July 17, 2008 § 4 Comments
On Monday we decided that we had better get our annual u-pick cherry escapade done with as the following two weeks are pretty packed with other activities. We drove out on the scenic route through Coburg to Detering’s.
As I stepped out of the car, I noticed a familiar face of a fellow food-lover, Eugenia who wondered aloud how I may have recognized her (the photo on her blog helped). We had a quick chat, and then my boyfriend and I grabbed our buckets and headed out to the glorious cherry trees.
We decided we really only needed to pick one bucket this year as we still had about five bags of cherries from last year (I can hardly believe it). We prefer the black sweet cherries to the more tart (but still sweet) Royal Anne’s that were also available. We made pretty quick work of the picking — not so quick that we didn’t get to enjoy consuming some of the deliciousness. But the 95 degree temperatures made the experience moderately less pleasant than a crisp morning might offer.
We drove home and got to the fun part that is cherry pitting. With our special pitting device we set up newspapers on the floor and furniture. We put a plastic garbage sack in a paper bag that we would pit the cherries over. Then we washed the fruit and began the manual labor of pitting each cherry, tossing the pit into the plastic bag and putting the fruit in a big stainless bowl. We divvied up the labor because a few years ago I committed to pitting about 20 lbs of cherries all by myself and I got tendonitis in my wrist from the repetitive motion — beware the hazards of cherry pitting!
Once the batch was pitted, we got out the zippered freezer bags and filled them up and put them in the freezer. When I have a delicious black-cherry smoothie in December, I’ll be glad I made the effort and happily forget about how sticky the entire experience was.
Detering’s is open from 8 – 5 daily, and if you don’t want to venture out to pick your own fruit, their farmstand offers the available fruit plus some additional products that aren’t currently ripe. The u-pick cherries and blueberries are available currently for $1.25/lb (I believe that’s a bit up from last year when I’m pretty sure the price was less than $1/lb). We picked up a large basket of peaches that were not from the orchard (although, they were about to begin picking the peaches near the blueberry patch). We attempted to u-pick some blueberries to round out our freezer stores, but the bushes weren’t very ripe yet so we determined that we’d have to wait a couple of weeks for a more prime time to pick. Visit their website for an update on what is available for u-pick throughout the summer and fall.
Any time you go to a u-pick orchard it is advisable to bring a cooler with ice or at least a box to put your fruit in. Not all farms provide containers for you to take home your fruit in, so it’s a good idea to come prepared.
July 7, 2008 § 1 Comment
Is eating local more ethical? Well, we think so. In fact, that’s why we want to share the “gospel” with others and encourage people to think of eating a bit differently. Where our food comes from has burgeoned in the public consciousness with the Salmonella outbreak, and it has been a repeated theme in media outlets. As I was making a stir-fry last night (from reading my posts you might think that’s all we eat around here… but it’s coincidence, I assure you) I was listening to The Ethics of Eating on Speaking of Faith, an American Public Media radio show.
The host, Krista Tippett, interviewed Barbara Kingsolver — who inspired this blog. The longer, unedited interview is available, but the broadcast version is worth a listen — especially while you prepare a meal for your household.
One point that Kingsolver brought up that seems to be the crux of the problem is that we have become so disconnected with food that we take it for granted. Just two generations ago, eating local and eating seasonal was what everyone did, and had been doing, since the beginning of humankind. But with the advent of the internal combustion engine, domestic highway system, and international shipping infrastructure, our food now can be shipped around the globe and when most people walk into the supermarket they don’t think for a second about where the banana in their cart came from.
One of the goals of this blog is to help people get past the basic difficulty of being a localvore (a term that is new and strange in its inherent meaning — almost as if it is an elite activity vs a means of survival). Simply, eating seasonally requires a different thought process for meal planning and shopping. Instead of thinking of what sounds really great to make for dinner, instead you have to think about what is in season, and what you can make from that. This requires a bit of connectedness to the food seasons in the area you live, and a bit of self-restraint. What we are striving for with this blog is to provide ideas for what you can eat that is local and seasonal, and inspire you to really actively think about it when you shop and plan your meals. Once you gain the active awareness you might take some baby-steps and put down the watermelon that looks tasty but was imported from South America, or hold off on the water chestnuts for your stir fry. But each little step is a step in the right ethical direction.
Luckily for us. because we are in the Willamette Valley, we are privileged to have a bounty of local food available for a relatively long time. A good way to get an idea of what is in season and what is local is to go to the various farmer’s markets in our community and simply find out what’s for sale. Also, while you can’t get fresh berries in the winter here, you can freeze or can them, and have good, nutritious fruit year-round. All of this requires some extra planning and some time-consuming activities during the productive harvest months. Just last weekend my friend put up quarts of freezer-jam that will nourish her for breakfast through the winter. To her it was one night well-spent prepping her berries and putting them up (she went to bed when she ran out of sugar).
Kingsolver also discussed the attitude we have toward food prep. We’re “too busy” to cook for our families in the United States. But Kingsolver pointed out that in many European cities, cooking is so much a part of the culture that it is not seen as a time-taker, but as part of living. Even CEO’s head to the local market after work to pick out the ingredients for dinner every night after work. So if you think time is what’s stopping you, it may be helpful to think about how people live in other parts of the world and evaluate how you live and what you would have to give up, and also what you would gain.
July 2, 2008 § Leave a comment
Did you know that half of the shitake mushrooms sold in the US are imported from China? I didn’t, not at least until I heard this story on NPR’s Morning Edition. The mushrooms sit in a cargo ship for two to three weeks before arriving at a wholesale market in San Francisco, CA, and then get distributed down the chain to restaurants and grocery stores.
In Eugene, we have the privilege of being able to buy our Shitakes at the Lane County Farmer’s Market every week. And when it comes to a product that often sells for $12/lb, maybe Shitakes that aren’t local are something you can forgo entirely.
The NPR story was inspired by the recent outbreak of Salmonella that was thought to be linked to tomatoes, but which now seems a bit harder to pin down. This national news has made more people try to be more aware of where their food comes from. The FDA website on the outbreak featured a list of “safe states” from which tomatoes that had not been linked to the outbreak could be procured. This information then led consumers to wonder how they could know what state the tomato on their store shelves had come from.
Locally, PC Market of Choice lists the local farm that they source their local produce from. I bought a bag of mixed lettuce last week ($6.99/lb) that PC buys from Hey Bayles! farm. As I have previously mentioned, Red Barn Natural Grocery in the Whiteaker also sells local produce when available. Sundance Natural Foods carries local produce as well, within a quick bike ride to most residents of South Eugene. I don’t make it into The Kiva that often, but for those who are frequently downtown, it also carries local products when available.
It’s great to be in a location with such a great variety of choices for local food!
I just found out about this yesterday, but tonight, I’ll be headed over to the Laurel Valley Educational Farm at the Northwest Youth Corps headquarters in Southeast Eugene (map). The folks from Slow Food Eugene are hosting a Potluck at 5 PM.