What’s in Season Now (Salad) and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera Chicago Restaurant

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Posted: March 25, 2015 at 10:49 am

Pay Your Regards to Some Final Winter Markets

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At least with snow on the ground as I write this, I can safely call them winter markets.  This weekend marks the end of the winter run of the Logan Square Farmer’s Market and also the end of the roving Faith in Place Winter Farmer’s Markets.  While we hope we will no longer write snow and farmer’s markets in the same paragraph for a while, we do note that there will be indoor markets in April such as Green City, Glenwood and Woodstock, and soon some outdoor markets will open.  Now is primo season for lettuce.  Make salad.  See below for what ‘s in seaason and where to find it.

What’s in Season

Besides lettuce, hoop’s are producing arugula, spinach, and other early greens. We’ve seen tiny mustard and kale leaves at markets. In addition to this week’s snow, winter lingers in the form of potatoes, apples, onions and the last roots no one else wants–that’s also known as celery root. With some luck, you will find the following products now.

From the Ground

  • Green garlic
  • Watercress
  • Onion tops/shoots
  • Parsnips (overwintered)
  • Carrots (overwintered)
  • Various greens (overwintered)

Indoor Crops

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Sprouts
  • Other greens like mustard and kale

Storage Crops

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples
  • Squash
  • 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

It’s been a great run.  Final indoor market Sunday, March 29 from 10 AM to 3 PM for the Logan Square Farmer’s Market - 2755 N. Milwaukee Av

Oak Park

You won’t find the Cook Book Addict selling Tomato Mountain jarred goods and produce in Evanston this week because she will be at the Faith in Place Winter Market at Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church instead - Saturday March 28 from 9 AM to 1 PM – 405 S. Euclid

Evanston

Weekly winter market at the Evanston Ecology Center on Saturday, March 28 from 9 AM to 1 PM, without the chance to catch the Condiment Queen selling - 2024 N McCormick Blvd


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How to Brag About (Green) Salad

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Posted: March 25, 2015 at 10:44 am

Eating is an Agricultural Act

When you eat locally, seasonally, you gain a new (different?) perspective and appreciation for Wendell Berry’s most famous quote. For instance, you learn how closely religious rites and restrictions are tied to the earthly balance. There were very good reasons to avoid butter and eggs at the end of winter, and very good reasons to feature them so abundantly on the Easter table. On a more mundane front, seeking local foods has taught me a lot about what really grows when. I know that lettuces thrives best in cool weather, and I know that at this time of year, area hoop-houses put out some delicious greens. I relish making green salads now, not the least because I am very good at making green salads.

Do you brag about your salad making prowess. Do you actually make great salad? A great green salad is both easy and complex. You cannot achieve greatness if you dump a bag of greens and toss with Kraft Catalina. In fact, you will turn off you kids from wanting to be a local family that way. Yet, if you follow the steps laid out below, you too can make a great green salad.

Step 1

Good dirt makes for great salad only until harvest. Once the lettuce is cut from the ground, we do not need to taste the soil. Washing lettuce is vital. Drying lettuce more so. Wet salad tastes wet, that is flaccid and weak.  More importantly, you cannot properly dress a wet salad as the water fights off the dressing (you know all that oil and water not mixing thing).  A salad spinner works well IF you do not over-fill it. The best thing I can tell you is plan ahead. If you wash and dry your lettuce earlier than your meal, you can let it air dry as well.

Step 2

You need a big enough bowl.  This may be my best lesson to you.  The thing that matters most to me.  You want to make your salad in a bowl bigger than you think.  By having a big bowl, you can toss your salad well.  This gets the dressing everywhere, and it integrates whatever other ingredients you use.

Step 3

Lettuce loves company. Don’t get ahead of yourself. The point of a green salad is the green, i.e., the lettuce, the point of eating local is the ability to find lettuce that tastes a lot better than lettuce you’ve had, and the point of eating seasonally is to have that lettuce at its best moment. Step 3, find some good lettuce, but don’t present it alone. Take the Greeks. The classic “Greek salad” or “Village salad” is one of onions, cucumbers, and especially tomatoes. Even Greece, however, does not have tomatoes year-round. This time of year, they eat a lot of lettuce salads, and they are invariably complemented with scallions and a few sharp herbs like borage or dill. Just enough to push up the flavors; not enough to over-power the leaves.   As my picture above kinda shows, I like to use radishes as the side to the salad.  They add color, bite and crunch.  Find something to go with your greens.

Step 4

Don’t you love Thai salads.  Thai salads are expressions of sweet, salty, and spicy on one plate, emphasis on the spicy.  I am telling you, there is nothing that will improve your salad more than the inclusion of a fiery element.  You can do this several ways.  Add drops of bottled hot sauce to your dressing or strong mustard.  Do as the Thai’s (or the Koreans) and sprinkle dried chili all over your salad–these are good alternatives when fresh peppers are out of season.  Related, a pickled element serves about the same purpose, waking up the palate at various bites.  Using pickled peppers, as I did above, serves both purposes.

Step 5

You must season your salad.  Salt goes on the lettuce not just in the dressing.  It makes all the difference in what you taste, as the salt brings out all the flavors and nuances of your lettuce.  As noted above with the Thai’s, don’t be afraid to push your saline limits.  This is as good a time as any to tell you that fish sauce, worstershire sauce, and anchovies are all excellent inclusions in green salads.

Must and should, think also about adding what you should, other seasonings to your salads.  The Greeks have to include dried oregano in any salad, and they’re on to something there.  I also very much like to include slices of fresh garlic.  The salad above had garlic and dried oregano for that red-sauce joint flavor.

 Step 6

You cannot screw up the dressing.  For one thing, if you’re nervous or inexperienced you can create dressing in a glass jar.  When you add your oil and vinegar, they will nicely line up so you can see their ratio’s. See what works for you.  Traditional French vinegrettes went up to 4:1 oil to vinegar; modern takes tend to even things out a bit more.  After a few tries, you will know how much oil and vinegar to use not matter how much dressing you make just by seeing where the line stands between oil and acid in your jar.  Then, seal your jar and shake hard.  Your dressing will emulsify and be ready to pour.

Or don’t.  Do you need to stick to the same ratio all the time.  Is it vital?  I will tell you firstly, that it’s hard to screw up if you mix the oil and vinegar free-hand into your bowl; secondly there’s a certain pleasure in having each round of salad taste a bit different.  Just remember to pour the vinegar first and it works without the emulsification.  I swear.  I go like, dab, dab, dab, with the vinegar and then like one or two good swirls of olive oil.

Here’s the thing however you do it, do it.  Yes this is about great local lettuce, but it also about great local salad.  Salad is the alchemy of lettuce, dressing and seasoning.  Dressing balances the flavors of lettuce.  This only happens when you use dressing.  Those chefs misting dressing, waving a jar of dressing near their salad in the same disdain some treat vermouth in a martini are wrong.  OK, don’t drench your greens, but be generous.  You will appreciate it.

 

Like a lot of cooking, things are easier than you think if you think things through.  Don’t just unload a bag of Costco greens on your family.  Seek out the real flavors of local greens.  Since it won’t be triple washed, do a good job yourself.  Add a few key ingredients.  Season.  Whip up your dressing.  Pour it on with gusto.  You too can brag about your salad making.


