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Ugly Food

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I’m going to step up to the plate, so to speak, and talk about the latest venture in our area. One that rescues “ugly food” and delivers it to those who want to support the reduction in food waste. A very noble cause. One near and dear to those of us who grow and eat ugly food on a regular basis.

my garden haul one day in 2014

my garden haul one day in 2014

Any gardener will tell you. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It still is good food.

Hungry Harvest, based out of the incubator for entrepreneurial efforts here in Howard County has gotten major press due to their appearance on national TV. Shark Tank. Where they received a substantial investment to assist them in growing their company.

I first heard about them from The Unmanly Chef, a fellow local blogger. I saw his pictures and thought, not bad. Doesn’t look all that ugly to me. The cost is a little high, but they deliver, and they donate to local food banks and food desert areas with every purchase you make.

I commend them for their commitment to providing good food to local charities and food banks. They aren’t the first around here to do that, but I love their level of commitment. We all need to stop judging food by appearance. Ugly food tastes just as good and sometimes better than that blemish free perfect produce sold in stores.

Hungry Harvest delivers produce bags. Organic produce bags. Fruit bags. To your door. Their prices for their regular bags seems reasonable. If you prefer organic, you can do better in price from our local CSAs. As for fruit, since I haven’t seen a sample, and I know what I pay for a fruit share from my CSA, I think they are a bit high here, as well. For example.

csa ff aug 28 002

This share costs me $8.50. For the $25 or $35 a share from Hungry Harvest, I don’t think I would be getting 3-4 times the amount of fruit.

I know that delivery drives that price up a bit. I am OK with that. I hope as they mature, that they will use more local farms and less volume produce companies from Jessup. I hope they can work with local farms and orchards to get that less than picture perfect stuff that doesn’t get picked. Like at Larriland.

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Lovely to eat. Not all that photogenic. Ugly tomatoes really are some of the best out there.

I also hope this helps us in our food bank gardening. In the past, we have been asked not to provide split or blemished vegetables. We have given tomatoes to the chickens at the Conservancy, the ones that had split after the rains. Our food bank turned them down. Maybe this partnership will eliminate the bias against blemished fruit and vegetables. I certainly hope so.

I wish Hungry Harvest the best of luck in growing their business. It’s a great concept, and easy for consumers to use. The weekly pricing, unlike the hefty upfront price tag of a CSA, is a great selling point. The more choices we have, the better the products.

Spring Has Sprung

Yes, I know it’s the first day of winter. But here in Howard County, some of the cherry trees have buds on them. The temperature on Christmas Eve is predicted to be 73 degrees F.

And then there’s this.

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That would be the garlic greens aka spring garlic that was in last week’s CSA box. Obviously the fall plantings are taking off in all this warm weather. Besides the garlic we have been getting lots of greens. Usually they are done by this time of year.

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There was a bag of spinach. A bag of “spring mix”. A couple heads of romaine. Plus, those watermelon radishes, which I love.

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Sliced thin. Sprinkled with a little kosher salt. Perfect appetizer.

As for those garlic greens. A great addition to colcannon.

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This week’s base for colcannon was a combination of items from two weeks of CSA deliveries. Parsnips, turnips and potatoes, cooked. A mix of garlic greens, Napa cabbage and spinach. Not a traditional colcannon. But a very tasty one.

Here’s another rendition of my colcannon. With the post that tells how I made it.

spring stuff 001

A simple dish to make, in any season. Some white stuff. Some green stuff. Some milk and butter. What’s not to love about colcannon?

Unintended Consequences

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra

I think about this Yogi-ism often when confronted by what I consider to be strange logic. Like recently where a fellow CSA member mentioned that they might not sign up for CSA again, because they got too much food from it. To me, I understand that they may have signed up for a wrong size basket, but still, I find it interesting to hear. I am happy that we get more than we expected, because that means it was a good harvest year for the farmers.

I know of years where we didn’t get much. I know that often in the early spring months the baskets are a little light. Which brings up questions from the members that they aren’t getting their money’s worth.

Compare. The first spring share this year.

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A half dozen potatoes. A few beets. A small bundle of asparagus.

By the end of the summer season.

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Bags of peppers. Greens galore. Huge carrots. Brussels Sprouts. Not only more items, but more of each item as the year progressed.

It isn’t just the quantity of items in a CSA that prompts comments. Other observations over the last year or two perplex me as well. Comments about the early bird CSA at Breezy Willow. Because they bring in citrus from Florida. I think it’s a great thing to give us fresh foods in that final part of winter, when we are all ready for something fresh.

early bird csa week one 004

In March, when most of what you get is from cold storage, it was wonderful to see pink grapefruit and oranges from Florida. I think that’s a good thing. One to celebrate.

As for the other local or regional offerings available here in Howard County. We are so lucky that we have choices. Year round choices. Almost every CSA in the area has experienced growth. Sometimes those growing pains have consequences. Like when Friends and Farms has to change chicken suppliers to find one that could continue to cover the size of the program.

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I really liked those Free Bird chickens. But Locust Point in Elkton is just as good.

Then there were the bread suppliers to Lancaster Farm Fresh. In fall of 2014, they used this small artisanal baker from Lancaster.

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Loved those boules. The following year, they had to give it up, as the demand was too great for their capabilities. Now, we are lucky to have She Wolf Bakery in Brooklyn making the vegan loaves that can be used for all the members.

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Change is inevitable. Success in our local vendors often requires adjustments. I for one am happy to see them succeed. I look forward to starting anew in January. With a winter CSA and my Friends and Farms protein and dairy bag. Just happy that we have such great choices so close to where we live.

