Saturday, October 3, 2009

Why wait for a holiday?

Today, at the local farmer's market, I went a little over board. Now that I am home, I ask myself, do I really need two different kinds of wild mushrooms? That one wasn't entirely my fault, there was a mushroom pusher there, and she got me hooked with a free sample of Lion's Mane (the fuzzy behemoth pictured below). And when you say no to a pusher they can get violent. Some of you will probably say that yes, everyone needs as many wild mushrooms as they can get their hands on, but I am a recent convert to fancy mushroom eating so lay off.

A sample of today's take from the Lane County FM

My most frivolous purchase of the day, I think, was a tiny baby sweet bay tree at $12.50 (an expensive item by farmer's market standards). It was a total impulse buy, but I have a feeling I am going to be very happy with it, and possibly quite soon. I wasn't sure when I bought it, but it turns out that you can use bay leaves fresh as well as dried, and unlike most other herbs, it has more flavor fresh. A quick google search also revealed that bay was named herb of the year by the International Herb Association (it also revealed that there exists an International Herb Association, who knew?). So, even though national plant a tree day is still a ways off (I have no idea when it is actually, does that make me a bad environmentalist?) I am going to plant a bay tree in my back yard.

The Bay Tree is the tall fellow on the right

After running completely out of cash, I decided it was time to come home. On the way back, unfortunately, I realized that I had accidentally parked next to a wine shop that specializes in local organic wine, and my walk to the car took an unexpected 90 degree turn to the left. I inexplicably found myself inside the wine shop, and somehow accidentally purchased the bottle of Oregon made Chardonnay in the picture above. If this bottle turns out to be good, I will probably accidentally park in front of the same wine shop every week for the rest of the farmer's market season (after that, I will have to admit it's on purpose).

The rest of my take was pretty normal: corn, squash, tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and (I can feel my beard growing faster as I write this) an organic cotton bag to carry it all home in. I am thinking of turning the tomatoes into sauce, and testing the theory that fresh bay has more flavor...

In whatever form, this produce (along with some beans and wheat free pasta that we already have handy) will make something like 10 vegetarian meals for Courtney and I (that is, 20 meals total). The price tag was $53, including the wine and the cotton bag (which was 8.00 dollars! Come on, I know its organic cotton, but really?), which means that each farmer's market meal we make with this stuff will have cost us roughly $2.65 plus the cost of beans. That is a pretty darn good deal, especially considering that I splurged a lot on this trip.

Food grown by traditional means to be sold locally is usually quite cheap (the wild mushrooms were spendy, but they taste so good), and heirloom vegetables frequently taste much better because they were selected for flavor over hundreds of generations (conventional farming favors breeds that transport well over flavor-licious heritages). On top of that, much less energy goes into the production.

Take the case of the tomato, do you know how to grow a tomato? Well, conventionally, you start by purchasing genetically modified tomato seeds with the terminator gene, right? Of course. Next, you till the soil and add synthetic fertilizer (a petroleum byproduct) and spray highly toxic herbicides that kill everything except crops genetically modified to survive, right? Obviously. Plant the seeds. Water. Spray regularly with highly toxic pesticides that kill everything except crops genetically modified to survive. Finally, harvest the tomato, wrap in plastic, and put it on a truck bound for Mexico. Soon, a different tomato will arrive on a different truck from Mexico, and you purchase it at a local grocery store (supporting local is good, right?). Drive the tomato home, cut it up and top with olive oil, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Serve on a slice of buffalo mozzarella. That's how you make petroleum caprese.

Alternatively, the dirty fruity hippie way: plant the seeds from an organic tomato (which doesn't have the terminator gene) in your back yard, fertilize with compost (made from stuff that would otherwise be trash), water, weed with your hands, and finally harvest. Carry (not drive) the tomato into the kitchen and follow the directions above to make zero energy caprese, so called because you used literally no energy to grow the tomatoes. The slightly less dirty, less fruity hippie way? Buy a tomato grown using similar methods at the farmer's market. No work, no fuss, no Mexico.

If the pasta sauce comes out good (assuming I actually make it), I will add the recipe tomorrow, and I will also keep you updated about the Oregon wine. Apparently, Authentica (that wine shop) specializes in Oregon Pinot Noir, which I never knew was a thing until just today. Finally, I just looked up plant a tree day, by the way, and it turns out that it is called Arbor Day, and the date differs from state to state and country to country, based on the best time to plant trees in a given climate. The nationally recognized Arbor Day is the last Friday in April. Cue music, "The more you know..."


  1. I had a hanging tomato plant which for the longest time was miraculously free of tomato worms. I was convinced they were unable to reach it because it was hanging. But then one evening there they were, almost a dozen of them, claiming all but one of my tomatoes. So I picked that one, conceded the rest, and then watched in amazement as they grew exponentially. After a couple of weeks, just as suddenly as they had appeared, all but the two largest disappeared. Two days later they were gone. Strange and stealthy creatures.

  2. Plant that bay tree in a sheltered spot. They aren't reliably hardy in our climate and may freeze out. I have a 15 year old one in a huge pot in a sheltered nook outside the kitchen. Enough bay leaves for eternity and then some. Yes, fresh is better!