Saturday, February 27, 2010

Storm Rations: Distribution - February 28, 2010

Hi snowed-in members, if you're mobile and hungry, we've got food. The market will be closed tomorrow, so give us a call. This week's distribution will be like an underground club, with the location only released to those hip enough. If you're not mobile, call anyway, and maybe your share can come to you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Don't Like Daiya Cheese

There, I said it.

This blog does not exist for product reviews, so I'll try not to get stuck. But all the raving about Daiya was getting to me.

Daiya. It's another imitation cheese product (this time, made from tapioca) meant for use in pizzerias and vegan seven layer chip dip. It's great that it's a bit better for you than some soy or rice or chemical cheeses. People are thrilled that it stretches when melted, as if that's what real eating is all about. The excitement is a little weird to me. And I say that because Daiya still tastes funny, a little off, a little like it's trying to be something that it's not. It's junk food. Let's call it what it is.

But while we're in this off-topic product review-y space, let me mention that I had my most favorite "comfort food" meal at Rice (in the city) last night, the same meal I've been eating there for at least fifteen years: veggie balls with spicy sauce on sticky rice, mesclun salad with palm hearts and poblano avocado dressing, all washed down with a nice Malbec. After all these years, it still really hits the spot.

And, and, on the advice of friends we tried a newish authentic Mexican restaurant on Route 9, Tacocina. The menu is filled with items like tongue and head, but they love to whip up potato, mushroom, poblano entrees for vegans. The food is good! The telenovelas are loud! If you miss authentic Mexican, give it a whirl.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winning the Lottery

One reason wintergreens exists is because of the food freak out I've had every winter until recently: missing fresh vegetables, and resenting the expensive, wilted, imported stuff at groceries and health food stores while having to rely on it. As much as fermenting, canning, dehydrating, freezing, sprouting, and finding four season farmers has helped, winter still doesn't have the lush feel of summer, when you can walk through the garden in your bare feet putting delicious food in your mouth directly from the plants. when every craving is satisfied and there's no need to go without. I'm looking forward to spring's first plants: rhubarb and wild onions, and digging up sunchokes. That, along with tending seedlings for my garden, will entertain for a while.

And then, there's that beautiful day in June when we'll go to our first C.S.A. distribution, and find a huge table loaded down with a bunch of different kinds of greens. Hallelujah!

Since moving to the Hudson Valley more than six years ago, we've belonged to the same C.S.A.: Huguenot Street Farm, in New Paltz. It a bit far to drive every week, and slightly less local than, say, Common Ground. But we've been committed to Huguenot Street, since it's served us very, very well.

Our first spring in Beacon, when shopping around for a C.S.A., we contacted Common Ground first, since it is closest to home. The combination of an inexperienced farmer, tales of groundhog killing sprees, and the use of manure from the area prisons made us decide against membership (and a job there). I dunno, I think there's some really bad karma coming down the line from animal prisoners being "farmed" by human prisoners. Things have gotten waaaaaaay better at Common Ground over the years (Love ya, Tim! Kudos, Creek!).

The next farm we called was Phillies Bridge. The farm was biodynamic at the time, and seemed appealing, except that BD always includes animals. There had recently been an uproar about changes on the farm, as it got further and further from vegetarian. The farmer and I had a long, philosophical discussion over the phone about animals on small farms and biodynamic practices, and couldn't agree, in the end, on what food is better for the body and soul: food that includes animals in its cycles, or food grown without any reliance on animal slaughter. (No, the animals don't hang around until old age on BD farms. It's a better setting for them while they're alive, certainly, but it's still about productivity.) At the end of the conversation, he sighed and gave me the number for his friends, Kate and Ron, who grow veganically at Huguenot Street Farm. That is, without the use of any animal products as fertilizer, the most common of which are manure and bonemeal.

