Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

October 29, 2015

How the West was Local

It goes without saying that there are many, many restaurants using locally sourced ingredients. Farm to table restaurants, many trying to create a flavor of the region they reside in or in an attempt to stick to keeping only what is in season on their menus, are found in most places in the country these days. There are locovore advocates out there who wonder if there will be a day when corporations see the light. They pine for the day when large chain restaurants start using more locally sourced ingredients.

Although several chains have made some commitment, notably Chipoltle, the idea of a chain restaurant is to have uniformity and consistency in all locations. In fact, this is what has driven out the local flavor in many regions of the country and was part of the impetus of the local food movement in the first place. There was a famous restaurant chain though that bucked this paradigm and did it long, long before there ever was a local food movement. In fact, this company did it back when most food was local and during a time when the distribution of food on an industrial scale was just getting off the ground. It also did it to celebrate the diversity of food and food tastes across America, in contrast to the corporate mentality today that stresses uniformity.

Fred Harvey Photo: Wikipedia

Fred Harvey
Photo: Wikipedia

Fred Harvey was an immigrant from England who arrived on America’s shores in 1853 at the age of 17. With only a little bit of money in his pocket he needed a job fast and took a job as a pot scrubber and busboy at Smith and McNell’s restaurant, a popular New York city restaurant.  There from the restaurant’s proprietors Henry Smith and T. R. McNell, he learned the restaurant trade from the bottom up. They taught him the importance of quality service, fresh ingredients and the handshake deal. Harvey quickly worked his way up to busboy, waiter and line cook. He moved on to New Orleans and then on to St. Louis.

Santa Fe Railway - The California Limited  Photo: arizona100.blogspot.com

Santa Fe Railway – The California Limited
Photo: arizona100.blogspot.com

In St. Louis he held a variety of jobs but wished to get back into the restaurant business. He started a café with a partner. The Civil War started and the partner, a confederate sympathizer, stiffed Fred and ran off with all of the money the two had earned. Fred was out of business and took a job with Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad which was eventually purchased by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, i.e. The Burlington. Rising quickly through the company, he was transferred to the company offices in Leavenworth, Kansas. As a railroad executive, he found the food along the rail lines very unsatisfactory to say the least, and monotonous, as well. This was especially true out west where most of his business took him.

After several attempts to get The Burlington to allow him to open restaurants in stations along their line, Fred got an offer from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway that he could not refuse. Charles Morse, a friend who was with the Santa Fe, got him a deal, where in 1876 he opened eating houses along the railroad and was not charged rent. The deal was sealed only with a handshake and, at the peak, there were 84 Harvey Houses, all of which catered to both the wealthy and middle-class visitors and Harvey became known as “the Civilizer of the West.” Harvey also eventually provided the food service on the Santa Fe trains themselves as well.

Fred stocked his “Harvey House” restaurants with the finest ingredients served by the “Harvey Girls,” waitresses recruited from all over to work in the Harvey House restaurants. They were made famous by Judy Garland in the 1946 movie of the same name along with the Johnny Mercer song sung by the cast, “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”   Small disclaimer… my Grandmother was a Harvey Girl. She left the farm in Wisconsin that she grew up on to work in Harvey Restaurants in places such as Needles, California. She moved from Harvey House to Harvey House, eventually winding up at the Fred Harvey concession at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. She later worked at the Harvey House Restaurant in Chicago Union Station, where she stayed until the 1970’s.

Harvey Girls Photo: www.npr.org

Harvey Girls
Photo: http://www.npr.org

When Fred Harvey first experienced the food offered to rail travelers he noted that it was not only bad but it was basically the same dish offered over and over. The railroads were way ahead of their time in stressing corporate uniformity over taking advantage of what the unique locales the railroads passed through had to offer. This fact was not lost on Fred Harvey especially since the railroads he worked for had opened up the west to the American nation and represented a gold mine. It took several days to travel out to the West Coast and The Santa Fe traversed what were then very exotic places such as New Mexico, Arizona, and California and all major stops along the line were serviced by a Harvey House.

