Archive for the ‘author: Debra’ Category

Market Notes: Season’s Greenings

Friday, June 10th, 2011

aspgreens.jpgWith a long, drawn out spring this year, we’re still enjoying some of the season’s ephemeral greens, such as pea greens and asparagus. Catch them at the farmers’ market while you can, as their appearance is brief and fleeting, and create a meal that satisfies cravings for something tonic and light, but also luxurious.

 

Pea greens, also known as pea shoots, can sometimes be found referenced in European gardening books, but are more widely known as in Asian cuisines. Traditionally, pea greens are the first leaves and tendrils of the snow pea plant, with the small white blossoms or buds sometimes included. When harvested while young, they are still tender enough to be eaten raw, as in a salad or as a garnish. They may also be used in soups, quickly steamed or stir-fried, or barely wilted with a bit of olive oil and garlic.

 

To prepare pea greens, remove any coarse stems, rinse quickly under cold water, drain and spin-dry. Pea greens are extremely perishable; once you’ve brought a tangle of them home, plan to use them within 1 to 2 days of purchasing. Though considered a spring delicacy, pea greens make a return in fall when planted for a late harvest.

 

Tasting very subtly of peas, the greens go well with other delicate flavors. I wanted to make something that brought out their brightness, and improvised a kind of pesto based on this scallion oil. I used the pesto to dress some fresh locally-made pasta (from here or here), and finished the dish with a scatter of toasted pine nuts. Served alongside some simple oven-roasted asparagus and a wedge of lemon from a friend’s indoor tree made for a meal worth waiting all year for!

 

Pea Greens Pesto

4 cups pea greens (about 4 large handfuls)

A couple of scallions or chives

1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil (determines amount of pesto)

A squeeze of lemon juice or, alternatively, a few leaves of lemon verbena

Pinch of salt

 

- Toss everything in a blender or food processor, and process until silky smooth.

- Adjust consistency of sauce by adding more greens or oil; it should be looser than a traditional basil pesto.

- Keep a light hand when seasoning to keep the flavors fresh. Too much salt will dull the taste, as will adding any cheese.

- This pesto can be made ahead of time, but do use it the same day when the flavors are most alive.

- Next time, try pairing the pea greens with some mint or green garlic in place of the scallions.

 

Note: To oven roast asparagus, wash and break off tough part of the cut ends. Spread the spears on a shallow baking pan, drizzle with some olive oil, and rub it in to make sure the asparagus are evenly coated. Place the pan on a rack set close to the broiler, and broil until the asparagus are tender and starting to get crackly at the tips. To save myself from burning them, I usually roast the asparagus before tackling the rest of the meal, and set them aside once they’re done. For seasoning, a bit of salt, maybe some lemon juice, is really all you need.

 

Via Kitchen Gardeners International, an entire website devoted to pea shoots, with recipes: www.peashoots.com.

No Small Potatoes Investment Club Offering Slow Money

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

50272_151277251560559_176560_n.jpgThe first round of micro- or low-interest loans from the No Small Potatoes Investment Club, part of Slow Money Maine, was so successful, they’re ready to begin their second round much sooner than expected. Targeting Maine farmers and food producers, the first set of loans helped Heiwa TofuLalibela Farm, and Thirty Acre Farm. From an article on the club in The Portland Press Herald:

 

“They want to work with farmers rather than being hard and fast with the rules,” Simon Frost said. “They’re all customers of ours who want to invest in our future.”

 

If interested in obtaining a micro-loan, No Small Potatoes Investment Club is now accepting applications, deadline June 15th:

 

The No Small Potatoes Investment Club seeks to strengthen Maine’s sustainable food system by providing low interest micro-loans (up to $5,000) to Maine’s farms and food businesses for equipment or working capital. Applications for our next round of loans are due on June 15th, and we will make loan decisions by the end of July. Please contact Chris Hallweaver (207-329-5048 or chrishallweaver@gmail.com) to receive an application.

 

For more information: www.slowmoneymaine.org.

