Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hello from Buffalo Locavore

The editing team at Buffalo Locavore has been hard at work for the last few weeks talking about what we want to include in our blog, and which of our team of five will focus on what issues most often. We also decided to each post a introduction so you can get to know a little more about who we are and how we came to be blogging about local foods. Whitney has already said hello, and now it is my turn.

As you can see from the tag to this post, my given name is Teresa, but my name will appear in posts as buffalolocavore. I grew up in St. Louis, and moved to Buffalo in 1999. For most of my life, I have lived an urban or suburban life. The two exceptions were the rural town where I went to college and the summer months I would spend at my great uncle's farm in northeastern Illinois.

When I was born, my great uncle was already 72 years old and semi-retired from farming. He had served as a dairy and corn farmer for most of his life, and met my great aunt when he was her family milkman. That was also when he met my grandmother, who was a child at the time. About the same time my great uncle was widowed, my grandmother was diagnosed as being legally blind and forced to retire. He asked my grandmother to move in to keep house for him since he was then in his 80s and couldn't do it alone. She agreed, and for my brother and I it began a decade of summers on this small farm in a house that my great uncle had built with his own hands. The peace and happiness of those summers was incomparable.

There were a few acres of farm that my great uncle still cultivated, though most of the 300 acres he'd once owned were rented out to his trusted neighbor. My brother and I had many adventures searching through the old barn and storehouses, and living far closer to the earth than a St. Louis childhood would permit. Best of all, though, was the corn and tomatoes we would help grow. While I will grant that picking tomatoes in the August sun and Midwestern humidity is probably not ideal, it is well worth it for a bite of a perfect, fresh tomato--so heavy and sun warmed the juice would dribble down your chin like a peach. The breezeway porch would fill with bushels of tomatoes for weeks every August, and no one who visited was allowed to leave empty handed. We also had peas, wax beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and the sweetest corn I have ever tasted. I helped my grandmother with the canning and cooking up all of that wonderful produce, and my brother would occasionally catch sunfish from the nearby creek to add to our dinner. That sweet corn was the best bait you could get. I suppose at the time we did not realize how truly idyllic it was. Does any child? I realize now that I am in my 30s how it changed utterly the landscape of my life and made me appreciate what it means to truly feed yourself.

Maybe it was those early farming experiences, but I have always liked digging in the dirt to make things grow. I remember in my suburban backyard as a teenager trying desperately to get carrots and lettuce to grow out of the Missouri clay without really understanding what I was doing. I think I managed three lettuce leaves one summer, and that was the extent of my bounty. In my home now I mainly stick to flowers, and my husband grows the vegetables. This summer he planted cucumber, tomato, jalapeno, and pumpkin plants. I always know that it is nearly Spring when he brings home the seed packets in March to start the seedlings indoors.

Despite all of this, it would probably be surprising to most of the people who know me best that I have started this blog and am so keenly interested in local food and urban agriculture. I have never been much of a vegetable eater. I stick to a few tried and true standards and have never experimented too much. I was a picky eater as a child, and didn't start eating mustard until I was 23 (nor really any other condiment, for that matter). I have never eaten a turnip, a parsnip, or a leaf of arugula and I don't have the faintest idea what a rutabaga even looks like.

I confess that I am not much of a cook, though I would like to be. When I was in high school I had quite a number of good dishes in my repertoire, but over the last few years I have lost my touch for the painstaking, patient preparation necessary for really spectacular dishes.

What I want to be is a food adventurer. I want to show people who, like me, appreciate good food and fresh fruits and vegetables, but have forgotten (or never knew) how to make their food uniquely their own. I want to show that eating locally doesn't have to be expensive, and that farmer's markets can be a treasure hunt. I want to take the readers of this blog along with me on my food adventures, and I hope that you will share your discoveries and experiences as well.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Beets: what to do with them

This one goes out to Ann, whom I hear is having some trouble with her CSA beets.

"baby beets" originally uploaded by Splat Worldwide

Here's what I do for a quick, delicious fix: a root bake! Combine your peeled and diced beets with any of the following: carrots, potatoes, parsnip, or turnips. Cut up some chunks of onion and add them to the root veggies in a bowl. Add a little bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper to taste, and for fun, some rosemary.

