April 27th, 2012 § § permalink
Taking a break from spinach today to help announce the release of the 2012 Minnesota Grown Directory. It’s one of my favorite days of the year and a terrific way to kick of the summer growing season.
Why is the Minnesota Grown Directory worth a Find it Local Friday of its own? It’s a one-stop shop for answers to all your locavore questions:
- How can I be a Minnesota Locavore? Listings for 945 sources for locally-grown food and products around the state. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s comprehensive list can help you find whatever your locavore heart desires.
- How do I eat local on the road? The guidebook is divided by the 5 major regions around the state (Northwest, Arrowhead/Northeast, Twin Cities Metro, Southeast, and Southwest) and sorted by county. If you’re visiting Great-Grandma this summer or taking a trip to the cabin, check out the local producers in other parts of the state.
- Is 2012 is the year I should join a CSA? The guidebook has listings for more than 60 CSA’s around the state including contact info and delivery locations.
- I want to pick strawberries and check out a farm stay. How do I find those? The guidebook is indexed by product or service to quickly help you find producers in your area that carry whatever your locavore heart desires. There’s a section to find organic products, compost and landscaping materials, and specific vegetables. There’s even a section for beefalo if you’re feeling adventurous.
- I’m going on a vacation this summer, where can I find a farmers’ market on the way? 156 farmers’ markets around the state are listed, including locations, dates, and times of operation.
The only question left to answer is, ‘where do I find a copy of the directory?’ If you’re headed out to a farmers’ market this weekend, check the vendor tables. Many producers that use the Minnesota Grown label will have guidebooks available. Contact your local co-op or natural food store to see if they have copies on hand. You can also order free copies of the directory online from the MinnesotaGrown.com website.
April 20th, 2012 § § permalink
It’s that time of year again. Farmers’ market season is upon us!!
The soft opening of the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market is this weekend with the Thursday Nicollet Avenue market opening on Thursday. The downtown Saint Paul Farmers’ Market where the kitchen partner and I do most of our shopping starts the summer market season one week from tomorrow. Vendors will be ready to go at 6 AM, hopefully with some springtime finds. Anyone else ready for rhubarb and asparagus?
The downtown market is helping to support an urban revival in Lowertown St. Paul. It’s a vibrant look at the thriving local food economy in our area. The Pioneer Press reported this week that more than 20,000 visitors come to downtown each summer weekend for the market. Enough that developers are considering expanding the market to 7 days a week. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
Are you ready this year? This is the season you’ll add more fresh produce to your diet. This is the season you’ll start buying local. This is the season you’ll visit your farmers’ market and shake the hands of your local growers. This is the season.
Where to find your Local Farmers’ Market
1. Minnesota Grown: Visiting the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s searchable map is the fastest way to find a farmers’ market in your area. Right now they have 158 listings around the state.
2. Local Harvest: If you don’t live in Minnesota, LocalHarvest.org is a one-stop shop for all things local food. From the homepage you can search by zip code for farms and farmers’ markets in your area. Their handy directory is a publicly maintained (farmers/producers sign themselves up for listings), nationwide source for local organic and sustainable products. Spend some time here, there’s lots to offer.
3. The Locavore App for iPhone and Android: If you’d like farmers’ market information on the go, download the free Locavore app from localdirt.com. It has searchable maps, what’s in season and a way to share the tasty local food you’re eating with friends on Facebook.
4. Lastly, the USDA maintains a searchable list of farmers’ markets around the country. If you want the nitty-gritty on your market (market coordinator info, how many vendors accept WIC or other food assistance programs, what percentage of the produce is organic, etc.) this is the place to go.
April 13th, 2012 § § permalink
Last month I was threw a baby shower for some close friends and their new arrival. Wanting to have some locavore flair to it, I chose a honeybee theme. Yellow and black ribbons everywhere and these cute favors I made with local honey sticks from Wolf Honey Farm in Baldwin, Wisconsin. The thank you favors each said “Honey and Babies are Two of Life’s Sweetest Things.” Wolf Honey was one of the first local products we started buying when we began our locavore journey 2 years ago. They sell honey and other bee products year-round at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market.
