July 2011

Black Raspberries Get Their Due

Black raspberries have never been the most popular kid on the block. Their cousin, the red raspberry, enjoys enduring fame and adulation while the black raspberry is a one hit wonder known only for being distilled into Chambord, the French Liqueur. Ever the fan of the underdog, when I planted raspberries in my backyard a few years ago, I put in rows of both black and red.

The red raspberries delivered as expected, gorgeous thumb-sized berries full of flavor. The black raspberries, though smaller and less aromatic, provided a tart counterpoint with a darker berry flavor. And then I discovered their secret.

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Free Beer--Harriet Brewing Hits Minneapolis

If you’ve been down Minnehaha avenue in the evening lately, just off Lake Street in South Minneapolis, Harriet Brewing Company may have caught your eye. If so, it probably wasn’t because of their building, a nondescript former armored car garage with a front of fluted cement. No, if you noticed them it would have been because of a plain fold-out sidewalk sign featuring two words most of us only see in our fondest dreams: “Free Beer.”

If you haven’t heard of it, Harriet Brewing is the latest addition to the Twin Cities’ local brewing scene, and is for the moment the only operating brewery in Minneapolis proper. A few evenings a week, they’ve been opening up their doors for tastings and tours (gratis as advertised), hoping that folks will drop in, learn a little something, and maybe take home a growler of beer—a half-gallon refillable jug often sold by brew pubs and microbeweries.

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Crop Mob at Riverbend Farm

It’s a common refrain that people have become disconnected from the food they eat, the migration from country to city leading people away from farm fresh produce and towards frozen, ready-made dinners. 

And while visiting a farmer’s market is one way to get closer to the source, another movement taking shape locally and around the country is trying to take people a step further: crop mobbing. 

Crop mobbing – shed the dictionary definition you know – is a term used to describe any group that flocks to a farm to help get a specific task accomplished. 

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Dr. Strangefruit: How I learned to stop worrying about squash vine borers and love my garden.

(Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, but a storyteller who took way too many science classes in college. I apologize for the lack of scientific terminology presented here, but promise that if you read on, you may learn something...even if it is just what a strange person I am.)

The story of this epic battle begins a couple of years ago in my garden, where so many stories of struggle and hardship begin (notice the drama creeping in already!). Squashes, both winter and summer varieties, are one of my favorite plant families. I love the way they can and do grow anywhere, creeping up fences, under and through my bean plants or just straight across the yard with no concern for the lawn mower.

Not only do these beastly plants entertain with their size and tenacity, they often produce food by the bushel. Then there are the mutants! If you have never experimented with pollinating squash, it can be entertaining.

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Festival of Farms--Inspiration From The Ground Up

The place: Acorn Ridge Farm of Mel and Lorna Wiens in Staples, Minnesota. The weather: steamy and sticky. The event: the 3rd annual Festival of Farms, hosted by Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) Central Chapter. Drop the title and formalities and you have a gathering that felt more like a beloved family reunion than an event open to the public.

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Izzy's Ice Cream Goes Local

In an ideal world, the owners of Izzy’s Ice Cream Café, Jeff Sommers and Lara Hammel, say their ice cream would be derived from milk produced by cows at a dairy all their own. Instead, though, they’ve settled on the next best thing. 

Last year, Sommers and Hammel decided to turn to a Columbus, Wis.-based dairy for the mixture of milk, eggs and sugar that serves as the building block for each of the more than 125 flavors they make at their St. Paul shop annually. The move came after a decade of relying on large wholesalers who simultaneously supplied ice cream giants such as Dairy Queen and Culvers, and was prompted by a desire to support a regional, family farm. 

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A Weeknight Supper For The Summer: The 30 Minute Edition

Signs that summer is in full swing: temperatures in the upper 80s and beyond, swimming lessons, ballet camp, road trip plans, gulping down novels, the constant whirr of fans at night, ice cream appearing at an alarming frequency, and an aversion to meals that require heating up the kitchen with excessive oven or stove use. 

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Letting Food Speak For Itself

My sister and I just got back from a trip to Paris where we spent our time exploring the city: hopping on the Metro going from one end of the city to another, stopping to walk through parks, gardens and through markets filled with well dressed Parisians. Going to the Market is always one of my favorite things about Paris. There I move from stand to stand wide eyed with delight as I look at many kinds of French cheeses, olives, meats, fish, wines; stands with fresh breads, pastries, little berry tarts. I always gravitate towards the tables overflowing with abundant produce where I stand in silent debate, "should I get the currants, figs or raspberries?" before deciding just to get all three. Then there are the vegetables; the big beautiful leeks, mushrooms, onions, and zucchinis always bring a tinge of sadness because I do not have a kitchen where I can make a delicious French omelet. 


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Eat Local Farm Tour

The parks are closed and it is that time of year to take a road trip. Sure, you could go to Wisconsin or the Dakotas, but consider this: a weekend full of farm tours, small towns, rivers and lakes. Let me be your tour guide (something I am in no way qualified to do, by the way) as I point out the myriad possibilities presented by the "Eat Local Farm Tour".

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My New Summer Eating Plan

I’ll just put it out there to start with: minus the cabbage broth cayenne pepper (or the “please-kill-me-now?”) diet, I have given most food-life styles a fair shot. I did vegetarian for about four years. Did raw for awhile (I loved it, my stomach did not), and did every sort of variation of caveman diets, of carb/protein/fat ratios and of cooked/uncooked/baked/boiled/parched plans that are out there.  Some have made me feel better, some worse, some wiped off the pounds and some put them right back on, and some were a heck of a lot more enjoyable than others. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got a “thing” for eating plans. Like, it’s too confusing and certainly altogether too overwhelming out there when the whole wide world of food is fair game.

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