In celebration of National Farmers’ Market Week, August 2-8, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Agriculture has challenged state residents to eat one locally grown food a day during the week. If you’re already a dedicated local-sustainable foodie like me, it’s a pretty low bar and I think we can easily rise to a double challenge – say two local foods a day or one food plus some local wine. But for those of us just beginning to appreciate the sheer joys of eating a farm-fresh tomato or local peach so juicy it runs down our chin, a few ideas about what to buy, where to buy it and how to serve it are in order.
1) Pick from your own backyard. Do you have some tomatoes, fresh herbs or lettuces growing? Add them to any meal to make it a CT Grown feast.
2) Go foraging for free food! Raspberries and blueberries are in season and you can find them in your neighbor’s backyard (ask first) or along the roadside. Just look for cars parked at weird angles on the side of the road and people hunched over with containers. Be sure to wash well before eating if picking from the roadside. Fresh blueberries and raspberries are great in cereal or added to yogurt. Beltane Farm’s goats’ milk yogurt is as good as it gets and is available at the Westport, Greenwich, and Milford farmers’ markets.
3) Visit your local farmers’ market or farm stand and buy some veggies, fruits, eggs, dairy products, meats, seafood, bread, cheese, herbs, honey and baked goods so you’re stocked for the week. Peaches and plums are in season and can be sliced in half, lightly brushed with honey or maple syrup and grilled until warm and caramelized for a delicious but casual dessert which easily doubles as a topping for ice cream or frozen yogurt. Visit the Fairfield Green Food Guide’s Buying Guide to search for farmers’ market and farm stand locations and hours in your town.
4) Visit Sherwood Farm on Sport Hill Road in Easton because it is conveniently open seven days a week and offers over 80 varieties of organic and conventionally grown vegetables and flowers, many of which are heirloom, plus fruits, eggs and honey . Tomatoes, beans, garlic, cucumbers, onions, squash, potatoes, lettuce, corn and cabbage are among the current crops being harvested fresh daily from this nearly 300-year-old farm. To make Insalate Caprese sandwiches, buy some local bread, top it with a slice of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced tomato and fresh basil, then drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle it with some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
5) Go to a farm to pick your own. The CT State Dept. of Agriculture and pickyourown.org both offer extensive lists of pick your own farms in the state and it’s really a fun family outing. Crops available for picking right now include blueberries, corn, peaches and tomatoes.
6) Buy from a local specialty or independent grocer that makes it a point to carry locally grown food. Palmer’s Market in Darien and the Pantry in Fairfield carry some local fruits, vegetables, breads and prepared foods. Whole Foods carries local honey, tofu, seafood and artisanal foods. Fairfield Cheese Company carries Beltane Farms and Cato Corner cheeses plus local honey and artisanal foods. Walter Stewart’s Market in New Canaan carries local farmstead cheeses, artisan made breads, jams, sauces and chocolates and educates their customers on the unique characteristics of each food item.
7) Eat at a restaurant that sources local ingredients. Health in a Hurry in Fairfield buys locally and grows some of their own food, Fairfield’s Café Lola serves fantastic burgers made from Ox Hollow Farm’s grass-fed beef, and The Dressing Room in Westport counts Ox Hollow Farm, Riverbank Farm and Beltane Farm among their purveyors. Other restaurants sourcing ingredients locally include Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant in Bridgeport, Cobbs Mill Inn Restaurant in Weston, David’s Catering in Stamford, Napa & Co. in Stamford, and Woodway Country Club in Darien.
8) Order online from CT Farm Fresh Express by midnight Tuesday for a Friday home delivery. You pick what and how much CT-grown food you want from their online store and they deliver it to your door. No minimums, no membership fees and no ongoing commitment. Even if you can find vegetables and fruits locally, this is a great place to find scallops, flounder, tofu and specialty vegetables like Maitake, Shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Just leave a cooler with ice packs on your doorstep if you won’t be home to receive the order.
9) Take a drive to Stonington to buy some scallops, shrimp or fish right off the fishing boats or at Stonington Seafood Harvesters on 5 High Street in Stonington, which is open Monday through Friday from 8-5 and Saturday form 9-12. Ask for the prized Bomster scallops – you can’t get fresher or more delicious scallops because they’re flash frozen on the boat within hours of being shucked. Bring your cooler.
10) Buy some Connecticut wine directly from a winery or wine shop that carries local wine. I just attended the Connecticut Wine Festival and some standouts were Sharpe Hill Vineyard’s Ballet of Angels, which is the number one selling white wine in New England and perfect for summer; the award-winning wines of Hopkins Vineyards; Miranda Vineyard’s Seyval Blanc and Woodridge White; Land of Nod’s Bianca; and Taylor Brooke’s Traminette. Connecticut Valley Winery won the award for Best Small Winery 2009 in the Big E Wine Competition and after tasting their Chianti and port-style Black Bear, I can see why. Chances are your wine shop only carries a small sampling of Connecticut wines, so visiting a winery to do some tasting is a great way to sample the full line and choose what you like.
Are you taking the Challenge? Come back and comment on what you’re eating and how you’re enjoying it.