Friday, April 27, 2012

Interested in supporting your local farmer? Support NOFA

The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) has worked tirelessly for nearly 30 years on behalf of farmers and consumers who believe in the benefits of local, sustainable, and organic foods.  When they first organized, around 1986, there were 4 farms in all of New York State that were organically certified.  Today there are over 950.  Not only does NOFA support and aide farms in their efforts to attain, and remain, organically certified; they also act as a certifier themselves.  Many of our New York State local farmers are certified through NOFA, including Hepworth Farms.  Currently, NOFA is in the midst of a membership drive.  If you are interested in becoming a member (many of your fellow coop members already are), or just learning more about their events and works, click the link below.

Produce notes from Allen....72 local items!

Here are a few questions submitted by members:

"What is Kale good for?" 

I told her that the value of a food is found in what is important to the eater.  I told her various uses and she repeated, "What is Kale good for?"  Since I think that food is good for eating, and don't think of the health applications of one vegetable over another, I didn't realize right away that she was asking about the benefits of Kale eating.  I told her about vitamins A and C, and fiber, and she then said, "I eat Collards; why should I eat Kale?" I told her that I believed that they were nutritionally fairly equivalent, that she might like to try something different.  She said "You haven't convinced me; I'm sticking with Collards".  I wasn't trying to convince her.  I do believe that you can't go wrong eating vegetables and if you are choosing between vegetables, you really can't go wrong.

"Why are we buying Pears individually wrapped in paper?  Is this really the best packaging?  I'd really like to know."

Nearly 100% of all delicate skin Pears, east or west coast, North or South America, come wrapped in tissue paper (or bagged in plastic).  One consistent exception is that none of our locally grown Pears (the minimally treated ones from Hepworth Farm) are ever individually wrapped.  We buy these local pears from late summer until early winter.  Even during that time nearly 100% of the organic Pears that we buy will be wrapped in paper.  Another exception to individually wrapping is the Bosc variety, often shipped unwrapped because of its thicker skin.  Most Pears are thin skinned, unlike Apples, so the saying that "one rotten Apple can spoil the whole barrel" should really have been said about Pears.  This practice is probably more than a century old.  There are stories of people lining up at their grocer during the depression hoping that their grocer will give them the tissue papers that Pears were wrapped in, toilet paper being unaffordable for so many.  The wrappers from Cactus Pears were reserved for their least favorite customers.

"What is a new potato? Are red potatoes the same as new potatoes?"

Writers about food and authors of recipes are often confused, and confusing, about this.  No wonder that so many people are.  Very often, when you find New Potatoes on a menu, or in a cookbook, what really is being referred to is small Red Potatoes.  In fact, any freshly dug Potato, early in the harvest, red or not, is a New Potato.  That Potato may be harvested when the tuber is immature, and the skin still thin and flaky.  One key characteristic of New Potatoes is that they are very moist, making them unsuitable for baking or frying.  Another is that their sugar content is higher, the sugar not yet having converted to starch as much as it will when they age.  Just as puppies are baby dogs, not a type of dog, New Potatoes are young Potatoes, not a type.  As such, New Potatoes are available from spring into early summer.  At the coop we are eating the last of last year's crop, and will soon have the first of this year's new crop.  They will all be new, but they won't all be small or red.

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator

Friday, April 20, 2012

Produce notes from Allen.....60 Local Items!

 Spring is here and we're all excited about the new Spring Greens.   Spring, full of promise and vitality, is not, however, a time of plenty.  Historically, before the age of refrigeration, spring could bring greater privation than even the winter.  During the winter, Apples were still good, Roots, Squash, Potatoes and Onions were still storing well, and hadn't already been eaten.  By the time spring arrived, these storage crops were pretty much exhausted (in quantity and quality) and new crops had barely or not yet grown. We find ourselves on the verge of the local explosion, but still can't count on anything yet. 

 We have been surprised by several shortages, even if you may not have noticed them yet: 

 For a couple of weeks we were unable to get the larger sized loose Russets.  One of our suppliers still has some, but our largest supplier doesn't expect any until June!  We still have an abundant supply of Reds and Yukon Golds, primarily because Hepworth Farms still has an excellent supply from last year's harvest.  The first of this year's harvest of organic Red Potatoes is starting now, but at a price nearly double that of the storage crop. We only carry organic Potatoes because we can't be sure that the conventionally grown Potatoes have not been genetically modified.

 For the last 2 weeks Hepworth Farms has provided us with hundreds of pounds of Baby Greens, and Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative also provided some.  We had the expectation that the flood gates were opening, but we think we are now facing a severe shortage of these GreensHepworth Farms, our major supplier, has to bring all of its focus to the outdoors planting, and additionally has to cope with the current drought upstate.  They hope to have relief from the drought this weekend, but not be able to get to a harvest of Baby Greens for a few weeks.

Growing conditions for Spinach and Radishes have been terrible from California, but now we are lucky to be able to supply almost all of what we need now, thanks to Lancaster.  

 We have not been without Winter Squash for this long in memory, but the storage crops have long been exhausted and the new harvest from Mexico has so far been scarce.  

 We would not have had confidence in the sweetness of the Squash this early in the season anyway.  We look forward to a new Kabocha this Tuesday and we hope that it is sweet enough.

 We know that members have been disappointed by the lack of Raspberries.  We have gone many weeks ignoring the scarce, troubled crop.  Rain and cold have produced uneven quality, gaps in supply and a price of nearly $6.00 per cup.  No relief is in sight.  

