Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stocking Up on Local Food

Despite a rather packed Saturday schedule, somewhere between swim lessons at the Community Center and a matinee of the Nutcracker the munchkin and I braved the cold to get to a winter Farmers Market, this time the Oakton Smart Markets. My first stop was to Heritage Farm & Kitchen to stock up on more dried kidney beans as well as other assorted beans, frozen chicken legs, eggs, lettuce, onions, maple syrup, sweet potatoes and Trickling Springs Creamery butter.

I picked out an assortment of apples—mostly honey crisps, nittany, and gala—from one vendor and a large bear of honey from Celestial Farms before rounding the trip out with 3 bottles of wine from Fabbioli Cellars. My head is filled with visions of what I could make with the chicken and red wine and I'm excited to add butter and not one but two sweeteners to my culinary possibilities.

I also had the good fortune of running into a friend from the neighborhood Sustainability movement and Local Foods Working Group. We took the time to catch up; I shared my commitment to eating local during the 5th annual Dark Days Challenge and she updated me on effort to bring a local grocer/storefront to our town. We also chatted over canning, preserving and fermenting endeavors recent and planned and after lamenting about the difficulties of canning large batches in a postage stamp apartment kitchen I was invited to “borrow” her kitchen the next time. I can get by with small batches just fine but I think I will have to take her up on her offer when tomatoes are back at the markets.

I plan to get to the local grocery near my work soon to as I hear they have Daisy flour and I would like to pick up a whole chicken for roasting so I can make some more stock before I run out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dark Days-Week 2

So much for my early confidence, this is going to be harder than I though…especially if I don’t get to the market soon.

A quick rummage through my apple bin revealed a few local apples left so sliced them and mixed them with the last of my lettuces and some sliced carrots from the garden, and some of the white beans from Heritage Farm and Kitchen. Because I made this for lunch the night before, I used a splash of my daughters organic OJ to keep the apples from browning but no other dressing.

It was a simple preparation but the snap of the apples plus the amazing flavor of the beans made it substantial enough to hold its own. It would have been better with a bit of bread or a little meat but until I get to the farmers market or check out the Maple Street Market I’m running short on options. I will have to make shopping it a priority this next week.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Harvest Monday

I find it a bit funny to start sharing my harvest Monday of the year this late in the season, especially now that we’ve entered December, Virginia has endured the first few frosts of winter and I have already done my first dark days post. After all, in previous years, despite being apartment bound I have always had something growing on the porch. But then, I started this year a little behind the curve.

At the end of July, a time when most gardens are in full swing and many a green thumb is looking forward to the slow days fall and winter, I was just breaking ground. I finally got off the community garden waiting list and received a well placed, healthy, but neglected plot. The whole thing was covered with weeds, nothing had been planted that season and though a previous owner had laid cloth and built up beautiful soil on top, the ground beneath was all clay and rocks.  Aside from a large patch of mint and some pungent lemon herb the plot was gifted with three wood box frames that defined the beds.

Knowing that my new garden enthusiasm could fizzle in the dog days of August I assessed the soil condition (best closest to the entry) and decided to start working at the worst corner and work backwards, figuring that if/when I got tired I already had decent soil I could plant in. Every spare moment I headed to the garden to pull weeds, clear rocks, and begin double digging the beds. I ended up planting fall/winter crops in mid-late August. Below you can see the three beds (here shown with the high hoops installed but not covered).

Straight ahead I planted kale a row of turnips, lettuces, a salad greens mix, tatsoi, and pok choy. I had intended to put second and third to the right but never got back to it. In the far left, the worst rocky corner, I seeded a bunch of Austrian field peas as a cover crop. I will dig it in come spring to put some much needed nutrients back in. It’s a great little corner for a perennial. In the bed on the right are beets, carrots, celery, and onions. Cabbage and broccoli are in the bed on the right, though those have been mostly nibbled by insects.

Since September I have been harvesting a few leafs of lettuce, some kale, and accidentally pulled up a turnip but nothing substantial until today. 4 small carrots, a small turnip (not pictured) that had started to grow above ground where I needed to secure the row cover, a head of tatsoi, 2 big handfuls of lettuces, and 3 handfuls of kale. I was tempted to harvest more but I really want to stretch what little I have into the winter to see how things fare in the cold/snow to come.Not bad for a first winter harvest.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dark Days-Week 1

Dark Days indeed.

Trying to fit in my increased mileage meant that I either pushed it to run in the oncoming dusk, had to peel off to the gym for the treadmill, or switch to morning runs. This plus the the always busy work week meant that I failed to do any prep, shopping, planning or even thinking about the dark days challenge until this weekend. Normally not an issue but since I haven’t made it to the farmers market since Thanksgiving (and all that was used up in the big feast) my pantry was near bare (of SOLE food anyway, I’m almost embarrassed to share the amount of other junk that is in there). I could almost cry to think that I had fail before the challenge had started.

I did manage to stop by the garden plot to finish tucking in the greens, seeing how my row covers faired in the rain and winds of last week, and harvest a head of Pok Choy, 20 leaves of kale, a few baby celery leaves and some mint. I also started rooting around in my packed little freezer and found one last package of pork sausage produced locally.

Granted, the spices and beer used to flavor the sausage probably doesn’t grow around here but I know the pork did. When I can’t get locally grown I guess I will be settling for locally made. This still meets with my goal of supporting a locally based food economy. I then remembered that I still have a bag each of dried kidney and great northern beans from Heritage Farm and Kitchen, a Mennonite Co-Op in Pennsylvania. All was not lost!

I set the great northern beans to soaking overnight and started to search the internet for inspiration

This morning, after I returned from our 5k Run with Santa race, I cooked up the sausage and added in a quart of my home canned veggie stock (all local veg).

Next I shredded the kale leaves and added in about 2-3 cups of beans.

Though one bowl barely passes for a meal and wish I had some other seasonings, the veg broth was flavorful and extremely fragrant, the sausage added a nice bit and the beans were really high quality so after the first sip I forgot all about the missing salt. I hadn’t know it but this was just the thing I needed post run on a cold winters day and thanks to no planning, a last minute panic turned into the perfect –local—bowl.