Posts tagged ‘local food’

The beauty

I was recently asked to give a brief talk about the community garden where I volunteer, which I’ve written about in the past. The talk was for an event focused on community development work and my task was to highlight the achievements and importance of places like the garden in building sustainable community. My talk started with the reasons I first came to the garden – partly a matter of faith, caring for creation and the children and families in the community, and partly a matter of professional interest, advocating for access to healthy, local and affordable food for all.

And while these two reasons are definitely valid and important enough on their own as motivation to volunteer at the garden, I realized that the thing which keeps me coming back to the garden is simply…

The beauty.
(The following is the remainder of my speech.)

This beauty may not always be apparent, we have our tough days – but the beauty is always there.

The beauty in our garden is not found in everyone showing up on time and diligently working for hours. It’s not found in straightly planted rows of carrots or evenly spaced tomato seedlings, with no weeds growing between them.

The beauty in our garden is found in places you might not see if you stopped by on your own, but I promise you that it exists in a way that can, and will, grow over the years.

The beauty in our garden is found in a child discovering how to read a seed packet or learning to use a shovel for the first time.

It’s found when a child you weren’t sure was paying attention correctly identifies most of the vegetables planted in the garden.

This beauty is found in beets, and a young girl, down on her knees discovering how to thin them and saying how sad it was to have to remove some of the plants so others could grow, then realizing that she could eat the greens and eagerly taking them home.

The beauty is found when you overhear supposedly “uninterested” kids later instructing their peers on how to properly plant a tomato with phrases like “no, she said to do it THIS way.”

The beauty occurs you hear Indian women telling Latino women how to use eggplant and Latino women informing me what you can do with a tomatillo.

The beauty is when you harvest the abundant basil and turn it in to pesto and then serve it on pasta, and some of the kids actually like it (even if they won’t admit it until weeks later).

The beauty is found when a child returns to the garden after picking lettuce the previous day and she tells you that her mom bought salad dressing especially for the occasion so they could enjoy the meal together, as a family.

The beauty is found in a six year old boy who looks up at you, after tasting his first bite ever of yellow summer squash, which HE helped you grill and serve to the other kids, and say “Mmmm…Squash is the bomb! Can I have another?”

The Cottageville Park Neighborhood Garden provides a unique space for our youth and families in the Blake Road Corridor to come together. In a neighborhood that has its challenges, there are just as many, if not more, opportunities. The garden is a place where adults and children from all cultures and walks of life can put their hands in the dirt, and grow not only food, but community.

June 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm 3 comments

You’re so pitty, oh so pitty

Last night my husband and I tag teamed, and we pitted, vacuum sealed and froze approximately fifteen pounds of cherries.

And how exactly did we come about fifteen pounds of cherries (actually eighteen, but we have to eat some fresh, of course)? Well, the same way I come about many large quantities of food things – through a friend who has a connection to a farmer. In the past we’ve purchased chickens, potatoes and pork this way. It is a lot of fun, kind of like anticipating a long awaited package in the mail. These cherries came through a friend of a friend we know at the Minnesota Food Association. A farmer connection they have in Washington had pesticide free cherries ready to pick and they needed a large enough order to make the shipment to Minnesota worthwhile.

That said, this post might raise some questions for readers who know me. Why is she buying cherries from Washington, doesn’t she know they grow in the Midwest?

So, to “local” or “not to local”? That is a very good question. First, I am not a food purist. I do not believe it is realistic to expect that everyone will eat a nice, local, fresh, largely plant-based, organic, small farmer produced diet. At least not anytime in the foreseeable future. But I do believe that we all need to be thinking about our food, and no matter how small, we need to start making changes. Where your food is grown is only one aspect of a very complicated food system. I do believe a regionally and seasonally appropriate diet is something we should strive for, but I also enjoy a glass of orange juice many mornings throughout the year. It is not local to Minnesota and several months of the year it isn’t seasonal in Florida either. But again, if there is one thing you should learn from this blog, perfection or any notion of it, should be your last goal with food. Education should be first.

Knowing the cherries were coming from a small producer who did not spray – something I’ve found difficult to find in the cherry world – we decided this option fit our criteria for a “yes” in the food sourcing department. And at less than half the price of certified organic cherries at Whole Foods, it also fit a bit better in the budget. Not that I think I shouldn’t pay a fair price for food – it is one of the largest expenditures in our house – but there is paying a fair price and there is paying for the luxury of shopping at certain stores. But I’ll stop there, the cost of food is a whole other can of worms I’ll discuss another day.

Vacuum sealing the cherries

So, back to the cherries. Cherry preserving is a pretty easy and straightforward process. Depending on the tools in your kitchen, you have a few options. The first step no matter what is to wash and pit. My mom gifted us with a hand held cherry pitter a few Christmases ago and the whole endeavor is made much simpler. I highly recommend making this purchase should you have any desire to be a serious cherry processor.

From my experience, the next step can go one of two ways. If you own a vacuum sealer, just filled the bags, vacuum, seal and freeze. Done. If you don’t, the best method is to put your cherries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then put the tray in the freezer and let the cherries, you guessed it, freeze. Once the cherries are solid, put them in plastic zipper bags or whatever containers you prefer. This pre-freeze method prevents the cherries from squishing and melding into a giant blob of red which is almost impossible to navigate come eating time.

Frozen cherries in our house are used for milkshakes, fruit drinks and in morning yogurt throughout the coming months. While they’re not Minnesota Grown, we can eat them knowing they were harvested, in season, from a place that is much closer to home than the alternative – cherries sold at Christmas time in the US may be coming all the way from Australia. So, if you’re in the US and you love cherries, now is the time to find them. If you only want to eat in season, then gorge yourself. Should you want to enjoy the harvest a little longer, try your hand at some preserving. Either way, enjoy!

July 19, 2011 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment


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