LocalHarvest Newsletter, May 29, 2009

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

A year or so ago I heard a story that keeps coming back to me this spring. It was told by a cheesemaker who lives and farms a few miles out of town. He and his family make a number of beautiful sheep cheeses that are sold at select stores around the country. The story goes that this cheesemaker used to travel around, introducing his wares at new cheese shops. One day, he was offering samples at a store in Vermont, and talking with a customer who asked where he was from. “Minnesota,” he told her. They chatted for a minute more, and as she left she put a big piece of cheese in her cart, saying, “I just love to support local farmers!”

Steven had to shake his head for a minute. Vermont and Minnesota aren’t exactly in the same neighborhood. But he knew what the woman meant. She appreciates the real thing. She recognizes it when she sees it, and Steven and his cheeses were it.

For a while now, many of us have used the word ‘local’ as shorthand for food that meets a certain, somewhat ineffable quality standard. In this context, ‘local’ means something like this: This food is grown near here, on a human scale, by people who care deeply about the land and make thoughtful, conscientious choices for its stewardship. It is nutritionally intact and fantastic tasting. It thrives here, unpropped by excessive resources or technology. Its history is knowable and unsullied.

In other words, local goes way beyond geography. It is food we know in our bellies we can trust. Michael Pollan calls it “real food.” The LocalHarvest motto does too, by the way. “Real Food. Real Farmers. Real community.”

The day is coming when ‘local’ won’t be a reasonable shorthand for everything we mean when we say it. Already this month a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest multinational companies began marketing its conventionally grown and processed potato chips as "local". I suspect we’ll see more such imposters in the future. Where there’s money to be made, charlatans will gather.

Local is becoming too small a word, just as organic has. Probably any label will eventually be taken over or outgrown. Fortunately, words don’t mean as much as direct experience. When the guy behind the sample table hands you a chunk of blue cheese on a toothpick and says, “Here, try this. My wife and I made it from our sheep’s milk,” pay attention. If everything in you says, “Yes!” pick up a big hunk and take it home with you.

As always, take good care and eat well,

Erin Barnett

From the LocalHarvest Store:

Our favorite statistic of the month: about 30% more Americans are planting gardens this year, according to the National Gardening Association. What a growth spurt! We love it. Our seed sales are jumping too – so far this year we’ve sold over twice as many seeds as this time last year. Got a patch of sunny ground? It’s not too late to tuck a few more seeds into the ground. Have plenty for your family, and your green thumb is still twitching? You can plant a row for the hungry: learn more here.

We spoke with Tim Arheit of Honey Run Apiaries in Delphos, OH this morning, and he said the honey bees are working hard, bringing in nectar from the locust trees. We’re proud of the wide selection of honeys we offer. They’re all different, and every one will all make your toast – and your morning – a little sweeter!

Update – the LocalHarvest CSA Search

Last month we launched a friendly competition with the goal of locating every CSA in the country and inviting all of them to join LocalHarvest. To date newsletter readers have submitted the names of 170 new CSA farms! We’ll be researching and contactinga these farms soon. Meanwhile, the contest runs through the end of the summer, so if you know of any CSAs that aren’t yet listed with LocalHarvest, please tell us! And if you’re looking for a CSA to call your own, start here.

Nancy’s Nutrition Corner: Selenium

One thing I have often written about in this column is the damage done in the body by free radicals. This month I want to talk about selenium, a mineral that serves as a protective agent for cells against destruction by free radicals. Selenium works in a supporting role with an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase. You can think of these two as the Batman and Robin of free radical mayhem.
(Read on...)

Food from the Farm: Goat and Cheddar Fallen Soufflé

Some home cooks are a little put off by soufflés. They seem fussy. Well, last night we tried a soufflé so delightful that it was definitely worth a bit of effort. This goat and cheddar fallen soufflé, courtesy of Hemingway’s Restaurant in Killington, VT, was simply delicious! The fennel seed adds an unusual and appealing flavor. Many thanks to Linda and Ted Fondulas for sharing this recipe with LocalHarvest readers.
(Recipes and More...)