Choice Bits: The Omnivore’s Other Dilemma

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

We hear it often, the perception that eating locally is expensive and elitist. From the global to the local level, the price of food reflects a complex set of issues. If you look closely though, you’ll find our farmers care deeply about providing good food for all. It’s a source of anguish when the economics mean they can’t. Gathered here are some recent thoughts, facts, and one farmer’s personal encounter on the matter. And, yes, Prince Charles, who was right all along.

 

Prince Charles on the future of food

 

The system of farm subsidies is geared in such a way that it favors overwhelmingly those kinds of agriculture techniques that are responsible for the many problems that I have just outlined. And secondly, that the cost of that damage is factored into the price of food production.

 

Consider, for example, what happens when pesticides get into the water supply. At the moment, the water has to be cleaned up at enormous cost to consumer water bills. The primary polluter is not charged. Or, take the emissions from the manufacturing application of nitrogen fertilizer, which are potent greenhouse gases. They, too, are not costed at source. This has led to a situation where farmers are better off using intensive methods and where consumers who would prefer to buy sustainably produced food, are unable to do so because of the price.

 

There are many producers and consumers who want to do the right thing but, as things stand, doing the right thing is penalized…

 

The new food movement could be at the heart of this consensus acting as an agent for truly transformational change, not just, ladies and gentlemen, by addressing the challenges of making our food systems more sustainable and secure but also because, as far as I’m concerned, agriculture — not agri-industry — holds the key to the improvement of public health, the expansion of rural employment, the enrichment of education and the enhancement of quality of life. Read more…

 

— The Washington Post

 

Why being a foodie isn’t “elitist”

 

This name-calling is a form of misdirection, an attempt to evade a serious debate about U.S. agricultural policies. And it gets the elitism charge precisely backward. America’s current system of food production — overly centralized and industrialized, overly controlled by a handful of companies, overly reliant on monocultures, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, chemical additives, genetically modified organisms, factory farms, government subsidies and fossil fuels — is profoundly undemocratic. It is one more sign of how the few now rule the many. And it’s inflicting tremendous harm on American farmers, workers and consumers. Read more…

 

— Eric Schlosser, The Washington Post 

 

New Study Compares Prices at Farmers’ Markets and Supermarkets. The Results Might Surprise You.

 

We’re all familiar with the accepted gospel: Only well-heeled food snobs can afford the exorbitant prices charged for those attractively displayed baby greens and heirloom tomatoes at farmers’ markets, while those who can’t afford such greener-than-thou food-purchasing decisions must paw through limp broccoli, wilted lettuce, and tennis-ball tomatoes at supermarket produce departments.

 

It may come as a surprise that there has been virtually no formal studies to support this widely accepted contention, and the few studies that have been conducted call its veracity into question.

 

A report released earlier this year by Jake Robert Claro, a graduate student at Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy who did the study for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, found that prices at farmers’ markets were lower for many conventionally produced grocery items than they were at supermarkets. For organic items, farmers’ markets beat grocery stores every time hands down. Read more…

 

— Barry Estabrook, Politics of the Plate

 

Experts: Farmers not to blame for high food prices

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture report released last month that broke down where each dollar spent on groceries goes. Farmers received an average of 11.6 cents per dollar in 2008, the latest year data was available. That was down from 13 ½ cents 10 years ago and from 14 ½ cents in 1993, the USDA report showed.

 

The rest of the money goes to processing, packaging, transportation, retail trade and food service, which includes any place that prepares meals, snacks and beverages for immediate consumption including deli counters and in-store salad bars. The share going to each category has declined some, except for food service which now gets 33.7 cents of every dollar spent, the USDA reported.

 

“While the commodity and food prices have been going up, the share going back to the farmer has been going down,” Hart said. Read more…

 

— CBS News

 

The omnivore’s other dilemma: Expanding access to non-industrial food

 

I didn’t know what to say. I had often been confronted by people over the price of my meat. “That’s ridiculous!” “So expensive!” “Phhftt!” One old lady even said, “you should be ashamed!” Little did she know that I already was, always had been.

