4 ways to connect with local farmers
National AG Day, which takes place on March 23, presents an annual opportunity to recognize and celebrate the essential role that agriculture plays in the daily lives of all Americans. If you want to learn more about the contributions local farmers make to your community, here are four ways you can connect with them.
1. Visit a farmers’ market. If you want to get to know the producers in your area and buy fresh, locally grown products directly from the source, this is a great option. Use the USDA’s national farmers market directory to find one near you.
2. Participate in agritourism. Many small farms offer on-site services to increase their revenue and provide local entertainment. These can include horseback riding, u-pick operations, harvest festivals, bed and breakfast accommodations, cooking classes, petting zoos, educational tours, and more.
3. Join a CSA. As a member of a community-supported agriculture group, you’ll receive a weekly share of seasonal crops from one or more participating farms in your region. Many CSAs also offer private tours, social events, and other perks for members. You can use the USDA’s online CSA directory to find a group near you.
4. Shop at a farm store. Similar to a farmers’ market, visiting a farm store allows you to chat with local producers, ask questions about how the farm operates and purchase fresh produce on-site. Some also sell honey, fresh juice, eggs, homemade pastries, and other goods.
For more information about National AG Day and how you can support American farmers, visit agday.org.
Tangy pasta salad perks up the weekend
This flavorful pasta salad makes an excellent addition to any Memorial Day get-together.
Adjust the vegetables to suit your preferences — try just-cooked chopped asparagus, chopped arugula leaves, fresh basil, or fresh peas to mix it up. For extra vinegary flavor, try doing a quick pickle on the sweet peppers ahead of time.
1 pound short pasta (such as fusilli or farfalle)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 large garlic clove, grated
Ground black pepper to taste
1 cup sweet peppers, chopped
1 large or 2 small broccoli crowns, chopped into small pieces
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water generously and add pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain well and transfer to a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the mayonnaise, vinegar, and garlic, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the salad, then let cool for at least 30 minutes.
While the pasta is cooling, add butter or olive oil to a frying pan and heat to medium-hot. Pat shrimp dry with a paper towel as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drop into the hot pan and cook until the shrimp turns opaque and firm about four to five minutes. Set aside to cool. Stir cooled shrimp into cooled pasta salad, then add veggies. Garnish with parsley or green onion before serving.
3 Easter menu ideas
Having guests in for Easter and not sure what to serve? Here are three enticing ideas.
1. Sugar shack feast. Enjoy a French-Canadian tradition with ham, hashbrowns, sausages, baked beans, omelets, pancakes, and fried pork rinds called oreilles de crisse, all generously drizzled with maple syrup.
2. Traditional Easter dinner. Delight everyone’s tastebuds with a leg or rack of lamb served with a fresh salad like arugula with berries and a vegetable dish like scalloped potatoes or cauliflower au gratin.
3. Vegetarian brunch. Open-faced sandwiches with avocado and egg, a leek quiche, puff pastry with spinach or mushrooms, pan-fried vegetables, spring salad, pasta, and chickpea soup — with various veggie options, you’re sure to keep everyone delighted.
Visit your local shops to find the ingredients you’ll need. And don’t forget the ideal beverage pairings to accompany your dishes!
Want to eat fresh? Buy from the farmer
Buying meat directly from a farmer has been around as long as farming, but these days, the grocery store is about as close as most people get to the farm.
For omnivores who want to keep their dollars local and don’t mind the upfront investment, buying a share of a cow or pig might be a great and surprisingly accessible option, with potential savings and the convenience of always having protein on hand.
1. Think about what you want and how much. If you’re interested in beef, consider that a whole cow could provide 400-600 pounds of meat, a half cow between 200 and 300, and a quarter cow between 100 and 150. A whole 250-pound hog yields about 120-140 pounds of meat, while a half will provide 60-70.
2. Assess your freezer capacity. You’ll need an additional freezer, especially if you purchase your share on your own and intend to keep all of the meat. For reference, a whole butchered hog might fill between half and two-thirds of a 10-cubic-foot chest freezer.
3. Ask friends or family if they’d like to split the purchase.
4. Set a budget, and keep in mind that you’re purchasing meat for up to a year all at once. Buying pork or beef directly from a farmer isn’t automatically cheaper than going to the grocery store — a lot of factors influence the price. Look online for local farmers who sell shares or ask around at farmer’s markets. If you want to purchase from a 4-H kid at the county fair, plan to spend more, but that extra money helps that kid participate the following year.
5. Find a pork or beef (or lamb or veal) producer who can give you what you want at the price you can afford. Remember that specialty options, like custom butchering or delivery, might add to the price.
6. Once your meat is stowed in your freezer, enjoy! Many people find that the taste alone is worth the extra work — and sometimes the extra cash — over meat from the grocery store or even a butcher.
4 sustainable foods you should be eating
Do you want to eat healthily and do your best for the planet? Here are four sustainable foods you should be eating.
1. Pulses like beans, lentils, and peas are a great source of protein and iron and don’t require much water to grow. They also fortify the soil with nitrogen, making it easier to grow other crops.
2. Molluscs such as oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops are nutrient-dense and remove pollutants such as carbon from seawater.
3. Local and organically grown fruits and vegetables help promote healthy soil and keep harmful pesticides from water sources. Moreover, you aren’t supporting carbon-intensive supply chains when you buy local, in-season fruits and vegetables.
4. Seaweed is highly nutritious and has a low environmental impact. Without fertilizers, it gets everything it needs to grow from the water around it. Seaweed also filters excess nutrients from seawater, such as phosphorus and nitrogen.
Try including some of these foods in your weekly meal plan.
Classic Irish soda bread comforts the soul
Irish soda bread might be one of Ireland’s most famous foods, but the technique — leavening bread with soda instead of yeast — is probably, even more American than apple pie.
Native Americans prepared the first quick bread with pearl ash, a potash-derived natural soda that reacted with mild acids like sour milk or honey to release carbon dioxide bubbles.
Irish soda bread came along much later when commercial production of baking soda made it cheap and widely available. When famine and poverty ravaged Ireland, basic soda bread, which could be prepared with just four ingredients, helped families survive. Eventually, necessity turned into a tradition, and today, just about every Irish family has their own traditions regarding this classic staple. Experiment with this simple recipe, and maybe you can create your own.
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
4-1/4 cups flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for hands and work surface
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a round cake pan or pie dish. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl; then cut in cold butter into flour mixture with a fork, your hands, or a pastry cutter. Whisk buttermilk and one egg together and add to the flour mixture. Bring the dough together with your hands into a circular loaf and score the top with a very sharp knife. Bake in a pie dish or cake pan until golden brown — about 45 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before transferring it to a wire rack.
How modern pizza came to be
You could say that pizza connects the world since it is beloved in every county, but it really took the connected world to create the pizza.
For one, tomatoes are actually a New World fruit (and yes, tomatoes are fruit), native to South America. Early European explorers brought tomatoes back to Europe, including Italy, where they became a mainstay ingredient in many dishes, such as pizza.
Meanwhile, flatbreads topped with various ingredients have been around for centuries. Flatbread is easy to prepare and quick to cook. In the 18th century, Naples was a boom town with a swelling population to support trade. Dock workers and other low-wage laborers needed quick and cheap food. Thus, pizza was born, initially as street food.
Vendors could cook large flatbreads topped with various things, including tomatoes and cheese. When someone came to buy a slice, the vendor could simply cut off as much as the person could afford.
Initially, pizza was scorned by most wealthy people, who preferred more complicated (and expensive) dishes. Eating simple flatbreads was seen as something for the poor. Many Italian cookbooks from the 19th century skipped over pizza.
On a visit to Naples in 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita, the rulers of unified Italy, decided to sample some of the local fares. Queen Margherita ordered a flatbread recipe from a local cook. He came up with a cheese, basil, and tomato mixture on flatbread, allegedly in honor of unified Italy’s white, green, and red flag. Now called the Margherita pizza, this dish paved the way for modern pizza. Some say this also constituted the first pizza delivery since the queen didn’t actually go on the street — The cook delivered it.
Each year, Americans alone consume more than three billion pizzas. Every day, Americans eat more than a hundred acres of pizza.
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