To Do List

October 28, 2008 at 8:42 am

Rob Gardner

Those attempting to eat local in an area like Chicago must dance a delicate dance.  Do we rush to the first squash and apples of the fall season, or do we gorge on tomatoes until the last taste of sour green.  How to divide the weekly food budget, eat now or buy for later.   It’s not just how to spend, it’s how to save.  What facilities exist for storage?  What time exists to process? 

I am glad to report that lasting these days is easier than ever.   There are more winter markets.  Cassie has the goods at her Green Grocer and Irv and Shelly deliver–just look at their site to get a sense of what is still available.  The days of eating local on your own are gone.  I plan my winter with these places in mind.  And with that in mind, here are my short-term eat local goals; rather I should say, here are my short term eat local buying goals.

  • Get more “regular” potatoes – Since this Local Family has an in at a wholesaler, we can get a 50/lb bag of Wisconsin russet potatoes for about $7.  It is such a good deal that I do not even mind that by the end of the season, there will be some that we will have to toss.  Russets are a great keeping potato.  These high starch potatoes bake great, fry great and go well if you like your mashed potatoes fluffy.  Wisconsin potatoes taste just fine (for russets, not one for potato intensity), but are much smaller than Idaho potatoes (if that matters to you). 
  • Get more speciality potatoes – OK, russet potatoes are vehicles for fat, no.  When flavor counts a bit more, use the heirloom varieties such as still available from Nichol’s. 
  • Find my roots – As I have noted, we apparently blew our rutabaga window.  We have beets and parsley root and turnips and celery roots (and a few rutabagas), but we can use more of all.  I am already torn when it comes to our celery roots.  There is now, in the house, home-made mayo, so do I make celery root remoulade now or hold these roots until there is less to eat.  I’ll get more celery root when I find it as well as any other decent root I can get my hands on.
  • Nuts – Because I have not made it in ages to Chicago’s Green City Market, I have not had the chance to buy Oriana’s black walnuts.  I fear she has sold her supply.  There are many uses for black walnuts including baking, pasta, and salads as well as an Edwardian finish to a long meal.  The recent family dinner at Mado showed some of the good uses for local chestnuts.  We can use some more.
  • Hard squash – Can’t have enough of this long keeper.
  • Tomatoes – My keeper tomato project failed.  I’ve gotten a decent amount of green tomatoes to chutney-ize and pickle, but I’m not tired of good old red tomatoes.  Any decent local tomato I can still find, I’ll be happy.
  • Chilies to dry – I have many hot peppers lying around, mostly jalepenos.  I also have seasons old dried peppers.  I do need to add to my stock of peppers for the winter.
  • Garlic – Last year, at one of the fall Green City Markets, a vendor sold me all her garlic for a song.  It kept me in garlic pretty much until the new crop arrived.  I cannot necessarily count on something like that happening again.  I have been buying garlic throughout the summer and fall, but I will keep my eyes open to a good steal again.
  • Onions – One can just never have enough onions
  • Apples – See onions

What’s on your to-do list?