LOCAL FLAVORS WITH RJ JOHNSON

Tuesday, September, 2017
local-flavors-organics-veg

Organic / Local / Seasonal can no longer be considered trends, they are all part of a cultural shift in the way people are choosing to eat…

First off, I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I want to say, “wow!” The food show was an incredible success and thank you to all our amazing vendors and wonderful clients and guests. I feel like I talked to 1000 people and learned something from each. One thing I was struck by though is the number of people that knowing what I do still don’t understand and/or believe in organics. Several mentioned that they don’t see a market for organics yet. That little bit of info blows my mind so, let me share with you some info of my own.

  • Organic food sales are setting records as more Americans fill their shopping carts with everything from eggs to gummy fruit snacks.
  • Having shed its hippy-dippy image, organic food is among the faster-growing categories in supermarkets.
  • Sales of organic food hit a record $43 billion last year, up 8.4% from the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association, based in Washington, D.C.. Compare that to the 0.6% growth rate in the overall food category.
  • Organic food now represents 5.3% of total retail food sales in the U.S.
  • Rupesh Parikh, investment bank Oppenheimer’s senior analyst for food, grocery and consumer products, predicts continued double-digit annual growth. “Consumers are really looking more into what they’re eating.”
  • Organic produce sales grew at more than twice the rate of total fruit and vegetable sales. Almost 15% of veggies and fruit consumed in the U.S. is now organic.
  • 44% of shoppers would pay an additional 20% or more for organic fresh vegetables, and 37% are willing to hand over that much more cash for organic poultry, found a study by the Hartman Group, a food and beverage research firm in Bellevue, Wash.
  • General Mills’ organic-only portfolio has grown more than 350% over the past five years. Natural and organic sales were $1 billion this year, growing at a double-digit clip since 2000.

Secondly, I wanted to share a few tips we came up with at our local / seasonal menu planning seminar at the show.

  • Plan ahead. The best way to work with local items is to look to the next season and research. By May, you could start preparing and brainstorming for June summer menu items. In July, look to fall dishes for September and so on. You may even choose to work further ahead. I used to plan a year out, freezing fresh ingredients throughout the year for the winter season.
  • Learn from each season. Take note of which dishes worked best and for what time periods. Use what you learn from each season to plan for the year ahead.
  • Produce isn’t the only way to incorporate local ingredients. We stock amazing local provisions like honey, locally produced peanut butter granola etc. There are amazing locally roasted coffees, locally distilled essential oils, infused sugars and salts, the list goes on and on.
  • Use customization. Just because you’re a QSR, fast casual or corporate food service establishment, local menus can still work for you through customization. Why not feature local seasonal ingredients that diners can opt to add to their dishes.
  • Think of it as research and development. Local dishes are an opportunity to try new methods and dishes that can help to improve your core menu.
  • Make it easy for your staff. Give your staff time to get acquainted with any new dishes and make sure they can easily describe it to curious diners.
  • Roll it out. Use the right combination of social media, your website, in restaurant signage, menu inserts, notations on menu boards and your staff to spread the excitement about new local menu items.
  • Get some input. Take the time to ask your staff what they look for each season. Making it fun and involving everyone in the process, suddenly gets everyone energized and re-committed to the business and to marketing it.
  • Have fun with it. Not only is a new season a new start, but the changing of the seasons also evokes fond memories and aromas for nearly everyone. Play with these familiar flavors and work to develop a menu that will help create new memories for your diners.
  • Shout it from the rooftops. However, you decide to incorporate local ingredients on your menu, make sure your customers know they’re there. Using local ingredients can be a great marketing strategy if you’re open about it!
  • Don’t forget about booze. Alcohol is one of the easiest ways to go local. We are incredibly lucky here in Arizona with an amazing group of craft brewers, wineries and distilleries. The other great thing about these local businesses is that while you’re supporting their business they will likely support your restaurant too, and most of these local guys are wonderful marketers!
  • Start small. It can seem overwhelming to think about totally overhauling things. So, start small by offering a Local Foods Night or a prix fixe menu with local produce and meats that can attract customers and be a good way to test out the local food waters. You don’t have to jump in with both feet, dip a toe first! If you’re still on the fence on whether or not to try a local menu, remember that it will allow diners to discover new flavors and ingredients at their peak. It’s also temporary, so there’s no harm in trying something new. If anything, a seasonal menu change will hopefully inspire new creations and keep things fresh and exciting for both your staff and your patrons.
  • You don’t have to have 15 local things on the menu, pick a few and make them the glue, the items that makes your menu cohesive.
  • Getting fresh. Speaking of fresh; fresh does not have to mean seasonal, but seasonal most definitely has to mean fresh. Sticking to this rule always reinforces the credibility of your menus, and of course, allows passion and quality to shine through.
  • Given the added cost of local foods, be more careful in watching food cost. When planning your menu items with local ingredients, pair them with less expensive components to keep the overall cost of the dish down.

Once again, thank you to everyone that attended our 3rd annual food show and if you were not able to make it, we will see you next year!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, August 3, 2017

local-flavor-hybrid-produce

Hybrids?

I received a ton of positive feedback on my last post about Heirloom Vegetables. It may have been because it was short and I know I can get a little long winded here, not all my post are short to be sure, but for the sake of my decision on this week’s topic let’s say it was popular because of the topic… and since the topic was so fascinating, let’s stay on the same train of thought and figure out what the hell a Hybrid Vegetable is.

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there regarding hybrid vs. GMO vs. heirloom plants, especially when it comes to tomatoes. So what’s the difference? After last week, I am sure everyone is now an expert on Heirlooms, so what is a Hybrid Plant? A hybrid vegetable is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant, aiming to produce an offspring (hybrid) that contains the best traits of each of the parents. Cross-pollination is a natural process that occurs within members of the same plant species. In hybridization, pollination is carefully controlled to ensure that the right plants are crossed to achieve the desired combination of characteristics, such as bigger size or better disease resistance. The process of developing a hybrid typically requires many years and hybrids repeatedly selected and grown that may eventually stabilize and become open pollinated. Keep in mind plants can and do cross-pollinate in nature and hybrids repeatedly selected and grown may eventually stabilize, becoming open pollinated. Note that most hybrid seeds are relatively new crosses and seed from these hybrids will not produce plants with identical qualities. For example, each year new hybrid tomato varieties are offered. You may see them labeled as hybrids or F1, first filial generation (first-generation hybrid), or F2 (second filial generation). These may eventually stabilize, but for the moment a tomato like the popular ‘Early Girl’ does not produce seeds that reliably have the features you expect in an ‘Early Girl’ tomato. Seed from hybridized plants tends to revert to the qualities of the parents, so tomatoes grown from seeds saved from your ‘Early Girl’ tomatoes might still be tasty, but not so “early”. In general, hybrids offer some combination of these favorable traits: dependability, less required care, early maturity, higher yield, improved flavor, specific plant size, and/or better disease resistance.

My favorite hybrid may very well be the Sun Gold Tomato, a prolific yellow cherry tomato that’s so sweet and delicious, it’s like candy from the garden. Some other great choices would be my number two choice Meyer lemons or broccolini, pluots, tangelo, seedless watermelon, golden kiwi or even boysenberries. The worst of all hybrids? My vote Red Delicious Apple.

In my mind, basically every plant is a hybrid if you go back far enough, birds, bees and wind doing the crosses…RIGHT?!

I love getting your feedback… email me RJohnson@PeddlersSon.com

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, July 28, 2017

local-flavors-heirlooms

Heirloom…

I love heirloom varieties of just about everything and it makes me smile that more and more people are getting on the heirloom “band-wagon”, but as I was putting this little post together I was startled to learn that a lot of people have no idea what an heirloom vegetable is and most think it’s just a tomato thing… Hmmm…

So here is my short definition:

Heirloom plant species are vegetables, flowers, and fruits grown from seeds that are passed down from generation to generation, are at least 50 years old and are open-pollinated which means they rely on natural pollination from insects or the wind. It also means we can save the seeds and plant again next season.

Over time, growers saved the seeds of their best plants, those being either the most vigorous, disease resistant, flavorful, or beautiful. You will also notice they generally have unique shapes, sizes, and colors. Totally different looking than the “must all look the same” commercial hybrids, bred to produce uniform-looking and tasting, high-yield crops at low cost. Most seeds from hybrids are sterile and cannot be passed down (and must be re-purchased every season).

Here are a few of my favorite Heirloom varieties:

Lemon Cucumber – Introduced in 1894, lemon cucumber is a tasty treat worth trying. The yellow skin with green stripes is smooth, not bitter. Flesh has an almost sweet crunch and makes for a wonderful pickle.

Mortgage Lifter Tomato – From 1940s West Virginia, where auto mechanic Charlie Byles started breeding tomatoes in a bid to create a large-fruited plant he could sell. ‘Mortgage Lifter’ was the result. By selling tomato seedlings for $1, Charlie paid off his $6,000 mortgage. These large, indeterminate plants need hefty stakes to support the fruit-laden vines. Tomatoes are pink with a sweet taste, perfect for eating fresh from the vine.

Blue Hubbard Squash – A winter squash standard. The teardrop-shaped fruits typically weigh 15 to 40 pounds and keep well into winter. Flesh is golden and fine-grained (no strings). The sweet flavor enhances pies, baked goods and savory dishes like soup or chili. A sea captain delivered seeds for this squash to Massachusetts gardener, Elizabeth Hubbard in 1798. In 1842, she shared seeds with a local seedsman. ‘Blue Hubbard’ first appeared in seed catalogs in 1909.

Jimmy Nardello Sweet Pepper – A Southern Italian coastal town, Ruoti, gave rise to this sweet frying pepper when immigrant Giuseppe Nardiello brought seeds to America with him in 1887. His son Jimmy followed in his father’s gardening footsteps and proliferated the seedline. ‘Jimmy Nardello’ peppers are red, up to 10 inches long and thin-walled, which makes them ideal for frying. They also taste great raw or pickled. Janna at Pinnacle Farms grows them every year and I think I eat as many as I sell!

Forellenschluss Lettuce – Beautiful, maroon-speckled romaine with a luxuriously delicate texture and flavor of a butterhead. is also known as ‘Freckles’ or ‘Trout Back lettuce’ (Forellenschluss means “speckled like a trout” in German). ‘Trout Back’ dates to 1660 in Holland; the seeds hit American shores in the 1790s.

Moon and Stars Watermelon – I first tasted these wonderful, dark green, yellow mottled melons at Blue Sky Organic Farms. This heirloom was introduced in 1924 and was believed to be extinct until a seedsaver shared seed in 1981.

Bull’s Blood Beets – Amazing and versatile, prized for its deep red-purple leaves, which make a terrific spinach substitute and have become a go to in the micro-green arena. The roots are delicious when picked young (2 to 3 inches) and boast concentric pink rings inside. This heirloom was introduced in 1840 by a Dutch seedsman.

So, let’s eat more Heirlooms:

  • Exceptional taste
  • Likely to be more nutritious
  • Less expensive
  • They come with a story…I love food with a story.
rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, July 21, 2017

local-flavors-why-buy-local

News Flash… I am super passionate about local, not just eating local but supporting our neighbors, and quite frankly I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t get it! So, every now and then I am going to just give you a few new facts, and maybe an opinion or two. THINK LOCAL!

  • If you are a small business owner buying local is supporting yourself too! Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally-owned business, rather than a nationally-owned business, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers, and farms; continuing to strengthen the economic base of our community.
  • The increasing size of corporations is driving inequality, while local business ownership strengthens the middle class.
  • Local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar in the local economy, as they create locally owned supply chains and invest in their employees.
  • Locally owned businesses employ more people per unit of sales, and retain more employees during economic downturns.
  • Locally owned businesses are linked to higher income growth and lower levels of poverty.
  • Studies find that a community’s level of social capital, civic engagement, and well-being is positively related to the share of its economy held by local businesses.
  • Locally owned enterprises generate more tax revenue for cities, with less cost, than sprawling big-box shopping centers.
  • Non-profit organizations receive on average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from larger businesses.
  • I live in Prescott and one of the amazing, wonderful things about Prescott is our one-of-a-kind businesses. They are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit. Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of which makes our community home.
  • Locally owned businesses make more local purchases requiring less transportation, and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss, and pollution.
  • Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally.
  • Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers. BETTER SERVICE!
  • Local businesses are owned by people who live in the community, are less likely to leave and are more invested in the community’s future.
  • A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
  • A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Maybe next week we will try some math, and look at the massive tax benefits of buying local…in the meantime, just try and spend a few extra bucks locally this week and a few more the following one. You might be pleasantly surprised by the quality of product and service.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, July 14, 2017

local-flavors-farmers-and-c

We have been spending a ton of time the last couple weeks planning for our 3rd Annual Food Show. One of the things I will be doing this year is moderating the Farmer / Chef Round Table. My assumption is that it’s going to be a really natural and convivial hour, but just in case I figured I should have a few questions to keep the conversation flowing. As I thought through what I would like the hour to look like and what questions / comments I would ask depending on which hat I was wearing, I realized a couple things…The first of which being just how much Chefs and Farmers have in common.

Here is a list of the commonalities off the top of my head:

  • Hours, lots and lots of hours.
  • Physically demanding work.
  • Hot, sweaty, dirty work.
  • Not much money in it; it’s done and done well only by the passionate.
  • Both need to lead their brigade through guidance, coaching, mentoring and time management.
  • Creativity is a must for success.
  • Have to be able to do every job and fix every piece of equipment.
  • Unwavering commitment to quality.
  • Willingness to experiment and FAIL! Innovation is a must.
  • Must be money wise given that profit margins are skinny.
  • Problem solvers need only apply.
  • ATTENTION TO DETAIL!!!

Additionally, you have to consider just how much they depend on one another and WOW what a force they could be if they were working together. The farmer has a vested interest in the chef succeeding and vice versa the chef needs and wants the farmer to be successful. The relationship would also be a remarkable and free marketing tool for both and the communities that these relationships flourish in will be stronger for it.

Farmers and Chefs are the stars of the culinary world and when they get together and start working with shared purpose we really are going to change the way America eats.

Register For Our 3rd Annual Food Show Online & Reserve A Seat At RJ’s Round Table (Seating Is Limited)

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, June 26, 2017
local-flavors-cover-crops

Cover Crops

As spring moves into summer and most of our local organic farms either move growing operations indoors or cease growing commodities for the summer, you can still drive by and see life as opposed to barren sun scorched earth. This is because several of the more sustainable operations do something called cover cropping.

A cover crop is a plant that is used primarily to slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability, smother weeds, help control pests and diseases, increase biodiversity, add organic matter to the soil, increase crop yields and attract pollinators, plus a host of other benefits to the farm. Many farmers grow plants from the legume family to add nitrogen to the soil, others grow fields of mustards as an organic inoculant for the soil and others grow crops from the grass family like Sudan grass, millet, rye and barley. Another and much newer practice is what many farmers are calling a cover crop mix or cover crop cocktail which is a combination of crops like a pea, clover and rye specifically designed to accommodate the farms long term objectives, but compared to pure stands of legumes or non-legumes, cocktails usually produce more overall biomass and nitrogen, provide ground cover, improve weed control, attract a wider range of beneficial insects and pollinators, and provide more options for use as forage. However, cocktails often cost more, can create too much residue, may be difficult to seed and generally require more complex management.

