Archive for the ‘Local produce’ Category

Is there something called Bloggers block. If there is I’ve had it. I’ve been whirling in circles, writing and deleting blog posts in my head and never quite making it to the computer to get anything down. It’s partly because I’m not sure what I have to say. Because I’ve been having a hard time to stay true to local, local, local, even in the middle of the summer. For example, last week I bought eggplant from a street vendor on St. Nicholas Avenue.  I have no idea where it came from. I have no idea if it was local or organic. But it looked really nice. It was there and it was $1/lb.  I felt like a bit like a renegade. I also bought avocados, which are never local.  I know, I’m a real rebel.

In case you didn’t notice. I’ve taken a tiny  break from blogging. In fact, I noticed it’s been more than a month since my last post. I’ve been doing more or less what I have come to do – my sustainable practice – but I’ve been less than perfect. I’ve eaten a lot more take out than I should have which has made garbage. I haven’t been reading as much and  I’ve been more interested in writing about other things.

It’s hard to decide what to share in the blog and what to keep private. Even though I know most of my readers are actually people I know, the open conversation when it comes to more personal matters makes me a bit squeamish. I guess I’m showing my age. In a post-everything world, nobody really cares. But I do.  So, the reason I stopped posting is pretty much economic. I left my job. It was time and I am glad to be moving on to new opportunities, but still, it was a shake up. And without the security of a paycheck, it has really made me think twice about the expense of organic and local food. Which brings me back to my eggplant and avocados on St. Nicholas Avenue.

Up and down the streets of 181st and St. Nicholas Avenue, there are street vendors with fresh fruits and vegetables being sold for super cheap prices — a buck for a cantaloupe, 2 avocados for a buck fifty – what impact does it make on the food infrastructure does it have to buy from them. Is it better to buy organic from a big corporation like Whole Foods? There’s got to be some value in supporting people who may have limited ways to make a living and who are bring fresh produce to an inner city neighborhood

Think twice does not mean abandon. Because the truth of the matter is that I love going to the farmers market, meeting farmers and getting tips.  We have lost a lot of our know-how when it comes to cooking and sustaining ourselves. But, as I’ve been spending more time looking for a job, I’ve had even less time to beef up on the latest. It’s another reason behind my blogger’s block. Still, the fact is, I’m still composting, cooking from scratch and more or less buying local. Writing about it, helps me remember, that it’s worth the trouble.

A corny question:

Most people think corn in the husk keeps the corn fresher. But according to a farmer at the Tuesday market, it’s better to husk the corn, put it in a Ziploc bag and store it in the fridge. She said husking delays the sugar breaking down and keeps the corn fresher and sweeter. I can’t seem to verify this on the Internet – I’m getting conflicting opinions. All I know is that I followed her advice, husked the corn on Tuesday, ate in on Thursday and it was pretty freakin’ good.

To husk or not to husk? Any other opinions out there?

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By the time I got to the farmer’s market Saturday, it was late and the eggs were all gone. Still  the air was warm, the sun was shining and, for the first time in months, I could buy things to eat that didn’t come from a root cellar.  The farmer promised me that the gnarly parsley in the big bin was new. So was the salsify in the bin right next to the parsnips.

Salsify. It sounds like a verb. Maybe an evangelical verb. “Brothers and sisters, are you ready to Salsify? But it’s not. It’s another one of those weird vegetables that people used to eat back when we were hungry and didn’t have options. Now it’s a novelty at the green market. But since, there is very little local that’s in season, I picked up a few on Saturday.

Goatsbeard, the other name for salsify, brings up a whole other set of connotations. “Where’s the goatsbeard? Oh, it’s over there next to the eye of newt.” However, despite its fantastical Dungeon’s and Dragons name, the root doesn’t seem to have any magical properties.

The third name for salsify, is oyster vegetable because cooked, it’s supposed to taste like oysters. That also sounded intriguing. I have found a recipe for oyster stew with salsify, but since John is a vegetarian and since I really wanted to see what the thing tasted like I went simple.

I boiled it (using a 1919 recipe off a site called Vintage Recipes) and added a bit of salt and butter. It was okay. It did taste a little like oysters and it had a earthy flavor reminiscent of celery root for me, but not nearly as overwhelming. I could see how it would be a nice alternative to mashed potatoes, or as a subtle hint in a soup paired with the right beans.

