Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, All For You in One Turkish Breakfast for Lunch

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Posted: April 30, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Eating Local

Long time readers of this site know I love Turkish Breakfast. In it’s simplest form, Turkish breakfast is an excuse to eat tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and cheese for breakfast, or more likely, since I like to eat olives, cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes a lot, I needed a name, an excuse. As one cannot get cucumbers and tomatoes year-round, the concept of Turkish breakfast has come to encompass any like mix. To have Turkish breakfast there must be a mix of seasonal vegetables, as salads, spreads and other preparations; preserved and pickled products, and cheese, without vegetables it is simply Ploughman’s lunch. It should have bread, maybe more types of bread, with butter and jelly and honey and a rich cheese spread called kajmak, but this Turkish breakfast I had above, for a late lunch substituted roasted potatoes for the carbs.

It struck me after eating, how perfectly it encapsulates how I approach the concept of “eating local.”   My late afternoon breakfast included a couple of items roasted, an item from a jar and something that only needed a wash and trim. The  carrots and radishes came from our Tomato Mountain CSA (more on radishes soon).  The accent to the carrots was a locally made, locally sourced, harisa.  The potatoes were a mix of russets, yukon golds and fingerlings picked up across the winter at various markets.  You might not be able to tell, but within the potatoes were garlic from last year’s CSA, onions, probably also from last year’s CSA, and thyme from last year’s CSA that we dried for preservation.  Along side that plate, adding spark to the bite, diversity to the palate, as well as a bit of richness, barrel feta from Greece and Middle Eastern style pickled green peppers.   Like all Turkish breakfasts it played out as an array of textures and flavors merging into one long mouthful.

The lessons I want to impart from this plate are three-fold.  First, eating local is never about absolutes, rules, dictates or requirements.  If you did not pickle your own peppers last year, find a decent copy.  And as many great local cheeses exist around here, we don’t always have to be so chauvinistic.  Second, it’s an on-going process.  You have to think not just what you will eat this day but how you will eat every day.  Make sure you save up some onions; dry your herbs.  Make preparations ahead of time for all your meals.  Finally, you need to work your sources.  It can’t hurt to subscribe to a CSA,  but you also need markets and other outlets.  Get your food.  Put this all together and you have lunch.  Even if we call it breakfast.




We Give You More What’s In Season and More Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera Chicago

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Posted: April 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm

What’s In Season Now, Market Season

 

Vera-LOGO-Fpattern (1) (1)

OK, things are a-goin’ now with Chicago area farmer’s markets.   Oddly enough, most of the area markets started are down south, out west or in McHenry County.   Soon, we won’t be able to list each market weekly, they’ll be too many, but we hope to have a revised 2015 Market List up soon.
ramps illiana

Is this the week you start eating more local?  See below for what you should (could?) find about now, and shop these stores or the markets listed.  Also, study up on our revised farmer’s market shopping tips before heading out.

What’s In Season Now

Tatsoi Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Tatsoi
Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

 The earliest markets are not the times to be your pickiest.  We’ve listed below what you may find, but don’t be surprised if you come home this week with a bunch of Asian greens you never knew before.

From the Ground

  • Green garlic
  • Watercress
  • Parsnips (over wintered)
  • Carrots (over wintered)
  • Various greens (over wintered)
  • Ramps
  • Asparagus
  • Spring onions/scallions
  • Nettles
  • Edible ferns
  • Radishes

Indoor Crops/Hoop-House

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Sprouts
  • Sorrel
  • Mustard and similar greens
  • Kale
  • Herbs
  • Radishes

Storage Crops

  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Celery root
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Burdock root
  • Onions

Year round

  • Meats, poultry, lake fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cheese and other dairy
  • Mushrooms
  • Grains and breads
  • Preserved and jarred products

Where to Find Local Food

In addition to the following markets, there are several stores in the Chicago area that focus on selling local foods.

Chicago

 Green City Market matches LINK card purchases up to $15?  Just another reason we love this market, and for the first time in 2015, it’s outdoors.  Saturday May 2 from 7 AM to 1 PM –  Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1817 N. Clark) 

Maybe with our crazy weather, having an indoor market in May is not such a bad idea.  The Glenwood Sunday Market is still inside on Sunday May 3 from 9 AM to 2 PM – 6962 N. Glenwood

Frankfort

We’ve had many good trips to this edge of suburban market over the years.  Lots of vendors including our good friend Jimmy Harden.  Sunday May 3 from 10 AM to 2 PM – Downtown Frankfort (Kansas and Oak Streets)

Woodstock

Proudly calling themselves the number one market in Illinois, this nearly year-round enterprise also goes outdoors for the first time in 2015.  LINK Cards and WIC/Senior Benefit Vouchers are accepted at the market.  Saturday May 2 from 8 AM – 1 PM – Historic Woodstock Square

Wilmette French Market

Woops, did not see that this market started last week.  Saturday May 2 8 AM to 1 PM – Village Center

Park Forest

This market accepts EBT/Link, WIC, and Senior Nutrition Coupons.  Saturday May 2 from 7 AM to 1 PM - 271 Lakewood Blvd

Geneva

Also inside for a few more weeks, the Community Winter Market on  Saturday, April 25 from 9 AM to 1 PM - 327 Hamilton

Grayslake

About the earliest market to go outdoor each year in the Chicago area, the Grayslake Farmer’s Market is Saturday May 2 from 10 AM to 2 PM – Downtown Grayslake on Center Street

 Naperville

We love all farmer’s markets, even the “French” ones.  Can’t say we did not warn you, but we also think you may find a thing or two of interest at the Naperville French Market.  Saturday May 2 from 8AM to 2PM – Main Street & Liberty Drive

Kankakee

We’ve never been to this market, but the list of vendors is long on their Facebook page.  Downtown Kankakee also features a classic small town courthouse.  Worth checking out on Saturday May 2 from 8 AM to Noon – Corner of Schuyler Ave. and Merchant

Not satisfied with what’s around here.  The Madison Farmer’s Market is running hard.   We follow the Decatur Farmer’s Market on twitter and have always wanted to go.  Seems like a good one to visit.