With that many benefits, you may ask why don’t all farms utilize this tactic, well the biggest reason may be one of expense. Although the crop doesn’t have to be harvested, there are still a number of associated costs, not the least of which are seed prices, cost of water and labor costs associated with planting, irrigation etc…

One of my idols is Dan Barber. Amongst many other things, Dan is the Chef of Blue Hill, a restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located within the nonprofit farm and education center, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. His opinions on food and agricultural policy have appeared in the New York Times, along with many other publications. Barber has received multiple James Beard awards including Best Chef: New York City (2006) and the country’s Outstanding Chef (2009). In 2009 he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world (People not just Chefs). In an article he wrote for The New York Times, Dan talks about cover crops and proposes a radicle idea… let’s buy and eat farmers cover crops… Radical, right? Read the full New York Times Article for yourself…

Besides being an award-winning chef, Dan is also an author and has written a book called “The Third Plate” where he discusses his moves beyond “farm-to-table” to offer a revolutionary new way of eating. After more than a decade spent investigating farming communities around the world in pursuit of singular flavor, Barber finally concluded that for the sake of our food, our health and the future of the land, America’s cuisine required a radical transformation. This is, in my mind an absolute must read!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Thursday, June 22, 2017
local-flavors-heat-wave

Wow it’s hot! Turn on the news and they tell you “it’s hot”, “stay hydrated”, “bring your dog inside”, YADA YADA… I say “we get it, we know!!” What they don’t tell you is that our food system is being effected and you better budget more money for food the next few months. The heat wave is not just melting us here in the Valley and bringing a rapid end to what was an amazingly bountiful spring, but it’s crushing the agriculture in California as well. No one feels the effects of the heat as much as the farm workers do… luckily for those in the fields of California, by law, farmworkers are required to have access to shade and fresh, pure, and cool water. Above 95°F, employers must implement high heat procedures, which includes taking ten-minute cool downs every two hours. In California, our growers are reporting that harvesting is down 30% to 50%. Here in the Valley, no one is harvesting after about 11:00am causing massive shorts and long wait times.

Aside from the heat’s impact on fieldworkers, we know that the heat could and most likely will negatively affect some crops. Speaking technically, extreme temperatures cause leaf stomates to close, limiting cooling, and spiking leaf temperatures, potentially to critical levels causing damage or tissue death. Very hot, dry winds are a major factor in heat buildup in plants. This causes rapid water loss because leaves will be losing water more quickly than roots can take up water, leading to heat injury. Therefore, heat damage is most prevalent in hot, sunny, windy days. Photosynthesis also rapidly decreases above 94°F, so high temperatures will limit yields in many vegetables. While daytime temperatures can cause major heat related problems in plants, high night temperatures have great effects on vegetables, especially fruiting vegetables. The warmer the night temperature, the faster respiration processes. This limits the amount of sugars and other storage products that can go into fruits and developing seeds.

Farms reduce heat stress by overhead watering, sprinkling, and misting for reduction of tissue temperature, amongst other things. The use of mulch also helps, especially to reduce surface radiation and conserve moisture. Several farms find the use of shade cloth to be highly effective, whether it is suspended over fields, on posts or pulled across the top of green houses.

All that being said, it’s not all bad for all growers. Hops love the heat… tomatoes, peppers, melons, some squash and cucumbers do very well in heat if the water is available and the harvest crew hasn’t dropped dead from exposure.

So while you’re enjoying that amazing slice of melon this weekend, remember what it took for someone to pick and pack it this week, under a bright sun and temperatures just south of 120°F.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
local-flavors-small-farm-ec

Wow, my last post on America’s eating habits was not only well read, but also started many really great conversations on the topic. Today I would like to delve more deeply into the subject focusing on the economics of our food system and how the law makers have it ALL WRONG!

Over the last several decades, the economics of the food system have changed dramatically. Millions of farms have folded as government policy has encouraged larger, more intensive farm operations (Big Ag), such as the factory farm (Factory Pharm). These days only a handful of corporations dominate almost every aspect of our food system, giving them too much power to control markets and pricing. The largest of these agribusinesses are what should be considered monopolies, controlling what we get to eat, what we pay and what prices farmers receive for their crops and/or livestock.

Our government actually likes this model and touts its ability to produce huge quantities of cheap food. As I wrote in my last post, this analysis fails to take into account the many hidden costs. I neglected to mention several (there are too many!), but today let’s look at a big one I missed.

Among the hidden costs of industrial food production are its effects on small family farms and rural communities, which includes the loss of nearly four million farms in the United States since the 1930s. Local farms support local economies by providing jobs for members of the community and purchasing supplies from local businesses. A University of Minnesota study showed that small local farms with gross incomes of $100,000 or less made almost 95% of farm-related expenditures within their local communities. Local First Arizona teaches us that small, locally owned farms have a multiplier effect and every dollar the farm spends, a percentage remains in the local economy, contributing to the economic health of the community. On the other side of the equation Factory Pharms hire as few workers as possible and often purchase equipment, supplies, etc. from, wait for it…the SAME agricultural conglomerates that purchase their products. This study also found that large farms with gross incomes greater than $900,000 made less than 20% of farm related expenditures locally. Plus, Big Ag often has absentee owners whose profits are sent directly out of town.

Another interesting factoid is that Big Ag is often less efficient at producing food than smaller family farms. Large-scale, single crop farms produce a large output per worker not per acre, while small family farms tend to be diversified and produce more food per acre of land. Said a different way, small family farms require more workers and create more jobs, while also doing a better job of feeding people on smaller plots of land than my friends in Factory Pharma.

Another giant stumble in our governments thinking is that industrial farming has not relieved famine or hunger throughout the world, and here in our country they have created a culture of over-consumption, massive food waste, an obesity epidemic and to top it all off untold public health consequences. I know, I mention that last one in every post…right?

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, June 6, 2017

local-flavors-food-cost

My love hate relationship with math has reared its ugly head again today as I try to find ways to explain the how and why of American food consumption compared to the rest of the world, and why at the end of the day it makes little or no sense from an economic or health standpoint. I am going to skip most of the math and stick with idea’s both good and bad.

The start off, this post came to me while reading an article comparing the percent of household income spent on food here in the US compared to other countries. Results showed that Americans spend less on food than those of any other country in the world. Though, it hasn’t always been that way, in fact, in 1963 (*the year I was born) Americans spent 1/3 of their income on food. So, what happened over the last several decades that it is now just a fraction of that, about 5% and what have we given up?

I won’t bore you with all the details, but the 70’s ushered in significant changes in the US food system.

Not The Least Of Which:

  1. The agricultural subsidy program that was originally instituted to help stabilize food supply and farmers’ incomes after the volatility of the Great Depression was turned into a support mechanism for the industrial production of corn and soy.
  2. There were massive advancements in industrial food production, including technological developments and an abundance of cheap fossil fuels used to make fertilizer and pesticides (YUM!) which encouraged the consolidation of small farmers’ plots into gigantic holdings and led to the rise of agribusiness in place of the family farm.

The Aftermath:

  1. The amount of corn produced each year in America has tripled since 1970 and with the abundance of cheap corn, the food industry figured out how to make it into cheap meat, milk, eggs, and sweets. Over time, the cost of things made from highly-subsidized crops like corn, wheat, and soy—things like cheeseburgers and soda—has declined drastically.
  2. The basic US policy is now based solely on one thing, producing calories as cheaply as possible. We’ve gotten so good at producing calories efficiently, our problem is no longer that we can’t afford enough food, but rather the types of calories being consumed (the inexpensive kind) are terrible for us.
  3. As I have mentioned before, the dollars spent at the grocery store or at your favorite restaurant are not a good or reasonable way to calculate the “true cost” of food in America. Our food is as cheap as it is because the true costs have been externalized, that is, we pay for them in rising obesity rates, unquantifiable health care costs, environmental degradation, lax safety measures, and disgraceful labor practices. I am not even going to mention the massive amounts of cheap food flooding into our country from other countries, because that math seems incalculable. Plus, if you count the money taxpayers send Big Ag in subsidies (in the neighborhood of $300 billion) cheap food starts to seem like it might not be such a bargain after all.

I’m not suggesting we should step back to my day of bell bottoms, platform shoes and people spending a third of their incomes on food (I did dig those bell bottoms though) because by making food more expensive would only make it harder for the poor and middle class to afford. However, I do think it’s worth reevaluating our spending priorities, and wondering why we’re so reluctant to pay a bit more for something so essential. The big question is how we can value food more without turning healthy food into a luxury item or making people who are already struggling to pay their bills worse off.

In another post, I will delve into how I think that’s possible, with us going back in time again to a home cooked meal, the family gathered convivially around the table. Getting the entire family involved in cooking and the clean-up, teaching skills like conversation and simple healthy cooking. Compare the cost of a dinner for four at McDonald’s and that of a wonderfully roasted chicken a fresh vegetable and a starch. I’m here to tell you the dinner at home is less expensive on a myriad of levels!!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

local-spring-mix

What Have You Done To My Salad?

Sometimes when I am around greatness for a long period of time I am afraid I start to take it for granted. Such is the case with the Blue Sky Organic Farms Spring Mix. What I needed to bring me around was a salad at a very nice and not what you would call inexpensive restaurant. This said salad was loaded with quality ingredients and had a wonderfully tart house made dressing. What it didn’t have was a base with any flavor or texture. I am not sure when it happened, but it happened… the restaurant industry and then the home cook started excepting a bland blend of four types of thin, non-descript lettuce grown for their size, weight and shelf life (notice I said nothing about flavors, textures, height or color). I would argue the spring mix is what makes the salad, it is certainly why it is a salad!

As an example of what spring mix can be, let me highlight Blue Sky Organic Farms Summer Spring Mix. Take a look at what a carefully crafted salad mix can and quite frankly should look and taste like. If you would like a sample please ask your salesman!

  • Green Romaine: Sweet & Juicy
  • Red Romaine: Earthy & Savory
  • Green Oak: Sweet & Mild
  • Red Oak: Mildly Bitter
  • Lolla Rosa: Pleasantly Strong & Nutty
  • Pepper Cress: Slightly Bitter & Peppery
  • Purple Amaranth: Deep Spinach Flavor
  • Collard: Taste of Sweet Cabbage
  • Toscano Kale: Nutty Sweet Flavor
  • Broccoli: Distinct, Mild Broccoli Flavor
  • Detroit Red Beet: Peppery w/ A Sweet Finish
  • Ruby Red Chard: Salty & Rich
  • Red Russian Kale: Mild Nutty Flavor; Both Sweet & Earthy
  • Red Mustard: Biting & Mustardy
  • Tatsoi: Succulent & Spicy Sweet
  • Kohlrabi: Texturally Wonderful w/ A Mild Collard & Kale Flavor

This mix is texturally significant and flavorful. Gives you the ability to build a salad with height whether dressed or not, 4 and 5oz salads can be easily made with 3oz of these greens and the leaves hold dressing as opposed to shedding it as less textured greens do, so you can use less.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, May 15, 2017

local-flavors-specialty

One of the many things I love about being here at Peddler’s Son Produce and Provisions is that we are as full-service and customer-oriented as a produce company can be! Of course, we have a complete line of fresh fruit and vegetables, “who doesn’t?”, but where our product line really starts to stand head and shoulders above the rest is with our ability to source the finest in seasonal specialty products from right here in our back yard, to all over the world. Put alongside our local and certified organic program and you’ll find we’re becoming your source for one-stop shopping of fine foods, backed by a quality of service.

In an effort to keep our customers up to date on what we currently have outside of our core produce commodities, there is now a series of informational flyers available here on the website and from your salesperson. The newest of these flyers is the Specialty Ordering Guide. Here you will find a few items we would like to highlight for the week, any really exciting products that are soon to market, newly in-season items and some of the many items we are most often sourcing for our chefs that like to stay two or three steps ahead of their competition.

That being said, remember that if you don’t see it on the list, that’s ok! If it’s in season we can find it!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Thursday, April 27, 2017

dear-rj

Wow… I actually get mail, E-mail that is. So, let’s call this post “Dear Rj”

Dear Rj #1: “Is it true that you can tell whether the fruit or veggie was organically grown, genetically modified, contains pesticides, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, etc… by just the PLU sticker?”

Absolutely true! PLUs for conventionally grown produce are usually a four-digit number, currently in the 3000–4999 range. If an item is organic, you will see a five-digit number beginning with the number 9. If it is genetically modified, you will see a five-digit number beginning with the number 8. Personally, I try to only purchase produce with a PLU beginning with a 9. For now, a PLU seems to be the only thing to count on if you buy from larger stores. To my knowledge there are only 4 GMO veggies or fruits in the grocery store, papaya from Hawaii, some zucchini and yellow squash, and corn. You can also add sugar beets, alfalfa and soybeans to the list which are found in a ton of processed foods. Since PLUs are currently optional to use, and especially since many Americans are afraid of genetically modified foods, retailers and even some seed suppliers when selling to farmers, opt out of using the identifying numbers. The bottom line usually wins out over concern for the health of the people. There’s not a lot of money to be made on a planet full of healthy, informed people, and there is plenty of money to cover up the issues caused by producers of genetically modified product as well as advertise its unfounded benefits. Companies like Monsanto have a budget of approximately $754m a year for advertising alone. Wonder what the ad budget is for organic farming?

Dear Rj #2: “What the hell is Celtuce?”

I must admit if I wasn’t such a huge fan of Dan Barber out at Blue Hill and Stone Barns I wouldn’t have a clue either. My guess would be some crazy hybrid of celery and lettuce, and that guess would be dead wrong. Celtuce is actually a type of lettuce grown for its long stem as opposed to the leaves. It is most common in China where it is called Wosun. When I can get my hands on this earthy yet vegetal stalk I enjoy experimenting and have found it to be amazingly versatile. So far, I have diced it, sliced it thin or julienned. Roast it, pickle it, try it as a pizza topping (everything tastes good on pizza).

Dear Rj #3: “What’s this I hear, that organic strawberries aren’t really organic?”

I may have bitten of more than I can chew here, but here is the short answer. Commercial strawberry growers don’t start with seeds, they begin with baby plants “starts” and the law allows organic farmers to use non-organic seeds or starts if there isn’t an “equivalent” organic available (really gets convoluted when you start talking about proprietary plants). Strawberry starts are very susceptible to soil borne pests and therefore all the baby plants are grown with the help of fumigants, the hard-to-control class of pesticides that have been linked to cancer, developmental problems and the hole in the ozone layer. HMMM! That’s where it ends for ORGANIC STRAWBERRIES, but are they really organic? Buy local, know your farmer, and ask questions!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

LOCAL-spring-vegetables

Still Springing

I had a ton of great reaction to the spring has sprung post about ramps, fiddleheads and morel mushrooms. I’m certain that has plenty to do with the fact that so many of you feel as I do… it’s getting harder and harder to be inspired by our wonderful winter root vegetables. Don’t misunderstand me, I love root veggies, but by this time of year what little creativity I have has been totally exhausted! So, I thought why not discuss a few more of my favorites that are popping up here this spring.

Rhubarb
Rhubarb is often considered the darling of the spring season. While it’s technically a vegetable, it’s often prepared as a fruit in culinary practices. Rhubarb is sold by the stalk, similar to celery. It is well known for its beautiful crimson stalk color, but can often be found in varying shades of light pink and pale green. Color is not an indication of ripeness or flavor. Only the stalks on a rhubarb plant are edible; the large leaves are extremely high in oxalic acid which can cause severe illness. Rhubarb is naturally very tart and crisp in its raw form. Commonly, it is cooked or baked into desserts with some sweetener to balance the tartness, however, my preference is to use it in savory dishes. I have also had amazing rhubarb pickles and a glass or two of wonderful rhubarb wine. This is a short season that only lasts April through June, so get your fill of this uniquely flavored veggie before it’s gone!

