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Archive for the ‘Veg’ Category

Episode 32 – Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes

02.17.12

Eagle Creek Seed PotatoesIt being February and quite possibly a particularly early spring, I was contemplating my annual seed potato order from Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes when it dawned on me that perhaps I should go check them out. So I did. I knew they’d be filling my order in the next couple months, so they had to be busy prepping for that busy season – which was exactly the case. More seasonal food action that you perhaps wouldn’t think is going on up north in February.

This farm should be celebrated by Slow Food and anybody who values biodiversity. While others are farming a single variety of potato in serious quantities, this 4th generation family farm is growing 40 or so varieties and counting. Potatoes need not be a boring staple. What struck me when listening to John was his focus on taste – choosing potato varieties because they have the best taste. What a novel concept for something we eat. John also offers some great advice for what varieties to use in different cooking applications. I thought I knew potatoes, but apparently I have a few things to learn. They also do a veg CSA, raise heritage laying hens and turkeys in a straw-bale construction coop, and all kinds of other cool stuff. Add to that a stunning location atop a high point with a view over the Rockies, and it’s quite the memorable place.

Their online catalog is here, if you’re in the mood for potato enlightenment and/or want to order from them. I will be, again.

From The Farmers’ Mouth – Time to Vote

12.21.11

My highlight reel of ‘From Local Farms‘ videos was just chosen by Daniel and Mirra of The Perennial Plate as a top-four contender in their recent video competition. I’m honored to be on the list, to say the least. The very reason I started a video series at all was directly because of Daniel and Mirra’s earliest episodes – inspiring me to pick up a cheap Flip camera, introduce myself to some farmers, and press some record button. My life, quite literally, has not been the same since.

So a big thank you goes out today to Daniel, Mirra, all the passionate farmers, and especially to you for taking the time to watch what other folks have to say about our food world. You plugging into and supporting projects like The Perennial Plate matters – it creates cracks in a food culture needing to evolve.

Please click over here to like the video on facebook, and vote for it too while you’re at it. If the vid wins the day, it will replace the regular programming of The Perennial Plate next Monday, exposing it to a very large viewership of like minded folks across many borders. That would be very cool. Even if it doesn’t, big thanks to Daniel and Mirra for your support of what I’m up to and sharing your audience.

‘The Harvest’ w/ Chef Brittany Watt

11.16.11

I met Britt a few months ago, when the proprietor of the restaurant she was then working at introduced us. I promised her some plants, she came to get them and came for dinner, and I still haven’t managed to get her those plants. I think she and I get along because we’re both pretty hardcore when it comes to our values around food, and neither of us care much for beating around the bush. We were able to get out mushroom foraging this summer, and it looks like she’ll be jumping in on helping Allan Suddaby and I butcher elk this weekend. So there you have it: disclosure of bias + an explanation of why I was at her event, all wrapped into one.

Anyway, long story short: she’s started up her own gig, was having an ‘after hours’ harvest dinner geared entirely around farmers’ market vendor ingredients [NOT a normal activity around here], and invited me to attend as her guest. If you want to read a lovely blog post, Liane happened to be there. Read hers. I lack her eloquence. What I can tell you is that those chefs leading the way in their industry towards a real local and seasonal approach to food have my support. I’m unusual, with all my DIY/grow-it-kill-it-make-it-yourself stuff – I get it. I also get that many folks that eat out have similar values around local, seasonal, ethical food, and if I can support the chefs blazing the way in industry that serves the masses, I will.

Because I, quite honestly, hate writing about events [or worse, organizing them, don't ask me to do that], do enjoy the video below. It delivers far more than I could via writing and a few pictures. Last thought: get down to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market not just to shop, but to eat, as Britt now runs the concession. The menu blew me away, as it actually serves up food sold by the vendors under that very roof. Well done, whoever lined up this long-time-needed change [and I know who you are]. Well done.