That particular farmer has moved on to Hawthorne Valley, the big BD farm in Ghent, where all those live products you're seeing in health food stores come from. Phillies Bridge is no longer biodynamic, but is trying to grow organically, a challenge only because of the [pesticide spraying] apple orchards that abut their fields. They now have educational programs for kids and adults there—it's where I learned about fermentation and built my first earth oven and rocket stove. Still, they have animals that they send to slaughter. As much as I enjoyed hearing curious chickens circle my tent while I was falling asleep there, I knew those chickens would only be alive as long as they had a good laying rate.
Local Harvest just wrote about how to best choose a C.S.A. They cover topics like flexibility in payment plans, whether the C.S.A. washes their produce or not and whether or not they pack boxes for members, or if the members have some choices of what to take or not take. They don't have on their checklists whether there are animals at the farm or not, or whether manure is used on the vegetables. My belief in the rights of animals, as well as health concerns about veggies like spinach being infected with e coli through the use of manure, make a veganic approach to farming my preferred choice.

We were thrilled to have found Huguenot Street Farm, and that first season provided the best food we'd ever eaten. Each year we've continued to believe this is the best option for us. That's why it knocked me over to learn that we wouldn't get to be members this season.

Here's what happened: Ron has always been involved in national and international farming policy. He started the peer-run Certified Naturally Grown program as an alternative to [expensive] organic certification, and traveled regularly hosted by the U.N. Both Ron and Kate are kind of crazy geniuses, obsessed with keeping alive heirloom species, improving weeding methods and storage methods—improving every aspect of small scale vegetable farming.A few years ago they invented the CoolBot, a gizmo that enables you to build your own walk-in refrigerator with a regular window air conditioner. (The wintergreens household spent a whole month wiring Coolbots in exchange for a portion of our yearly share.) I don't know of any small farms in the Hudson Valley that don't use this technology, since it literally saves thousands of dollars. Our C.S.A. newsletters are filled with facts about cooling your vegetables, things like, "If your napa cabbage spends an hour in a warm car before being cooled again, its longevity has been cut in half." The kind of obsession that brought the CoolBot into being, as well as the solar tractor design Ron's been talking about for a couple of years, has gotten noticed.

"My" farmers are heading a Gates Foundation project strategizing more efficient post-harvest care in India, Honduras, Thailand, and weirdly, California. Ron [who is Indian] says:
The idea is to help places like India where there is still malnutrition while 40% of fresh produce rots and is discarded before it can get to market.
Clearly "my" farmers are going to be busy this year. As a result, they are cutting down C.S.A. membership to a third the size of last year. To cut some of us out fairly, they used a lottery system. For a minute it seemed like we hadn't made it, and there were 24 hours of panic and internet research (Did you know there are only seven veganic farms in the country?) and then we found out that we HAD made it.

If I thought I appreciated that table piled with greens in June for the past six years, I'm going to REALLY appreciate it this year.

The cuties pictured at the top of this post are Potsie and Radar, some kids we rescued while living in Brooklyn.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Cooks, the Singer, the Potter and her Students

Or Bakesalers, Chapter One.
First, we could not have had the Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti without a venue, and Steve Astorino provided his beautiful store, Zora Dora. Steve makes delicious paletas—if you haven't tried them yet, your summers have been incomplete. Because of the space, we were able to have hot tea, tables and chairs, be on Main Street, have music and mood lighting. It wouldn't have been the same without you, Steve, even if you were sunning in Central America at the time!
Lagusta Yearwood, chef, rabble rouser, and chocolatier, donated her exquisite truffles and bonbons. People especially went crazy over her "Vandana Shivas" and "Furious Vulvas," the latter being a salted chocolate that's my personal favorite. Adding Lagusta's food artistry to the mix bumped our classiness up a notch, no doubt.
My favorite country singer, Rachel Lee Walsh, baked five dozen chocolate chocolate chip walnut cookies, and than ran all over Brooklyn and Manhattan trying to get them to me. When I apologized for the hassle, she said "walking a handful of blocks when I'm tired is nothing when I think about what people in Haiti are going through." Bless your kind heart, your baking skills, and your velvet voice.
You may know Virginia Piazza Pottery from the Beacon Farmer's Market, area craft fairs, or because she's taught you how to throw on a wheel. Many, many thanks go out to Virginia and her students for donating many beautiful cups, bowls, and platters to the bake sale.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mistakes #364 and #365

Different kinds of produce have different winter storage requirements: potatoes can't be exposed to light because their skins get poisonous, onions and garlic must be in a dry environment to keep from rotting, some roots do better if rested on a bed of soil or sand. I'm guessing they're more at peace because this setup feels like home to them.