Spring Onions
You have to love the spring onion, sweeter and mellower than regular onions with usable greens that are more flavorful than that of a scallion. Basically, spring onions are onions harvested as babies with a bulb of only about 2-inches. When it comes to using spring onions I stay true to my love of simplicity and letting the ingredient speak for itself. I simply cut the spring onions in half vertically, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and grill until soft and charred. Yum! If you want to raise it up another level, sprinkle the charred onions with some feta cheese and hit them with a squirt of lemon juice.

Green Garlic
Green garlic (also known as young garlic or spring garlic) is one of the highlights of spring. Green garlic is harvested while still immature, usually before the bulb fully has a chance to develop, so it’s not uncommon to see them in various stages of growth. What started as a natural result of farmers thinning crops, increasing popularity has turned it into a crop in its own right. Green garlic has a mild garlic flavor that’s bright and fresh tasting. It’s quite sharp raw, but mellows greatly when cooked. You can use both the white and the tender green parts of the stalk, trimming away and yellowing or woody parts near the top. I love Green Garlic and use it everywhere I would use regular garlic, but just like with spring onions they are amazing grilled and are mild enough to be enjoyed by themselves. If you want to raise it up another level, stir the grilled garlic into ricotta cheese and spread it on a crostini for the best peasant bite you’ve had in a long time.

Fava Beans
An ancient member of the pea family with a nutty sweetness and creamy texture that is unique and great fun to pair. My favorite way to eat Fava Beans is a take on the Italian picnic tradition. Enjoy a raw bean with a slice of Pecorino cheese… You can expand from there by adding a bit of Salami or Lardons, we are talking classic flavor combination here.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, April 10, 2017

local-flavors-banner

It has been a blast doing these posts three days a week for the last several months, but with time becoming a commodity I have less and less of and having covered everything I initially sought out to explore with you, along with introducing many of my favorite local farms, I’ve decided to make a few adjustments to the format of Local Flavors. While I’ll continue post at least once a week, the strict Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule it’s going to be more loosely played.

The incredible speed at which our local program has grown, along with the giant strides the organic side of the business has taken, I find myself pulled in a bunch of different directions that I am sure over time will make for wonderful blog material! Some of the things I will be working on over the next month or so:

  • Meeting with growers from all over the state whose farms are at elevation and can provide us with product through the summer.
  • Working with local valley farmers on fall crop planning.
  • Rolling out our amazing new spice program to all my direct food service customers.
  • Switching over several of my clients to our NON-GMO oil program.
  • Planning the local portion of this year’s Annual Peddler’s Son Food Show. This year’s show is going to be out of this world. It will be held at Talking Stick Resort, much earlier this year (8/22/2017) and we will be having breakout sessions on things like local, truffles, etc…
  • Working with small local growers on packaging and pricing.
  • Rolling out a local program for large retail outlets.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out everything I’ve discussed over the past 4 months below and get ready for what I’ve got coming up for you next based on a variety of great things we’ve got going on right here in Arizona.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, April 7, 2017

local-melons

Here comes melon season and I for one cannot wait. Along with our local boutique offerings from farms like Blue Sky Organic Farms and Pinnacle Farms, we also have some local heavyweights like Savor Fresh and Martori Farms that supply us with a majority of our specialty melons.

Growing great tasting melons is much like growing grapes for fine wine. It takes a keen eye and attention to detail and Savor Farm’s melons are a reflection of that dedication. Savors growing practices are the most innovative in the industry. The growing process starts with soil and climate selection. It doesn’t matter how good the seeds are, without the proper climate and soil, melons will not reach their maximum flavor potential. Next the perfect seed variety is chosen to complement the growing region. Through the years, copious data has been kept relating to their growing practices and different varietal performances. This data is incorporated into a “secret formula” that creates the exquisite fruit that gives Savors customers the best tasting melons available.

This season we can expect:

Savor Fresh Farms

May 15th – June 7th The Golden Kiss Melon is a delicious cross of Galia and Charentais melons. It has a very juicy, somewhat tender flesh with a mild melon flavor and a clean, sweet finish with hints of pear. The unique gold netted skin and green striped appearance is stunning and attracts consumers right to the bin. Once opened, the brilliant orange interior with small seed cavity and thin dark green rind have a dramatic contrast.

May 15th – October 30th Honey Kiss Hami Gold Melon has a distinct light crisp texture and is incredibly refreshing and sweet. Honey Kiss melons have a lightly netted distinct yellow skin, light salmon colored meat and are oval in shape. Some melons develop brown spots (sugar spots) due to their high sugar content and are the best tasting melons. Honey Kiss melons have a long shelf life and are extremely refreshing served cut into cubes or melon balls and chilled in the refrigerator.

June 5th – Sept 25th Sugar Kiss is the newest, and sweetest, member to the “Kiss” family of melons. This melon packs a punch of flavor. The soft meat melts in your mouth, dissolving like sugar on the tongue. An incredible enjoyable eating experience. With a texture reminiscent of a Crenshaw, the Sugar Kiss has unsurpassed flavor. A native of Taiwan, the Sugar Kiss is perfect for anyone trying to distinguish themselves from the competition. The Sugar Kiss’ flavor will change your notion of a great tasting melon. A true example of our mantra, “where flavor comes first.”

June 5th – Nov 1st Summer Kiss is sweet, but not overbearing, mellow and creamy. Like a late summers afternoon, Summer Kiss is subtle and relaxing. The flavor lingers on the taste buds as you reach for another bite. With a creamy green textured flesh, Summer Kiss is perfect for adding color to any melon bowl. The netted exterior is dark gold and contrasts with the bright green interior. This melon is just gorgeous.

Martori Farms

Martori Farms, our main Arizona-based grower of premium cantaloupes and honeydews, also has one of our most popular offerings for the summer, The Kandy Lemondrop Melon.

The Lemondrop is extra sweet with a flavor profile similar to a Galia, but with a refreshing tart lemon finish that comes from the melon’s naturally occurring citris acid. With its distinct exterior appearance, high Brix level and one-of-a-kind flavor profile, the Kandy Lemondrop is a unique addition to any menu or produce department.

Since its founding more than 100 years ago, family-owned Martori Farms has developed several proprietary seed varieties that produce commodity-leading fruit characteristics. Additionally, farming 9,000 acres of melons on 25,000 acres of land allows, Martori Farms to employ ideal crop rotation to maximize soil health and productivity, contributing to higher Brix and melon quality. Located in Aguila, AZ, the desert climate provides perfect conditions to keep flavor and quality consistent with its warm, dry days and cool, mild nights.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

local-spring-produce

Spring has Sprung

It’s not such a big deal here in the Southwest, but back home in the Midwest and in the Northeast, it sure is! Yes, the birds are chirping, plants are blooming, boots have been traded for sneakers, but the real BIG DEALS are RAMPS, FIDDLEHEADS and MOREL MUSHROOMS!! That’s how we know it’s spring (yes, to answer your next question, we have all 3 in stock in limited and fast moving quantities).

Ramps: Maybe a bit overrated (yes, I said it), but they sure are good. Chicago received its name from a dense growth of ramps near Lake Michigan, so by birth I am a ramp fan, but I am also a simple man and I don’t need 13 different ramp recipes to get me through the month-long season.

I like pickled ramps: Up the vinegar and the red pepper flakes a bit in your favorite pickling brine.

I love grilled ramps: Some olive oil, Maldon sea salt and finished with a splash of vinegar… that’s it! The Perfect Bite!

Fiddlehead Fern: Simply the furled fronds of specific young ferns (usually ostrich fern), but they taste like a cross between asparagus and artichokes. Before you run out in your forager hat, please note that while some fiddleheads are the tasty, antioxidant rich, high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, others are carcinogenic as well as toxic if not fully cooked. Speaking of cooking, soak and clean your Fiddleheads well and boil for 15 minutes (if you plan to use them cold, drop into an ice bath when your 15 minutes are up).

Try this: Heat cooled fiddleheads in brown butter for a few minutes with a pinch of salt and pepper (I know you could stop right there) while you are heating fiddleheads arrange a few thin slices of prosciutto on a plate and then top the prosciutto with the piping hot fiddleheads and dig in… what’s better than melting prosciutto, right?

Morel Mushrooms: What can I say about morels? This is what a mushroom should taste like, earthy and intense, reminiscent of where it was foraged. Morels will stand on their own as a side dish or bring a unique richness to any dish.

Try this: Heat butter and shallots in a pan until wilted, add morels and sauté for about 2 minutes, add Marsala or Madeira, then some cream, salt and pepper… cook for about a minute more and have at it. Perfect as a side, over pasta or my favorite simply spooned over grilled, crusty bread.

First of Season Salad: Try a farro, pea and spinach salad with sautéed morel mushrooms, green garlic and fiddleheads topped with pickled ramps. YUM!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, April 3, 2017

local-shelf-life

Wow, now I’ve heard it all. This week I actually had a person in the produce business (not at Peddler’s Son) and a guy at a national food retailer, tell me that organic produce does not have as long of a shelf life as conventionally farmed produce. My initial reaction was, “are you kidding me”. A close second was, “who the HELL cares”, then I figured I better do some research before I start spouting off… I know that’s new, right?

Does conventional produce have a longer shelf like than organic produce?

The most definitive thing I came up with is maybe. When I am forced to try and understand how someone of reasonable intelligence comes to the conclusion that organic shelf life would be less, all I can come up with is that organic produce is “cleaner” than conventional produce, there are less chemicals used to treat it while growing and because of this, organic produce may be more vulnerable to the elements and bacteria build-up, thus retaining a shorter lifespan (rather, more in tune with how long Mother Nature intended it to be ripe and fresh). Conventional fruits and vegetables are treated with the expectation to be more resilient, both during growing and afterwards, and chemicals may play a prominent role in doing just that. However, this isn’t what I experience on a day to day basis, as there are so many factors to explain the spoiling of fruits and vegetables – organic or not – that have nothing to do with how they are grown.

It hurts me to the core to site anything having to do with MSNBC, but in a limited experiment conducted by their consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman, the shelf life of organic foods where shorter. She tested lettuce and broccoli and found that they had higher levels of the kind of bacteria that cause food to spoil. Additionally, we do know as fact that because organic fruits and vegetables are not treated with waxes or preservatives to the same degree that conventional fruits and vegetables are, they may indeed spoil faster.

None of this takes into account production, handling and delivery of the produce and all are factors in spoilage. One theory is that the distribution systems for organic products are not as well developed as they are for conventional products. This delays the arrival or organic produce to grocery stores and thus causes it to not last as long after purchased. Meanwhile, others swear that that their organic produce often outlives their conventional produce, lending fodder to the theory that distribution plays a key role in determining freshness. It is practically impossible to know how long produce has been on a shelf or in route to the grocery store or market before you purchase it.

Bottom line… if you’re questioning whether or not to choose organic because it may spoil more quickly, consider this: Organic fruits and vegetables do not contain as many toxic additives and boast 19 to 69 percent more antioxidants than conventional fruits and vegetables. Let’s be real, we could all do with a fewer pesticides in our lives, so if indeed organic produce spoils faster, it’s a small price to pay.

As a little side note, a week ago, our friends at Arizona Microgreens came by to speak to the sales team, after the meeting they left samples of their “organically grown” pea tendrils for everyone to share with our clients. Fast forward to the end of the story… when we went into the conference room a week later for our next meeting, one of the containers of Pea Tendrils had been left behind on the conference table not in the cooler and guess what…. It looked perfect! I rest my case!!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, March 31, 2017

local-hickmans-eggs

Hickman’s Family Farms is another of our amazing Local Arizona Agriculture success stories. Hickman’s egg ranch started in 1944 with Nell Hickman selling fresh eggs off her back porch at her home in Glendale. By 1957 Nell had 500 hens in her enclosed hen house. That same year her daughter-in-law got 500 chickens to match and the women became 50/50 partners in a new business. The production far exceeded the back porch by this point, so the two set out to sell to local restaurants and grocery stores. Business was so good that in two years the flock had grown to 3,500 hens. Over the next 10 years the business grew to 100,000 hens on 10 acres in Maryvale. The farm continued to grow and relocate for several years until what we see today with over 5 million hens. The largest egg producer west of the Rockies and the 11th largest egg company in the country.

Let’s see if these nuggets help put that in perspective.

    1. The buildings now cover 2 million square feet, equivalent to 7 football fields
    2. Processing capacity for shell eggs is ¾ million eggs per hour
    3. They are able to break, pasteurize and package 100,000 eggs per hour
    4. They can boil, peel and package 50,000 eggs per hour
    5. They have hens and pullets in Arizona and Colorado, with egg processing and distribution in Iowa, and distribution warehouses in Las Vegas, Nevada and El Centro, California
    6. They service customers are located from Iowa to Hawaii
    7. The hens consume the production of approximately 50,000 acres of grain products a year (that is 78 square miles). Another way to think of it is, they use a train of grain, one mile long, every month
    8. The feed mill makes a 26-ton semi-load of feed every 18 minutes
    9. They repurpose everything possible – including 800,000 lbs. per day of chicken manure. The fertilizer division ships organic, dried, pelletized, bagged or bulk fertilizer throughout the state and southern California
    10. They have about 300 full-time employees

Having been around Hickman’s for a while now, there are so many things to like about this company, from the way they care for the hens and their people to the way they are constantly innovating (cage free, 100% recycled cartoons). They make the best organic fertilizer in the state, they partner with our local sports teams, they are all about helping our schools, cage-free, feed production, sustainability, etc.…

We carry large and extra-large eggs, liquid eggs, boiled eggs and cage-free.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

local-tomatoes

I have been telling you for weeks that we are getting in the loveliest heirloom slicing and cherry tomatoes… Well now they are here and I beg you, don’t mess them up! These are the type of ingredients that make a cook’s life easy, step back and don’t screw them up. Simple treatments let the flavors sing. Here are my takes on the obvious…

Obvious #1: Caprese salad, for two reasons…This dish is all about the simple ingredients, but you must choose great ingredients! Use great fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh cut basil, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes and a great extra virgin olive oil and please, please, please put down the bottle of balsamic… there’s no brown in the Italian flag!! People use balsamic to cover up the fact that their cheese, tomatoes, basil and olive oil have no flavor!!

Obvious #2: The ever-popular tomato sandwich. I think everyone has the general idea of using great toasted crusty bread and most everyone rubs a clove of garlic into the bread, but my suggestion is to take the cut ends from your sliced tomato and rub those into the bread as well. A little extra virgin olive oil and French grey sea salt and you have yourself an amazing sandwich. Go a little nuts and add thinly sliced white onion and mayonnaise for a real treat.

Obvious #3: Now, we need to visit a classic combination and a trendy menu item. The menu item, Bruschetta… I love ordering them, I love making them, and I really love eating them. Totally easy, to experiment pick a different bread and top with what’s handy in the fridge, but for a go-to option that is great every time, I suggest the classic combination of tomato, oregano and ricotta…it just can’t be beat.

Enjoy the bounty that is SUMMERTIME!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, March 27, 2017

local-dairy
What’s In A Name? Peddler’s Son Produce & Provisions

I wanted to talk about dairy today, and it dawned on me that a ton of our customers might not even know we carry dairy… let alone the best in the state.

We are a produce house first and foremost, but we also source the best of the best in several other areas important to our clients. (More to come on several of those during the dog days of summer)
One of those is dairy and we are lucky enough to represent 2 of the very best. “Local” Sarah Farms and “Hyper Local” (for our Phoenix Metro accounts) Danzeisen Dairy, see how I masterfully work in my own giddy-up into the conversation, just to make sure you’re paying attention?

