Planting Pawpaws on the Porch

Posted: November 30, 2008 at 11:53 am

Oriana’s Home Orchard kindly gave me a few pawpaw seeds last week and encouraged me to grow trees. The Winslow, Illinois-based farm hosted a table at Family Farmed Expo last week at the Chicago Cultural Center. They grow some exotic fruits, including white currant, persimmon and juneberry. Though these delicacies are not completely unheard of in these parts, apples seem the mainstay of the few remaining northeastern Illinois orchards. The ones closest to Chicago have fallen to development in the last decade or two, and Winslow is much closer to the Mississippi than to Lake Michigan. I tip my hat to Oriana both for her promotion of pesticide-free growing as well as for the best-tasting walnuts and dried Asian pears I’ve ever had.

But back to pawpaws. Little did I know that these smooth brown seeds actually thrive in a bracing winter. My only experience with pawpaws is from Disney’s The Jungle Book. Balloo the bear, an Indian native, explains that he has no need for claws when picking the fruit in The Bear Necessities. So I had assumed pawpaws were tropical. Once again, Disney has misinformed me about biology. (Also, bears can’t sing.)

Photo by Flickr user cdresz

Photo by Flickr user cdresz

Turns out it was the native American Indians who’ve been eating the pawpaw. And although it’s called a Hoosier banana or a Michigan banana, it’ll grow just fine in Illinois. Click here for more info. With few natural pawpaw pests in existence, it requires little chemical protection. On the down side, getting fruit from the tree requires a nearby pawpaw partner as well as blowflies or carrion beetles to carry the pawpaw pollen. The insects dig the flowers’ stench of rotting meat, which also keeps deer away. On the plus side, the coin-sized seeds dig the big chill. So I’m leaving these guys in pots on my unheated porch through March to see what happens.

Winter in my yard also means releasing the water from the rain barrel and removing the fencing from the garden. Saving the metal from rust is less important than saving me and the kids from accidentally impaling ourselves on the fence when we play in the snow come January.

Instead of raking the backyard’s leaves out front to the street for pickup by the Streets & San. trucks, I collected them on the garden, which not only makes a colorful blanket, but saved me a bunch of trips to the curb. I’d always just left the soil exposed until spring, but a landscape architect friend recommended the leaf mulch. That’s exactly the kind of advice I crave: cut back on my labor while improving the soil.

The Late News, Near Scoop and Other Un-Reported Reportage from Family Farmed Expo

Posted: November 29, 2008 at 10:56 am

Had to get out the shopping tips, had to give my drink ideas, and then had to be extra thankful.  The Thanksgiving week required a full potpourri of blog posts (and what I could not fit here, I’ve been blogging up a storm at VI).  And I bet, all this time, you’ve been wondering, what DID happen at the Family Farmed Expo (for those who could not make it).

Out of everything, the presentations, the pork belly at the party, the patter with Holly and Lauren at the media table, the thing that excited me the most was the turkey.  See one of the more frustrating facts of eating local is deli meats.  I want to pack the children a local lunch each day, but beyond the apple and the watermelon radish, where’s the local.  Oh, we have our Nueske ham and Wisconsin cranberry cheese, but what else?  Turkey, from these guys outta Michigan.  They know how to sell me.  Ingredients: turkey, salt.  Look forward to local deli turkey at Whole Foods around town.

If I lead first, always, with my gut, I’ll go next with my heart.  Both Will Allen and Ken Dunn, two men I greatly admire, said (with more authority) the thing(s), I am always saying, at least to my wife.  That is, enough with the aspirations, enough with the planning committees, the commissions, the blue ribbon studies.  We need doers not just planners.   Somewhat strong words given where they where said.  I hope they are right though.  Both men live by example, and deserve their strong reputations from what they do, not just what they talk about.  Still, at the end of the day, I heard much talk at the Expo on goals and targets and very little on actual steps to making these number.   We just cannot wish a local food system in Illinois.

Which gets us to Cassie and Peter and a few others speakers speaking about retail.  Cassie very much challenged Peter (of Stanley’s on Elston) over inventories.  How could the new, skinny kid on the block know how to fill her store with local food, when the South Water veteran’s displayed little clue?  And we wonder why not more local food in Illinois.  Step 1.  Get it in the stores.

Enough for the diatribes, I hoped to blog more from the Expo, but I was too busy eating fair trade chocolate and talking papples with Oriana.  Bill Daley at the Trib’s Stew easily beat me to the story of Rick Bayless and the White House Rose Garden.  Here’s the thing, Daley says that Bayless was ”clearly ready when a woman in the audience asked him about the White House.”  I say he sounded not that all unconvinced that taking the job would not be a decent way to spend the next couple of years.  After all, for lunch on Saturday, my wife and I decided to hit the Macy’s 7th floor food court.  Who would be up there tasting salsas and instructing the staff, but Mr. Bayless himself.  I cannot imagine that’s how he likes to spend his time these days.