Since the shower and the leftover favors we had, I’ve experimented with adding honey in our meals. Ice cream, cookies, spaghetti sauce, fish, my morning green tea. Whatever needs an extra touch of sweet. I’ve also been reading “The Beekeeper’s Lament” by Hannah Nordhaus, an alarming look at the state of honeybees in the US. If you are looking for a quick and informative read, add this to your summer beach bag and prepare to be blown away by how important these little guys are to our agricultural system.
Minnesota and Wisconsin typically rank in the top 10 for honey production states (Minnesota is currently 6th). We are also the early summer home to many of the migratory colonies that are transported around the country for pollination. They are packed up for the almond, citrus, and vegetable seasons in Florida and California and then brought back to the Upper Midwest for alfalfa and prairie wildflowers. How’s that for a local life?
This month two new pieces of information were published about honey production in Minnesota and around the region. The 2011 USDA Honey Statistics report indicated that nationally, honey production was down 16%. In Minnesota production was down 25% from the previous year. Although Minnesota produced a whopping 6.4 million pounds of honey last year, the price has increased nationwide due to increasing demand and decreasing supply. Our bees are in trouble and honey prices are starting to show it.
The second report released added more controversy to the growing debate about the failing bee populations in the United States. The latest research indicated that colony collapse disorder may be related to the use of common pesticides in the neonicotinoids. The findings were met with immediate pushback from inside and outside the ag industry, only adding to the confusion about what’s really causing dramatic decreases (up to 30% of colonies in some recent years). I’m only just learning about the unique nature and science of beekeeping so I won’t claim to know what the past and future holds for Minnesota bees.
What I do know is that purchasing local honey instead of large national or store brands plays an important part. With a strong local market for their product, Minnesota beekeepers have more resources to maintain and support healthy hives. They can better weather the financial ups and downs that come with maintaining apiaries in distress. Most important, healthy bees means healthy crops all summer long. We locavores love our veggies and can’t have them without a pollinator. Stop and think for a few minutes today: Just how different would the garden world look without the honeybee?
Minnesota Honey Hot Spots
More than 50 honey producers are listed in the Minnesota Grown guide. Here are 5 located within a few miles of the Twin Cities as well as a unique opportunity if you’re interested in a more regular delivery!
Bare Honey in St. Paul, MN
The Elm Tree Farm in Afton, MN
Ames Farm in Delano, MN
Honey-Pine Apiary in Stillwater, MN
Whistling Well Farm in Hastings, MN
The Beez Kneez is a Minneapolis based business that specializes in honey deliveries by bicycle. Yup. You read that right. Bees by Bike. Order light or dark honey from Bar Bell Bee Ranch in Squaw Lake, MN online and then owner, beekeeper and bicyclist Kristy Lynn Allen pedals it all the way to your door. How cool is that?!? Her company also works with many Metro community gardens to provide community hives in a program called Community Bees on Bikes.
April 9th, 2012 § § permalink
It may be a chilly day at the ballpark, but you can bet the kitchen partner and I will be celebrating the Minnesota Twins home opener today. We both have a half-day of work and then we’re off to Target Field to enjoy some sunshine and baseball.
What does a local food blog have to say about the Twins? A lot actually. Target Field concessions (and many other MLB Ballparks) are beginning to see the value in adding local food to their roster. If you know where to look for them, Target Field offers a full line-up. Some come from top Twin Cities restaurants, others from farmers and growers around the state. If you have a heart for local beers there’s an option there too.
I won’t comment on the Twins chances this year, except to say tickets will likely be a bit cheaper than in seasons past. If you haven’t been to the ballpark, this is the year to take in a game. If you have, this is the year to eat local while you’re there. Here’s what’s on the menu:
Original Twins Dog, Twins Big Dog, the Dugout Dog and the Dinger Dog (available in most sections and portables) are manufactured by Schweigert meats at a facility in Albert Lea, MN. Schweigert is a division of Cargill and has been around since the 1930′s. Although I’m not a huge supporter of processed meat products, upgrade to the Twins Dog if you must have a hot dog at the ballpark. At least you know it has some local ties.