Sarah Farms: Widely known as the highest quality dairy you can buy, family owned and operated, Sarah has been processing in Yuma since 1994. I had the wonderful opportunity a few weeks ago, to tour one of Sarah’s farms and one of their processing plants…and I must say I was blown away. Everything going on at the farm is centered around cleanliness and the happiness and healthiness of the herd (they even have the milking equipment housed in the basement so the noise doesn’t bother the lady’s.) Everything going on at the processing plant was centered around cleanliness, temperature control and speed. I could go on and on about the plant, from the way they exceed every governmental standard, move the milk through the plant quickly to maintain freshness and establish a shelf life second to none, to the fact that to maintain consistency and safety they manufacture the milk jugs right there on site. Simply put, employees practice the safest and best manufacturing practices to ensure the highest quality products, under the safest conditions.

Danzeisen Dairy: I think I have mentioned Danzeisen on more than one occasion… I love this place. “No”, it’s not just the glass bottle, but I sure do love the glass bottle. This is a small family farm right here in Phoenix doing what they do, as well as anyone, for 50 years. The milk is extraordinary, the animal husbandry is second to none (nothing and no one is more important than the cows at Danzeisen), the heavy cream is the best I have ever used and where they really get me is with their flavors. To start with, I am not a flavored milk drinker, or at least I wasn’t until my booth was next to Danzeisen at the Local First Arizona farm to chef connection a few years back, and by the end of the day I was hooked! Chocolate, Arizona Orange, Root Beer, my favorite Cold Brew and any number of seasonal special flavors are all spectacular in their subtlety. They taste just like what you would imagine without the cloying sweetness, the perfect example of that is the eggnog… “I hate eggnog”; or rather I used to… Danzeisen’s Eggnog is what your brain tells you egg nog should taste like, all the flavors melding into one, not too thick, not too sweet… JUST RIGHT!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, March 24, 2017

local-mayas-farm

I first met Maya Dailey, owner and farmer of this small operation that is big on results before I moved to Arizona, at the Slow Food International Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin, Italy. What I learned immediately from meeting Maya is that she is passionate about what she does and I have since learned that her product shows it. The farm is a small, sustainable operation where they specialize in growing, cultivating and harvesting the freshest, nutrient-dense, delicious, certified organically grown specialty vegetables, herbs and flowers. Maya markets her bounty at farmers’ markets, her own CSA, restaurants, schools and distributors at a very small volume.

Maya’s Certified Organic Farm is situated on nearly seven acres and nestles up to South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona. The site is an ancient river bed, where sandy soils and natural Artesian wells create a perfect growing environment. Consciously augmented through biodynamic techniques, this rich earth produces some of the healthiest produce available.

Maya’s Farm is a beautiful location and visitors are welcome. It’s an oasis of serenity on the edge of the city that’s also evolving into a place where people meet to learn about deliciously healthful, responsible food consumption. Expansion is keeping them very busy, but Maya will customize farm classes to satisfy your curiosity about the why’s and how’s of the naturally grown diet; and of course, she will conduct farm tours upon request.

Sample of Items Maya Grows: acorn squash, Amethyst radish, beefsteak tomato, black beauty eggplant, broccoli Raab, butternut squash, Carrots, cherry tomato, chiles, chives, cilantro, collards, corn, Cucumbers, delicata squash, dill, eggs, eight ball squash, fennel, fino verde basil, flowers, genovese basil, green beans, green zucchini, hakurei turnip, ichiban eggplant, iitoi onions, italian parsley, lavender, lemon basil, lettuce, macro arugula, marjoram, Marketmore Cucumber, micro arugula, mint, mixed salad greens, mizuna, mustard greens, okra, opal basil, oregano, oriental charm eggplant, pak choi, patty pan squash, peppers, pumpkins, purple sage, romanesco squash, rosa bianca eggplant, sage, scarlet queen turnip, sorrel, spaghetti squash, spigarello, spinach, squash blossom, striped Armenian cucumber, summer squash, thyme, Tiger melon, toscano kale, tuscan kale, watermelon, watermelon radish, white Armenian Cucumber, white salad turnip, yardlong beans, yellow zucchini, zucchini

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

local-fennel

We featured fennel on our local organic flyer this week and it only seemed right to spend a little time today writing about this incredibly versatile sweet, fresh and crispy bulb of love…

Roasted: I know, I know, what can I say? My fall back with almost all vegetables is roasting, and why not…super simple and it always brings nature’s sweetness to the party. A great dish to serve to someone who claims to not like fennel. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and freshly shredded Parmesan and roast in a 375F oven until nice and brown (about 45min). Top with chopped fennel fronds and serve.

Grilled: Brush both sides of ¼ inch slices of fennel with olive oil a little salt and pepper.

Pickled: Crazy easy, crazy good. Use your favorite pickling brine, I like to add thinly sliced fresh ginger and a combination of sugar and brown sugar. Also, a great combo with green beans.

Soups: Team with carrots, leeks, potatoes or beans for fresh light flavored soups.

Other “Sweet” Additions:

      • Add sliced fennel to your avocado toast.
      • Thinly slice over a salad, add grapefruit segments (or other tart citrus) for a wonder classic flavor combination.
      • Give the fronds a ride in the food processor with the usual suspects for a new take on pesto or really up the game with roasted fennel bulb, fennel fronds, toasted almonds, garlic, olive oil and a touch of French grey sea salt.
      • Braise in cream with gold potatoes for a wonderful side.
      • Refreshing Slaw! Toss shaved fennel with a vinaigrette of lemon juice, shallot, mustard, salt, sugar, mint and olive oil.
rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, March 20, 2017

local-foodies-banner

If my memory serves me (really, what are the chances?) I mentioned in a post a month or so ago that a few well-placed microgreens on a dish will encourage patrons to post a photo online. That little comment sparked quite a bit of conversation, from “OMG Rj you are a genius” (ok, maybe I made that one up), to “are you kidding me, I already have guests setting up tripods and extra lights.” While I understand that the trend can be annoying to restaurateurs and guests alike, I’m afraid it’s not going away, so let’s embrace it…

I think in the original post I mentioned how boring a poached egg looks. Making a dish photogenic is going to obviously enhance the overall dining experience for the guest, but it may also get them to post a picture of your food on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… that’s free advertising to all their friends and followers. Encourage your guests to post their photos; you could post the best customer photo of the day on your site, great photos may earn a reward or you could even have a contest based around the best photo of the month.

PLUS, did you know a recent study conducted by University of San Diego and Saint Joseph’s University reveals Instagramming your food may actually make it taste better??!!

A few other ideas to capitalize on social media:

      • Have a plan and stay true to your brand
      • Monday can be question day, “what is your favorite dish on the menu?”
      • Throwback Thursday
      • Contest Day
      • Make sure your username is easily recognizable, use hash tags in your posts if your Twitter and Instagram are linked (and they should be, along with Facebook) make sure you don’t exceed your 140 characters.
      • Contests: Have guests post a picture with your restaurant in a hashtag to win (free appetizer, % off bill, entry to a drawing, etc…)
      • Use your restaurants social media pages to chronical preparations for big events, reveal new dishes or drinks, share the farms where the dish began, show step by step process from shelf to plate, introduce staff or give a VIP tour of “the back of the house”
      • Post daily specials
      • Ask followers to name a new dish

In conclusion, if you’re going to do it, commit and do it well. Take good quality photos, and post at least 3 times a week. The magic won’t happen right away, but it will happen!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, March 17, 2017

local-sunizona

vertically grownFamily sounds good in the name of a farm, at Sunizona it really is more about the family than the name though. Back in 1996 the family moved to Wilcox Arizona from British Columbia with the goal of starting an agricultural business that they could all be a part of… and that’s just what they did! Back in the early days they started out growing English cucumbers and shipped them all over North America. Then in 2002 they decided to change the business model up a bit, they switched from cucumber production to tomatoes, microgreens, salads and herbs, plus they focused on selling as much of their product here in Arizona as possible (as of today about 95%). Never ones to rest on their laurels the next change was to become more sustainable, so in 2008 they switched their heating methods from natural gas to utilizing a biomass boiler system in which they burn pecan shell (a local waste product), then in 2009 the “BIG” switch occurred, Sunizona became certified organic and developed a vegan organic growing system that is free from the use of animal products.

This year Sunizona is introducing a new product called the living power salad, packed with all the good flavors, textures, colors, and anti-oxidants found in broccoli, purple kohlrabi, mizuna, arugula, red mustard, and garnet amaranth. It comes to you in a sealed clamshell which is like a miniature greenhouse, alive and still growing with the roots still attached! Harvest just what you need, when you need it to ensure optimum freshness and flavor. Works great in salads, as a garnish, or wherever your creativity takes it.

power-salad

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

local-taco-hash

Being from Chicago (I know you get tired of me saying that, but I really can’t help myself), I look forward to Saint Patrick’s Day every year more than most… sure the party is great, but the food is better!

Like roasted turkey only on Thanksgiving, I question why we only have corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patrick’s Day. Similarly, I sure do like the leftovers!

I am not going to spend this post discussing how to make corned beef and cabbage, although it could be interesting to debate the best pickling spices…do you add ginger or maybe cinnamon? What kind of look do you get from your food distribution salesperson when you ask for a big jar of Sodium Nitrate. OH! That could spark an entire new discussion on all the news on the negative impact of nitrates. Then we could debate the cooking method. Boil? Hell no! Simmer low and slow in the oven? Now you’re talking, but what about the cabbage, potato, and carrots? Then we could bring it to and end with the BIG QUESTION… Mustard or Horseradish? Well maybe next year.

I want to talk about leftovers, two words TACOS and HASH…

Tacos: Warm flour tortilla filled with shredded corned beef, your favorite slaw mix, hot sauce and quick pickled jalapenos.

Hash: Nothing fancy here, break out your cast iron pan and use BUTTER. Use the left-over potatoes, shredded corned beef, carrots and onions (I like to include nice squirt of Sriracha) smash it down good in the pan and LEAVE IT ALONE! Once it is dark brown and crispy, flip it over and repeat. Top with a soft cooked egg (I like poached) and enjoy.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, March 13, 2017

local-chem-banner

Over the last several weeks I have written several times about organics… What they are, and why I believe everyone needs to be transitioning themselves and their families to organic food. After speaking to several readers, I realize in my deep seeded hatred for Monsanto and Glyphosate that I may have lead people to believe that is the only cloud of death “Big Farma” is spraying on our food. Unfortunately, that is not the case, it is just in my humble opinion the most heinous. There are in fact several other really ugly things going on in agriculture that you need to know about in order to make an educated decision about what goes on your family’s/patron’s table.

Ugly #1 is actually a class of ugliness called organophosphates. These are the insecticides most widely used on U.S. produce and include chlorpyrifos, which we find sprayed with reckless abandoned, on crops like grapes, citrus, tree nuts, broccoli, spinach, blueberries, and strawberries. Organophosphates are highly toxic to the nervous system. Several long-term studies have examined the impacts of chlorpyrifos exposure on children’s brain development, finding that virtually any level of exposure can adversely affect their IQs. Scientists have also found that prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure can physically alter the development areas of the brain that control behavior, emotion, language, and memory. Prenatal exposure has also been found to cause arm tremors in children, another sign of nerve damage. Exposure to chlorpyrifos has been linked to behavioral problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Makes perfect sense to spray that all over our food right?

Ugly #2 is Cadmium (Cd), a toxic metal that the scientific community finds, “highly relevant to human health”. In the U.S., leafy vegetables, potatoes, peanuts, and grains are all a primary source of cadmium exposure, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Cadmium is a probable human carcinogen that’s also toxic to kidneys, lungs, bones, and to children’s brains, particularly if they’re exposed prenatally or through breast milk. Here is how this little bit of loveliness makes it into our food chain… Organic farming relies on soil health and a key factor in soil health is organic matter (Hmmmm) With conventional farming and their preoccupation with spraying death to kill weeds and bugs it is not surprising they also kill all the organic matter, which requires them to use grotesque amounts of fertilizer just to get their crops to grow and guess what’s in fertilizer (especially those designed to add phosphorus)… Yup our ugly #2.

This is by no means the end of the story or the list of uglys, but I need to save some content for another day.

My expectation is not that you just take my word for all this, run home, empty the fridge and pantry then race to Whole Foods to stock up on your new lifestyle. I want to start the conversation and make you aware of what’s going on, do some research on your own… and yes, if you are a parent of young children, I want to scare the HELL out of you!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, March 10, 2017

local-abby-lee-farms

“What’s Growin’ On at Abby Lee Farms…Good New & Good Time Ahead

(GOOD NEWS) I am thrilled to announce that with the warmer weather and welcome sunshine we will soon be able to offer the most amazing tomatoes in Arizona, direct to you from Abby Lee Farms. I am sure you have all heard of Abby Lee Farms and have had the pleasure of tasting the tomatoes. Neal Brooks has been growing since he started his high-tech hydroponic growing facility here in Phoenix back in 2013. Full disclosure, Neal is a friend and someone that I respect very much. Neal feels as passionately as I do that LOCAL is where it’s at… not for the trend, not as a business model, but as a way of life, a way for communities and farmers to co-exist, “the way it’s supposed to be”. Neal has been growing and peddling what he grew since he was 12 years old and now oversees three 100,000 square foot polyhouses… the original here in Phoenix, one in Willcox and the last in Stafford. With these high-tech facilities all on line and spread across different climates, Neal’s goal is to be able to provide local, harvested ripe, naturally grown tomatoes from vine to us in 48 hours max.

(GOOD TIMES) Abby Lee Farms is hosting a Planting Festival next weekend, March 18th and 19th, from 9am until 5pm at their Phoenix farm 1400 W. Baseline Rd. Phoenix, AZ. 85041. PLEASE go check out the future of farming, meet Neal and his team, taste the most amazing tomatoes and cucumbers and see how they manage to grow them with only 10% of the water used in conventional farming.

Check out the flyer below and RSVP today! Watch our local flyer for Abby Lee Farms availability and features.

Abby-planting-fest

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

local-ingredient-kale

The answer to “what’s growing on” here in the valley is often KALE. Kale’s popularity over the last 10 years has been very interesting. The Healthy Set and the Vegetarians can’t get enough, and the main stream folks are trying it and can’t figure out why in the world anyone would eat this stuff. There are too many to choose from and they are all tough, chewy and smell like bad cabbage. Having spent most of the last 30+ years in the restaurant business, I can tell you I have set a lemon wedge on way more kale than I ever sold or eaten.

That being said, over the last few years I have become a convert… You can’t deny that it’s good for you, hell it’s a Super food… right? Tons of Vitamin K, A, and C, plus calcium, manganese, copper, iron, those cancer killers’ lutein & zeaxanthin (and other antioxidants), 45 different Polyphenols, Glucosinolates, Carotenoids and lots of fiber.

So, let’s break down what’s what and how best to prepare it so it’s not tough, chewy and stinky.

There are lots of varieties available, but I am going to focus on what is most prevalent here in our local market:

Green Kale: Also, called curly kale or Winterbor. This is the most common of the kales and the one that I used as a garnish for much of my early career. Slightly tough with a pleasant bitterness. Perfect for juicing, soups or even salads. TIP: Massage your kale… I know it just keeps getting crazier, but this really works. You can just rub the leaves and break down the cellulose, but what I like to do is add either olive oil or lemon juice and sea salt and then massage the leaves. You will be amazed at the tenderness you can attain.

