Friday, November 13, 2009

Stocking the local food pantry

Food from my pantry brings back memories of my visit to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers' market where I found Massa Organics rice and almond butter early in the morning and carried them around all day. But once I got these delicious treats home, I'd practically forgotten how heavy my bag had been. At the Gathering Together Farm (GTF) store in Philomath, Oregon, I bought enchilada and tomato leek marinara sauces, pickled jalapenos and blueberry jam, all canned by Sweet Creek Foods, a farm neighbor and local food processor, not far from GTF.

Wherever I go, I visit farmers' markets and farm stores where I learn about other small sustainable farms and gather local foods. Mostly I just can't resist trying what farmers are growing in different parts of the country. I've carried home Texas tomatoes in the fall and Arizona grapefruit in the winter, tucked in my carry-on luggage. Thankfully airline bag inspectors only give curious looks after examining the contents. I pack salsas, jams and vinegars between jeans, sweatshirts and socks and hope they make it home safely. Nothing has ever broken or gone missing.

Over the harvest season (summer through fall) my pantry fills up, without having to can anything myself. Oh, I know home canning can save money but my kitchen is about as big as a boat kitchen, I don't even have room for the giant pots and massive numbers of jars required for canning. Besides, I have fun looking for farm made salsas and jams.
Tom can’t resist opening the Gathering Together Farm blueberry spread and I like to cook beans in their enchilada sauce. The leek marinara sauce is perfect for pasta or pizza.

From the University District farmers' market farm vendors I buy fruit spreads, pickles, hazelnut oil and butter, vinegars, dried powdered onions, garlic, dehydrated spices, and pepper flakes. You can find more dried beans and different kinds of grains each year there. Nash's Farm from Sequim sells wheat and rye. Stoney Plains and Willie Greens Organic Farm offer dried beans.

The Alvaraz Family Farm sells a variety of organic beans at affordable prices, spring through fall. This farm sells at Pike Place Market, Columbia City and the Lake City farmers’ markets. I think the Alvaraz farm also sells their produce at the Ballard and possibly Lake Forest Park summer markets.

One word of caution with beans: don’t mistake dried beans for the fresh shell beans many farmers sell in the fall. Fresh shell beans deteriorate rapidly in storage. And before buying check bags of these fresh shell beans carefully looking for mold and bad spots before purchasing any. These beans get moldy quickly. Use fresh shell beans right away or store in the refrigerator for about four days. You could also freeze these shell beans for a few months or more
Another thing I look for to stock my pantry are my favorite dehydrated onions and garlic and raspberry vinegar from Rent's Due Ranch, dried mushrooms from Found and Foraged, dried nectarines, apricots and apples from Cliffside Orchards, and honey from Tahuya River Apiaries.

A few items from my pantry:

Left to right, top row: Holmquist Hazelnuts, Texas Pecans (from the Austin farmers' market), berry wine from Rockridge Orchards. Bottom row: Woodrings Parker Pickled Green Beans, Palasades, Colorado Organic Peach jam (from my summer vacation), Alvaraz Farm garbanzos, Rama Farm peaches, El Passo salsa (from Austin), Rockridge Orchards apple cider.

What's in your panty?

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