lots of seeds.

Familiar and not-so-familiar root vegetables include carrots, onions, beets, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, and parsnips. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are tubers, rather than roots. Tubers are also storage organs, providing the plant a head start next spring.

Garlic is special: the bulb is also a storage organ, but it wants to be planted in the fall and harvested in mid-summer. Well-stored garlic can last at least six months, and I have stored my garlic from one harvest to the next.

In temperate climates such as ours, root vegetables filled people's plates from November through March, when the fresh wild greens start to come in. And all of the marvelous roots and tubers I mentioned grow very well in our area. Roots on the winter table not only support local eating, they are key to seasonal eating, nutritious and warming for the cold weather.

Cresset vegetable share members have parsnips in their share this week, as well as carrots, and turnips last week. With that you can make the all-time favorite dish: Roasted Root Vegetables.
Almost everybody likes these.

Roasted Root Vegetables

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 pound carrots, peeled
1 pound parsnips, peeled
1 pound turnips, peeled
salt to taste
Herbs to taste: rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme

Cut carrots and parsnips in half or quarters lengthwise, then into 2 inch lengths. Cut turnips into thick slices, then cut in quarters or eighths depending on size. You want the sizes of the vegetables to be about the same so they finish cooking together.
Put oil or butter into a baking dish, add vegetables and mix well. Sprinkle with herbs. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then stir again, moving the outer veggies to the center and vice versa. Bake another 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Sprinkle with salt.

Feel free to vary the roots: rutabagas and beets also work well, as do potatoes. Fingerlings or new red potatoes will hold up to the baking process better than russets.

Parsnip and Carrot Puree

1 pound peeled and trimmed parsnips
1 pound peeled and trimmed carrots
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
salt to taste

Cut parsnips and carrots into small pieces, and put into large saucepan. Pour milk over, bring to boil, simmer 20 minutes, until vegetables are very tender. Let cook a few minutes, then puree in blender. Return to saucepan, add 1 cup cream and salt to taste.
Decorate with a little butter, melted on top.

I had pureed parsnips and carrots in Ireland; they were wonderful.
I had to ask what the dish was; it looked like mashed sweet potato but tasted different.

You can pull the same trick with parsnips and potatoes; in this case use the russets or older red potatoes, since you WANT them to fall apart. Turnips and carrots make a somewhat spicier puree, but also good.

Turnip-Carrot Potage

1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut in 1" pieces
1 largish turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
3 medium carrots (or 1 large) peeled and sliced into 1/2" rounds
1 small onion, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 medium stalks celery, cut in 1/2" pieces
2 cups fresh parsley, spinach, or other tender green, chopped,
or you can use 1/4 cup dried parsley
salt to taste, up to 1 tablespoon.
butter or olive oil

Put all vegetables except greens into large saucepan, add 4 cups water and simmer 15 minutes. Add greens, cook another 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and let cool a little. Put it through a blender or a food mill. Sprinkle with pepper and/or celery seed, and stir in a little butter to each serving.

Dill weed can be used in place of some of the parsley, either fresh or dried, maybe 1/4 cup fresh dill weed or 1 tablespoon dried. You can experiment with other mild herbs such as tarragon and basil in smaller quantities.

Beet and Endive Salad

1/2 pound beets, cooked
3/4 pound endive or chicory (you can use escarole or sugarhat
lettuce) sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Peel, chop and cook the beets by steaming or in boiling water.
Or you can use Ursula's lactofermented beets--UNCOOKED. In this case you probably won't need as much vinegar since they are naturally sour.

In your salad bowl, mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir in
the beets, whatever form you have, and the endive. Stir well
and serve.

You can also add chopped apple to this salad, or a little slivered red onion.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Week 1 - Oh my gosh! All that Squash

Cresset Winter share members just got their entire season's supply of winter squash and pumpkins in one gunny sack. This is because squash and pumpkin need to be stored at warmer temperatures, 55-65 degrees F., and the farm does not have facilities, but all of us do. So you can use your squash and pumpkin as home decor, just don't forget to eat them too!

Keep them in a basket, on a rack, or somewhere else that they can get air, and look them over once in a while. It would be good to use or preserve them by the middle of January, if you can. See my post on Pumpkins for some ideas on using those beautiful fruits.