And speaking of breaks, how many people besides me decide that the best way to get away from a farm expo is to visit a farm store. I’ve complained a bit on this site about the downtown farmstand, but after last week’s visit, I can report that they’ve improved their stock. I especially like that someone’s discovered Amish in the City’s buying department.  The Downtown Farmstand now has home made egg noodles and apple butter and ingredient free butter from NE Indiana.  They’ve also picked up a few good local cheeses including Hidden Springs Creamery’s fresh “driftless”.  Last, the farmstand had produce from downstate’s Ackerman farm, meaning there will be actual produce for many weeks at this market.  More news: the farmstand is supposed to have their lease extended another month, into January.

Green City Market made it very clear that they will be around all winter.  Their plan, when produce is lean, to focus on other local foods.  One month the focus will be on cheese, another month the focus will be on whole beast eating.  I’ll have more on this soon.

Another person, or people, who are doing, not talking, Leah Caplan and the folks up in Washington Island.  They’ve planted wheat and distilled booze.  I really liked when Caplan said that the Death Door spirts were supposed to taste like Wisconsin.

Overall, it was an enjoyable way to spend the weekend.  I did my part to support the vendors, coming home with chocolate covered dry cherries and chocolate bars and goat cheese and Asian pears and winter squash.  I learned a bit, even from my fellow panelists.  I learned that Will Allen is even taller in person.  Bill Kurtis can turn his wonderful pipes on and off, maybe at will.  We need action.  We need action.  I hope you join me at next year’s Expo.

Thankful for Local Food

Posted: November 27, 2008 at 11:29 am

[Associated links can be found on the same post on the VI blog]

It aint fun to dwell on bad decisions made over the years.  I like to kvel in the good ones, like the one to eat local.  Eating local is something I like to celebrate over and over.  For the most part (Nigerian eggplants aside), I know we eat exceedingly well in the Bungalow.  I know we are doing our part to manage the Earth’s resources and conditions.  I also know that I can be confident in my products.  I support my community.  I support practices that matter to me.  Local.  I am grateful for those who make the local life possible, better, easier.

I’m not gonna beat around the bush and throw a few ringers up top.  Rather, I will start with the best.  The local adventure would not be at all possible without the support and assistance of the rest of the Local Family.  These are kids that willingly eat the Sheila Special: Wisconsin cranberry cheese, microgreens, jam for lunch all winter long, and they find it cool that Dad packs some tye-dye radish in that lunch.  Mom works her butt off.  This year she canned bushels and bushels (literally) of tomatoes.  Put away spiced peaches and chutnized others.  She even realized my long dreamed fantasy of drying our food, doing a few batches of tomatoes.  Many an early morning, one arose with me to assist in carrying our food home from the market .  We roadtriped to Wisconsin for cheese and spent hours at Detroit’s Eastern Market.  Local is a family venture for the Local Family.*

I like nearly every farmer’s market I visit.  I discovered this summer that maybe Evanston’s market is technically better than Oak Park’s: more vendors, more of my favorite farmers like Henry’s Farm and Green Acres, organic apples, better bread (grrr–inside Oak Parker thing).  Still, I am extremely grateful to have the market we have each Saturday in Oak Park from late May through October.  It is a buyers market; I mean it is a market that people actually buy, and it is stocked accordingly.  My go to farmer is Vicki and her Genesis Growers, but I love the variety of Nichols, the stone fruits of Hardin Farms, the shelled peas from Stovers, a bunch of fruits, especially berries, from Walt Skibbes, other organic things from Sandhill.  I bought my hog from Dennis and Emily Wettstein, and I should buy more cheese than I do from Joe at Brunkow.  The greatness of the Oak Park Market got me to eat local in the first place.  Could not do it now without it.

This was the year that my local shopping options extended mightily.  Winter eating became so much easier–to balance a salad, from any lettuce, even water grown, against a diet of onions and potatoes really helped–because of the emergence of the winter markets thrown together through the hard work of Robin “Winter” and the Church’s Center for Land and People.  Robin not only got me food to eat in the darkest months, she introduced me to a bunch of local products I did not know like Ted’s Grain’s from near DeKalb.  

Robin was not the only woman working her tootsie off, making local food more available to greater Chicagoland.  Cassie opened Green Grocer, the only store in Chicago with it’s raison d’etre as local food.  As much as I like farmer’s markets, I also want local food available seven days a week, through normal retail hours.  Besides carrying farmer’s produce, Cassie carries the full array of local foodstuffs: Blue Marble Dairy milks, Trader’s Point Creamery yogurts, Mint Creek lamb, local eggs, pastries baked up by the very large Bruno clan.  She manages to get a lot into a not very large space. 

My wife and I stumbled into the best program of local food this summer when we happened to stop by the Eli’s Cheesecake Farmer’s Market.  For several weeks in July and August, they presented a local superstar: Lloyd Nichols of Nichol’s Farm; Terra Brockman of the Land Connection, Stan Schutte of Triple S Farm, local food activist, Lynn Peemoeller.  My wife and I made it a point to be there each week to learn.

OK, when I say best, maybe it was the free cheesecake they plied us with, the closeness to the speakers, and the whole seridipitous nature of finding the program, but the Eli’s Cheesecake series does have some competition for local food program top-ness; that would be last week’s Family Farmed Expo.  You’ve read a lot about it already, and expect to read more about it one of these days.

