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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Eating Locally Recap

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A week and two days. Dedicated to eating at least one item a day from MD farms. We did it. It is easy with the goodness from Howard County Farmers Markets, and from a few local farms like England Acres, and from the case at Atwater’s Bakery in Catonsville.

Some of the items I used:

Corn, from England Acres and from TLV Farm, bought at the market

Chevre, from Firefly Farms

Eggs, from TLV and England Acres

Add to that watermelon, cantaloupe, spring mix, feta, smoked cheddar, ground lamb, ground beef patties, onions, and such a variety available here in MD.

Good meals like this one, from Saturday night. Breezy Willow spring mix and Firefly Farms chevre with my tomatoes and basil. Yes, the sockeye came from Alaska, not a local fish, but a great dinner.

Buy Local Week may be over, but the markets are still here. If you want to see great foods available for you in the future, it always helps to buy from our local farmers.

This weekend is the start of the Howard County Fair. There will be local produce and local cheese at the Fair. Support your local farmers and buy from them, if not at the fair, at the county markets.

See you at the Fair. We will be there at least four of the days. A season pass is a bargain if you want to enjoy all the entertainment and just absorb the atmosphere.


Three More Days into Buying Locally

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The nine days will be finished tomorrow. The other two posts for how I started have shown it is simple to find good food from around the Howard County area, by shopping at farm stands and the markets.

Here is the update for Wednesday through Friday. Does farming include crabs?

We did get a few to have as an appetizer Friday night. This is with local lamb from England Acres, served with chocolate stripes tomatoes from my garden coated with a gooey smoked cheddar from Eve’s Cheese.

And yes, I did char the lamb while searing it, but the inside remained a lovely pink. That was dinner Friday night, after the crab appetizer.

Thursday we grazed on homemade salads. Cucumber salad from the garden, with onions from Butler’s Orchard. Ratatouille also included one of their candy onions. The watermelon is from Catonsville market, and feta from Bowling Green Farms.

The colorful potato salad included CSA potatoes and green beans, and was finished with hard boiled eggs from TLV Farms.

In my CSA post prior to this one I talked of making gazpacho on Wednesday which showed up for dinner that night, along with the other two burgers from England Acres farm, and corn from their farm.

Three days. Three dinners. Lots of local foods. Here it is Saturday night and there will be local salad and maybe a dessert if I get the peaches done. The peaches were bought this morning from Lewis Orchards at the Glenwood market, along with some just picked spring mix from Breezy Willow. Both will serve in some way in dinner tonight.

It is one of the pleasures of living here. Hitting the market to see what looks good, and bringing it home to have for dinner the same day.


CSA Week 12, Tomato and Corn Season

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My favorite time of year. The CSA starts sending us multiple varieties of tomatoes and we get sweet corn.

Sandy Spring CSA Week 12 Full Share

I had to take the picture on the island as the counter by the window is full of my heirloom tomatoes. Between them and the CSA I am officially in canning and freezing mode. What did we get today? Eleven items this week, all certified organic

6 Ears Bicolor Sweet Corn
1 Bag Purple Majesty Potatoes, 3 pounds
1 Bag Red Tomatoes, 2 pounds
1 Italian Eggplant
3 Green Zucchini
1 Bunch Fresh Red Onions
1 Pint Jumbo Cherry Tomatoes
1 Bunch Red Beets
1 Bunch Italian Parsley
1 Bag Heirloom Mixed Tomatoes, 1 pound
2 heads Garlic

The heirloom tomatoes were particularly beautiful this week.

Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes

They are destined for a salad with some chevre, just like the one I made the other night. As for tomatoes, the 2 pounds of red tomatoes went into the pot to be blanched and are already peeled and sliced in half and in the freezer.

I also blanched and froze the last of the green beans left from an earlier delivery, and oven roasted some of my yellow plum, yellow pear and green grape tomatoes to make an oven dried sauce that is bagged and frozen for use this winter.

Mixed tomatoes in oil, salt, pepper and sugar, prior to roasting

Tomatoes after roasting, at a low temperature for two hours

And, it wouldn’t be summer without gazpacho. I made gazpacho yesterday with my orange blossom tomatoes, augmented by a few from the Catonsville farmers market, a white bell pepper, scallions, shallot, lemon cucumbers and eight pieces of Wegmans Italian bread soaked in water. It all goes into the blender with white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. A cup for dinner last night.

Doesn’t get any fresher than that.


Midway Through Buy Local Week

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And how am I doing? It is so easy to make things from the farmer’s markets in the area. Summer goodness in every bite. Monday night these were the star of the meal. We did have a small naan pizza that I added ratatouille as a topping.