 

I had set out in farming with a mission, to offer ethically and ecologically raised meat at the lowest price possible, low enough even for people like the woman standing in front of me at that moment. But, I quickly discovered that this was a pipe dream. I couldn’t sell pork chops for less than $7.00/lb. and keep the farm going, and even at that price, my wife would still need to continue subsidizing the farm. Read more…

 

— Bob Comis, Grist

DIY: Backyard Mushrooms… Update!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

shrooms4.jpgshrooms5.jpg

I once read about a farmer who wanted to make a plum tart, but first had to grow the plums. At the time, a three year wait for an ingredient seemed inconceivable to me. Mother nature, however, rewards the patient. It will take a few more years to tell whether the ramps can get established, but our asparagus beds are finally maturing and the shiitake logs we innoculated a year ago have fruited. In case you’re interested, the same workshop will be offered again this Saturday, May 14th:

 

Shiitake Mushroom Cultivation

New Eden Collaborative, First Parish Church, Newbury, MA

Saturday, May 14, 2011

10 AM – Noon

 

This hands-on workshop will teach participants how to inoculate fresh logs with shiitake plug spawn for home-scale mushroom cultivation.  Other appropriate mushroom varieties and growing methods will be discussed to add to the potential for further fungi fun.  Participants will take home an inoculated log, instructions for care, and a list of resources.

 

Fee: $36 per person or $40.00 per couple to receive one inoculated log with online registration; $40 per person or $40.00 per couple the day of the event.

 

Workshop leader: Charlotte Dion

 

For more information and other workshops: www.newedengarden.org

 

NOFA-NH Herbal Network is also offering mushroom growing workshops >

Eat Local, All Year Round!

Friday, May 6th, 2011

5441513095_ddcbc64f5e.jpg5271873781_b34f31a797.jpg

 

 

A farmer once told me that supermarkets were for winter. Not any more! As we quickly segue from the Winter Farmers’ Markets to this week’s opening of the outdoor ones, eating locally year round on the Seacoast is now a reality. From the very first year at McIntosh College, to the soaring, bustling spaces we now enjoy in Exeter and Rollinsford, it’s nothing short of amazing all that we together have created in four short years.

 

Thank-you to everyone who came, filled your baskets with winter’s bounty, shared food with those in need, and joined in the celebration. You helped show the farmers there is an eager audience for their efforts, and that what they do matters. Thank-you to the farmers who took a leap of faith with us by planting, growing, raising and storing food a year in advance. Thank-you to the prepared food vendors who went above and beyond our expectations in their efforts to include local food in their wares. You helped us to feed our families good, healthy, and delicious food. Thank-you to the delightful performers who filled the market with music, and created a happy, festive atmosphere. Finally, thank-you to our wonderful crew of volunteers who, with endless good cheer, unloaded countless vehicles, showed us new ways to prepare winter vegetables, surveyed the crowds, and provided answers to every question all season long; your dedication was inspiring.

 

This note wouldn’t be complete without extending special thanks to Wentworth Greenhouses and Exeter High School for allowing us to return for another year, and for providing such beautiful, light-filled spaces; and also to Salmon Falls Stoneware for stepping in when we needed extra parking. Additional special thanks goes to our market sponsors, Exeter Hospital and Full Circle Coupons, for their financial support. Lastly, thank-you to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund for providing guidance and support when we needed it most.

 

This has been truly a community effort — we couldn’t have done it without you, and we can’t wait to see you all when we return again in November. Until then, finish off those root vegetables and head out to a summer farmers’ market near you. Like we said, eat local all year round!

Action Alert: Why Weights and Measures Matter

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

img_2459.jpgIf you’ve been to a farmers’ market, you’ve probably noticed the inspection sticker on the farmer’s scale — it ensures the accurate weight of what we’re paying for. Now imagine what happens when the scales are off by a measure or two, and what’s being weighed is by the truckload. Whether a small handful of potatoes or a large load of grain, farmer and consumer alike lose when scales are out of balance.