And, I’m running on forever.  There’s much to be thankful for.  I’m glad to live only a few hours from the nation’s best market in Madison; glad that my local boundary includes so many fine cheeses, glad that there is a newly expanded cheese store in Oak Park (Marion Street); glad that in nearly everywhere I turn, I can find better products by finding the local products.

I cannot stop.  What about all the local chefs.  I’m not just grateful for the good things Rob and Allie do in the kitchen at Mado, I’m quite grateful for the opportunity they are giving my wife to assist them.  I always admire the things Paul Virant does at Vie.  Lula’s really expanded the local food on their menu and it shows.

MikeG has given local food a much wider platform with his well recieved Sky Full of Bacon podcasts.

I’m quite grateful to the groups that gave me a platform this year to spread the message of local eating; the League of Woman Voters, Dilettante Ventures, Highland Park Cable Access (!); Midwest Foodways Alliance, Oak Park Temple, MENSA, the Chicago Tribune; WBEZ, the Oak Leaves, and the aforementioned Family Farmed.

Finally, obviously, to Michael and the Local Beet for putting a little more ooph, a lot more design and resources into the local eating publishing industry.  I’m quite happy blogging here, and I look forward to many future posts.

Happy Thanksgiving

*SPECIAL BONUS COMMENTS FROM THE REST OF THE LOCAL FAMILY: “those Nigerian egglants were the worst things we ever ate” “it’s so embarrasing getting weird food in our lunches” “it’s so boring all the time at the markets” “why do you use aint in your writing” “we are never going near another Nigerian eggplant the rest of our lives”  “can we just go to Five Guys”

One Comment

Sad News

Posted: November 27, 2008 at 11:26 am

Just when I am putting the finishing touches on a post on all the things I am thankful for, I am sobered up with this e-mail reported on MikeG’s web site on a fire in South Dakota destroying the hard work of Arie McFarlan, raiser of the rare mulefoot pig.

It is with the deepest and most profound grief that I write this message. At 5:30am November 19th, 2008, we awoke to our beautiful 100 year old gambrel barn engulfed in flames. Trapped within the barn was my beloved stallion, several rare Mulefoot hog sows with their litters of piglets, an extremely rare Wessex saddleback boar, a favorite guinea hog boar and all of my dearly loved cats. Although we made attempts to rescue our animals, we were unable to save any from the barn.

We were able to run pigs from their pens near the barn to the pastures and get them away from the heat & flames. Many animals in these pens were burned and have suffered smoke inhalation. Though it is several days after the fire, we are still losing animals we have been nursing and trying to save.

The fire burned with such intensity that it caught a large tree and our new barn on fire as well. The firemen were able to save our new barn, but our gambrel was a complete loss. The fire marshal reported that the fire was burning in excess of 2000 degrees due to the way the metal items in the barn melted and puddled. The fire was apparently caused by a failure in the main power breaker. When the power transformer began to melt, we lost power to the whole farm. This also left us without water, as our well is pumped by electricity.

All of our feed (approximately 1000 bales of alfalfa), our tools, watering troughs & feeders, buckets, piglet pens, fencing supplies, power cords, winter heaters, saddles & horse gear, construction materials for our new barn and so much more were completely destroyed.

We cannot replace our rare breed pigs. They simply do not exist. Our work for nearly ten years has been to preserve and save these breeds of pigs. We cannot begin to express our sense of loss over these animals, not just from our lives, but from all future generations.

This tragedy has made it even more clear to us that these rare breeds are in a very precarious situation. At any moment, a disaster, accident or disease could take yet another species from this planet.

Our friends have already begun to rally around us and offer support. We have received many calls and emails from the folks at Slow Food USA, Animal Welfare Institute, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Dakota Rural Action. Because of this outpouring of encouragement, we feel compelled to persevere and insure that future generations are able to raise and enjoy these breeds, and that biodiversity amongst pigs is preserved.

The Endangered Hog Foundation has been established to help us rebuild and to help continue work with endangered pig breeds. We fully intend to carry on with our DNA research, breeding program, establishing new breeders and promotion of endangered pigs. We have already begun the process of cleaning up the debris and will begin construction of a facility to continue working with our pigs as soon as spring arrives in South Dakota. Temporary measures to provide for the pigs during the upcoming winter are underway.

*We need your help*. Our immediate needs are for physical labor to help with clean up and building temporary shelter to winter the pigs. Additionally, we need to find a source for alfalfa hay square bales, to obtain portable shelters for the pigs due to farrow in early 2009, hog equipment and hand tools.

Donations can be sent to the “Endangered Hog Foundation” in care of Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. at the address below or through the link on our web page at

Thank you to everyone who has offered support. I cannot describe how it feels to stand in a place of profound grief and intense gratitude at the same time. We will carry on through the love and support of our friends.

Endangered Hog Foundation
Maveric Heritage Ranch Co.

What’s New?

Posted: November 26, 2008 at 11:12 am

Even though it’s winter, we’re not hibernating. There have been quite a few changes to The Local Beet over the past month. We’re a young site and we’re excited about the future, even though it’s cold and gray outside.

