Farmers Market Update: Puerto Rico

by | Jun 26, 2011
Sweet Red Ajicitos

Sweet Red Ajicitos

Before we get started on this week’s amazing farmers market update from Puerto Rico, I want to announce that I’m going to start offering farmers market tours/classes for small groups in San Francisco. I hope you can join us!

Adriana Angelet is a food lover and blogger from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. She cooks and shares balcony gardening duties with her husband, Eduardo, and their recao eating kitten Gatamiaux. Visit her beautiful blog Great Food 360.

Farmers Market Update: Puerto Rico

by Adriana Angelet

I am very excited to share today some of our finds from the Cooperativa Organica Madre Tierra’s bi-monthly farmer’s market. The farmers set up their stands at the Placita Roosevelt, a fifteen-minute drive from the Old San Juan area, on the first and third Sundays of every month. The market operates year-round; this is definitely one of the blessings of our tropical weather! The farmers’ coop that organizes the market recently celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Cooperativa Organica Madre Tierra Market

Cooperativa Organica Madre Tierra Market

Our first stop was Nelson’s table, where we purchased our regular greens (curly leaf and red leaf lettuces, arugula, spinach, and pac choi), which are available year-round.

Cucumber, Name and Chayote

Cucumber, Name and Chayote

His stand is usually one of the most diverse in terms of its offerings: he had eggplant, yucca and ñame (root vegetables), plantains, cucumbers, chayote (mirlinton), and sweet little red peppers known as ajicitos. Ajicitos are usually used in sauces, chopped into savory dishes, and blended into sofrito, the base for most Puerto Rican dishes.

Root Vegetables

Root Vegetables

Green Papaya Green and Ripe Plantains

Green Papaya Green and Ripe Plantains

We moved on to the Desde Mi Huerto (“From My Farm”) table to check out Raul’s collection of potted vegetable plants and herbs. I really like that they not only sell from their harvest, but foster growing your own at home. I make sure to stop by whenever I have questions on how to tend our balcony garden. We have also purchased some vegetable compost from them to make sure our garden thrives.

Desde Mi Huerto Potted Herbs and Vegetable Plants

Desde Mi Huerto Potted Herbs and Vegetable Plants

In my previous visit, I purchased some honey from Apiarios El Pancho. Their apiary is located only a couple of miles from our house.  In addition to honey, they make honey “butter” – a creamy confection made entirely of honey. I think I might have to get some next time. It would make a great spread on tart fruit slices or crackers.

Honey from Apiarios El Pancho

Honey from Apiarios El Pancho

Since we arrived earlier than some of the farmers, we took a break to enjoy some homemade probiotic yogurt with granola and molasses from Naturalandia and perk up with cortaditos – espressos “cut” with a little half-and-half – from Finca Vista Hermosa (“Beautiful View”). From a bench we watched as the fresh fruit, root vegetables, and vegetables kept arriving and tweaked our shopping list.

Coffee - Hacienda Vista Hermosa

Coffee - Hacienda Vista Hermosa

Although I’m not a fan, a lot of people like pomarrosas, also known as Malay Apples.  They can be ground and juiced or cooked into compotes or jams. They are pretty to look at! From what I’ve read, the tree and flowers are just as beautiful.

Pomarrosas - Malay Apples

Pomarrosas - Malay Apples

This is the first time I’ve seen cacao pods in the market. I bought two, although I have no idea what to do with them (after opening the pod and toasting the seeds). It was only two for a dollar! If I can get two candies out of them, the experiment would be worth it.

Cacao Pods

Cacao Pods

We picked up two whole wheat baguettes from Stephanie at the Peace n’Loaf stand. Besides baking artisanal breads, she is part owner of the first vegetarian pizzeria in Puerto Rico. I know we should eat bread in moderation (Stephanie herself couldn’t stress it enough), but one of the loaves was gone in less than two days.

