Will You Be Able to Taste Spring w/Today’s Local Calender

April 3, 2009 at 10:03 am

Rob Gardner

Some wonder if around here you can even get a taste of Spring.  Our usual pleasant Spring means it is just too cold for food.  Oh, there’s the hoop-house, the same wonder of poly-vinyl that produced crops all winter, but is a bag of sprouts really spring.  Will there be Spring to be had in this Local Calender?

As my wife loves to say, there’s good news and there’s bad news.  I’ll cut the smugness and get to the good news.  A place with the glorious weather of Chicago does have a spring cuisine.  Just today Beet blogger Vera V was telling people on Twitter of her outdoor crops: swiss chard, kale and green garlic.  My farmer, Farmer Vicki of Genesis Growers, supplied her first Spring CSA box with mostly storage crops, but she said that she has some spinach, radishes, and turnips in the fields that should be ready for eating soon.  For us, a lot of Spring tastes like fall before, that is a buffet of plants that thrive in cold conditions like Vera’s kale and Vicki’s spinach.  Yet, our Spring is also about getting those early plants, the plants that “spring” up to announce the change in season.  At last week’s last Winter Market, Vera had nettles.  She said she’d be looking around her farm this week for fiddle-head ferns.  Most farms around here have some form of cress growing now.  If you follow any food media these days, you know about ramps.  My block is seeing its first dandelions.   The bad news, of course, where can the consumer go buy a taste of Spring.  This Spring.

We are still in that phase where I can pretty much rattle off available markets, the same as every weekly calender: Green City, Geneva, Heritage Prairie (although research leads me to a new market running this Spring in Grayslake).  Shortly, though, there will be a lot more weekly options.  The Local Beet will soon be debut, what we believe will be the best market finder for area markets.  Yet, will the best market finder tell you if you can taste Spring.  A couple things still vex us local eaters.  Our market system does not really allow for someone to just show up for a few weeks with some foraged morels and fresh cut wild greens the way that Madison does.  And the farmers are still wary about coaxing up early crops.  The best thing we can do is show up in force at area markets.  Beg for a taste of Spring.  Maybe we will get one next year.

Local ramps can be had at area restaurants.  I’m not sure if this will remain on the menu this weekend, but Rob Levitt at Mado turned them into a St. Patrick’s worthy green aioli as a dip for tiny latkes.  To try ten versions of ramps from Top Chefs like Paul Virant and Carrie Nahabedian, hit RampFest tonight at the Garfield Park Conservatory.  Proceeds from this event go to Land Connection, an organization that continues to make local food more possible for us.  Don’t say we did not tell you where to taste ramps.

Mad that ramps can only be had in a few places, that your pot of stinging nettle soup remains nettle-less.  Well, do something about it.  Attend the 4th Chicago Food Policy Summit next Wednesday.  Go here to learn about the event as well as the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council.  Next Spring should taste different.

Until then, we look forward to hearing how you coped.  Please report back any market finds, calender options and calender corrections.  Eat local.