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Farmers market and local food grant-writing workshops planned

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Posted: March 24, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Unive

From a University of Illinois Extension press release:

URBANA, Ill. – Through the effort of Extension programs across the country, a series of farmers market and local food grant-writing workshops have been scheduled for three locations in Illinois during the month of April.

The Regional Rural Development Centers in cooperation with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) developed the workshop materials and resources focused on improving the funding success rate of applicants to USDA AMS grant programs, specifically the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP).

University of Illinois Extension is participating in this project and offers training programs to assist individuals and organizations in their efforts to secure AMS resources to further the provision of local foods.

The workshops will increase participants’ awareness of the program; increase the quality of applications while reducing time and effort needed to apply; and support those who have successfully applied.

Locations and dates for the workshops include:

•             April 8, Sangamon County Extension Office, 700 S. Airport Drive, Springfield

•             April 15, Jefferson County Extension Office, 4618 Broadway, Mt. Vernon

•             April 23, Lake County Extension Office, 100 South US Highway 45, Grayslake

Each workshop will run from 1 to 5 p.m. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. Register online at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/registration/?RegistrationID=11736.

For more information about the workshops, contact Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, cvnghgrn@illinois.edu or 217-782-4617. More information about the Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program is available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/fmpp

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Welcome to the Local Beet

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Posted: March 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Find Us, Follow Us, Subscribe to Us, Search Us

 

Photo by Jeannie Boutelle

Photo by Jeannie Boutelle

Over the past several days we’ve had the chance to meet many; some long time readers, quite a few who thought we were a co-op opening soon in Oak Park. We trust that both old friends and new have put their eyes on the site in recent days and recent weeks. We just published our most popular feature, the CSA Guide–and we put up this post with additional materials on the joys of CSA-ship. In recent days, we’ve re-posted a few more classics, Michael Morowitz’s Why Eat Local and Rob Gardner’s 18 Point Guide to Living the Local Life. Stick around.  Every week, we put up a post highlighting what’s in season and where to find it, the last Local Calendar was this post. We also post weekly, our “harvest” of eat local links, various things we’re finding around the Internet that you may also enjoy reading. The Local Family is an ongoing story of one surban family’s quest to eat as much of their food from local sources as possible. All sorts of items get put up covering the locavore life.  For instance, how about this little primer on onion growing.  We even have a Beet Reporter now in Spain. We know we’re not great on tags or laying out what’s been posted in the past, but we promise you there’s a long and robust backlog of useful, sometimes entertaining, posts. Poke around. Our search engine actually works very well. Welcome to the Local Beet.

In addition to just coming to the site, we have all sorts of ways to keep up with us and follow us. We’ve listed the main ways below. In addition to these ways to find out about us, we’re in the process of launching and email newsletter that you can subscribe to with this form.

RSS Feeds

The most effective way to stay on top of everything at The Local Beet is to subscribe to one of our RSS feeds.  Don’t know what RSS is?  Watch this video and then import one or more of these feeds:

RSS IconThe Full Feed

Every single feature, column, and blog post will appear in this feed.

RSS IconThe Blog

All posts from our official blog

RSS IconFeature Stories

Only featured stories

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Hoppin’ Around with Tom Keith

Stories from homebrewer and local beer-hunter, Tom Keith

Twitter

You can find us on Twitter in the following places:

Twitter IconThe Local Beet

Official site tweets
twitter.com/thelocalbeet

Twitter IconThe Local Family

Robert Gardner
twitter.com/localfamily

Twitter IconJeannie Boutelle

Local Beet Editor, Jeannie Boutelle
twitter.com/@JeannieBoutelle

Twitter IconThe Sustainable Cook

Melissa Graham
twitter.com/sustainablecook

Twitter IconHoppin’ Around with Tom Keith

twitter.com/nr706

Twitter IconOur Twitter lists of markets, farmers, artisans, locapours, etc.

Local Beet/lists

Facebook

Show your friends that you read and support The Local Beet on Facebook

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Best of Good Food Festival 2015

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Posted: March 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

Happy 11 Years

Unless you’re in Spinal Tap, do you pay attention to 11. But 11 was just as good a year as any for FamilyFarmed and the Good Food Festival. Friday we attended several sessions focused on food policy and the eat local food trade. On Friday night, we gathered for a lot of meatballs and each drank at least $100 worth of local booze (just price the stuff at Binny’s if you don’t believe me). Saturday, there were tons of products to try, lessons to learn, and people to meet. Based on our wanderings and tastings, we present our opinions of Best in Show 2015.

Best Locavore Product Now Easier Available

We have in our pantry, the remains of some chili sauce purchased from Savory Accents at the Madison (Dane County) Farmer’s Market.  We cannot resist something from them, made from locally grown hot peppers, every time we visit that market.  So, boy were we pleased to hear that starting this year, Savory Accents will also now sell their wares at Green City Market.  As a preview to what you can expect, we tasted about all their offerings on Saturday.  We are pleased to report that one product stood out, one product really fills a void in our locavore kitchen.   We’re talking abut their harissa paste.   They call it on their site, “no compromise.”  I guess that means heavyily cumin-ized, but with an intense, forward heat.  Already making recipes in my head; number one, as dressing for boiled carrots.

Best Good Idea Presented to my Wife a Few Weeks Ago and Then Re-Reminded to Me

We’ve covered Tim Magner and his promotion of growing healthy kids in the past on the Local Beet, but when he dropped off a post card for his Farm Camp with the Condiment Queen at the Evanston Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago, we  unjustly  did not make the connection.  Luckily, Tim stopped by our table on Saturday, reminding us of his good works and telling us of good works to come, namely Farm Camp, an exciting opportunity for kids to see the land and learn what’s support on it.  The camp will be lead by our region’s premier wild-ologist, Nancy Klehm.  We were supposed to write about this a few weeks ago.  We’re happy to do it now.

Best Non-Use of Vinegar

Some of the fermented products from the Brinery have been for sale at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market courtesy of the Undergroud Meat Collective.  We never sampled nor purchased.  That will probably change.  On Saturday, we sampled.  And we sampled, and then later in the day when we needed a little nosh, we pretended like we had not tried and went and sampled all of their samples again.  I am telling you this stuff is delicious, about as good as any fermented product I’ve ever sampled.  Grown and made in Michigan but sold in Chicago by Wisconsin sausage makers.

Best Reasons Why There are Certain Gaps in Our Local Food System

Years ago, when the City of Chicago ran a little shop on Randolph focusing on local foods, they asked us, did we have some ideas for local grains to add to their inventory.  We gave them the names of some mills in Indiana that did not quite meet their needs.  See, there’s definately some shortcomings when it comes to getting locally sourced grains and beans.  Today, it’s not as hard, there are options, but it remains a stilted portion of our foodshed.  We attended a panel on Friday on the issue, and we found out many of the reasons why.  Look forward to a post soon on this topic.

Best Food Served at Localicous by a Company with Sales Over $40 Million

We confess we are not without bias when it comes to Eli’s Cheesecake. The Local Beet has a long relationship with them, their farmer’s market and their yearly speaker series. We have several friends there up to their President, Marc Schulman. That does not mean that when we ate their cheesecake at Localicious on Friday, we did not find it equal to products put out by all the other talented chefs. Goood enougn that we ate two slices, with local honey and with salted caramel.  We loved so much at Localicious: Tom Leavitt’s sliders, Big Jone’s upscale take on delta tamales, Vera’s use of the underappreciated persimmon, but take special pride that a company as big as Eli’s can hold their own.

Photo by Bob Benenson

Photo by Bob Benenson

Best Politican Shorter Than the Rest

Way back in my college days, I did some work for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC. In said work, I met quite a few public officials, Paul Simon aside, my lasting memory of them was how tall the lot was. Flash forward all these years later, there in front of me was the heir to Senator Simon, recently re-elected Dick Durban. He’s not tall. Except he stands tall for good food, especially SNAP and the food stamp program. We were glad to have seen him.  Read more about Senator Durbin’s visit to the Good Food Festival here.

Best Use of Time

About half through it’s run of 11 years, Good Food Festival Founder and President, Jim Slama, asked us if we wanted a table. At first, we demurred, what do we need a table. Slama answered back, “people pay good money for them, I’m giving you one for free.” Not wanting to be schnorers, we said, of course, we’ll take a table. How could we ever not think it wasn’t a great idea. The best thing about the Festival is our ability to plant ourselves and engage with all who walk past. Of course, a lot of the people who stopped by our table were old friends. We also got the chance to meet new friends. New this year, we’re creating a newsletter to highlight items on our site. We happily collected many names for this newsletter. One lucky person has already won a jar of Tomato Mountain whole roasted tomatoes for putting in with us. For all the good things we tasted and learned, nothing is better at the Good Food Festival than the people who walk through its doors.

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Why Eat Local – RECYCLED

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Posted: March 19, 2015 at 10:45 am

Editor’s Note: Michael Morowitz originally contributed these reasons for eating local in August 2008.  Many years later, they sound pretty darn apt.  

I don’t eat locally for any one reason. There are a number of reasons that have a bearing on any local food decision that I make. First and foremost, I’m interested in food and I like to know a lot about where my food comes from. Below are five other reasons that might make sense to you. You might not agree with all of them, but I hope that one or two resonate with you:

Taste

First and foremost, what drew me to local, seasonal eating was simply taste. My passion for new and exciting flavors taught me that the closer something is to its original source and natural state, the more likely it is to have a better, stronger flavor. Of course, “better flavor” is a subjective notion, but I believe that there are few people who would argue with the taste difference between a fresh peach picked ripe from the tree and a peach that was picked underripe a week ago, and gassed during its 2000-mile journey to force ripening.

Global Environment

There are a number of studies and statistics on both sides of the question of the environmental impact of local eating. I don’t find it interesting or compelling to quote studies and statistics, but I do believe strongly that supporting local farmers, especially farmers using sustainable practices, lessens our impact on the environment.

Local Economy

Eating locally helps support local agriculture and local small businesses. Choosing to do business with our friends and neighbors helps keep a healthy and diverse local economy.

Diverse Culture

I find it depressing that you can enter a supermarket almost anywhere in the country and see the exact same produce shipped from the exact same places. Grapes from Chile, oranges from Australia (I even saw this in Florida!), berries from Mexico. I believe that what we eat defines a large part of our culture. When we homogenize our diets from Maine to California we’re degrading what makes our cities and states interesting and enjoyable places to live.

Food Safety

When you know exactly where your food comes from, it’s much easier to find the source of a problem. Multi-state large-scale salmonella or e. coli outbreaks are harder to diagnose or control when our food comes from all over the world.


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Living the Local Life – An 18 Point Guide (2015 Version)

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Posted: March 19, 2015 at 10:13 am

Variations of this post have been around over the years. It’s our basic manifesto. Why 18 points?  Seems like a nice round number.  What’s written before mostly remains apt, but we’ve updated a few things here and there.

    1. Familiarize yourself with what is local and in season. You can’t begin to eat local without knowing the local fare. Typically, there is more local foods available than realized, including local meat, eggs, and grains. Also, know when to expect foods. Charts on seasonality may be wholly inappropriate for your area. Find out what is actually in season, when. Pay special attention to new potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and grapes. The seasons for these can really vary around the country.
    2. Adjust your tastes and your expectations to those foods that are available. Instead of focusing on what you won’t be eating, learn to love what is local. An easy reward because the fresher and more vibrant local will easily out-taste the old. Moreover, you will find better versions of standard foods not bred for shipping and uniformity, like the many heirloom tomatoes. Finally, you will find a world of foods that you forgot about or never knew existed like regional nuts and rarely grown fruits like the gooseberry.
    3. Cook and bake. Local eating may require more effort in the kitchen. Local foods need to be stemmed and peeled and seeded and otherwise handled in ways unfamiliar. Learn to cook or bake better to best take advantage of local foods. A strong side benefit of local eating is that the greater emphasis on cooking, leads to a greater emphasis on meals together with family and friends.
    4. Do not make yourself nuts trying to eat local. You do not have to give up on foods that are basics.  Wake up with coffee, diet with olive oil and survive with salt. Two good rules to follow: if you can get a product locally, then only get it locally; favor the local over your non-local food. The former means do not touch that asparagus after its season ends. The latter means eat apples and oranges, but depending on where you live, eat more of one vs. the other.
    5. Likewise, make small changes first. Does every part of your diet have to be local? Start somewhere and grow as you learn to manage local eating and find local food sources.
    6. If possible, invest in an extra fridge or freezer. Ideally, a budding locavore will have both. Either will do, and they both serve purposes. Freezing is a great and easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables.  Freezer space allows the purchase of local meat in bulk, saving a lot of money. An extra refrigerator allows for stocking up each week, but also serves as a great place to keep many foods during the off-season.
    7. Subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or at least develop a strong relationship with a local farmer. Buying into a CSA means buying into a farm. It provides a farmer critical capital at a time when he or she needs cash. It ensures a steady supply of local food, and it commits you to local. With a CSA or a strong farmer relationship, you can learn about how your food grows. You can be privileged to special deals. You may be able to get food when no one else can, like in the winter. You become part of the food chain.  We’ve collected many of our CSA articles in this post.  Our 2015 list of CSAs is here.
    8. Find a farmer’s market close to you. There are farmer’s markets in every state.  It’s not easy keeping up with markets, and our most recent list is only from 2013.  We hope to have an updated list up soon.  Another source to try is Localharvest.org. Farmers markets bring seasonal fruits and vegetables to the consumer, so you see and taste what is local. Follow the changing colors to see what is in season.  Farmer’s Markets also offer an array of local products from cheese and other dairy products to meats to even local wool. You cannot go wrong shopping for local at a farmer’s market. And you’d think that there’s no more markets in the Chicago area, but there are all sorts of options for winter markets.  
    9. Read labels and ask around. It is easy to find local foods at a farmer’s market or in your CSA box, but where else can you find local foods? One place is on the label. If there are no labels, ask. An imperfect rule of thumb is, produce without labels is more likely to be local.
    10. Support local markets that focus on local foods. Entrepreneurs, seeing the demand and the need for available local food.  Order online from Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks our shop at the several places focusing on local foods.
    11. Buy local when you see it. The Warehouse giant, Costco may sell tons of foods that are not local, but you may still find things there that can be defined as local. Whole Foods is trying to identify and support local foods. Many regional supermarket chains are carrying local foods–many always did.  Support these efforts. Where ever you see food that fits you idea of local, buy it. You will be surprised where you find local foods if you look.
    12. Ask for, nay, demand local foods. When there is no local specialist and the area grocery stocks no local, see if you can change their minds.
    13. Eat local year round. It is possible to eat local even in Northern areas for two reasons. First, you can store food by freezing, drying, canning and finding cold places. Second, there are farmers growing year-round and markets selling local year round. You can find local food always.
    14. Grow your own food. Nothing is more local than food from your yard. Just a bit of gardening can supplement your needs. Urban dwellers can use window boxes and rooftops.
    15. Travel and learn your region’s food. There are small town butchers still making their own sausages from local meat. There are hidden grist mills long forgotten but still operating. Find dedicated canners and preservers selling jams, jellies and pickles. Roadside stands offer things that never make it to markets. Farmstead cheeses sell their wares for amazing prices. Explore.
    16. Take advantage of online resources. The world wide web is filled with people who have already taken the locavore plunge. See how they have done it. Also, there are many sites to identify markets, CSAs, etc.  In addition, join the discussions. Encourage each other and assist each other.
    17. When you eat out, eat out at restaurants featuring local foods. All around the USA, there are chefs, at fancy restaurants and neighborhood cafes who are dedicated to making their places as local as your homes. Seek these out.
    18. Have fun eating local. It is in an inspired choice that can affect the planet in big ways and small.  Reduce energy consumption by closing food miles, but also contribute to you local economy, supporting area businesses. Along the way, you will eat better than you have ever eaten before. In the end, focus on what you have, local food instead of wanting the foods you once had.