Baguettes

Baguettes

On the Siembra Tres Vidas (“Plant Three Lives”) tent, I went straight for the green beans. I participated in their CSA last summer, and got hooked on them. The green onions also looked too good to pass up. I used one right after I got home to make a quick dip to take to my family’s Father’s Day luncheon.

Siembra Tres Vidas Green Onions

Siembra Tres Vidas Green Onions

On our way out, we couldn’t help but notice these baby eggplants on the back of a pick-up truck. Although my husband is not a fan, we couldn’t just take pictures of them – we bought pound. It will likely turn into baba ganoush.

Baby Eggplant

Baby Eggplant

Our Purchases:

  • Arugula (Nelson’s)
  • Red and green curly leaf lettuces (Nelson’s)
  • Spinach (Nelson’s)
  • Pac Choi (Nelson’s)
  • Whole wheat baguettes (Peace N’Loaf)
  • Baby eggplant
  • Cocoa pods
  • Green beans (Siembra Tres Vidas)
  • Green onions (Siembra Tres Vidas)

If you’d like to share your local farmers market with Summer Tomato readers, we’d love to have you! Here are the guidelines.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 24, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Our oceans seem to be in much worse shape than anyone imagined, food irradiation is back in the forefront of discussions and someone wants to feed you a shit sandwich. All this and more today in my top 10 food and health articles of the week.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Gateway Vegetables: What’s your story?

by | Jun 22, 2011

Photo by aechempati

There was a tremendous response to Monday’s guest post by Cheryl-Ann Roberge about how a fateful afternoon and some grilled veggies changed her life forever. Several of you reached out on Facebook/Twitter and mentioned you had your own gateway veggie stories.

Mine was eggplant. Once I realized eggplant didn’t have to be a slimy pile of mush, I figured there was hope for any vegetable. Since then I’ve learned to love all my childhood nemeses including beets, lima beans and brussels sprouts.

Every story like this is inspirational, and I’d love to hear yours. Please tell the story of your gateway vegetable in the comments below, and throughout the day I’ll update this post with my favorites.

What is your gateway vegetable?

“My gateway veggie was most definitely broccoli. Not because I never liked broccoli before (because I did, sort of), but because the first day I tried roasting it to a slight char with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper my eyes widened and my tastebuds exploded and my life has never been the same. That day, I ate two entire heads of roasted broccoli in one sitting, shoveling it into my mouth like I would french fries. Now I want to grill or roast any and every type of vegetable and they turn out delicious every time.” ~Kaylan

“I grew up with parents who HATE any veggie other than corn and green beans, so I always thought I hated them too. My last year of college I spent Thanksgiving with my favorite professor’s family (it was too expensive to fly home for the weekend) and to be polite, I took some of the asparagus dish he spent all morning making–and it was amazing! I think I ate half of the dish by the time dinner was over, and I’ve never turned down a new vegetable dish since.” ~Keisha

“I am horrified to admit mine involved the salad at Olive Garden. UGH!   Wow that was a long time ago (I think its been over 10 years since I have even BEEN one of those), but prior to that salad dressing my veggies of choice were corn and carrots.
Then after making the move to ovo-lacto vegetarian, a number of years later, I love trying new fruits and veggies.  Just this last weekend I had a Lychee for the first time.” ~IPBrian
“Growing up, my only experience with leafy greens was the frozen brick of spinach my mother would defrost in the sink, causing the paper packaging to warp and weaken. Thank goodness for my brother Francis who taught me about fresh spinach. I can recall my first taste of freshly sauteed spinach; the richness of the olive oil, the familiarity of the chopped garlic, the epiphany of shallot, the salt and pepper marrying everything together in a savory balance. This basic preparation has become a staple in my diet while inspiring me to approach any and all vegetables with an open mind. Simplicity and quality can take you far.” ~Maggie via Facebook
“Hibachi onions assembled to be a smoking volcano- as if the grilled butter wasn’t enough, I learned to have fun with my food!” ~@CarlyChamber via Twitter
“I still remember the dish: a roasted asparagus and red pepper salad at a fancy Italian restaurant 11 years ago. I was a poor college student, treated to an incredible meal while on spring break with my aunt and uncle. I never knew veggies could be so delicious. My college roommates teased me about how much I talked about that asparagus.” ~Christina

