A bounty of local food choices
We are almost half way through the Orlando Slow Food chapter’s first Restaurant Week. Through Sunday, top restaurants are showcasing menu specials that highlight the locally grown and produced foods. We can continue this green momentum but adding local ingredients to our home kitchens as well. Here’s how to get started:
1. Start small. Try a single dinner or one week of eating foods grown within a 100-mile range of where you live.
2. Do not set rigid rules. Be strict for the first week. Then, after you have met that goal, develop escape clauses for your lifestyle, such as eating out or having dinner in the homes of friends. Travel can open options too. If you can’t live without something, don’t. Grumpy, food-deprived activists are no fun.
3. Surf the Internet. At Localharvest.org find information on local markets, farms and local-food-friendly eateries. Also, fl-ag.com, the Web site of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has details on you-pick farms, markets and organic resources. Pickyourown.org keeps up with you-pick operations. Visitors can search the site by regions within Florida.
4. Start a garden. Self-sufficiency greens up cities, communities and towns. Start small with a few pots of herbs and tomatoes. As your green thumb develops, graduate to small plots in your yard or look into edible landscaping. Need help? Check out myyardfarm.com or full-service nurseries.
5. Get to know farmers’ markets and farmers. Join a Community Supported Agriculture farm, such as Merry Heart Farm in Astatula in Lake County. In these programs, you support a farm by paying a lump sum at the beginning of the growing season and then share in that farm’s harvest. Locate local farms through the Community Supported Agriculture link at localharvest.org. At farmers’ markets, talk to purveyors about what they are bringing the next week. Building relationships is key to maintaining the commitment.
Here is a sampling of local purveyors you will find at weekly farmers’ markets, localharvest.org and some mainstream supermarkets:
•Dansk Farms of Florida and Winter Park Honey both produce local honey.
•Waterkist Farm is a family owned and operated farm that uses hydroponic growing methods. Produce includes heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes, lettuces, micorgreens, peppers, Mediterranean cucumbers and herbs.
•Heart of Christmas Farms is a small hydroponic farm producing strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, peppers (bell, banana, hot) lettuces and other greens, and other select vegetables and fruits, many of which are heirloom varieties.
•Sanford Cochins is a small family farm located on Lake Jesup in Sanford. They offer table eggs from various breeds of hens which lay light brown, dark brown, blue, green, teal, and an occasional pink egg.
•Deep Creek Ranch in DeLeon Springs sells beef, lamb and mutton.
•Winter Park Dairy is the first dairy in Florida licensed to produce raw cow’s milk artisan cheese. Bleu Sunshine brand bleu cheese has a mild flavor, natural rind and full-balanced richness.
•Lake Meadow Naturals in Ocoee is home to a variety of cage-free heritage breeds of chickens.
•Island Grove sauces, dressings and drink mixes in DeLand (IslandGrove.com) works with an extension program at Florida A&M University to provide pepper seeds for farmers and buys back the produce to make dressings and sauces.
•Makoto dressings and sauces grew out of the Makoto Japanese Steakhouses that have been in Melbourne and Palm Bay since 1985 (MakotoGingerDressing.com). The product line includes six flavors spun from restaurant customer favorites. Look for Makoto bottles in the cold case in the produce departments of major supermarkets.
•Uncle Matt’s Organic juice and produce is from a Clermont grove, with roots in the citrus industry six generations deep (UncleMatts.com).
This is truly just a sampling. By reading labels, you will discover a world of edibles that have homemade or home-grown appeal.
Food editor Heather McPherson can be reached at 407-420-5498, firstname.lastname@example.org, her blog OrlandoSentinel.com/thedish and you can follow her Twitter.com @OS_thedish.
Check out the WOMX Mix 105.1 Morning Show recipe of the week: Honey-Spiced Chicken with Mango at Mix1051.com and OrlandoSentinel.com/thedish.