Delicata Squash

These are small cream-colored squash with green or orange lines. Their shell is hard when uncooked, but becomes tender enough to eat when roasted. The seeds of Delicata are a real treat: small and tender when roasted.

Cut the squash in two lengthwise, scraping out the seeds. The seeds of Delicata are a real treat, so don't miss this opportunity. Take off the strings, put the unwashed seeds into a pie tin with a little butter and salt, and bake with the squash, stirring occasionally. Take them out when they are a nice rich brown but not burnt.

Bake the squash cut-side down on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, until tender. You can serve them as is, with a dollop of butter. Or, after baking 30 minutes, turn them right-side up, and stuff them. Then return to the oven for
another 25-30 minutes to get the stuffing nicely cooked through.

My favorite Delicata stuffing, adapted from "Moosewood":

Saute 1/2 lb chopped mushrooms and 1/2 cup chopped onion with 1 clove crushed garlic in butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1 cup cottage cheese, 3/4 cup bread crumbs or cooked rice, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, and other dried herbs to taste. Pile into partially-cooked shells and bake 25-30 minutes. The skins are so tender by now that you can eat them along with the filling.

You could modify this by using grated cheese rather than cottage cheese, using quinoa instead of rice, or using spices such as cumin, coriander and chile powder instead of the parsley. You could add sunflower seeds or toasted chopped nuts. There are just any number of ways to vary this recipe.

Black Forest Squash

These are the dark green, somewhat conical fruits. The seeds of this variety have very heavy shells, and are not so good for roasting. Ursula asks Cresset members to save the seeds from their Black Forest squash, to plant next year.

You can bake and stuff this squash similarly to Delicata though the skins will not be fork-tender. Or you can bake it and scoop out the filling to use like pumpkin, or mixed with pumpkin. The flesh is denser than pumpkin flesh. To use in your pumpkin recipes, you might need to stir in a little water. To bake: cut in half, scoop out seeds and strings, put on cookie sheet cut side down and bake until tender.

You can also cut the squash into strips and peel it. Be careful with the knife since the skins are very hard. The peeled chunks can be added to soups and will cook to tenderness in 10-15 minutes depending on the size you cut.

Gypsy Soup (adapted from "Moosewood"; I love that book)

2 cups chopped peeled winter squash
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped bell peppers
1 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
2 teaspoons paprika or mild chile powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
dash cinnamon
1 bay leaf
olive oil

Saute onion, garlic, celery and squash in several tablespoons of olive oil until onions soften. Add seasonings except tamari, and 3 cups water. Simmer 15 minutes, covered. Add peppers, tomatoes and chickpeas. Simmer another 10 minutes or so. Season with tamari to taste.

You can use sweet potato or pumpkin instead of the squash. You can use peas or beans instead of the bell peppers. You can add some diced carrot if you wish. You could use diced celery root instead of the celery, or just omit it. You could add one link of spicy of Italian sausage, cut into chunks, at the beginning of the simmering period. You can omit the tamari, checking the soup for salt before serving. This is a dish that is eminently localizable (once we find the garbanzos).

Preserving the Squash

The squash should keep at cool room temperature for a couple of months, allowing you to cook them up as needed. Or you can preserve them for next year.

You can bake your pumpkins and/or Black Forest squash until tender, run the flesh through a food mill or a blender, and pack the puree into hot canning jars, just like canning applesauce. Process in pressure canner or boiling water bath (check directions of your canner). Or you can freeze the puree, for your own pumpkin pies next year.

If you have a fruit dryer, you can peel the pumpkin or squash and cut into thin slices, then dry until leathery, not quite crisp but certainly not damp. Put into glass jars or ziplock bags. These will keep a long while and can be put into soups, or rehydrated and cooked to a puree for use in pumpkin bread. Some people like to snack on them as is, sweet and tasty.

I have not even mentioned pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cookies, etc. etc. You can use your own cooked pureed winter squash or pumpkin in any of these dishes.

Make the Road by Walking

Recently I came across this famous line by Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

My translation:
Traveller, there is no road,
one makes the road by walking.

We are pioneering local eating, walking where there is no road, making the road by walking it. When we look for, ask for, and buy local food, we are sending a powerful message. If enough of us do it, the message goes out to existing farmers sick to death of losing money in commodity agriculture; the message goes out to young people who want to farm but can't see how to make a living at it.