  If you know of any other farmer’s markets in the Chicago area, please let us know

. What's In Season and Where to Find It - Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago

What’s In Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago


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Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts These Books Are For You

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Posted: April 30, 2015 at 1:31 pm

ChickenbookHTBCoopsPhoto Garfield Conservatory Website

For full disclosure, I live in a high-rise and am not an urban chicken keeper. However, when a request to write a post on these books came across my desk, being an appreciator of locally laid eggs and a lover of books and thinking that among the Beet community are chicken keepers, I said send me a copy.

You can find a lot of information and an active community on the Chicago Chicken Enthusiast facebook page. The Garfield Park Conservatory (it is their picture above) holds classes on chicken keeping and they have one scheduled for this Saturday May 2 on Chicken Health. Angelic Organics Learning Center and the Advocates For Urban Agriculture are other resources for chicken enthusiasts.

Part of the nature of communities is to share information on a one on one basis and I presume this is how chicken keeping has grown in Chicago. However, these two books offer a ton of information if you were not aware of them.  The Chicken Keeper’s Problem Solver – 100 Common Problems Explored and Explained by Chris Graham and published by Quarry Books is an FAQ on raising chickens. It is broken down into sections of questions: food and water, housing, chicken runs, rodents and other pests, parasites, health issues, egg production, incubation, rearing, behavioral problems. This book was just published in February 2015, has a wealth of tidbits and helpful hints and is layed out in a very practical way, problem and solution.

How To Build Chicken Coops- Everything You Need to Know by Samantha Johnson and Daniel Johnson and published by Voyageur Press is how to build a chicken coop and more, chicken trivia such as ” How many chickens are there in the world? There are more chickens than people-some sources say over 20 billion chickens worldwide” and “chicken lingo, what is a cockerel? A young male chicken.” It is so easy to click away and find information online but both these books are resource type books, visually interesting and can be shared and used over and over again.

There was an egg seller from Minnesota at the Good Food Festival called Locally Laid Eggs. Hopefully, awareness of these books, may help some of you Chicago Chicken enthusiasts, so we can have more locally laid eggs here in the city.




Revised and Updated! – Local Beet Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Farmer’s Market Trip

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Posted: April 30, 2015 at 9:23 am

Farmer’s Market Shopping Guide

We created this guide a few years ago to help you maximize your farmer’s market shopping experience. We think it holds up pretty well, but we did go through and tidy things up, add a few new things, and otherwise parlay our experiences into your guidance.

Is there anything easier than visiting a farmer’s markets.  Everything looks good.  The sellers are passionate.  So passionate they may talk too much.  Samples abound.  Just bring money, right?

Maybe, but we still think we have several ways to make the most out of your market experience.

  • There are many ways to pay – The general rule for farmer’s markets used to be, bring cash, but you can get by without the green.  Many vendors now take credit cards.  Nearly all farmers will take a check, especially if you make a substantial purchase.  Ask.  In addition many vendors also take charge cards.  Some markets process the card payments, so even when a vendor can’t swipe with Square, your e-wallet can work.  Forgetting to go to the ATM is no longer a good excuse.
  • Survey the scene – Some of us buy from every farmer they see.  Most of us want a bit less.  Don’t buy at the first place you see.  Look around.  See who has what.  Why are prices different.  What varieties can you find.  Take a lap before buying.  Farmers love to chat.  Give yourself as much time as possible to work your market.
  • Know what’s in season – Menu plan for what you know will be around that week.  Don’t look for peaches in June and asparagus in August.  Know also the adage, what grows together goes together.  When you go shopping, think complimentary flavors and dishes.  You can stretch that expensive box of heirloom tomatoes by baking them with local plentiful summer squash.   Know also what local food looks like.  A good Michigan peach is much smaller than a supermarket peach.  Also, great local produce is not always as pristine as the grocery store versions.  Remember very much, what’s in season this year is not the same as what was in season last year.  Produce is like the Jewish holidays.  They’re either early or late.  Review the Local Beet for our regularly posted updates on What’s in Season Now for the most current and complete information on what you can find.