Squashes and pumpkins require a dry cool place (being Mesoamerican fruits), and ideally, some kind of pillow between them and the hard surface they are resting on. When my dry "cool" location threatened to freeze, squashes and pumpkins were moved. Pumpkins went inside, squashes went to the very moist root cellar.

Do not do this: do not forget your "dry cool" storage items in your "wet cool" space for three weeks, and expect them to be fine.

The pumpkins, indoors, are perfect. The squashes, not so much.

The other mistake wasn't ours.

Before the Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti happened, we notified every news outlet in the Hudson Valley (practically). The Beacon Free Press didn't list the event in advance (boo on you!), but showed up at the event to take a picture and ask questions. Well okay, they get some credit: better late than never, right?

Nope, this fab event didn't make the paper this week. That's because there was too much other important news, like a clown at the coffee shop (no kidding, the headline story!). It doesn't really matter, since the reason we'd contacted them was to get more people to the sale and raise more money for Haiti. But it does make you wonder.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Raising Funds & Awareness

I declare the Hudson Valley Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti a success! We raised $552 for Food for Life Global and Sodopreca, got a whole bunch of enthusiastic non-vegan people to create and donate animal-free food and artwork, and had a great time as well. It was a cold night, so we're especially happy that you all turned out to stuff your dollars in donation jars.

A lot of people asked, so I wanted to explain more about what Food for Life does. They are a disaster relief organization—what they are doing in Haiti is what they are pros at doing around the world when and where needed. They serve vegetarian meals, and so can serve about 3 hot meals for one dollar. That means our donation is making an impact.
More later on some of the creative people who made the fundraiser possible, and a success.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Distribution - February 14, 2010

Distribution number seven is like a Wednesday afternoon, our season's hump day. It means that we're more than halfway through winter C.S.A. season. Who knows where the time goes?

We've still got plenty of good stuff in our stores. And, because it's the day of love (as if we shouldn't focus on our hearts every day!), we've got heart healthy food, bright bleeding pink food, and food shaped like an anatomical heart. Here's what the love share brings:

- frozen tomato* sauce, Huguenot Street Farm
- frozen blueberries, Fishkill Farms
- root cellared garlic, Huguenot Street Farm
- dehydrated apple rings, Fishkill Farms
- pickled beets, Huguenot Street Farm
- hoophouse cilantro or parsley, Madura Farm
- hoophouse celeriac, Madura Farm

*Again, these tomatoes were sprayed with copper to survive late blight, and you can skip them if you choose. Sadly, I can't remember the exact numbers, but they were sprayed with something like 1/15th the amount allowable under organic standards. That's good to know when it comes to soil health. When it comes to your health, you'll want to know that they were triple washed before cooking. I'm skeptical of the copper spray, but am trusting my beloved farmers who know far, far more than I ever will about soil, and fungicides. Still, I worry. I intended to skip tomatoes entirely last summer after late blight hit, but couldn't walk away from these when presented with their alluring smell. Be warned, if we have the same disease problems in the growing season of 2010, wintergreens may have a tomato-less 2010-2011 season.

That said, right now we've got sauce! Some jars are perfectly smooth and without skin and seeds, and others are chunky with a bit of bell pepper and eggplant thrown in. Both were made without salt or herbs (that's up to you), and both have a bit of virgin olive oil. If you're passionate about smooth v. chunky, come early. Happy lycopene day!

