Tag Archives: fresh

The Homegrown Experience

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As I mentioned, this past weekend, after my cooking and cleaning frenzy, my friend Jen and I attended The Homegrown Experience at the beautiful Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis.

I would have never known about this if if wasn’t for Goldstar. It’s a another Daily Deal site. And you know how I love those! I would have never known about this event if I hadn’t received the email. And this was its third year in existence! Since I prefer to eat and cook with fresh, quality ingredients and I love supporting the local community, I jumped at the chance to check this it out.

Upon checking in, we received bags and wine glasses along with some coupons and advertisements. This was included in the ticket price as well as the tasting samples we were about to receive!

I really wouldn’t have called it a “Food and Wine Festival” as Goldstar described. There wasn’t much wine being poured. However, despite my affection for wine, that wasn’t my reason for being there. I wanted to learn more about local, organic and sustainable food in the Twin Cities metro area.

And so we did.

There were so many wonderful samples that I’m sure we made a meal out of it. There were all sorts of vendors including co-ops, non-profits and restaurants that use local or sustainable ingredients. Products included wine, beer, spices, bbq sauces, chocolates and candies, oils, coffee, beauty products, cheese, ice cream and more. We made our way through all of the booths, but patience was key. There were so many people! The lines were long and went extremely slowly. Some people popped in and out of booths, which caused even greater delays in the lines. I’m not sure if the lines were meant to be there, or if we, as the crowd, created them though!

My favorite bite was provided by one of the Eastside Co-op – just a simple crostini with colorful tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. They had some excellent chocolate we nibbled on as well.

Truth be told, while I recognized some of the restaurants, I was unaware of the majority of the businesses showcasing their products and services! I collected a lot of brochures, pamphlets and business cards. In fact, now that I think about it, I picked up a few magazines/catalogs, too. In my weekend cleaning frenzy, they must have ended up in a pile somewhere. I have to find them! I’m most looking forward to the current issue of Edible Twin Cities!

However, probably the most interesting discovery to us was Twin Cities Local Food. When we approached their both, we saw this:

Camelina Oil

What’s camelina oil?” You ask? I did, too. Camelina is a wild flax chock full of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You can learn more about camelina here. The camelina oil was used in a dressing and bread was offered for dipping to sample. But why was Twin Cities Local Food showcasing it?

Because local farmers and producers of local food products are offered through the Twin Cities Local Food online marketplace! As a member, you place your order online by Wednesday morning.  By Thursday afternoon, your order is ready for pickup at the location of your choosing. There is a drop off site in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Savage. SAVAGE! We south-of-the-river girls were excited about that!

We were told that the produce is picked up from local farmers the same day, so everything you get is fresh, fresh. It’s the perfect alternative to a CSA. You get the choice of what you’d like and what you know you will use that week. A win-win! We are seriously thinking of giving this a try. {P.S. It’s a year-round service!}

Currently, memberships with Twin Cities Local Food are $10 for one month, $35 for six months and $50 for a year. You can even place two orders without a membership just to give it a try. But really, $50 a year? If you go once a week, that’s less than a $1 to have fresh, local produce of your choosing delivered to one location? Or, look at it this way: It’s less than $4 a month. You’d pay more for shipping on anything you order online!

Why don’t I just give it try and let you know what I think…

Where is your favorite place to shop for fresh, local produce?

Cheers~
Carrie

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First CSA Box of the Season – What’s in it?

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I picked up our first CSA Box of the season this week!

When I’ve talked about my CSA box, I’ve had people ask me, “What’s that?”

I don’t really know how I’ve come to learn about CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. Maybe it was when our friend Lisa was chopping yellow summer squash when we visited her and her husband up at their cabin. She gave me a piece and told me to taste it.

RAW? Raw yellow squash? I had never heard of anyone eating such a thing. Besides, it had only been during college that I started eating the stuff. I took the piece from her and gave it a try anyway.