I was curious what I was getting nutritionally. Was it less calories than a potato? Was it a resource for any special vitamin?  Ironically, it’s really not. 75 g of potato is 58 calories. And 133 grams of salsify is 109. According to my math, gram for gram, the two are roughly the same.

So why salsify your menu? Potatoes are cheaper and more plentiful. I guess, the big draw is seasonality. I have not given up prepackaged frozen vegetables. I still see them as an option. But seriously, as the price of gas continues to rise learning to eat local is going to look less and less like a choice.

Salsify up your next local feast

This salsify gratin recipe is loaded with Gruyere cheese — I haven’t tried it yet but it has to be good. And here are a few recipes that look a little less dacadent, but still interesting and delicious:

Here’s some salsify other recipes to try:

Damon Wise’s Pan-Roasted Salsify

Buttery Salsify with Horseradish

Edna Lewis’s Oyster Salsify Stew

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This winter, I’ve used approximately 6 cans of canned tomatoes and three jars of sauce. I’ve been keeping track – so that next year, when tomato season hits, I can make an educated decision about how many tomatoes to cook and store. That is, unless I hit the Holy Grail of canned tomatoes before then. (Meaning someone else with a bigger kitchen has canned them.) I’m trying to figure out if Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes are what I’ve been searching for.

Last week, my friend Greg turned me on to a Tasting Table post  about another local resource for canned tomatoes: Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes. Apparently this is the brand used by chi chi Chefs like Chefs Tony Liu (Pulino’s), Nick Anderer (Maialino), Craig Hopson (Le Cirque), Marc Meyer (Cookshop, Five Points and Hundred Acres) and Andrew Feinberg (Bklyn Larder). If it’s good enough for Le Cirque, it’s good enough for Caliban’s Kitchen. Right?

I decided to jump on the restaurant big wigs bandwagon and try these Jersey Farms. Of course, I leaped and then decided to take a look to see what I leapt into.

Based on the package design, you might think you need to have your cans airdropped onto a hidden island aka Lost’s Dharma initiative. But in NYC you can actually find them at most of the usual suspect fancy grocery stores:  Fresh Direct, Dean and Deluca, Stinky Bklyn, Greene Grape Provisions, Bklyn Larder, Union Market, The Brooklyn Kitchen, Court Street Grocers and Murray’s Cheese.

My gut worried that this was going to be another expensive resource.  At Fresh Direct, the tomatoes run $3.19/can. But there was a link on the Tasting Table page to buy now. They got me. I clicked and found myself at Primizie — Importer of Fine Foods.

At Primizie a case of the case of 12 cans of tomatoes cost $27.99. That comes out to $2.35 a can. It’s not super cheap, but it’s cheaper than my bodega. The shipping charge was going to be about $11 but they offer free shipping for over $50. So I doubled my order.

Plus I spoke to them and if you use the special Caliban’s Kitchen code you can get a great discount — use coupon code: CKITCHEN25 and you’ll receive $25 off a purchase of $50.

Ok, 2 cases is a lot of tomatoes, but I figured, fresh tomatoes really won’t come until mid July if I’m lucky. So I’m investing in more veggie chili for the winter but also a few batches of early summer gazpacho – I hope these tomatoes are good. . . .

Both Tasting Table and Primizie’s promised that these tomatoes are packed  within 24 hours. That’s fresh. According to the Primizie: This can is filled with pure, vine-ripened, fresh field-grown tomatoes picked by a cooperative of six farmers in southern New Jersey. Once they’re off the vine, these Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes are canned within 24 hours, and a percentage of the sale of each can goes directly back to the hardworking farmers.

I ordered the case between meetings. I had been meaning to do it for a week. At first glance I was excited by the fact that a percentage of the sales of each can goes back to the hardworking farmers but after I had a moment to stop and think, I wondered – why wouldn’t the farmers get money from the tomatoes. Something was off with that statement.

I did an Internet search, and besides other bloggers waxing poetical about the lasagna or soup these tomatoes inspired, I couldn’t find any info about the growers. I started to wonder, who’s running this cooperative? Tony Soprano?

So I called up Primizie  again and asked if they could help me get in touch with the farmers cooperative in southern Jersey. Jacyln was very nice, but she said she couldn’t pass me the information. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. She did agree to pass on my questions. Here’s what I asked:

1) I understand that these tomatoes are not organic, however, can you find out their farming philosophy? Do they use petro-chemical fertilizers? Are they low spray? Do they spray on demand, or do they spray as a preventative?

