I recently stumbled upon the "Dark Days Eat Local Challenge" at the Urban Hennery blog and couldn't resist. After all, eating local is a piece of cake during the summer if you have a farmers market anywhere in the vicinity. But what do you do in the winter when the farmers markets close?
That certainly is the case here in the District of Columbia. The only intown farmers market that stays open during the "dark days" is the one at trendy Dupont Circle, where you will find maybe four vendors on duty when those cold January winds blow. Another is across the Potomac River in Arlington, one of the area's oldest farmers markets. I've never been, but maybe this is the year.
In fact, most of the farmers markets in the Washington area close before Thanksgiving. During the winter, farmers are on hiatus. Nothing is growing, unless perhaps it's in a greenhouse destined for the restaurant trade.
One of the exceptions is our farmer friend Brett Grohsgal who is a bit of a fanatic about the arugula and collards and other cold-weather brassicas he grows in St. Mary's County, MD. Brett seems to love nothing better than to dress up in his Carhart overalls, pull on some Neoprene gloves and pick greens in the snow. We subscribe to his CSA, so we'll be getting fresh eggs, an occasional chicken and a bounty of greens and roots all the way to Easter.
Of course, if we'd planned better, we could have done some canning from our garden and from the produce at the farmers market that is so bountiful this time of year. Maybe we'll have our ducks in a row next year.
For now, we are joining the challenge with last night's dinner, local pork chops, pan-seared and smothered in Stayman apples sauteed with Madeira. I also made my new most favorite treatment for acorn squash, sliced and roasted with a pomegranate molasses glaze. Finally, there's a casserole of lima beans, tomatoes, fresh bread crumbs and sage. It was a symphony of browns, big flavors and certainly enough food.
The pork, apples and squash were readily available at the Bloomingdale farmers market, just a mile from our house. The lima beans, tomatoes, herbs and garlic all came from our own garden, the bread crumbs from a rustic rosemary loaf baked at the local Whole Foods.
My own thinking is that certain staples and pantry items--seasonings, flour, olive oil--do not need to be produced locally for the purposes of this challenge. Everything else I will be trying to find in the Washington metro area. I have a feeling this is going to be a lot of work, and take me places I haven't been before.
Sounds like fun, no?