Saturday, August 27, 2011

On a Local Organic Mission

I've talked about how Eric and I have turned into an Organic household.  Now we're taking it one step further and trying to source everything locally, if possible.  Get the freshest stuff just picked at the peak of ripeness and didn't have to travel thousands of miles to me in a freight train?  We're in.  And it can't be that hard, right?  I mean, I'm surrounded by farmland.  Turn left out of my development, and in one minute, there are cornfields.  I'm thankful for this.  With some of the best growing soil in the world, during times of  economic hardship or war, I've read about how this area rises above it all because of its self-sustaining ability.

So a few weeks ago, I took a trip to Root's Market.  Root's is the oldest family-run market in the county, originating as a poultry auction in 1925, which they still do.  If for anything, go just so you can see this take place.  It's such an experience if you're a city slicker.  Naturally, I thought that if I need to find organic goods, this should be a gold mine!

Alas, as I roamed through the vast rows and rows of gorgeous, brightly colored produce for sale, I saw lots of "Natural" and "Home Grown" and "Local" signs, but nothing that said, "Organic" or "Chemical Free" or "No Pesticides."  Whut?!?!  So I started asking the stand attendants.  "No, we spray," was a consistent answer.  I respect the honesty, and everyone seemed genuinely sorry that they couldn't help me.  At one stand, a customer next to me was ogling a beauty of an eggplant with its shiny purple skin.  It was at that moment that I felt like I was looking at that alluringly beautiful red, shiny apple being sold by the old woman outside that woodsy cottage, and I shook my head, thinking, but it's poisonous...

Out of the 200 stands that are at Root's, much of which isn't related to food, to be fair, only 2 stands had organic anything.  One was Chiques Roc Farm, the farm close to where I live.  The other was a Spice shop.  A little disappointing, as I trudged away with my empty canvas bags.

So what's an organic gal to do?  Eric used the Social Network and trawled through the web to find these stellar markets.

Eastern Market isn't new to us, and now it's expanded into the corner block with free parking just a few yards past the market, in its old stomping grounds.  All the produce is organic, beautiful, and very reasonably priced.  Open on Saturdays from 9AM - 2PM, we also stock up on the many ready-to-eat stands that are there also - Nowal and her fantastic Falafels, Victoria's tremendously flavorful Kenyan fare, Awful Good and its panini sandwiches.  Eric got their Cuban today, and it was crusty and full of great ingredients.  Lastly, we grabbed some eats from the Puerto Rican stand today - pulled pork, yellow rice, and stewed onions.  We take them to go and have some great sustenance for the rest of the week.

The Millersville Community Market is where we go when we need something on a Wednesday or need garlic.  This is small, but growing, and I'm most impressed with the Promised Land Farm Garlic stand.  There are so many varieties of garlic at this stand, and I got a really great education, like the fact that I (and probably you) have only eaten the Silverskin variety my entire life.  The Promised Land Farm grows many, many more varieties sustainably and without chemicals.  Lately, we've been enjoying the Siberian, with its spicy pungency and large cloves.

Troublingly, most of the garlic that's being distributed in the US is from China.  And I don't know about you, but when Japan and Korea has banned food shipments from China, I hardly think it's safe for me to have in our house, either.

It was at this market that I discovered Ground Cherries.  What the heck are these?!  Sweet little tomato/berries that was such a wonder to me, I dreamt about them that night.  I also had some of the largest, sweetest chemical-free blackberries ever.  Delicious!!

Last, but not least, the Marietta Market, open on Sundays 9AM - 1PM.  Unfortunately, it's been cancelled tomorrow morning because of Hurricane Irene, which is such a shame, because every other week, they have yoga in the park at 1:30PM, and I was really looking forward to tomorrow.  When we went two Sundays ago, it was pouring rain.  But a little of nature's growth serum isn't enough to stop us from supporting our local community.  We just caught a vendor leaving with her chemical-free peaches, so we managed to snag some of the sweetest, juiciest peaches I'd had in a long time.  

One stand was particularly impressive, with a broad variety of chemical-free produce that was robust and beefy.  It almost prompted me to ask, "Are you sure growth hormones weren't used here?"  In the meantime, someone poured me a glass of tomato-lemonade - pureed golden tomatoes with honey and a squeeze of lemon.  Simple goodness that was bright and fresh.  Just the elixir on a torrential downpour of a day.

These are my three go-to markets.  They're close and give me great options three times a week.  My vision for a Portland, Oregon of the East Coast?  I think it's just playing Hide & Seek with me, and seek it out, I will...

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