 Blueberries flooded the market out of South America, but that season is ending this week.  The early Florida and Georgia prices are going to double (or more) the prices we have been seeing.   

 Strawberry prices seem to be dropping every week, the quality is improving, but maybe I should bite my tongue.

 Apple varieties are disappearing, Citrus varieties are ending, but spring is here!  The sky is blue, the sun will shine and fruits will stop being boring!  Vegetable supplies will increase, but we are still weeks away.

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator

Monday, April 16, 2012

Abu's Pecan Pies and Carrot Cakes are back!

Abu's Bakery carrot cake and small pecan pies are back in the coop. Located in Aisle 7A near the other fresh baked goods. There's not refrigerated space for the sweet potato or bean pies yet, so please don't ask too often!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Van Leeuwen is back! along with some other new flavors

Back by popular demand, Van Leeuwen ice cream has returned to the ice cream case! Starting with 3 flavors- Mint Chip, Vanilla and Chocolate, you can find the local favorite next to another local, Raw Ice Cream Company. We had a bit of a break due to production hitches, but we're hoping Van Leeuwen is here to stay (fingers crossed!).

Please be sure to browse our many other local ice cream delights- keep your eye out for Adirondack's new seasonal Coconut flavor, as well as some new Blue Marble! Steve's will have their coconut based ice cream back in action in a week or two, but in the meantime, you can enjoy Lula's non dairy- Death by Chocolate or Peanut Butter Fudge, mmmm yum.

One more thing! The New York Stock Company (no, not the trading company), a local broth producer has been delivering three flavors of soup stock- Chicken, Vegetable and Mushroom Barley. You can check them out next to Amy's Mac and Cheese. While it isnt really soup season, you can use TNYSC for a tortilla soup perhaps or gumbo.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Produce notes from Allen....58 Local Items!!

We can now get excited about our local farms and their early spring offerings.  We have good news to share about our two largest local produce suppliers. 

We have just learned that Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, which has been delivering to us on Wednesdays and Fridays, will be adding Mondays to their delivery schedule.  To keep our produce as fresh as possible, we don't always try to order enough of their produce to last from Friday until Wednesday.   Now shoppers earlier in the week will be able to appreciate the bounty of their 75 plus member farmers, who bring to us traditional Amish farming methods as well as modern innovation. Lancaster is our major supplier of local watermelons, and we have never had enough room to bring in what we need to satisfy all of our members.  With this extra delivery, we will get a good deal closer.  By the way, the largest of these Lancaster farms is 25 acres but most of them are much smaller, as small as 1/4 acre.  So if your bumper sticker happens to read "Suport your Local Organic Family Small Farm", look for the Lancaster label on our shelf signs.  Learn a bit more at the Lancaster web site:

On the other hand, Hepworth Farms, founded in 1818, is not so small.  Amy and Gail Hepworth, seventh generation farmers, have been reclaiming land from farms that have fallen into disuse.  Last year, they added 50 acres, which was devoted primarily to tomatoes.  This year, they have added 50 more acres, and the Hepworths like to say that they are preserving the Hudson Valley, one farm at a time. Seven of the new acres are devoted to farming in "high tunnels".  High tunnels (aka cold frames or hoop houses) reduce the effect of some environmental variables, allowing farmers to dare to plant early in the season, and also to delay the very end of the growing season.  Their acreage now exceeds 400 acres.  Learn a bit more about the farm, and view spectacular photography at:

This just in-first harvest of local burdock.  This is a picture of David Stern of Rose Valley Farm, revealing his method of harvesting burdock.  Note that the root is not pulled, nor dug up, but rather is harvested from the side.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Produce notes from Allen.......47 Local Items!!

The first of the spring vegetables are here! The various greens that have been grown in hothouses, or protected by hoop enclosures or high tunnels have begun to make occasional appearances. They have included Mustards, Arugula, Spinach, Chard, Tatsoi, various Kales, Pea Tendrils, and Stinging Nettles.

Ramps, a member of the Leek family have arrived this week, and we may hope for some spring abundance if there are no surprise frosts in the next week. Of course summer may come too early, and our recent warmer climate makes it feel as if this is almost inevitable.
Next week, there will be a few more hothouse treats to look forward to. From Hepworth Farm we expect Premium and Elegance mixes*. We will probably also see Baby Red Bok Choy, and Baby Red Russian Kale
From Lancaster Family Farm Cooperative we will have our first Komatsuna greens, a member of the Turnip family, sometimes described as a Japanese Mustard Spinach.
Coop member Marisa requested Yu Choy during the winter. We asked Gail (of Hepworth Farms), Amy Hepworth's twin, if she would grow this for us. Later in the year we will carry the mature vegetable, but next week Hepworth Farms will likely harvest the first of this baby green that we've carried. 
When these various harbingers of spring make their appearances, members begin to ask almost daily "Where are the Garlic Scapes?" For the next 6 or 8 weeks we say, "Sorry, but these are not an early spring item." This response is invariably met with skepticism. Garlic Scapes are the flowering stalks of various Hardneck Garlics, and don't appear until a much later stage in the growth of the Garlic plant, usually the end of May. Can't wait for the Scapes? Try the Spring Garlic Greens, which look a lot like scallions, but they do pack Garlic flavor.
*Premium Mix - Yukina Savoy, Golden Frill Mustard, Ruby Streaks Mustard, Tokyo Behana, and Red Komatsuna

*Elegance Mix - Red Bok Choy, Garnet Giant Mustard, Ruby Streaks Mustard, Spigariello, Broccoli Rabe, and Mizuna

Allen Zimmerman - Produce Buyer - General Coordinator