“Mine was Butternut Squash! It was at the start of the period when I became obsessed with being healthy (but also determined to still have fun ie. continue bar hopping at the weekend, but eat broccoli during the week). Anyways I got this health magazine and it said squash and sweet potatoes were rich in beta carotenes, which protect against skin cancer. So I was like ‘awesome – if eat this weird thing lots, I can sunbathe without guilt – get skinny and have a tan’. Oh to be 24 again! Obviously I dont think like that anymore (most of the time…) but I did fall in love with roasted butternut squash, baked in the oven and topped tomatoes, red onion and toasted almonds or raw cream cheese. SO GOOD. I even busted my husband having some the other week for dinner, when he thought I was staying out.

I also love roasted brussels sprouts so much that once I snuck them into the cinema in tupperware and nearly got divorced as a result…” ~Emmy

“Although I did not, therefore, have a “gateway” vegetable, I was obsessed with spinach as a child. I once had to go home sick from school when I ate 9 or 10 servings of it at lunch — spinach was the only food that other kids would give away without asking for anything in return, and I loved it…..” ~Ranier Wolfcastle

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Gateway Vegetables: My Story As A Born Again Foodie

by | Jun 20, 2011

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Cheryl-Ann Roberge lives in Seattle and enjoys dining with strangers at restaurant bars, yoga and sea salt caramels. Follow her on Twitter @Pigeon_Feather.

Gateway Vegetables: My Story As A Born Again Foodie

by Cheryl-Ann Roberge

If you had told teenage me that she would one day be a vegetable lover, spice fanatic and adventurous eater, she would have sent her canned ravioli flying towards your face.

My name is Cheryl-Ann Roberge, I reside in Seattle and I am a born again foodie. This is my story.

The nineties were an underwhelming time in my food life. Eggs were one of the few things I enjoyed eating that didn’t come from a box or can. Even at a young age I tried to pick all of the oregano out of my spaghetti. I hated fruit and veggies. I tolerated apples and canned vegetables when required.

At age seventeen, I proudly declared that I would never learn how to cook and that I would live solely on canned ravioli.

It was simple: I didn’t like anything that had real flavor.

Epiphany

Two years into my “adult life” I was existing on of a steady diet of Easy Mac and cafeteria food.

Vegetables were the most difficult for me. But ironically, veggies were also the key that would open the doors to foods I would never have been interested in otherwise.

I went on about my business of eating meat with noodles or meat with rice or meat with bread and I was pretty happy with the rotation. I worked in the dorm cafeteria circuit at the university I attended in Milwaukee, WI and I liked telling people I was a lunch lady.

On a hot July day, my world was changed. A special picnic for new student prospects was being served outdoors and I was staffed to work. The picnic served food much different from the typical cafeteria fare. After the new students had been served, the cafeteria workers breaked for a meal together. I loaded my plate with a burger and whichever pasta salad I knew I wouldn’t eat much of.

I made my way to the grill and found it covered with a vegetable medley that I’d never seen served before. I kept walking. Mike the chef called me back and stuck veggie-filled tongs towards me. “I don’t do veggies, Mike.”

“These are different,” he explained. He was excited that he’d been allowed to make food he thought tasted good. Mike had once opened his own restaurant, but failed and ended up as a chef at the cafeteria where creativity was always superseded by budget. This was his banner day.

I declined once more before he gave the overhaul speech that broke me down. He lowered juicy, grill-marked asparagus, onion, zucchini and squash onto my plate as I shot him a look of disinterest. The veggies were cooked very simply: tossed with oil, salt and pepper and flung onto the grill. I’d never had something like this before.

