Thursday, December 30, 2010

This Week's Local Food Finds

Beginning this week, I plan to make regular visits to Three Rivers Market in Knoxville, to see what local foods are available, and then report on them here. Here's what I found this visit:

The market is supportive of local farmers and artisans, and carries baked goods from three excellent local sources, Hogan's Bakery in Knoxville, The Bakery Lady in Seymour, and Tellico Grains Bakery in Tellico Plains. Products are delivered several times a week. Whatever I choose from the bakery rack has always been delicious.

If you have not yet tried the sheep's milk cheeses produced by Locust Grove Farm your are missing a treat. The well-aged "Galloway Reserve" is as good as any imported product. The farm offers other cheeses and free range lamb, too.

On left, butternut squash; on right, chayote.
The biggest surprise was beautiful chayote squash from Jefferson County, TN. Many people are unfamiliar with this tropical member of the cucumber family, but it is well known along the US Gulf Coast and in Mexico. Latinos call it "chayote," while in Louisiana it is a "mirliton" and may also be known as "vegetable pear" or "christophine." By any name, it is delicious and a nice change of pace from winter squash, which is much sweeter. The pale green flesh of the chayote has a nuttier flavor, too. To prepare, begin by dropping the entire fruit into a large pot of boiling water, and cook until it is fork tender. Remove from the water and let cool until you can handle it. Peel the chayote with a vegetable peeler, and then cut it in half lengthwise, like an avocado. The large seed is edible and delicious, and can be added to salad. The rest of the cooked squash can now be sliced or chopped and added to soups, stir fries and other dishes where you'd use summer squash. Culinary legend and cookbook author Paul Prudhomme recommends hollowing out the halves to create a shell about a quarter of an inch in thickness. He then breads them with seasoned flour, an egg wash, and seasoned bread crumbs, and deep fries them to make a container for various creamed vegetable and seafood fillings. With that technique in mind, we plan to experiment with the specimen we brought home.

Also from close by were sweet potatoes, including some small yams, from Grainger County, TN, although they were small and somewhat shriveled. Better ones were available from Macon County, GA.

From the other side of the mountain came freshly cut basil from Asheville, NC, and beautiful organic Red Delicious and Rome Beauty apples from Hendersonville, NC.

From Davidson County, TN, about 200 miles from here, came several types of fresh sprouts, along with dill and mint. Eggs from Englewood, TN, produced the old-fashinoned way, were also available.

Notable products from further afield were ginger from Alabama, cucumbers from Georgia, winter squash and green bell peppers from South Carolina.

I was disappointed that the mushrooms, of which there were several types, came from Pennsylvania, although the selection included shiitake, crimini and portobellos, all very good quality. Monterey Mushroom Company has a large production facility in Loudon County, TN. I wonder why I don't see Monterey's mushrooms in more places.

While out food shopping I stopped at my favorite supermarket and picked up some genuine Georgia pecans. I'd actually hoped they would be on sale after Christmas, but that was not the case, and I paid $7.50 for a 12 ounce package. However, they are worth it. Georgia pecans have a different flavor from California grown nuts. They are slightly less sweet, but have a taste reminiscent of hickory nuts, to which they are closely related. Pecan trees don't grow well here in Tennessee, but hickory nuts, especially from the shagbark hickory, were a special treat in the autumns of my childhood. My grandfather and I would gather them in burlap sacks after they dropped from the trees, and then spend hours cracking them and separating the shells from the delicious meats. The shagbark hickory does not domesticate well, apparently, and one almost never sees the nuts offered for sale. But my fond memories of the flavor of hickory nuts explain why the Georgia pecans taste so good, no doubt.

From the Garden
Available from our garden today are spinach, baby carrots, baby lettuce, cilantro (maybe) and parsley, plus viola blossoms to decorate a salad. The indoor growing space offers oregano, French thyme, and rosemary.

Book Recommendation

You can learn more about the philosophies behind America's "slow food" and locavore movements by reading In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. The author charts the course of his awakening to the problems with our industrialized food system and the way out. Pollan spends time on an organic farm, hunts wild boar, and gardens in his backyard in order to better understand our society's "food chain." This book should be in the library of anyone committed to sourcing more of their food locally.

1 comment:

John Tullock said...

This is merely a test entry.