Worth The Weight

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Our CSA, that is.

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Close to thirty pounds of vegetables for a bit more than $30 a week. The boxes were so heavy this Tuesday. That Thai Kang Kob squash is supposed to be so sweet, you can bake it and eat it just as if it were a pumpkin pie.

There were all sorts of greens in bags. The Belfiore radicchio was simply stunning in color.

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That’s the radicchio above the baby arugula. This week I swapped two items. Red cabbage and red kale. To get the arugula, which I know my site host doesn’t like, and to get a lovely little romanescu cauliflower.

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Honestly. I don’t know how we get such incredibly beautiful vegetables that are so fresh, this late in the year.

My other favorites in this week’s basket. The carrots and the radishes.

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Rainbow carrots in front, and a peek at the Hong Vit radishes in the rear of this picture. The radishes are amazingly sweet. We just peeled them and snacked on them. My husband loves raw radishes, whether they are sweet or peppery.

I have to admit. This was one excellent week for vegetables. We are loving the varieties we are getting.

Thank you, all the Amish farmers that supply Lancaster Farm Fresh with these delicious treats.

 

You Can’t Get There From Here

At least, not easily. Sometimes it’s how we feel about all the long and winding roads in our part of the county. Roads that are lovely to look at, but make it slow going if you want to get to another nearby town on an errand.

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Two examples in the last couple of days involved traveling to Olney. A fellow blogger lamented the fact that getting to the Olney Theater requires driving a very circuitous route. For me, as I was signing up for my winter CSA, my two options for pick up were Columbia or Olney. Olney is closer to me, as the crow flies, but is longer over the roads, and takes almost twice as long to drive than to the Columbia pickup point.

Olney market Sunday mornings

Olney market Sunday mornings

I suppose that is why I find little enthusiasm among friends for heading over to the year round Sunday market in Olney. It isn’t an easy trip across Rte. 108. It meanders and winds and seems to take forever. We can take a more direct route, using either Mink Hollow or Brighton Dam Roads, but you have to know the territory.

I decided when signing up for the CSA to make Olney a second choice, and I’ll cross my fingers that we get the minimum number of members to keep Columbia going all winter. I love our winter CSA, particularly the meat share, the bread share, the cheese share and the pantry items.

Yes, we get repetitive vegetables. Samples from last year’s omnivore share, where we got a pantry item, a meat item, and a cheese item with our vegetable delivery every week.

January 2015

January 2015


February 2015

February 2015


March 2015

March 2015


April 2015

April 2015

Carrots were always there. Mushrooms, too. I know I can get most of these items at the year round markets, but I like going to the CSA pick up point and chatting about recipes. I also like supporting the farmers through the winter. Over 100 of the Amish farmers that supply our CSA count on us to keep them solvent.

If we don’t meet our minimum, I may be heading over the river and through the woods to Olney. Fresh food all winter is a big incentive.

She Wolf

Bakery. In Brooklyn. With breads that just amaze with flavor.

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This is sprouted spelt. The description from their web site.

“Bread that comes out of the oven on a Saturday has a production cycle that began on Tuesday! Whole spelt berries are soaked and sprouted over the course of the week, mixed into the dough on Friday, which then undergoes an overnight cold proof before being baked on Saturday. The enzymatic activity of the sprouting process converts starches in the grains into sugars and releases an array of vitamins. Roughly 50% wheat flour, 50% whole spelt flour and ground sprouted spelt berries.”

This is our second week of the fall Community Supported Agriculture from Lancaster Farm Fresh, and this season, the bread share is back. They found this bakery in Brooklyn. Our driver tells us he picks up freshly baked loaves on Monday when he delivers produce to the restaurants and the CSA pick up spots in New York. We get them on Tuesday.

The first week, a sourdough that probably is close to the best one I have ever found.

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Chewy, dense, with just the perfect sourdough taste. We devoured that loaf in three days. I was considering adding a second bread share to have enough for a week.

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The ingredients.

While searching for information on this provider, I found a video on Bon Appetit. It gives a little more insight into the bakery, and the baker.

It doesn’t get much fresher, and it’s why I love buying from smaller regional producers. I hope they offer this bread in the other seasonal CSAs, but I wonder if they can cover the demand. The last bakery, in Lancaster, couldn’t handle the numbers that our CSA wanted.

I think that’s a good thing, in my view. We are supporting and nurturing more small entrepreneurs and looking for the best quality, and not going to the big box stores and the chain stores.

Can’t wait to see what ones we get for the next six weeks. Crossing my fingers for caraway rye and for miche.

The End of the Season

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Markets are finishing. Larriland is closing this weekend. So is Jenny’s. For me, this final weekend in October marks the end of the fresh food season until spring.

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Unless you can find year round markets, or CSAs, or a regional food source to keep you going.

We are lucky. Our CSA got enough members to extend our season until Christmas. That means fresh vegetables for the next eight weeks.

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What is closing this week? Friday market at Howard County General Hospital. Saturday at Maple Lawn, Ellicott City and Glenwood.

Miller Library, Oakland Mills and East Columbia (closes November 12) will be open into mid November.

As for tips, if you can get to Larriland this weekend, their apples will store for a very long time in the refrigerator. We picked about 20 pounds last October and they keep for months. Pink Lady and Cortland will be available out at the farm.

Farm stands will still be open all winter. Like Carroll Farm to Table. By the way, they want your Jack O’Lanterns. To feed their pigs. Pigs love pumpkins. Drop them off at the stand on Frederick Road at Manor Lane.

Here’s to those great fall veggies, wherever you can find them.

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