I didn’t come away with a huge affinity for onions that time, but I had my first ever delightful experience with something I’d always found disgusting. I suddenly loved squash and zucchini, and thought asparagus was okay too.

Mike told me that I’d made his day. I raved for a week. My whole idea of food turned upside down, and it was just the beginning of a ten year revolution.

I’ve since learned to like onions, spinach, fish, shellfish, beets and strawberries. After discovering sushi, wasabi became my gateway into loving spicy food, which I’d never been able to tolerate.

My journey hasn’t ended. Last fall I took my first trip to Italy where I discovered cantaloupe served alongside dinner entrees. I had always been lukewarm about the fruit, but something about having light, juicy melon after a slice of delicious lasagna made me appreciate its sweetness in a way I never had. Now my least favorite fruit salad element has become a favorite.

It is difficult to express to you just how surprising and lovely these realizations can be. I live for them, and I try every new food I can. I plea bargain with other picky eaters I meet. I pester them to try new things. I invite them over for dinner and try to introduce them to something they’d never try.

Why should you try and try again?

As children, most of us are naturally adverse to beer, coffee and wine. A sip might be granted by a grandpa wearing a grin, which of course is followed by a grimace from the grandchild.

So how do most of us end up liking all three beverages despite the horrible trials we go through?

Practice, exposure and repetition are the keys to comfort. I expanded my taste in music the same way. I started listening to any music I could get my hands on and, as with food, I started having mini music epiphanies too.

Consider this: Why did most of us enjoy listening to the radio when we were children? We knew the songs and they were comforting, like canned ravioli.

How do country music haters end up enjoying Neko Case or Ryan Adams? It’s fresh and it didn’t come out of a can. You get the point.

A Simple Request

As a born again foodie I sit here in Seattle writing to you, Picky Eater. I’m late to work, because I care that much about your palate. I want you too to discover the pleasure of new foods. It has changed my life and given me unforgettable experiences with old friends and new.

As a bonus, it’s easier to get out and exercise because I’m not so weighed down by the processed junk food that I used to love. And my waistline is trim now.

Change your ways for those last two reasons if you must, but try new foods because they will eventually taste good and the rest will follow. Just don’t expect it all to happen over night.

What’s your gateway veggie?

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Farmers Market Update: St. Stephen’s New York

by | Jun 19, 2011
Broccoli

Broccoli

Rachel Haynes is, among other things, a writer, devout foodie, and former caterer. She lives in an apartment with a comically small kitchen.

Farmers Market Update: St. Stephen’s New York

by Rachel Haynes

Many most people think of NYC farmers markets, they think of the huge one in Union Square. With over 140 vendors each week, it’s not hard to understand why. However, it’s about a 30-40 minute trek for me via subway and unless you get there right when it opens, the crowds are insane.

St. Stephen's Green Market

St. Stephen's Green Market

So instead I usually opt for my tried and true St. Stephen’s Green Market just a few blocks away from my cozy (tiny) apartment on the Upper East Side. This market recently became year-round, much to my delight. Another thing I love about it is that they allow dogs.

A great thing the main GrowNYC information stand does is provide delicious recipes for current produce. This week I took the roasted beet and chevre grilled cheese recipe card.

GrowNYC

GrowNYC

I always hit up Samascott Orchards for produce first. Though they’re about two hours from the city, I am going to try to go up there some time this summer because you can pick your own produce.

Being that it is late spring, we got treated to the new arrivals of beautiful broccoli (hooray for leaving the leaves on!) and sweet and crunchy snap peas.

Strawberries

Strawberries

The strawberries here are the sweetest I have ever tasted. In addition to eating them on their own, I have been mashing a couple up with a fork and serving them with champagne at brunch, which people have gone absolutely nuts for.