(Click for a larger view)

(Click for a larger view)

Fred set out to take advantage food-wise of all these places had to offer. According to authors George Foster and Peter Weiglin, in their book The Harvey House Cookbook, local Harvey House managers had the authority, indeed the duty, to keep track of local food producers and to purchase local eggs, poultry (including quail), vegetables and other items if they were of high enough quality. The aim was to ensure that a traveler on the Santa Fe would not see the same choices a second time on his or her trip on the railroad. The menus at the Harvey House restaurants offered what foods were available locally and were in season.

Fred Harvey Restaurant in Chicago Union Station

Fred Harvey Restaurant in Chicago Union Station

Even in the late 19th Century, Fred’s insistence on using local was going against the grain. By that time, beef and pork were being hauled into Chicago to be slaughtered and packaged, and fruit and vegetable shipments were beginning to arrive from California and Florida to points east and north. Fred himself took advantage of this to some extent too, but there was a plan behind his locovore interests and, as industry was stamping out the local flair all over the country, Fred’s move was really an act of genius.

Harvey owned hotel, the El Garces in Needles, California Photo: City of Needles

Harvey owned hotel, the El Garces in Needles, California
Photo: City of Needles

In one fell swoop, he lifted the railroad dining experience and introduced Americans to foods of the Southwest and California (such as enchiladas, sopaipillas, and other Southwestern delights). This helped make him a household name. The food and accommodations provided by Fred Harvey (which, by the way, the company was called. No Inc. or Corporation in the name, just “Fred Harvey”) boosted the towns and other locations (including the Grand Canyon) where the Harvey Houses were located which, in turn, boosted tourism to these places. This boosted the bottom line of the Santa Fe as rail traffic and ridership increased. The economy of the west then got off the ground, “civilizing” what was known prior to this time as the Wild West.

Harvey House in the Kingman, Arizona Santa Fe Station abt.1908 Photo: arizona100.blogspot.com

Harvey House in the Kingman, Arizona Santa Fe Station abt.1908
Photo: arizona100.blogspot.com

The Harvey Houses chugged along fine as long as passenger rail service was popular. Once the automobile became the dominant mode of transportation one-by-one the Harvey Houses began to close. The company tried to change mode and opened Harvey House restaurants in places that served the automobile. In fact, Harvey Houses were the first restaurants to occupy the Illinois Tollway Oases that were built over the Tri-State and Northwest Tollways in the Chicago area. The partnership Harvey had with the Santa Fe lasted until 1963 . The company itself was eventually gobbled up in corporate takeovers.

Harvey House Menu from Chicago Union Station 1945

Harvey House Menu from Chicago Union Station 1945  (click for a larger view)

What Fred Harvey strived for, was to give a sense of place to local stops, making them more than just stations along the line. As a way to boost local economies and to promote local food, modern companies and civic groups can take note of what Fred Harvey set out to accomplish nearly 140 years ago. Next time you eat at a chain restaurant, look at the menu and know that there are people eating at the same chain, looking at the same menu, and ordering the same fare from Chicago to Seattle to Dubai. Then imagine a chain where the local outlets took pride in what their location had to offer in both food and ambience and maybe you will hear a Harvey Girl singing about the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.

Santa_Fe - Along Your Way cover 1945

Santa_Fe – Along Your Way cover 1945

Further reading:

Appitite for America – How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West By Stephen Fried

The Harvey House Cookbook: Memories of Dining Along the Santa Fe Railroad by George H. Foster  & Peter C. Weiglin

Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest by Richard Melzer

Opportunity Bound a documentary about The Harvey Girls

September 16, 2015

Downstate fundraiser benefits local food awareness

Featuring small plates from chefs representing several prominent Central Illinois restaurants, the 2015 Annual Harvest Celebration took place at the State House Inn in Springfield Sunday night. The annual celebration of the use of locally sourced ingredients benefits the Illinois Stewardship Alliance in their quest to get the word out about local food and sustainable farming. The restaurants included in the event are well known for serving locally produced and sourced food and farm products.