It's a collaboration. More demand for local food makes for more local suppliers. More local suppliers makes it easier for customers to find local food. It's a virtuous circle, unwinding the vicious circle of no demand for local food, so farmers must sell into the commodity market, often making pennies on the dollar, going into debt, then selling out to corporations or developers.

Let's not wait until we are in an emergency situation. As Ursula of Cresset Community Farm told me recently, "We need to grow farmers."

With Peak Oil having ever greater effects on the cost of everything related to petroleum, we will NEED more local suppliers of food if we want to eat. About 20% of the cost of supermarket food is the transportation from field to factory to warehouse to store. That does not even count the fuel for the tractors, the petrochemicals in the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
The time is coming when "conventional" agriculture will be more expensive than organic farming.

Corporate megafarms are far less efficient in food produced per acre in crop, not even counting the environmental or petroleum costs, though megafarms are far more efficient in labor costs. The most efficient food-growing technique in the world in terms of product per acre is the home garden, closely followed by small intensively-farmed plots. The most efficient way to produce meat is pastured; feedlots are an antiquated dinosaur method of producing meat, based on the incredible cheapness of fossil fuel in the 20th century. They require huge amounts of corn and soybeans, and huge amounts of petroleum to produce them and bring them to the cattle, and producing huge amounts of animal waste which becomes a pollutant rather than a fertilizer. I will go into this subject more in a future post.

Jim and I are walking the road we want to make. By using our existing stock, it gives us time to research and find suppliers of the things we will need. After using up all of our perishable foods, our meals are more than half local food, sometimes nearly all, except for salt.

Please join us on this road that we are making by walking.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Be Thankful for Local Food

Thanks to Alisa Smith and James McKinnon at 100 Mile Diet for allowing me to use their cute graphic. Their recently-published book "Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally" was one of my inspirations for our 100-mile diet. It's a fun read too.

Give thanks for your local food by featuring local food in your Thanksgiving feast. Within our 100-mile circle, we can find turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lots of other hardy vegetables, pumpkin (remember, you CAN eat your pumpkin) pie, and cream to put on it. And we have apples from our trees, sitting in our garage, for baked apples, applesauce, and a myriad other dishes.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Week 18 - A Pumpkin of Your Own

Cresset CSA shareholders now have a couple of beautiful pumpkins from their share, with more to come for winter shareholders. Pumpkins are more than just home decor! You can actually eat them, and they are delicious! (This presupposes that you have not made jack-o-lanterns out of all your pumpkins. The soot from the candle is not very tasty.)

Pumpkins keep for a month or more at cool room temperatures. Racks are better than boxes, so they get a little air circulation around them.

How to prepare your pumpkin

You have decided to transform a beautiful orange item of home decor to food. Cut your pumpkin in half at the equator. Clean out the seeds and strings. STOP! Don't throw the seeds away. Separate the strings from the seeds, and put the unwashed seeds into a pie pan, with a little butter and salt. Now, throw the strings away (better: compost them).

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a rimmed cookie sheet or large baking dish, with a little water. Bake until you can run a fork through the skin and the skin and flesh are tender (30-45 minutes for most pumpkins). Put the seeds in the oven at the same time.

The seeds are done when they are brownish and crispy. Yum.
No need to remove the hulls; they are crunchy and tasty too.

Take the pumpkin out of the oven. Scoop the tender flesh away from the skin. At this point you can run the flesh through a food mill, blender, or sieve to remove remaining strings or fibers.

You can freeze the pulp, or process it in canning jars like applesauce, or just fix yourself a fresh pie or some soup.

Note: Most winter squash can be baked in a similar way. You can roast the seeds of the squash which have smaller seeds; some winter squash have big heavy seeds. You can mix winter squash pulp with pumpkin pulp for pies or soups. The canned pumpkin that you would buy is mostly winter squash, which is why it is so thick.

Here is a link to other wonderful pumpkin recipes:

Simply Recipes - Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

for a 9-inch pie:
2 cups fresh pumpkin
2/3 cup honey
3 to 4 teaspoons your favorite pumpkin pie spices:
-cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon, cloves (take it easy
on the cloves)
1 cup milk
four beaten eggs
1/2 tsp salt
an unbaked pie crust

Mix the pumpkin with the honey, spices, and salt. Then mix in the milk and eggs. Pour into crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees until done, about 50 minutes.