Red Kale: Several red kales are available, the most common being redbor. Basically Green Kales pretty sister, similar appearance and texture with a bit more sweetness. Another red variety, Red Russian (essentially a rutabaga developed for its top growth) is my favorite of the “ornamental” types, tender and sweet.

Black Kale: Also, called Lacinato, Tuscan, Toscano, Dinosaur, or Dino. In my humble opinion this is the Cadillac of the Kales. Try this in your kale salad or as the green in soup.

Other Local Varieties: Here in the Valley we also see Purple and White Peacock Kale, Siberian Kales, Premier Kale, Kamome and Walking Stick.

One last tip, DON’T OVER COOK… that’s where the bad cabbage smell comes from!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, March 6, 2017

local-organic-pricing

produce-shopping-comic“Why do organics cost more than conventional?” I get that question in some form or another at least once a day. There are so many answers and variations of answers to that question, that I am afraid it sometimes sounds like a sales pitch rather than an honest answer. This is my take, no fluff, just the facts and nothing but the facts.

My Take:

      • Organic prices more closely reflect the true cost of growing.
      • No chemicals equal more labor…think weeding.
      • Demand, especially here in the local market can exceed supply.
      • Organic fertilizer is more expensive.
      • Cover cropping, a common organic practice used to add beneficials to the soil, is not a cash crop.
        (Most conventional farms just keep planting cash crops back to back to back and count on synthetic fertilizer to support plant growth as opposed to soil health.)
      • Organic certification adds costs to farms through mandatory facility modifications, extra labor, including extra employees needed to maintain strict record keeping standards and exorbitant inspection fees.
      • Crop loss due to disease or pests that organic farms need to contend where conventional farms would use chemicals to address.
      • Organic crops can take longer to grow.
      • NO SUBSIDIES… Conventional farming receives mandatory Federal subsidies in the 10’s of billions of dollars.

My Soap Box:

Are organics really more expensive? Look a little deeper than the bottom of your invoice or grocery receipt. The answer is categorically “NO!”

Basically, consumers pay for conventional produce a minimum of 3 times. You pay at the point of purchase, you pay in your tax dollars that go to mandatory subsidies for conventional farming, and your tax dollars are also used to pay the enormous costs of environmental clean-up.

Looking Deeper Into The Numbers:

Human pesticide poisonings and illnesses are clearly the highest price paid for all pesticide use. The total number of pesticide poisonings in the United States was estimated to be 300,000 in 1992 (EPA, 1992). Not to mention 250,000 poison cases involving animals, a large percentage of the cases were related to pesticides (National Animal Poison Control Center, 2003). Those are the poisoning numbers… I won’t bore you with the numbers and scientific data on cancers and other maladies that are now being linked to pesticides, herbicides and fungicides or the beneficial insect populations that are adversely affected like praying mantis, lady bugs and BEES.

Not all crops benefit, often entire crops are killed due to over use of pesticides, pesticides drifting from application area to nearby crops and crops having to be destroyed because they exceed the FDA and EPA regulatory tolerances (reported to be 1–5%) are disposed of as required by law, allowing about $1 billion in crops to be destroyed because of excessive pesticide contamination. Special investigations and testing for pesticide contamination are estimated to cost the nation more than $10 million each year (Pimentel et al., 1993a).

Now let’s talk testing and clean-up, pesticides applied at recommended dosages to crops eventually end up in ground and surface waters (Cornell, 2003). Estimates are that nearly one-half of the groundwater and well water in the United States is or has the potential to be contaminated (Holmes et al., 1988; USGS, 1996). EPA (1990) reported that 10% of community wells and 4% of rural domestic wells have detectable levels of at least one pesticide of the 127 pesticides tested in a national survey. Estimated costs to sample and monitor well and groundwater for pesticide residues costs $1100 per well, per year (USGS, 1995). With 16 million wells in the USA, the cost of monitoring all the wells for pesticides would cost $17.7 billion per year (Well Owner, 2003). I am not sure how many of you remember Rocky Mountain Arsenal, but to make a long story short, the area was contaminated with among other things organochloride pesticides, organophosphate pesticides, carbamate insecticides, organic solvents and feedstock chemicals. The removal of pesticides from the groundwater and soil was estimated to cost approximately $2 billion. If all pesticide-contaminated groundwater was to be cleared of pesticides before human consumption, the cost would be about $500 million per year. Don’t get me started on fisheries, wild birds, etc…

I hope you can see that the issue of price is really an issue of COST! My hope is also that as the organic market continues to grow because of education and health concerns, we will continue to see prices decrease, but don’t lose sight of the fact that, “it is better to pay the farmer today, than the doctor tomorrow”!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, March 3, 2017

local-mcclendons-farm

As one of the first organic farms in the Valley, planting citrus as far back as 1975 and becoming USDA Certified Organic in 2005, McClendon’s Select quickly became the grower of choice among award winning restaurants throughout the state. Known for the highest quality produce, harvested at the peak of freshness, Bob McClendon and three generations of his family are now growing over 100 varieties of certified organic produce at the original farm in Peoria and their newest project in Goodyear partnering with The Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

I have known Bob for just over 6 years now, first as a customer at the Old Town Farmers’ Market and the old Town & Country Farmers’ Market (his first), then as a competitor and now as customer again… One thing was always crystal clear, this is an incredibly smart gentleman that cares about people, is passionate about growing high quality ORGANIC produce and truly wants to see organics on a level playing field with conventional produce and people of all walks of life given the opportunity to eat good clean food.

We are honored to offer McClendon’s Select products whenever they are available to us and look forward to seeing what they are planning next.

You can find McClendon’s Select at The Uptown Farmers Market on Wednesdays as well as the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market (my personal favorite market) on Saturdays.

As a way of introducing you to Bob’s passion, if you have somehow managed to miss it after all these years, we are currently offering:

celeryMcClendon’s Select Certified Organic Celery… 18 count, dark green, dense and beautiful with sweet celery flavor absolutely no bitterness for just $13 | V653101.

Please allow 48 hours for delivery.

 

 

 

 

 

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

local-cauliflower

Recipe Day (Wednesday) is always my favorite… Kind of a comfort zone and no soap box!

That being said, I may put a toe up on said box today just because…

Judging from my e-mails, messages on social media and general conversations, there is still some confusion on the difference between Hybrids and GMOs.

I am going to try and explain the difference as simply as I can, after all I am a simple man. Basically, a hybrid seed is something that could and most likely would occur in nature, two similar varieties of plants crossed, plant breeders just move the process along faster and in a controlled environment (Natural). GMOs on the other hand would likely NEVER happen in nature. The scientists are combining genetic material from one kingdom to another like adding bacteria to a plant (Unnatural).

So, here’s to the Hybrid: Tri-colored Cauliflower, the colors in the cauliflower is not what was hybridized, however, what the plant biologists have achieved are tighter heads, a nuttier flavor, cold resistance and color fastness for the most part.

A few ideas for my favorite Hybrid:

Roasted: I know there are two schools of thought on roasting, but I am old school and love the sweetness developed from caramelization from a higher temperature. So, crank up the heat, oil and salt well and for an added layer of flavor finish with a nice squeeze of lemon.

Grill: Cut the heads into thick planks drizzle with oil, season and grill over high heat.

Fry: Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a pan, I like to use a thick plank of cauliflower for this method as well, cook until nicely brown. Season and then toss it in a hot oven until tender. Garnish with fresh herbs.

***My personal favorite . . .

Mashed: As a Midwestern boy, I love my steak and potatoes. Just something so comforting and wonderful about that bite! However, lately I have been trying to not eat meat and potatoes together as much. Smarter people than I, suggest that you don’t eat two things together that require your digestive system to work extra hard, so I have substituted Mashed Cauliflower…and it’s UN-FREAKING-BELIEVABLE! Nothing fancy here, make as you would your favorite mashed potato recipe, pretty much all the same exact principles apply. TIP; cook cauliflower very tender, dry the cauliflower really well as you would your potatoes and liberally salt. If you rice the cauliflower in the food processor it cooks up as a super-fast side dish, cheesy or garlic mashed recipes work great too.

Current Availability:

          • Tri-colored cauliflower 12ct | $24 | V205200
          • Blue Sky Organic Farms Cauliflower 22lb | $33 | V6581BS
          • Blue Sky Organic Farms Cheddar Cauliflower 22lb | $40 | V6551BS
rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, February 27, 2017

local-flavor-awards
As usual, here I sit pondering and since it’s award season, I thought maybe we would hand out a few gold trophies of our own. That’s enough content for a post… right? Who in town is doing the right thing for the right reasons in the local / organic movement.

So here it is, the “Peddler” Award…

peddlers-wagon

Here are the winners (In no particular order)

Local First Arizona: All about making Arizona a better place to live. Local First Arizona promotes, supports and celebrates a vibrant and sustainable Arizona economy by educating citizens about local business ownership, social equity, cultural diversity, environmental kinship, and collaboration. Business owners please join Local First Arizona’s business coalition and I encourage individuals to join the Localist program. LocalFirstAZ.com

ck-farmers-market

Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn: Of all the great resorts in the Valley, Jeremy and his team are committed to at least one local ingredient per plate and I can tell you from experience each of those plates are spectacular. HermosaInn.com/Lons


Fiserv Company Kitchen:
Taking workplace food service to a new level. These innovative markets and cafes not only feature local and organic produce, but offer weekly on-site farmers markets for the employees as well. CompanyKitchen.com

Blue Sky Organic Farms: There are several wonderful local growers here in the valley and I am enormously proud to work with each and every one of them, but no one does it better or for all the right reasons like this farm. BlueSkyOrganicFarms.com

Whole Foods Market Place: I know they get a ton of flak for being too expensive etc… but they bring a line of products to us here in the valley in a quantity and quality that can’t be competed with. Local and organic is not just a trendy business model to them, they believe in the what and the why they do what they do. “Eat Real Food” WholeFoodsMarket.com

mlb-team-local-signage1Spring Training: The Diamondbacks, Indians, Royals, Angels, Athletics, Reds and THE WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS all have their cafes and salad bars loaded with locally sourced organic produce.

 

 

Honorable mention Local Supporting Restaurants (no they are not all my customers):

          • The Bianco Group (Pane Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco, Tratto, etc…)
          • DeSoto Central Market
          • Copperwynd Resort
          • Merkin Vineyards Osteria
          • Andaz Scottsdale
          • FnB
          • Monarch Café
          • Kai
rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, February 24, 2017

local-rhibafarms

I am torn on the title for this post, “Who Knew” or “Shame On Me”. I have been familiar with Rhibafarms for years now, because I truly love their Blue Oyster Mushrooms, but I thought that was where the story ended. Unbeknownst to me that’s not even where it started, it started with the realization that there was a lack of a local resource for wheatgrass. So, armed with that entrepreneurial spirit they started to grow wheatgrass for juice bars and home juicers around the valley, and haven’t looked back since. I had no idea the diversity they offered, but I am certainly glad to know now. What started out as a way to grow food for the family and friends at their Chandler property has become a passion and a way to share great naturally grown, nutrient dense produce with the community. They now operate a greenhouse and a commercial aquaponics system on that property and in addition to that urban farm they now have a ranch property in Gilbert, growing much more than wheatgrass! Rhibafarms now produces pounds of aquaponic lettuce, micro greens, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and much, much more. On top of all that, they are also raising free range – cage free chickens and give their customers the unique opportunity to adopt a chicken of their own. Basically, the customer funds the bird’s care, Rhibafarms keeps that chicken happy and the customer gets the eggs!

It’s all about health at Rhibafarms, for the water, the plants, the soil and the customer. They start with high quality certified organic seeds, great water, and amazing soil. They monitor the pH of the water in the hydroponic systems, they compost and cover crop for soil health and oh… those chickens are doing their part for the soil as well.

So now I know, I hope you’re as impressed as I am, Rhibafarms is doing good work for good reasons!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

local-blue-oyster-mushrooms

After writing about Hyper-local on Monday, I didn’t have to ponder long on what to use as our focus ingredient for today. We have been getting in spectacular, big, beautiful Blue Oyster Mushrooms that are a blast to work with. Often, we are working with dehydrated oyster mushrooms or small mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong, after a warm bath in stock I love dehydrated mushrooms and the small oyster mushrooms are great torn and quickly tossed in a stir-fry or added at the end of a light cream sauce, but these large mushrooms can stand on their own in several ways…let me share a couple with you:

Tempura
We all have a go to Tempura batter, use your favorite! (I always use ice cubes, pastry flour and a good amount of cornstarch… very watery)
I like to simply tear the mushrooms into large pieces. Dredge in flour, dip into batter and immediately fry to a golden brown.

A quick sauté (is that a tautology?)
Here’s your chance to show how wonderfully mushrooms and herbs can play together! Simply coat the large pieces of mushroom in your own blend of flour and herbs (I like Thyme and Marjoram, with garlic and of course Pimenton)
I sauté the shrooms in butter and oil until golden brown and serve with soy sauce.

Roasted
Drizzle the mushrooms with olive oil and chicken stock and a dot of butter. I go heavy with the salt and pepper then roast in a hot oven 425° F or up, turning occasionally until they start to brown nicely then just serve simply with chopped parsley.
And now for my conspicuous sales pitch…

Peddler’s Son Shopping List:

          • Rhibafarms Blue Oyster Mushrooms (V177010)
          • Blue Sky Farms Thyme (H6506BS)
          • Blue Sky Farms Marjoram (H242900)
          • Paprika Smoke Span (S121658)
          • Paprika 85 Asta Domes (S121656)
          • Aloha Gold (G320005)
          • Blue Sky Farms Italian Parsley (H6405BS)
rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, February 20, 2017

what-local-mean-banner

We have talked a lot about local over these past few weeks and it’s rather apparent that I am passionate about supporting Arizona, not just agriculturally, but local businesses in general. I feel it is not only just the right thing to do, but it also makes the most sense to care for our community and the people that live and work here. A great example of why it makes sense and how we benefit as a community was recently published by my favorite organization here in Arizona, Local First Arizona;

If a community the size of Tucson shifted just 10% of its spending from non-local to local businesses, the shift would have an impact of:

1,600 NEW JOBS

$53 MILLION IN NEW WAGES

$130 MILLION+ IN TOTAL ECONOMIC IMPACT

Local First Arizona’s ten reasons to buy Local

My why buy local produce is just below in the post, dated Monday, January 16, 2017

I think we all can agree buying local is a good thing and worth a little extra effort to do so, but what the heck is “local” anyway? That my friend is the million-dollar question! The simplest answer is it depends on who you ask. The more accurate answer is it depends on who’s asking. Why are you buying local, is it for freshness, shelf life, higher nutritional content or do you simply want to know who’s growing your food? Well then local to you is different than the guy who is far more interested in the long-term benefits of supporting local businesses to the community or even the state. Everyone agrees that the focus towards local is growing, it’s important and the trend has been growing exponentially since 2007. What they don’t agree on is what constitutes local especially when it comes to our food! In 2008 Congress passed H.R.2419, which amended the “Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act”. In the amendment “locally” and “regionally” are grouped together and are defined as

‘‘(I) the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles [640 km] from the origin of the product; or ‘‘(II) the State in which the product is produced.

— Bill Text – 110th Congress (2007–2008) – THOMAS (Library of Congress)

For the most part the produce business agrees with the USDA and bases the definition on “food-miles”, the distance between where the food was grown and where it is consumed. So, local is food grown 400 miles from its origin or within the state lines. I tend to lean, within the state lines. To further muddy the waters, my actual preference is what is now being called in some circles “Hyper-Local” or within 100 miles. That make the most sense to me, now we are eating seasonally, helping our actual community, we can build a face-to-face relationship with the farmers and the product is at its freshest, plus we are easing the environmental impact of getting the fruits of a farmers’ labor to market.