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Included in the fare were entrees and desserts by

Chef Ryan Lewis of Driftwood Cocktail and Eatery, Springfield

Chefs Jordan and Aurora Coffey of American Harvest Eatery, Springfield

Chef Greg Christian of Beyond Green Partners, Chicago

Brent Schoewer of Engrained Brewing Company, Springfield

Chef Dustin Allen of Edge by Chef Dustin Allen, Peoria

Chef Denise Perry of Copper Pot Cooking Studio, Springfield

Chef Pateick Groth of Incredibly Delicious, Springfield

And Chef Corey Faucon of Augie’s Front Burner, Springfield

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The creations the chefs served spanned everywhere from Zucchini Agrodolce with Flank Steak, Corn Custard with Pork Rillette, Peach & Pork Belly Marmalade, Vietnamese Bun Thit, and Winter Squash Tamale with Grilled Pumpkin Crema.

Dave Bishop of PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta, Illinois was the featured speaker.

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July 29, 2015

NCR-SARE Announces 2016 Farmer Rancher Grant Call for Proposals

sare-northcentral

From a SARE press release:

The 2016 North Central Region – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Call for Proposals is now available online at http://www.northcentralsare.org/Grants/Our-Grant-Programs/Farmer-Rancher-Grant-Program.

Farmers and ranchers in the North Central region are invited to submit grant proposals to explore sustainable agriculture solutions to problems on the farm or ranch.  Proposals should show how farmers and ranchers plan to use their own innovative ideas to explore sustainable agriculture options and how they will share project results. Sustainable agriculture is good for the environment, profitable, and socially responsible. Projects should emphasize research or education/demonstration.

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There are three types of competitive grants: individual grants ($7,500 maximum), team of two grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($15,000 maximum), and group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($22,500 maximum). NCR-SARE expects to fund about 40 projects in the twelve-state North Central Region with this call. A total of approximately $400,000 is available for this program.

NCR-SARE will be accepting online submissions for the Farmer Rancher Grant Program. More information about the online submission system can be found in the call for proposals.

Interested applicants can find the call for proposals online as well as useful information for completing a proposal at http://www.northcentralsare.org/Grants/Types-of-Grants/Farmer-Rancher-Grant-Program. You can find more information about sustainable agriculture at http://www.sare.org/ or take a free National Continuing Education Program online course about the basic concepts at http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Courses-and-Curricula.

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Proposals are due on December 3, 2015 at 4 pm CST.

Potential applicants with questions can contact Joan Benjamin, Associate Regional Coordinator and Farmer Rancher Grant Program Coordinator, at benjaminj@lincolnu.edu or 573-681-5545 or 800-529-1342. Applicants should also contact Joan Benjamin if they need a hard copy or an email version of the call for proposals. We make revisions to our calls for proposals each year, which means it is crucial to use the most recent call for proposals.

Each state in SARE’s North Central Region has one or more State Sustainable Agriculture Coordinators who can provide information and assistance to potential grant applicants. Interested applicants can find their State Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator online at http://www.northcentralsare.org/State-Programs.

NCR-SARE
UMN BioAgEng Bldg. Ste 120
1390 Eckles Avenue
Saint Paul MN 55108
Direct Phone: 612.626.3113
Office Fax: 612.626.3132

On the web: http://www.northcentralsare.org/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NCRSARE
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ncrsare 
On YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/NCRSAREvideo

June 23, 2014

Illinois Governor Quinn Approves Legislation Supporting Farmers Markets

Chicago, IL: With summer officially here and Chicago’s 61st Street Farmers Market as the backdrop, on June 21st Governor Pat Quinn signed into law HB5657, an important new piece of legislation that sets in motion a number of reforms that support farmers market and Illinois farmers. HB5657 was unanimously approved by both the Illinois State Senate and House of Representatives this spring.