2) What kind of tomatoes do they can? Are they Roma or Beefsteak ? (Beefsteak’s what I think of when I think Jersey tomatoes) Do they ever use heirloom varieties? Or do they use any of those Italian types? Do they use any GMO seeds?

This morning, I didn’t hear anything from Primizie. Again, I wasn’t surprised. So I sniffed around a bit more until I found a phone number at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture where Bill Walker was able to provide me a lot of great answers.

I asked him some of my questions. He said, that no, the cooperative was not organic but that in general traditional farmers are not interested in using chemicals unless they have to. Chemicals are expensive and most farmers want to use them as little as possible. I have heard that before from other traditional farmers. But I’ve also heard from organic farmers that chemicals are not necessary. But that’s another story. Bill said that Jersey farmers are aware of the environmental implications and the potential hazard to the farm workers. According to Bill, New Jersey Farmers are interested in integrated pest management.

“We probably have some of the smartest most technologically advanced farmers in the country,” Bill said, “thanks in part to Rutgers cooperative extension program. So, for example, if it stays hot and wet for a certain period of time and Rutgers sends out an email and will tell them to spray. They get all that real-time data so they can monitor when pest or fungicides are necessary.”

He also told me something else I didn’t know, farmers who spray chemicals need to have a license. In order to keep that license they have to do courses at Rutgers Cooperative Extension every year to stay up to date. Interesting.

Bill told me that the tomatoes are packed by the Violet packing plant – the only packers left in NJ. I wondered if that was the case. I’d talked to them before the last time I was researching NJ tomatoes – they pack Scalfani brand tomatoes. But what I found out today was that the Scalfani family actually owns the plant – although they may have sold it recently to a “big conglomerate.” I have a contact name to talk to at Violet – I’ll call them tomorrow and see if I can get some clarity. I’m also curious if Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes are the same tomatoes as the Scalfani brand. In any case, I still have a can of Scalfani, when my gazillion cans of Jersey Farms come, I’ll do a taste test.

Bill thinks that it’s likely that Jersey Farms brand are not Roma or San Marzanos but Jersey style tomatoes—the big beefy lookers called Ramapo’s. I still need to confirm that. Here’s what the NJ Farm Fresh says about Ramapo’s

“The Ramapo Tomato was developed at Rutgers NJAES in 1968 by Dr. Bernard Pollack. Many years ago it disappeared from seed catalogs. Seed companies were favoring varieties that produced higher yields for commercial growers. Despite its disappearance, Rutgers continued to receive many requests for this tasty tomato and produced small batches throughout the years. And now, the first commercial lot of organically grown genuine Ramapo F1 hybrid seed is available through an effort by Rutgers NJAES”

When I asked about what it meant that a “percentage of the profits from each can goes back to the farmer,” Bill didn’t exactly have an answer. But he did have some interesting background info. “In almost any processed food situation,” he explained, “the farmers get about 1/3 of the profits, the processor/wholesaler gets a 1/3 and the retailer gets the final 1/3.”

Maybe Primitive gives the farmer a percentage of their third. I’ll call tomorrow and see if Jaclyn or someone else can explain. In the meantime, my bumper crop of Jersey cans has just arrived. Apparently ground shipping from the Bronx takes less time than it takes me to post!

The final rub, the can were shipped in a big box filled with Styrofoam peanuts. Arggg. What did they think? The cans would break. My splurge of organic Black Kabuli Chick Peas (not local at all, I’m afraid) also came wrapped in bubble wrap!

I did quickly speak to Primizie a few minutes ago and they said that they are working on using more environmentally friendly packaging materials but right now they can’t afford it. I appreciate that they are concerned, but I do think it would make me hesitate to order again. Unless, they will take my peanuts and bubble wrap back and reuse them. It’s unlikely,  but hey, I can dream.

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We got a box of oranges for Chanukah. Oranges and tangerines to be exact. I felt like one of those kids in a Victorian novel who discovers an orange in her Christmas stocking. Oranges have been a staple in my fridge since I was a kid — but this year, getting a gift box  genuinely felt like a treat.

