Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tiny Fish in a Growing School

wintergreens is a tiny C.S.A., and sometimes we feel like we can't possibly be making a dent because we're so small. But then I read things like these statistics from Local Harvest, which say that the median number of members that CSAs in the U.S. have is forty seven. Ok, then, we're not all that small!

They also point out that 25% of all CSA members belong to CSAs of 100 members or less. The many, many tiny CSAs all combined ARE having an impact.

Vida longa ao organizações minúsculo!

*Photo from SouleMama.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Wild Food & Wild People in San Fran

My little heart is warmed by the great outpouring of people working on the Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti. And still, just for a moment, I'm wishing I were in San Francisco.

That's because of the San Francisco Underground Farmer's Market, where food gatherers and producers who aren't certified and who don't work in commercial kitchens can offer their wares for a suggested donation. I'd love to cut out all the extra costs and let people pay what they think an item is worth!

The underground market was brainchild of Iso Rabins, a wild forager, and the founder of ForageSF, who run a "CSF" or Community Supported Foraging. Wouldn't you love to get a wild distribution as beautiful as the box pictured?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No animals harmed in the making of this relief effort.

Attention wintergreens members, Hudson Valley Compassion groupies, arm wrestlers, roller derbyists, farmers, activists, quilters, queers, country singers, chefs, hairstylists, veterinarians, cyclists, bloggers, and craft queens:

We're putting together a fundraiser for 2 groups doing good disaster relief work* in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. We need your help:
1 - getting the word out
2 - baking, cooking, or making small artworks for the sale
3 - working the event
4 - coming and buying stuff

In solidarity with other Vegan Bake Sales for Haiti, ours, too, is a Vegan Bake Sale. But my pickles are better than my cookies, so we'll be deviating a bit and also catering to customers who yen for salt, salsa, or spring rolls. And there's one more way our bake sale is a little unusual. Since it'll be taking place during Beacon's Second Saturday artwalk, it made sense to ask all our artist and crafty friends to donate small works, which will be made available at the sale. (Nothing priced over $20, please, and please, no animal products. The point is to help some without hurting others.)

Yes, a quilted bowl makes sense.
Yes, a CD of your music is great.
Yes, your homemade granola is superb.

Do whatever you do best! To make donations, leave a comment here about what you're bringing, and drop it off between 5 and 6 on the day of the sale. Or, contact

The "Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti: Sweets, Savories, and Still-lifes" will take place Saturday, Feb. 13th at 6 pm, Zora Dora's Paleta Shop, 201 Main Street, Beacon, NY.

All proceeds go to relief workers, Food for Life, and animal rescue group, Sodopreca, both on the ground in Haiti.

Thanks in advance for your participation!

*After witnessing a rich and large "relief organization" giving out New Testaments to Katrina survivors before drinking water was available, we're serious about researching the right groups to support.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sprout Care and Maintenance

Your sprouts have been soaked for a day and sprouted for three days. You can use them as they are, or you can use some, and continue letting the remaining sprouts grow.

To do this, rinse them in a fine strainer, make sure they are well drained, and put them in a jar or shallow tray. You can choose to keep them in a dark place, where they'll continue to expand like a chia pet for a couple of days. Or, you can put them in a bright windowsill and watch them get little green bits to add chlorophyll to your next meal. Either way, give them a rinse and thorough draining once or twice a day.

If you don't have time, keep them in a closed package in the fridge, not too wet (no standing water), and not open to dry out. They should last several days to a week.

If they do dry up, finish up the job in a dehydrator or the sun, and grind them into a fine flour. This healthful flour can be added to breads, or even hidden in smoothies or sauces.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Distribution - January 24, 2010

Happy frozen river! Happy hard frost! Happy celebration when 40 degrees come and rains fall and melt the snow! Happy scarves and mittens and seeing your breath! Happy mid-winter!

Our mid winter distribution holds:
  • Frozen dark leafy greens: curly green kale, curly purple kale, vitamin greens, and chard, to be exact. Huguenot Street Farm.
  • Frozen zucchini, also from Huguenot Street Farm.
  • Sundried tomatoes, Four Winds Farm.
  • Pickled ume radishes, Huguenot Street Farm.
  • Pickled watermelon rind and pickled tomatillo salsa, with ingredients from all of our farmers, and then some!
  • Sprouts! Crimson clover, fenugreek, radish, alfalfa, mung bean, and pea from wintergreens' windowsills.
  • A peck of potatoes from Huguenot Street Farm. (Ok, not really a whole peck, but a bundle.)
Greens can be defrosted in the fridge before cooking, or just cooked frozen. I don't add water, just flip and scrape what has melted (on medium heat), flip and scrape, until it's all warm. The zucchini moons are great to throw in to stir fries just as they are.