Local corn and my tomatoes

The corn was from England Acres. The goat cheese in the salad was Firefly Farms Allegheny Chevre, picked up at Atwater’s in Catonsville while I was buying bread. Tomatoes and basil from my garden. All my vegetable and herb plants were bought at farmstands, farmer’s markets, local farms or nurseries. That is an easy way to support the farmers. Buy plants at the Howard County markets in the spring, instead of Home Depot.

As for Tuesday, we went to an amateur radio club picnic at Centennial. The dish I took was my infamous watermelon, feta and mint salad. I forgot to take pictures. Here is an earlier version.

Watermelon, feta and mint salad

Watermelon was bought at the Sunday Catonsville market. Feta was not Bowling Green as I didn’t get there in time. You can easily make this salad after a visit to one of the county markets. Bowling Green Farms feta is awesome.

We also took England Acres ground beef to make hamburgers, and topped them with Eve’s Cheese smoked cheddar, bought at England Acres Farm Store in Mt. Airy. There are no pictures from the picnic since I forgot my camera. Just the package that is in the freezer of the same ground beef patties we used last night.

Local meats have become very easy to find these days. Besides England Acres, I buy much of my meat from TLV at the Howard County farmers markets. Like bacon, and chicken.

They go to almost every market from Wednesday to Sunday across the county. Freshly processed free range meat is so much better tasting. It is worth it to buy. The only place they don’t sell is Thursday East Columbia.

If you want another local treat worth the effort, search out local eggs.

The little ones are pullets from England Acres, hand picked right out of the basket the day that the hens laid the eggs. The really large one is an extra large from my dozen last week from TLV, bought at the hospital market.

The eggs were in my zucchini fritters earlier this week, and I made a frittata Saturday for breakfast, that also fed us lunch Monday.

You have Thursday through Sunday to stop at one of the local markets in the county and support Buy Local Week.


Taking the Buy Local Pledge

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Maryland has been promoting the Buy Local Challenge for five years now. The Governor hosted the Kick Off picnic, last week.

It is easier these days to participate in the challenge. What with all the farmer’s markets in the area, the farm stands, the local CSAs, and stores stocking MD farmer’s items, you can find enough local items to complete the challenge. One item a day for nine days from a local source. July 21st through the 29th.

The challenge is promoting Maryland farms, and you will find VA, WV and PA farms at our markets, so do they count or not? For my purposes if they are participating in our markets, and are close enough for them to drive here and sell, I am not going to be that parochial about it. But technically, this challenge is promoting Maryland agriculture so I will try to identify the sources for what I choose.

My sources will be on my Local Resource page, updated as I find more local sources.

Saturday Dinner: The corn is from England Acres near Mt. Airy. The cippolini onions are from Butler’s in Germantown, MD. The lima beans were bought at Jenny’s Market but I don’t know their source. The filets were bought at Boarman’s in Highland, not local beef but a local butcher.

Sunday Dinner: Included tomatoes from my garden, and tzatziki made with my cucumbers. Why is this local? The plants and plugs were bought at Sharp’s Farm in Howard County MD, in April, and planted in my garden. I buy my plants from her farm in order to support her business as a wholesale source of vegetable and flower plants.

The chicken again is from Boarman’s. The zucchini from my CSA, which is sourced from PA farms. The scallions in the fritters are from Love Dove Farms, bought at the Howard County farmer’s market. They are local.

It isn’t that hard to eat locally sourced foods here in Howard County in the summer. If you haven’t signed up to do the challenge, you can still try and eat locally, even if it is just going to the restaurants and ordering from their Farm2Table menu.


CSA’s, MOM’s, Wegmans, Roots, David’s or Farmer’s Markets

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As I continue my value of CSA posts to record what we spend on organic veggies in a CSA, I find myself looking at prices around the area. Lots of choices these days in Howard County to eat fresh organic foods. I wonder in the future are there too many, and what may be the fallout? Will some of them fail? Will the surge in interest in eating organic whole foods sustain all these choices?

Yesterday we needed to go to Elkridge library to pick up a book not on the shelves anywhere else in the county. So, I requested two detours on this trip. Tacos at R&R. And, a visit to MOM’S. MOM’s carries a crispbread that I love to take on picnics and spread some good Bowling Green Farms Chesapeake cheese on top of them.

Crispbreads bought at MOM’s organic

I got prices of organic veggies while in the market to compare to what we saw at Wegmans, what we pay for Love Dove Farm, or Breezy Willow at the county farmers markets, and the value of our Sandy Spring CSA veggies that we have prepaid a year’s worth with a set fee.

My value of CSA posts go all over the place to try and compare my savings, but since pricing changes weekly and the sources have vastly different pricing, it is pretty tough to stay on top of what organic veggies cost week to week.

This week I used the pricing from MOM’s to compare. It was a huge savings to belong to a CSA. If one lived in Eastern HoCo, MOM’s and Wegmans are the closest sources of organic foods, and most Wegmans prices were cheaper for produce than MOM’s. Will that difference drive people to shop at Wegmans? Only time will tell.