“This is a really important step when it comes to supporting farmers markets and community development, and a long time coming. Farmers, farmers market managers and those that support the burgeoning local food movement have been asking for and working towards a number of the reforms included in House Bill 5657 for several years,” said Wes King Executive Director of Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “These reforms will help to support and sustain new and current farmers markets, the jobs they create, the business they incubate and the farmers, young and old, that call them home.”

 Gov. Pat Quinn Photo: WLS

Gov. Pat Quinn
Photo: WLS

 

Illinois Stewardship Alliance has been working alongside the Illinois Environmental Council, local health departments, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Public Health Association to develop HB5657.

 Galesburg Farmers Market  Galesburg Register Mail

Galesburg Farmers Market
Galesburg Register Mail

 

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria), who first introduced similar legislation in 2009; includes a number of provisions aimed at supporting and sustaining farmers markets and the farmers and vendors that attend them:

 

  • Consistent Statewide Farmers      Market Rules – creates a timeline for      Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Farmers’ Market Task Force      to complete recommendations for statewide rules and regulations for farmers      markets and strengthens that task force’s authority and process for      developing and finalizing said rules and regulations. The task force was      originally created in statute by the general assembly in 2011. The bill      gives the task force until December 15, 2014 to create their      recommendations. Currently food safety rules and regulations vary across      the state from county to county and city to city, sometimes dramatically,      creating a patchwork quilt of regulations for farmers and entrepreneurs to      navigate.
  • Statewide Sampling Program – Sampling of products is critical to any food      business including those at farmers markets. HB 5657 authorizes and      instructs IDPH and the farmers market task force to develop a statewide      sampling certificate program that would allow a farmer or entrepreneur to      offer product samples at any farmers market in the state under one      certificate, and just as importantly, under one consistent statewide set      of rules. Currently related rules, regulations and permits are highly      variable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and few farmers market vendors      offer samples.
  • Product Origin and Transparency      Provisions – Consumers at farmers markets      may assume that products sold at these markets are locally grown, but      there are some vendors that are actually resellers selling the same out of      state product as most grocery stores. HB5657 requires farmers market      vendors that sell unprocessed produce to have a label that states the      address where their products were physically grown. If the vendor can’t      disclose that, the vendor must list where it was purchased from.
  • Cottage Food Operations –      Cottage food – or non-hazardous foods made in home kitchens – is a growing      business in Illinois. Caps the fee that local health departments can      chargecottage      food operations for registering at $25 per year to minimize costs to these      small businesses.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be developing some materials on it to educate farmers and market managers about the impacts of it and we plan to host a couple webinars later in the summer with the Illinois Farmers Market Association to educate attendees about what is in the law and what are the potential impacts.

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

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Illinois Stewardship Alliance:

www.ilstewards.org

https://www.facebook.com/ilstewards

Illinois Farmers Market Association:

http://ilfarmersmarkets.org/

– See more at: http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2014/06/23/governor-quinn-approves-legislation-supporting-farmers-markets/#sthash.hhHBTuSg.dpuf

November 6, 2013

Salsas, a great way to use up the last of the crop!

If you are among the gardeners that stripped your pepper and tomato plants of fruit when the word of upcoming hard freezes were approaching a while back, you may have a surplus of peppers and tomatoes. The tomatoes are probably green and and the peppers hot. There may seem to be limited ways to use green tomatoes or hot peppers but there are many recipes that call for them. Sauces and salsas are great way to use both!