 

Independent third party inspection of weighing and measuring devices used in commerce — this includes scales of all sizes and meters for fuel — is conducted through the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, and is under immediate threat of being privatized with the passage of SB157. With the resulting loss of licensing fees, SB157 will also reduce departmental resources for monitoring and enforcement. The House will vote on this bill on Wednesday, April 27.

 

Now is the time to call or email all state representatives and ask them to vote NO on SB157, the bill that would give authority to private technicians to place seals on scales and meters.

 

To find and contact your NH state senator: www.gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/

 

At the same time, the House budget, HB1, eliminates the three remaining weights and measures inspectors from the budget of the Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food — even though these positions are self-supported by inspection fees charged the businesses that own the devices. So eliminating the inspectors does not save money in the budget — but it is consistent with the SB157 bill to give private service technicians authority to inspect scales and meters.

 

This privatized inspection plan would put one group of businesses in charge of regulating other businesses, a situation full of conflicts of interest. In some cases, businesses such as fuel oil dealers, gas stations, or stores would be self-inspecting. The Senate is now working on the budget. Now is the time for state senators to hear from constituents about restoring the weights and measures inspectors to the Department of Agriculture’s budget.  

 

This ‘privatization’ scheme will really affect farmers who purchase grain, silage, fertilizer, lime, sand, etc. by weight. Not to mention fuel purchases. Towns will also pay a steep price without knowing it, with all their sand, gravel, asphalt, road salt, and solid waste transactions that are weighed on the vehicle scales that the Department of Agriculture inspectors found failed inspection at a rate of 36%.

 

One out of three gas and diesel pumps tested were shorting the customer. People say that NH had private inspectors for 20 years “and it worked well.” It did not work well, as these test results from the first year that we reinstated state inspection demonstrates. Report of the first year of the state inspection program: damf-wm-inspection-program-report-3-15-11.htm

 

Other documents presented to the legislative committees reviewing SB157 include:

 

• Letter to Sen. Carson from the National Conference of Weights & Measures:

11_02_24_carson_newhampshire-ncwm.pdf 

 

• Letter from the Hanover-Lebanon Co-op Stores:

sb157-co-op-food-stores-letter-to-committe-2-16-11.htm

 

• The Department of Agriculture’s testimony to the House committee that just voted SB157 Ought To Pass by a vote of 11-3:

sb157-house-eda-damf-4-5-11.htm

 

See also this Nashua Telegraph article on the attempt to eliminate state weights and measures inspection: “Checks show not all’s square at pumps, scales”

Market Notes: Saluting Spring Greens

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

This guest post from Tracey Miller, a health and wellness coach and food educator, will help you in selecting and using some of spring’s long-awaited greens now coming into abundance at the farmers’ markets. Tracey is active in teaching about the benefits of eating locally, and will be leading the upcoming In the Kitchen Workshop: Feeding Families from the Farmers’ Fields. For more information about Tracey, and her new schedule of health and wellness classes based on local food, please visit www.traceymillerwellness.com.

 

chard.jpgWinter is finally behind us and it’s time trade in our meat and potatoes and welcome the deep, leafy greens that spring brings. Greens like Swiss chard, kale, arugula and spinach, offer a powerhouse of nutrition such as calcium and other essential minerals which most Americans lack.

 

The green pigment in dark greens also contains chlorophyll which helps increase our beneficial bacteria and strengthen our blood and respiratory systems. The more bitter the better to help eliminate mucous and prevent colds and allergies. Chlorophyll also helps prevent cancer, purifies the liver, and sweetens the breath!

 

The slightly bitter flavor of greens competes with sweet and savory foods, but you’ll find as you eat more greens, you’ll stop craving sugary treats. Bok choy, dandelion greens, watercress, sorrel, pea shoots are all in season and can be tossed into salads, stir fries or lightly sautéed without much fuss. Here are two simple ways to enjoy some spring greens:

 

Arugula Pesto

This slightly peppery pesto goes great over pasta, on crackers or as a marinade for chicken.