As for CSA value this week, here is the breakout. I decided to round up by a penny for all the items ending in 99 cents to simplify my accounting. I did not include the holy basil (tulsi) as I have no idea what to use to compare it. So, my total is for eleven of the twelve items in the previous post I wrote Thursday when I picked up the box. The one difficult item in the box is lemon cucumbers, not something you find in stores often.

lemon cucumbers from CSA box

Potatoes $2 a pound. We got 3 pounds, total $6. This is more than they cost at Wegmans for organic.
Red Onion $3 a pound. We received a pound bag, total $3.
Mixed specialty squashes, use zucchini price of $3 a pound and we had one and a half pound, total $4.50.
Cucumbers, $2 a pound, we got 1 1/2 pounds, so $3.
Beets $3 a bunch, total $3.
Italian eggplant, $3 a pound, ours was 12 ounces, so $2.25 total.
Japanese eggplant, these were $4 a pound, and our three totaled a pound, $4.
Heirloom tomatoes were $6 a pound there, I know we find them for $5 at markets, but to use MOM’s, they totaled $6.
White Bell Peppers, MOM’s only had purple for $4 a pound, we got a pound so $4.
Pint of grape tomatoes, $4.
Heirloom carrots $3 a bunch.

Total cost at MOM’s to buy approximately what I received in the CSA box minus the holy basil was $42.75. We pay $29.75 a week. This week’s difference would be $13.00 more if I went to MOM’s to shop.

Cumulative total value saved by joining the CSA is now at $102.80 after eleven weeks, with fourteen to go.

The important question is whether we are actually eating all the things we get, and the answer is yes, for about 90-95% of the items, we either process them for freezing, eat them in two weeks or less, or can them. This week I will be blanching and freezing the remains of the green beans from last week, and making bread and butter pickles from the last of the cucumbers.

I also learned that I can grate, then blanch, then freeze little zucchini packages to use in the winter for chocolate zucchini muffins, or for zucchini fritters. The rest of the zucchini will meet this fate.

The tomatoes, lemon cucumbers and two of the white peppers will make a gazpacho. The other peppers will be blanched and frozen. I know this is time consuming, but definitely cheaper, and healthier than buying ready made processed foods. And cheaper than shopping at the organic markets.


Holy Basil, Batman!

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Tulsi. Never heard of it until it showed up in our CSA box. Smells interesting.

tulsi aka holy basil

It was one of twelve items in this week’s Sandy Spring CSA box, which was a bit late since the fruit share this week included watermelons. The drivers get way behind the weeks they have to deal with dozens of watermelons that take up lots of space and also take more time to unload. That meant about ten of us were at the pick up point waiting for the truck, and we got to meet one another and talk. Nice to meet our fellow CSAers. Here’s the list, all certified organic with the exception of the onions, which are transitional.

1 Bunch Holy Basil (Tulsi) Lancaster Farmacy
1 Bag Lemon Cucumbers De-Glae Organic Farm
1 Pint Red Grape Tomatoes Freedom Acres Farm
1 Bunch Thumbelina French Heirloom Carrots Farmdale Organics
1 Bag Heirloom Tomatoes Freedom Acres Farm
1 Bag White Bell Peppers Friends Road Organics
1 Bunch Red Beets Sunny Slope Organics
1 Bag Red Onions Sweetaire Farm
1 Bag Japanese Eggplant Maple Lawn Organics
1 Bag Mixed Squash Maple Lawn Organics
1 Bag Red Gold Potatoes Millwood Springs Organics
1 Italian Eggplant Echo Valley Organics

The value post will come this weekend. I need to research the value of lemon cucumbers, and a few other things. The picture.

Week 11 CSA box contents

I am loving the yellow tomatoes, the lemon cucumbers and the white peppers. This looks like definite gazpacho material here.

Additionally, today we stopped at Boarman’s to pick up a few items. Some basic feta for a watermelon, feta and mint salad I want to take to a picnic Tuesday. Some crab cakes and filets. Ice cream. Between Wegmans and Boarman’s, I think I can eliminate Giant Food and Safeway from my life entirely. That would probably not be a bad thing to do, as I am doing well in avoiding those stores.

Now, to decide to do with squash and eggplant, besides ratatouille. Off to look at the linky party at In Her Chucks. There is a huge source of recipes and info from dozens of people who receive CSAs, every week the list grows. It is a great resource. I need to link up my CSA post, once it is published.


A Window Full of Sunshine

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Varieties of tomatoes ripening on the sill

This is my favorite view in the kitchen. Dozens of almost perfectly ripe cherry, grape and pear tomatoes all reaching their peak of ripeness in the morning sun.

And, yes there are larger ripe ones these days.