Kramarczuk’s Sausages (available in Sections 112, 117, and 312). Check out the Find it Local Friday: Sausage post to learn more about these famous Twin Cities favorites. This year brats, Polish and Hungarian sausages are back on the menu. Don’t forget the sauerkraut!
Murray’s Steak Sandwich (available in Mill City Grill’s stands, section 105, 118, and 319). I don’t typically have the whopping $11.50 to shell out for a sandwich at the game. If you don’t mind the price tag, this is the sandwich to try. Made with the iconic Murray’s Steakhouse recipe in mind, the sirloin sandwich is served on a fresh roll from Franklin Street Bakery in Minneapolis. Tasty. If you can afford it!
Turkey to Go (available in Section 112, 113, 317, and 318) Made famous at the Minnesota State Fair, the turkey to go sandwich is a partnership with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. The sandwiches can be deliciously messy (warning!) and are served with Minneapolis-based Ken Davis BBQ sauces.
Walk A Taco (available in Señor Smoke’s -Section 105 and 305). These are one of my favorite things to get at the ballpark. Created by El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul, Walk a Tacos are a taco shell made into a cone shape, filled with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, beans or chicken. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.
MinneApple Pie (available in Section 133). Debuted last year, MinneApple pie can be found in the State Fair Classics stand in center field. It’s made by Minne’s Diner in Rogers, MN and if you ask nicely (and pay a few extra $$), it’s served warm with a scoop of Land ‘O Lakes vanilla ice cream.
Angie’s Kettle Corn (available on the Plaza and by portables). This Mankato company has made a big name for itself in recent years, and for good reason. It’s simple, crunchy and free of artificial flavors, preservatives and corn syrup. If you need something to munch on it’s FAR better than the regular popcorn at Target Field. I’ve tried most of the popcorn vendors and am always disappointed with the salty artificial taste. Now if I’m in the mood for popcorn I stick to Angie’s.
Minnesota Brews (available in Sections 126 and 320). The Minnesota Twins do their best to work around a hefty contract with Anheuser-Busch to provide local craft beers at the ballpark. If you’re interested in a cold (and local) one during the game, the Minnesota Brews carts are the best stop. They offer several Summit and Grainbelt brews, Finniegans, Red Bridge, Lift Bridge, and Surly Draft. Stop in at the Townball Tavern if you’d like a Fulton.
Looking forward to another great season Twins fans!
March 30th, 2012 § § permalink
This is a re-post from a 2011 “How-To” that’s a good fit for Find it Local Friday this week. The kitchen partner and I will be using local eggs (see “Find it Local Friday: Eggs” for sources) and spices to dye our eggs this year. Most of the spices came from Frontier Co-op in Norway, Iowa available online or in bulk at many Twin Cities co-ops.
I saw an article on coloring Easter eggs without the traditional dye tablets, instead using spices from your kitchen cabinet. I had to give it a go. It’s remarkably easy and the results were beautiful; Mother Earth never ceases to surprise me.
Natural Easter Egg Dyeing
hard-boiled eggs (select white eggs for the best results)
a ceramic cup/mug for each color you’d like to brew
1 Tbsp. each of variety of spices, I used:
a pomegranate green tea bag (dark blue)
ground turmeric (yellow-orange)
dill seed (pale brown)
hibiscus petals (light blue)
chili powder (orange-tan)
1. Place 1 Tbsp. of vinegar in each cup. Mix in the tablespoon of spice/herb into the vinegar to form a thick paste. Add boiling water to each cup (fill about 2/3 leaving room for each egg). Place the hard-boiled egg in the cup and let stand until the desired color is reached. Remove egg from dye and gently rinse off any sediment. Refrigerate until eating.
-There are a number of spices that will create a dye solution; experiment, experiment, experiment. I tossed in the teabag to see what happened and it ended up being the darkest blue.
-The timing can vary. The first batch was about 1 hour and the colors were much lighter. I left the others in the dye solution in the refrigerator overnight and the results were much deeper shades.