Thursday, June 28, 2007

Growers' Market Rules?

A growers’ market is not the same as a farmers’ market. A vendor can go to a wholesaler to get his truck loaded up with produce from Timbuktu, and bring it to the farmers' market to re-sell. At a growers’ market, all produce for sale must have been grown by the vendor. At the Lake Ella Growers’ Market, vendors are also required to actively disclose to their customers whether their produce was grown using “conventional” or “organic” farming methods. Therefore, the customer knows where his produce comes from and how it is grown. Right?

Seduced by okra and field peas available only from a vendor selling “conventionally” grown produce, I made what I believed to be a weak but informed choice to buy these chemically grown vegetables from the grower. After I’d made my rounds, I sat on a bench to soak in the feel-good atmosphere at the market. Loitering in my usual way, I overheard multiple conversations about the vendor – all participants certain that some of the produce on the table was not in fact grown by the vendor. Tomatoes too homogenously “perfect.” Out-of-season sweet potatoes over-wintered and sold here. An overly diverse array of produce at the table, and so on.

With my heavy bag of corn, okra, and field peas, I felt naive, cheated, uncomfortable, guilty. I’d already made a choice to buy vegetables coaxed into maturity at the expense of their taste, plant diversity, and the environment. And apparently I’d unknowingly supported the vendor who chose to bend the rules by selling perhaps a few “home-grown” items, along with items from unknown origins. Even as I kicked myself, I was glad to witness the joint efforts of the better-informed to protect the integrity of the growers’ market, and concerned about the future of this carefully cultivated treasure.

More than a place to buy vegetables, the growers’ market is a growing community. It is a place where I go to feel safe and confident about my buying choices. It is where I am slowly learning about environmental stewardship and meeting people whose love extends beyond their own nuclei to their neighbors and to future generations, and whose daily habits reflect gratitude and respect for the source of their nourishment – the earth.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Collaborators Wanted!

We need food and garden writers!

Want a juicier, more tantalizing blog about good food in the Tallahassee area? Share the love and add some flavor. Right now, I'm flying solo and I'm boring myself to death. We need your special flavor.

What's your food passion? Farming? Wine? Barbecue? Eating out? Seafood? Vegetarian or vegan cooking? Desserts? Chocolate? Pickling? Brewing? Strange foods? Rare foods? Food history? Food politics? Eating out? International cooking? Gardening? Bugs in the garden?

Lend your unique talents and reap the rewards of a collaborative blog about good, clean, and fair food in and around Tallahassee: Become a collaborator on Slow Food Tallahassee Talks.

Email for more info. Thanks!

p.s. Those of you who have already expressed an interest in blogging here: Let us know if there have been any technical obstacles holding you back.

In Season: Blueberries

Blueberries have been in full swing for the last couple of weeks. When they first showed up at the market, vendors were swamped by eager customers. Anyone at the market an hour after start was out of luck. Last week, there were blueberries a-plenty, even for latecomers -- I left the market with enough for a pie or two. Ultimately, I didn't make a pie, but I did make a blueberry compote with thyme, vanilla bean and tupelo honey to serve with roasted peaches (also in season) and ice-cream. I also enjoyed the blueberries on pancakes and snacked on them with guiltless, extravagant abandon.

The recipes for the roasted peaches and blueberry compote (called "Inside a Blueberry Pie) came from A New Way to Cook (Schneider, 2001). The book was given to me by friend, fellow foodie and dietitian, Denise Hall. In her book, Sally Schneider artfully redistributes fat in her recipes to give the diner the sensation of a full-fat, full flavor experience with less guilt. She encourages experimentation and utilization of local, seasonal ingredients by providing loose formulas as well as recipes.

Blueberries are packed with anti-oxidants that are believed to combat cancer, heart-disease, urinary tract infections, loss of mental capacity due to aging, and more. Read about blueberries and health.

Find out where to pick your own blueberries on the Slow Food Tallahassee Local Resources Directory and on the Pick Your Own Website.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Still Eating

Two weeks' absence feels like a long time, but I haven't perished of starvation. If I've been quiet, it's because I've had my mouth full.

I, along with a handful of Turkey Hill Farm enthusiasts and Slow Food Tallahassee members, had the great privilege of helping Louise Divine and Herman Holley organize Turkey Hill Farm's premier annual Tomato Feastival. This was a private event for farm-and-food-centric individuals (and their families) who were wise enough to have already subscribed to Turkey Hill's beautiful and informative "Farm Report" and Slow Food Tallahassee's News email list. On the big day, the grounds of Turkey Hill Farm were buzzing with more than 100 farmers, prominent local chefs, and blissed-out foodies. The proceeds from the event will benefit Turkey Hill Farm, Slow Food Tallahassee, and the Damayan project.

Turkey Hill Farm was the intoxicatingly lush venue for the Tomato Feastival. Tomatoes from Turkey Hill and other farms and back-yard growers were entered into a contest and sampled by guests. A distinguished panel of judges from various branches of our local culinary realm chose the best tomatoes. Other festivities at the event: a silent auction, food demonstrations by Keith Baxter, Ezzie Goldman, and Brian Knepper, a cake-walk, kids' activities, and the pot-luck of pot-lucks that happens when serious food lovers come together to share their passion. I hate to name-drop, so I won't, but honestly, some of Tallahassee's most important farmers and chefs were milling about the farm. If you don't want to miss the event next year, subscribe to Turkey Hill's Farm Report and Slow Food Tallahassee's eNews.

By the way, tomato season is in full swing. Get yourself to Lake Ella (Wednesday 3-dusk), Southwood (Monday 3-dusk), or Market Square (Saturday 8a-1ish) in time to enjoy the quintessential tomato -- in its many forms.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Pearl Onions?

NOPE. These beauties are elephant-garlic pearls from Turkey Hill Farm. When you cut into one, the absence of layers and the familiar waft of garlic betray its true identity. Elephant garlic is generally milder than the standard super-market variety.

I want to roast a handful of these perfect pearls in their skins until meltingly tender and slightly caramelized. A gentle squeeze of a papery package will send its sweet, soft contents onto a slice of rustic bread. A glass of good beer will make it dinner.