Ah, the blueberry. These roly-polys come up over and over on all the superfood lists. For me, they're love-ly because blueberry bushes are perennials, of which I am a fan. No work and delicious—what's not to like? Also, because there's nothing as excellent as coming upon a patch of wild blueberry bushes when hiking. Or blackberry. Or rasberry. But I digress... Last but not least, I totally heart foods that make your tongue look like a chow chow's, and I think all our toddler members will agree!

Garlic. Love it. Need it.

Dehydrated apple rings: another excellent short person snack. These hula hoops for your tongue are incredibly sweet and satisfying, making me wonder why I ever bothered to get addicted to chocolate. Use these to get the next generation wanting healthy snacks.

We're going in for a second round of pickled beets. They're a productive plant, they're great for you, the color is appropriate for the holiday, hearty-y and bloody and pink. And, the real reason: we had an indoor picnic during one of the snowstorms that included wine, crusty bread, nice green olive oil, cashew cheese, and pickled beets. The beets were the star of the meal, and when the jar was done, I wanted more. That must mean you want more, mustn't it?

Celeriac is celery grown for the root instead of the stalks. It's great because it stores well, and works in situations where celery flavor is desirable, but strings are not. If you're a celery string hater, you might also want to try cutting celery, which is essentially an herb.

Parsley is one of those hearty herbs that will stick out the snow under a drape of plastic or a cloche, and has thankfully graduated from its days as a garnish. I had some yesterday juiced, with celery, and I'm still on the top of the world from it.

All herbs are great for you in, like, a bazillion ways, and fresh cilantro is no exception. You either love it or you think it tastes like soap. If you fall in the second category, gift it to someone in the first who you want to adore you. I always remember gushing over a restaurant server who had a leaf of cilantro stuck to her cheek—I thought I could love her forever. Herbs, they're that powerful.

Happy hump day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Keeping Warm

When the world is glowing pale blue, like it was this morning just before dusk, and the sun rises to a snowy scene of greytones, it's not unusual to be dreaming of ways to introduce warmth.

I keep my coffee cup on the wood burning stove while I'm getting ready for work, to keep my hot drink HOT. The rest of the house is cold, but moments of holding that hot mug, and sipping hot liquid make a big difference. I, and the cats I live with, feel warmer when the stove is glowing orange. If the flames are hidden behind a log, or if the glass panes get covered in soot, we don't feel as warm as we would, even if the stove were emanating the same amount of heat. Psychological, maybe, but real nonetheless.

When it comes to food, there's actual heat (think of hot chocolate or stew), there's vibrant color to both warm us and to ward off scurvy, and then there's spice. Ginger, garlic, and black pepper come to mind immediately, and, if you're anything like me, chilies and paprikas follow closely behind. I also rely heavily on spicy condiments: Indian pickles, chutneys, spiced pumpkin butter. Two that warm your body up right quick (or burn out your nose hairs) and are easy to make are spicy beer mustard, and hot pink horseradish.

Spicy Beer Mustard, which I got from bread & honey, who found the recipe in an old issue of Martha Stewart Living

1/2 c brown mustard seeds
1/4 c yellow mustard seeds
1 c dark beer
1 1/4 c white-wine vinegar
1 c mustard powder, combined with 1 c water (let sit 20 minutes)
2 T sugar
2 t salt
1 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground turmeric
1/4 t ground mace

In a nonreactive container, combine mustard seeds with beer and vinegar. Let sit at least 48 hours. Check periodically to make sure seeds are covered by liquid; add more if necessary.

Transfer seeds and liquid to a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients. Process 4 to 6 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 1 week before to let the flavors develop. The mustard will keep for a month or more. Judging from the the market tasters, people are gaga for good spicy mustard.

Hot Pink Horseradish
Wash and peel horseradish root as you would a potato and dice it into small cubes. Place the cubes in the blender jar. Add a small amount of cold water and crushed ice. Start with enough cold water to completely cover the blades of the blender. Add several crushed ice cubes. Put the cover on the blender before turning the blender on. If necessary, add more water or crushed ice to complete the grinding. When the mixture reaches the desired consistency, add white vinegar. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each cup of grated horseradish.

