Dan Barber of Blue Hill wrote a wonderful op-ed piece for the New York Times this past weekend about the tomato blight spreading through the Northeast. Frighteningly enough, Barber reports: “weather alone doesn’t explain the early severity of the disease this year. We’ve had wet, cool summers in the past, but it’s never been this bad. Instead we have to look at two other factors: the origin of the tomato plants many of us cultivate, and the renewed interest in gardening.”
Barber goes on to discuss the effects of large retailers like Home Depot and Walmart who bought starter plants from industrial breeding operations and the importance of starting plants locally from seed (if possible). He also discusses the need for agricultural education with the surge of home-gardening throughout the country. All of us who have home gardens, myself included, must educate ourselves on how to prevent and detect plant infection so that diseases like blight don’t develop and spread. Lastly, Barber discusses the need for the food community to support sustainability and natural diversity.
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, where Barber buys his produce for his restaurants, offers a variety of gardening classes which teach all the theories he discusses in his article. I took one this past winter before I started my own vegetable garden, and encourage others to do the same.
Lovely photo from the Union Square Farmer’s Market by Lindsay Beyerstein from Flickr.
New York Magazine is full of great stuff this week, but the real show-stopper is a fabulous article about food titled Eat Good. Authors Beth Sahpouri and Christine Whitney set out to tell us what common foods we should avoid and what to eat instead.
Here’s a snippet: “Eating was once an enjoyable, relatively uncomplicated experience; the biggest dilemma was how much butter to put in the mashed potatoes. No more. In this post-Pollan, Food, Inc., locavore-aware world, your dinner plate, like it or not, is a minefield. Beyond the enduring concerns about calories, artificial ingredients, and, of course, taste, there are now a host of politically minded food anxieties. Is the chicken free-range? Is the salad from a labor-friendly farm? Was the coffee shade-grown? Sometimes it seems the future of the planet is riding on your hamburger.”
Next to each image in the article is a list of symbols identifying why that food should be avoided. For instance, we should not eat bananas because: big carbon footprint, unfair labor practices, pollution, ecosystem damage, corporate monopoly and overfarmed. Instead, we should eat local apples while they’re in season. Makes sense to me.
Read it, along with The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. They’ll all make you think twice about what you put in your body.
When we got home from our sailing trip yesterday I noticed that our zucchini blossoms were starting to open. It reminded me of an amazing dish I just had out in LA – fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta cheese and garlic. Absolutely amazing! I’m not sure I’m going to have enough blossoms to make a proper appetizer, but I’m going to give it a try. Just found this amazing recipe.
I was reading GOOP this morning – Gwyneth’s new post is all about eco-friendly solutions for daily life. She posted a link to the website for Good Magazine, which is full of fantasic articles about eco-solutions, green companies, etc.
I was particularly intrigued by an article by Morgan Clendaniel about a new 6,000 square-foot rooftop garden ontop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Here’s a snippet: “New York City has very little land that is not covered with buildings, forcing New Yorkers to find innovative solutions if they want to keep their agricultural production truly local. But while some people grow a few herbs on their fire escapes, Ben Flanner is transforming an entire industrial rooftop into a living garden. Atop a defunct bagel factory in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood—a Polish enclave more known for its pierogies than its organic tomatoes—Flanner dropped 200,000 pounds of dirt on 6,000 square feet of rooftop (by crane), and in so doing brought new life into a mostly concrete neighborhood….Flanner used to work at E-Trade, but decided he had had enough of the corporate life: “About a year ago I came to the conclusion that I’d learned what I needed to learn from the jobs that I’d had,” he says. “And I decided that it was time to put together a plan to move on and continue my learning in a new realm.” He had always had an interest in farming, but the recent wave of interest in local produce and sustainable agriculture helped give him the courage to go out on his own. With the help of Annie Novak, his partner on the farm who also works at the Bronx Botanical Gardens, and visits to other farms to learn from more experienced farmers, he has started to master the techniques and knowledge necessary for a working farm.”
This is one of many urban farming articles I found interesting. Check out Good’s website, or get a yearly subscription to the magazine for $10.
I was looking around sfgirlbybay this morning and stumbled across an old post about these AMAZING garden stakes from Pigeon Toe Ceramics. I must have them for my garden – a gift to myself for not killing everything this year! We ate the first batch of green beans for dinner last night!
The Chefs Collaborative sent an email out today with a great link to an article in Gourmet Magazine by Barry Estabrook. Check it out here.
Here’s a snippet: “This spring, as part of Slow Food’s RAFT (Renew America’s Food Traditions) program, the Collaborative, which is dedicated to connecting chefs to local farmers, recruited 28 New England farmers to plant 16 varieties of heirloom vegetables traditionally grown in the region (including Boothby’s blonde cucumber, Boston marrow squash, true red cranberry bean, and Gilfeather turnip, to name a few). The produce will be purchased, prepared, and served this summer and fall by 35 chefs with restaurants in Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.”
I ventured down to the New York Botanical Garden for the first time ever today. It is AMAZING – totally out-of-this-world! I can’t believe I’ve lived this close for so many years and never been. This weekend they opened the summer-long Edible Garden exhibit with a festival about local food.
I saw demonstrations by chefs from two of my all-time favorite restaurants: Gramery Tavern in New York and The Dressing Room in Westport, CT. Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern replaced Tom Colicchio as head chef in 2006 and was recently nominated for a James Beard Award. Before his time at GT he worked with Dan Barber to open Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Michel Nischan of the Dressing Room is a James Beard winner and wrote an amazing book called Homegrown. It was the first book I bought about the local food moment (technically it’s a cookbook), and it’s clearly inspired me. He gave a great demonstration today and talked a lot about the need to preserve biodiversity. This was a swoon-worthy, all-star cast in my book!
I also ventured around to some of the other Edible Garden exhibits including the new Martha Stewart Herb Garden (pictured above), the Irwin Perennial Garden, the Howell Family Garden where they teach local school children how to grow vegetables, and the Home Gardening Center where I found myself very envious of the beautiful raised beds. I also stopped by the book-signing and picked up a copy of Heirloom Tomatoes by Amy Goldman.
In the afternoon I took a tram around the entire property and saw the beautiful library, magnolia and oak collections, as well as Peggy Rockefeller’s Rose Garden. I also did the full tour of the Haupt Conservatory, which reminded me a lot of the conservatory at Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.
I am excited to venture back to the Botanical Gardens throughout the summer for their Thursday night Edible Evening events. I’m most excited about August 20th, when Slow Food Nation’s Josh Viertel is hosting an event called Preserving America’s Food Tradition. The events in August also feature a Waterlily Concert on the Conservatory lawn – I can’t wait!