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Regional and Seasonal

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Blurring those lines again.

And making decisions that give people more options for good food. While keeping their businesses profitable.

The old Community Supported Agriculture model used one or two farms, without all sorts of add on options. It was great in good years. Not so great when flooding, or drought, or extreme heat or cold, impacted the yields. We see now how two of our major food sources have expanded their horizons and brought in farms from farther away.

I can hear it now. “but it’s not local. Not from our state(county)”. Maryland is a very tiny state. 42nd in terms of area. You know, if we lived in Texas, we could be more territorial. Just for fun, I put my map on my iPad over the state of Texas. Moved the view to Maryland. I could make it all the way to SC if I put MD on top. Or all the way to upstate NY if we were on the southern edge of the page.

Thinking regionally is a good thing. It gives us access to fresh food from a surrounding area that may not have had all the rain we did.

Cast in point. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh is bringing food in for their wholesale business from farms south of us. When they need to meet demand in the CSA, they occasionally use that wholesale produce for our boxes.

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Like these collards last winter.

If you want a sense of what drives these decisions, read this interview with our CSA founder Casey Specht.

The refinement of our CSA model into a full service food delivery system is a remarkable journey in seven years.

Then, take a look at what Friends and Farms is doing. And excerpt from our latest newsletter. Phil’s Farm Field Trip

“With 14 days of rain in a row and little relief in sight, we decided to send Philip on an expedition to find both sun and spring produce among his many friends in the Carolinas. He finally encountered the sun in Newton Grove, NC, and the produce was not far behind. Burch Farms in Faison was busy at work harvesting leafy greens and a little further down the road, strawberry harvest was just wrapping up. But the real purpose of the trip was a little further South at the Farm of Chalmers Carr where the season’s first peaches were being harvested. Because our local harvest was decimated by the late winter storm, we are asking Mr. Carr to start shipping peaches to us within the week. We know it is early, but we can’t risk a “peach-less” summer. To top the trip off, Philip stopped by the Pine Ridge pecan orchard to visit what we hope will be a bountiful fall harvest of paper shell pecans. So far, so good!”

I can’t wait to order those pecans.

I have done quite a bit of my shopping from them, in addition to getting my protein and dairy bag. Just this past week.

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Checking out the refrigerated items. Picking up my favorite yogurt. A few cheeses. Not to mention the butter I normally buy from there, Trickling Springs butter. I do love how our food services add so many items from small farms and vendors to their inventory.

Food Safety

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Raise your hand if you were one of the millions contacted that you had bought possible listeria contaminated foods. That would include me. The ORGANIC edamame from COSTCO. Bought in 2014. Yep, it took two years for them to figure out they had a problem.

And people wonder why I stopped buying as much processed food. Why I run from my CSA to Friends and Farms to get most of the basic food we cook and eat. Why I do pick your own farm food, and process it myself.

We have seen three different recalls in May. CRF frozen vegetables and fruits from everywhere, it seems. Rice from Trader Joes and “pictfresh” veggies at Harris Teeter. Nature’s Promise at Giant Food. Around here these stores provide most of the pwople who live in the area with their weekly groceries.

I wonder why we have all these regulations driving our small local farmers crazy, while we allow mega producers to go TWO YEARS with possibly contaminated food.

Thankfully, that edamame didn’t make us sick. And, we haven’t bought grocery store frozen food in quite a while.

I have become convinced that the closer we remain to the source of our food, the better we have it. Since that “organic” label isn’t a guarantee that you get better quality, I think I will rely on knowing where my food originates.

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The Amish cooperative that gives us much of our food has that motto. Along with this philosophy.

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If we support our local farms and farmers, who feed their families with the same food they sell us, we wouldn’t have to worry about the industrial processing which may or may not contaminate our food.

It’s not as easy to take time to buy from small farms and producers, but at least you have a face to match to the food you buy.

Join a CSA if you want to take more control of the vegetables you get. Find a local meat producer to have fresher meat without hormones, antibiotics or questionable handling. Pick your own, at places like Larriland.

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And, by all means, don’t just assume because it’s organic, that it’s better. Farms around here take great care in growing food without undue use of harmful pesticides. They are an affordable alternative to mega-company organic stuff that costs more without being any better.

Springing into Market Season

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Yes, around here we know the seasons have changed when the farmer’s markets, and Jenny’s have opened.

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Jenny’s announced on their facebook page that opening day is Friday the 6th. For me, this is such welcome news. No more driving when I need some citrus, or bananas, or extra vegetables to complete a meal. Jenny’s is only a mile away from me, and open every day of the week. Yes, some of the produce is from the wholesale markets but they also support local farmers who don’t sell at the county markets. You haven’t had lima beans until you have their fresh picked, fresh shelled beans in the middle of summer.

As for the farmer’s markets around here, Wednesday is the day Miller market opens the season.

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We have to hit Love Dove Farms for fresh greens. You know it’s really the beginning of the fresh fruit and vegetable season when you can make this awesome salad.

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Greens and strawberries. A simple yogurt dressing. If you want, the addition of some ewe cream cheese.

Five of the eight Howard County markets open this week. Miller library, Wednesday. Cradlerock library Thursday. The Friday hospital market has expanded hours, opening at 11:30 am, to accommodate the lunch crowd. Saturday, Maple Lawn opens Sunday Oakland Mills. The newest market in River Hill Garden Center, opens on the 14th, and the Glenwood and Ellicott City Old Town markets return that same day.

