The Local Calender Says Winsome

October 2, 2009 at 9:33 am

Rob Gardner

When I turn the page of my Local Calender to Thursdays, I find myself often at the Eli’s Cheesecake Farmer’s Market.  I went yesterday.  It made me winsome as I started browsing the wares of Chad Nichols.  Eggplant, where were the eggplant.  No eggplants.  Gone for the year.  Tomatoes remained but the famed variety of Nichols Farm seemed to be reduced to red and orange.  Of the red and orange, many were tainted with white pus or with other dangerous soft spots.  Much tomatoes stood protected behind a strong wall of green.  It was not quite time to pick before frost, but it seemed close.  The tomatoes were priced to move, although it’s a bargain that does not make me happy.  And that handy partner to the tomato, the cucumbers, they were all small and off shaped; clearly this was the last of the bunch.  Summer squash were similarly runty (although that’s a good thing for summer squash).  This morning (as a virus scanning computer stalled other activities) I glanced at a recipe for ham with cantaloupe.  It reminded me that I’ve probably had the last of my melons for the year.  My calender shows change.

Change can be good.  I saw this week that Chef Mendez filled his weekly farm menu with fall: squash and sweet potatoes.  Still, that’s not the kind of change that I want.  Believe you me both, there will be plenty of time for your squash, your Brussels sprouts and especially, your rutabagas.  I still want to eat peaches and peppers.  I do welcome the change to cooler weather.  It means that stocking and storing can begin more earnestly.  Before the calender pages turned, the was no place in the Bungalow to put aside food.  It’s still not cool enough in our root cellar in the sky, our attic, to put-away root vegetables, but it is cool enough for other things.  Do not let your eat local challenge fade this winter because you have no garlic or onions to make your locavore dishes.  Now is the time to buy.  Onions and the such do not need to be stored in cold conditions.  Just put them somewhere dark so they do not sprout.  Leeks, plentiful in the market now are also very storable in the fridge.  Just peel back any outer layers of shrivel as necessary.

I will warn that Nichols, at least, was selling mostly “new” or freshly dug potatoes.  As Chad noted yesterday, these potatoes are not cured for the long run.  Instead they are meant to be eaten within a few weeks.  Ask your farmer if his or her potatoes are keepers.  Likewise, ask which of their apples will store, as even this time of year, not all apples are meant for storage.  You can put-away pears too, in the fridge.  Don’t forget about them though.  They will not take you that far into chilly times. 

There’s more on the Local Calender besides winsome.

Need an excuse to visit the new Half Acre Brewery company store?  Go tonight for Festiv- Ale to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Our Pals at TomatoFest are pouring wines in Oak Park’s “Art District” tonight tonight (living in Oak Park, I can use those quotes).

Our pals at Eli’s hold their annual Cheesecake Festival this weekend.  Bring two cans of food for a free slice of cheesecake.

There’s a screening of Fresh in Oak Park on Sunday, at our extravagantly re-done library.  3:30 PM (more things I can say ’cause I live here).

This Monday, assuming enough people have enrolled, Evanston’s Talking Farm holds a pickling class at the Evanston Friends Meeting House.  Support Talking Farm by attending their first benefit dinner on Monday October 19.

The Local Calender this week reads like the Obama donor mailing list.  Another good upcoming event in Evanston is the Land Connection’s 2nd Annual Harvest Celebration on October 15.  And Oak Park based Seven’s Generation Ahead will have their annual benefit soon, November 4–more details forthcoming.

Julia at the Reader reports on a few  eat local  restaurant events this coming week.

October 17, Pastoral downtown has an Octoberfest featuring local beers and cheeses.

Any thing else?



  1. art says:

    “ask your farmer if his or her potatoes are keepers.”

    I caught a fascinating bit about preserving potatoes on one of those food/travel/extreme cuisine programs on food network last night. Jeff Corwin I believe.

    He was in the Andes hanging out with some folks up in the mountains. The local people have a very interesting way of preserving potatoes for years (proven by centuries of eating potatoes). The potatoes are laid out on the ground where their skins are rubbed off by walking over them with bare feet. The potatoes are then place in mesh sacks where they are soaked in a running stream for I think 2 weeks–or was it 2 days? I don’t remember. The potatoes are then left to freeze, I believe out in the open. They are essentially freeze-dried!

    I thought the preservation technique itself was really fascinating and then the dish that they put the potatoes into, a traditional Peruvian stew, looked unbelievably good (fava beans, peanuts, dried potatoes). Just the potatoes themselves though sounded so interesting and I’d really love to try them on their own.

  2. Rob Gardner says:

    Art, funny you bring this up, because on about the same day you watched Jeff Corwin, I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation with Tony eating street foods. One of the foods he most raved about was a market soup in Cuzco made from preserved, snowy, dried potatoes. Given that potatoes stay very well in cold storage for, like a year, we have never had the need to create this kind of potatoe. Thus, it seems that one must go to the Andes for this treat.

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