Look All Over With This Local Calendar (The Return of Affordable/Accessible Local Food)

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July 29, 2011 at 9:39 am

We’ve been keeping our eyes open for this, and now we can report: it’s the time of year when you can find local food all over.  Our key source, the flyer’s distributed in the newspapers.  Through this intel we espy the availability of local food at various area grocery stores and supermarket chains.  Of course we supplement this with our humint, correspondents out and about looking for local food where ever they can find it.  And we’re finding it.  Whole Foods is making good on their promise of stocking more local.  We’ve seen green beans, blueberries, peaches, greens and other local foods at their Chicago area stores.   For other places, let’s turn to the papers.

Using our flyers, we see that Ultra Foods has locally grown green peppers and locally grown cucumbers.  The place that really surprised us was Jewel, not necessarily known for their commitment to local foods.  Jewel advertised this week Indiana corn, green peppers, and watermelon; Michigan green beans and summer squash and Illinois mushrooms.  Dominick’s too showed well too, advertising locally grown summer squash, celery (yes!), spinach, and blueberries.  Surprisingly, Caputo’s, where we expect to see much local food displayed in the ads, displays no such thing.  Our scouts did note that earlier, Caputo’s had advertised local cucumbers and local summer squash.

We do not believe you should forsake your area farmer’s market for the supermarket.  We love market buying, and we believe you will always find the freshest, most interesting produce there.  We also beleive in the high value of interacting with the farmers at the market.  That whole Michael Pollan urban meets rural kind of thing.  Still, we also believe strongly that local foods should be accessible and affordable.  There are various times when it makes sense to get your local food from the grocery chain.  It is nice to save too.  More importantly, the more we buy, the more they will sell.  Convince the Jewels and Dominick’s of the world to supply you will local food.  Not just the summer bounty but also winter storage crops and seasonal extension hoop-house crops.

We think you can find a supermarket on your own, but for those outstanding area farmer’s markets near you, use our searchable, sortable, Market Locator.  Then, take our farmer’s market shopping tips to get the most out of your area market.  And don’t forget to put enough away for local eating later.  See our suggested best practices for preserving the seasonal bounty.

WHAT TO BUY NOW

The cherry season is running out.  Tart cherries freeze well for winter pies, and God knows they make the best jams.  Now’s the time to stock up.  Plums are entering the market.  Over the course of the summer, you will find several kinds of local plums, from small, sweet yellow ones to dark tannic Damson, edible to eat only if made into jelly.  Don’t put off buying a local plum this week because that variety may be gone by next week.  We are also seeting local melons in the market, and we believe with all the rain this year, that the melons will be especially delcious. Don’t think apples are for later.

When going for vegetables this week, don’t forget to consider the whole beast, the entire plant.  For instance, follow Wendy’s advice and turn your excess celery parts into local celery salt.

WHAT TO BUY SOON (OR LOOK FOR KEENLY)

Pears, more varieties of apples, more colors of sweet peppers.

STORAGE NOTES

Please remember that the seasonal apples, onions and potatoes in the market now are not meant for long term cellaring.  In fact, the need to be kept in the fridge or they will spoil easily.

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

City Provisions Deli in Ravenswood, Chicago

Downtown Farmstand in the Loop, Chicago

Green Grocer in West Town, Chicago

Dill Pickle Coop in Logan Square, Chicago

Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park

Butcher and Larder in Noble Square, Chicago

See the introduction for other places to find local food.

WHAT TO DO NOW

August 2 – Slow Food Chicago presents “Farm Together Now” discussion + potluck with local author Daniel Tucker.  Free admission, seats available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring a side dish or dessert to share for a potluck.  See herefor additional details.

August 3 — Outstanding in the Field with Paul Virant of Vie and Bare Knuckle Farm, Northport, MI. There are a lot of great farm dinners with local farms this summer with Outstanding in the Field, but join The Local Beet in making the trek north for this one, as it promises to be special as anyone who has tasted Bare Knuckle’s pork belly from Duroc Cross hogs can attest. More information here.

August 4 – 4th Annual Micro-Brew Review in Oak Park to benefit Seven Generations Ahead – Go here for tickets.

August 6 – Open House at Growing Home – Don’t miss Growing Home’s Summer Open House at the Wood Street Urban Farm, Chicago’s first USDA Certified Organic production farm with year-round growing capabilities. Enjoy the summer harvest with a cookout, a tour of the farm, a gardening workshop for all ages, and of course, fresh veggies at the farm stand. – 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm – 5814 S. Wood Street, Chicago

August 14 – Slow Food Chicago Book Club – This month’s selection, Cod: A Biography of a Fish that Changed the Worldby Mark Kurlansky.  First Slice Pie Cafe, 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago – 2 -330 PM.

August 16 – Little Bee, Big Mystery – Join the Notebaert Nature Museum and Slow Food Chicago for a thought provoking series about bees, including a screening of the film, the Vanishing of the Bees.  Free, but you must RSVP to adultprograms {at} naturemuseum(.)org.

August 24 – Our friend, the man we love to disagree with, the ever opinionated, yet never wrong Steve Plotnicki, helped curate a team of Midwest chefs who source from the farm yet cook from the modern playbook for a group dinner at North Pond.  This event features five of the most exciting guys around our parts, and on this night you get the chance to sample from all of them as well as have the chance to go mano-a-mano with Steve himself.  It should be a extremely fun night.  If you can afford $140 a person for a dinner, this is one you should not miss.   See the North Pond web site for more details.

August 28 – Cork & Crayons Benefit for Purple Asparagus at UnCommon Ground – The family-friendly event brings foodies old and young together to celebrate the joys of family meals and healthy eating all for and to support the good works of our friends at Purple Asparagus.   The event will include a mini farmers’ market sponsored by Harvest Moon Organics farm, music from Old Town School of Folk Music artists, a raffle, and a silent auction for bidding on gourmet treats, getaways, and more. Guests will enjoy selections from Uncommon Ground’s kitchen and Candid Wines. Attendees will also be able to tour the certified-organic green roof atop Uncommon Ground where the restaurant grows some of the produce on its menu.  $60 for adults ($65 at the door), $15 for ages 5-20 ($20 at the door). Kids under 5 are free.  Tickets can be purchased via credit card at www.brownpapertickets.com or by check payable to Purple Asparagus sent in care of Melissa Graham, 1824 W Newport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 - Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., Chicago

September 11 – Slow Food Chicago Presents 3rd Annual Pig Roast at Goose Island – SAVE THE DATE!

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