Welcome our two newest bloggers!
There are two new voices at The Local Beet. First, accomplished chef and activist Melissa Graham is “The Sustainable Cook”. She is dedicated to the principles behind the word “sustainability” and she’ll be providing tips and motivation to help you make good decisions about what you eat.

“The Backyard Farmer”, Brad Moldofsky, is an amateur gardener with nothing but passion and hard work on his gardening résumé. He’s going to take us with him as he learns and strives to feed his family from the food that he grows in his backyard. As a failed vegetable gardener myself, I’m eagerly awaiting his posts.

Check out our new design
We’ve updated our design to better highlight the different content that we’re adding. We’ll be adding a few more tweaks over time. I hope you like it.

New resources
We’re developing new features like a guide to finding local food, a bookstore, and more to come. These features are in their infancy, but we hope they’ll become more and more useful as time goes on.

If you’ve got any feedback or questions about the site, we’d love to hear them. Thank you for reading and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving,

Michael Morowitz
Editor In Chief

Farmers Market this Saturday ~ Oak Park

Posted: November 25, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Markets & Meals Logo

Winter Farmers Markets & Meals for Hope

On the biggest shopping weekend of the year,
spend your dollars where they’ll really make a difference!

H O L I D A Y   G I F T S   ~   P A N T R Y    S T O C K – U P  I T E M S
F R E S H   I N G R E D I E N T S   F O R   T H I S   W E E K ‘ S   M E A L S

What you’ll find this week at the Winter Farmers Market 

  • Grass- & grain-fed beef
  • Pastured pork
  • Free-range poultry
  • Mushrooms
  • Lettuce, spinach & arugula          
  • Milled flours & wheatberries
  • Popcorn & corn meal
  • Goats’ milk soap for people & pets
  • Onions, garlic & shallots
  • Dips & spreads                        
  • Sweet basil vinaigrette
  • Yarns & woolen goods
  • Yogurt & honey
  • Potatoes
  • Eggs                                             
  • Hot peppers
  • Apples & cider
  • Salsas, sauces & soups
  • Preserves
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Infused vinegars, herb blends & rubs
  • Cheese & cheese curds
  • Fair trade olive oil
  • Fair trade coffee
  • Reusable shopping bags

    . . . and much more! 






Join Our Mailing List


Oak Park

Sat., Nov. 29 ~ 10am to 1pm
Pilgrim Congregational Church

460 Lake Street
Oak Park, IL  60302

  • Admission to the market is FREE and open to the public
  • A brunch will be offered during the market prepared with ingredients from the participating growers (a suggested donation of $7 is requested to cover the cost of the meal)
  • Enter the market through the rear door off the parking lot
  • Plenty of parking on-street or in the adjacent lot
  • For best selection, pre-order meat & poultry from Arnold Farm [see below]


Pre-Orders of Meat & Poultry
for pick-up November 29 in Oak Park
Meat & poultry vendor, Tom Arnold of Arnold Farm, Elizabeth, IL, will be glad to accept pre-orders for items to be picked up at the Pilgrim market this Saturday.  Although he will also have many of these items at the market, pre-orders enable him to know what to bring, gives you access to better selection and ensures availability.
To pre-order:


Go to  Though much of what is shown there is bulk/whole sides, most cuts of beef and pork listed in those packages are for sale individually.  Also, plenty of whole chickens in sizes ranging from 3.5# to 5.5#+ and turkeys in the 16# to 18# range.  

·  If you are interested in the 20# (mixed sampler), 25# (beef) or 30# (pork) packages, definitely pre-order those to ensure availability.

·  Add 10% to web site pricing to cover Arnold Farm’s contribution to Harvest of Hope Fund, a beneficiary of these Winter Markets.

·  Email Tom at  Email is best, but you are welcome to call Tom’s home phone:  815-858-2407.

·  Cut-off time for ordering is Wednesday evening, November 26th, at 8pm.  [If you’re reading this after the cut-off, you can still try calling and Tom may be able to accommodate you.]

·  Pick up at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St., Oak Park, between10am and 1pm; plan to pay with cash or check payable to Arnold Farm.


Coming up . . .


  • Sat., Dec. 6, 9am to 1pm ~ St. Benedict Parish, Chicago / North Center 
  • Sun., Dec. 7, 12 to 3pm ~ First Evangelical Free Church, Chicago / Andersonville 
  • Sat., Dec. 13, 9am to 1pm ~ Epiphany Episcopal Church, Chicago / West Loop Gate 
  • Sun., Dec. 14, 9:30am to 1:30pm ~ Epworth United Methodist Church, Elgin 

          . . . and 22 more in 2009! 

For a full schedule of Winter Farmers Markets, click here.


The Backyard Farmer

Posted: November 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I’m not a farmer. But I play one in my backyard.

In this blog, you can read about me trying to squeeze the most out of a tiny plot of Earth with minimal effort. My personal goal is to beat my record of how much of the year I can feed my family through my own labors and land (best so far: one day).

