Archive for ‘Sustainable Farming’

March 31, 2015

Hooked on Fish – A CSF in Chicago

A CSF, Community Supported Fishery is an alternative business model for selling fresh, locally sourced seafood. In other words it is the CSA of the fish world. It is an idea that has been around for a while on the coasts and is a popular way to locally source seafood, but obviously in the Midwest, which does not have as large of a fishing industry as the areas bordering the oceans, an idea such as this seems to go against the grain of the “local” food movement. There is another side to local food though, and that is the “sustainable” part of it. As the bi-coastal CSFs have been champions of sustainability, and it is not possible to source 100% of all the food a Midwesterner consumes locally, some people have taken the sustainable part to heart and have started Midwestern CSFs.

Capture

CSFs have been popping up in the mid-section of the country as of late in various places, including one on Food and Wine’s “Best Food Artisans” of 2014, Sitka Salmon Shares in Galesburg, Illinois. Another one right here in the Windy City that has been getting a lot of notice is Hooked on Fish. Hooked on Fish is a CSF that started up in the spirit of community-supported organizations and like a CSA, it is a membership based operation. Its members sign up in advance for 4, 8, or 12 weekly deliveries (as well as single deliveries for the uncommitted) of about 1 pound each. Each week they offer 3 types of fish that is sustainably caught or farmed. According to Karen Wollins of Hooked on Fish, they work with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, an organization who raises public awareness about sustainable seafood issues through consumer guides, website, mobile apps and outreach efforts.

I asked Karen why fish and why the CSA model? She said:

“I love fish, and I also want to know where my fish came from, how it was caught, and that it is super fresh. Here in Chicago, there are only a few places dotted around the city that are reliable. I decided on the CSA model because of the convenience for those who sign up of having a pick-up point—they can pick it up on their way home from work. And we don’t have a lot of waste because I provide only what our members need. We’ve supported CSA’s for several years and love the community engendered by it. It has forced us to cook with new vegetables, such as tatsoi and rutabagas that we now love. In the same way, I hope that we can introduce people to other interesting fish that are just as good – or better – than the basic shrimp and salmon that most of us have been eating for a long time.”

She went on to say that they “aim to provide ONLY fish that is sustainably caught. We do provide farmed fish, but only if it is farmed responsibly, following guidelines established by MB Seafood Watch, Marine Stewardship Council, NOAA, and other sources.”

Hooked on Fish sources their product from a variety of sources each week trying to make one of that week’s featured fish a local choice. Featuring fish that is lesser known, their products come from the US and Canada, but also from Europe, and to a lesser extent, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Some of the fish that they offer are chosen because they provide a good sustainability story. For example one week they offered Pacific rockfish, which was depleted, but has now made a comeback due to responsible fishing practices. According to Karen, one of Hooked on Fish’s goals is to introduce people to new types of fish (such as the Pacific rockfish) or even popular seafood that is produced in different ways. They have had whole fish which were gutted and ready for cooking along with shrimp, mussels, clams, and oysters.

 

Photo: http://oceaned.org

 

It hasn’t all been easy to get sustainable fish to Chicago and offer it to the public. There have been a few issues with obtaining the licenses and permits needed to run a fish mongering CSF. Right now Hooked on Fish cannot sell at farmers’ markets without getting another permit. According to their website and other sources, the public have been positive about the products that Hooked on Fish offers and the idea of a CSF. So maybe as this catches on it will be easier for to start businesses such as this.

Karen Wollins said that in her opinion “it is important to find a fishmonger that you can trust. If they can’t tell you when and where the fish was caught, how it was caught, or if it was responsibly farmed, then don’t buy it.”  Hooked on Fish provides recipes with every order to help those who may have not have had experience with cooking fish. According to Karen “if you can’t cook the fish the night you receive it, put some ice cubes in a deep dish, covered with plastic wrap. Place the fish on top of that and cover with plastic. Just make sure that the flesh of the fish doesn’t touch the ice, and replace the ice as needed.”

Albacore Tuna

If you are interested in what Hooked on Fish has to offer or just curious about a CSF, more information can be found at: www.HookedOnFishChicago.com. Currently, Hooked on Fish has several pick-up points around the city, and are adding more. The Chopping Block (at both the Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square), Flatts & Sharpe, as well as several others. For those who find that the current pick-up points are inconvenient, six customers can come together to create a new pick-up point. A pick-up point can be either a home or business.

Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch www.seafoodwatch.org

March 17, 2015

Long day or short day onions?

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

January 26, 2015

Winterize your Chickens to Keep Them Healthy and Laying

As we are now well into winter, those who keep chickens may see a drop in egg production from your flock. Hormones produced by a chicken dictate the amount of eggs produced and as we get shorter days and overcast skies the chicken will produce less hormones, and thus less eggs. The colder temperatures can also stress a bird slowing egg production and even affecting overall health. If you are worried about your chickens being left out in the winter cold don’t stress, there are ways to protect your birds and keep the eggs coming.

 

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When raising chickens, the basic needs are adequate food, fresh water, and shelter. This is true all year, but it can be a challenge when there is six inches of snow on the ground and the temperature does not get much above 0. If you free range your chickens, as I do, then obviously food can be a concern. There are less bugs, blades of grass or weeds for them to eat so food has to be supplemented.

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good layer feed with 16% to 18% protein will help keep chickens healthy and laying. An addition of cracked corn will give them energy to face the cold. Table scraps can also be used to supplement as chickens eat almost anything and things like carrot peelings, egg shells, and old bread will provide much needed vitamins and minerals.

 

Heater watering bucket Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Heater watering bucket Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Submersible tank heater Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater

Submersible tank heater

Water is a problem in the winter as it will freeze and thus be of no use to the chickens. Freezing can also damage a plastic or metal watering can from the expanding ice. One thing anybody raising chickens in the winter should invest in is a heated water bucket or a submersible tank heater. Having to break the ice out of a watering bowl is not much fun and using a heated bucket will give your chickens a continuous supply of water. As many heated buckets are made for larger livestock, be careful that the bucket is not too deep or if it is deep, a platform for the chickens is provided. Smaller or bantam chickens will tend to roost on the rim of a taller bucket and stand a chance of falling in and drowning.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelter for your chickens should provide protection from the wind and cold but should still provide good ventilation. A heat lamp can provide extra warmth for chickens but be careful that it is high enough that it will not start a fire and the chickens, in a frenzy, will not knock it down. Straw or other bedding should be provided. A good rule is to provide much deeper bedding in the winter for both warmth and to absorb the increase in waste products produced by the chickens. Chickens will not go outside as much when there is snow on the ground and there should be a way in place to account for longer hours inside.

 

As I said above, chickens slow their egg production due to shorter days. Chickens evolved to produce eggs when the chance of a chick surviving is the greatest. When days are longer the weather is warmer and chicks have a greater survival rate. Chickens should have approximately 14 hours of light to produce eggs. You can trick your chickens into thinking that the day is longer than it is by providing light that mimics the daylight. I use a florescent light with a full spectrum bulb. You can get by with just an incandescent bulb as well. You just need to have the light on in the evening when the chickens are starting to roost.IMG_0479

 

Raising chickens can be fun and rewarding for anybody with the space to do it. And with a little extra care, your chickens will give you eggs all year long!

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Further information:

 

http://www.agriculture.com/livestock/poultry/feed/feeding-freerge-chickens-in-winter_292-ar28128

 

http://www.localharvest.org/blog/50346/entry/winter_egg_production

 

August 20, 2014

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is celebrating its Annual Harvest Celebration!

cropped-ISAlogo-v-tag

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be celebrating its Annual Harvest Celebration on Sunday, September 14th in Springfield. Six Central Illinois chefs will be preparing small plates featuring fresh, seasonal, local food. Each of the chefs represent restaurants that feature locally sourced products. Included in the lineup are:

  • Dustin Allen, Edge by Dustin Allen, Peoria
  • Aurora and Jordan Coffey, American Harvest Eatery, Springfield
  • Alisa DeMarco, Prairie Fruits Farm, Urbana
  • Michael Higgins, Maldaner’s Restaurant, Springfield
  • Ryan Lewis, Driftwood Cocktails and Eatery, Springfield
  • Josh Lanning, Harvest Cafe, Delavan

In addition to the food, there will be live music and a silent auction. Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery, Rolling Meadows Brewery, and several Illinois wineries will provide beer and wine for the event.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance is also looking for sponsors. Companies or organizations that do sponsor the Harvest Celebration will have their logo featured prominently in all event signage and in the program for the evening. Sponsorship opportunities are available at varying prices.