 


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Way to Go Local Cheese and Other Eat Local Links – The Weekly Harvest

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Posted: March 19, 2015 at 9:23 am

 

Nice see how the good food movement is growing, and nice be included in the list.

We’ve been following the Talking Farm for ages, and nice to see how they’re growing too.

Pack your food better.

As usual, Midwestern cheeses took most of the awards at the US Cheese Championship.

And if you want a beer to go with those cheeses, you cannot do any worse than SW Michigan.

Eat local Charleston SC, where they really eat local.

Everything else you need to read from Bittman.


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The Local Calendar 3/18/15 Good Food Festival, Spring Thaw, Local Food Lobby Day

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Posted: March 18, 2015 at 9:46 am

spring-thaw-final-logo2110955714_786777944735721_1380531775278436670_nPinkflower

They have finally arrived, Spring and the behemoth of good food, the 11th Annual Good Food Festival at the UIC forum!!  At Localicious on Friday night you have an opportunity to sample local food prepared by award winning chefs and drink local beverages.

Now that Spring is in the air, are you getting an itch to get your hands dirty and work with the soil? There are many alternatives in Chicagoland to volunteer on an urban farm, a few of the options:  Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm (Logan Square), Chicago Lights Urban Farm, City Farm , Growing Home, Growing Power Chicago, Peterson Garden Project and the Talking Farm in Skokie. If you have a favorite one, let me know in the comments below.

It is ,also, that time of year where the farmers start finalizing their farm dinner schedule, a few stalwarts to check out, Heritage Prairie in Brundige, Mint Creek Farm in Stelle, Outstanding In The Field (nationwide farm tour that has stops in the Chicagoland area), Prairie Fruit Farm in Champaign and Slagel Family Farms in Fairbury.

The calendar is full of fun and interesting sustainable food and beverage events and markets. Tonight Soup and Bread at the Hideout, Thursday Gout De France at Cafe Des Architectes, the Green City Market is back Saturday, you can mull over your favorite pinot at Pinot Days  or stop by the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, both at Navy Pier,  support the Talking Farm and celebrate Spring at Farmhouse on Sunday (you can read more about them here) and the list goes on. The last Soup and Bread of the year is Wed 3/25 and the farmers take over, this is going to be a big one! Local Food Lobby Day organized by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance is Wed, 3/25.

Through March 22

CHICAGO GARDEN and FLOWER SHOW at Navy Pier

March 18

Chicago - Soup an Bread at The Hideout - What is Soup and Bread? 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Hideout 1354 W. Wabansia Calling All Cooks Soup and Bread FAQs

March 19

Chicago - Celebrate Gout de France at Cafe Des Architectes - 1000 chefs around the world are celebrating the tastes of France tonight which includes Chef Greg Biggers at Cafe Des Architectes Be part of the celebration!! The heart of French cuisine is using local ingredients!

March 19-21

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Chicago (Pilsen) - THE GOOD FOOD FESTIVAL - Thursday 3/19 Good Food Financing FairFriday 3/20 Trade Show, School Food and Policy ConferenceFriday 3/20 Localicious PartySaturday 3/21 Good Food Festival

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 Saturday March 21

FM - Chicago(Lincoln Park) - Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 2430 N. Cannon Drivc 8am – 1pm (Indoor market dates:  4/4, 4/18)

Chicago - 8th Annual Pinot Days 2-5pm Navy Pier

FM – Evanston - Evanston Indoor Market at the Ecology Center 2024 McCormick Blvd. 9am – 1pm (Every Saturday through April)

Sunday March 22

Chicago (Lincoln Park) - Floriole Monthly Supper Series - 6-8pm Racine and Webster Sunday Supper with Jonathan Zaragoza First Course: Masa dumpling caldo Second CoursePrawns a la diabla with citrus cilantro salad Third CoursePork belly mole manchamanteles, tortillas a mano Dessert: Tres leches ice cream cake, tepache sherbet, dry lime meringue

Chicago (Lincoln Park)Carnivores Dinner with Slagel Farms at White Oak Tavern 6pm White Oak Tavern executive chef John Asbaty is again partnering with LouisJohn Slagel of Slagel Family Farm for a special Carnivores Dinner. Although vegetables are the cornerstone in many of Asbaty’s nightly presentations, on March 22nd, meat takes center stage. All four courses will incorporate Slagel’s fresh farm raised, hormone free cuts.

FM – Chicago (Logan Square) - Logan Square Indoor Market – 10am – 3pm 2755 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Every Sunday through March) and they partner with The Nosh. The Logan Square Chamber of Commerce will issue Coupons to SNAP/LINK participants to use like cash when buying food items. This is thanks to Link Up Illinois.  At the Logan Square Farmers Market SNAP/LINK customers will be able to receive up to $30 in Coupons each market.

