ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

Back to Wisconsin, my cheesehead friends


This Week in Veg… A lot of veg!

Over the past few weeks, my kitchen has exploded with Veg. I thought it would be funny to do an inventory, instead of taking a picture of the CSA…


Top shelf: Grapes. Local eggs.
Middle shelf: Growler of beer from Harpoon. Kale, Bok Choi, 6 ears of sweet corn. 3 red heads of cabbage. 1 green head of cabbage. 1 quart homemade Sauerkraut.
Bottom Shelf: Radishes. 3/4 head of red cabbage. Pesto. 5 lbs carrots. 1 lb green beans. Celery. Cheese.
Left Drawer: Romaine lettuce. 3 cucumbers. 2 zucchini. 10 jalapinos.
Right drawer: 3 heads of lettuce. Arugula. Swiss Chard.


On the Counter:
Peck of local apples. 5 Carmen peppers to be pickled. 4 peaches. 2 sweet potatoes. a seedless watermelon.


Out on the kitchen table:
Cherry tomatoes. Garlic and onions. An avocado. Bosc Pears. Gala apples.


This week in veg: cucumbers!

This week we finally got some cucumbers and the CSA box. I am so excited! I’ve been looking forward to eating cold cucumbers and the middle of all of this heat. Something about them really does make me feel cooler.
1. Cucumbers
2. Yellow beets
3. Fennel
4 zucchini
5. Lettuce
6. Cilantro
7. More lettuce
8. Green onions
9. Carrots

ReLocavore at the Dane County Farmer’s Market

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For your viewing pleasure, I shot and edited some video of the Dane County Farmer’s Market (DCFM) while we were at our vacation in Madison. I wanted to give everybody a sense of what an insanely huge Farmer’s Market goes on every Saturday in Madison.

For size comparison, I’ve taken two Google Map images of the permanent site of the Norwich Farmer’s Market, our regular market here in Vermont, and an image of the DCFM, highlighting in red the streets that are lined with vendors.

Dane County Farmer's Market takes up 8 city blocks around the Capitol Square in Madison.

Dane County Farmer’s Market takes up 8 city blocks around the Capitol Square in Madison.

The Norwich Farmer's Market occupies a permanent space.

The Norwich Farmer’s Market occupies a permanent space.














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Locavore Survival Guide: What is a locavore?

So I need to address the obvious – What is a locavore? The most boilerplate comes from the very first post of this blog – The dictionary definition, “A person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.” There’s two problems I have with this definition. First, it frames locavore as a “diet” and second, the definition leaves “local” to be defined elsewhere. Please excuse me as I pick at nits.

I don’t like diets – in the modern use of the word as a set of guidelines on choosing food, not in the Anthropological meaning of the word as anything that people eat. Diets come as arbitrary sets of rules or guidelines that ossify eating practices and attempt to define the world into “good” and “bad” foods. Lard? Bad. Broccoli? Good. Locally-raised pig lard? Bad (unless you’re a locavore, then it’s good). Conventionally farmed broccoli from Argentina available in New Hampshire in February? Good (unless you’re a locavore, then it’s bad…) I really do NOT want anyone to think there is some list of goods and bads making up the Locavore diet and that you may only eat things on the good list and nothing off the bad list. Diet also emphasizes choosing foods and avoiding foods – a universe of possibility that neglects what you do with the foods you choose or what happens to the foods you avoid. I want locavore to mean more than just choosing foods that are good and avoiding foods that are bad because locavore is more than just the food – it’s about preserving food, cooking food and enjoying food too…

Second, the dictionary leaves out what “local” means. The dictionary defines “local” as “belonging or relating to a particular area or neighborhood, typically exclusively so.” Local as geography. So each locavore is a pin on a map with a circle around it. I don’t much like that either. We can use other definitions of “local” to broaden our understanding of food. I think of food using a network definition. Imagine a network of food producers, packagers, distributors and consumers. Each person or organization is a node and is linked by the transactions between nodes. We all eat within this type of network-I buy a can of tomatoes sold at the coop, shipped by a grocery wholesaler, packages by a plant, picked by a person, grown by a farmer. Alternatively I go to my pantry and get a jar of home-canned tomatoes that I bought at a farm stand that were picked by the farmer. Local, to me, means both geography AND relationship networks. How can we act to minimize both distance and connections?

So, I’m being pedantic, but I want to explore these ideas more fully in this blog… This is why I started in the first place. To gain a better understanding of how and why I eat locally.

So back to my original question: What is a locavore? The dictionary says, “A person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.” Let’s modify this…

A locavore is person who acquires, preserves, cooks and eats food in order to minimize the distance between the food production and consumption.

What do you think?

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Wheat berry salad with beet greens, almonds, dried cherries and goat cheese

This is a modified recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything called wheat berries with walnuts. I needed to get rid of a whole bunch of beet greens before they went swishy, so I added them. I think given a nice color.



Locavore Survival Guide: Storing Greens in the Fridge

This is the first post of a new series – the Locavore Survival Guide. I hope to provide some advice for novice locavores who are trying out the Farmer’s market, maybe purchasing a CSA (Community sponsored agriculture), or just choosing from the “locally grown” section of the supermarket. After 10 years of eating locally, I hope to have learned a thing or two, and I can share some of my experiences making this same transition. Look for Locavore Survival Guide posts on Tuesday mornings…

Storing Greens in the Fridge

In the early Spring,  my winter stores are low, my kuhlschrank is empty and turned off, and I have more empty canning jars than full. Spring vegetables don’t take well to preserving – they’re leafy and tender. So, in the Spring we scramble to eat all of the veg before it goes mushy.

Some examples of Spring vegetables that we ate in Wisconsin and hope to eat in New Hampshire include: Spinach, radishes, lettuce, asparagus, cooking greens (frisee, endive), Chinese vegetables (bok choi, tatsoi), tiny beets, and sweet salad turnips. Most of these are leaves, a few stems and swollen roots, and no fruits yet…

Most of these leafy greens will wilt and dry out if just put in the refrigerator. Compared to store-bought greens, locally-bought greens will stay crisp and moist much longer in the fridge. The local veg that I get in our CSA is often only 1 or 2 days out of the ground, while some veg in the grocery store may have been picked weeks before. For locally picked veg, by my accounts, you have about 2 days in the fridge with unprotected greens before they’re wilted and inedible. However, if you put a little effort up front, these vegetables will stay very crisp and moist in the fridge, without getting soggy and mildewy. You can plan to pick up your CSA on Friday and still have crisp veg to cook with on the following Thursday. It’s all about moisture control.

First, all leafy greens need to be in a bag to keep in the moisture, but if there’s too much moisture, then the greens with get soggy. To absorb extra moisture, I wrap greens in paper towels, then put them in the bag, and twist the bag shut. This gives an environment where the moisture will stay constant, and any extra will be absorbed by the towels. Store the bagged veg in the bottom of the fridge, in a “crisper” drawer, if you’ve got room. However, bagged like this, the greens should stay crispy for 5 days, longer if they’re really recently picked.

Lay the veg out on a clean, dry paper towel. If the greens are visibly dirty, spray off the dirt, but don't leave too much water clinging to the veg.

Lay the veg out on a clean, dry paper towel. If the greens are visibly dirty, rinse away the dirt, but don’t leave too much water clinging to the veg.

Just like a tiny infant, bring all of the leaves together and tightly wrap in the paper towel.

Bring all of the leaves together and tightly wrap in the paper towel.

Put the paper towel-wrapped veg into a plastic bag. Twist the top closed.

Put the paper towel-wrapped veg into a plastic bag. Twist the top closed.