All proceeds raised from the Annual Harvest Celebration will go to Illinois Stewardship Alliance to help them continue their work promoting and increasing access to fresh, local food; providing education on conservation practices; and advocating for policies that aid small, family farmers.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance Annual Harvest Celebration will be held Sunday, September 14th at 5:00 p.m. at the Inn at 835, located at 835 S. Second St. in Springfield.

Purchase tickets by September 9th. Prices are as follows:

$75 for members

$85 for non-members

To learn more click here.

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– See more at: http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2014/08/20/illinois-stewardship-alliance-is-celebrating-its-annual-harvest-celebration/#sthash.NBQfw0Ok.dpuf

September 23, 2013

Saving Tomato Seed is Easy

It’s the end of the garden season and, in taking stock of what you produced this year, you may have some standouts in taste and quality among the tomatoes included in the bounty of your garden. You may have received a really great heirloom tomato from a friend and wish you could get some of those seeds for yourself.

Or you may have a true heirloom, one tomato that has been passed down from generation to generation. There are many reasons to save seeds from year-to-year. Some other reasons that I did not mention above are that saved seeds are free and it is a lot of fun to do-it-yourself. To show you how to save seeds from every vegetable grown is nearly impossible in one article, so since tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown, I will demonstrate saving tomato seeds.

One word of warning, saving tomato seeds can be kind of gross, but the following is the way it is done by commercial seed companies. It is also the way it is done for other kinds of produce with interiors that can be described as gloppy or gooey, such as cucumbers and cantaloupes. In fact, in nature these types of vegetables take advantage of the fact that an animal will carry its fruit away, but not eat the gooey part. Nature uses bacteria then to separate the seed from the glop.

An  heirloom variety that I am saving

An heirloom variety that I am saving

 

Another variety I am saving that started as a volunteer

Another variety I am saving that started as a volunteer

To save tomato seed the first step is to pick out specimens that have qualities that you want to keep. Whether this is size or taste, choose what you want to see growing next year. Tomatoes are self fertile so what you save will more than likely breed true. That is to say, you will get the same variety when you grow the seeds again. This is not necessarily true of hybrids though. They may revert back to one of the breeding stock that they were derived from rather than their current form, but there is also a chance that you will get the same hybrid. This is called hybrid stabilization. Also, pick fully ripe fruit from healthy, disease free plants.

 

 

"Goop" in a clear jar with a little water added

“Goop” in a clear jar with a little water added

The seed from the tomato will be fermented to release it from the goop in the tomato. To start this process, cut the tomato across the “equator” of the fruit. Scoop out or squeeze out the “goop” with the seed that is encased within it into a clear container, such as a jar. (Cutting across the “equator” of the fruit makes it easier to squeeze out the seed). Add a little water to the jar to help suspend the seed; it does not need to be full. Too much water will slow down the action of the bacteria that are fermenting the fruit.

Mold forming on the surface of the seed-water mixture

Mold forming on the surface of the seed-water mixture

 

 

After a couple of days you will see mold forming on the top of the water. When you see this appear, gently stir the seed and water. If you do not stir, the mold may affect the viability of the seed. In a few days the viable seed will sink to the bottom. Skim off all of the material that floats, including any floating seeds. Dump the remaining seed into a strainer or colander that has holes that will not allow the seed to pass through.

 

Viable seeds have sunk to bottom

Viable seeds have sunk to bottom

Using a garden hose (preferable) or a kitchen faucet, spray the seed to wash away the remaining glop. The seed may stink at this point and you may want to do this outside. Once the seed is clean, you will want to place the seed on a coffee filter or on a wooden surface so it can dry. If you use a paper towel or a piece of office paper the seed may stick. Plastic surfaces may cause the seed to rot before it is dry. Put the seed in a warm dry place and let them dry until they break readily, instead of just bending. Store the seed in a cool dry place in an envelope or in a dry mason jar. Some people freeze seed but you really need to know the moisture content to do this as the seed may rupture if the moisture content is too high.

Fermented seed before cleaning

Fermented seed before cleaning

Cleaning seed with a hose

Cleaning seed with a hose

 

Seeds after  cleaning

Seeds after cleaning

If you save only the best seed year after year you will have a true heirloom, totally acclimated to the climate of your garden location and you will have varieties of tomatoes you can call your own. As I said, the process above can be used for cucumber and cantaloupe seeds. You will have to let the fruit of these become very yellow and ripe and save seed from fruit after the vine has died. There are many publications and websites that show how to saves seeds from all possible vegetables grown.