 Evanston - The Talking Farm “Spring Thaw” Celebration at Farmhouse Evanston 5-8pm

March 24

Chicago (Logan Square)- Stein and Schwein Dinner – Das Radler – All proceeds to benefit Growing Home 6:30pm

March 25

Chicago - Farmers Soup and Bread at The Hideout -  5:30pm – 7:30pm The Hideout 1354 W. Wabansia

Chicago (West Town) -  Tiki Cocktail Class – LUSH Wine and Spirits 1412 W. Chicago 6-7:30pm

********* Springfield - LOCAL FOOD LOBBY DAY! Sponsored by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance *********

March 26

Chicago (Logan Square) - Katherine Anne Confections Spring Preview Party - 5:30pm 2745 W. Armitage

March 28

ChicagoBand of Farmers CSA Coalition at The Hideout 5-10pm  Join Band of Farmers at the 3rd Annual Talent Show–the event that started it all! We define “talent” broadly, from performance art to poetry to music, and of course the farmers’ fashion show! This year the Talent Show will be coupled with a silent auction featuring everything from farm-made foodstuffs to wearables to faerie homes. Proceeds will be used to start the Band of Farmers’ fund for CSA scholarships.

FM – Oak Park – Faith In Place Winter Farmers Market Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church  9-1pm

March 30

Chicago - CHOWDAH FEST is back! Chowdah Fest is back and takes place at the most scenic venue for an event, The Columbia Yacht Club. Some of our favorite fish people will be there like Dirk’s Fish who seems to be the crowd favorite every year!!

April 4

FM - Chicago(Lincoln Park) - Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 2430 N. Cannon Drivc 8am – 1pm (Indoor market dates: 3/21, 4/4, 4/18)

FMWoodstock - Woodstock Farmers Market

April 5

FD – Stelle - Mint Creek Farm Easter Brunch

April 7

Chicago(Wicker Park)  - Happy Hour at Piece Pizza with Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition (GCRC) -5:30pm  Join GCRC at their first every monthly happy hour gathering  at Piece Pizzeria and Brewery! Stop by between 5:30-7:30pm for drinks and networking, to catch up with old GCRC contacts, and make new ones! Piece is generously offering a 10% discount on drinks for the group.

April 10

Chicago16th Annual Whisky Fest Chicago – 6:30pm Hyatt Regency Before there was Baconfest, Poutinefest, Donutfest and Ramenfest there was Whisky. Get ready for whisky week and all that it entails.

April 11

FM - Chicago (Hyde Park/Woodlawn) - 61st Farmers Market at Experimental Station - 9am – 2pm 6100 S. Blackstone (4/11) The Chicago Southside’s premier farmers market, straddling the Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods, offering the freshest produce, meat, eggs, cheeses and prepared foods from local and regional farms. This year’s lineup includes Ellis Family FarmsOrganic Bread of HeavenMint Creek FarmA10 Homemade PastasSauce & Bread KitchenGrowing PowerThe Urban CanopyThe Eating Well and many more.

April 12

FM - Chicago (Roger’s Park) - Glenwood Sunday Market (4/12, 5/3) at The Glenwood Bar 6962 N. Glenwood Ave. 9am – 2pm

Milwaukee - CheeseTopia Noon -4pm The First Annual CheeseTopia, a new one-day cheese festival debuts at the Pritzlaff Building, a renovated warehouse in the Historic Third Ward of downtown Milwaukee, while Year two will be in Chicago, and Year 3 in Minneapolis.

April 17-18

ChicagoBACONFEST UIC forum Extra crispy, in a beignet, bacon in bloodies and more! Friday dinner 7-10pm, Saturday midday 12-3pm and evening 7-10pm.

April 22

EARTH DAY!!!!!!

April 25

Chicago - Pastoral Artisan Producer Festival at the French Market – Meet regional cheese makers, charcuterie, beer and wine producers. A day to taste and sip just about everything you can buy at Pastoral and it is free.

Chicago(Bridgeport) The Lager Beer Riot sponsored by Marz Brewing to benefit Benton House – 7-8pm To mark the 160th anniversary of the Lager Beer Riot, Chicago’s first act of civil disturbance, and to celebrate the city’s growing beer culture, Pocket Guide to Hell and Marz Community Brewing Company are hosting an audience interactive dodgeball reenactment and beer tasting on Saturday,April 25, 2015 starting at 6 pm. The event is part of Version Festival 15 and is a fundraiser for Benton House, the historic nonprofit charitable center in Bridgeport. This event sounds like all that an event should be, creative, educational and it involves alcohol, local beer as a matter of fact. Tom Keith hopefully you are all over this one!!

May 2

FM - Chicago (Lincoln Park ) - OPENING DAY Green City Market

FM – Evanston - OPENING DAY Downtown Evanston’s Farmers Market 

May 14

FM - Chicago (Loop) – Opening Day Daley Plaza Farmers Market


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When Will it Ever Get Warm, Thank God It’s Warm, Oh My God, It’s Warm

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Posted: March 17, 2015 at 9:36 am

A Lot of Rutabaga for the Local Family This Week

 

 

rutabaga

We’ve been a Local Family for roughly ten years. That’s ten years of eating local and ten years of always eating local. With two broad exceptions, one for all the condiments, flavorings, and special ingredients: coffee, salt, spices, chocolate, olive oil, etc., needed for a normal life, and the other for not living soley on apples, winter fruits: citrus, mangos, bananas, etc., we get all our food from area farms, producers and artisans. Given the stilted growing season around here and the limited run of most farmer’s market, how can we manage to eat local all the time. Since we started, it’s been a simple recipe, stored and preserved food and winter markets. In recent years, we’ve added a winter CSA to the mix. A lot revolves around our root cellar in the sky.

Until we don’t have a root cellar in the sky. We live in a classic Chicago bungalow. Like a good deal of bungalows, it was built with one story of living space and one story of attic. A good chunk of that attic exists ninety years later. This attic gets cold enough in the winter that root vegetables, onions, apples, and potatoes stay very viable. With the CSA coming and easy access to the Evanston Winter Market, where one Local Family member works weekly, we don’t put as much up there as we used to. Still, we have our stash. Then it thawed. Then it went past sixty. The tempatures rose and the cellar withered. We needed to address the remaining produce.

A lot of apple sauce, another member of the Local Family has taken to eating apple sauce nearly a pint at a time. That’s because we had a good amount of local apples. So, we cooked them down, packed them up, and what we can keep away from the daughter, we have for later use. We found ways to use stocks of carrots and watermelon radishes. And we also had all these rutabagas. That had come in the CSA. Nothing against rutabagas, we just had not had the urge to eat them. Really, we did not feel like taking the time to make rutabagas. They are, really, very good, sweeter than turnips, with a robust taste. They’re fine roasted but shine mashed. The process of boiling, shmooshing and flavoring is the easy part. Peeling takes a lot of time. The ones above were thinned with some olive oil and dampened with a little honey, salt and black pepper. If there was not a raving vegan-a-tic in the household, cream would have been used lavishly.

potatoes - fingerlings

Just as we were losing the use of our root cellar, we were running into several opportunities for old produce. We were coming back from winter markets with great deals on potoates, including a bunch of heirloom fingerlings. We cannot put them away for later.

If you follow along, we’re want to eat our summer food in fall. Now, we’re eating our winter food as Spring arrives. It’s how we react when things start to get warm.