Brush a cookie tray with a little oil and add the veggies. Bake at 375/400 until tender. If you're feeling adventurous, some whole garlic cloves would be great.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Edible Buffalo Has Arrived

While at the Bidwell farmer's market a couple of weekends ago I noticed amongst the lovely blueberries and rainbow chard a new magazine, edibleBUFFALO. I picked up a copy, and I have to say I am quite impressed. Lots of advertisements, but given how difficult it can be to find sources for local goodies, I think that is more of an asset than anything. Also, the photography is beautiful and the writing is good. It looks like it is going to be a quarterly (seasonal) publication. I look forward to seeing how it develops over time. You can visit their website at for more information.

Fresh green bean salad

My CSA share last week included a huge bag of yellow and green beans. I knew I wanted to use them in a dish that tasted fresh and did not involve my oven in any way. Flipping through my worn Moosewood Cookbook, I decided on Mollie Katzen's "Bermuda Salad." Without further delay, here is the recipe with my modifications:

5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
half red onion, thinly sliced
bag of green & yellow beans, about 1 lb.
1/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese

Mix the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Slice the red onion and soften the pieces up a bit by pouring boiling water over them in a colander. Add onions to the marinade. Steam the beans until they are tender and then rinse them in the colander with cool water; add to marinade. Sprinkle in the cheese while stirring the whole mixture. Chill in the fridge for a couple hours and serve.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Promised Land CSA: the details

My house, in which there are roughly four adults living, decided to split a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from the Oles' Farm this season. Every Tuesday we pick it up at the nearby Massachusetts Avenue Project and divvy up the bag between our two apartments.

We joined a bit late and while the CSA is on Week 10, we just got our third batch of fresh veggies. Last night my boyfriend and I were remarking on how it's sort of like a miracle: every week our fresh veggie supply is replenished and we don't have to think about it.

That miraculous first week: peas, spinach, chard, carrots, garlic scapes, & lettuce!

I'll be blogging more about my CSA and its offerings, as well as some history of CSAs, as the season progresses, but here are the details for those of you interested in joining*:
  • It's called Promised Land CSA and all the food is grown in Alden, New York by the Oles family. Their farm is about 40 acres large, with 15-20 acres being used for production. The remaining acres are given a rest with cover crops. The Oles use organic farming practices and you can read more about their history on the Promised Land CSA website.
  • Just $250 gets you 25 weeks--that's ten bucks a week smartypants--of fresh, locally-grown veggies plus the occasional fruit offering. They also include fresh herbs!
  • Most CSAs don't offer fruit in their vegetable shares but Promised Land gives you limited fruit (like this week's blueberries) with the option of buying an separate fruit share. The Fruit Share runs for 20 weeks and is $200. We just joined the fruit share, yum.
  • Like most CSAs, you pick up your share at designated site each week. What I liked about this CSA is that it didn't require that members drive to the farm to pick up the produce on a rotating basis. I'm a busy lady and I love that they deliver.
*I don't think Promised Land is offering any more shares this year but there might be another farm willing to take on some stragglers. You can find links to other area CSAs here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Whitney says hello!

At the all organic Sunflower Cafe in Boulder, CO.

Greetings fellow foodies. This post--my inaugural at Buffalo Locavore--is designed to be an introduction to me and my interests/history with the local food movement.

To start, I was born and raised in Western New York and have called the West Side of Buffalo home for about two years. I graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2005 and it was during my time there, at Geneseo, that I first became interested in growing food.

My friend Peter, a Geneseo-grad-turned-townie, decided to undertake an ambitious garlic growing program. Throughout the winter and early spring, garlic would hang from all corners of his apartment. He spared no details and his venture quickly changed from casual and exploratory to a bit obsessive. However, after one bite of his garlic infused pasta sauce, no one could argue that his obsession wasn't worthwhile.

Once, at a mutual friend's dinner party, I watched Peter nearly choke on his drink when the host admitted to using jarred minced garlic, claiming that "it's not really much different" from the real stuff. Whether you think that's snobby or not, it remains one of my favorite moments.