  • Wheel and deal – There is no more important piece of advice than this.  Farmer’s rarely want to bring anything home.  He or she that can make that offer for the rest of this, the remaining that, will get the best deal.  In almost all cases, the more you buy, the more you save.  It’s not the Casablanca souk.  You do not bargain down a bag of lettuce from 100 dollars to 50 cents, but as soon as you start buying more than a few of anything you can start wheelin’ and dealin’.
  • Bring your things – They’ll tell you to bring your own reusable market bags.  What about your reusable market containers.  Farmers will love if you can dump their berries or whatnot into your own container.  They’ll love you almost as much if you bring their containers back the next week so they can re-use them.
  • Take the yucky stuffAnother way to get a bargain, take it off their hands.  If you plan on baking or something, do you need pristine fruit.  Many farmers already label “seconds”.  If you don’t see such, ask.
  • Something else really important to ask, keepability.  Some apples will last you all year.  Some are soft by next Tuesday.  Ask.  Same goes for onions or potatoes.  Farmers will also give you good tips on how to store your purchases.
  • Another way to save money.  Did you rush in and buy the first tomatoes.  Grown indoors just for you.  And north of $4/lb too.  Or did you wait a bit for normal tomato season.  Bet you did not spend as much.  OK, that’s easy.  The other thing to think about is produce not something like several weeks (if not months) away, but something maybe just a week a way.  In other words, the first time something hits the market, it is often a lot more expensive than it will be when it has been around for a few weeks.  Get your peas next week.  Moreover, by the end of the season, an item may be even cheaper.  If you make strawberry jam, try to wait as long as possible to get the best price.
  • A complete eat local diet – Remember, farmer’s markets are not just for fruits and vegetables.  Around the Chicago area you can find pastured pork, grass-fed beef.  How ’bout spicy elk sticks, that too.  Butter, cheese, yogurt and more from the dairy aisles can be had.  Nuts for nuts, you can find ‘em local at the right time of year.  Each year, we’re seeing more stuff at markets, from great sauces to Chicago made tofu; markets are not just for produce.
  • Peak around - Looking for local eggs?  Many farmers bring eggs to the market without the necessary licenses.  They just might be willing to lend you a dozen or sell you the cartons.  Who knows what else you may find when you look deeper.
  • Find the bargain – Do you need the fanciest tomato.  Need potatoes, heirloom fingerlings?   Granted, those heirlooms are always worth the money, but sometimes something not quite as good is still pretty darn good.  Most of the slicers you find at half the price, will still hit the spot when they are farm fresh.  Remember that variety is good but you don’t always have to get the most expensive fruit or vegetable.  Save with the ordinary.
  • Use LINK – Do you know that many Chicago markets accept LINK.  In addition, LINK is accepted at suburban markets too, including Oak Park and Evanston.  There’s a chance that LINK will be accepted at your market, so ask. Better, several markets like Green City and Logan Square have programs to match LINK payments. In other words, LINK users can get much more when using their card. If you are a LINK user, find out from your market, the matching programs.
  • Time your market – There are a few things to think about when it comes to market timing.  First, what time does your market actually get going?  We know a few markets that start selling before their official start time.  When do you need to get there to get what you need.  Second, when do your farmers run out of food.  Just because your market closes at noon, means you can go shopping at 1145.  On the other hand, want to bargain as noted above, getting there late usually gives you the best chance.
  • A cooler couldn’t hurt – A few vegetables purchased, asparagus, sweet peas, can benefit from staying cool right away.  What if you want to buy meat, cheese, milk.  As we noted above, your market may offer more than fruit and veg.  Do you have a way to carry it home.
  • Make a friend – Like we say, you probably won’t buy from everyone.  And there’s a lot of good reasons to buy from one or two people.  Cultivate a relationship with a vendor you like by favoring them with your purchases.  In turn, you may get better deals and access to limited availability items.  They may even decide to grow something just because you asked.
  • Pay what it’s worth – We’ve given you several ideas for saving money, but know, at times, you have to pay what it’s worth.  Do you want organic?  Many markets give you choices between growing practices.  You have to expect to pay more for organic.  Want an early season tomato. Pay.  Interested in Illinois artichokes.  Pay.
  • Find the right market for you - A lot of people think we have too many markets in the Chicago area.  That may be true, but it surely means you have options. There’re all different.  Who sells what you want. Who grows the way you want.  What time works for you.  In addition, there are all sorts of great markets within a short drive of Chicago.  All it takes is a little roamin’ to find all sorts of new things. Still looking? Know that there are all sorts of virtual farmer’s markets in and around Chicago. Use our sponsor’s Fresh Picks to zero in on your needs or visit any of these stores for local stuff. And in the summer, local is everywhere. Scan the ads, you will be surprised how much local produce shows up in area grocery stores from Aldi to Whole Foods.
  • Use your senses – Who has the best cherries at your market.  Figure it out. No one’s gonna call the cops if you pinch one cherry.  Moreover, most farmer’s will offer you samples when asked.  Also, taste with all your senses.  Does it smell like you want to buy it.  Feel ripe (within reason!).  This is one of the reasons we’re not shopping at Trader Joe’s with all the stuff guarded by plastic.
  • Use social media – Friend of Beet, KennyZ finds virtue in early rising. He’ll probably give his Twitter opinion on the markets while you’re still in your pajamas. See what he and other people have to say on social media before heading out.
  • Know you need it – Write your market shopping list in pencil so you can erase and adjust.  No basil for your pesto recipe.  Maybe arugula (rocket) will do.
  • Know you don’t need it – One of the greatest joys of market shopping is returning home with all you did not need.  Why not to wreck up a cardoon.  Maybe this is the year to make damson plum jam.  Won’t know if you love lovage until you try it.

Please share your own market tips with us.




Grow Rhubarb!

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Posted: April 30, 2015 at 8:45 am

Rhubarb is an easy to grow perennial that grows the best where the weather is cool for part of the year. It is one of the first crops that come up in the spring and is commonly baked into pies and other sweet dishes that need some tartness, such as muffins. Rhubarb has also been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times and the name “rhubarb” comes from the Latin rha barbarum, “Rha” being the ancient name for the VolgaRiver in Russia where the plant was native, and “Barbarum” denoting the people of the area whom the Romans considered barbarians.

 

Rhubarb Plant  Photo: Purdue University

Rhubarb Plant
Photo: Purdue University

 

Rhubarb is generally used as a fruit in dessert dishes but rhubarb has a savory side and can be used in sauces for meats and in braising. In fact, in 1947 a New York court stated that since rhubarb is used primarily in the way a fruit is used, it is therefore a fruit. Obviously the part of the rhubarb plant in question, the part used for culinary purposes, the leaf stalk, is within the bounds of the vegetative part of the plant. The fruit of the rhubarb is a sort of winged seed that grows on a stalk after the plant flowers. There are in many ways to cook rhubarb though and its versatility should be explored.

Rhubarb  Photo: Purdue University

Rhubarb
Photo: Purdue University

The cultivation of rhubarb involves planting the roots that have been divided from a parent plant. You can find rhubarb roots at most garden centers or you could just plant roots that a friend dug up for you from their own stock. The rootstock should be dug so that there are plenty of roots on the plant to help it get started. Rhubarb seeds will grow if planted but this is not a great way to start the plants as the seeds will probably not come back true to the parent plant. Seed propagation of rhubarb will more than likely result in stunted plants or plants with stalks that are stringy and flavorless.

 

The plants should be planted in a hole approximately the size of a five gallon bucket and the hole should be filled with a good mix of compost, soil and organic matter. The plants should be spaced 24 to 48 inches apart in rows 36 inches apart. The beds that the rhubarb is grown in should be slightly raised to provide for good drainage. Mulching the plants with compost or straw will keep weeds down and will ultimately feed the plants as well.

