Saturday, October 22, 2005

Local Challenge Challenge
Various Un-Reported Farmer's Markets

It’s what, one, two, three, four, five markets I missed blogging? I shopped at Oak Park pretty much weekly. I have allso visited Green City, Daley Plaza, Wicker Park, and 311 S. Wacker. Want to read no more: Loved 'em all.

More? I think last time we talked there was still a peach or two to buy. Incredibly, through all these markets, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers stayed. It seemed like there were as many eggplants today at Nicholls’s as there was six weeks ago, even if most of today’s were gray-white to match the cloud cover. Yet also, in a mimic of turning leaves, Nicholls’s sold tiny eggplants the hue of a good fall drive. Several weeks ago you would not have seen the wild mushrooms including elephant ear sized hen of the woods and expensive chanterelles as you would have today in Oak Park. Just because I have not been faithfully reporting does not mean I have not been shopping.

Shopping like a fool. As I noted when I tossed my hat into the Eat Local Challenge, eating local in the summer is pretty effortless. I said come back in a few months and see how things stand. And it is still rather effortless. For long periods I could rely on a very full market. I purchased varieties of plums, summer ending with the concentrated flavor of the Stanley plum, liquid prunes. Grapes and apples and raspberries, broccoli purple or green or white which we call cauliflower (almost) and all sizes and shapes of squashes have been here forever it seems and I filled up each week. On the other hand, most of the pear varieties made the briefest of appearances and I regret not buying more. Paying attention to the market (even if not putting it to bit and byte), I noticed how short the pear season was. Not as short as the Black Walnut. One week, my favorite fruit vendor, Hardin Farms, had quarts of these for $3. I jumped at it, as much for the uniqueness as its nuttiness. Good thing because these hard to crackers never appeared again.* I have been buying a lot.

Because soon it will not be so effortless to eat local. The challenge will challenge. We are gonna try our hardest to stay local all the way to the opening of the 2006 Farmer’s Market. I am sure I have admitted my exceptions, bananas and citrus fruits. Of course, I only mean fruit and vegetables. Price wise, we cannot afford to commit too fully to local meat and fish; while, other local stuff like Wilmot grains are just too esoteric to matter. On the other hand, we pretty much stick with local dairy products. This is the true local challenge, local off-season. Eating local when the Oak Park Farmer's Market tucks in for the year.

Accepting the challenge takes work. And a fair amount of freezer space. And learning. We are learning the hard way how to keep local. We are lucky we are not Little Home on the Prairie. Whatever mistakes and such we make, we will hardly starve come January. Our biggest mistake was not really thinking about the big picture until about September. It dawned on us, after recollecting once again on the especially delicious apricots this year that we should have dried some. Drying was well within our knowledgebase. As canning is not. Next year I am gonna try to convince Cathy2 from LTHForum to hold some canning classes. Until then, the Condiment Queen and I are still afraid we will kill the family if we can. The thing is though, for the first few months of the market we neither dried or canned or froze, the idiot’s method of preserving. None of those cherries we enjoyed, the ten versions of strawberries at the market, the limited offering of blackberries, the sugar-snaps and shell peas, the edamame, we just plain did not think to save any of those. We started in earnest in September.

We realized in time to pack away a bit of blueberries, plums and peaches. Mostly, we have been packing away grapes (the frozen grapes go about 1:1 between eating now and saving), raspberries, bell peppers and green beans. We have made a ton of tomato sauce and oven dried other tomatoes. We still have a gross or so of tomatoes to process. We have one more week of market to buy, and we will stock up on all of the above plus apples—the folks at Hardin say some of the kinds of apples will stay fine in the fridge for several months. I am not worried about stocking up on everything.

As I reported before, Farmer Vicki will offer a CSA all the way through December. I expect to get plenty of greens, potatoes, cabbage and onions and more, her stand, Genesis Growers has been quite full even now, each week from the CSA. Green City Market will also be in function for the rest of the year. It’s a pain to shop in the lion house, but once or twice I am sure I will make it. I am going into unchartered territory. I think the challenge has barely begun. See what I have to say in a few months.

See ya next week at the market. It’s the last one in Oak Park.

*When we bought the black walnuts, they warned us they would break a nut cracker. And how. The thing is, not only does it take several wakes of a hammer to crack these nuts, it takes some strong work to get the nuts out of the shells. I know this is gross, but they remind me of my daughter’s Cesarean birth, the nut is like the baby held tightly in place. It is worth the work. Unlike any other nut. I would say they taste almost like grapes, with a winey, musty flavor as well as being much sweeter than you expect nuts. I am glad I was there the week the nuts were (don’t insert any jokes…)

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Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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