 

Green Tomato Salsa Verde Photo: Moderncomfortfood.com

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Photo: Moderncomfortfood.com

 

 

Green tomato salsa is a great way to use up many of the tomatoes and hot peppers that are left on the vine when freezing weather sets in. This recipe, adapted from the Ball canning guide, is also a great way to store the tomatoes for the winter. It is a green tomato salsa that is sort of like a Mexican salsa verde made with green tomatoes instead of tomatillos. The recipe makes about 6 (8oz) half pints:

Ingredients:

7 cups chopped cored peeled green tomatoes (about 12 medium)

5 to10 jalapeno, habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups chopped red onion (about 2 large)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup loosely packed finely chopped cilantro

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:

1.) Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

2.) Combine tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic and lime juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in cilantro, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

3.) Ladle hot salsa into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

4.) Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

 

Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce Photo: FarmTrucksOrganics.com

Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce

Photo: FarmTrucksOrganics.com

Originally from the Eastern Thai city of Sri Racha, Sriracha sauce has become popular in the U.S. in recent years due to Huy Fong Foods in Orange County, California. Although it has been used for many years in Thailand and Vietnam as a dipping sauce, primarily for seafood, the Huy Fong version has a growing following in this country. Chinese-Vietnamese David Tran began the company in 1983 after arriving in California. Although the commercial variety is popular, you can use your own produce to make a homemade variety. The following recipe is from the LocalKitchen blog which makes  5, 4-oz jars:

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups white vinegar

1/2 lb habañero peppers, stemmed & halved (seeded if desired for less heat)

1/2 lb red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped

1/4 cup smashed, peeled garlic cloves (about 1 head)

1/4 cup raw sugar (organic turbinado)

1 scant tbsp kosher flake salt (use 2 tsp if using a fine-grained salt)

 

Day 1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add peppers & garlic and push under liquid. Cover and allow it to sit overnight (or for several nights; mine sat for about a week).

Day 2 (or 7). Prepare canner, jars and lids.

Strain liquid from pepper-garlic mixture into a medium saucepan. Bring brine to a full boil over high heat; boil, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to 1/4 the original volume, or to a final volume of about 1/2 – 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Add the vegetables, return to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth, or leave slightly chunky, per your preference. Return to the saucepan, bring sauce to a simmer, then fill hot jars to 1/2-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

 

 

 

Sambal Oelek Photo: The Food Network

Sambal Oelek

Photo: The Food Network

Originally from Indonesia, sambal is a sauce that is made primarily of chili peppers. There are many types of sambals with many differing ingredients depending on their use and the region of Indonesia that they originated from. Sambal oelek is one type of sambal that is popular in the United States, also due to Huy Fong Foods, and is a spicy sauce made from Raw chili paste. It can be used as the base for making other sambals or as an ingredient for other cuisines. Some types of this variant call for the addition of salt or lime into the red mixture. The term “oelek” or sometimes spelled “ulek” is a stone mortar used to make the paste in Asia. Since sambal oelek is primarily made with the fewest ingredients, it is the easiest to make. This recipe is from the Food Network.

1 lb red chile

5 1/2 ounces garlic, peeled and chopped

5 1/2 ounces tender young ginger, peeled and chopped

2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (white part only)

6 fluid ounces vinegar

8 ounces sugar

salt, to taste

1 tablespoon lime zest, chopped

 

Directions:

1.) Blend the chilies, garlic, ginger and lemon grass in a food processor or mortar and pestle.

2.) While processing gradually add the vinegar.

3.) Place the pureed mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

4.) Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

5.) Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

6.) Add the salt and lime zest.

7.) Remove from the heat, cool and bottle in sterilized jars.

 

 

All of these recipes will help give you a use for all of the green tomatoes and hot peppers that you may not have any other use for. Canning these salsas is also a great way to store them for the winter.

 

A good tip if you are trying any of these recipes:

When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

September 30, 2013

Exotic Vegetables for the Garden – Asian Vegetables

Now that the 2013 gardening season is winding down it is not too early to start planning for 2014. Most gardeners have their favorite varieties of tomatoes, peppers or potatoes and already have a plan in mind as to where they will go and how much will be planted. Anticipating the coming of the seed catalogs later this year, gardeners with a little flair for experimentation may want to add some exotic or ethnic vegetables to their 2014 planting roster. This week I will talk a little about Asian vegetables.