The tomatoes are Amish paste tomatoes, and are actually oven dried, which is a process I didn't love. Next summer, invite the sun back to town so that we can solar dehydrate! Anyway, because of this summer's late blight problem, these tomatoes were sprayed with copper, which is acceptable by organic standards. They were also quadruple washed. It is up to you whether you want to take tomatoes this time or not. We had a hard time when trying to decide whether to include tomatoes this season, and ultimately, ended up including some, but not as many as we'd hoped. Here's an argument to not spray at all. You can judge for yourself, and eat these tomatoes, or not.

The radishes are daikon and cherry belles, in plum vinegar. They're sweet and crisp and pink, great as one of those palate cleansing type pickles, nice to have a few on the side of your plate with meals.

The salsa is kind of cross between salsa and relish, with a base of fermented tomatillo, garlic, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, daikon radish, maple syrup, and roasted green chile, with chunks of fermented watermelon rind. These ingredients came from Morgiewicz Farm, Huguenot Street Farm, Three Chicks Sugar Shack, and a side of the road farm stand somewhere between Beacon and New Paltz. It also has some ingredients from far, far away: lime, avocado, cumin, black pepper, sea salt, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Put sprouts (and potatoes, too) in everything you eat: on salads, in soups on sandwiches, as a crunchy bed for entrees. These little guys are powerhouses of nutrition, so just eat 'em!

See you in the morning!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Prickly Pear Sorbet

I'm minding my own business, keeping my head down, working, thinking I'm finally going to shut up about desert foods, and I run into prickly pear sorbet in Grand Central during my commute. Disruptive!

You can speak French and make this granita/sorbet/ice in fancy machines, give it a kick with lime or tequila, or make it with just a campfire, coffee filter, and a freezer. Done!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Taste of Home

I've been trying to set up this book recommendation thingie, which isn't working because I'm having trouble with the blog settings tool. I tell you this because I keep thinking of interesting books to include. Today it's Foods of the Americas. Like many books I recommend, it's not vegan or vegetarian, but acts as a starting point, ideas for flavor combinations, and different uses for foods you thought you knew how to use. Most cookbooks I'm interested in have something besides recipes to offer, and that is the case here.

I was happy to look through this book which I hadn't cracked in the past year, to think about ways to use ingredients like espazote and masa and annato and hominy that taste like home to me, and new ones, like cattail flour. Because this book is about native recipes, and native people, I'm forced to think about MY HOME, Arizona, not really being mine, and that thinking is interesting combined with very familiar smelling and tasting food. Yes, I can smell and taste just by reading. So there. There is overlap, and influence both ways. Some reviewers of this book have complained that the recipes have been altered to be "too white," which I think in this case meant able to be understood and used by the average non-native reader. Indeed, the Smithsonian was involved in the project . . . it's bound to be a little more sociological and a little less "authentic." And the Americas are kind of large get a taste of. What makes Vegan with a Vengeance, for example, such a great cookbook is not the recipes, but the context, and that is true here, though here it's many contexts. (I know, I used a wildly different book as an example, but you can think of Isa's cat Fizzle giving you Brooklyn junk store tool tips, and understand what I mean. It gives you something to think about, and play with.)

I used to go tamale hunting around Christmas in front of Safeway stores. Women would make huge batches and sell them out of shopping carts in grocery parking lots before the holiday. The trick for me was chatting up enough ladies to find one who was traditional enough to be making shopping carts full of tamales at Christmas, but nouveau enough to do it without lard, or manteca.
This year, I didn't need to hang out in parking lots, because Tucson Tamale has opened, uses only vegetable oil, and were selling tamales (and very good salsa) at the farmer's market. It's like living in a gentrified neighborhood: you're glad for easy access to good coffee, but you worry after all the old neighborhood characters who begin to disappear. Where will everybody go? Tucson Tamale took me one step further away from a familiar culture. Foods of the Americas takes me the other way, one step closer.