It will take a few years for the rhubarb plants to mature enough for any significant harvesting. Rhubarb will produce for years after it is established but it should be dug around every 5 years or so to trim the number of buds. This will help keep the plants vigorous and you can also separate the plants at this time to produce more rhubarb plants. One thing to keep in mind about rhubarb is that only the stalks are edible. The leaves contain large amounts of oxalic acid that can damage the kidneys and are toxic.

Rhubarb Stalks Photo: University of Minnesota Extension

Rhubarb Stalks
Photo: University of Minnesota Extension

Rhubarb is also somewhat decorative and can be used to border a garden or can be grown in other spots in the yard to fill in a blank space. Rhubarb has many uses beyond the traditional dessert and will produce for years. It is a great addition to any garden.

 

http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/growing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb

http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fjprw/downloads/5597.pdf




Heritage Breed Pigs and Farmers Ruled at Cochon 555 Sunday

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Posted: April 28, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Heritage Breeds CochonFoundNicoleLeftoversCochon

It was all about the pig on Sunday at the 7th Annual Cochon 555, held at Morgan Manufacturing, celebrating heritage breed pigs.

The series of hyper-local events support education, awareness and growth of family farms raising heritage breed pigs. Since its launch in 2009, Cochon 555 and its programs, such as Chef’s Course, have created a responsive movement nationwide with people who care about local food made by honest people. The tour has invested over 1 million in farms, culinary schools and charities across the country and they are only getting started. For more information about the cause, visit www.cochon555.com or follow the conversation @cochon555 on Twitter.

The event Sunday, was a competition among 5 chefs utilizing a heritage pig as many ways as they could think and accompanied by wine from Washington State wines, St Francis winery Sonoma and other beverages like Whistle Pig whisky (yes, I appreciate the rather appropriate name), a mezcal chupito bar(which ended up being the perfect after pork drink) and many other options.  It was fun to see Farmer LouisJohn Slagel and his wife Leslie (they have a farm dinner coming up 5/23 with Nico Osteria) in the crowd and Ben the butcher from behind the counter at Publican Quality Meats. As much as the event was a pork and wine gorge-fest, the organizers through out the evening emphasized the relationship of farmer to animal to chef to plate on the table and what that means. Rob Levitt of Butcher and Larder held a pop-up butcher shop, the meat was then auctioned off for charity. The competition of King/Queen of pork was a tough one! This year’s competing chefs included Nathan Sears of The Radler, John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina, Chris Marchino of Spiaggia Restaurant & Lounge and Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski of TÊTE Charcuterie alongside the winner Nicole Pederson of Found Kitchen.

Chef Nicole won the event with a rare, but well-known breed of pig called the Hereford raised by Catalpa Grove. This breed originates from the U.S. beginning in the 1920’s and yields rich colored, marbled meat, which provided Chef Nicole ideal flavor for her winning menu of six uniquely created delicious bites. Dishes included Pork Au Feu Et Cou Farci, Pickled Pig Part Pani Puri Poppers( which were absolutely outstanding), Pork Loin Salad, Pork Belly Huaraches, Eastern Thai Style Rice Sausage(pictured above or at least what was left once she put out the plate) and a Smoked Lard Candy Bar (another standout for Nicole). Some of the crew of Found had returned from a trip to India so peacock feathers, papadum and spices were part of the mix on their table. Nicole will now move onto the finals at Aspen/Snowmass.

DasRadlerRadlerWineSepiaCochon

Every time I taste Chef Nathan Sears food, I love it and his plates at Cochon 555 reminded me that I need to get into the Radler soon!! It was fun to have the wine tables integrated among the chef tables because it made it easy to experiment with the different wine styles to create your own food pairings. Chef Andrew Zimmerman was plating beef tartar at his Tartar Bar. He and his crew made it look so easy despite the hoards of people in line waiting to try some. Each plate was beautiful. Each year this event gets more action packed so that there is always something new no matter what time you arrive. Whether you made it to Cochon 555 or you didn’t, the brand and concept continue to expand with more events, big and small, focusing on chefs and the farmer and their message of supporting the farmer and heritage breeds. The finals will take place in Aspen/Snowmass at The Grand Cochon 6/20/15 and stay tuned! They will be back in Chicago for their Heritage BBQ event on 9/6/15.




We Get Some Pretty Cool Sponsors – Welcome Aboard Elizabeth Restaurant

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Posted: April 27, 2015 at 11:41 am

Exploratory Cuisine

elizabeth

We cannot say that every cool restaurant in the Chicago area is a Local Beet sponsor, but we can easily say that all our sponsors are extraordinarily cool restaurants. We became enamored with Vie and Paul Virant when we learned of his pantry of put-away products. Chef Mendez engaged us at Carnivale and showed off his eat local bona fides long before he and his wife opened Vera. When we cemented a Beet sponsorship deal for Vera with pour-over coffee, he mentioned how he tried to keep local food on his menu year round, “people always like beets.” This is the kind of crowd that Iliana Regan and Elizabeth fit. With pride, we welcome this totally cool place into our sponsor roster.

What’s cooler than a place that serves not just deer heart but Indiana deer heart? How about a Game of Throne’s themed season–try that Next? Yes, Elizabeth has gone beyond the Wall to bring a menu of game, guts and off-cuts, something Tyrion would relish without needing so many jugs of wine. So, now your heart is raw; your sweetbreads in a medieval sweet and sour, and your rabbit of the vale stuffed into pasta. Comfort food? Elizabeth is not cool for letting you be. Rather, Elizabeth is cool because it is so comfortable being itself. It was recently honored on LTHForum as a “Great Neighborhood Restaurant” (sitting alongside Red Hot Ranch and Kogi Korean BBQ gives you another sense of where this place stands*). One of the most esteemed posters on LTH, Ron “Ronnie Suburban” Kaplan, summed its character:

What happens on the plates (and stones and inside the test tubes and atop the patches of grass, etc.) at Elizabeth makes it one of the most distinctive places – if not the most distinctive place — in Chicagoland. The stories behind the food are important and clearly reflect Chef Regan’s personal journey and philosophy. They are not just random gimmicks but vignettes; almost like pages from her diary communicated in culinary form. She cares immensely about what she’s doing and she puts herself out there in a way that many other chefs would never even think to

Needless to say, like Virant at Vie and Mendez at Vera, Chef Regan relies on the full range of local ingredients to craft a menu that is tied to place no matter how or where it roams. Like our other sponsors, Elizabeth makes use of four seasons worth of food, preserving, storing, and foraging to ensure adherence to their mission. We want you to continue to fully support Vie and Vera. Those places can qualify as treats, special occasion spots, but they can also both serve as regular dining. The brunch tortilla at Vera or Vie’s burger could be a weekly option. Would you want to eat at Elizabeth weekly? The intensity and innovation may be lost if you poke and peek too often. On the other hand, the menu changes seasonally, and you need to see how she approaches things each time. It won’t be the same. We have quite some sponsors, eh?

