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December 29, 2012
About a decade ago, I was visiting a particularly beautiful part of Kentucky to help a community grow its farmers market. Dinner involved farm-fresh items on a comfortably rustic ranch, and thoughtful dinner discussion was led by original and influential author Wendell Berry. The thrust of his talk was the future. With New Year’s Eve approaching, I’ve been thinking about Berry’s comments. He described how he keeps hearing that future will be about technology or information or some other shiny
December 22, 2012
I recently learned that Johnnie A. Clark, Jr . had died in his sleep at 90 years of age. For longtime farmers market shoppers, you may recall the retired postman turned farmer, who held court on Saturday mornings among his offerings of cut carrots and greens. A real gentleman, Mr. Clark could also be fire and brimstone when issues of social justice and dignity for ordinary people are at stake. Unfortunately, Katrina ended his farmers market presence, but his legacy is worth emulating: He retired
December 15, 2012
As the Jewish community approaches the final nights of Chanukah, I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with Domenica’s Alon Shaya . Of course, his interpretation of traditional Jewish holiday meals is now legendary. The Israeli-born Alon was browsing market stalls for root crops. He described to me how he had recently catered a kosher wedding, and then stepped forward to say, “The way I see it, Kosher is not only among the original health codes (pre-dating our Health Department by a few
December 8, 2012
Folsom flower farmer Shirley Randon battles the elements each week to harvest and assemble gorgeous nose gays and full-on bouquets of flowers. Knowledge of these challenges makes me appreciate her delicate, hand-crafted, dried floral holiday wreaths. Have you seen them? Whereas contemporary wreaths feature vivid synthetic colors, Shirley’s are beautifully faded by the sun. These are colors we rarely see any more in commerce. Imagine a ring of dried cosmos, bachelor's buttons, sunflowers and more
December 1, 2012
I spent this past Thursday afternoon zipping from one farmers market to the other. Whereas Saturday markets are altogether larger gatherings with greater choice, our city’s Thursday evening markets offer some surprises. In Mid City at American Can, I was thrilled to find Brussels sprouts on offer: Beautiful, robust Brussels sprouts so fresh I ate a few raw while on site. And then there’s the Marketplace at Armstrong Park that operates alongside Jazz in the Park. There, I found double-yolk eggs.
November 24, 2012
Nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday. Originally started by American Express, this national day to shop small and locally fits so nicely with farmers markets. After all, you can’t get much smaller than the family who farms and sells their products directly. If you’re like most Thanksgiving survivors, today you’re not necessarily dreaming of your next big meal. Instead, the theme is eat light. However, while you’re sifting through leftovers and holiday shopping
November 17, 2012
If you’re storm damaged like me, you get drawn into every radio interview you hear about Hurricane Sandy: The disbelief, the frustration, and the delays. In every instance, I think to myself: “This sounds oh, so familiar.” Also familiar is what I’m hearing from farmers market organizers in New York. Fishing families were hammered hard; farmers less so. It has also been gratifying to learn that some of Manhattan’s hard edges are softening. Trauma is heeding to people’s need for gentleness. In
October 27, 2012
In late October, there are many reasons for which to be grateful. Among them, there is the arrival of Louisiana satsumas. This year, their arrival is bittersweet. By this, I am not referring to their taste. If anything, this might be the sweetest October crop I can remember. However, there will be far fewer Louisiana citrus products on offer at markets, roadside stands and stores than in previous years. Yes, Isaac did a number on our Plaquemines Parish citrus farmers. What might this mean for
October 13, 2012
With cold weather approaching, are you taking care of your skin? Farmers market vendors are always talking about healthy skin. After all, they are always outdoors. Recently, I was spellbound whilst listening to celebrated Turkish cook and Covington Farmers Market vendor Nur Pendaz. In conversation with a young mother, she described how important it is to moisturize ones face with “ghee.” I have to admit: I didn’t see this coming. If you’re not familiar with ghee, it's clarified butter used
July 28, 2012