I love asparagus and am trying to savor every wonderful stalk during its short season. I was inspired by the NY Times article about asparagus and eggs, and have been making that combination for dinner in some fashion almost every night this week.

Asparagus

Asparagus

They also have absolutely amazing baked goods and jams.

No Sugar Apple Pie

No Sugar Apple Pie

For the rest of my produce, I hit up Gajeski Produce, which comes down to us from Riverhead NY.

They always have a beautiful assortment of lettuce, spring mix, kale, arugula, spinach, any salad leaf you could ask for. Today I also found beautifully bright little new potatoes.

Spring Greens

Spring Greens

Gajeski always have something a little quirky, and this week it was elephant garlic. This stuff is as big as a tennis ball and it is STRONG.

Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic

And then out of nowhere – scapes!

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

These were my favorite find this week. Garlic scapes are the shoots of the garlic bulb. As the bulbs start to harden underground, the farmer can ensure further growth by snipping the shoots. They taste amazing. They are like garlic but milder and somehow greener and brighter. I have mainly been using them with my egg and asparagus combos, but I hear that scape pesto is not to be missed, so I will be attempting that this week as well.

The rest of the market, which is in a parking lot of St. Stephen’s church, consists of smaller stands which carry meat, cheese, eggs, bread, fish and flowers.

Farmer Dan from Rabbits Run Farm in Pennsylvania introduced me to the delightfully named Goumi fruit.

Goumis

Goumis

Despite looking like little tadpoles, these things are nutritional powerhouses. Originally from Asia, they have the highest lycopene content of any food, and contain vitamins A and E. The seeds can be eaten and contain essential fatty acids and proteins.

They also help other things around them grow as they are nitrogen fixers and pull the nitrogen out of the air into the soil, which makes it more fertile. They are both sweet and tart and the same time.

Farmer Dan also sells beautiful goat cheeses, goats milk soap and lotions, as well as goat meat.

Soaps

Soaps

I don’t eat much beef, but when I do, I don’t mess around. I get it from Rising Sun Angus Farms, who carry free range, grass fed angus beef. The farmer showed me some amazingly lean ground sirloin (2% fat).

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

It’s gotten to the point where I can do about 70% of my shopping at the farmer’s market, which has not only been a lot healthier, it has been SO much cheaper. (To give you some idea, a quart of orange juice and a quart of milk at the supermarket will cost you $10).

My purchases this week (~$50):

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Spring Mix
  • New Potatoes
  • Shallots
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Goat Cheese
  • Goumis
  • Eggs
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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 17, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the new “Dirty Dozen” list of foods with the most pesticides was released, as did the new sunscreen guidelines (which may or may not be useful, depending on how you interpret the data). We also have a double dose of BS this week, one from KFC and one from Buenos Aires of all places.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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5 Tips For Buying The Freshest & Most Sustainable Salmon

by | Jun 13, 2011
Wild Alaskan Salmon

Wild Alaskan Salmon

Natalie Mann is the founder of Ambrolio Foods, a website dedicated to delicious and healthy foods. A nutritionist with a degree from Cornell University, Natalie has spent decades working in the food industry. As a parent with two sons, she also has firsthand experience with finicky eaters, dairy allergies, and gluten intolerance.

5 Tips for Buying the Freshest & Most Sustainable Salmon

by Natalie Mann

Buying salmon used to be easy.

Fresh-fished salmon was abundant, prices were reasonable, and warnings about overfishing, water pollution, and PCBs weren’t making headlines.

In 2011, all that has changed.

More than half of the salmon purchased in the United States comes from fish raised in man-made farms. Prices are much higher, and sustainability and safety are pressing concerns.

To lend insight into your next salmon purchase, here’s a quick guide for buying the freshest and most sustainable salmon possible.

5 Tips For Buying The Best Salmon

1. Fresh fish, including salmon, should NOT smell.

If the fish counter and surrounding area smells ‘fishy,’ walk away and don’t make a purchase.