*Pure coincidence, but all three of our restaurant sponsors are LTHForum GNR’s or Great Neighborhood Restaurants.




We Look to Our Friends for This Week’s Harvest of Eat Local Links

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Posted: April 24, 2015 at 10:23 am

And you think we’re joking about needing to eat local.  Very important read!

Friend of Beet, Beth Osmund, likes that more of us are liking organic foods.

Another Friend of Beet, Chad Rubell likes that some media is focusing on other food issues.

And shout outs to Friend of Beet and Beet Sponsor Vera, on being named one of the best Spanish restaurants in the US.

Our friends at Edible Chicago, via their Twitter feed, point us to this bar with a roof-top garden used for their cocktails.

One way we might get to be better friends with Mark Bittman is to read what he’s reading.

We should think of ourselves as our best friends, so we’ve included ourselves.  Here on the radio this week.

Finally, we always keep up with the news reported on by our friend at FamilyFarmed.




UPDATED! What’s In Season Is Newer, Where to Find It May Not Be in Chicago – Sponsored by Vera Chicago

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Posted: April 22, 2015 at 2:09 pm

UPDATED! – Do you know who lists farmer’s markets this time of year? Us. Anyone else? No, really anyone else. Any source? We’d love to crib. See, it’s hard this time of year. We know of markets because sometimes family members work there. We know of markets because they tell us, or we track ‘em down, often through social media. A day after making this list, we saw Kankakee Farmer’s Market on Facebook. Now, we have another place for you to find local food this week. Please tell us what else is out there, so we can share.

Asparagus Spotted

Vera-LOGO-Fpattern (1) (1)

Not a lot in the way of farmer’s markets this week–in Chicago at least, but it does not mean you cannot eat local.  Just look at some of the stuff our friends at Vera have on their menu now: wild Illinois ramps. spring onion, sorrel and green garlic from Green Acres in Indiana; beans from Three Sisters.  They also source their meat from area farms like Twin Oaks and TJ’s, eggs from Kinnikinnick, and butter from Nordic Creamery.  What are you doing?  See below for all you need.

Asparagus14

Are you over ramps?  Friend of Beet, Kelly Hewitt, noted on her social media accounts that she espied asparagus last week at Green City Market.  Is it time to forgo the old for what’s newly in season?

end of season

Those things may be here, but we never tire of onions, potatoes; hell, we still dig the fall carrots our friends (and sponsor) Tomato Mountain, has been bringing to markets.

Is this the week you start eating more local?  See below for what you should (could?) find about now, and shop these stores or the markets listed.

What’s In Season Now

ramps illiana

From the Ground

  • Green garlic
  • Watercress
  • Parsnips (over wintered)
  • Carrots (over wintered)
  • Various greens (over wintered)
  • Ramps
  • Asparagus

Indoor Crops/Hoop-House

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Sprouts
  • Sorrel
  • Mustard and similar greens
  • Kale
  • Herbs
  • Radishes

Storage Crops

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples
  • Squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Celery root
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Burdock root
  • Onions

Year round

  • Meats, poultry, lake fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cheese and other dairy
  • Mushrooms
  • Grains and breads
  • Preserved and jarred products

Where to Find Local Food

In addition to the following markets, there are several stores in the Chicago area that focus on selling local foods.

Northbrook

Many of the vendors of the Northbrook Farmer’s Market are getting a little spring-training with at Temple Beth El on Sunday April 26 from 9 AM to 1 PM.  Pastured raised meats, local, sustainably harvested fish, organic veggie burgers and more – 3610 Dundee

Frankfort

We’ve had many good trips to this edge of suburban market over the years.  Lots of vendors including our good friend Jimmy Harden.  Sunday April 26 from 10 AM to 2 PM – Downtown Frankfort (Kansas and Oak Streets)

Evanston

The FINAL Weekly winter market at the Evanston Ecology Center.  Big kudos to these guys for doing it every week since January.  Go and say thanks.  Show your support to the vendors who are bringing you local food year-round, including the Condiment Queen who will probably have spinach at carrots.   Saturday, April 25 from 9 AM to 1 PM, with a chance to catch the Condiment Queen selling - 2024 N McCormick Blvd

Geneva

Community Winter Market on  Saturday, April 25 from 9 AM to 1 PM - 327 Hamilton

Grayslake

About the earliest market to go outdoor each year in the Chicago area, the Grayslake Farmer’s Market is Saturday April 25 from 10 AM to 2 PM – Downtown Grayslake on Center Street

 Naperville

We love all farmer’s markets, even the “French” ones.  Can’t say we did not warn you, but we also think you may find a thing or two of interest at the Naperville French Market.  Saturday April 25 from 8AM to 2PM – Main Street & Liberty Drive

Kankakee – NEW!

We’ve never been to this market, but the list of vendors is long on their Facebook page.  Downtown Kankakee also features a classic small town courthouse.  Worth checking out on Saturday April 25 from 8 AM to Noon – Corner of Schuyler Ave. and Merchant

Not satisfied with what’s around here.  The Madison Farmer’s Market is going strong on April 25.   We follow the Decatur Farmer’s Market on twitter and have always wanted to go.  Seems like a good one to visit.