Some people carefully plan out their gardens, lovingly test and till the soil and spare no expense to get the most beautiful produce from their beds. Not me. I’m a rank amateur, and a cheap and lazy one at that. I’ve got plenty of room for improvement, but little spare time. I want to make the most out of the least input, so you can watch me educate myself on how to improve my technique, or learn from my disasters.

As far as credentials go, somewhere in my past I earned a journalism degree and a computer programming certificate. I’ve been a technical writer and a computer trainer, and I’ve run a small company designing and printing menus for the hospitality industry. So not much by way of farming credentials, huh? Lacking a green thumb as well as any farming pedigree, I have only a nagging yearning for self-sufficiency, awe for modern organic farmers and a growing distaste for the state of America’s food supply. My backyard is too small for my boys to play in, but too large to avoid mowing and maintenance. In a sense, my gardening desires are a form of lawn-care avoidance.

“If you really want to farm,” suggested my wife, “why don’t you rent a plot at the Community Garden?” The public plots are about a mile away, which is nearly a mile more than I care to walk in order to pull weeds. Also, I like looking out my window and shouting at the squirrels who feast on my produce and stare at me as I make angry faces and violent hand gestures at them. It seems only right to give them a free show with their dinner.

I should take this opportunity to mention Pearl Buck and Michael Pollan, whose books inspired me to get my hands dirty. A Pollan article once forced me to give up meat for a year, and though I’ve sworn never to read his work again, I keep doing so, with life-altering consequences. I wish he would stop already.

Decades ago, immediately after I finished reading “The Good Earth”, I walked outside and began shoveling out a garden. Still, it wasn’t enough. So I signed up to spend the season on an Israeli kibbutz where I’d hoped to pick oranges. Instead, I sweated for three months in an industrial bakery, hand braiding egg bread (challah) and tossing it into piles of sesame seed. But it turned out to be another life-altering experience anyway, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity.
So that’s me. This is where you can watch me try to double my self-sufficiency record (by my math, that would be 2 days of eating from the garden). You can follow my ups and downs, fact-finding, foibles, and forced alliteration. I’ll try my best to avoid the heavy pontification, self-deprecation and sarcasm. Although that’s asking a lot.

A Sustainable Diet

Posted: November 25, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Believe it or not, every autumn, the first Christmas carol I hear strikes in me a certain chord of fear.  While I look forward to the sweet spiciness of gingerbread, the luxuriance of deep, dark chocolates and all of the other extravagances associated with the celebration days of November and December, I can’t bear the havoc that these indulgences wreak upon my figure.  In the past, I would formulate strategies to avoid the holiday five: lightening my menus, making fewer sweets, even starving myself during the week.  All were abject failures.  Each year, I couldn’t resist using pounds of butter, serving the most marbled of beef and making hundreds of cookies and confections.   And I would suffer the consequences.  But then, I stumbled upon the secret:  a sustainable diet.  My diet includes large amounts of fruits and vegetables grown by farmers that I know and trust; meats from producers who shun growth hormones and unnecessary antibiotics designed to keep animals unhealthy in unnatural circumstances; fish that have been caught or raised  in a way that doesn’t harm the ocean’s or the earth’s eco-system, and other products, like coffee, chocolate and tea, that have been produced in a manner that provides a safe environment for the workers that help bring them to market.

So why is a sustainable diet the best way to remain trim and fit?  Here are my four simple reasons.

1. It’s Healthier
For many years, the conventional food industry presented study after study suggesting that there was no difference in the safety or health-giving properties between organic and conventional foods. The big food companies kept assuring us that the pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals that the industry used like a crutch to continually increase their productivity would have no impact upon our health.  Fortunately, more balanced surveys have since been published suggesting something different, including that that children who eat exclusively organic foods have far less chemicals in their blood stream, or that mice fed genetically engineered feed have lower fertility rates over generations. But even setting aside the question of chemicals, a sustainable diet is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It’s low in corn-syrup, preservatives and artificial ingredients.  Few people gain weight eating this way.

2. It Involves Less Meat
Also, a sustainable diet, while not necessarily a vegetarian one, will be less meat-intensive. As a society, our consumption of meat has skyrocketed over the past 50 years. Our ability to do this has been propped up by artificially low prices driven down by cheap oil and cheap corn. This era is over and the prices of all food, particularly meat, are rising regardless of how it was grown, raised or produced. Should you decide to switch to sustainably-raised meat products, prepare yourself for some serious sticker shock. The silver lining in this is that it will encourage us to rethink our dinner plates. Instead of a standard meal of large portion of meat, medium portion of starch and small portion of vegetable, we may incorporate some vegetarian dishes into our repertoire or serve dishes where meat is the garnish and vegetables the focus. This simple change will go a long way to restoring our personal health and the health of our planet.

3. It’s More Satisfying
There’s a counterintuitive phenomenon in eating that the better the quality of the food that you eat, the less you’ll eat of it.  Take, for example, chocolate. Compare the feeling of satisfaction after eating a mass-produced candy bar and an artisan-crafted truffle.  This comparison can be made with many other foodstuffs, a pre-packaged American cheese slice versus hand-crafted cheese; corn-syrup sweetened “fruit juice” and fresh-pressed cider; tub margarine and farm fresh, sweet cream butter.  A little bit goes a long way with the latter, the former leave many a palate flat and unsatisfied.  A sustainable diet is long in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and short in empty calories.