At the beginning of the week, on the news, they reported that citrus growers were using helicopters to keep the fruit from freezing.  Sure the report made me think about the environmental impact of growing oranges —  you don’t have to be have a PhD in environmental science to know that flying big petroleum-based machines over acres and acres of orange groves is going to boast the carbon footprint of  your average, delicious, navel off the charts. (For  good description of why eating oranges and drinking OJ out of their natural habitat is so not green, check out this Slate Green Lantern Column). But still, the oranges might freeze news didn’t exactly send me right to my “environmentally outraged” soap box. Oranges are amazing. I love them. They are a luxury and a treat. But I’m happy to have them. The fact that the orange growers were having a tough night, made me feel for farmers, in general, who have to work so hard to produce food for the rest of us. Every season farmers have to ask themselves, “Will the crops I planted survive?”

As consumers, we’re sheltered from this concern lulled into a false sense of security by our facade of supermarket abundance. But, as my own little foray into windowsill farming, has shown me sometimes you don’t reap what you’ve sown.  Then today as I was looking over my CSA winter share contract this part jumped out: “By signing this form you are also indicating that you are aware of the risk inherent in farming, particularly during the winter, and that you are willing to share the risk.”

In supermarkets, sharing the risk is sharing the cost. It’s not uncommon for the price of a type of food to go up due to an agricultural problem. But sharing the cost sometimes leave me feeling resentful.  I have no control over what price they charge me. And the supermarket game it to get things cheap — use coupons, get sales — get more for less. When I have my supermarket head on, quality is an issue. Environmental impact — not so much. But sharing the risk is something different. It’s acknowledging up front that this joint endeavor is risky.  And it makes it really clear to me as the consumer that we, the consumer and the farmer, are  in this thing together.

I’m probably thinking about the impact of reducing consumption since it’s one of the key tenets of Mark Bitman’s philosophy of eating. I’m reading Food Matters right now. It’s not new and he’s not the only one who’se said it. But so far it’s an interesting articulation of the argument. Not quite as inspiring or enjoyable as Michael Pollan’s writing – but still a good read. It’s all comes down to saving the planet one bite at a time.

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After much anticipation, I harvested my two windowsill radishes on Sunday.  They were terrible.

Maybe I waited too long. Maybe I should have popped them up when I first noticed them pushing their pink and white heads out of the soil. But I was waiting for a special time, when I could really enjoy them.  As I gnawed on the spongy tasteless bitter rood, I thought,  if I had to grow all my own food,  I would be really hungry.

Fear of starvation. It is clearly one of my themes.

But truthfully, despite my worry, buying and eating local food is not as much of a hardship as I had expected. True, I have learned that if I want to be a true locavore I need to plan better in the summer. So as I continue to research where to find local, organic canned tomatoes, I’m keeping track of how many cans of tomatoes I would actually need to get me through a winter.  So far, I have bought 4 cans. I am also investigating local hydroponic tomatoes.

I’m starting to look at some of my core winter recipes and experimenting with ways to create tomato-less versions. For example, sweet and sour cabbage soup is an Eastern European winter delicacy — it involves raisins, tomatoes and brown sugar. Last winter, I figured out how to make it meatless — it was a hit. This winter, I am experimenting with other types of cabbage soups that evoke that homey feeling but cater to a green market shopping list.

This Red Cabbage and Barley soup is my first attempt. It is inspired by two of my grandmother’s classic soups:  chicken soup with  barley and beans (“Grandma soup” as we called it) and the sweet and sour cabbage soup that my mother made with a big chunk of beef. For me, barley says warmth and comfort. It’s also supposedly healthy. It’s also helps fight Type 2 Diabetes for starters — a bit of a concern for both John and I since we each have diabetes in our immediate families.  I have been looking for ways to build it into our diet more.

What’s harder is trying to feed the kids from the winter garden. They are not big on root vegetables or squash. It’s a challenge and I am not as concerned with being as strict about limiting their produce to local. So far, I have bought cucumbers grown in California and a bag of frozen peas (Whole Foods organic).  In terms of fruit, I still buy banana and I have bought  a pineapple and a case of mandarin oranges from Spain.  But mostly, for fruit we have been focusing on apples and pears which are still available in abundance in the green market. And, starting next Saturday, I get my first winter share of the CSA. I’m hoping their greenhouse will produce a prolific assortment of greens!

All and all I am very mindful of where produce is grown and how it gets to my table. So are the kids. Basically, we are getting into a different routine. I am not sure if we have maximized our sustainability but we have definitely raised our consciousness.


