Friday, September 4, 2009

turning lemons into lemonade

or pricey tomatoes into tomato soup!

I was pretty frustrated after my last post and, at first, didn't really want much to do with my pricey tomatoes. However, after spending so much on them I had to do something with them, so I started hauling out my canning equipment and went to work making tomato soup. After canning this soup last year I don't think I'll ever buy Campbell's again; we ran out toward the end of winter so we've been missing it for a while and were very excited to have a fresh batch to devour. As I worked away, preparing the soup for preserving, my anger at the woman who doesn't know a bushel from a half-bushel subsided, as it was overtaken by excitement and anticipation for more delicious tomato soup.

Since then I've made a lot of progress with the whole localvore in MA idea. I went back to (a great resource for anyone trying to buy local produce, by the way) and started calling farms again - this time extending the radius a bit. After a comment my brother-in-law made on my last post about traveling a bit for cheaper produce, I realized that one of my biggest problems was that I was trying to find cheap produce 15 minutes or less from home. In State College I traveled 30-40 minutes to Belleville for cheap prices; if it's necessary, why not do that here as well? As I made my way through the farms, checking out their websites and calling, when necessary, to check prices or amounts they sell their produce in, I started to find some really cool sources for local produce in the area. Here are just a few:

Connors Farm: This farm has a really cool CSA you can sign up for and is actually really close to us. They provide all the vegetables a typical CSA would, but, being primarily a fruit farm, they also provide a lot of berries. As a CSA member you also get to pick a bouquet of fresh flowers from their gardens each week and you get 2 free passes to their corn maize in the fall. As you can imagine I'm already on their waiting list for 2010. :) For those not interested in being a part of a CSA: they also have a lot of fruit you can pick yourself, which helps to keep the cost down. I'll definitely be checking them out when I'm ready to make applesauce.

Brooksby Farm: I actually found out about this farm when I called Connors Farm to get a price for peaches - Connor's peaches froze earlier this year, but the guy I talked to said he thought Brooksby still had some peaches. This farm also has a lot of fruit you can pick and they sell their peaches in 20 lb. boxes at a discounted rate (though you do have to order them ahead of time). So you get them fairly cheap and you don't even have to pick them yourself! Canned peaches were our lifesaver when we were craving fruit last winter; needless to say I'm picking up a box tomorrow morning.

Wilson Farm: This was a very exciting find; its a huge farm that has an equally large farmstand that is open year round. They're two time winners of the "Best of Boston" award and...they sell a very reasonable rate! We checked them out yesterday - the farmstand really is huge and has a lot of cool things. They do import some of their produce, but from what I could tell they were very good about marking where things were from, so you knew if it wasn't local. When we did find things without labels the workers were able to tell us, without any trouble, where the items were from. They also sell meat and cheese: other than the beef, their meat is all from local farms and I believe most of their cheese is local as well. Though this place ended up being about 30 minutes away from us it was definitely worth the trip! In addition to my tomatoes, meat and cheese, we found some hot peppers to spice up some salsa for Steve and a fairly large, really healthy basil plant that I plan to re-pot and eventually use to make pesto.

Since my last post I also found a Boston Localvores website which has a ton of great resources for people trying to eat locally in this area. They even had a fun blog about canning together which reminded me of canning together with my friends in State College....good times! Also I found this blog which explains that the northeast area of the US got hit with late tomato blight this year which destroyed a hefty portion of their tomato crop; this definitely explains the strange looks when I ask for large quantities of tomatoes.

So for now I'm celebrating 13 jars of tomato soup, our first batch of salsa with our garden tomatoes, the 50 lbs of tomatoes I have to can this weekend and the 20 lbs of peaches I'll have to can tomorrow! Major progress from my last post...very, very exciting!

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