Orange Blossom Tomatoes

Caspian Pink

The Caspian Pink is a new one for me. It looks wonderful, but I did have to pick it a bit early because it was cracking and I didn’t want a storm to water it down.

Detail of small cracks forming on top

I don’t have any chocolate stripes ripe yet, but they are getting close. They have the most tomatoes on each plant so far. I have three plants of them. Crossing my fingers that they ripen before that forecasted four or five days of rain late next week. The rains last year really watered down the flavors of the heirlooms.

Two weeks from this coming Saturday, the Howard County Fair starts. I will be picking which heirloom has the best taste. That is what I will enter. Taste, not looks, does better in the heirloom category.

The sweet olive is my most productive small tomato so far. They are predominant on the windowsill picture above. They also have a wonderful flavor, but cherry and grape tomatoes are judged on looks alone.

Have you ever entered anything in the fair? This year, besides tomatoes, I will again enter herbs. Definitely the basil, but haven’t chosen the other two yet.

African Blue Basil

This year I am also considering entering some of my photographs, particularly my little feathered friends, like these.

Bluebirds Rule the Bath

Put the Fair on your calendar for something great to do. It runs August 4th through 11th. We get a $20 pass for the entire fair and go almost every day. If you want to see a real hoot, go watch the zero turn mower competition. If you want to see something amazing, go watch the 4Hers show their animals.


Eating Locally: The Fruits of the Vines

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This week is a fruit themed week in the challenge ten of us are taking to cook seasonally and locally all summer and fall. For me, fruit has to include grapes. At least, the liquid, fermented version of grapes.

Hardscrabble Chardonnay grapes

My Challenge Page with all the SSFC links. We have been blogging since the beginning of June about our experiences with cooking locally. This past week, it was warm and muggy and the summer fruits have been coming into many markets.

Last night after going to Linden to visit, we decided to make a simple fruit related dinner. Fruit salad with watermelon, cantaloupe and tart cherries was the main component. On the side, olive bread with herb butter. The herb butter would also be used on the fresh corn on the cob. A light wine from Glen Manor.

My tomatoes. After all, tomatoes are also a fruit. This plate included orange blossom, red fig, yellow plum, sweet olive and green grape tomatoes, all from my garden. Served with homemade tzatziki using cucumbers and mint from the garden. The yogurt was organic Greek, my free container from the last visit to Wegmans. With South Mountain not at Glenwood Market, I have lost my local source for dairy.

Heirloom tomatoes

Sometimes the simplest freshest meals are the best. Summer fruit and vegetables need little more than salt, pepper, fresh herbs and maybe a drizzle of oil.


CSA Value Assessment

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I didn’t post my savings until I got some updated numbers from local markets and vendors. Week Ten CSA was delivered Thursday. It looked like this

Sandy Spring CSA Delivery Week Ten

and I wrote about it here.

With this week’s savings, of $9.65 over weekly cost of $29.75, I am now $89.80 ahead in total for being 40% through the 25 week season. If anyone doubts the value of joining an organic CSA, they just need to look at what organic foods cost in stores, markets and at farm stands.

The breakout from week ten is this:

Corn, 5 ears, 50 cents an ear, $2.50
Carrots, $3.50 a bunch for heirloom varieties
Fennel $1.69 each for 2 of them, rounded to $3.40
Pickling cukes, white variety, a bargain at 2/$1, there were 8 of them, so $4
Slicing cukes, 3 large ones, $4.50 total
Garlic, two heads, $2 each at market, so $4 total
Heirloom red radishes, $2.50 a bunch
Blue Viking potatoes, 3 lbs at $1.50 a pound, $4.50
Zucchini, one very large, over a pound, so $2
Green beans and Rattlesnake beans, $3 each basket, so $6 total
Jalapenos, 5 medium to large size, $.50 each, so $2.50

What is missing in all this number crunching is that intrinsic value. That freshness of taste. That discovery of a new and interesting variety of vegetable not encountered before. For me this week, rattlesnake beans are a new addition. I read up on them and found that young and tender, treat them like green beans, older with heavily developed beans, take them out of their pods and cook them.

Young rattlesnake beans

As for the garlic, I love getting organic garlic, and later this year, I will put aside a few heads in order to plant them this fall. Victoria over at The Soffrito planted hers in pots and heavily mulched them over the winter and got lovely garlic, including scapes prior to digging up the garlic to cure. Supermarket garlic won’t sprout; it is treated with an anti-sprouting agent.

Organic garlic, perfect for planting in October

This week with my other CSA goodies, I will be making potato salad, pickling some cukes, and also making tzatziki using some of Wegmans Greek yogurt and their organic lemons and mint from my garden. And, yes, I will be grilling some corn. I love it when corn season arrives.

Oh, and if I get a few more large tomatoes in the next two or three days, there will be gazpacho on the menu. Maybe on one of those hundred degree days that might come next week.