Sounds perfect, right? Hmmmm, what about a local farmer who grows here in the valley, but out of season moves his growing operation to California? How about a manufacturer of ready to eat products that purchases the raw ingredients in another state, but processes here in the Valley and employees all Valley residents? Do you support a local restaurant that serves no local produce, meat or wine or a California based restaurant that uses all local ingredients? Welcome to my world… looking forward to your comments. Let’s build a dialog and make some decisions for ourselves!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, February 17, 2017

local-danzeisen-dairy

“The Freshest Milk Possible”

danzeisen-dairy-milk-truck

Ten miles from downtown Phoenix is where Danzeisen Dairy has been operating for more than 50 years. Descending from a rich family history of farming, the Danzeisen Dairy Farm has been a part of the dairy business in Phoenix for generations. Neil and Gertrude Viss, grandparents of present day owners, moved to Phoenix in 1959 from Southern California to rent the first dairy of the family business near 51st avenue and Northern. They later built another dairy on 75th Avenue and Broadway in 1967, and a second dairy was purchased less than a mile east at 67th Avenue and Broadway. Gail, their oldest daughter, met and married Clayton Danzeisen. Together they have four children and thirteen grandchildren. Kevin, the oldest of the four, is now the general manager of dairy operations. Brett, the third son, is in charge of transportation and harvest for the dairy. In 2002, the name of the dairy was changed to Danzeisen Dairy.

There is nothing to not love about this dairy, from the amazing milk that really does taste better, to chef inspired flavors, wonderful people and THE SIGNATURE GLASS BOTTLE (the way milk was meant to show up at your door)!! As if that wasn’t enough, you need to see how well these cows are treated, the philosophy is that they take care of the cows that take care of them. The cows have their own doctor to monitor their health and nutritionist to ensure the most balanced diet and no growth hormones.

danzeisen-dairy-milkThe impressive line of products include; Whole, 2%, 1%, skim, Heavy Cream and Half & Half, plus an amazing selection of flavors like Chocolate, Strawberry, Arizona Orange, Root Beer and the Cold Brew flavor which is relatively new and is absolutely amazing. It’s reduced fat milk, pure cane sugar, organic coffee extract, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3 … that’s it. Give it a try, this one comes with a big Rj seal of approval.

Interested in learning more? Take a tour of the creamery to see how they bottle milk the old-fashioned way! You also get a tour of the original family dairy farm that has been in the Danzeisen Dairy family for over 50 years. Tours start March 4. DanzeisenDairy.com

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

local-leftover-recipes

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s recipe (idea) day. Monday’s post was about shelf life, so I thought maybe a couple ideas on what we can do with produce that is on its last legs might be fun.

Stir-fry: Slice it thin and cook it fast, no one will ever know their meal was a day away from the dumpster.

Soup: A little stock is all you need to turn tomorrow’s trash into today’s brothy treasure or hit it with an immersion blender and a pat of butter for a pureed treasure.

Roast: My personal favorite, toss everything with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at high heat for a sweet veggie treat that is good hot or cold.

Last but not least, how about a quick pickle?:

          • ¾ cup shredded carrots
          • ¾ cup thinly sliced Persian, Kirby or European cucumbers
          • ½ cup shredded daikon radish
          • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
          • 2 tablespoons sugar
          • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

banh-mi-sandwichTo make the pickled vegetables: In a bowl, toss together the carrots, cucumbers, daikon, vinegar, sugar and salt and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

I love quick pickled veggies and they always make me think of a Banh Mi Sandwich, check out this link to a recipe I did back on July 13 of 2013.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, February 13, 2017

local-produce-shelf-life

Shelf Life… Who Knew?

Ok… I know I have been a little wordy lately, so when I sat down to outline this post I was excited that I could make my point quickly and succinctly…DAMN! It looks like I may need to cover more than I was expecting. It’s not quite as simple as I thought when I initially got to work on this, I was just going to say buy local and oh by the way, organics have the same or better shelf life… short and sweet, right?

As you know produce is highly perishable and shelf life is a race against the clock for growers, processors and all end users. The national average of produce shrinkage is at 6% according to the Produce Marketing Association, meaning shelf life costs US retailers alone more than $2.1 billion per year. A University of Arizona study further claims that U.S. restaurants, convenience stores and supermarkets alone throw out 27 million tons every year, which they calculate represents $30 billion of wasted food.

It is important for us to remember that the shelf life of produce revolves around the basic fact that fresh fruits and vegetables continue to function like living organisms, even after they are harvested. Freshly harvested produce uses stored energy and oxygen to remain alive and the faster it uses up its stored energy, the shorter the shelf life.

The main factors that affect the shelf life of produce include improper handling, ethylene exposure, and temperature abuse.

If produce is improperly handled during harvest and is damaged or bruised this causes the fruit or vegetable to expend more energy faster than undamaged produce reducing its shelf life. Additionally, if harvesting conditions are not sanitary, bacteria has the chance to thrive as bacteria feeds off of stored energy. Both of these issues are reasons I choose small local farms when I can. Most of the damage to produce is caused by mechanical harvesting which is very rare on small farms and the care taken when hand harvesting on a small farm compared to hand harvesting on a large corporate farm, where crews are paid by the piece, is also significantly better. Ethylene exposure also mostly falls into this category, damaged product releases large amounts of ethylene which effects surrounding health product.

Temperature abuse and humidity control are two other critical factors. As an example, if storage temperature increases by only 2° F the relative humidity drops approximately 7% which reduces produce shelf life by 50%. Leafy greens, last 4 times longer when stored in a room with 95% relative humidity than in a room with 80% relative humidity. Here is where things are less cut and dry and why relationships with farmers and distributors becomes very important. Let’s start at the farm, harvest is one of the most important stages of what we call the “cold chain”. Most large corporate farms and some small farms use a system called field packing, which is just what it sounds like, the product is harvested and packed right there in the field. That is not the problem, the problem is that the harvest crews for the most part leave the boxes right there in the field, at some point in the future another crew comes by and puts the product on a trailer and when the trailer is filled it is taken to a main area where hopefully it is cooled. The cooling at this point usually takes place in one of two methods… The cartons may be loaded into a cooler, but the cooling process will take time, especially because the product is hot, probably in a plastic bag, in a box, packed tightly on a pallet so it can’t breathe and pallets are stacked up against each other restricting air flow. The other popular method is to place all the cartons in a vacuum cooling tube, the tube basically forces evaporation which has a cooling effect. Then again, it also has a drying effect, several of these systems add water to combat the drying, but added water cannot take the place of water in the plants cells and often ends up with overly wet product which accelerates decomposition.

Small farms that harvest small amounts, chill with water and or ice and then package and refrigerate, having by far the best results. The problem is that its only the first link in our cold chain. The product now has to stay cold from the farm to the truck to the distributor, etc.

This little equation also answers a question I often receive about produce purchased at the local farmers’ market. That is as fresh as it gets if you buy from a local farm, so why doesn’t it last as long as what I bought at the store. Several reasons come into play here, but let’s just create a little scenario of our own.

I show up at the farmers’ market at 11am the farmer has been there since 5am, does he have a refrigerated truck? The produce is beautifully displayed under a hot tent and I purchase my bounty, hangout at the market for an hour or so, put the product in my hot car, drive to the grocery store to buy what I couldn’t score at the market, leave my market haul in the oven, oh I mean car, then after a few more errands I get it home and put it in the fridge…. Hmmmm sound familiar? So much for the cold chain. That’s why local can get a bad rap and that’s a wrap, more (much more) on shelf life another time.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, February 10, 2017

local-raw-honey

What’s Growing (buzzing) On at Honey Hive Farms

With the focus on GMOs this week or the lack there of, I thought we might touch on the subject of neonicotinoids, and then Honey Hive Farms in Peoria Arizona. As far as neonicotinoids, I am going to keep it short and sweet. I think if you believe me that our food system is broken, in large part because of huge chemical companies, you don’t need any more convincing and if you don’t believe me already you never will.

Millions of bees die because of Neonicotinoid pesticides manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta, GM crops treated with neonicotinoids are related to colony collapse of bees and 94% of GMO corn in US is treated with either imidacloprid or clothianidin pesticides

The Buzz on Honey Hive Farms:

My friend Tim Moore, the owner and award winning honey maker at Honey Hive farms in Peoria Arizona is well aware of the recent plight of bee’s. You see, Tim also has a family farm in Missouri where he has watched the soil become sterile and the bees dying off for years. With his operation here in Arizona, Tim keeps his bees only on his organic property and on organic farms across the valley.

Based in Peoria, Honey Hive Farms has been producing a variety of raw honey products for the Valley since 2008. Always innovating and adding products is not enough for Tim either, he’s conducting bee keeping classes, starting a new farm and orchard in Peoria PLUS building a multi-use facility to provide the community a place to have small gatherings in an urban agricultural setting. I will keep you all informed on classes, when the new farm is opening and what I am sure will be another list of projects going on at Honey Hive…

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

local-flavors-recipe-2817

The blog focused on GMOs this week, so I thought I would do a recipe based on ingredients that are most commonly found to be genetically modified.

This is one of my all-time favorite dishes and if you’re not careful chocked full of GMO’s.

I know my readership is almost 100% talented, professional cooks, so this is written as an outline more than a recipe. I would expect yours to taste different than mine, as we all put our touch on what we do.

Calabacitas con Elote

Sweet Corn: There was a time that I felt comfortable telling people that most sweet corn grown here in the United States was not GMO corn… Unfortunately, those days have quickly passed us by with the advent of Monsanto’s sweet corn with Bt protein. So, buy organic! I take it off the cob and heat it in a skillet with a little boiling water.

Oil: Canola (today, about 90% of the world’s canola crop is genetically modified.) Corn (corn oil is highly refined, hexane-extracted from GMO corn, and loaded with omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids that are unstable when exposed to heat. ) Soybean (typically made from GMOs, as 94% of U.S. soybean crops are genetically modified. ) So, let’s start with OLIVE OIL!

Sauté yellow (white works great too) onions (organic is great, support a small organic grower, but onions are on the clean 15 list) and organic US garlic (I won’t go into all the details, but most garlic is from China and Chinese garlic is doused in chemicals to stop sprouting, to whiten it, and to kill insects and plant matter. I have also seen reports that Chinese garlic is grown in untreated sewage. To whiten it they are using chlorine or with a mixture of sulphur and wood ash. To stop sprouting they use growth inhibitors made from hormones or chemicals and gamma irradiation.) Once your onions and garlic are looking good add…

Organic poblano peppers and any other peppers you may like. I will often use organic red, yellow and orange bells or mini sweets (on the dirty dozen) organic zucchini maybe some organic yellow squash when the squash gets to your desired softness stir in the corn and organic tomatoes. I love using halved organic cherry tomatoes, but they all work well. Season as you wish with salt and pepper add the cheese. I love cotija cheese but cheddar works great as well, then I like to top with queso fresco and or Mexican sour cream and chopped organic cilantro.

Another thing I love about this dish is its versatility. It’s perfect as a side dish, or simply double the portion to use as a main. My favorite, serve with soft corn tortillas, rice and beans.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, February 6, 2017

local-gmo-discussion-banner

GMO Yes or No?

If you read my post on organics or have ever heard me speak on the subject, you know I come down on the “NO to GMO’s” side of the argument. I am however aware that many people feel differently, even ones that I respect, so I am going to try and frame this piece as informative by answering the many questions that I have received and not get too preachy on the subject. That being said, at the very least, our food needs to be LABELED, so consumers can make their own decisions without having to Google every item they pull off the supermarket shelf.

Here’s what I know… A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Because this involves the transfer of genes, GMOs are also known as “transgenic” organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same.

GMO’s were first introduced into the food supply in the mid-1990s, since then GMOs are now present in the vast majority of processed foods in the United States and a considerable amount of factory farmed produce. GMOs are currently banned in Europe and elsewhere, while our FDA does not even require the labeling of GMOs in food ingredient lists. GMOs have been touted as a way to feed the world by increasing nutritional benefits and productivity, but to date all that has been added is herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide. These results have no health benefit, only economic benefit. You may be asking yourself (I hope you are), “how is it that the FDA allows GMOs when the European Union and so many other countries ban them?” The answer is relatively simple; our government took action relying solely on the available research at the time, based on studies conducted by the same corporations that create them and profit from their sale. Meanwhile, other countries decided to wait for more testing, thinking it better to error on the side of safety. Surprisingly, or not, as the independent research comes in, genetically modified foods are being linked to toxins, allergic reactions, illnesses, infertility, death and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. The effects on humans consuming these new combinations of proteins produced in GMOs are still being studied, but most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe and have significant restrictions or outright ban their production and sale. In our increasingly consolidated food industry, farmers have fewer and fewer options, and the advice they hear at every turn is “go GMO.” This happens not just in the United States, but increasingly around the world as well.

Other things that you need to consider when making a decision for you and your family are:

          1. GMOs increase corporate control of our food. Increasingly, the food industry is dominated by a handful of powerful corporations that control nearly every aspect of how our food is produced. Monsanto, for example, now owns a staggering number of seed companies that were once its competitors. For people who buy groceries, it’s distressing to realize that the dozens of brands in the grocery store are mostly owned by a few parent companies. When a company has a virtual monopoly on a whole aisle of the grocery store or a set of agricultural products, they make decisions based on what’s best for their profits, not what’s best for their customers or the planet. This consolidation of control is easy to see in the corporations that create GMOs. Biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and Syngenta create not only GMO seeds, but an entire system of food production. If there’s profit to be made in selling one product farmers need to buy, there’s far more profit to be made from creating a system of products designed to work together; for example, linking seeds with specific chemicals that these companies also sell, like Monsanto soybeans that are engineered to withstand Roundup, the weed killer produced by Monsanto. If a farmer plants those soybeans, they’re going to buy Roundup as well.
          2. GMOs don’t live up to the hype, GMOs often don’t even do what they’re supposed to do. You’ve probably heard Bill Gates and other “do-gooders” say that, “we need GMOs in order to feed the world,” on the presumption that only GMO crops have a high enough yield to keep up with a growing population. The trouble is, that simply isn’t true. Studies on most GMO crops have found little to no yield improvements, and long term studies of organic farming show that organic can match conventional agriculture’s yields. In other cases, biotech companies claim that their GMOs have nutritional benefits, or will solve some other pending crises. Take “golden rice,” which is supposed to cure vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t: the beta-carotene in golden rice can’t be absorbed by the body unless combined with certain fats and oils, which is not helpful for people living in poverty with a limited diet. Plenty of non-GMO foods, like carrots and sweet potatoes, are rich in vitamin A and don’t require millions of dollars to produce and grow. Golden rice makes for good PR, but it won’t solve the world’s nutritional problems. Other times, GMO crops serve no practical purpose at all – at least for the people who eat them. A new trend you will see in your local food stores soon is even more ridiculous… they are using science to stop apples from turning brown when we cut them? Non-browning GMO apples are purely a marketing scheme, a way to make produce look fresher than it actually is and to make life easier for processors who want to sell cut-up apples to fast food chains.
          3. More GMOs means more chemical use. Many GMO crops are specifically engineered to resist certain weed killers, such as the potentially carcinogenic Roundup, so planting GMOs means that farmers end up using the associated chemicals, and using them in more ways when they use GMO crops. Those chemicals end up in the environment and threaten the health of farmers and farm workers, as well as the communities they live in. The system for making sure these chemicals don’t end up in our food is extremely weak. What’s even worse is that, because of increased chemical use, the pests are catching up. Over time, weeds and insects evolve a resistance to the chemicals we use against them. The more we use, the faster they adapt. Many common herbicides are no longer effective on our farms, which leaves biotech companies to encourage the use of harsher chemicals, which the pests will eventually adapt to… leading to an arms race of dangerous chemicals where people and the environment will inevitably be the losers.
          4. GMOs and organics can’t coexist. Trying to keep a farm GMO-free is harder than you might think. Some GMOs don’t stay put where they’re planted. It’s quite common for them to contaminate neighboring farms, or even farms many miles away when pollen from GMO crops drifts on the wind. Seed supplies can be contaminated with GMOs, too. In 2013, an Oregon farmer found GMO wheat in his field – an unapproved crop that hasn’t been field tested since 2005. This is a serious problem for organic farmers, who are not allowed to use GMOs.
          5. There is a great deal of research out there about the safety and effects of GMOs – but far too much of it is conducted, funded or otherwise influenced by the biotech industry. Disturbingly, this includes research done at public universities. When GMO advocates claim that there’s a “scientific consensus” about GMOs, or that leading scientific organizations are on their side, they’re often cherry-picking points from reports that cast the debate in a more nuanced light. We need more truly independent long-term safety research into the effects of GMOs on our health and the environment. There are plenty of good reasons to be concerned about GMOs. But for consumers who are concerned, it’s not always clear in the marketplace where these crops end up – and biotech and food companies are fighting tooth and nail to stop new requirements that GMO foods be labeled.
          6. A 2009 International Journal of Biological Science study found that rats that consumed Roundup Ready corn for 90 days developed a deterioration of liver and kidney functioning. Another study found irregularities in the livers of rats, suggesting higher metabolic rates resulting from a Roundup ready soybean diet. Research on mouse embryos showed that mice that were fed Roundup Ready soybeans had impaired embryonic development. A two-year feeding study done by independent scientists on 200 rats showed that rats fed Roundup Ready GMO corn developed more mammary tumors, had severe liver and kidney damage, and had a higher incidence of premature death. Even GMO livestock feed may have consequences down the line for consumers of animal products. In a study published in 2006, Italian researchers discovered biotech genes in the milk produced from dairy cows fed a GMO diet, suggesting the ability of transgenes to survive pasteurization. Meanwhile, a 2012 Journal of Applied Toxicology study revealed that Bt toxins present in GMO foods might affect human tissue at the cellular level, especially when combined with pesticides associated with GMO crops, such as Roundup.
          7. Not only are herbicide-resistant crops potentially dangerous to eat, but their production drives the escalating use of agrochemicals. Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup is one of 750 U.S. products containing the active ingredient glyphosate, the safety of which has been disputed for years. Evidence suggests that glyphosate may pose animal and human health risks. Nevertheless, glyphosate use on Roundup Ready crops has grown steadily even though risks associated include:
            • Cell Toxicity: Glyphosate exposure causes cell damage and even cell death. A 2009 study published in Chemical Research in Toxicology found that glyphosate caused DNA damage to human cells even at lower exposure levels than those recommended by the herbicide’s manufacturer. An Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis study found that Roundup induced the presence of mutations in mouse kidneys and livers. Additionally,
              studies on human cells have demonstrated the genetic toxicity of glyphosate.
            • Carcinogenicity: Inhalation of glyphosate poses a long-term cancer risk for humans. Agricultural workers who apply glyphosate to crops have an 80 percent increased risk of developing melanoma, according to studies.
            • Neurotoxicity: Glyphosate exposure can impair the nervous system as well. A 2002 Environmental Health Perspectives study showed a significant correlation between glyphosate and adverse neurodevelopmental effects. One man who sustained acute glyphosate exposure developed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease only 30 days after the accident, possibly due to the neurotoxicity of the herbicide.
            • Endocrine Disruption: Several studies link Roundup with endocrine disruption. A 2010 study published in Chemical Research in Toxicology found that glyphosate based herbicides caused highly abnormal deformities and neurological problems in vertebrates. A Texas Tech University study showed that Roundup inhibited mouse steroid production. Further research has shown that Roundup also has a negative impact during fetal development in rats and on human embryonic cells. Another study showed that glyphosate concentrations 100 times lower than their recommended agricultural use disrupted endocrine enzymes in human placental cells.

It’s only fair I try and give you the perspective on the other side of the aisle. The “pro” GMO side of the question disputes most negative studies as biased, notably arguing that researchers are using rats that have a higher propensity towards tumors. They really believe that they are getting higher yields, use less herbicides, use less pesticides, can grow products with better texture, flavor, shelf life, nutritional value and are creating a way to feed the world. Other arguments include; feed animals have been fed a constant diet of GMOs for 18 plus years and farms are not littered with dead and dying animals. Additionally, with GMO crops they use targeted pesticides and herbicides, unlike organic farms that must use a broader assortment of products and therefore need more.

At the end of the day, we all need to make our own choices, BUT I can tell you from my heart, that in my years at Blue Sky Organic Farms we proved most of the arguments false. Yields are as high or higher at a quality organic farm, the product yields, texture, flavor and shelf life are also on par and as far as nutritional value, that is totally dependent on plant health, and organic farming is based on soil and plant health. Most recent studies show organic foods, especially those grown on small farms are more nutrient dense, not less. Now for the anecdotal evidence. I can count dozens of customers over the years that were given death sentences by their physicians or catastrophic news like Cancer or MS, etc… these people didn’t take their diagnosis laying down they fought and they sought second opinions and several are now cancer free and in remission with NO DRUGS, just changing their diets to 100% organic. Now I am no doctor, but that tells me there is something wrong with our food… it’s either making us sick or keeping us from getting well…either way I know what choice I’m making!!

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, February 3, 2017

local-pinnacle-banner

Pinnacle Farms is owned and operated by Janna Anderson. Janna started farming with a little 20’ x 20’ plot of land behind Scottsdale Community College back in 2000. She quickly out grew the small plot of land and moved into what is now Pinnacle Farms West.

local-pinnacle-farms

Along with her produce for the farmers’ market, she started growing Heirloom wheat…way before heirloom wheat was a thing! She now has a thriving business growing heritage grains, and lucky for us she has continued expanding, as well as adding more and more heirlooms such as White Sonoran Wheat, Chapalote corn and Rio Bavispe pinto beans.

Pinnacle Farms is 47 acres now in total and is located at the base of South Mountain (Pinnacle South) as well as the 3 original fields in Waddell under the White tanks (Pinnacle West). The south farm is a historical orchard property in Laveen, that had been abandoned for many years prior to Janna purchasing the property. The farm was Certified Organic in 2015, and is re-developing into a wonderful fruit orchard with over 800 trees, including peaches, lemons, grapefruits, oranges and rare Maktoom Dates brought from Iraq in 1910 (which were one of the few living things left after the years of neglect.)

We are very proud to offer everything that Janna grows for the wholesale market, this month we are featuring I’itoi onions, the last of the Maktoom Dates of the season, and some incredible citrus including Lisbon Lemons and Ruby Red Grapefruit.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

local-juicing

All you have to do is scroll down and read a few of my posts to realize, I am not a writer… so I find it a bit of a conundrum that I suffer from writer’s block, but I sure do!

Today while staring at the keyboard, sipping a spicy green juice, praying for some sort of divine intervention on a recipe to share, I got back to back phone calls from home juicers looking to score organic produce… BANG the light bulb lit up; “JUICE”!! Several people over the last few years have asked me about juicing, the whys and the wherefores, so it just makes sense to have juicing as the subject of our Recipe Wednesday, it actually fits in with the discussion we started last week about organics, the dirty dozen and why organic is important. I am sure that there are a few of you sceptics out there that I still haven’t been able to convince of the importance of eating clean and all the benefits of organics, but I am also sure if you walked into your local grocery store to buy a bunch of kale and you found side by side identical bunches, one organic and one conventional…. each and every one of you would choose the organic. HMMMM you know I’m right, on a level playing field no one thinks it’s a good idea to ingest a bunch of chemicals you can’t spell let alone pronounce. Now think about juicing it…. One of the benefits of juicing, is it pushes all the nutrients directly into the blood stream where your body can quickly up take and use them, now let’s think about juicing conventional produce, EWWW it would be like mainlining all of the nasty chemicals we are afraid to eat. Juicing conventional produce should be illegal!

By the way these recipes are for use with a juicer, and while we are on the subject of juicers I’ve included a bit of info below on blending below to try to clear up juicer vs. blender question I get quite often.

Juicing is a process where the liquid part of the fruit or vegetable is separated from the pulp, or fiber. You get a thin and concentrated liquid product that contains vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.

These quantities and combinations are just a suggestion. Use what you like, use up what’s in the fridge, but be a little careful not to too much fruit, as you are adding calories and sugar. Get to like green juice, it’s a developed taste like a triple IPA LOL 😉

CLEANSING GREEN JUICE

  • 3 Organic Cucumbers, peeled
  • 3 Organic Hearts of Romaine Lettuce
  • 2 Organic Gala Apples, cored
  • 1 Organic Celery Heart
  • ½ Organic Lemon

IMMUNITY BOOSTING JUICE

  • 1 medium bunch of Organic Celery
  • 1 Organic Fuji Apple (or other bold,
    sweet and crispy apple of choice)
  • ½ of an Organic Lime
  • 1 cup Organic Spinach
  • 1 cup Organic Kale
  • 1 knob Organic Ginger
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY JUICE

  • 4 Organic Celery Stalks
  • ½ Organic Cucumber
  • 1 cup Organic Pineapple
  • ½ Organic Green Apple
  • 1 cup Organic Spinach
  • 1 Organic Lemon
  • 1 knob Organic Ginger

CLASSIC GREEN JUICE

  • 1 Organic Green Apple
  • 1 knob Organic Ginger
  • 5 large stalks Organic Celery
  • 1 Organic Cucumber
  • 1 large handful Organic Parsley
  • 5 stalks Organic Kale

TIP: To make it more palatable if you’re new to juicing, stir in a few ice cubes with the finished juice blend or add a jalapeno or serrano to the blend (or simply a shot of hot sauce)…Here is also were I take the opportunity to get my turmeric, add 1tsp.
Blending what you put in the blender is what you consume. The volume of the drink, which is often called a smoothie, will be much greater than that of a juice made from the same amount of fruits or vegetables. You can use anything from a standard blender to higher-end products like a Vitamix.

With smoothies, you retain the fiber, which can help you feel fuller and improve your digestive health. In addition, you can add other types of foods to smoothies like nuts, seeds, and yogurts to increase your intake of healthy protein and fats. This drink will be thicker and may take some time to get used to.

An easy morning smoothie is not a bad way to start your day, as they’re both nutritious and filling! Play with these, adding ginger, cinnamon, apples, seeds, nuts etc.… Give your smoothie a terrific nutritional punch by adding micro-greens. Feel free to share your favorites with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

KALE-BANANA BLEND

  • 1 Organic Banana
  • 2 cups Organic Kale
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Milk
  • ½ cup Frozen Organic Strawberries. (I freeze
    Fresh Berries to have on hand)

ARIZONA MICROGREENS COCO-BERRY SMOOTHIE

  • 1 Organic Banana
  • 1 cup Frozen Cherries
  • 1 cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 1 cup Baby Spinach
  • ½ cup Broccoli Microgreens
  • ¾ cup Coconut Water

SPINACH-BANANA BLEND

  • 1 Organic Banana
  • 1 cup Soy Milk
  • ¾ cup Organic Spinach
MY FAVORITE BLEND

  • 1 cup Plain Nonfat Yogurt
  • 1 Organic Banana
  • ½ cup Orange Juice
  • 6 Organic Strawberries. (Great
    with Blueberries and Raspberries as well)

ARIZONA MICROGREENS WELLNESS SMOOTHIE

  • 1 Organic Banana
  • 1 cup Frozen Pineapple
  • 2 cups Wellness Mix
  • ½ cup Sunflower Microgreens
  • ½ cup Coconut Water

ARIZONA MICROGREENS GOLDEN GOOD MORNING SMOOTHIE

  • 1 Organic Banana
  • 1 cup Frozen Mandarin Oranges
  • ½ cup Frozen Mango
  • ¾ cup Frozen Peaches
  • ½ cup Radish Microgreens
  • ½ cup Coconut Water
rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, January 30, 2017

why-organics-banner

After Monday and Wednesday’s posts I was surprised by the amount of feedback we received with questions regarding: What is organic? How is it different? How can we be sure it is? Why is it more expensive? I guess after being involved in the industry for so long I take some things for granted and for that I apologize! So, today let me try and give you some answers.

Many growers will say, “they grow organic”, “organically”, or “follow organic guidelines” and that’s great… but at the end of the day unless you know and trust this grower they are only words. Right now, the most meaningful label you can find on your food is the USDA organic seal or a seal from a third-party certifier.

These are the 3 Labels you will see most often in this market.

organic-cert-lables

 

 

 

For a product to earn these labels they must meet several stringent standards; some of which being:

          • Organic crops cannot be grown with synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or sewage sludge.
          • Organic crops cannot be genetically engineered or irradiated.
          • Animals must eat only organically grown feed (without animal by-products) and can’t be treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics.
          • Animals must have access to land that has been converted to organic, with ruminants (hoofed animals, including cows) having access to organic pastures.
          • Animals cannot be cloned.

That’s the simple textbook answer and believe me a whole lot goes into getting there and staying there, which is one of the biggest reasons organics cost more.

First the farmers land must be converted to organic. Converting land to organic status is at least a three-year process. There is a two-year conversion process consisting of building up the fertility of the land. Produce grown in the first year cannot be stated as being “Organic”. In the second year, produce may be stated as “In Conversion”. It is not until the third year that produce may be identified as being fully organic. Soil and natural fertility building are important parts of organic farming. Sounds expensive, right? Cost is higher, do to these factors as well:

          • Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.
          • The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars.
          • Organic farming is more labor and management intensive. The use of organic fertilizers and organic pesticides, are more expensive than chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
          • Organic farms are usually smaller than conventional farms and so do not benefit from the economies of scale that larger growers get.

Bonus Answers To Other Common Questions:

Outside of organic farm costs, how do you further justify the higher price of organics?

If we keep supporting organics and the demand grows, the cost will come down. Also, if you really take a minute and think about it, food is less expensive than doctors, and organics help prevent diseases and illnesses. You will eat less because your brain tells you to eat based on the nutrients it receives and you receive more from organics.

Do organics contain more nutrients?

There is growing research that indicate greater amounts of certain nutrients in organic crops compared to conventional crops. Two newer studies:

          1. Organic milk has shown that it has more antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and vitamins than non-organic milk. (Danish Institute of Agricultural Research)
          2. Organic tomatoes have excessive formation of antioxidants, such as quercetin (79% higher) and kaempferol (97% higher). As we all know, antioxidants are good for health and help in reducing heart disease and the chances of developing cancer. (University of California, Davis)

There are also plenty of studies coming out now that show the antioxidants in organic foods tend to have a greater impact on our bodies due to the fact that chemicals are not negatively interacting with vitamins, minerals, etc. I have also read several papers that suggest organic foods lead to increased intake of antioxidants by our bodies, Organophosphorus being connected to developmental problems like autism and ADHD and plenty more research coming out every day…none of which suggests that somehow a smorgasbord of chemicals is in anyway good for you.

What percentage of pesticides used are truly considered harmful?

If you’re concerned about pesticides, the application of potentially harmful, long-lasting pesticides and fertilizers are not allowed in organic agriculture. The EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer-causing.

Is organic farming better for the environment?

