Friday, September 7, 2012

Greenmarkets, Community Gardens And CSA's

Like many of you, I am more mindful about the food I buy these days. I am concerned about where it comes from, what it takes to get it to our tables and whether it's really food, or just food-like-substances.  Concepts like "farm fresh," "eating local" and "sustainability" are now considerations while I'm grocery shopping.  Although I still love a steak or sirloin burger -- grilled to perfection, occasionally -- these days I eat more of a plant based diet, including lots of leafy greens and fresh vegetables, smaller portions of meat, and even many meatless meals, substituting other proteins like dairy, eggs, soy and fish. I care about the planet and the welfare of the other people who occupy it -- and truthfully, eating healthy produce and plant proteins isn't much of a sacrifice. Variety is the spice of life, and I like grains and vegetables.

Furthermore, I like how urban areas are embracing greenmarkets, community gardens and rooftop beekeeping.  Metro-New York, recently reported that Brooklyn Grange, a farm that sits atop of two buildings in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, “produces kale, cherries, eggs and honey, all sold at restaurants and farm stands across the city.”  How cool is that?  A 43,000 square-foot, sky farm growing cucumbers and eggplants high above the concrete, people and activity of Gotham city.

Small related businesses are also springing up.  Partners Doug Muller and Ken Green created the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a company which only sells seeds that thrive in New York's climate and soil.  So a New Yorker who wants to grow salad greens in his windowsill, or broccoli in his community garden can buy the right seeds for his region.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs are becoming especially popular among city dwellers in many states.  [To find one in your area go here.]  Members pay for an entire season of fresh produce, than pick up their boxes of ever changing vegetables weekly. Recipients of the harvest enjoy quality, variety and new taste sensations.  Fellow blogger, Becky's Big Bytes, keeps readers up-to-date with her discoveries and recipes here.  She asked me to post one of my recipes.  So Becky, as the inspiration of today's post, here it is:

 Mock Fried Green Tomatoes And Eggplant 

2 - 3 big green tomatoes, sliced
1 large eggplant, sliced
Salt, black pepper and seasoning (garlic, onions, etc.) to taste
A little extra virgin olive oil
Uncooked oatmeal and Grapenuts cereal, or breadcrumbs

1. Brush two cast iron or aluminum skillets with a little olive oil and heat on your stovetop.
2. Season the slices of vegetables and lay each in separate pans.
3. Top with the oatmeal and Grapenuts (or breadcrumbs).  I rarely buy breadcrumbs, so I just use the cereal.  I coat both sides of the vegetable slices with olive oil right in the skillet and sprinkle on the cereal for crunch.
4. Fry until tender and golden brown. 
5. Flip and brown the other side.  

If you prefer, you can bake the vegetable slices in a cast iron skillet in an oven at 350 F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Either method works.  At times you should get wild and crazy by using a few pads of butter to flavor.  Butter is the secret ingredient, which makes restaurant food so delicious according to several chefs.

Serve with a protein (such as ham) and a starch (I like potatoes, or corn) and enjoy!


  1. Wish I were more of a veggie-guy, but this is a very good article. Maybe to use spices to liven up the veggie taste?

  2. Barry, I always wonder if folks who think they don't like vegetables are eating fresh ones. Try eating vegetables picked straight from a garden once.

  3. You are correct about fresh being the best- we do have local tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini here (Long Island's North Shore, outside of New York City) and some of the folks blessed with a good sunshine exposure have grown some absolutely delicious "crops" in their gardens. Although my observation is that the bigger tomatoes do not taste as good as some of the smaller varieties. Also, I think pesto is grown locally- not positive, and that makes for excellent sauces.

    Then, of course, there is locally grown mint, which, when combined with some of Kentucky's finest export, contributes to excellent beverages in the summer months.

    The area where I live is suburban, so not space is not quite constrained like Manhattan, but hardly rural, so growers still need to be economical with their growings. Excellent blog posting, Debbie!

  4. I hadn't heard of this farm - that is truly amazing! Glad to see a recipe for fried green tomatoes here, Debbie. A delicacy that I only recently found that I LOVE, after growing up in the South and thinking all that time that they looked yucky! Go figure. Maybe I 'll go look for some green tomatoes tomorrow! ~ Loretta