When I was a kid, salad was my most hated food. Well, besides eggplant. I’ve since come to add both back to my favorites list. I’ll save the story of my love of eggplant for warmer weather, but this is salad season. My thoughts on salad began to turn when I realized that it didn’t have to mean a wedge of iceberg lettuce with grainy orange dressing. Without even getting into all of the other ingredients that can go into salad, there is enough variety in lettuce alone to make me forget about that old iceberg. There are looseleaf lettuces, romaines, buttercrunches, and more. And even within those general types, there is a tremendous variety in flavor, color, and textures. Heirloom tomatoes might get all the press, but heirloom lettuces are also something special. One of the unexpected side benefits of the Athens Locally Grown system we’ve built is the growers have the freedom to experiment with heirloom varieties because its easier and less risky to sell them to order on the website than it is to bring them to the traditional markets. And so, this week there are thirty five items listed in the “Lettuce” category. I don’t think any grocer in town can match that! And take a look at some of the names: “Deer Tongue”, “Sweet Valentine”, “Red Sail”, “Drunken Woman”. These aren’t commodity lettuce, bred for easy shipping. These are lettuces with a history, varieties that were passed down from one season’s garden to the next because they were special and worth saving. And because you have made the effort to spend some of your food dollars on things that were grown close to where you live, grown with care by people you know, these varieties are returning to the dinner table, replacing those terrible wedges of iceberg.
And it’s not just lettuce. Pick a vegetable, herb, flower, anything that can be grown and you’ll find varieties that have been passed down for one reason or another, varieties that return true to type each year. These stand apart from those varieties that are hybrids of two or more types, often bred more for their shipping properties than their flavor, and whose seed grows something entirely unlike the parent. I have yet to find a hybrid of anything that tastes better than an heirloom variety of the same species, so heirloom are all that I grow in my garden. There are many places and catalogs where you can find heirloom seed, but my favorite place (and one of my favorite events of the entire year) is the Southern Seed Legacy’s Old Timey Seed Swap. This event will be held this coming Saturday from 3 to 8pm at the Agrarian Connection Heritage Farm, just a short drive from Athens just inside Oglethorpe County. Not only will there be great bluegrass music and a traditional slow-cooked southern barbecue, but there will be more varieties of seeds than you’ve perhaps ever seen in one place. Don’t worry if you don’t have any of your own to bring and trade. You’ll be able to get little envelopes of different types, for free, to begin growing in your own garden. And if you save some seeds from what you grow, well, maybe you can bring some of that next year. It’s a beautiful location with wonderful people, and I encourage you to come on out. The dinner is a $5 donation (unless you bring a side dish to share). More info and directions can be found on their website: http://www.uga.edu/ebl/ssl/activities/seedswap/.
I hope to keep Athens Locally Grown the best place to find and buy locally grown foods in town, but I know sometimes you just want to go to the traditional farmers market and shop there. That’s ok, I do it too, and Athens Locally Grown is even a sponsor of the Athens Farmers Market. Many of the growers sell at both places, and it’s common to find things at one place but not the other. Well, it’s coming up on market season, here in Athens and elsewhere. The Athens Farmers Market at Bishop Park market will be opening May 8th through November 20th from 8-noon each Saturday morning. You can find locally grown produce, handmade crafts, hand brewed coffee, fresh breads and baked goods, and enjoy live music, gardening workshops, and cooking demonstrations by local chefs using seasonal fruits and vegetables from the market. Also this year is the Athens Farmers Market Downtown on Tuesday afternoons from 4-7pm, held in the courtyard and parking lot of the Little Kings Club, at the corner of Hull and Hancock Streets, in downtown Athens, GA. The new market 2010 season will run from May 11 to November 16, 2010, with all the great local produce, good food, artisan breads, fresh brewed coffee and live music you have enjoyed at the Saturday market.
When I get word about the other traditional markets opening up in nearby communities, I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, we’re continuing to improve the facilities at Ben’s Bikes. I’ve got an order in for an awning that will give up lots of room outdoors under shade, and that will help out and let us spread out a little bit. We’re already putting more things inside the room we’re using than we ever had at the old state market. This last week we had 300 orders for a total over $11,100. Both of those are records for us. Thank you for that! This week, there are nearly 100 more items listed on the website than last week, and it’ll only keep growing from here. Thanks so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!
Farmer for a Day: MAY 15, Saturday, at Darby Farms (Walton County)
Certified Naturally Grown. Darby Farms is a family owned pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Walton County. We produce: pastured poultry (eggs, chicken, turkeys, ducks and guinea fowl) and will soon be offering pastured pork. We are in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture. Experience the satisfaction of knowing your food and your farmer and building community. We are your clean meat connection. This farm is approximately 27 miles from Athens and it’ll take about 40 minutes to get there. Space is limited, so please make reservations by adding them to your order. You’ll find it under the “Events Reservations” category on the website.
Farmer for a Day: JUNE 13, Sunday, at Sundance Farm (Madison County)
Certified Naturally Grown. We are a family farm growing a diverse variety of vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruits and berries. We also raise chickens, heritage turkeys and goats. Our three children are the heart of our farm. They enjoy the healthy food they help harvest and realize what it takes to get from a seed to the table. We are Certified Naturally Grown and have sold produce in the Athens area since 1998. Currently we sell at Athens Locally Grown, Athens Farmers Market, local restaurants and from the farm. We are also planning a C.S.A. in the near future. We appreciate all the Locally Grown customers that have supported us through the years, allowing us to do what we love, Growing good food. This farm is approximately 13 miles from Athens, and it’ll take 20 minutes to get there. Space is limited, so please make reservations by adding them to your order. You’ll find it under the “Events Reservations” category on the website.
The Athens Farmers Market is closed for the winter. They’ll be opening back up for the season on May 8th. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also getting ready to open again. When I hear about their opening dates, I’ll let you know.
Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!