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They Wanted Beer – Jim Slama Talks to Us About an 11th Good Food Festival

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Posted: March 17, 2015 at 1:40 am

FamilyFarmed Presents the Good Food Festival from March 19 – March 21 – UIC Forum

Good Food Festival_Amanda Areias_110
(Photo by Amanda Areias)

Jim Slama and all the hard workers at FamilyFarmed hit a big milestone last year. And they saw no reason to let up. In a few weeks, the gang returns for three more days of workshops, demonstrations, tastingsmotivations, and more. As in past years, the Good Food Festival contains three distinct parts. day one called the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, focuses broadly on growing food related enterprises and specifically on connecting funders with food businesses that need financing.  Day two serves multiple agendas, covering both food policy and food production.  If that’s not enough for day two, there’s really a whole separate thing, think of it as day two-two, the Localicious party.  Here many of our favorite restaurants, like Beet sponsor Vera and many of our favorite local boozers, will use your stomach to convince your head and heart the value of real food.  Finally, day three brings the whole mess to the public, with many chances to learn, try and experience what we all mean by good food.   We had the privilege of asking the founder of the Good Food Festival, Jim Slama, why he keeps going and what people really wanted out of the event.

Local Beet: Why 11?  What keeps you going?

Jim Slama: Our 10 year anniversary show last year was incredibly successful – Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking shows that Good Food is an economic engine for our city and that urban ag and job training initiatives are on the city’s radar as well. This fall we launched our Good Food Business Accelerator which is preparing Fellows to reach out to investors and funders at this year’s Financing & Innovation Conference. It is clear to us at FamilyFarmed that the demand for local, sustainable food is growing and the Good Food Festival & Conference is the region’s pivotal event that gets all the players in the same room to network, learn, eat and grow this movement.

FamilyFarmed has never thrown the same Good Food Festival twice.  They’ve strived to improve, especially in the areas of providing hands-on training and making the information accessible.  We wanted to know some tweaks for this year’s fest.

LB: What went well last year that you’re repeating?

JS: The last two years actually have shown the incredible power of the Good Food Commons. These are short micro workshops that give you solid DIY skills in everything from back yard chickens to canning and preserving to gardening and composting. We have four fantastic community partners who help us build out these sessions – Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Chicagoland Food Co-Op Coalition, Edible Alchemy, and Faith’s Farm. We’ve learned the hallway is too crowded for these sessions, so look for them in a better location this year with more sessions than ever.

LB: What are (some?) reasons for someone to go that they had not considered before?

JS: We have a really exciting chef event this year – Matthias Merges and Jason Hammel are part of a group of chefs who have formed Pilot Light which is a group of chefs who present food lessons in schools in a way that integrates across the curriculum. It is very successful and they’ll have students on hand Saturday as part of their lesson at Festival.

Parents should definitely feel welcome to bring their kids. Purple Asparagus sponsors the Kids’ Corner with great family-friendly activities and there are food samples throughout the show floor that kids love. Plus, there are baby chicks!

And if you’re confused about how to start a CSA share, the CSA Pavilion is loaded with farmers who can answer your questions – what better way to choose than to meet your farmer!

We also think people should see themselves as such an important part of the movement toward healthier more sustainably produced foods that they need to come be a part of the Festival. The movement is people who want to eat and grow foods in this way. If you want that, come contribute your interest and energy to the event. You should be there!

KaitlynMcQuaid_Festival_078_sq

(Photo Kaitlyn McQuaid)

If you’ve been around Jim Slama enough, like us, you know he’s highly optimistic.  We tend to share his enthusiasm when near, but when we fade into our eat local quarters, we sometimes get a little pessimistic.   We were hoping for a pep talk.

LB: What’s the state of good food movement & why–be honest!!

JS: The National Restaurant Association shows most of their top 10 food trends for 2015 relate to local and sustainably produced food. Organic sales have had double-digit growth for the past 30 years. We launched the Good Food Business Accelerator and had incredible interest and a great list of applicants. These are all proof to us the Good Food movement is growing. And the strength of attendance at the Good Food Festival & Conference each year supports us in saying that as well. The movement is made of its people and the Festival is where we see them all together and recognize our strength. We hope you’ll join us!

 Finally, Jim, gave us our biggest surprise

LB: What’s new this year & what motivated you to do it?

JS: For the past couple years we’ve heard from people that they’d like a beer with the lunch they buy in the Good Food Court on Saturday. We couldn’t agree more and certainly the local drink scene is on fire, so we have partnered this year with Farmhouse Chicago and Evanston who will be sponsoring our Craft Drink Corner. Now you can get a local beer or cider to go with your delicious lunch!

2015 good food festival


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Long day or short day onions?

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Posted: March 16, 2015 at 4:35 pm

There have been more than a few people I know that, when starting a garden, opt for the bag of onion sets one finds at most garden centers or big box stores. Later in the season the tops die down, a usual sign that your onions are ready for harvest. When the onions are dug the gardener gets the disappointment of having small onion bulbs or even no bulbs at all. What happened? The gardener did all the right things, used compost, watered well, planted the onion set per the instructions on the package, so why no onions? There may be a variety of reasons behind this, but what the gardener may have not taken into account is the difference between “short day” and “long day” onions.

Onion Photo: Wikipedia

Onion
Photo: Wikipedia

Onions are one of the first crops that are set out by gardeners as they are pretty cold tolerant. Onion sets and plants are the most popular way of growing onions by home gardeners as the plants are already started, thereby cutting out the work of starting the seeds, however, seeds would obviously be the way to go for those wishing to save heirloom varieties. Seeds are also available from most stores and seed catalogs and should be started in flats before setting out. Onion sets and plants arrive in the stores usually in early spring and you may be tempted to grab what catches your eye, although if you live in the northern part of the country you should be on the outlook for long day onions.

Onions form their bulbs in conjunction with the length of the day. In the summer as the days get longer, onions start to store the energy of the sun in their bulbs. Long day onions need about 14 or so hours of daylight to bulb. This happens normally in early June. Short day onions need about 10 hours of daylight. You would think that the short day onions would then do better in northern areas, but that is not the case. Once an onion starts to bulb, top growth slows. Since the day length in the north is already 10 hours a few weeks into the growing season, the plant has not grown large enough to glean enough energy from the sun needed to form a full bulb. The result is small bulbs at the time the plant goes dormant.

Onion Planting Zones http://www.groworganic.com/

Onion Planting Zones http://www.groworganic.com/

Short day onions, grown in the south, are planted during the cooler months when the day is shorter. As the day lengthens in the southern latitudes, the onion bulbs out. This is normally during a different time of the year than it would be happening in the north. Unfortunately, many stores in the northern part of the country stock onion sets and plants started in the south. Many times these are actually short day onions and will not do so well for the northern gardener.

There are also varieties that are day neutral. Day neutral onions form bulbs regardless of daylight hours and produce well in most of the country. A good seed catalog or garden center will label different varieties of onions with the appropriate day length label. Note that some may refer to the latitude range that the onion variety does best in.