4. It Burns More Calories
A sustainable diet requires more effort. Generally, it involves multiple shopping trips, including those to the farmers market where there are no carts to lighten the load.  It involves lifting and schlepping, which burns calories. And that’s simply in the gathering.  Unless you have an organic take-out place around the corner and the money to burn on it every evening, eating sustainably means more home cooking. Cooking at home provides many advantages in addition to the calories burned, it also allows us to control the amount of calories that we consume.

Even throughout the immoderation of the holiday weeks, you can maintain an even keel by remaining satisfied and keeping active by eating a sustainable diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Two Farming Stories

Posted: November 25, 2008 at 10:45 am

Two interesting stories popped up in my feed reader yesterday that I feel compelled to share with you:

Plant an organic garden on the White House Lawn
Two former Peace Corps volunteers have teamed up to start The White House Organic Farm Project, a PR and petition-based movement to get the incoming President to start an organic farm on the lawn of the White House. As someone who loves vegetables and hates grass, I can easily get behind this one. The power of the symbolism of a farm on the White House lawn would be terrific. I urge you to sign the petition and spread the word. [via Boing Boing]

War Vegetable Gardening book from WWI
Google has the full, scanned text of a book called War Vegetable Gardening and the Home Storage of Vegetables published by The National War Garden Commission in 1918. It’s not only interesting from a historical perspective, but there’s actually some basic, useful information about root cellars and food storage. [also via Boing Boing]

Drink Local This Thanksgiving

Posted: November 25, 2008 at 8:59 am

Before we got on stage at the Family Farmed Expo, we did the, what do you mean by local, thing amongst ourselves.  We all agreed that life goes a little better each morning with a cuppa joe, and we agreed that we strayed for wine.  Then, the lights went on and we talked.  If we stayed on the topic, I would insist that my definition of local does not mean anything exclusive.  Bring on the Chablis, thank you very much.  A liking for South American wines especially–I actually really like California wines, I just believe you have to start at a much higher price point to get good stuff–does not mean that I do not try to drink local.  Since Thanksgiving is the local holiday, consider a local beverage this year.

Editor-in-Chief Morowitz is working on bringing in a drink expert.  He has some solid leads.  Until then, you’ll get my advice.   The Thanksgiving plate can vex even the experts.  A roasted bird is an easy wine match, and such a dish is often the suggested counterpoint to a really good wine.  It’s all the rest of the things on the table that start making the wine choice more difficult.  Do you match against all the fat and starch or do you match against all the sugary things.  Will a wine for these things over power your turkey wine.   Some people punt with Beaujolais Nouveau, which is right in season and has the right flavor profile for candied yams (confession, I’ve been known to enjoy a bottle or two of Nouveau).   I have a better idea.  Sparkling wine.  Sparkling wines are great food wines.  They will cleanse a palate numb from too much food, and they will cut through all the competing Thanksgiving flavors.  In the Chicago area, we can look to a great local sparkler, the wines from L. Mawby from Northern Michigan.  I swear I did not see this before I began talking this up.  As the link shows, Mawby sparklers are available at Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park.

You can pour many other local items this Thanksgiving.  I think some of Greg’s Wild Blossom meads would go well; the meads can be surprisingly not sweet or cloying.  I’m guessing the Pilgrims drank hard cider with their meal, but unfortunately I do not have a source/idea for a good local hard cider.  You can, however, find mildly fermented cider from Seedlings; you can stop by their booth at Green City tomorrow, the dowtown Farmstand on Randolph or Cassie’s Green Grocer.  Speaking of Green, the Farmstand is promoting Green River as the local pop.  But I’m a bit more partial to Filbert’s, not the least you have more flavors to choose.  The best way to get Filberts is to visit the charming and amazing “plant” on S. Ashland.

Yes, there are options between sparkling wine and sparkling soda.  Beer!  If you cannot find a good local beer, well you do not like beer.  With so many great local beers out there, it is more a matter of style preference.  Me, I prefer beers on the lighter side for meals.  I’m a big fan of Munster’s Three Floyd’s and would be happy drinking their Munsterfest this Thanksgiving.  Cleveland, Ohio might be stretching the local boundary a bit, but I do like Great Lakes Brewery.  I may be showing my lack of beer geekdom, but give me a nice bottle of lager any day.  Local beers buy-able all over town.

Thanksgiving is the time to celebrate our local bounty.  That bounty includes many fine potables.  I’d love to hear of your ideas for local Thanksgiving drinks too.  Drink local this holiday.

Last Minute Thanksgiving Shopping Tips

Posted: November 24, 2008 at 9:14 am

Two days before my scheduled presentation at the Family Farmed Expo on Thanksgiving tips, I was doing shots of Death Door Vodka with my favorite local food reporter and moderator of the forthcoming panel, Monica Eng.  Monica asked, what would we discuss.  In candor, I said, if you have not shopped yet for Thanksgiving, you’re screwed.  Or it was something like that at the Localicious party.  Still, procrastinators have some options.  Thanksgiving, more than any holiday, should be a local food holiday.  The Local Beet has your holiday shopping tips.