This web site, MDSBEST, will help you find local farms, markets, CSAs and food sources in the state.

For those who read my blog and don’t live in Maryland, I found local harvest to be the best place to find local purveyors.

As for us, Tuesday our CSA begins again. Wednesday I may be hitting Miller Library to get salad fixings. If you want to change what you eat, and eat more locally produced foods, the salad greens are the easiest way to begin.

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And a couple of salad spinners are the best thing in your refrigerator.

And The Winner Is …

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… carrots. Yep, carrots. Well, tied with mushrooms, but they needed three varieties to match the two varieties of carrots in eight weeks. Out of the thirteen week Community Supported Agricultural winter share.

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We got orange carrots six weeks. Yellow carrots, two. We got mushrooms eight weeks. A combination of shiitake, cremini, and portabella.

All together, our 13 week CSA gave us 45 varieties of vegetables. Doing some math to compare the $330 price against buying in Wegmans (the best prices for organic), we would have spent at least $380 there. We did have to fudge a bit as Wegmans does not sell strawberry popcorn or garlic greens. I had to use farmers’ market pricing for those items.

My favorite this winter.

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Watermelon radishes. Sweet. With a slight hint of sea salt. A perfect appetizer.

We have a couple of weeks off before our spring/summer CSA starts. I will have to hit the local farm stands for vegetables.

No matter what. We will still support our Amish organic CSA, because they bring us awesome vegetables at less than store pricing, and only one or two days out of the fields.

Want to join us? 40-50 people hang out in a garage in Braeburn, picking up fresh foods. Check out the sign up page.

Survey Says

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Ok. I know I don’t have a huge amount of readers just in Howard County, but for those who live here, could you help with a simple survey?

Local Food Survey

If you click on the link highlighted above, it will take you to Survey Monkey. A class at University of Maryland, taught by one of the cofounders of Friends and Farms, Phil Gottwals, is looking to find information about whether people make food buying choices based on some definition of “local”.

It’s an interesting survey, and you don’t have to answer the personal questions.

For other local Howard County bloggers, on the hocoblogs website, let me know if you want to help Phil’s students and spread the word using our social media contacts. The more people the students get answering their survey, the better.

Any other questions, add a comment below. And, I promise, this isn’t a click bait thing. No advertising or harvesting of email addresses.

Just students who are learning what is important to consumers. Like really good food.

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Garlic Greens

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What are they? How are they different from scapes? What can you make with them?

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A bunch of them in our CSA share on Tuesday. I actually swapped my popcorn for a second bunch of garlic greens. It is sometimes called spring garlic. I intend to fully embrace springtime, even if they are calling for snow flurries this weekend.

I have rockfish sitting on a bed of them, in the oven right now. I added a few of them, chopped, to the basmati rice in my rice cooker. I made a quartet of meatloaves to use one this weekend and freeze the rest. Some of them ended up in there.

As for the rest, there will be pesto. I will use my scape recipe.

I had considered using some of them to sauté the greens we got in our basket, but they just smell so good. They have to become pesto.

Anyone seen ramps in the markets yet? Then, I will know that spring has arrived in central Maryland.

Going for the Greens …

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… inspired by our CSA basket, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

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That lacinato kale made me think once again of colcannon. So I decided to go looking for a truly Irish interpretation of the dish, one that I have made countless times and blogged about, almost as often.

I never knew about the Halloween connection, or the prizes inside. Amazing what we can find here on the internet, isn’t it?

But, getting back to the CSA basket, the kale and parsnips both made me think of making my version. I have to use the techniques from the web reference, as it hasn’t been the way I’ve finished mine.

As for the rest of my weekly Lancaster Farm Fresh delivery, picked up at my friend’s home near Robinson Nature Center, there were other real favorites this week.

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Five of the seven vegetable items came from the LFFC “brand”, which is what they sell to restaurants, stores and buying groups, like Friends and Farms. Two of the items were attributed to individual farmers. We knew that in the winter we would be getting some of the vegetables bought through the cooperative, to supplement what is grown on the local farms year round. Let’s face it, with a CSA that tops out some years above 4000 members, you can’t always get the local farms to have enough every single week. Or, that the small farms can provide enough of one item, so some of our items have the LFFC tag on it, meaning it’s an aggregate of many of the farms’ provisions.

This week we got zucchini. Five absolutely lovely green zucchini. A joy to get them in the dead of winter, and we had been told that farms south of us were being used to supply some variety in our baskets. I have plans for those zucchini. My store in the freezer of zucchini fritters is gone. Done. Inhaled. I love the Smitten Kitchen recipe for zucchini fritters and make dozens of them in the summer, gently layered in parchment and placed in the freezer. We used our last ones a week ago.

I will be grating zucchini and making a nice replacement batch. I have to pick up some plain yogurt at Friends and Farms to make tzatziki in order to enjoy some this weekend.

As for those sweet potatoes on steroids. I have plans for them. They were in the swap box, and I just decided I was tired of beets and sunchoked out, so I put the bags of each of them into the box and brought home those two behemoths. I want to make hummus with one, and bread with the other. Never made sweet potato bread and since I am a prisoner in my house while work is being done (still not finished after four weeks), it’s a good time to try a new recipe.

As for the rest of my stuff yesterday, here are the bread and cheese.

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And, the meat delivery of the week.

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Yep, bison is back. Along with chicken thighs and bacon. Not what works for tomorrow, but welcome additions to my freezer.

As for tomorrow there will be sausage for dinner. With colcannon. Bread. Cheese. Guinness. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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