Farm-to-Table w/ RGE RD & Riverbend Gardens

10.27.11

The last farm-to-table dinner I attended was a resounding success, and I’m not surprised Blair and his crew have done a few of these since then. By happenstance we ran into each other at the farmers’ market a couple weeks ago and I ended up involved with his upcoming dinner at Riverbend Gardens. He ended up buying the last half of the 3 pigs we cut on Pig Day for the event, came over to butcher it, and also wanted to include some rescued fruit in his dessert so I ended up supplying some urban-fruit-rescued apples and evans cherries harvested by myself and Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton volunteers. I offered to give Blair a hand, shoot some video and such, cause, well, it’s just a lovely kind of thing to be involved with, really.

It was a 6 course wine-paired menu based on winter-veg from Riverbend Gardens, and pork and beef from Nature’s Green Acres. Plus 3 hors d’oeurvres. Pretty impressive menu, really, and glad it was he and not I in charge of making it happen for the 25 or so guests. It was a well-conceived and well-executed festival of winter squashes, pork, local cheese, kales, cabbages, brussel sprouts, cauliflowers, beef, potatoes, urban fruit, live music, and local and Okanagan wines. I was lucky enough to be offered a spare seat at the huge table, and between shooting video of the courses as they were plated, got to eat the food and be a guest. Thanks to Blair and the RGE RD crew for that, and for becoming such fantastic advocates and supporters of our local food producers, and for cooking with fire. It matters. Enjoy the video.

Hitting the Farm with Culinary Students

10.13.11

At their request as a consulting local food ‘expert’ [makes me cringe to refer to myself as such], I’ve headed up a couple food adventures lately with some of NAIT‘s culinary arts students. Last week was foraging for highbush cranberry – still have to write about that one. Yesterday though was a farm experience I hooked them up with out at Sundog Organic Farm. We got a tour from Jenny who explained crop rotation, their seeding schedule, infrastructure needs, etc and then hit the field to help them get some of their fall root veg put up for the winter. After a few hours in the field, we prepped and cooked lunch harvested straight from the field in one of the coolest kitchens I’ve experinced: their greenhouse. The students were left to check out the field, put together a menu, and execute it. Folks even got to go home with bags of reject carrots –  broken, too small to store, but still tasty. Good times.

This seems like an obvious connect to me: people who are passionate about preparing food hanging out with people who are passionate about growing it. That’s why I’m willing to make time away from my work and family to go assist in connecting that gap where I can. The way I see it, the talented young folks who are about to go out and become the cooks and chefs in our community have a crack at changing the culture around seasonality and locality. Perhaps that’s naive of me, but I’ve been learning that it doesn’t necessarily take many to  make a difference in their community. Some of them will design menus. Some of them will make decisions that impact local agricultural producers whether they are aware of it or not. And some of them just might go on to advocate for local, seasonal eating as well.

At the end of the day, the farmer got some extra and energetic hands to help get a bunch of vegetables stored for winter sale while connecting with the industry talent that will shape part of their future. It’s worth mentioning that getting veg out of the ground doesn’t always get done, the farms often struggling with well timed and sufficient labor – so if you’re interested in checking out your local veg farm, don’t be shy to offer yourself up for an afternoon, day, or weekend during harvest. They need a hand. Rescue some food, help the farm, and I guarantee it will be worth your time. The students in this case got to get outside and connect with where their food [should] come from, get excited about great local ingredients, hang out with some nice folks, and feel helpful. All around, all positives. Win-win-win-win-win-win.

Sundog Organig Farm – Teaser

08.26.11

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m producing a video project with Sundog Organic Farm that will span the next few years. I’ve been out there a few times lately to capture where their land, family, and heads are at, and wanted to put together a super-quick trailer to give folks involved [and you] a sense of the feel of where I’m headed with it at the moment. The feel might change, the post-audio will get done, and I’ll spend more than 15 minutes on the edit like I did on this tidbit – but I still think it gives you an idea what it might look like down the road.

It’s an interesting project – tracking somebody’s thoughts over a period of months and years. As a viewer the change over time is dramatic, but it seems to be unperceived by them as they toil and adapt to the constant change and challenge that is setting up their new farm. Thankfully the camera does its job at capturing those moments in time that are soon forgotten. I just hope I can do it justice in editing.

The final product is years out yet, but I’ll likely release tidbits here and there as things progress.

Enjoy the teaser.