To make a 10-inch pie, make 1 1/2 recipe (e.g. 3 cups pumpkin, etc.)

You can make pumpkin custard the same, without the crust. Use a glass pie pan or shallow round baking dish, and put it in a hot water bath (a larger pan with about an inch of water in it).


Pumpkin Nut Waffles

2 cups flour (your choice; white, whole wheat, rice, etc.)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat the three egg yolks, mix in the milk, melted butter and pumpkin. Beat the three egg whites stiff, fold into batter. Pour onto waffle iron, sprinkling each with 2 tablespoons chopped nuts. Cook till done (by your waffle iron instructions).


Pumpkin Rarebit Soup (adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest)

4 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup stock or water
1 1/2 cups beer or ale
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 tsp salt
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp soy sauce
black pepper to taste
cayenne or chili powder to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Mix the pumpkin with the stock, heat with the beer in a large saucepan. Let it simmer. In a small skillet, melt the butter and saute the onions and garlic, then add to the soup. Add remaining seasonings to taste, then the cheese. Simmer partially covered
20-30 minutes.


Finally, a recipe that does NOT require baking and pureeing the pumpkin. Choose a nice small shapely pumpkin for this dish.

Mexican Stuffed Pumpkin

One nice small pumpkin
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces ground ham (optional)
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped pimento-stuffed olives
1 cup tomato sauce (homemade or commercial) or 1 1/2 cups
chopped tomatoes
3 eggs, beaten

Brown the beef in the oil, with the ham, onions, and green pepper. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer 15 minutes. Stir in three beaten eggs. Fill the pumpkin, pressing down, then top with lid. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving. To serve, scoop out some filling and some of the flesh of the pumpkin.

How Can You Find Local Food?

Don't expect to find very much local food at your supermarket.  You can find 40,000-60,000 items from every corner of the world.  Most of them are identified only by country of origin, if that.  Lists of ingredients often include long chemical names whose sources do not need to be revealed (melamine, anyone?).  Unless you live in a big produce area such as California, you will have a hard time finding local produce, even when it is in season.  You can ask the produce manager.  The more we ask them for local food, the more likely it is that we will get it.  

So, we have the same question: how can you find local food?

1. Start at home.  

--What do you grow in your yard?  Apple trees? Berry bushes?
--Do you have a garden? Can you have a garden?
--Can you keep bees (most cities allow them)?
--Can you keep chickens?  A few hens are a pleasant addition to your yard.  They eat vegetable scraps and create fertilizer and eggs.  

If you live in an apartment, you may still be able to grow a few pots of herbs or tomatoes on your patio.  Perhaps you can find a community garden nearby where you can have a small plot of your own.

The usual growing season is over for 2007, but you can start to plan for next year.  Consider it a Victory Garden--victory in the fight for local, flavorful, inexpensive food for your family.  If you have a garden, you can look into season extenders, cold frames, hoop houses, etc., that will allow you to harvest vegetables earlier and later than usual.  Eliot Coleman's book Four Season Gardening is a good reference.

2. Join a CSA

CSA means Community Supported Agriculture.  You pay the farmers for a share of vegetables at the beginning of the season, and get a weekly bag or box of freshly picked local produce.  Some CSA sell milk, meat, honey, fruit, bread, jellies, or other local products as well.  CSAs are the fastest growing form of agriculture in the U.S. today, and no wonder!  The farmers get to keep the entire sales price of the share--nothing to middlemen, factories, stores, etc. The customer gets fresh local produce, and gets to know the people who grow their food.

Some CSAs offer working or barter memberships, where you contribute your labor to the farm in return for a reduced-price or free vegetable share.

In the past decade or so, thousands of new CSAs have sprung up all over the country.  To find one near you, look in the Local Harvest website:

and enter your own state or zip code.  You'll be astonished.
3. Farmers Markets

You can also find a multitude of farmers markets in every state in the union. You can generally find an even wider selection of edibles at markets which have stalls or tables from many local growers and producers.  In some areas of the country, farmers markets run year around.  Here in Colorado, they're mostly done in October.  

------a brief interruption-------

A CSA and/or farmers markets can provide you with wonderful local
produce in season, but most of us don't live in perpetual summer. Just as our grandmothers did, we can preserve the summer's bounty for winter. Fruits and vegetables can be dried, canned, pickled, or frozen. The techniques are simple, the equipment is not expensive. The easiest of all: Many hardier vegetables can be kept in a cool cellar or garage, where they won't freeze, for months.