Foremost, to my somewhat surprise (yes the Internet is a good tool), Green City IS open for business on the day before Thanksgiving.  Find local food then and there.  For those in need in the outer reaches of the Chicago world, there is also a market on Wednesday in Sterling, Illinois, one who’s quality or stock I cannot speak.   Of course, Cassie’s is ALWAYS open, always with local food, at her Green Grocer Chicago.  I’ve got newly nice things to say about the Chicago Downtown Farmstand, perhaps for another post, but for now note that this is a source for your Thanksgiving table shopping on Tuesday or Wednesday this week.  Finally, putting on my affordable/accessible outfit, I note that Caputo‘s has certain local things you can use like winter squash and apples. 

Because of the New England origins of Thanksgiving, the foods associated with the holiday are luckily the foods also available in our nicely cool climate.  You should be able to meet your whipped potato needs or whip out a butternut squash soup if that’s what you need, from the markets above.  You can surely make pie from real pumpkins or from real apples with ingredients around.   Rick Bayless at his demo at the Expo mentioned how he likes to offset the richness of several Thanksgiving dishes with some salads.  You can do no worse than combing a few ingredients from Oriana, the Papple Lady: her black walnuts and Asian style pears, with some arugula that should be in the market and a nice local cheese.

I would have mentioned this at my talk yesterday even if Irv of Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks did not just walk into the room; that one of the best ways to know what you can find local at any given time is to check their web site.  So, when your Thanksgiving creative mojo is sparking, you can go there to see the products to work with.  (I should mention, however, that Irv and Shelly are not delivering in the days before Thanksgiving.)  Another way to get a good idea of what local food’s still in markets is to look at Wisconsin’s Harmony Vally farm web site.  Burdock this Thanksgiving?

C’mon, where’s the turkey talk.  Several paragraphs in, here’s some tips for those still looking for a local bird for their holiday table.  Both Cassie and Marion St. Cheese Market have birds from TJ’s Poultry.  I know John Caveny dropped off his heritage birds at the Geneva local superstore (Inglenook Pantry) this weekend.  If you did not pre-order, they may not have a turkey for you, but my hunch is, it’s worth a shot.   The Illinois turkey factory farm will defend their turkeys against anyone.  The Ho-Ka turkey has been on my holiday table several times.  There are many places to buy around town, although you should call first to ensure that place has.   Last year my family and I passed on the Ho-Ka turkey for something even fresher, a turkey processed minutes before, from John’s Live Poultry at Fullerton and Austin–the turkeys waddle around near the alley until their time is up.  I can vouch for the outstandingness of this turkey.  You get especially crisp skin from such a fresh bird.

I’ll cover local Thanksgiving drinking tips in another post, but let us know if we missed any Thanksgiving ideas, needs or suggestions.  Make your holiday a local holiday.


Bad Jerry at the Expo

Posted: November 21, 2008 at 3:47 pm

I’m a firm believer that there is an episode of Seinfeld to cover any potential life event.  One that happens often to me, to my wife’s discontent, is the sticking my neck into other’s business, especially when they are in the food business.  If my wife was around for all of the things I did so far at the Family Farmed Expo, she’d be one constant refrain of “bad Jerry” or “Jerry you a bad man”, reminding me of what happened when Jerry urges Babbo to be more authentic.  Since no one was whispering in my ear, here is all the damage I’ve caused so far today.

  • I advised Lois Federman, a government official for the state of Wisconsin to find more markets in Chicago for their Wisconsin products.  After all, more Mt. Sterling Goat cheese for me.
  • I’m trying to get the guys at Mulberry Hill Farms, from near Carbondale, who have plenty of ground grown spinach, to find a half way point with some of Robin’s farmer’s, so their product can be had at the winter markets.
  • I told the guys of Knutson’s Country Harvest to put some polyvinyl over their hydroponic strawberries to extend the market season.
  • I tried to get Janet Ioeger to lend me their hunting equipment so I could take a shot at the peasants at their Panola Prairie Sportsman Club.
  • I volunteered my kidz to give testimonials for Green Monkey Foods.
  • I encouraged  Kalona Organics to sell milk in smaller containers, make their cream more available and find a way to get the Amish to make deli sliced ham.

In addition to my excellent advice, I got some needed information.

  • Organic Valley insists their containers are recylable.  I’m skeptical but hope they are right.
  • Sassy Cow equally insists they are not a factory farm.  I really believe that and plan on visiting the farm and creamery one of these days soon.

Most startling fact gleaned so far:

The Local Beet is way, way, way, way, way, less popular than this site.  I believe we need to sex up our images.

The Weekly Harvest

Posted: November 21, 2008 at 9:35 am

The week in news and blogs in the world of local eating.