Red Cabbage and Barley Soup

1/2 red cabbage cored and cut into slices

1 -2 big carrot cut into chunks

1 parsnips cut into chunks

1/2 a celery root cut into chunks

a bay leaf

2 quarts of vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you are not a vegetarian)

3/4 cup of pearl barley

Sour cream (for garnish)

Saute the root vegetables in two to three table spoons of  olive oil for about 5 -10 minutes. Add in the cabbage. Saute again to coat the cabbage. After another 5 minutes add the vegetable stock, the salt, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Rinse the pearl barley. Add it into the gently boiling soup. Cook for 1-2 hours, or until the root vegetables are soft.  Puree the soup with a hand blender of regular blender. Leave some chunks of vegetables. Cook for another 10 minutes to let the soup thicken. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.


KID NOTE: Z would not go near this soup. B said he would try it, but in the end didn’t. He tasted it, and said he didn’t hate it.  I think if I keep offering, eventually, his palate will expand. B was completely grossed out when I butchered a chicken to make chicken soup. “When I grow up,” he told me, “and stop liking kid food, I’m totally going to be a vegetarian.”







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Ah, the pre-Thanksgiving frenzy. My cheese pumpkin is baked, drained and ready to be made into a pie. I roasted the seeds with a little bit of salt and Ancho chili pepper, local since it was brought from New Mexico from my friend Pilar! (See below for recipe.)

But this morning, in the midst of my holiday cooking,  I got this action alert from the Cornucopia institute asking us all to call our Senators and tell them to hold firm on KEEPING the Tester-Hagan amendment part of the S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. The legislation will likely come up for a vote when they go back into session early next week.

Here’s the back story. (Via the Cornucopia Institute) Right now there is a bill in the Senate called the S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. According to the Cornucopia Institute, for over a year, the big Agribusiness trade organizations have supported passage of  this bill. From agribusiness’s perspective, the bill was a win-win: they could absorb the costs of the regulations because of their size; they’d gain good PR for supposedly improving food safety practices, gain some protection from legal liabilities—and hobble the competition—local food producers by crushing them with new regulatory burdens.

Their anti-competitive motivation was only speculation until now. But when the Senators agreed to include the Tester-Hagan amendment in the bill, to exempt small-scale direct-marketing producers from some of the most burdensome provisions, agribusiness revealed its true colors. Late last week, twenty agribusiness lobby groups fired off a letter stating that they would oppose the bill if it included the Tester-Hagan amendment.

The letter from the agribusiness groups states: “[B]y incorporating the Tester amendment in the bill, consumers will be left vulnerable to the gaping holes and uneven application of the law created by these exemptions. In addition, it sets an unfortunate precedent for future action on food safety policy by Congress that science and risk based standards can be ignored.”

The full letter can be viewed here:

Local producers who market directly to consumers — like the farmers at the greenmarkets in NY — are not the problem.  As Cornucopia Institute points out, “All of the major foodborne illness outbreaks have been caused by products that went through the long supply chains of corporate agribusiness, many emanating from factory-scale farms.”

By forcing small family run farms to  have to deal with the protocol and expenses set up for large factory farms, the government is putting these small farms at a disadvantage  and helping to squelch agribusiness’ competition.

Over the past few months I’ve spoken to many many farmers who have openly explained their farming practices. And what I’ve learned is that for many small farms, a commitment to farming green does not always come with an organic stamp. For many, that organic certification is too expensive to manage.

Not to be too corny, but a phone call to your senator could be a great way to say thanks to our local farmers this Thanksgiving. It’s also not a bad way to ensure that next year, we can have locally produced Cheese pumpkins and other produce for our holiday tables.

If you’re in NY and you want to call to voice your protest, here’s the info:

Kirsten E. Gillibrand, – (D – NY)
(202) 224-4451
email: gillibrand.senate.gov/contact/

Charles E. Schumer – (D – NY)
(202) 224-6542
email: schumer.senate.gov/new_website/contact.cfm

Or you can always call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or find your Senator’s website. Apparently, if the phone lines are busy, the best way to reach them is through the “contact” page on their website.

Chili-spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds from a pumpkin

1-2 tsp Ancho chili powder

1 tsp salt

Rinse and dry seeds. Lay out the seeds on a cookie tray. Mine were a bit wet, so I left them in the oven for 10 minutes before I added the spice. Then I added the remaining ingredients and tossed the seeds on the tray. Bake until you hear popping. Be careful not to burn.

Enjoy as a Thanksgiving appetizer. Should pair well with a glass of Prosecco and small talk about how you called or are planning on calling your Senator to tell them to hold firm on KEEPING the Tester-Hagan amendment part of the S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act!