Edmonton Organic Grower’s Guild

08.01.11

It never ceases to amaze me how much opportunity there is out there for folks when it comes to local food – un-elitist, accessible-to-all, free, local food. This organization might take the cake. They are a cooperative of volunteers who farm vegetables and fruit on land owned by the University of Alberta. They seed as a group, weed as a group, harvest as a group, and share the bounty. I’ve often driven by the University farm, parked smack dab in the middle of the city – acres upon acres of extremely valuable real estate – and wondered why the heck they were growing conventional grain crops. Research, I get it, but can that kind of research not be done a half-hour out of the city where land is a fraction of the cost? Can these hundreds of acres of surviving agricultural land in the center of our city not be feeding people? How about feeding students at least?

As it turns out, one of the ways the UofA is innovating the use of this land gold-mine is by allowing the Edmonton Organic Grower’s Guild to farm it. For free. Not only is rent free, they supply composted manure from their cattle operation down the road, spread and till it, and give EOGG grant money to buy seed and tools. Astonishing. So who, might you ask, must you be, or who must you know to be so fortunate as to get an opportunity to farm such a precious piece of land that’s a short walk from an LRT station? It’s open to anybody. Yes, condo dwellers living downtown, you no longer have a good excuse in my mind to not be growing your own veg. What an opportunity. My hat’s off to the UofA.

Farm to Table w/ RGE RD & Nature’s Green Acres

07.27.11

Farm-to-table dining, while commonplace elsewhere, is still an extremely progressive concept in our restaurant scene. When one of the most well-respected chefs in the city, Blair Lebsack, mentioned he was going to tackle serving a multi-course dinner to 30-40 guests out in the cow pasture at Nature’s Green Acres, I wanted to be there.

I find in the food service industry, ‘Local‘ normally equates to an element, maybe two on the plate being local, and it’s usually a protein. ‘Seasonal‘ often really means, ‘seasonal somewhere’. Not here. The beef, pork, and chicken was from the farm, yes, but when the farm didn’t have enough garden to supply the dinner, Blair and Caitlin got out there and built and planted garden months in advance. They foraged nettle for one of the iced teas and the ice cream, and nicked edible flowers from farm yard to include in the menu. They made butter for bread and for the pastries in the desert course. Blair chased the pig into the trailer to haul off to the abattoir, and butchered it himself. They butchered chickens, made stock for the soup, and used the livers in a terrine. He even helped the farmer rip the ancient, neglected, wood burning stove out of one of the farm’s outbuildings so he could cook on it – the entire service being done over wood fire. Essentially, if it wasn’t from the farm or a neighbour, it wasn’t on the menu.

It was an epic evening for everyone involved, I think – certainly the kind of event you don’t soon forget, if ever. Keep an eye out for more from Blair and RGE RD [the name of his new venture], as this wasn’t a one-off. Perhaps farm-to-table has finally truly arrived.

From Local Farms – Riverbend Gardens

07.21.11

I wasn’t sure what to expect when driving up to Riverbend Gardens, whose farm is actually within Edmonton city limits, but it certainly wasn’t this: a young 3rd generation farming couple just in the middle of having a family struggling to find time to fight to stay on the land their family’s farmed for half a century. Juggling pregnancy, a couple toddlers, a large staff, farmer’s markets nearly daily, a whole pile of different vegetables and plants at various stages of growth, succession planning, and getting politically involved to protect their land against development cannot be an easy task. And the deer want to eat their crops. They have to hire a couple people to stand watch through the night while transplants size up, or the deer will put them out of business. Perhaps to drive the point home for my visit, mother nature knocked out their power, just for good measure.

One perk of taking on an established farm is they currently plant only half the land for the year, letting the other half rest. With the cost of land around the city in the millions/quarter, I’m assuming that’s generally not economically feasible. Producing food locally can be both a blessing and a curse, and it’s never been more evident to me than here.

Celebrating Spring Thyme

04.03.11

Irvings Farm Fresh Berk Loin Chop, Garden Thyme, Garlic + Lola Canola Honey mustard

GEH Potatoes, Onions, Mo-Na Mushroms, Garden Thyme