It's frightening to think that the shopping cart tamale women might only ever appear on book pages from now on.

While we're on the topic of "this land is not my land," see two interesting tidbits:
1) The work of No More Deaths, activists who leave water out in the desert for border crossers who find themselves in dangerous situations. It was heartening to find signs supporting them in front of many houses and businesses in Tucson this winter.
2) The closing of Arizona's state parks.

*Lostmissing, in picture two, is a project of my dear friend, mattilda, for all the things and animals and people who go missing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Summer in Snow

Today's predicted "late afternoon rain" is turning out to be thick, wet, snowfall. Some days you have to pretend: sweat it out in the steam room at the gym imagining you're in the tropics, or wear too few clothes while sitting close to the wood stove and eating summery foods. Let's think warm thoughts, shall we?

Here are some warm places I go back to in my head: making friends with a sweet dog in Buenos Aires, Argentina; driving to a faraway beach outside Recife, Brazil; checking out purple prickly pear cacti while wandering around San Xavier Mission outside Tucson, Arizona. All this mind travel is helped by eating one of my favorite summer foods, summer rolls.

Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

There's not really a real recipe for the rolls, but I'll tell you my favorite things to wrap up in rice wrappers:
  • rice sticks - Make sure not to get bean thread, cuz it's a bit slimy. The rice sticks give the roll good texture.
  • matchstick carrots
  • matchstick red pepper
  • matchstick cucumbers
  • matchstick scallions
  • fresh mint leaves
  • shaved fresh ginger
  • crunchy lettuce leaves
Cook the rice sticks according to the instrucs on the package (not very long). Drain. Don't worry about making extra—you can always eat them on top of salad with sesame dressing. Ditto for any extra chopped veggies.

Heat up a large frying pan of water, then turn off the fire. Soak a wrapper in the warm water until pliable (also not very long). Drain. On a cutting board or clean surface, put in some of each herb and veggie and a little portion of rice stick & roll up like a burrito. I like to put the colorful stuff on the outside, to show through the skin. I put a couple colorful pieces down first, then a lettuce leaf which will cradle and contain the rest of the ingredients, making it easier to roll. Your first few will look wonky, but you'll get the hang of it! Pretty soon you'll be dazzling your friends at parties, preferably parties on a beach or near a campfire.

There are zillions of variations on these rolls. I particularly like the scallion/ginger/mint interaction, but if you've got cilantro, go with that, get rid of the mint and ginger, pump up the scallion and red pepper, and include avocado or a little bit of spicy guacamole. A lot of people put in baked tofu or replace the lettuce with spinach. You get the drill: take what you've got and put in a rice wrapper!

Here's the sauce, which there is a recipe for:
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/8 c brown rice vinegar
  • 1/3 c warm water
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 2/3 c chunky peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or more to taste
Use the warm water to soften and blend the peanut butter. Once blended add other ingredients. Best at room temperature.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Beans, beans, they're good for your heart....

If you haven't devoured your beans from last distribution yet...

All the recipes I could think to post using them were pretty standard: borracho beans, beans on toast, the basics. But I remembered tasting New Paltz chef Lagusta's chili last year at a chili cook off. It had chocolate in it, and chilies, and fermented ramps, and really outdid any chili I've ever made. I asked her if she'd consider sharing the recipe (for your benefit and mine): read it here in all its glory. (Thanks for sharing it, Lagusta.) She recommends throwing in an old cup of coffee, which is a new one to me. Consider serving this fine chili with her homemade onion rings.

(Lagusta can be found at Lagusta's Luscious, Bluestocking BonBons, and her attitudinal and hilarious blog, Resistance is Fertile.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Witches Brew

So, my trick is working—you guys are eating and drinking delicious fermented food and getting interested in the health benefits, and how to make your own. Heh heh heh. Follow me, my pretties.

But then: I don't actually know anything special about fermentation.

What I DO know is this: it's really easy, and really flexible, and if you want to, you can ferment food, too.

Fermentation is a big part of why wintergreens began. I took a little how-to workshop and made my first jar of fermented mixed veggies less than two years ago. I immediately read Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation, and became a little bit obsessed. This was the perfect "recipe" book for me. Regular cookbooks seem like they're telling me what to do, which is a sure way to get no good end result. The bible of fermentation instead tells stories of queers in the U.S. South, of fighting corporate culture, of gourmet food, of living with HIV, of diy ethic, and slips in encouragement and ideas about various fermentation experiments. Perfect for the stubborn. It lets you know you can relax, you're not going to cause anything bad to happen, only good: no poisonings, no illness, just food suited to your personal taste.