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A prospering farmer's market thrives in this bleak parking lot.

John hopped on a flight Friday night. He was supposed to land in the Tri-Cities Airport at around 11:30 pm. Unfortunately, the plane was held up in Charlotte NC. So on Saturday instead of going to the Boone, North Carolina’s Farmer’s Market, we ended up back at the airport in the morning. Afterwards, we stopped by the Farmer’s Market in Kingsport, Tennessee.

By the time we showed up at noon, things were winding down. The market is held in the parking lot of the Quebeccor building across the street from the Domtar paper mill. One of the farmers told me that the Quebeccor used to be a printer and that when he was a kid, the mill would make the paper and the press across the street would use it. Now the abandoned parking lot was the home of the Kingsport Farmer’s Market.

This was not Union Square. Nestled between the abandoned factory and the big white monolith of the paper mill, it was sparse and empty, a  post apocalyptic eeriness.  A church group was selling concessions at a stand at the front and one of the farmers listed a bible verse on his chalk board. And several of the farmers were smoking long thin cigarettes.

It was hot as we walked up and down the middle of the parking lot between the two rows of vendors.

When I asked the farmers if they sprayed, most answered, “not if I need to.” A few said, “no” quickly and diverted their eyes. I knew they weren’t telling the truth. As one farmer told John, “Everyone here says they don’t spray but if their crops are in danger, they will.”

There weren’t any eggs or dairy but there were several people selling meat: beef, lamb and pork. I was tempted to buy some sausage or ham – afterall we are in the south, but instead we bought about 5 lbs of ground beef from a man who told me that his cows were mostly grass-fed.

“We only use a bit of grain to coax them into the barn at night.”

At 2.50 /lb it was also a bargain.

We bought pounds of a type of snap beans that were large and meaty, a cross between a fave bean and haricot vert with a texture and flavor that was . We picked up a watermelon from a man with a truck for $4.

“That’s a yellow one,” the man said. We told him it was fine with us. Tonight when we cut into it, the flesh was the deep yellow-orange of  marigold. Up close, the pattern of the veins appeared as four symmetrical swirls. It’s sweetness had more dimension than traditional normal red watermelon. Even the seeds were pretty — a mottle brown like a tigers eye.

When it comes to heirlooms, every tomato tells a story.

The most exciting thing for me was that the market was filled with heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom vegetables are the variety of vegetables that were grown before mass-produced produce became the norm. In the old days, seeds were passed down from generation to generation — like a family recipe but for your garden.  Heirlooms don’t always look the like conventional vegetables. So, for example, heirloom tomatoes are not always red. They can be yellow or orange, or even purple or brown. And they don’t even have to be round.

Because they come in more sizes, shapes and colors than their iconic supermarket cousins,  heirloom vegetables are attention-grabbing. And although there’s nothing that says summer like a slab of a Jersey beefsteak red tomato, these heirlooms have a whole range of  subtle differences in flavor. As I went from stand to stand and talked to these heirloom tomato grower connoisseurs there much discussion of acidity and tomato-y flavor.

Clearly these farmers had a sophisticated tomato palate.

I scored a gorgeous bounty of Heirloom tomatoes from a tall, thin guy with a mop of crazy black hair and fierce eyes named Josh Falin who was clearing out his tomatoes for 50 cents a pound. My big bag included a bunch of Cherokee Purples, German Pinks, and Mr Stripeys. I also got at least one that was shaped like a pear. “Everyone says they want organic,” he said, “but then when they see the bug holes they don’t want to buy.” Josh told me that his father, Darrell Falin, whose stand was right next door made amazing pickles. Apparently his pickles were featured several times in Bon Appétit and he used to sell pickles to Johnny Cash. Unfortunately he was already sold out.

Josh told me that he’d gotten his sees for the Cherokee Purples from a man who’d gotten it from a Cherokee. In honor of the heirloom tradition, I’m going to try to save the seeds. (This article on the Daily Green, tells you how: ) Then if I manage to grow these southern belles on my Northern fire escape, I’ll be able to say I got the seeds from a man who’s dad sold pickles to Johnny Cash.

WTF’s I learned while I was researching farmers markets:
According to the people at the Bristol TN Farmer’s Market, we’re losing 125 acres of farm and ranch land per hour because spiking fuel prices and the ever-present threat of development are pressuring America’s farmers and ranchers. Ugg. Another reason to shop  farmer’s markets.

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