The Seed Savers Exchange has a tutorial on saving tomato seeds here:

http://www.seedsavers.org/Education/Webinar-Archive/#tomato

The author, Nancy Bubel, has written several books on seed starting and saving:

http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Seed-Starters-Handbook/dp/0878577521

Another good book on saving seeds was written by Robert E. Gough:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Complete-Guide-Saving-Seeds/dp/1603425748/ref=pd_sim_b_6

September 18, 2013

2013 Golden Beet Award Winners Announced

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Monica Eng, Chicago Honey Co-op, and Community Shares Project of Rogers Park are among the 2013 Golden Beet Award winners named at the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s annual Harvest Celebration in Springfield on Sunday.

The Golden Beet Awards grew out of a desire by Illinois Stewardship Alliance to highlight ingenuitive local food practices so that they might get the recognition they deserve, and so that they can serve as a guide for others.

“There are so many people doing really exciting and original things when it comes to local food. A lot of time those people don’t get any recognition, let alone the recognition they deserve. We think of the Golden Beet Awards as a way to highlight some really special people and draw people’s attention to what’s going on with agriculture in the state,” Wes King, Illinois Stewardship Alliance executive director, said.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance solicits nominations from the general public for the following categories: farm to school; restaurants and institutions; community food projects; innovative farmer; scaling up; and other.

A committee then goes through the nominees and decides on the winners in the specific categories. The committee can decide not to give an award for a certain category if the nominees for a category don’t fit within the Golden Beet parameters.

 

The 2013 winners are:

 

Community Food Project

Name: Community Shares Project of Roger Park.

Website: http://www.glenwoodsundaymarket.org/communityshares.htm

The Community Shares Project is a cutting-edge community food access program.  A collaboration of Glenwood Sunday Market, St. Ignatius Church Food Pantry and Christopher House, the project purchases Community Supported Agriculture shares from the farmers of Glenwood Sunday Market and gives the food away at no charge to food insecure Rogers Park families. Rogers Park is the most diverse neighborhood in Chicago where nearly 50 percent of children under the age of five live below the poverty line. Community Shares includes an educational component presented in English and Spanish that helps the participating families learn how to incorporate more local, fresh fruits and vegetables into their everyday diets with the goal of helping families develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This unique project purchased 15 CSA shares from local farmers in its first year (2012) and gave away the 3,000 pounds of produce to more than 100 food insecure families.

 

Innovative Farmer

Name: Michael Thompson, owner of Chicago Honey Co-op

Website: http://www.chicagohoneycoop.com/

Chicago Honey Co-op's previous location in North Lawndale Photo:Chicago Honey Co-op

Chicago Honey Co-op’s previous location in North Lawndale Photo:Chicago Honey Co-op

Since 2004, Chicago Honey Co-op has been a pioneer in urban beekeeping. Officially becoming an Illinois registered agricultural cooperative in 2006, it uses cooperative principles as a guide to foster greater understanding of the honey bee’s place in an urban environment, the close relationship between pollinators and the food supply and the good that can come from deep community relationships. One of three founding members and a lifelong beekeeper, Michael Thompson has been mentor to a countless number of students, trainees, neighbors, and new beekeepers. His commitment to sustainable chemical free agriculture has been a hallmark of the Co-op’s mission. The honey that results from this work is just a bonus that helps enable it to continue.

Restaurant and Institutions (tie)

Name: Ken Myszka, owner, chef, of Station 220

Website: http://www.stationtwotwenty.com/

Ken Myszka Photo: Station 220

Ken Myszka Photo: Station 220

Ken is a native of Illinois who went to culinary school in New York and then went to Las Vegas to get a degree in hospitality management followed by working in restaurants across the U.S. before deciding to come back to Illinois to his family’s farm with the goal of growing his own ingredients for a farm to fork restaurant. Ken is the farmer and the chef, splitting his days between his farm and restaurant. I love eating at Station 220 not only because of the fresh, local, and delicious food but because the servers know so much about the food that they are serving. They can tell you how the food was grown, as well as how it was prepared. As Central Illinois’s only farm-to-fork restaurant they are not only providing a great place to eat, but they are educating consumers and other hospitality professionals about the beauty of the sustainable food movement by providing an outstanding dining experience. Station 220 is at: 220 E Front St  Bloomington, IL 61701