-------------back to our regular program--------------

4. Find and support local farms

You can use the Local Harvest website, or a number of other similar sites, to find farmers in your area who are raising animals for meat or eggs. Perhaps you have local orchards that sell to the public. There are beekeepers everywhere to supply you with local honey.

You can link up with other people in your area who are interested in local food, and share information about suppliers. You could put together a buying coop for bulk purchases, such as grain.

Grains and Beans

In most parts of the country, grains and beans will be the most difficult foodstuffs to buy locally. Practically all of then are sold through the commodity system, giving the farmer a return of just pennies on the dollar of supermarket sales. Most commodity farmers make ends meet with government subsidies, mainly for wheat, corn and soybeans. Large corporations are calling the shots, and making the profits, on this commerce.

We can turn this around, supporting small local farmers, but only if we work together. Small farmers need to know that there will be a solid market for their grains, flours and beans, in order to invest in the processing machinery and mills.

A final note: Does it make sense to start a 100-Mile diet in November? For us it did. We have a lot of stored food: frozen, canned, and staples. We also have a CSA membership which will give us vegetables until March. I quickly found several good sources of meat, poultry, dairy products and eggs. And we have fruit trees in our yard, and five boxes of our apples in the garage.

Whether or not you are ready to start your 100-mile diet now, you can start thinking about what you might do to prepare for it. Perhaps you want to start in June, with a CSA, buying food at the farmers markets and preserving it. I first thought about local eating last year; it took me nearly a year to decide to jump in and do it. Perhaps you need to prepare your spouse and children for the inevitable changes. You will be doing more cooking.

And a fair warning: once you have really started eating local food, you may lose your appetite for the tasteless tired produce and fruit you were eating before; you may lose your yearnings for junk food; you may decide to drive past the burger palace and go home for a satisfying meal. It's an adventure!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Week 17 - Shades of Green - Kale and Escarole

This is Week 17 for the Cresset Community Farm Summer 2007 vegetable share. You have Kale and Escarole in your share this week. They are sturdy fall and winter greens, not as well known as lettuce and spinach, but nutritional powerhouses in terms of vitamins and minerals.

Kale comes in a variety of forms, which include Lacinato, otherwise known as dinosaur kale (because it looks positively prehistoric); Red Russian which has a red cast to the green, with more delicate leaves and flavor; Curly, with tightly curled fringed leaves. There are others, too.

My favorite Kale recipe is Caldo Verde, a Portuguese traditional soup. The long slow cooking brings about a marvelous flavor that will surprise you.

Caldo Verde

1/2 lb kale (any type), washed and chopped; you can use
mustard greens for part of this amount
1 pound potatoes, chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
6 cups water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 link spicy sausage (optional), cut up
1 cup cooked small white beans (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to taste

Put the water in a kettle, add the kale, potatoes, onion and garlic, the beans and/or sausage. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for 2 hours, until kale is really tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add one or more tablespoons olive oil if you like.


Escarole looks something like lettuce, with a flatter open head and heavier leaves. You can use it like lettuce, in raw salads, by cutting it finer. It has a mild, slightly bitter flavor that is perfect in salads. It is also great in cooked dishes, where you might use spinach although cooked escarole has more of a warm and sweet flavor than spinach. You can also stir-fry it plain in
a little olive oil, seasoning with salt and a few drops of

Escarole Frittata

1/2 head of escarole, cut into medium pieces and washed well
1/2 onion, cut small
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 eggs
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated mild cheese such as havarti or fontina

Heat a little olive oil in a medium-sized skillet, add the onion and cook until it starts to soften, then add the garlic and escarole. Reduce heat to saute gently and stir until greens are fairly tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, then stir in cheese and the cooked vegetables. Wipe out the pan, add a little more olive oil, and
pour the egg mixture into the pan, cooking at medium heat until
eggs are nearly set. At this point you can run it under the
broiler for a few minutes to cook the top, or carefully flip it
over, or leave it covered at low heat for a few minutes.

For a thicker frittata, double the ingredients and use a little larger pan. Be sure to cook the top under the broiler or by
flipping. A frittata should be cooked all the way through,
though still tender.