Vegetables from Asia that are familiar to many American gardeners include bok choi and Chinese cabbage. There are other Asian greens though, that are easy to grow plus pack a great deal of nutrients. Komatsuna is a relative of the turnip family. Also called spinach mustard, it is a large leafy green grown in Japan, Taiwan and Korea. With dark glossy green leaves it is rich in calcium and vitamin A. They can be harvested at any stage and prepared like spinach in the early stages and more like cabbage as they mature. The flavor grows stronger and hotter if allowed to mature and if grown in hot weather. Komatsuna can be stir-fried, pickled, boiled and added to soups or used fresh in salads. Tatsoi is a very similar green that is becoming popular in North America.

Komatsuna Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Komatsuna Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Tatsoi Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Tatsoi Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Pickling is a quite common way to preserve vegetables in Asian countries. Greens, such as the ones mentioned above, as well as just about any vegetable grown, are pickled in one form or another in Korean, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Melons are no exception as with the aptly named “Pickling Melon.” Similar to pickling cucumbers of the west, but much larger, the young melons can be eaten raw or added to a salad as you would a cucumber. Pickling though, is the most common preparation used for this vegetable in Asia. The pickling melon is also versatile enough to be baked stuffed with beef, pork, chicken or vegetables or even used in a stir fry.

Bitter melon is another cucurbit that can be pickled, stuffed, or used in soups. It is native to Southern China and thrives in the heat and humid climate of mid-summer. It has twice the beta carotene of broccoli and is high in potassium and calcium. It also contains high amounts of fiber, phosphorous, and Vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3 and lutein, an important nutrient for eyesight.

 

Bitter Melon Photo: SeriousEats.com

Bitter Melon Photo: SeriousEats.com

 

Daikon Radish is a very large rooted relative of the radish. Used in many ways from Japan to Bangladesh, this vegetable can be stir fried, baked, or used in soups. It can also be used fresh in salads.  In several cuisines the leaves are used in various ways. These include a dish, made for the Japanese Festival of Seven Herbs, which is seven-herb rice porridge (nanakusa-gayu) that is eaten on January 7. The daikon can grow quite large and there are contests for the largest daikon in Japan. It is used frequently in Korean kim chee. Like many Asian veggies, the daikon is often pickled.

 

 

Daikon Radish Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Daikon Radish Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Yardlong Bean, also called Chinese Long Bean or sometimes Asparagus Bean, is a bean that is not directly related to the common pole bean, but is grown in much the same way. As its name implies, it grows from 14 to 30 inches long. It is used in many stir fries, soups, or in many dishes that call for green beans.

 

Yardlong Bean Photo: Lion Seeds

Yardlong Bean Photo: Lion Seeds

 

Chinese broccoli or gai-lan, a broccoli relative, is also called Chinese kale or kailan. The edible vegetable consists of a tender green flower stem with buds of what will become white flowers. The leaves and stems are light to medium green in color. Different varieties of gai-lan vary in stem length and color from light to medium green. It grows best in cooler weather and is great in stir fries.

The vegetables mentioned above are grown in much the same way as their western counterparts. The leafy greens and the daikon are grown like other brassicas, the melons like other cucurbits and so on. The list I have discussed only includes a few of many more vegetables grown by Asian gardeners that can just as easily be grown in our country.  If you feel a little adventurous try an Asian vegetable in your garden next year! In Future articles, I will talk about vegetables from other parts of the world.

 

PurdueUniversity has several publications on growing Asian vegetables including: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1996/V3-488.html

And  http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-187.pdf

A couple of sources of Asian vegetable seeds are:

Kitazawa Seed Company http://www.kitazawaseed.com/

Evergreen Seeds http://www.evergreenseeds.com/vegetableseeds.html

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.

goldenbeetpic

September 17, 2013

Illinois Stewardship Alliance Publishes Legal Guide for Farmers

Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Stewardship Alliance today released a legal guide for farmers wanting to sell directly to consumers, restaurants and others.