  If you know of any other farmer’s markets in the Chicago area, please let us know

. What's In Season and Where to Find It - Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago

What’s In Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago


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With Earth Day A-Comin’, Why Not Commit to Eating Local

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Posted: April 20, 2015 at 3:37 pm

It’s Time

Asparagus Photo: Organic Gardening

Asparagus
Photo: Organic Gardening

This Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day. On Earth Day, I have the privilege of sitting in on WBEZ’s Morning Shift (sometime between 9 AM and 10 AM) to brainstorm with my friend, Monica Eng, and host, Tony Sarabia, on ways to live more sustainably. Until Earth Day, I have the privilege of this web space, where I want to encourage you to make one of the most significant and satisfying changes to your lifestyle. Starting Earth Day 2015, become a locavore. From Wednesday all the way until Earth Day 2016, try to eat as much of your food from local sources. After a year, if you like it, keep on going.

I can think of four good reason off the top of my head for you to eat local:

  1. It’s more eco-friendly
  2. It tastes better
  3. It builds community and a prosperous area economy
  4. There is reward and meaning to eating with the seasons and eating with a sense of place.

I would be happy to expand on any of these, and perhaps over the next several days, I will.  I am sure on Wednesday, on air, I will go off a bit on these, especially on reason one.  Thing is, you do not need to buy into all the reasons to commit to eating local, nor do you even need to ascribe to any of those reasons.  When I started this path, it was mostly because I loved buying at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market.  I said back then in interviews, that it was my hobby.  Here’s the thing, the more I did it, the less it became a hobby, and for better or worse, the more it became a cause.  You do not need proselytize like me, but it would not surprise me that the more you do it, the more reasons you’ll find for eating local.

I’m telling you to start on Earth Day for a reason.  It’s Earth Day and a reason to pay a little more heed to how you do things and how you affect things.  I’m also telling you to start now because it’s a reasonable time to start eating local.  What if I told you to do this a month ago.  Would you want your first fully locavore meal to be sprouts n’ eggs?   It’s, how shall I say, a little more satisfying? enjoyable? to eat local now.  Look what’s out there now.  Friend of Beet, Kelly Hewitt reported that she found asparagus at Green City Market the other day.  Beet Sponsor Vera Chicago features spring onions, sorrel, and green garlic, from Green Acres Farms, amongst other local things on their current menu.  Cassie showed on Facebook  the local ramps and morels she had in stock at Green Grocer Chicago.  My Tomato Mountain CSA promises me French breakfast radishes this week.  Our pals Irv and Shelly can even hook you up with a great deal on local blue potatoes this week on Fresh Picks.  All of this stuff will hook you to the pleasures of eating local.

So, kick off your enterprise with these early risers.  For instance, green garlic makes an outstanding pasta, as you get, like, both garlic for base and a herb to garnish as you use the whole plant.  Move into asparagus, which can be enjoyed 50 ways to Sunday–which my wife once made us try to do.  Before you know it, the markets will start filling in with more fun things to eat.  Sugar snaps and salad turnips, yielding to summer squash, eggplants, and way after you’re ready, those real, actual tomatoes.   You’ll have to wait just a tad longer for the first local fruits of the season, but an red on the inside strawberry will be a revelation.  The fruit season moves to cherries, berries, and peaches around the same time as the vegetables get to the tomatoes.  Fall brings the most robust of markets.  Peppers in all colors, melons, and all the other things that took time to prosper, yet with them will come all the fruits and vegetables of the late season, potatoes, onions, hard squash, beans.  There will be second crops of berries and more types of apples than you ever imagined.  As the days get shorter, the supplies diminish.  Eventually, your local produce will consist of storage crops and indoor grown crops.  It will also be what you put away.  It will be plenty good.  Commit to that whole year of eating local, so you always think not just what to eat today but what will I eat later.  Pickle some of those ramps you find.  Make strawberry jam.  Vegetables like peas, corn, and beans freeze very well.  Your diet come January does not have to be drab.   You will be so far a long, you won’t mind at all.

There is always local meat, dairy, eggs, grains to fill your diet.  No one says you need to eat everything local to be a locavore.  When we started as a local family, we did not get all of our meat from local sources because it seem so expensive.  We later learned to solve that by buying in bulk and mostly be eating way less (to some of us no) meat.  Find what works for you, your budget, your lifestyle.  Know also that our clique accommodates all.  We will not shun you for cooking with olive oil, waking up with coffee or obtaining your regular dose of anti-oxidants from dark chocolate (we swear that’s why we eat it).   Work what you can into each meal.  As we said above, we bet the more you do it, the more you will be working in to your meals.

There are many things you can think about this Earth Day.  Many changes, both big and small you may hear us talk about Wednesday.  Take it all in.  Take a big, deep breath, and decide this is also the year you commit to eating local too.




Less Than a Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links

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Posted: April 17, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Two Times the Reading This Week

 

This Indiana gem makes a nice road trip.

More good things to read from the Good Food Festival.

Great to see Friends of Beet Jim Slama and Melissa Graham included in this collection.

Wanna know why we envy the eat local culture in Wisconsin?

All the serious news we would never find on our own.

Farmer’s markets to the rescue?

How we may come to view the Rust Belt.

Grists says, “If we want to understand how and why our agriculture system is the way it is, we’d be wise to approach all farmers with an open mind.”




It’s Only in Season if Its Local

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Posted: April 16, 2015 at 11:05 am

That Thing Touched Upon But Not Yet Mentioned

Photo: Spurgeon Veggies - East Galesburg, Illinois

Photo: Spurgeon Veggies – East Galesburg, Illinois

Let me start by saying, I was on this kick before Bruce Sherman talked to MikeG over at the Reader. I started complaining about how Spring would be treated on April 6. The Reader piece where Sherman states, “as long as I’ve been here at North Pond, it’s always been seasonal first, local second,” came out on April 8. And I’ve been making these arguments for years e.g. here. I’ve tried not to make it personal. A few years ago I said:

Listen, I’m not going to name names here. There are too many chefs that I wholly respect. Too many chefs that do so much already for our eat local scene. I’m not going to blame anyone specifically. Still, there’s too many folks out there who work so hard to rely on locally-focused menus, even in Winter, that just cheat this time of year. Even something like ramps, they’ll jump ahead and get from some other part of the country.