Tatsoi - what is that vegetable with the small dark green roundish leaves and long stems, and what can I do with it? Tatsoi is an Asian vegetable that can be used either raw or cooked. You can chop it in with mixed salad greens. Or it can be part of a stir-fry with other vegetables and meats. Or you can stir-fry it by itself.

Stir-fried Tatsoi

Two bunches of tatsoi, washed and chopped
2 cloves peeled and sliced garlic
a little oil for frying (I like extra-virgin olive)
soy sauce

Heat oil in a skillet, add garlic, brown lightly. Then add tatsoi, stirring for a few minutes until stems are tender. It won't take long. Sprinkle on a little soy sauce to taste, and you are done. Nice side dish, packed with vitamins.

Tatsoi Pilaf

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice (uncooked)
1 medium to large bunch tatsoi, washed, trimmed, and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Thai-type chili paste, or 2-4 tablespoons your
favorite salsa
salt to taste

Melt butter in skillet, add rice and onion and stir until the rice starts to take on a golden or tan color. Then add the tatsoi, salt, and chili paste or salsa. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Bok choy could also be used.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

You Can Make Your Own Rules

One nice thing about choosing to eat a local diet is that you can make your own rules (such a deal...).  Practically anything that you do to eat more local food is good for the planet, so you can decide what works for you and your family.
You can start gonzo hard-core by picking a small area and being strict.  Or you can choose to cook one completely-local meal a week.  Whatever works for you.

Choose the area:
  • 100-mile radius circle (or 50, or 200; you choose)
  • Your whole state (in my case Colorado); makes label reading easier
  • If you live in a little state, put several states together
  • Your bioregion, such as the watershed for your local river, or some other land feature
You can have exceptions:
  • We decided to pick 5 exceptions each; my first is olive oil.  My husband's first two are Alaskan salmon and fair-trade coffee.  
  • Or you can be hard-core and not allow any exceptions
  • However, it is not fair to pick an exception, stock up to the gills on it, then trade it out for another one; you aren't really doing any good that way.
  • We will use food that we have on hand (and since I'm such a packrat, that's a lot of food).  I don't feel it's ethical to throw away food that I already own.  The place to intercept the non-local food is when you are buying it.
  • If you pick too broad an exception, such as "everything made with grains", you will probably find that you are eating commodity grain-based food from all over the place, to the exclusion of local fruits and vegetables.  Do yourself and the planet a favor by being specific: example: brown rice from California.
Choose how much of your eating is local:
  • If we are invited to someone's house, we will gratefully eat what is put in front of us, without carping about its source.
  • We allow ourselves one restaurant meal per week, without locality restrictions.  (You could choose none, or more, or only certain kinds of restaurants....)
  • Other than that, we are eating local (and on-hand) food all other meals of the week.  You could choose to eat local for one meal a day, one meal a week (off to a slow start), or whatever works for you.  For us this includes snacks.
  • If we are traveling away from our area, we will try to eat local food of the area we are visiting, but not make a big deal out of it.  This does not happen often.  If we are away from the house for lunch, we will be bringing our own food with us, instead of being tempted to stop at the fast-food haven or the minimart for snacks.

Why Would We Do This?

I, and others I know, are getting the strong feeling that the time for dithering and wringing our hands is over.  It is time to do something meaningful to reduce our energy footprint and thereby reduce the
emissions leading to global warming.  

I recently read the book Plenty by Alisa Smith and James McKinnon, who decided to eat in a 100-mile radius circle of their home in Vancouver, BC,
Canada.  Their website is

100-mile eating can do the following:
  •  reduce the amount of petroleum needed to get your food on your plate (significant)
  •  thereby making a substantial difference in emissions (more than compact fluorescents, for sure)
  • help you get to know the people who grow, raise, or catch your food
  •  thereby avoiding GMOs, frankenfoods, melamine in your food, and lots of other industrial pollutants and irradiation
  •  totally stop you eating FAST FOOD and chain restaurant fare
  •  increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and reduce your intake of  processed, anonymous foods
  • get you in touch with the seasons and your local foodshed
  • support local farmers and help them resist suburban development
  • stop sending your food dollars overseas; stop supporting mega-corporations who want to control food as a commodity
  • prepare your region (and yourself) so that your residents have at least half a chance to feed themselves when things get bad