Yes, organic farming is better for the environment. They replenish and maintain healthy, fertile topsoil with rich biological matter that limits erosion and impact on watersheds.

Certified organics are all non-GMO, right?

Yes, indeed. Organic standards prohibit GMOs. So, simply by choosing organic, you are also choosing non-GMO.

Related News:

I really wanted to share with you that last Friday a judge tentatively ruled that California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people. This is a first step… Monsanto will no doubt fight this with all they have, and even if they lose, once a chemical is added to a list of probable carcinogens the manufacturer still has a year before it must attach the label.

Additional Resources:

Health Ambition: Good Eating Habits
Organic Trade Association Website
National Agricultural Library

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, January 27, 2017

local-blue-sky-organic-farm

Note: Full disclosure, I spent an amazing few years employed at Blue Sky Organic Farms

A family farm dedicated to hard work and growing the best quality produce possible in Litchfield Park since 1995. This 35-acre farm is certified organic, which in simple terms means the fields and growing practices meet strict federal standards and those standards are upheld through rigorous inspections by third-party inspectors and conducted under the strict purview of the Arizona Department of Agriculture and others. Being a certified organic grower is not just a business plan for Blue Sky, they truly believe and passionately pursue a world where clean, non-GMO, locally grown food is the norm. They care about the future health of their community as well as the viability of small American family farms, and they fight the good fight every day to find a working model to support their family and teach others how to do the same.

arial-view-blue-sky-farms

Blue Sky Farms specializes in growing a wide variety of vegetables and melons for local restaurants, distributors, Farmers’ Markets, and their own farm stand and test kitchen. Here at Peddler’s Son we distribute every item the farm produces and stock most items for next-day delivery. This is the premiere grower in the state, with soil and plant health at the farm better than they have ever been.

farmer-david-voseOwner David Vose’s work experience extends from his work within some of the most professional kitchens scattered across the country to distributing for the finest small growers Northern California has to offer. All of which provided him with a unique perspective, while further complimenting his ability to grow specific items, under specific sizing constraints with the unparalleled quality and shelf life that both Arizona chefs and retailers have come to depend on.

If you are interested in checking out the farm there are several opportunities available. The first Sunday of every month during growing season is “Open Farm Day”. Additionally, they do offer tours to individuals and groups – visit their website for further details and contact information BlueSkyOrganicFarms.com.

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

local-organic-clean

What’s Growing On?

Instead of recipe ideas this week I thought we could look at what from the dirty Dozen + is available right now in the valley.

Dirty Dozen Plus items currently available locally:Apples: We’re quickly coming to the last of the Wilcox apples for the season. We are not stocking any right now, but with a couple days’ notice I can get them here. All Bagged 2 ½” Pink Lady, Sundowner or Red Delicious.

Celery: Available from Blue Sky Organic Farms, wonderful full heads of Celery (12 ct.), not butchered as you’ll often find from large commercial farming operations.

Cherry Tomatoes: If you want a Cherry Tomato, I have the one for you. Blue Sky Organic Farm’s field grown heirlooms are simply the best choice for a cherry tomato here in the valley, these come with my personal money back guarantee!

Snap Peas: Very limited quantities this time of year, but Janna out at Pinnacle Farms has beautiful, crunchy and sweet peas that are so good raw I have yet to cook any.

Spinach: Perfect time to find spinach here in the valley, we stock Blue Sky Organic Farms baby spinach and bunched spinach (both super tasty, super hearty semi-savoy varieties) we can also get McClendon Select baby spinach (also semi-savoy) with a day or two notice.

Strawberries: Duncan Family Farms highly sought after strawberries are coming into market right now and Blue Sky Organic farms is not too far behind… You have to try these berries to believe it!

Kale: Wow, do we have kale…perfect, tender, beautiful kale. Pinnacle Farms Toscano Kale, Blue Sky Organic Farms Winterbor, Toscano, Redbor, and Purple Peacock.

So come on… dip your toe in the local organic pool, the waters warm and the benefits are many.

produce-dirty-dozen-ewg
Source:Environmental Working Group
rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, January 23, 2017

local-flavors-opinion-banne
monsantoAs I sat staring blankly at my computer monitor and a list of the amazing farms we are currently working with* trying to formulate a plan for this week’s post, something struck me “Organic!” My mind raced as I contemplated a rant about the evils of conventional farming, GMO’s, glyphosate, and the Great Satan, Monsanto! Oh, how I could wax poetic on the importance of soil health, protection and fertility to long term productivity now and for generations to come. Wow… I could let loose with so many facts supporting the claims that healthy organic soil with its micronutrients and mineral richness not only produces healthier, more nutritious and tastier plants, but also better shelf life due to superior plant health! Then I could bring it all back around with the story of our bees, everyone loves bees and knows without them we will parish… so, how could the hateful chemical companies think it was a good idea to spray synthetic chemicals like neonicotinoids and glyphosate that harm our pollinators, and without question every other living thing, all over our food?

Now that I had everyone in the office contemplating the “chemical shit storm” they ate for lunch, I could ask the question…. Is the unprecedented diagnosis of autism and Alzheimer’s related? Gluten intolerance, celiac disease…. How is it we never even heard of that a short generation ago? The big “C” Cancer…. Non- Hodgkin Lymphoma etc… how is it that these diseases continue to grow exponentially? Mustn’t our “food system” be broken? That’s it! That is what I will write about!

Nah!

All kidding aside… The fact is, we have some of the best organic farms in the country right here in our backyard, growing some of the most beautiful and tasty produce I have ever seen and tasted. They deserve our support, they are fighting the good fight against what seems to be insurmountable odds. No governmental support, ever increasing regulations, sky rocketing labor costs, competition from big “F-arma”, corporate agriculture and countries like Mexico that pay their employees slave wages and flood our market with inexpensive, but what I feel to be inferior product.

Protect our health BUY ORGANIC!! Protect our way of life, protect a farmer and BUY LOCAL!!

* Blue Sky Organic Farms, McClendon’s Select, Pinnacle Farms, Maya’s Farm, Agratopia, Briggs & Eggers, Duncan Family Farms, Justice Brothers, Rhiba Farms, Sunnyzonna and Arizona Microgreens.

A great place to start prioritizing your organic purchases is with what has been called the “Dirty Dozen” these are the 12 types of produce that test highest in pesticide residues (YUM!)

One of the biggest supporters of Local and Organics here in the valley is CopperWynd Resort & Club, Chef Paul deeply cares about his guests and only purchases organics when possible and will not purchase anything off the dirty dozen list that is not “CERTIFIED ORGANIC”

12 Most Contaminated

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
The Dirty Dozen Plus

    1. Strawberries
    2. Apples
    3. Nectarines
    4. Peaches
    5. Celery
    6. Grapes
    7. Cherries
    8. Spinach
    9. Tomatoes
    10. Sweet Bell Peppers
    11. Cherry Tomatoes
    12. Cucumbers
    13. Hot Peppers
    14. Kale/Collard Greens

Source: Environmental Working Group

If you are interested in learning more about organics and what I truly believe is the poisoning of a generation, here are some links that will do a much better job of explaining what’s going on than I can do from high atop my soap box.

Links:

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Friday, January 20, 2017

local-az-microgreens

The first growers I would like to introduce to you are brothers that have not only changed the way I feel about and use microgreens, but have also taught me a unique method to truly enjoy a meal. Joseph Martinez and David Redwood founded Arizona Microgreens in 2013, after a few local chefs pointed out the various issues they were encountering with the shelf life and flavor of out-of-state product. So, from behind a small restaurant in Cave Creek, Joseph and David built their first greenhouse from scratch and after much trial and error, figured out what goes into growing the perfect microgreens right here in Arizona. Along the way, they outgrew the 200-square-foot self-made structure on the edge of the desert and now operate out of a 13,000-square-foot greenhouse in South Phoenix, and have evolved into the premier organic growers of microgreens for restaurants and individuals here in Arizona. Their microgreens, both herb and vegetable, are grown for just a few short weeks and harvested for peak flavor and maximum nutrient density on the day of delivery.  Everything is grown right here in Phoenix at The Brooks Community School, which is an innovative educational facility and community asset that operates as an incubator of wellness, education, and success for the South Phoenix community. The guys also donate a portion of Arizona Microgreen’s sales directly toward supporting the financial sustainability of the Community School.

az-microgreens-greenhouse

These microgreens have changed the way I use and think about micros on a whole. Most people think of microgreens as just a fancy garnish… don’t get me wrong, they are the best garnish, bringing flavor, color, texture and interest to any dish, but if you want your customers photographing and posting pictures of your food…ADD SOME MICROS!  Get creative… onion micros on eggs benedict, arugula micros on avocado toast, or micro salad to top a burger.  Smoothies on the menu? Nothing brings the nutritional punch like microgreens!

az-microgreens-dish

I love dining, every penny of my disposable income is spent on food. I have been that way for most of my adult life and I am good at it, some may say GREAT! Who would have thought someone could show me how to enjoy dining even more? Well, Joseph from Arizona Microgreens and Chef Nick Rusticus have done just that…

S A V O R     D I N I N G
contemplative gastronomy

They are offering a truly unique experience with a six-course mindfulness based menu rich with local and organic produce, I am not going to spoil it for you, but its game changing!  http://www.arizonamicrogreens.com/savor/.

MICRO SALAD RECIPES

Micro Salad w/ White Balsamic Vinaigrette

          1. Sliced Cherry Tomatoes, Crumbled Goat Cheese,Sunflower Seeds, Avocado
          2. Shaved Fennel, Feta, Capers, Olives, Sliced Sweet Bell Peppers
          3. Dried Cranberries, Toasted Pecans, Crumbled Goat Cheese
          4. Shaved Beets, Toasted Almonds, Cucumber, Lemon Zest

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

          • 1 1/2 cup Pure or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
          • 1/2 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
          • 1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
          • 2 teaspoons Dry Mustard
          • 1 teaspoon Salt
          • 1 teaspoon Sugar
          • 1 teaspoon Shallot

Whisk all together in a bowl until combined.

Micro Salad w/ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

          1. Avocado, Shaved Carrots, Cucumbers, Sunflower Seeds
          2. Dried Figs, Sliced Cherry Tomatoes, Toasted Almonds
          3. Black Beans, Sliced Cherry Tomatoes, Crumbled Goat Cheese, Cucumbers

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

          • 1 cup Pure or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
          • 2 cloves Minced Garlic
          • 1 teaspoon Salt
          • 1/2 cup Cilantro Leaves
          • 1/2 cup Lime Juice
          • 1/2 cup Agave or Honey
          • 1 tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
          • 1 medium Jalapeño Minced with seeds removed

Place all items in blender and pulse lightly a couple of items to break down the cilantro. Be careful not to over blend or allow the vinaigrette to get hot or the cilantro will oxidize.

Micro Salad w/ Spicy Peanut Dressing

          1. Micro Onions, Toasted Almonds, Sweet Peas, Avocado
          2. Shaved Carrots, Toasted Peanuts, Sliced Sweet Bell Peppers, Sesame Seeds
          3. Sliced Apple, Orange Segments, Micro Onion, Toasted Almonds

*Spicy Peanut Dressing

          • 1/2 cup Pure Olive Oil
          • 1/4 cup Peanut Butter
          • 2 tablespoons Sesame Oil
          • 1/2 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
          • 2 tablespoons Chili Powder
          • 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
          • 2 tablespoons Ginger
          • 3 cloves Garlic
          • 2 tablespoons Sesame Seeds

Place all items except sesame seeds in blender, pulse until ginger and garlic are well incorporated. Place in bowl or desired storage container and whisk in sesame seeds.

*Rj’s Favorite; This is crack! I can’t get enough… Works well on any salad (try with Napa and red cabbage) and even better with the addition of grilled chicken. I use Peanut Butter Americano (local) for my peanut butter. A little squirt of Sriracha sauce adds a welcome kick as well. Makes an equally great dipping sauce for dumplings and spring rolls.

VISIT OUR PRODUCTS PAGE TO VIEW FULL SELECTION OF ARIZONA MICROGREEN ITEMS

 

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo

Monday, January 16, 2017

local-flavors-banner

Welcome to Local Flavors… Every week I am going to share with you my take on “What’s Growing On” in local agriculture (Mondays), how people are using the wonderful produce that is being grown here in Arizona (Wednesdays) and finally introduce/feature one of our amazing growers (Fridays).

Before we get started let me introduce myself…. my name is Rj Johnson. 5 years ago, after 30+ years in the restaurant business I decided to get my hands dirty! For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for farm to table cookery and it was time to embrace the other side of that equation. I spent the last 5 years, learning everything I could at the Valley’s premier organic farm, Blue Sky Organic Farms in Litchfield Park Arizona. What I learned could fill volumes (and someday it may), but what I came away with in spades was a burning desire to do something to help small local growers, the organic movement and Arizona agriculture. The question was, what? Do I start a growers’ only farmers market, do I start a farmers’ co-op, do I stand on top of Camelback Mountain and scream to the masses the benefits of local and organic? Then it came to me… a Food-hub! I have found likeminded, passionate people here at Peddler’s Son Produce and Provisions and together we are going to create our interpretation of an Arizona Food Hub!

What we want to do:

          1. We want to be the catalyst for a healthier, more sustainable food system by strengthening the ties between the farmers and their communities.
          2. We want to be the most trusted source of exquisite food grown right here in Arizona.
          3. We want to provide local harvests to everyone from chefs planning seasonal menus to kids picking out lunch in their school cafeteria.
          4. We want to be an ally to farmers, helping them share the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor with our community.
          5. We want to help farmers connect with each other and with those who enjoy what they grow, letting them know their work is making a difference.
          6. We want to work with local farmers to meet the needs of our customers, whether restaurants or large institutions.
          7. We want to offer almost every in-season crop that our clients would want to prepare in their kitchens. When a particular crop is not available in our local foodshed, we will work with trusted sources in California and beyond.
          8. We want to soon help our farmers tailor their plantings for future seasonal menus.

We might be biased, but we think Arizona grows the best food in the country. We want to keep our local harvest local, minimizing our impact on the environment by reducing how far our food travels and how it’s taken care of on the journey.

“What’s Growing On”

The Local Food Movement is not a trend, it is a step back to what is good and right. As a country, we are beginning to realize, we want farmers, we need farmers. We don’t want to be dependent on foreign countries to grow our food.
We are realizing that local is important!

Why?

            • Eating local means more money stays within our community, a lot more!
            • Local produce is fresher and tastes better; it is usually sold within hours of being picked, as opposed to having been kept in storage for days or weeks.
            • Local produce is ripened on the vine, not harvested early so it can travel long distances giving you tastier more nutritious product.
            • Local food promotes eating seasonally. Seasonal is how we were designed to eat and when crops are in season and abundant, they are less expensive as well.
            • Local food is safer, food that travels less distance and passes through fewer hands has far less likely to be contaminated.
            • Knowing your farmer helps gives your food a story… share the story. Let’s stop FEEDING and start dining again! Dining should be convivial, tell the story of your food and see how much more enjoyable it will be.
            • Small local farmers are forced to be more diversified, that diversity fuels the sustainability of the land and offers us a multitude of choices.
            • The French have a saying “eat your view”. Supporting local growers keeps farms as pastures alive… Do we really want more strip-malls?
            • Most small local farms are also mostly organic the more land that is cultivated organically the less usage of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers, that increases the biodiversity in our local ecosystem and overall health of our communities.

I am going to climb down off my soap box now, WAY MORE TO COME on this subject any many others.

~Support Local!

 

rj Follow Rj @LocalAgAZ on: facebook-logo twitter-logo instagram-logo