I couldn’t believe the flavor – and it wasn’t even COOKED! That was the best yellow squash (to this day) that I’d ever had. It came from her CSA box, also know as a Farm Box.

Maybe that’s when I looked up CSAs online to learn more about them.

Community Supported Agriculture is catching on more than ever now. It’s about consuming local produce when it’s fresh and at its best. In essence, you are eating food when it is in season and supporting the local community at the same time. Food tastes better not only when it is in season, but when it doesn’t have far to travel to you. The fresher the better, right? And you know that I’m all about flavor, right? Oftentimes, farms that participate grow their crops organically, or as organically as possible without having the expensive certification.

How it Works

You can buy a membership or subscription to a local farm participating in CSA. At regular intervals (generally, each week), a box of produce will be put together for you to either pick up or be dropped off at a pre-determined site. I chose our CSA last year primarily based on the drop-off site location. I wanted to make sure that it would be convenient enough that I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to pick it up or feel like I had to skip retrieving it because I didn’t have time.

Shoot, the drop-off site is less than a 5k away from our home at a little co-op grocery store. {And no, I will not be running there and then back with a box full of heavy veggies!} What’s great is that I can stop and get any last minute groceries there if I need them, too. During this first pick-up, samples of this scrumptious snack made me put them in my cart:

Fun, Minnesota-made snack. Only 3 ingredients. Check them out! Softer than a popcorn kernel, but crunchier than popcorn. WARNING: addictive!

Each CSA does things differently, but ours has different sized boxes for different prices. Last year, my friend Jen and I split the Chica box from Featherstone Farm. It was the smaller of the two boxes offered {the other option was the Grande}, and we knew that if we each got one ourselves, that it was just going to be too much stuff to try to use up during the week. The Chica box is meant for a family of two or three. This year, our CSA has added a Solo box, which is meant for one person. My understanding with the Solo box is that the intent is to offer more common stuff and less of the “extras”. Still, we decided to stick with splitting the Chica this year. We’ll take note of what comes in each box to help make our decision for next year.

At first glance, the cost may sound like a lot. Our Chica box is just under $500 for 20 weeks. {We paid the early bird rate of $480.} But do the math: That’s just $24 per week for fresh, organic produce. I think that’s more than worth it – especially to have it picked for you at its peak. Plus, we split it, so it’s really only $12 for each of us per week. In addition, our CSA provides us information on the crops and how best (or how quickly) we should use them. And just like ours, I’ve found that many CSAs have recipes online, too!

Even though we get an email the week of our pickup about what produce to expect in the box, it still feels like Christmas when I open it up:

Hmm… What do we have here?

What am I going to make?!

Depending on the growing conditions each season, boxes can vary in size. While most boxes are smaller the first week of the season, ours was filled quite nicely this week:

Week 1: garlic scapes, spinach, leaf lettuce, mixed greens, garlic chives, oregano, radishes, rhubarb and asparagus

It looks like we are going to be enjoying some salads! My husband isn’t a huge salad fan. However, when I made him one with greens from our CSA box last year, he said that they were ” the best greens I’ve ever had!”

I’m always looking for ways to use rhubarb, though. I’m not a baker and the whole rhubarb crisp or dessert can get old.

A few things I love about the CSA Box:

  • It’s pre-paid, so I’m getting healthy veggies whether I try to or not!
  • I get to try new produce that I haven’t before and learn how to make it or use.
  • It’s an inexpensive way to support the local community while getting quality, healthy produce.
  • If we are on vacation, we can have a friend pick up the box and they can use the contents; or we can let the CSA know in advance and they will donate it on our behalf.

You can find a CSA in your area if you live in the U.S. by clicking here.

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Questions for you:

Are you a member of a CSA farm? If so, what do you like about it?

How do you use rhubarb?

Oh! And remember, I’ll be running the Dog Day 5k tomorrow. You can still come out and register that morning! There is a half marathon going on around Lake Waconia, too. Come back next week for an update!

Cheers~

Carrie