If you don’t detect any odors at the counter, but your salmon smells fishy when you open the package at home, return it.

2. Fresh salmon should glisten, not look dull.

Salmon should look bright and shiny. Its flesh should be firm, clean, and evenly colored. Natural white marbling on the fish is an indicator of good omega-3 fatty acids. (See photo)

3. Wild Alaskan salmon is the most eco-friendly.

Many resources, including the Environmental Defense Fund, cite wild Alaskan salmon as the most sustainable choice. Fresh, frozen at sea, and canned salmon from Alaska are all good options.

4. Fresh, wild Alaskan salmon is a seasonal item.

In Alaska, the salmon fishing season starts in May and ends by late-October. Outside of this time you will only find good smoked or canned salmon.

5. Farmed Atlantic salmon should be avoided.

Farmed salmon are raised in large, densely packed pens that pollute surrounding waters with waste and chemicals. In addition, farmed salmon are more prone to illness in crowded net-pens, and antibiotics are often used to treat disease.

Farmed salmon have elevated levels of PCBs. The Environmental Defense Fund has issued a warning to limit the consumption of Atlantic salmon. This warning pertains to everyone, but is particularly important for young children. See the EDF site for specific details.

Conclusions

  • In 2011, our salmon choices impact our oceans as well as our bodies.
  • At the seafood counter, ask questions. Farmed or wild? Previously frozen? How fresh – delivered when?
  • At restaurants, ask if the salmon is delivered daily and whether it’s wild or farmed.

What do you consider when buying salmon?

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Office Hours: Why is fat missing from the USDA’s new MyPlate?

by | Jun 11, 2011

I held office hours last week to discuss the USDA’s new replacement for the food pyramid, MyPlate. I also answer several reader’s questions about food and nutrition.

To learn more about participating in future broadcasts check out Summer Tomato Live.

Go here to see previous episodes.

Questions and comments are welcome below.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 10, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

All in all, today’s links are really depressing. Industrial food will be the death of us. Luckily Stephen Colbert is around to make it funny.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Fruit!

by | Jun 5, 2011
Sweetest Strawberries Ever

Sweetest Strawberries Ever

I don’t usually buy a lot of fruit. It’s not that I don’t like it, I think it’s wonderful. But it tends to be much more expensive than vegetables. And it’s also hard to get soft fruit home without smashing it.

But today, I couldn’t help myself.

Similar to last week, the cherries were just way too good to pass up.

Ranier Cherries

Ranier Cherries

But I also realized that I hadn’t even tried any of the newer fruit in the market, like these amazing blueberries. I sampled a few, and knew some would be coming home with me.

Delicious Blueberries

Delicious Blueberries

Then there were the plums. I love plums, but like tomatoes they are one of those fruits that are so rarely good that you forget what real ones taste like. Until you try one.

Fruits

Fruits

I thought it was a bit early in the season for plums to be good, but I was wrong. These were as sweet and luscious as I’d ever tasted, and of course I had to get some.

Virctoria Heirloom Rhubarb

Virctoria Heirloom Rhubarb

Amazingly, I still had to restrict myself from buying strawberries, even more cherries, and also some peaches I found that were unseasonably delicious. But I did have to save some of my money to get vegetables.

Radishes

Radishes

I’m mostly enjoying salads these days. I like them with French radishes, carrots, sugar peas, spring onions and usually some quinoa or lentils.

Beautiful Treviso

Beautiful Treviso

I’m not ready to buy them yet, but summer vegetables are becoming more common as well.

Early Summer Squash

Early Summer Squash

The strangest thing I found at the market this week was fresh Japanese ume plums, which I’ve only ever seen pickled. I might pick some up next week so if any of you have a recipe I’d love to hear it.

Ume Plums

Ume Plums

Today’s purchases (~$50):

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