Was I Dreaming
Sunday, this Local Family woke up to a bungalow full of strawberries, arugula, lettuces, raspberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, hot peppers and green beans (amongst other food). What happened to seasonal eating?
As I am wont to say, some of us eat local food, but some of us make local food happen. No one makes it happen more, this time of year than Robin “Winter” Schimer and the Church’s Center for Land and People who organize winter markets from November through March. Robin is a fiend for finding new sources of winter (local) food, but more important, she takes her sticker laden Scion all over the place to get the food to sell. This week she found herself at Jewel.
Not the Jewel by you. The big Jewel in Melrose Park. What was once a corporate headquarters but now a mere regional hub. At Jewel she met the people from Stone Creek Farm. Stone Creek, according to Robin, is a rather large greenhouse outfit in Iowa that specializes in flowers. They also produce a limited supply of indoor, hoophouse (i.e., grown in ground) vegetables that are normally only for sale in Iowa. Yet, since they had a huge shipment of seasonal flowers to deliver this week in the Chicago area, they also brought vegetables. Robin made the pick-up and made them available at this week’s winter market.
It was not enough that we bought the oddest collection of winter food, including small Middle Eastern style cucumbers from Stone Creek. We also purchased winter raspberries from the WinterFresh Fruit company of Vicksburg, Michigan, two packages! Believe me, the samples of these berries showed they were no local solace. Good berries. Picked ripe. I’ll return to indoor produce in a second, let me regale all of the other things gotten in the last few days.
First came the CSA box. Farmer Vicki fretted this week over lettuce frozen. So, she filled our boxes with extra apples, turnips, onions, escarole, tiny beets and big cabbage. Saturday morning took us a long time to get out of the house. We still found the market ripe. We sated appetites with the freshly fried, don’t call them egg rolls, spring rolls made by Angie Ackerman with ingredients from her farm. Then we went a-buyin’. Four packages of dried apricots from Seedlings (for some other time); herbs from Ackerman; Hercules carrots from Scotch Hill; the raspberries and all the indoor stuff mentioned already. While enjoying some fine Middle Eastern food at the newly opened Chickpea, we remembered we needed milk. Ah, a visit to Green Grocer. Because of the close knit local food community we have, Cassie had a bunch of things from Robin (you can buy away this week). We decided, what they hey and bought one more package of raspberries. We also got Vicki’s carrots that we’ve taken to oven roasting, mushrooms for my wife’s attempt at Mado’s ragu and a few more herbs.
Before signing off, I want to return to the subject of indoor fruit and veg. High on the backlash reasons against local is the supposed energy requirements of indoor produce. First of all, count me unconvinced that the energy used overall–not discounting that some farmers use some fair amount of heat some time–is so much greater than any energy used in other winter production. The complainers act like no energy is used for those South American grapes or in keeping the California stuff from freezing on its way to you. Second, and obviously, there are other important reasons to eat from the local, indoor guys. If we want to support our community farmers, do we not want to support them always? And quality, the indoor produce is still better because it is still picked riper, it still comes from varietals known for flavor. Indoor produce is not perfect, but this locavore will gladly go for all he can get.