AND

Name: Dan King chef at Camp Ondessonk

Website: http://www.ondessonk.com/

Dan King has helped initiate Camp Ondessonk’s local food sourcing program.  For the first time in the over 50 years of Camp Ondessonks operations, their food service now sources local produce and pork from Southern Illinois Farmers. Camp Ondessonk operates year around, but serves over 2,500 children during 9 weeks of summer camp.  Campers are now served local greens, cucumber, melons, garlic, peppers, and other local seasonal produce that has been incorporated into the daily meal service.  In addition to using local produces they have also started to source local pork products from a local Southern Illinois Farmer, the meat is processed at Open Gate Meats of Ana, IL. 2012 was the first year of Camp Ondessonk’s sourcing local initiative, but this will be a great foundation to grow from. Camp Ondessonk is located in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois, near Ozark, Illinois

Other Varieties

Name: Monica Eng former Watchdog Reporter for the Chicago Tribune, current producer at WBEZ

Monica Eng Photo: Chicago Tribune

Monica Eng Photo: Chicago Tribune

Monica was nominated in recognition of her focus on cooking, health, sustainability and local food in her writing for the Chicago Tribune. Her in-depth coverage of the local and sustainable food scene, her efforts as a watchdog reporter as it pertains to food issues as well as her writing on subjects ranging from traveling to a farm to procure a live turkey for Thanksgiving to butchering a whole hog has given her readers an unvarnished look at food.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a nonprofit that promotes environmentally sustainable, economically viable, socially just, local food systems through policy development, advocacy, and education.

To keep up to date on Illinois Stewardship Alliance, visit

http://www.ilstewards.org/

or

https://www.facebook.com/ilstewards

or follow ISA on twitter, @ilstewards.

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September 17, 2013

Save Eggplant Seeds the Seed Savers Exchange Way

Saving seeds from heirloom varieties is one of the greatest ways to be local and sustainable. For those who are interested The Seed Savers exchange will be hosting a free webinar on eggplant seed saving. From the SSE website:

“Eggplant is a wonderfully diverse crop-type that can be addictive for chefs and seed savers alike. Though its spongy flesh makes seed removal a bit more complicated, saving seeds from this self-pollinating Solanum is fairly straightforward. Join us to learn how you can grow and maintain many different varieties in your own backyard.”

The webinar will be on September 23, 2013 7:00 p.m., Central Time

If you wish to attend this free webinar please register here.

May 22, 2013

Roy’s Calais Flint Corn – planting history in the garden

It seems like everybody out here in Western Illinois who has a garden grows sweet corn. Of course, there is much city grown sweet corn, but since gardens in the country are larger than their city counterparts and there is more room to grow corn, it is a more common crop in country gardens. Also, regular field corn (or dent corn) is so common out here that it is not given much thought. It is just part of the landscape. But besides sweet corn and field corn there are other kinds of corn. Popcorn comes to mind but what about pod corn or waxy corn? Have you heard of flour corn or shoepeg corn or amylomaize, developed for its starch content?

High Amylose                                      Shoepeg

Electron micrographs of native high amylose starch, ×3000                                   Shoepeg Corn

The Journal of Nutrition                                                                                               General Mills

Most of the corn grown in the United States is dent corn, 85% of which is genetically modified. There are old heirloom varieties and varieties still grown in remote valleys of countries like Mexico and Bolivia that may hold the key in their genes that will revive the world corn crop in the event of a calamity, such as disease or pest that the current corn varieties have no defense against.  These varieties are usually very hardy and can be, through saving the seeds of the best specimens, be acclimated to most growing areas.  I myself have always wanted to grow an heirloom corn variety that I can grind myself for cornbread such as a flint corn. After some research I have found one heirloom variety of corn that do all of the above so this year I will try,  Roy’s Calais Flint Corn.

According to the website of Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste:

Roy’s Calais flint corn is an open-pollinated flint corn originally cultivated by the western Abenaki (Sokoki) people in     Vermont, and subsequently grown and maintained by pioneer farmers, including Roy and Ruth Fair of North Calais, VT. In 1996 Tom Stearns obtained the seed from local farmers like Mike and Doug Guy, who had received the corn and seed-saving information from Roy Fair.

ark-prod-royscalais_flint_corn-02                                             Roy

Roy’s Calais Flint Corn

Slow Food USA, Ark of Taste

Roy’s Calais Flint Corn is also a variety that has come to the rescue once during a past calamity. According to legend, it was one of the few varieties of corn planted in Vermont in 1816 that produced a reliable crop during what was known as the “Year without a Summer”. There were food shortages that year due to the eruption of Mount Tambora in what is today Indonesia. This eruption sent a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere and crops worldwide were lost that year. Having come from a colder region where most corn varieties do not do well, Roy’s Calais Flint Corn has the genetics for a shorter and colder growing season.  Since I am busy in the spring I am not able to get all of my crops planted in time for the length of their growing season. With its shorter growing season (90-95 days) Roy’s Calais Flint Corn is a variety that I can put off planting until later. It is also said that it makes excellent cornbread and polenta. I will try this variety this year and if it turns out to be one that I like I will save the seeds for the future.