 

Blend 4–5 cups of fresh arugula, ½ cup mint, 4–5 cloves garlic, ½ cup pine nuts, and a dash of salt and pepper in a food processor while slowly streaming in about ½ – ¾ of a cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve. This pesto also freezes well.

 

Spring “Green” Saute

Use Swiss chard, kale, or beet greens in this simple sauté. One bunch of greens will serve 4  people. They key is not to overcook them or they become bitter.

 

First, submerge the leaves into some cold water to clean them. Then, fold the leaves in half, and strip the leaves from the stalks. Coarsely chop the stems and the greens. Saute the chopped stems with 1–2 cloves of garlic until soft. Add the greens and a splash of water. Cook for approximately 4–5 minutes on medium heat until the greens are wilted. To change it up, add a squeeze of lemon, soy sauce, or even a dash of toasted sesame oil.

 

Some other spring recipes from my blog:

• Spring greens with bacon and walnuts

• Asian bok choy coleslaw with ginger dressing

Market Notes: Maple Glazed Ham Steak

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

img_2420.jpgHam — not just for Easter! For my small family, a ham steak makes a perfectly sized dinner any time of the week. A good amount is leftover for another meal or two, and the bone is an added bonus saved for the next pot of soup. I usually look for a nice rim of fat that hasn’t been trimmed off; it adds flavor as well as some necessary moisture, especially when cooking with local farm raised meats. Notching along the fat helps to render it and give it a crackling edge, a technique that works equally well with pork chops.

 

The beauty of this standard recipe is that the ingredients can be locally sourced, and all you need to know is contained within the title. The instructions are just to get you through the first time of making this; once you’ve done it, all you’ll have to remember is the name.

 

Ham Steak Glazed with Maple, Mustard and Cider Vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon mustard

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 center cut ham steak (1/2″ thick)

 

- Turn on the broiler.

- In a small bowl, stir together the maple syrup, mustard and cider vinegar until well blended.

- Notch the fat end of the ham steak by placing it on a cutting board, and making a series of cuts about 1 inch deep and at 1/2 to 3/4 inch intervals; remove the rind if you have trouble cutting through it. Slip the ham steak into a shallow baking pan.

- Brush or spoon the glaze over one side of the ham. Broil for 3 minutes.

- Flip the ham steak over, glaze the upturned side, and broil for another 2 minutes. Glaze again, then finish broiling for another 1 to 2 minutes, less or more depending on thickness of the steak and desired amount of caramelization.

- Pull it out of the oven, and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes. This will give it a chance to relax and reabsorb the juices.

- Makes 4 servings if you don’t mind sharing. Serve up with a Carrot and Parsnip Gratin and a toss of fresh spring greens.

Market Notes: Spring Forward with Eggs!

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

img_2242.jpgThe countdown to our last indoor farmers’ market of the season has begun! Join us in Exeter this Saturday, April 23rd, when we celebrate the arrival of spring with our featured food of the day, eggs. As a symbol of fertility and rebirth, they’re often the first thing that comes to mind with the approach of Easter. Farm-raised chickens are responding naturally to the lengthening days, and the increased production we’re now experiencing will have 12 farmers bringing fresh eggs to the market.

 

With their delicate casings, eggs come exquisitely packaged upon arrival and, for me, are nature’s perfect convenience food. They’ll hold for at least 4 to 5 weeks stored in the fridge, and I usually keep several dozen put away. Hard-boiled in batches, they’re a reliable source for when I’m in need of some quick protein. This basic preparation adapted from Phoenix Hill Farm, though, offers a welcome change of egg scenery. A kind of mini crustless quiche, the ingredients list is short and easily adaptable to what’s in season, in the fridge, or simply left over. The proportions aren’t fussy, it really is one of those recipes where a bit of this or that can be thrown in. Whether nibbled while warm or devoured straight from the fridge, it’s a help to have some stashed away for when time is short, I’m hungry, and still want to eat local.

