The Rules for This Week’s Purchases

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August 20, 2008 at 9:12 am

Rob Gardner

Not that long ago, I heard Illinois farmer Stan Schutte talk.  He defined local as the distance you needed to go to get the food you wanted.  A pretty apt description for someone who cannot function without a cup of morning joe.  Still, my family and I ascribe to this caveat: if we can get it in our region, we only eat it in our region.  This means we shun vehemently the asparagus still for sale at Whole Foods in August.  A related rule we follow: we favor the local.  Thus while Schutte’s Law provides the basis to eat oranges and mussels, we prefer to fill our diet with stuff found closer.  Finally, though, we have the, local’s where you find it, exception.  If we happened to be in Maine this week and filled a suitcase with lobsters, all the lobster we ate next week would be local!  We followed these rules as we hit the road last weekend in search of local food.

Our inventory of local food did begin close by, as it does about 2/3rds of the year with a box from Farmer Vicki’s Genesis Growers:

  • Watermelon with creamy yellow spot
  • Spicy Hungarian wax peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Arugula
  • Cucumber
  • Apples
  • Onion
  • Eggplant

On Saturday, my wife and I visited the Urbana Farmer’s Market, perhaps the largest market in the state.   At Urbana we get reminded that Illinois is a long, long state and the furthest tip lies below what otherwise would be considered “south”.  A good portion of the farmers at the Urbana market come from these parts, and the market featured products we do not see in Chicago area markets.  For instance, there were larger yellow cresthaven peaches.  Fine, but what we really never see locally are English walnuts.  We grabbed a pound for $6 and regretted that did not buy more.  We have precious local black walnuts, but now we also have local “regular” walnuts.  What else:

  • Various onions
  • Beets
  • Muskmelons
  • Corn meal
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes

We took the long way home from Urbana to Oak Park (what, what did we do in between, oh a very, very nice meal at Prairie Fruit Farms thank you very much).  From an honor system stand along US 150 near Ogden, tomatoes and potatoes.  It meant we could stop at tractor outside Hoopeston for a baker’s dozen of corn harvested that AM as well as tomatoes that were so red and pure that I was afraid they were waxed (no); a slight detour to the Riverfront Berry Farm in Martinton for beets and potatoes; and finally, a man selling crowder peas from his front lawn near Momence, about where Illinois 1 meets Illinois 2.  We got a bushel.  Most have already been frozen.

Back home, a day later, we bot a bushel of Michigan tomatoes for canning as well as a few Michigan eggplants for caponata.  Both from Caputo’s in Elmwood Park.

Previous week’s purchases here.

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