The guide is intended to be an introduction to the legal framework surrounding agriculture for beginning and current farmers who are interested in being part of the fastest growing sector of their industry – direct farm marketing of vegetables, fruits, meats and other products.

Specific to Illinois, the guide is a handy reference on topics like taxing, zoning, liability insurance, cottage food laws, and regulations that pertain to specific foods.

“I’m excited about the potential of this guide to help beginning and current farmers make the leap into local and organic food sales,”Wes King, Illinois Stewardship Alliance executive director and guide co-author, said.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance first published a legal guide for farmers interested in direct farm marketing in 2003. Changes to the laws and rules regarding food, such as the passage of the Cottage Food Act, compost reform, and federal Food Safety Modernization Act, demanded an update.

“My hope is that this guide will help people grow safe food, form successful business ventures and make the vision of local and organic food as an engine of prosperity for our community, our state and our region real,” Rich Schell, an attorney that focuses on agriculture-related issues and guide co-author, said.

The guide, officially titled “Guide to Illinois Laws Governing Direct Farm Marketing,” is also in the process of being translated into Spanish. The Spanish translation is set to be released later in the year.

In addition to farmers, King said the guide will prove useful to educators in the field of local food and economic developers who provide technical assistance to farmers and entrepreneurs.

Hard copies of the guide can be obtained from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance by calling 217-528-1563 or emailing isa@ilstewards.org. A PDF of the guide is available at ISA’s website, www.ilstewards.org.

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 https://www.facebook.com/ilstewards or follow ISA on twitter, @ilstewards.

September 13, 2013

Ratatouille – Fresh Garden Tomatoes, Peppers, Zucchini, and Eggplants all in One Dish

Among the most popular vegetables planted by gardeners are tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. Among the reasons that these particular vegetables are popular is the fact that they are easy to grow and each gives a lot of produce while taking up a relatively small area. This is especially valuable for city dwellers who may have only small plots to grow on and do not want to take up a lot of space with crops that will give much less produce per square foot.

Photo: www.courierpress.com

Photo: http://www.courierpress.com

 

Many of the unique varieties of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant are also give heavy yields. This leads to a problem, that being what do you do with what you have left after you have canned, frozen, and given away the bulk of your crop? You may want to use them all in the same dish. One thing you can make is Ratatouille. Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. The full name of the dish is ratatouille niçoise. According to Wikipedia:

Ratatouille Photo: Wikipedia

Ratatouille Photo: Wikipedia

“The word ratatouille comes from Occitan ratatolha and the recipe comes from Occitan cuisine. The French touiller means to toss food. Ratatouille originated in the area around present day Occitan Provença (French: Provence) and Niça (French: Nice); the Catalan samfaina and the Majorcan tombet are versions of the same dish. The southern Italian ciambotta is a related spring vegetable dish.”

Occitan is a language spoken in the South of France.

Emeril Lagasse' version of Ratatouille Photo: Food Network

Emeril Lagasse’s version of Ratatouille Photo: Food Network

Ratatouille is a perfect way to get rid of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that are piling up this time of year. The following is a recipe for Ratatouille from Emeril Lagasse borrowed from the Food Network:

Ratatouille:

(Emeril Lagasse’s recipe)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed

1 1/2 cups small diced yellow onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cups medium diced eggplant, skin on

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 cup diced green bell peppers

1 cup diced red bell peppers

1 cup diced zucchini squash

1 cup diced yellow squash

1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Set a large 12-inch saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggplant and thyme to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the green and red peppers, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes. Stir well to blend and serve either hot or at room temperature.

 

Emeril also uses yellow summer squash in his version of this dish. There are many other versions and like I said this is a great way to use all of these popular vegetable up in one dish. Of couse anybody, even those without gardens, can make it asl well. Farmers markets are flush with most of the ingredients above so it is a way to eat local too!