 

The recipe here has been pared down to its essentials, with measurements included to help you get a feel for it on the first go around. I’ve made this with winter salad greens (sliced into shreds, then barely sauteed), substituted sauteed onion in place of the scallion, and matched it with some leftover homemade goat cheese. Another time, I foraged a handful of last season’s frozen peas (defrosted by a bath of  hot tap water), added diced leftover ham along with some slivered scallions, and finished with the grated tail end of a hunk of Swiss cheese. You get the idea… soon you’ll be experimenting with the possibilities found within your own kitchen.

 

Cheesy Egg Bites

8 eggs

1 cup finely diced vegetables

1/4 cup finely sliced scallion or green onion

3/4 cup grated cheese

salt and pepper

 

- Heat oven to 350°F.

- Cook the vegetables to desired doneness by any preferred method — sauteed, boiled, steamed, or simply defrosted.

- Break the eggs into a large bowl. Grab a fork or whisk, and beat the eggs until well-mixed.

- Stir in the cooked vegetables, scallions and cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

- Pour the egg mixture into a lined or oiled muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full. 8 eggs will fill approximately 10 to 12 medium-sized muffin cups, depending on your dividing skills. A sprinkling of more grated cheese on top of each egg-filled cup will give it a golden, cheesy crust.

- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffy and the top looks.

- Remove from tin; enjoy hot or cold. They can also be refrigerated or frozen for later nourishment.

 

For more information about our Spring Farmers’ Market this weekend in “Eggsetah”: www.seacoasteatlocal.org.

Future of local shellfish threatened by funding cuts

Monday, April 18th, 2011

bilde-1.jpegDue to recently approved spending cuts, New Hampshire’s Shellfish Program is targeted for elimination. The loss of this program would have a significant impact on both commercial and recreational harvesters, stopping all harvesting of clams, oysters and mussels within the state. From Foster’s:

 

State budget could present slippery slope for local shellfish harvesters

 

After four years of harvesting oysters in Little Bay, Will Carey may have to close shop due to state funding cuts for water testing.

 

The 32-year-old shellfisherman is finally at the point where he can pay back some of the $150,000 of debt he has accumulated from starting Little Bay Oyster Co.

 

“It’s not a huge business in New Hampshire, but the potential could be huge,” he said, adding he has heard some interest from others in the area.

 

However, the future of Carey’s business, and others, is pending on a $302,000 spending cut in the current $10.2 billion budget the House recently approved. Environmental Services Commissioner Tom Burack said his department is looking at future funding cuts and the shellfish program was targeted.

 

Burack said his department will be presenting its case to keep its funding on Monday, April 25, at 1 p.m. in Concord. They will be laying out what impacts the state will see if such a program was eliminated.

 

Aquaculturists wouldn’t be able to harvest their products and any commercial or recreational harvesting will be halted.

 

“Other states would also risk their products if they were to import from New Hampshire,” Burack said.

 

The program could close on July 1 when the state budget would be voted in, unless Gov. John Lynch makes a veto.

 

“We don’t know with certainty what would happen,” he said. “The budget reduction would be effective that day, or shortly after the actions could be taken. But it is possible the budget decision will be clear enough that actions would be taken sooner than that time.”

 

For growers like Carey, their operations could be stopped with little notice. He has been growing oysters, with some help from his wife, on 1.5 acres of land near Fox Point in Newington. He applied for another 1.5 acres and was hoping to double the size of his farm.

 

In the last year, he sold about 24,000 oysters and is hoping to sell about 100,000 to wholesalers and local businesses. This year, he was hoping to pay back loans with profits.

 

Without the program, the waters won’t be tested and commercial and recreational harvesters will have to cease operations. Read more

 

For more information about the Shellfish Program at the NH Department of Environmental Services: http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/shellfish/index.htm

 

Contact your New Hampshire state senator to restore the Shellfish Program: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/senatemembers.asp