People at the market this weekend were asking me the hows and whys of kombucha's health benefits. Again: I don't know. I never took chemistry (preferring physics), and don't entirely understand what's at work in probiotic foods. I figure that there are other people to take care of this part, to test and prove and explain. To me it's a magic little witches brew. My role is making great tasting ferments available in Beacon, and convincing you to try making them yourself.

Without any knowledge of chemistry, I know this food and this drink settle my stomach. They stimulate the sour and tart parts of my palate. They give me a little power zing, like a big dose of vitamin C or a shot of wheat grass. They put me in touch with foods my ancestors ate, and what people in other parts of the world eat. I always have a jar of something unusual to offer when I go to get-togethers. The colors please me, and make my meals more varied and nicer to look at. And I'm able to keep food from the summer crunchy and tasty and fresh for winter, when cold and dark threaten to make me lay down on the floor.

I crunched my way through some fermented okra this morning hours before the sun was up, and even though it was nine degrees or some ridiculous number, I relived summer just a little bit. I was thinking this and smiling: okra flowers are so delicate and pretty, and the pods themselves so phallic and silly, like an over-excited dog. I pictured where I was when I picked that okra, the big leaves of the plant, and remembered how the sun felt on my shoulders.

If you like other people preparing your food, that's cool. But if you like to experiment yourself (or are trying to get yourself off the floor), let's get started! Begin with sauerkraut or mixed veggies, or something that excites you, like good kimchi. Chop up your produce, salt it, squeeze it with your hands to get its juices flowing, and put something heavy on top of it so that it doesn't float. Check back in a day to be sure the brine (salty liquid), is covering all of the food. If not, add some salt water (1 to 5 ratio) until covered. Let this sit.* Taste it often, so you know exactly what's going on. Depending on how warm your kitchen is, you'll be tasting ripe delicious flavors in a matter of days.

Once you have your preferred fermentation times figured out, you can leave the food alone for longer periods, and the "bloom" that floats on the top of the brine becomes easier to remove, since it's one solid sheet. When your taste tests please you, refrigerate the food, or put it somewhere cool to slow things down, like a root cellar.

You are the master of your own fermentations.

Wild Fermentation is still far and away my favorite book (that's at all relevant to wintergreens), but people have been asking for other book recommendations. To that end, I'm setting up a Library Thing bookshelf. We've only just begun, but will work on building it up. Please let us know your favorites!

*This process is slightly different for kimchi, so read the book!

Monday, January 11, 2010

In Response

To the NYTimes article The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating: Yes we are!
The eleven "healthiest foods on earth" were listed as follows:
  1. beets
  2. cabbage
  3. swiss chard
  4. cinnamon
  5. pomegranate juice
  6. dried plums
  7. pumpkin seeds
  8. sardines
  9. turmeric
  10. frozen blueberries
  11. canned pumpkin
I'd rather eat whole pomegranates than buy the juice that doesn't even taste like the fruit it came from, but, alas, they grow in the Sonoran desert! Instead of sardines, there's flax, which can be grown locally and has no risk of heavy metals.

As for the rest, wintergreens has got you covered.

Food for All

I like Great Barrington, MA. I go there occasionally for meetings, and always find things that impress me: such a nice food co-op with bulk kombucha, local money called BerkShares that have improved the local economy, beautiful ruins of an old fairground (the ruins, not animal racing!), the Orion Magazine office.

During previous visits I've noted signs of well cared for feral cats, and this last time learned about the T.N.R. organization responsible. I'm impressed with Berkshire Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. because trap-neuter-release programs are a challenge to implement, and even harder to get funded.