The Local Calendar, Weekend Before Thanksgiving

Posted: November 21, 2008 at 9:13 am

I was making lunch plans with MikeG yesterday.  He asked about today.  Today?  Today!  Friday.  November 21.  2008.  Has he not been paying attention.  Today.  Today, I am really looking forward to the first day of the Family Farmed Expo.   Stay tuned for some “live blogging” later this day and over the course of the weekend.

Tonight my wife and I will be partying at the Localicious gala.  Tickets available at the door!

Plenty of chances on Saturday and Sunday to meet famous chefs at the Expo including Bayless, Kahan and the star of the most recent Sky Full of Bacon production, Jason Hammel.

Don’t just learn, be a good American and shop the Expo.

See me at the 1:30 PM panel on Sunday November 23, on making your Thanksgiving more local. 

Bring your kidz to play at the Expo.  I bet the Sustainable Cook, Melissa Graham, would love your volunteer assistance with the children’s activities.  Contact her at to sign up.

Locavores have a few other places to hang.  There’s another Green City Market at their location outside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at Fullerton and Lake Shore Drive.  Nathan Sears at my other favorite restaurant, Vie, is giving a demo.  Saturday November 22.

There’s always the Geneva Superstore plus the Evanston Thanksgiving Market at Immanual Lutheran Church, 616 Lake St.  A last chance to buy from Henry’s Farm.  Both markets, this Saturday.

It’s a busy weekend fer sure.  Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park celebrates their fourth anniversary with a range of events.  It may be a cheese store, but the beers on tap this weekend are especially good.

Meet Illinois’s best producer of goat cheese.  Leslie Cooperbrand, of Prairie Fruit Farms, will be at the Whole Foods in Chicago at 3300 N. Ashland from 2-4 PM on Saturday, November 22.

Have a great weekend and stock up for next week’s big holiday.

Local Calamities Continued

Posted: November 20, 2008 at 8:28 am

When we were last checking in on the Local Family (as compared to checking in on the local expo) we found food gone to waste.  Over at the VI blog, I summed up what was in the house and found a few more losses.  That was not all that’s gone wrong in the Bungalow.  For instance, I offered up baked Nigerian eggplants for dinner last night.

I mostly enjoy cooking.  With the enhanced work schedule of my wife, I mostly do the cooking now.  Mostly, the family enjoys what I prepare.  The older daughter is a cook’s best friend.  She eats with relish and enjoys nearly any concoction.  The younger daughter is filled with edible idiosycrancies, so we’ll just leave her out.  But the wife, she’s been around the block, not to mention inside the kitchen of a leading restaurant.  Can I please her?

Before Austin, I took care of some four large beets.  I wrapped each in foil.  Roasted for about an hour at 400.  Peeled.  Sliced.  Dressed with olive oil, tarragon vinegar and some chopped marjoram.  Some, apparently were not cooked enough, although I believe it was the long seeping of marjoram that turned off two outta three.  Those two were also not as keen on the old skinny eggplants I sliced, roasted and tossed with rosemary infused honey, but maybe that was the fault of the ages.  Then there were the eggplants the next day.

If you follow closely, you may remember that one Eli’s market day, I forgot some eggplant there.  The next week, the only eggplants left were the bright red Nigerians.  Chad Nichols let me take a bunch in exchange.  I finally got around to them when I did my purge.  They seemed fine from outward appearances.  I googled Nigerian eggplants with little success–does this one seem very Nigerian to you? Lo and behold, in my backyard, Internet speaking, I find this.  I roast the eggplants until they crack and hiss eggplant juice.  I, and my daughter, peel scalding eggplants.  I platter, season and spritz with olive oil.   I add some feta, to, well, make it a meal. 

We start with butternut soup my wife made, no calamity here.  The first table taste.  The first remarks.  The first I’m eating peanut butter tonight.  The needed advice.  Avoid the seeds.  That’s what the Internet poster said.  More bitter horrors.  One daughter eats all the fennel marmalade (I’m not all calamity either).  Mom comes to the rescue with paczki from work.  We replace healthy vegetarian, local dining with fried Polish goodies stuffed with cheap jam, more bumps on the road to the local life.

Putting the Ex in the Expo – Plenty of Great Exhibitors at Family Farmed Expo Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
The Sustainable Cook Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Local Calamity Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
2 For 2 at Winter Markets Sunday, November 16th, 2008
The Weekly Harvest Friday, November 14th, 2008
The Local Calender Friday, November 14th, 2008
Frost Kissed Thursday, November 13th, 2008
Winter Market – Chicago / West Loop Gate Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Special Bonus Blogging Local Family News Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Seven Generations Ahead – A Taste of the Seasons Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Local School Lunches in The Trib Monday, November 10th, 2008
The Local Family News Friday, November 7th, 2008
NYT on Root Cellars Thursday, November 6th, 2008
Green City Market! Thursday, November 6th, 2008
Geneva Green Market – Thanksgiving Festival Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
Congrats, Gary Cuneen Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
A Day for Local Arugula Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
2 Area Winter Markets – Nov 8 & 9 Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
And Who Says Accessible and Affordable is Out Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
It’s Not Over Until We Say It’s Over Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
FamilyFarmed Expo Monday, November 3rd, 2008
Green Grocer: Chef Demonstration Monday, November 3rd, 2008