Locavore Q & A: Simon Helgeson


This post is part of the guest series “Locavore Q & A“.  Whether a beginning cook in the kitchen or a seasoned local farmer, we all have different motivations for choosing a locavore lifestyle. Each post highlights a different perspective on local food. Today’s post was written by Simon Helgeson, a friend of the kitchen partner and I who also writes at 20Food.net. Simon is one of my favorite people to cook/dine with. He has great stories about cooking, growing, and traveling in the United States and in South America. So glad he’s able to answer some locavore questions for us!

Photo Provided by Simon Helgeson

Eating local means creating better habits, getting creative, and filling your life with the joys of food you can feel good about. Luckily, the Twin Cities and farmers are making it easier than ever to find high quality, healthy, sustainable food without going out of your way. That’s why summer is a great time to make local eating a way of life.

Q: Which farmers’ market do you shop at and what are your tips for successful market trips?

A: One of the great incentives for eating local is to make grocery-shopping fun. For me, that means visiting the Saint Paul downtown market on Saturday or Sunday morning. Last year I made the trip extra fun by biking to the market. When I arrive, quickly survey all the booths to see what is for sale. Every week brings something different to the table. I think about how I might utilize the available produce to make at least a couple different meals and buy accordingly. I try to only plan a few meals for the week ahead, because inevitably life will happen, and that perfect plan for cooking a huge bag of produce will fall apart. Resist the temptation to buy more than you will have time and energy to prepare. For a directory of local farmer’s markets try checking out the Simple Good and Tasty directory.

Q: What are other ways new or interested locavores can be more involved and engaged in the community?

A: In addition to having fun at the farmer’s market, you could purchase a share of community supported agriculture (CSA). This summer I will be utilizing the overflow produce from my friend’s share. A CSA brings new colors and flavors to your door each week—a handy option if you are extremely busy or there is not a market nearby. If the CSA offers an opportunity to visit the farm, take advantage. Last year, in addition to the annual thank you dinner hosted by our CSA, I had the opportunity to attend an event organized by Dinner on the Farm, which involved a meal prepared by a local chef at a local farm. It was a fantastic experience, not only for the food itself but to see where it was grown, meet the growers and talk with like-minded folks. I also plan to attend a few of the monthly dinners hosted by the nonprofit Eat for Equity. These are great opportunities to make new friends who share an interest in eating local.

Q: What are your suggestions for new locavores in the kitchen? What about preserving and canning?

A: One of my favorite summer activities is picking seasonal fruit at a farm. In the next couple weeks it should be time to go collect a big box of strawberries and make some homemade jam. Be sure to check out Amy’s strawberry freezer jam video on 20food. In July, it will be time to go for raspberries and blueberries. Last year on a family trip to Michigan over Labor Day, I found the peach orchards bursting with perfect fruit and ended up picking and canning 35 pounds of delicious peach butter and jam in addition to enjoying many fresh from the tree. Be sure to check out the Minnesota grown directory or PickYourOwn.org for farm locations and seasonal availability before you visit.
Once you’ve got your local food groove going, I highly recommend making your own salsa. It is easy and super delicious. I tend to make a batch almost every week in the tomato season. Fruit salsa makes a special treat—sweet, spicy, and salty—what more could your taste buds ask for? Check out Mark Bittman’s video for a primer.

When the summer heat turns up I will seek out some fresh Minnesota dairy from my local co-op to make a batch of delicious homemade ice cream. A good ice cream maker can be found for less than $50 and the reward of a fresh ice cream loaded with the season’s best fruit is definitely worth the cost and effort. For directions check out my Strawberry Angel Food Cake Ice Cream post or Amy’s Vanilla Ice Cream post.

Q: Anything else?

A:Eating local is a lifestyle and enjoying food culture is a lot of fun. Eating should never be just a chore. Once you start to visit farmers’ markets, meet farmers, and get creative in the kitchen, you won’t want to stop. It is fun, affordable, healthy, and delicious. What more could you want from your food?Amy’s commitment to local food is outstanding and this site is a fantastic resource for Minnesota foodies. Kudos to Amy for her hard work and thanks for giving me the opportunity to write a guest post.

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