Bruce Sherman would fall into that category. He is surely helped Chicago diners understand that there was no table with out the farm leading to it. He showcased area farms, and he showcased the usefulness and of area produce. He and Rick Bayless especially gave people a purpose to go to farmer’s markets. The whole eat local movement followed from there. So, how can you say that. Something can not be in season if it is not local. After all, something is always in season somewhere. Are grapes in season now? Cherries? Blueberries?

MikeG saw the problem and asked, “if you can get anything from around the world now, any time of year, how do you decide what’s close enough to be seasonal?” Sherman responded that “in season within the fifty states.” He said that, but I do not really think he meant that. For instance, is he including Hawaii? What’s in season there now? Area grocery stores have this rash of Florida produce now, and I’m not talking honeybell tangerines. I mean blueberries, and tomatoes, and sweet corn. Should we group them on our seasonal menu? What Chef Sherman, intends, I believe, is that he follows a pre-determined path of seasonality. One where it is assumed that asparagus and peas go on April menus and we wait until July or August to use those corn and tomatoes regardless of where or when we find them in the 50 nifty United States. That’s the way it is done.

Why does it have to be done this way? Why, really you ask, does it bother me so. Why do I get so worked up each Spring. Put it this way, would North Pond put asparagus on their menu if not one wanted to eat it? Actually, I think that’s a poor argument because as any grocery store from Jewel to Whole Food can show you, people want to have asparagus no matter when or how you define its season. Still, the argument would go, that people expect it now, and more importantly, they don’t want anything else now. In other words, I’ll dangle heirloom tomatoes at you in August to make you forget you still want asparagus. Why cannot I live with that?

I could tell you that we have enough around now to make due. I have, and will continue to, document what I’m finding in April. I can also argue that if we believe in eating local, we should always believe in eating local, not in eating local with a special Spring dispensation. I do understand, however, that no one needs to give themselves over to absolute locavorism. I understand we always want and need things from elsewhere. It’s Spring time that gets me mad, and I’ll tell you why.

When chefs punt come April it drags the eat local system. In the Reader piece, Chef Sherman talked about convincing farmers too grow green garlic (farmers always had green garlic, he means harvest garlic when it’s green). Well, how can we convince them to work their hoop-houses for more frost-kissed spinach? Over-winter their parsnips so they are sweeter than in the Autumn. We cannot if the chefs are looking elsewhere in the Spring. That’s not even my biggest rub. I want to seasonally detox with nettles. I want to see the ramp fad extend. I don’t necessarily want to pay the price for morels but I want someone else to. As I mentioned the other day, we are very limited in a certain type of Spring crop because of the way our markets are organized, and because there are so few Spring markets. I want to break the system of false seasonality and fill it with foragers and robust Spring markets. My friends over at the Band of Farmers talk about greater penetration CSAs have in Madison compared to the Chicago area. What about the greater presence that market has in April compared to anything we have in the Chicago area. There’s so much to mimic from up there, including how they allow foragers and farmers to only show up to a few sessions. Can we try?

Let’s try to live within what is in season when it is in season. I would argue that are more fully rewarded. We wait in anticipation for our birthday and celebrate then. Would it feel as good if we jumped the gun a few weeks because we were tired of watching others have their birthdays? Let things have their time. And I, for one at least, believe that things like asparagus only reveal themselves when they are local. In a recent article, a California asparagus farmer talked about all the things he needed to do because, “freshness is paramount when it comes to asparagus quality,” and he implied that others did not do it that way.  So, why not just get the local?  Harold McGee has been oft quoted about preferring frozen peas over “unpredictable fresh peas,” as peas are another crop that does not last well after picking. If things really go my way, we would also be rewarded with things we hardly know now. What will be the new ramp?


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Old and New – What’s In Season Now and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera Chicago

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Posted: April 15, 2015 at 2:09 pm

It’s Sorrel Season

Vera-LOGO-Fpattern (1) (1)

You may hear that locally, all there is is baby greens from some greenhouses. We know there is much more to the bounty of April. First of all, we’ve already had reports of local ramps. Second, we know beyond the ramps this is the season for some other interesting items. Have you tried sorrel?

sorrel etc

Sorrel may be the most sour thing that grows locally. Biting into a sorrel leaf is not too dissimilar that biting into a lemon, except for the weird thing of not biting into a lemon and biting into a leaf not a citrus fruit. Our market scouts tell us that there is both full grown and micro-sorrel in the markets. Sorrel is often used for sauces and soups as it near disintegrates about a minute after you put it in a pan, actually more like turns into a gray blob. So often cooks want its essence more than anything. Like I say it’s the epitome of Spring, bright and sharp and sassy. Don’t miss this in-season delicacy for the asparagus not local.

end of season

There’s still plenty of old to pick through at markets too, and we never get bored. Last week, we bought red potatoes, as in red on the inside, for the first time this potato season.

Visit any of these stores that focus on local food, you should find something, maybe some spinach or other green.  See below for what’s in season and where to find it.  Choose to eat local.

What’s In Season Now

From the Ground

  • Green garlic
  • Watercress
  • Parsnips (over wintered)
  • Carrots (over wintered)
  • Various greens (over wintered)
  • Ramps

Indoor Crops

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Sprouts
  • Sorrel
  • Mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Herb

Storage Crops

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples
  • Squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Celery root
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Burdock root
  • Onions

Year round

  • Meats, poultry, lake fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cheese and other dairy
  • Mushrooms
  • Grains and breads
  • Preserved and jarred products

Where to Find Local Food

In addition to the following markets, there are several stores in the Chicago area that focus on selling local foods.

