Friday, January 13, 2012

The flavor purple

The flavor of purple- When I saw purple sweet potatoes on an offering from North Carolina, I got pretty excited. It's hard to find something exciting in the middle of winter, so I jumped at the opportunity. When they arrived, it was clear that they were purple, but they did look a bit weird. The skin, for the most part, was dirty (they do grow underground, after all), and they looked like they had ridges or veins. Some people had the impression that they were old or dried out. I tried cooking them, and fearing that they may have been as dry as they looked, I boiled them. It turns out that the "ugly" appearance was, once again, only in the eye of the beholder. They were moist and sweet, almost pudding-like, and the flavor was incredibly purple.

The flavor of blue-We've had many different blue or purple potatoes over the years, but this one, The Adirondack Blue, came as a surprise to us, coming as it did, so near to the end of the local storage season.
It is not unusual to find red or yukon gold offerings from local famers in January, but finding a blue is quite a treat. The Adirondack is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Wait a minute, that's the tardis! It is deeper blue on the inside than it is on the outside. It's great for baking, boiling, steaming, mashing. Let these moist, yet firm potatoes inspire you to make a gorgeous potato salad.

The flavor of stripe-Chioggia beets take their name from the Italian city of Chioggia, an ancient fishing village near Venice.
Historically Chioggia was famous for it's salt. Now it has lent its name to this striped variety of beet. If you look at any beet, even the red or gold, you will see that the flesh has concentric rings. It is not so easy to see these rings since their color of each ring is identical, but look carefully they are there. The chioggia is gorgeous; it will dazzle your kids, dazzle your friends, even dazzle yourself.

Green squash, blue squash, old squash, new squash. If you have been looking at the winter squashes lately, you have seen some old, dull looking squashes giving way to bright shiny cosmetically perfect squashes. What happened? Just as we've eaten (almost) the last of this fall's harvest, we are offered the newest harvests from Southern California, Mexico, and occasionally Florida. The older crop was harvested at the peak of ripeness, sweetness, and flavorfulness. The newer prettier stuff is flavorful and sweet, but not usually as good as the storage crop. This week, enjoy the last of the harvest of buttercup and the blue hokkaido.

Allen Zimmerman
General Coordinator
Produce Buyer

Monday, January 02, 2012

Produce notes from Allen.....61 local items & fading fast!

We've had a rough couple of weeks with Broccoli and Cauliflower.  When the local ended 2 weeks ago, there was only mediocre Cauliflower available from California.  They would have cost $5.15 each!  We waited for better quality, and as it turned out much less expensive product, and we are back in the Cauliflower business.  Broccoli was a different story.  Several deliveries of Broccoli came in with white stems (really and truly white).  We rejected almost all of them, but several boxes slipped past our scrutiny.  I'm a big supporter of biodiversity, and I like some white vegetables, but I drew a line right there.  We were faced with a choice of white Broccoli or none.  I went with none, until we got lucky.  Small amounts of organic Bunched Broccoli became available from Maryland and the Carolinas, and some Loose Broccoli Crowns became available from California.  I bought every box of each of these from all three sources and now it seems that the weeks of white Broccoli are behind us....Cauliflower anyone?

The number of offerings from local farms is rapidly diminishing.  Most of our produce will be arriving from Florida or California, and when their growing regions become too wet or cold, we hope to find what we need in Mexico.  When even Mexico fails to produce, we have serious problems.  We could of course eat only local produce but it won't be long until even the storage commodities disappear.  Soon enough, supplies of local Potatoes, Onions, and Root Vegetables will have been exhausted, and all that will remain are Sprouts, Mushrooms and (we hope) Hothouse Greens.  But this is not a time for California dreaming, not a time of sadness or loss.  This is the time to plan!
There is still a good deal of work to do on the local farms.  In warehouses, barns and coolers there is still a lot of food to move, there are fields to clear, machines to repair.  When the food is about gone, and farms are too cold or snowbound to work on, then I experience one of my winter joys.  I talk to Finger Lakes Organic Growers Cooperative, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, Amy Hepworth and a couple of other farmers, and plan with them what new crops they will try to grow for us next year.

Here are some items from my wish list for next year:

- REAL Baby Bok Choy, the kind we see in Asian markets, not the Mei Qing Choy that most organic farmers grow.
- more Mints- we never have enough
- Purple Brussels Sprouts, last seen here 13 years ago.
- Chinese Broccoli (aka Gai Lan). A few years ago all of our farmers planted a lot of this, from a seed identified as "green lance". Marketed as "green lance", most buyers didn't know what it was. It was over planted, and undersold and all of the farmers we know gave up on trying it again. If I can only get just one farm to plant it...
- more Red, Yellow, White, and Purple Carrots
- more Orange, Green, Purple, and Romanesco Cauliflower
- more Sorrel, which we see only one or 2 weeks a year (and Frissee and Purslane as well)
- more hothouse Ginger (young, uncured roots).

Do YOU have something you would like to see one of our local farmers grow?  
Send us an email (click me) and we will see what can be done.  
(Please note, we will do our best to consider and pass along suggestions, but we do not plan to reply to emails sent to this address.)

61 local items and fading fast

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator