Judging by restaurant menus this time of year, one would think that asparagus, ramps, and fiddleheads are the first signals of the return of spring to our plates. But no matter how much we fetishize them, these are spring foods that, locally at least, are barely beginning to emerge. If the farmers and foragers aren’t yet eating them, you can be sure that we city dwellers won’t be either. Around here, the true signals of the warming season are the leafy green things, cultivated with care inside or under protective cover. Soak up some sunshine this weekend, spring clean your sorry little excuse for a garden, and pick up some greens and beneficial bacteria, both for you and your garden, as we wait for those big stars to make their debuts.
The trees are starting to bloom, the daffodils are cropping up, and the rain is falling; thank goodness for springtime. While we wait for the spring veggies to get bigger, this is a great time of year to consider signing up for a CSA share. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and signing up for a CSA means that you basically pay for your summer produce up front (which helps farmers shoulder myriad early season expenses) and in exchange you receive a weekly share of veggies (and sometimes fruits or eggs) all season long. Here are just a few of the local CSA’s to consider joining.
I know that it hasn’t felt much like spring yet (except maybe for today’s drizzle), but amid the dwindling supplies of parsnips, potatoes and rutabagas at the farmer’s market there are a few telltale sighs that she’s on her way. Here are a few:
We made it! On this, the still-pretty-chilly second day of the most welcome of springtimes ever to grace this fair city, at least we can breathe a sigh knowing that we’ll all soon be swimming in the lettuces, herbs and sweet peas of May. For the moment, however, we’re still in March and March and early April are the leanest times of the year for local agriculture because we’re running low on the storage crops (apples, root vegetables and squash) from last season, and even the early stuff for this year hasn’t had quiiiiite enough warmth or sunshine to be ready to go yet.
Nonetheless, a few early season greens, cultivated indoors or out with a little bit of shelter, are starting to appear. Here are a few to look out for:
Not gonna lie–it’s way easier to cook a locally-sourced, authentic meal for Saint Patrick’s Day around here than it is to cook for last week’s midwinter holiday, Mardi Gras. No, we don’t have local shrimp, crawfish or crab for gumbo, and okra is so far out of season it isn’t even funny, but St. Patrick’s Day? Here in Pennsylvania we’ve got pork and cabbage ON LOCK. Also beer, and though you must stick to Jameson’s in the whiskey department for this year, Pottstown’s Manatawny Still Works will start distilling some of our own local brown spirits any day now. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for a Saint Patrick’s Day feast Philly-style.
Between the Barleywine Bonanza, the Brewer’s Plate, the Craft Beer Express, and all your regularly scheduled imbibing, there’s going to be a lot of drinking happening in Philadelphia this weekend. And what’s the best thing to eat with beer? Burgers. And what’s the best burger around? A burger made from pasture-raised beef, pork, lamb, or turkey. Thanks to the modern miracle of residential refrigeration, we’re able to enjoy any of the above raised locally and with care by the very same people who will price it out and wrap it up for you at your local market this weekend. Here are some suggestions for your next patty:
We’re in the home stretch, people. March and April are some of the toughest months for seasonal eating, because we’re winding down on the storage crops (potatoes, apples, squash, and root vegetables), but the spring favorites that make it clear that a new season is beginning are still several weeks away. Nonetheless, there’s still plenty of good stuff to be found at our winter markets. Here are a few hyperlocal heroes that have been hanging around since fall that you might be overlooking.
Do you ever get a craving for something that you just can’t shake? For me this week, that craving is for Korean barbecue. I could (and probably should, considering the terrible ventilation in my kitchen) make the trip up 5th Street to Kim’s BBQ, but since area farmer’s markets are looking to get back on track this week–and since we’re in for a few relatively warm days (mid-fifties! woo!)–I’m going to fire up the grill and attempt it at home. Here’s my plan:
The Dirt this week is buried under The Snow. Even the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal–normally toasty warm from the fat sizzling off the cheesesteak beef at Carmen’s and the wafts of hot, smoky air from The Rib Stand–is feeling the chill. Their farms and suppliers had a rough week for deliveries with all the bad weather, so you might find local food availability to be a bit spotty at your regular shops. The good news is that even if you can’t get your full compliment of local goodies, you can always have a PB&J. February is made for comfort food, and what could be more comforting than a classic peanut butter and jelly? Local-ize yours because, snow or no, the Clark Park and Fitler Square farmer’s markets will be happening as usual (though the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market is definitely closed tomorrow), so bundle up and head out there.
With every drugstore and florist in full, garish Valentine’s Day splendor, it’s only fitting that the farmer’s markets get in on the action. Whether you’re a V-Day grinch or a fan, here are some rosy, local options to love.