Friday, February 29, 2008

Just Food's Winter Eat Local Challenge & CSA Day

Northfield's Just Food Co-op is sponsoring its first-ever Winter Eat Local Challenge, March 3-9:
Even during the winter, there is a plethora of delicious ingredients produced locally. You can eat local in the winter too, and there's no better time to try than the Winter Eat Local Challenge! From March 3rd to March 9th Just Food Co-op challenges you to eat 50% of your diet from the 5-state area.

...Visit the store each day of the challenge from 4-6 p.m. and Sunday from 11-2 and meet one of our local farmers tabling in the aisles!
On their website, and available in print form at the store's entrance, is a week's worth of menus for local meals put together by Just Food's Deli Manager, Kirsten Lindquist, and an aisle-by-aisle shopping list for ingredients needed to prepare those meals. The shopping list could also give you great ideas for your own local meals.

Local foods (defined for the purposes of this challenge as grown or produced in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota or North Dakota) currently available at the co-op include:
  • dairy products: milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, butter
  • eggs
  • grains
  • beans
  • pasta
  • cereal
  • tortillas
  • salsa
  • corn chips
  • beef
  • ham
  • chicken
  • bread
  • jam
  • cereal
  • maple syrup
  • potatoes
  • mushrooms
  • hydroponic lettuce
  • sprouts
  • and a variety of frozen fruits and vegetables, and other frozen foods
Just Food's e-mail news today also announces CSA Day on Saturday, March 8:
From 11-2 on Saturday at Just Food you can meet MORE local farmers -- our local Community Supported Agriculture farmers! Stop in to chat with them about their farming practices, what they grow, and how much a share costs. Then if you’d like you can purchase a share and begin to look forward to the weekly baskets of fresh vegetables picked for you throughout the growing season!
My family has been a member of a couple of different CSAs at various times over the past dozen years or so. Some weeks, especially when corn and tomatoes and potatoes and green beans and basil were in season, we felt we were in heaven. Other weeks, especially when the bag was full of beets and dark greens, we had a bit of a job to use up what we brought home. If you're not used to eating a lot, or a wide variety, of vegetables it can require some dedication to make good use of every weekly delivery, but you could consider sharing a membership with another individual, couple or family if you'd like to try it out. Some CSAs may also offer half-shares. You'll know your produce is the freshest possible and that you're doing something healthy both for yourself and for your local farmer.

Kudos to Just Food, both for offering plenty of produce and other products from local farmers, as well as for encouraging people to shop at the farmers' market and join CSAs.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

My camera is not adequate to capturing the beauty of the lunar eclipse that occurred during prime evening hours last night. But here's at least an inkling of what took place. When the moon is fully shadowed, it glows with a reddish hue. It's like being able to imagine living on another planet, with a different orb in the sky.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Ordering Seeds: An Act of Hope in a Cold, Cold February

I was reminded by my friend Mary that there is hope for spring, though it seems a distant possibility while contending with things like windchill factors of 35-50 below zero, as we experienced Saturday night. So, as an act of faith, I have just placed a seed order with Renee's Garden Seeds. Renee Shepherd was the founder of Shepherd's Garden Seeds, and her new venture brings the same lovely illustrations by Mimi Osborne that I remember from the Shepherd's catalog and seed packets.

I haven't pored over seed catalogs this winter, mainly because I've only received one or two -- a side effect of the fact that I've moved twice in the past two years. And I don't know about you, but I don't get quite the same pleasure from poring over pages of a website. So I just flung myself into the process, ordered a bunch of things that sounded good, and called it enough.

Here's what called to me:

Two seed collections:
The Container Vegetable Collection: "Five of the best tasting, compact varieties especially bred for growing in containers. Enjoy fresh homegrown flavors picked right from your own small space garden." Includes: Super Bush Tomato; Garden Babies Lettuce; Pot of Gold Chard; Bush Slicer Cucumber; Pizza My Heart Pepper. (My home garden is a set of large containers on a southwest-facing patio. That's where I'll grow these babies. I've had terrible luck with peppers, but we'll see what happens.)

Children's Garden Collection: "Five easy to grow, colorful, big-seeded flower and vegetable varieties that kids can plant, harvest and enjoy on their very own." Includes: Easter Egg Radishes; Cinderella's Carriage Pumpkins; Sunzilla Sunflowers; Tricolor Pole Beans; Raggedy Anne Zinnias. (I have an 8-year-old son at home, and I'm hoping I can get him interested in having his own garden. Though it will have to be at my second garden, at his other house -- more on that below. If he's not into it, I'll grow some of these myself and enjoy them thoroughly.)

I also ordered two varieties of basil -- the herb without which no summer is complete: Mrs. Burns Lemon ("sweetest lemony flavor bouquet") and Italian Cameo ("From our best Italian breeder. Easy growing and deliciously fragrant, Cameo has closely packed, luscious big leaves and a compact 6- 8 inch habit. Perfect for containers, window boxes or edging garden beds.")

For what I hope will be my second garden this summer -- unused garden space at the house now mostly occupied by my ex-husband and one of my daughters -- I ordered:
  • Garden Oasis cucumbers: "Extra-sweet, burpless, uniquely smooth-skinned Beit alpha cucumber renowned for quality throughout the Mediterranean basin. High yields of glossy fruits with refreshing juicy-sweet flesh."
  • Big Beef beefsteak tomatoes: "These scrumptious giant slicers are our hands-down favorite, combining delicious full flavor, heavy yields, wide adaptability and superior disease resistance."
  • Garden Candy mix of orange, yellow and red cherry tomato varieties.
  • A Farmers Market blend of lettuces : "This mix of tender, sweet red and green lettuces draws raves at local farmers markets. A blend of delicious varieties for a balanced palette of colors, shapes and textures."
I'll want some bunching onions as well, but I didn't find them today. And oh my, I seem to have no squash at all. That will never do. I'll have to go and peruse another website another day soon. Johnny, you'll be hearing from me.