Friday, June 19, 2009

Local eating, figs for spring

         I'm a local eater in a big way. Two weeks ago I bought my first strawberries since last summer, and truly, absense does make the heart grow fonder. And the fruits of waiting are very sweet.

            Once in awhile, I just have to eat something from far away. I've spent the last few years sorting out my own personal food choices - and food choices are just that -incredible personal (and political). There's a few things I'm not willing to give up, for example, bananas and chocolate. But for foods like these, it's possible to be fair and environmental. Fair trade, organic bananas are available at quite a few places in Toronto. It's a step up from organic, where farmers are free from harmful pesticides, but are still only paid around a dollar per box. Fair trade means the farmers are getting fair market prices: around 8 dollars a box. The difference to us? Actually the same price as organic bananas, around $1.29 a pound. That's where the personal choice comes in. Am I in a position to spend 40 cents more than commercial bananas to ensure what I'm eating is not harming farmers, and that those farmers are getting enough money to reasonably make a living? Chocolate? Same deal. Cocoa Camino is my favorite organic fair trade brand, but there's a bunch out there.

           So here's something I eat a few times a year. Figs have a unique taste. And, along with bananas, they were one of the first plants to be cutivated for human consumption, around 11,000 years ago. Here's a fig salad, surrounded by some local ingredients.

Strawberry Fig Salad
makes 2 servings
8 figs, sliced crosswise across the top (see picture)
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper

         Combine strawberries and figs in a bowl. Crumble goat cheese and walnuts over top. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad.

          This is what I ate with the salad. I had all the fixings for an awesome pizza, but I have yet to tackle gluten-free pizza dough. Instead, I made a big giant rosti (recipe here) and then broiled it for a few minutes, covered in sliced tomatoes, basil leaves, kamalata olives and raw milk feta. It was delicious.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

gardening in the rain

My garden's been slow to get going this year - cold May weather, too much work, too much graduating and partying. Yesterday I finally had a whole day to weed, plant, mulch and tidy. At least a hour of that was spent wading through the lamb's quarters that were engulfing my snow peas and beets. 

The squirrels and cats have been (mostly) foiled by large amounts of chicken wire covering every possible surface. Something small is still getting in, but it definitely isn't my 15 pound cats. They aren't that agile.

Foraging in the recycling bin has become a habit - containers for seed starting, toilet paper rolls for protecting tomato seedlings, water and pop bottles for make-shift cloches. 

Also, I've discovered the joys of gardening in the rain. No bugs, no sun, nice temperature, and soil so easy to work with! Nice spring surprise- (below) I'm overjoyed to see that my cosmos and cilantro both re-seeded themselves!

Visiting farmer's markets over the past month, I've been tempted by a few tasty-sounding tomato plants. Along with the five Matt's Wild Cherry I grew from seed, there's a Green Zebra, two Purple Cherokees, four Candy Cherries, two Golden Cherries, and a giant Plum - with tomatoes growing already! I'm also growing peppers for the first time - Marconi Long Red and Purple Beauty.