After college, I went to work at the Hawthorne Valley Farm in Harlemville, New York. About two hours North of New York City, and nestled in the soft hills of the Hudson Valley, the farm is home to a Waldorf community. In addition to the 400-acre biodynamic farm, the community supports a K-12 Waldorf school, farm store, CSA, NYC farm stands, and much more.

As an employee of the Visiting Students Program, I taught kids about the farm--from weeding vegetable gardens and mucking cow stalls to moving cattle and feeding pigs. We also baked bread, pressed apples for cider, and cooked dinner for each other.

In addition to working for the VSP, I had the opportunity to work a farmer's market at New York City's Greenmarket in Inwood. Getting up at the three o'clock hour and hitting the road by 4 a.m. was difficult, but once customers starting stopping by around 7 a.m., with dogs or babies in tow, any remaining sleepiness was pushed aside by the bustle.

To this day I get happy thinking of Judith, the herdswoman, selling to a customer the cheese her husband Abe had made. Or knowing that my friend Deborah had picked the green beans we were selling that week, and that my group of kids had helped weed the beds a few weeks earlier. The small loop of farms, the human connection to buying food directly from a grower--those things have made an impression on me.

After leaving the farm I travelled around for a while until settling back in Buffalo. I bought a home, about which I blog at Old, Old House, and have spent the past couple years keeping busy at work and play. It's only been recently that I've slowed down enough to do what I've always wanted to do: join a CSA. I'll let you know how my first summer of fresh and local veggies go, and I'll continue letting you in on my journey with food.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why Local?

This fact has been so overused by now it has almost become more cliche than statistic, but most of the food on the average American plate travels 1500 miles. Buffalo is located in close proximity to a wealth of farmland, much of it family-owned smaller operations that produce a variety of delicious edibles. Eating something that basically comes from your regional backyard saves transportation costs (and consequently reduces pollution), returns more money directly to the farmers whose labors produced the bounty than traditional mass-agriculture (where most of the profits go to bigger corporations), and most importantly offers fresher and more flavorful food.

Recent books like The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver examine local eating (locavorism), the joys of growing your own, and the inherent shortcomings of mass-produced agriculture. These are good starting points if you are looking for entertaining reads that will offer more in-depth information about our food systems. Anything by or about Alice Waters will also offer information on local, seasonal eating.

I believe that it is important for everyone in our region to invest in our community, and food is one of the cheapest, easiest, most accessible ways to do so. It is no secret that the Buffalo-Niagara region lags behind the rest of the country in many of the benchmarks of economic development. One area where I think we are strong, and have potential for tremendous growth, is in building and supporting a local food system. Whether it is creating more farmers' markets to increase the accessibility of fresh and local foods for neighborhoods, converting our numerous vacant lots to urban farms and gardens, or encouraging restaurants to source some of their menu items locally where possible, the potential is there for this community to create something that is both financially and ecologically profitable for our entire region.

It does cost a little more to seek out and support local foods. It is not going to be possible for many, if not most, people to do away with processed foods or produce like bananas that have traveled great distances. This blog will, I hope, offer suggestions and resources for people who wish to do what they can when they can.

Fresh and Local at Wegmans

Wegmans offers produce from local farms throughout the summer, which I think is a great way to make it easier for more people to buy foods grown in our area. I do not have a farmers' market in my neighborhood, so it is nice to have local options when I can't make a special trip to Elmwood or the weekday market downtown. They also offer other local foods, like Pellicano's tomato sauce, in their Nature's Marketplace section.

So, what local produce was Wegmans offering this week?

Yellow Squash (delicious marinated in italian dressing and grilled)

Zucchini (not my favorite, but it did look quite good)

Cabbage (many varieties--the Savoy looked particularly tasty)

Lettuce (Green Leaf, Red Leaf, and Romaine)

Potted Basil (from a local green house)

Not bad selection for a mass market. I look forward to seeing more local produce at Wegmans this summer, especially local fruit.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Hello, and welcome to Buffalo Locavore. This blog will be a forum to share information on eating local, including reviews of locally-sourced restaurants, farmers' markets, CSAs, community gardens, recipes for seasonal produce, and what is growing in backyards across Buffalo.

Stay tuned for more soon!