Onions fresh from the field Photo: Spurgeon Veggies

Onions fresh from the field
Photo: Spurgeon Veggies

One more thing about onions and day length varieties: many people are aware of this distinction but still get confused as to which variety is grown in which parts of the country. They assume that since the southern parts of the country are generally warmer, that means that the days are longer. This may be true in a way during the winter months, nevertheless not true in the summer. The further north you are in the summer, the longer the day is. For example, on June 21st, the day length north of the Arctic Circle is 24 hours!

Onions Photo: Wikipedia

Onions
Photo: Wikipedia


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Vera Says Choose to Eat Local – What’s In Season and Where to Find It

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Posted: March 11, 2015 at 11:22 am

Eat Local Thaw

Vera-LOGO-Fpattern (1) (1) You signed up for a CSA, but you are only seeing promises of local food.  You hear of morels, fiddleheads, favas and peas, but you know that from an eat local perspective, it is still very much winter.  Where can I go and what can I find?   Start with our sponsor Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks.  They have local apples, beets, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, onions and more still in stock.  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

Indoor Crops

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Sprouts

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

Visit our friends from the Experimental Station at their 61st Market on Saturday March 14 from 9 AM to 2 PM -  6100 S. Blackstone

All sorts of food including sausages and tofu plus all you can Nosh await Sunday, March 15 from 10 AM to 3 PM at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market - 2755 N. Milwaukee Av

Growing power vegetables, Faith Farm’s pork, and more at the Hyde Park Handmade Artisan Bazaar and Farmer’s Market.  Sunday March 15 from 11 AM to 4 PM – 5311 S. Lake Park

Oak Park

Local meat and eggs from Emily and Dennis Wettstein at the Buzz Cafe on Saturday March 14 from 12 PM to 230 PM – 905 S. Lombard

Evanston

Weekly winter market at the Evanston Ecology Center on Saturday, March 14 from 9 AM to 1 PM, with a chance to catch the Condiment Queen selling - 2024 N McCormick Blvd

Palatine

Faith in Place still has winter markets including this one at Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist on Sunday March 15 from 11 AM to 2 PM.  Say hi to the Condiment Queen who will have carrots and more - 1025 N. Smith 

Geneva

Community Winter Market on  Saturday, March 14 from 9 AM to 1 PM - 327 Hamilton

 

  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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Where Was My Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links

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Posted: March 9, 2015 at 9:39 am

Bread, Breaded Steak and More Local and Localish Links to Things for You to Read

 

Heirloom impressions.

We do roofs well.

But we’re not in the top ten obsessed with eating organic.

Well deserved hate for farmer’s markets.

It’s happening, it’s real.

A form of local food gets a lot of attention–more here.

Congrats to the locavores at Floriole for making this list of best bread bakers.

It’s not the only good bread in town either.


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Our Beet Reporter in Spain

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Posted: March 6, 2015 at 9:49 am

Editor’s Note: We say that the Local Beet provides a “practical approach” to local eating in Chicago.  We do that by documenting our eat local habits, pointing out markets and shops, and listing CSAs.  How does having a reporter in Spain advance our purpose.  The short, easy answer is, it doesn’t.  No one around here is eating a local mango dripping with juices.  Still, we bring you Jessica Suss for a few good reasons.  Mostly, because there’s a pretty good consensus that no one eats better than the Spanish.   Let’s draw inspiration.  But also, there’s a lot of value in seeing what others are doing, good and bad.  Jessica notes that as great as eating is in Spain, they have food system issues too.  With this post we introduce our latest reporter.  Look for more dispatches from Spain soon.

IMG_6584

My name is Jessica Suss and I know exactly where my last meal came from.

No, I don’t live in California where you can throw a rock and hit a farmer’s market.

No, I don’t have an “in” with a small but passionate restaurant that sources entirely from its own purely organic, agriculturally sound gardens.

IMG_7120

I teach English to elementary school children in Almería, the corner of Spain. The nearest major cities, Granada or Malaga, are hours away by bus or train. We don’t have a lot of tourist attractions, save for a Moorish fortress, but I’m hard-pressed to think of any city in Spain WITHOUT a castle. Also, we have the beach…like every other coastal city in the country.

What sets Almería apart is that it is the sunniest place in Europe, or so I’ve been told. Though I haven’t found any firm statistics that back up that fact, I can count on two hands the number of times it has rained since I arrived here last September (eight).

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Due to the warm climate and nearly excessive amounts of sun, Almería is also home to more than 28,000 hectares of greenhouses. Every morning on my commute to work, I watch an exquisite ocean sunrise, pass a shellfish farm and watch as more tomatoes than I can count climb the vines inside their plastic houses. It’s a rough life.

And it’s not just my produce that travels only a few kilometers to land on my plate. Before Thanksgiving, I ordered a turkey from my butcher at the Mercado Central (every gastronome’s dream). He called the poultry ranch while I stood in front of him, one bloodied hand punching the buttons on the phone and told the farmer what he wanted—the biggest one available. The turkey was collected the day before Thanksgiving, many bloodied feathers still clinging to the 20-kilo carcass. This was nothing compared to my previous Spanish Thanksgiving, however, where I had to remove the esophagus from that year’s bird. The poultry farm was just a town over and our bird had likely died just the day before we got it. It had round haunches, meaty breasts and so much fat was stuffed below the surface that when it was cooked, the skin browned and crackled like it had been deep-fried.

Best turkey of my life.

IMG_7133

My eggs come from Tarragona, according to the little piece of paper stuck to the window of the stall. Packed in nondescript grey cartons and held together with rubber bands, they usually have hay, mud, feathers and chicken excrement still stuck to the shell. The yolks are the color of a marigold (the photo above is a comparison of an egg from the grocery store on the top and an egg from the mercado below). They are like nothing I have ever tasted in the states.

Each time I eat a mango the size of a baby’s head, dripping with juice or crack open a red pepper so vibrant it looks like it’s been dunked in Red Dye No. 4, I tell myself, “This is the best ___________ I’ve ever eaten. I’ve got to savor this because it’s never going to get better.” But then the next week I buy a kilo of strawberries from a man in a stained orange polo shirt and I forget all about that pepper.

This is the beauty of Spain, especially the southern parts of the country where so much of the produce is grown. We are spoiled rotten by food.  It doesn’t look pretty like in the States; sweet potatoes are strangely conical, eggs still have things you’d rather not see stuck to their shells and animal heads with dazed expressions sit stacked among links of chorizo and chicken breasts.

But it’s real food. And I know just where it came from.

IMG_7127

I have never once worried about getting food poisoning in Spain. Though not one of my butchers has ever worn a hair net or even plastic gloves, though each chunk of bloody fish is weighed on the same set of scales in the lower level of the Mercado, I am completely at peace. I saw that hunk of chuck get fed through the grinder. I poked and prodded that fish, inspected its eyes for any sign of cloudiness, demanded to run a finger down the gleaming scales until I was satisfied with its freshness.

IMG_7126

It is honest, whole food. It doesn’t smell like bleach or come from a thousand different cows. I would rather eat a hamburger fashioned by my bloody-handed butcher who leaves smears on the Euros I hand him than a pre-packaged cut wrapped in plastic from Jewel-Osco.

I am surrounded by ugly, real, local food. And I have never eaten better in my life.