Chicago

Do you know that Green City Market matches LINK card purchases up to $15?  Just another reason we love this market, for the last time (for a while) indoors at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Center Saturday April 18 from 7 AM to 1 PM – 2430 N. Cannon

The Pilsen Community Market is also having their last indoor market this season on Sunday April 19 from 11 AM to 330 PM – 1213 W. 18th

The last Portage Park Indoor Farmer’s Market of the season on Sunday April 19 from 10 AM to 2 PM - 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave

Don’t let the arts and crafts fool you, the Hyde Park Artisan Bazaar and Farmer’s Market is plenty farmer’s market.  Expect some good Spring haul from Growing Power this Sunday April 19 from 10 AM to 3 PM – 5311 S. Lake Park

Evanston

Weekly winter market at the Evanston Ecology Center still a-goin’ on Saturday, April 18 from 9 AM to 1 PM, with a chance to catch the Condiment Queen selling - 2024 N McCormick Blvd

Geneva

Community Winter Market on  Saturday, April 18 from 9 AM to 1 PM - 327 Hamilton

Grayslake

About the earliest market to go outdoor each year in the Chicago area, the Grayslake Farmer’s Market is Saturday April 18 from 10 AM to 2 PM – Downtown Grayslake on Center Street

 Not satisfied with what’s around here.  The Madison Farmer’s Market goes outdoors on April 18, and that mass of people will really put to rest any idea that there’s nothing in season now.  We follow the Decatur Farmer’s Market on twitter and have always wanted to go.  Seems like a good one to visit.

  If you know of any other farmer’s markets in the Chicago area, please let us know

. What's In Season and Where to Find It - Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago

What’s In Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera 1023 W. Lake, Chicago




Welcome Back – A Long Standing Relationship with Our Sponsor Paul Virant and His Restaurants

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Posted: April 13, 2015 at 5:05 pm

We Are Honored

vie logo

I can still remember the moment. It was over ten years ago, at the first of what’s become an annual affair, Joan’s Sandwich Party. There, around her dining room table, I was introducing some of the attendees to this idea fermenting in my head, “eat local”, although I don’t think I called it that. It was more about going back in time, eating as if grapes were not flown in from Chile and no one ate asparagus until we should. One of the guys there told me about a restaurant he knew in the suburbs where the chef was doing what I was talking about. This guy, Paul Virant, had a closet full of fruits and vegetables he had put up. He too believed in the long game. Not too much after that party, I managed to tag along with a writer for a small piece he was doing on suburban restaurants. After the dinner, I managed to coral Chef Virant and ask about the mystery room. He gladly showed us his pickles, agro-deaux’s, and the rest of his nascent Preservation Kitchen. Since that initial visit, I’ve been to Vie many times. When my daughter got the news she no longer had to wear her back brace, we celebrated at Vie. In turn, we were delighted to celebrate with them, their 10th anniversary. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few peeks behind the scenes there, including watching Paul and one of his staff butcher a cow. He’s been a huge fan of the Local Beet since its inception. When we started taking sponsors a while back, he stepped up and hosted the Local Calendar for a bit. He and Vie are back as sponsors, and we could not be more honored.

We could tell you to go to Vie to see what they are doing with the seasonal bounty, to see how they can expand our perceptions–Indiana shrimp anyone, see how they work the various preserved elements into their dishes; hell, we can even tell you if you’ve never had the gooey butter cake, in memory of Chef Virant’s hometown of St. Louis, go to Vie just for that. But we won’t do any of those things. Rather, we have a really good reason to get there. It’s off the train tracks. OK, besides those dishes, the house-made charcuterie, the crispy fermented brussels sprouts, yes, fried giardinara; Vie pours outstanding cocktails. The Condiment Queen always gets one, and I always want like four. Except I have to drive home (see she likes the wine pairings too). Why not take the train. Vie is only a few blocks from the Western Springs Metra station. Go for it.

Stumbling into a train car might be a great way to deal with some of Vie’s special events. I remember a few years back, they had a dinner with North Shore Distillery. After looking (with envy) at the program, I wondered how my constitution could ever handle such things. If you want too try, there is a wine dinner coming up there in a few days, “tour de france” wine dinner with michael corso selections” is on April 16. It’s a fun menu with the kind of stuff Virant pulls out like pheasant and rabbit terrine. He’s finishing with one of my favorite local cheeses, Dunbarton blue by Roelli.

Train, plane, car, heels, we advise seeing what they are doing at Vie now. What they will be doing soon will be entirely different. That’s they way they do it. Seeing what’s in the Midwestern bounty, putting some away for later, figuring out what to do with the rest now. Before ever going there, meeting Paul, we liked their approach. We’re glad to still have them around, and especially glad to have them as one of our sponsors.


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The Not Quite Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links

By
Posted: April 13, 2015 at 9:03 am

 

How does he appeal to you?

What Bittman reads.

When CNBC gets behind local food, you know it’s moving.

Meet the Good Food Accelerators.

Freshness is paramount when it comes to asparagus quality.  Very good article on asparagus farming.  Makes you wonder why some choose to avoid local in the name of seasonal, huh?

How many types of apples do you eat each season?

Wisconsin cheese must be highly pleasing?  How well do you know the laws that control your local cheese?

What passes for midwestern food in the Big Apple.




The Local Calendar 4/10/15 AUA Spring Gathering, 100Watts!, Pastoral Producer Festival, Cochon 555, GCM Outdoor 5/2, Morel Mania Friday, April 10th, 2015
Feeling Fruity Friday, April 10th, 2015
Carosello Barese – The Italian Cucumber/Melon Story Thursday, April 9th, 2015
UPDATED! – We Won’t Be Having This Conversation Next Spring – Local Foods Coming Soon Thursday, April 9th, 2015
You Can Find What’s In Season Now Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
“A loss for the whole community” Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
This is Not Your Parent’s Spring Season Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Irv and Shelly Have What’s In Season Now Monday, April 6th, 2015
Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links Friday, April 3rd, 2015
For Local Food We Go to Wisconsin to Woodman’s Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
The Return of the Local Kid, Now With Newsletter Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
This is NOT Your Momma’s Bread of Affliction Thursday, April 2nd, 2015