Polenta

Polenta with Wilted Escarole and Olive Oil Fried Eggs

Food52.com

Brigitte Derel of the High Mowing Organic Seed Company wrote a terrific narrative about  Roy’s Calais Flint Corn http://www.highmowingseeds.com/blog/a-narrative-on-roys-calais-flint-corn-by-brigitte-derel/ This is where I first became interested in this variety and where I first became informed about its interesting history.

Roy’s Calais Flint Corn is available from:

High Mowing Organic Seeds http://www.highmowingseeds.com/organic-seeds-roys-calais-flint-corn.html

Fedco Seeds http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/search.php?item=682&

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August 8, 2012

First try for Louisiana Green Eggplant

In the Chicago area, from which I hail, eggplants grew well in the deep black topsoil of the area. Back then I only grew the black beauty types and never really did any experimenting and was satisfied with what I got. Since moving out to Western Illinois, I tried to grow eggplant for several years and have had no luck. Flea beetles and other pests, as well as soil that wasn’t accommodating to eggplant production, took a toll on my eggplants.

In the past couple of years though, I have added a hoophouse to our farm, as well as manure and other amendments to the soil. After these adjustments the eggplants are growing great! The hoophouse seems to keep most pests away and the eggplant production skyrocketed. I had a bumper crop last year. I took advantage of this change and started to grow many heirloom varietes.  Among the heirloom eggplants I am growing is the Louisiana Green.

I have never tried this variety before and according to High Mowing Seeds, the Louisiana Green has similar flesh and skin as Oriental types but meatier with a full flavor. Slow cooking or braising will bring out the flavor.Tall, vigorous plants produce slender 8-9” long fruits that are glossy and lime green. Plants benefit from support producing elongated and straight fruits. Even though the appearance of the Louisana green might make you think that it is an oriental type, it was actually bred in the US. I am now starting to get some small fruits on the plants and I will let you know the results after I harvest some.

Photo: http://www.highmowingseeds.com

Louisiana Green Eggplant

February 2, 2012

Stephanie Izard on the Rosie Show

Having missed the chance to see any of her TV appearances I made sure to catch her appearance on Rosie this afternoon.  I admire Stephanie for her support of  local and sustainable agriculture in the Chicago Region. On top of that, she has promoted the Chicago food scene like nobody else in years! Chef Izard’s Girl and the Goat restaurant was awarded the 2011 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant and she also authored Girl in the Kitchen. In 2008, she was the winner of the fourth season of Top Chef on Bravo. She is the only woman in eight seasons to have won Top Chef!

With all of the bad press about the corruption in Illinois as well as the TV dramas that depict Chicago as basically a cesspool, it is refreshing to see a positive spin on Chicago. In many ways, and this is especially true in the local food movement, Chicago in in the forefront and is a trendsetter! Stephanie Izard is there setting the trend!

On the Rosie Show, Stephanie cooked her green bean recipe, sauteed with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews. I will have to try them next time that I am up in Chicago since they looked great! Here is the recipe from Stephanie’s website http://stephanieizard.com/:

green beans
4 fl oz. oil
shallots
green bean dressing
cashews (or another nut if you prefer a different one)
aioli
green bean dressing
yields 2 cups

4 oz. lemon juice
5 oz. fish sauce
2 ½ oz. soy
1 tablespoon dijon
3/4 teaspoon sriracha
1/3 oz cloves garlic

combine lemon juice, fish sauce, soy, dijon and sriracha. transfer to blender, add garlic and emulsify with oil.
aioli
yield: 1 cup

1/3 cup green bean dressing (from above)
1 cup mayonnaise
whisk together
preparation

1. heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan.
2. add green beans and some sliced shallots for flavor.
3. add enough vinaigrette to coat the green beans. let steam.
4. add a handful or two of cashews for flavor. season with salt.
5. transfer to serving dish & drizzle with aioli.
6. serve hot.