The time at which you add the vinegar is important. Vinegar stops the enzymatic action in the ground product and stabilizes the degree of hotness. If you prefer horseradish that is not too hot, add the vinegar immediately. If you like it as hot as can be, wait three minutes before adding the vinegar.

For the gorgeous pink version, simply throw in a chunk of beetroot when blending.

From Global Gourmet.

Mustard photo from bread & honey. Horseradish picture from some eco garden cooking dude blogger who I can't find again. If you recognize it, let us know the source!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bottle Trees

Here's a tree you can "grow" outdoors in deep winter, and one that conveniently traps bad spirits.

Friday, February 5, 2010

VD Present Perfect

I just got a sweet valentine in the mail from my sis'. She must've noticed the wintergreens kitchen towel craze, or be tuned into my brain vibrations from across the country, because she sent me a hand printed tea towel from The Heated (a lesbi-printi-furnituremaki-musician, apparently) featuring one of my favorite animals, the ratbird. Al, how'd you know it's what I've always wanted?

This leads me to wonder, what are the ideal ways I can think of to show love this VD?

There's always gifting: burning the hell out of someone you love's mouth with the Vegan de Guadalupe Cookzine; getting the garden started with a set of artpacks from Hudson Valley Seed Library.Or you could go deeper, my friends, much deeper. You can buy revolutionary versions of good ol' valentine standbys at the Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti. Better yet, bring your sweetie to the sale, and fill a box with their favorites.

No sweetie? No problem. Bring your dog, your neighbor, or someone you just picked up in a dimly lit bar and come hang with us. Let your pocket change help people who really need it. Now that's showing the love.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ice Cracker

At the market the other day, someone walked out onto the ice on the river, with a kid trailing behind. It was a controversial move—just hearing about it made me unable to breathe.

The week before, someone had seen a fox way out on the river ice, in the middle of the day. What was that fox doing? Fishing? looking for birds? for fresh water?

The ice on the Hudson River holds my attention and imagination every winter. I think of my grandma ice fishing in a little shack in Minnesota; of the woman I met in Hudson (the town) running across the icy Hudson (the river) every morning to the factory where she worked, scared of the cracking and groaning, but crossing nonetheless; of the scene in The Shipping News when the house is dragged across the sea-ice from an island to the mainland of Newfoundland's coast, and cabled there to keep from blowing away; of stories of my dad delivering ice, huge cubes, lifted with big, sharp tongs. And current events, too: the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry being unable to cross the river; bald eagle and seal sightings; dogs and men falling through the ice and drowning in Central Park.At a dinner party a few nights ago people were talking about harvesting river ice, and keeping it in sawdust to use in iceboxes the following summer. Indeed, harvesting river ice used to be a major industry in the Hudson Valley. I don't know about the big tongs, or the conveyor belts of huge cubes, but we could notice this ice, this snow, and use this natural resource locally, on a small scale.

I did live in a New J. apartment for a winter with no refrigerator, and hung my food out the second story windows in bags to keep cold. That, and floating a six pack in a stream, are the closest I've come to using winter for cold storage, but I'm thinking on it. The wintergreens root cellar half counts, since it's moderated at an above-freezing temperature.*Photos courtesy of Boat Nerd, China Daily, and Tessa Lau.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Summer is Coming!

I keep telling myself this, like a mantra. It's better than pouting, right, and I do really feel those extra couple of minutes of light per day!

So I'm thinking ahead to things I want to do and experience this summer. Two things on my mind are homemade vinegar, and edible flowers. So what better than a recipe for nasturtium vinegar?

I haven't walked around eating flowers very much at all, but isn't it appealing? Though my first instinct involves fermentation (I can't help it!), I suspect I'll be trying them as ingredients and on their own, too. Hurry up sun!