A recent graduate of the Philip Merril College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, Jessica currently lives in Almería, the greenhouse capital of Spain where she teaches English. She is passionate about nutrition education and healthy school lunches. Jessica is a nut butter enthusiast (especially cinnamon flavored almond butter) and does not appreciate being called a foodie. Jessica has been cooking and baking since she was old enough to hold a whisk and hopes to become a magazine journalist. All opinions expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter: @JessicaLSuss - 

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Vera Wants You to Know What’s in Season and Where to Find It Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
When You Have a CSA It Can Come About Now Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Beet Classics – Talking ’bout CSAs Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
We’re Getting the Band Back Together – Band of Farmers That Is Monday, March 2nd, 2015
Today is National CSA Sign-up Day! Saturday, February 28th, 2015
There Was Still Time to Harvest the Eat Local Links Friday, February 27th, 2015
The 2015 Local Beet List of Community Supported Agriculture Farms (“CSAs”) Thursday, February 26th, 2015
Hear Local Music at City Winery Sunday, March 8 Carrie Newcomer: Forager, Farmer, Hunger Activist, Musician Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
Never Stop Eating Local – What’s in Season and Where to Find It Sponsored by Vera Chicago Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
The Taste of Chicago Should Be Serbian Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
The Local Calendar 2/20/15 Charc Week, 6th Annual PGP Seed Swap 3/1, 28 Days to GFF, Green City Market This Weekend Friday, February 20th, 2015
Us and Green Grocer Go Way Back….RECYCLED – Eating Green by Cassie Green Thursday, February 19th, 2015
An Effective Locavore Takes Short Cuts Thursday, February 19th, 2015
Congratulations to the Sugar Beet and Other Eat Local Links Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
Eat Local Later Now Because My CSA Did All the Work Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
My Winter Tomato Mountain CSA Gets Me Ready for Summer Monday, February 16th, 2015
What’s In Season and Where to Find It – Sponsored by Vera Chicago Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
The Next Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Eat Local Smoked Fish Monday, February 9th, 2015
Recycled – Resist the Tyranny of the Fresh Friday, February 6th, 2015
Vera Wants You to Know What’s in Season Now and Where to Get It Thursday, February 5th, 2015
This Week There Will Be a Harvest of Eat Local Links Monday, February 2nd, 2015
The Local Calendar 1/30/15 Food Policy Summit, PGP Benefit, Cider Summit Returns Feb. 7th, Winter Markets Friday, January 30th, 2015
This Is Not All That Came In My Tomato Mountain CSA Box This Week Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Seeds 2 Sucess II – Greater Peoria Food Summit Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
This Week Eat Local Without Venturing Outside – Irv and Shelly’s Freshpicks Monday, January 26th, 2015
Winterize your Chickens to Keep Them Healthy and Laying Sunday, January 25th, 2015
Where To Source Local Foods Now – UPDATED for 2015! Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
What’s in Season Now – Winter Markets – Updated for Third Week in January Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Did You Get a CSA Box Last Week – A Tomato Mountain 12 Month-er Will Serve Your Locavore Needs Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Oh Precious Cabbage, What Do We Do With You Thursday, January 15th, 2015
Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
In 2015 There Will Be a 2015 Guide to Community Support Agriculture (CSA’s) – Call for Help Monday, January 12th, 2015
Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
The Coldest Farmer’s Market Ever Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
The Local Calendar 12/19/14 Last Green City Market of the Year, Pilsen Community Market, All Chili Considered, KAM Isaah Food Justice in January Friday, December 19th, 2014
11 shocking things you didn’t know about beer! (It’s a parody, folks.) Sunday, December 14th, 2014
The Local Calendar 11/19/14 Indoor Markets Open This Weekend Then A Short Break, Food Film Fest, Holiday Rock N Roll, Pilot Light, Cider Summit 15 Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Doctor, Your Tomato is Ready in Surgery Thursday, November 13th, 2014
Let’s Start with Some Links – Weekly Harvest Monday, November 10th, 2014
The 2014-2015 Local Beet Guide to Chicagoland Winter Markets Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Make Your Own Root Cellar/Store Your Own Food Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
The 3 Tastes of Winter Monday, November 3rd, 2014
It Got Cold, Stock Up Monday, November 3rd, 2014
Late Season Shopping List Friday, October 31st, 2014
The 2014 Garden in Review Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Cut Along Dotted Line Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Last Minute Locavore Lessons Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
2014 LOCAL AND REGIONAL FOOD SUMMIT Sunday, October 26th, 2014
The Local Calendar 10/15/14 Huckleberry, Graze Golden Delicious, Food Swap, The Northman Pop-Up, Fund A Farmer, Green Pumpkins, A Mostly Veggie Affair Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Let’s Get Back with This Week’s Harvest of Eat Local Links Monday, October 6th, 2014
The Local Calendar 9/17/14 Chicken Coop Tours, Talking Farm Hullabaloo,The Beaver Dam Pepper Celebration and Lots More! Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Happy Tamar-Day Monday, September 15th, 2014
Save a Pepper, Eat a Pepper – 3rd Annual Beaver Dam Celebration September 20 at Green City Market Saturday, September 13th, 2014
Easy Ways to Eat Local Later Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Eat Local Eggplant Monday, September 8th, 2014
Making the Most of the Seasonal Bounty Friday, September 5th, 2014
Weekly Harvest Has a Some Maps and Other Eat Local Links Thursday, September 4th, 2014
Eat Local Fry-Up Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Chicago Market – A Community Co-op Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Weekly Harvest of Places Where they Are Eating Local + Other Links Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Eat Local Peppers Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
The Local Calendar 8/27/14 Cochon Heritage BBQ Goose Island Brewery Sat., Put Spence Farm Foundation Harvest Feast On Your Calendar Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Another Harvest of Eat Local Links (with Unfortunate Sad News) Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Farmers Markets: Rules, Regulations and Reforms – Webinar on current and future farmers market regulations Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Illinois Stewardship Alliance is celebrating its Annual Harvest Celebration! Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
This Week’s Harvest of Eat Local Links is Today Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
Tomatoes Make Everything Taste Better/Eat Local Tomatoes Now Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
The Many Ways to Put Away Tomatoes Monday, August 11th, 2014
Morton Grove Farmers’ Market 2014 Sunday, August 10th, 2014
A Week and a Day Since We Harvested Our Eat Local Links Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
A 2014 Embarrassment of Local, Organic Riches Friday, August 1st, 2014
Epic Labor Day Feast Heritage BBQ Presented By Goose Island Cochon 555 Friday, August 1st, 2014
Another Harvest of Eat Local Links Monday, July 28th, 2014
The Local Calendar 7/23/14 Angelic Organics Harvest Dinner, TOTN Chicago 8/13, Spence Farm Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Farmers Markets Celebrated on U.S. Postage Stamps! Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links Monday, July 21st, 2014
What’s In Season Now, Whole Roasted Tomatoes Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
This Week’s Harvest of Eat Local Links Monday, July 14th, 2014
July’s Rooftop Movie & Mingle Night at the Weiss Memorial Hospital Rooftop Farm Monday, July 14th, 2014
What’s In Season Now: Stale Bread Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Time Passes, Time to Tamar Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
It’s Another Week of the Summer Harvest of Eat Local Links Monday, July 7th, 2014