You know, one of the benefits of open-air farmers markets is their flexibility and mobility. By contrast, brick and mortar retail is land-locked, and thus unable to respond to changes in neighborhoods. Farmers markets are nimble. They can pack up and relocate to sunnier spots. One market that has tested this theory of itinerant living is the Ninth Wards Sankofa Farmers Market. It began life in 2007 as a monthly free-for-all market in Lower Nine. In 2010, it reinvented itself as a weekly farmers
July 21, 2012
The Louisiana mirliton is disappearing. But, there is hope. In recent years, Lance Hill has become an unexpected mirliton midwife. He has assembled a fleet of farmers, backyard growers, and foragers to search for and propagate disappearing heirloom varieties of this unique vining, chayote squash. They scour farmers markets, garage roofs, storm fences and other places where fruit can still be found. I just viewed video footage of an incredible mirliton orchard in Harvey. West Bank micro-farmer
July 14, 2012
Today is Bastille Day. In celebration, head over to the West Bank. You can drive on an avenue named for a French head of State, Charles De Gaulle. He actually visited New Orleans in 1960. And while you are there, why not pop over to the Gretna Farmers Market to purchase a bottle of Henry Amatos orange wine. With it, you can prepare a refreshing French cocktail in honor of the occasion. Heres what you need: four ounces of Amatos wine, two ounces of NOLA dark rum, six cubes of ice, one ounce of
July 7, 2012
If your holiday barbecue embers are still glowing with heat, consider joining the throng of chefs who have discovered the joys of grilling fruit. A decade ago, it was exciting to simply taste savory salads that feature watermelon, peaches and figs. Today, that seems pedestrian. I marvel at how chefs are finding ways to grill summer fruit and how to pair them. Among the surprises is grilled watermelon. Its a thing of beauty to see melon etched with grill marks. Imagine the sweet, liquid smoke of
June 30, 2012
This time of year, all eyes are on watermelons, and for good reason: local farmers grow stars and stripe melons just in time for the July 4th weekend. This year, melon fans should be especially grateful for the spring drought. It has yielded an expectedly good run of cantaloupes and musk melons. Annually, local farmers battle overwhelming humidity and regular showers to grow these delicate orange flesh melons, but this year is different. Just ask Garyville farmer Christine Monica. Her family
June 9, 2012
Each year, food system solutionaries attempt to eat within 200 miles of New Orleans as part of the Eat Local Challenge . This is a marvelously interactive addition to our local food revolution. However, the Challenge triggers deeper questions about local self-reliance. While you may find Louisiana rice on sale, why is it you dont find local rice vinegar? Rice wine or rice syrup? The same could be said of pecans and sugar. This raises questions about economic development priorities at the state
June 2, 2012
With farmers market tables piled high, watch the produce fly. These are peak season weeks crying out for fun in the kitchen. But, if the fresh aroma of peaches, blueberries and basil is not enough to inspire you to cook, consider next Saturdays annual cookbook swap. Bring a book, take a book. If you tire of old recipes, seek inspiration from other, published voices. So, scan your bookshelves for cookbooks in need of new homes. Bring them to the Crescent City Farmers Market and pick up a few new
May 26, 2012
At the Saturday morning market in the New Orleans Warehouse District, festivities centered around the launch of the 2012 wooden token. At market, this is how shoppers convert plastic credit and debit currencies into market money. Last year, the market converted almost $400,000 in wooden coins.
May 19, 2012
I noticed this morning at market a most welcome site: squash blossoms for sale. I dont know whether you grow vegetables. I do. Well, let me correct myself: I try to. Mostly, I seem to raise snails. Yes, I too have tried to grow squash. Unfortunately, the squash borers appear to be in cahoots with my snails. They eat them before I can. SO, heres the rub. Since winter never showed up this year, all gardeners face more bugs than usual this spring. Follow the farmers lead: A squash blossom in hand
May 12, 2012
I spoke with several mothers today at this mornings markets. In each case, the women are farmwives managing, or having just managed, to look after ailing husbands.
April 28, 2012
Are you familiar with a traditional food thats just come into season: Mayhaw. It is so named for May Day, its peak season. According to mayhaw mythology, this wild, apple-like cousin of the hawthorn tree thrives in swampy coastal Louisiana and Texas. The fruit is often harvested heroically by young foragers riding pirogues. After battling water snakes and mosquitos, they deliver enough mayhaw for grandmothers to cook up jelly and syrup to last the year. But, with the mayhaws native habitat
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