Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Local Food Report

One of our goals for this blog is to report on the availability of local produce and other foods. We will use the same definition of "Local" as does Three Rivers Market, that is, from the East Tennessee region within 100 miles of Knoxville. This week's offerings come from Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Loudon counties.

  • arugula, organic
  • bok choy, naturally farmed
  • kale, organic
  • kohlrabi
  • lettuce, naturally farmed, including Merlot, Romaine, butterhead and looseleaf types
  • mustard
  • peppers, including anaheim, jalapeno, hungarian wax, and sweet bell types
  • Swiss chard, organic
  • turnips, organic

"Certified naturally farmed" is a designation for food raised without harmful chemicals and pesticides, and is less costly to the farmer than "certified organic" status. Only food that has been officially certified may be labeled as "organic."

Plenty of ham, bacon and cheese is also available from local and regional (within 500 miles) producers. Since foods like these are less perishable, we will focus more on the availability of fresh produce, especially during the winter months.

Both ginger and fresh turmeric are also available, coming from Mobile, Alabama.

Garden Bounty for Thanksgiving

I wonder if East Tennesseans put so much celery in their turkey dressing because it produces such a fine fall crop. We started several celery plants back in February. They are notoriously slow-growing and we did not transplant them until May. But by mid-July we harvested some thin, tough stalks that were suitable for flavoring soups. During the worst of summer's heat, the plants merely sat there, looking a bit bedraggled. Since Labor Day, no doubt with a boost from unusually abundant autumn rainfall, they have recovered. Although not as large as supermarket celery, the stalks are sweet and succulent. Ideal for sauteing with onions to add to the dressing on Thursday.

A hard freeze last week finished off the peas, but we still have carrots, turnips, Romaine lettuce, spinach, parsley, dill, and cilantro in the outdoor beds. Our two new plastic greenhouses have more lettuce, spinach, kale, bok choy and various herbs that we will enjoy during the next three months, by which time we will be starting seeds for next year. One of the things we love most about gardening is the cyclical flow of activities throughout the year. With the addition of the greenhouses, we have not only extended the season of harvest, but also the season of gardening pleasure.

This year, as the holiday season approaches, why not consider food gardening gifts? Instead of a potted tropical orchid, give someone you love a kumquat or Meyer lemon in a pot. Perennial herbs in small pots make great gifts, too. Unlike a poinsettia, which will fade by January, a living food plant can bring pleasure throughout the upcoming year. It always helps to include a card with growing instructiions, and perhaps a favorite recipe. Want to help a friend get started gardening? Share seeds with them. You could put together a simple veggie and herb garden plan, write up some instructions, and provide the seeds. This is a great way to use up extra seeds at the end of the season. Include seeds you have saved, if you have them, for a special, personalized touch.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
John and Jerry