Beacon has its own [significant] homeless cat population. There are many volunteers working to spay and neuter these cats, build shelters, track colonies, and keep everyone fed and healthy. But Beacon does not have a funded organization like the Berkshires does, so that population is ever-growing.

wintergreens is actively involved in the TNR efforts in Beacon (part of what we're talking about when we blather on about ALL of Beacon's citizens deserving to be well fed). When this issue comes up again as part of the city's budget, I hope you'll support your neighbor cats, too.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Distribution - January 10, 2010

Woohoo, the first distribution of 2010! Here's what we've got:
  • Purple pickled cauliflower (Madura Farm)
  • Onions (Morgiewicz Farm)
  • Frozen peaches (Glorie Farms)
  • Frozen pesto (basil from wintergreens' garden, garlic from Huguenot Street Farm)
  • Carrots (Huguenot Street Farm)
  • Dried red beans (Cayuga Pure Organics)
  • and, fresh from the greenhouse, Mesclun baby salad mix (Madura Farm)
Let's start with pickled cauliflower. It's not made with purple cauliflower, but white, and gets its color from a bit of purple cabbage thrown in during fermentation. The brine is hot pink, but the cauliflower itself is sort of a subtle pastel pink, to contrast with its sharp taste. It has some vinegar and hot chili added, but tastes closest to crunchy kraut, with an edge. It's a great accompaniment to mild flavors or soft textures. I'm eating mine snuggled next to mashed potatoes.

Put onions in all hot things (and some room temp salads, too), and put peaches in or on anything cold. Sweet peaches in winter—does it get better than that?

The pesto is made with basil, pine nuts & walnuts, garlic, sea salt, and olive oil. It is very concentrated, and should go a long way. I put my jar in the fridge to thaw first, scrape some off the top & mix with additional olive oil for use (or blend with tofu and spinach for a healthy version). I then put a bit of extra oil on top of what's left in the jar so that it doesn't discolor. It will keep in the refrigerator this way for quite some time. The basil is extra special, since it's grown with seed from the Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Carrots are holding up great in the root cellar. They're amazing little beasts—enjoy them!

We're thrilled to include New York State beans in the distribution. My taste buds and stomach will tell you that Cayuga Pure grows beautiful beans. But before I'd even tasted them I admired them, so glossy compared to those other, dingier red beans! But what to do with all those pretty beans?

Last but not least, we have very nice mesclun mix (heavy on spicy arugula). Many of you told me you'd had too much of EVERYTHING over the holidays. I bet you didn't have too much fresh greens!

Go forth and eat, and remember to bring back your jars for the next helping.

Beacon Bagel + wintergreens = TLA

Did you carve the sign for true-love-always in trees and wet cement as a child, or did I live in a weird subculture of freaks? No, no, I'm positive you made TLA signs, too.

Well, I feel all warm and fuzzy for Beacon Bagel. Because the market was closed, we held our last distribution of 2009 there, in the front window, with heat and coffee and food. Delightful!

Thanks to Anik and Art for helping out the C.S.A., but also for working so hard to run a great local business. We really appreciate you!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Food Art

A word about your tea towels from last distribution, and the artist who made them:

Tea towels have everything to do with a functional kitchen. They are reusable for practically forever and let you forego paper towels and napkins, and they make every kitchen chore easier. I use mine to move hot things because I never seem to have potholders close by. I use them, with a piece of string, to keep bugs and dust out of crocks of fermenting food. I wash my hands twelve hundred times a day and need them to dry off. I air dry stacks of clean dishes on them. I use them as a fine strainer.

Putting a calendar on a tea towel ups their functionality one more notch. People in England and Ireland have been making calendar tea towels for a long time—you often bump into them in vintage shops.

Claudia Pearson, the creator of your 2010 calendar tea towel, is a Brooklyn illustrator and children's book author who hails from England. She loves the farmers market and is very interested in local and seasonal food. You can check out her lovely portfolio here. For the food obsessed, she's collaborating with chef Sung Uni Lee to create a series of illustrated recipes that are simple and vegetarian. You received the recipe card for tipsy leeks, and Claudia's just posted one for fuschia mash.

Art and food seem like a funny combination to some, but without aesthetics and creative experimentation, we'd never enjoy eating (or cooking) as much as we do!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Desert Food

Someone at the market said they thought I'd be bummed living in the desert, because there wouldn't be any local food. Hogwash! Or, more appropriately, javelinawash! The food literally grows on trees...

A taste of the Sonoran desert includes (in order of appearance) pomegranates, mesquite, saguaro fruit, prickly pear tunas, pecans, kumquats, grapefruits, dates, and olives. Swap Meet vendors had the beds of pickup trucks overflowing with oranges and lemons.

Thanks to The Firefly Forest for the saguaro fruit picture. Check out that blog to see beautiful bats eating from a hummingbird feeder.