Week’s links

I go back and forth on whether to link to news articles, but there always seems to be something interesting to pass along, so I’ll try doing it on Wednesdays.

First, the LA Times on the tortuous path that brought commercial blueberry production to California. What I found most interesting was that this icon of the Northeast actually has many tropical relatives, hence the mysterious Florida blueberry.

Next, the NY Times on home canning as the logical next step in local, seasonal eating. The not-your-grandma’s-canning people they quote totally diss added pectin, and I’m a pectin believer. I like preserves that gel, and adding pectin lets me get that texture without cooking the fruit for an hour. I like the fresher taste. But the recipes I saw at Serious Eats from the book featured in the article (Well-Preserved, by Eugenia Bone) looked very tasty.

This also caught my eye:

Stacks of locally grown, peak-ripe produce are about to appear at farmstands and markets — then disappear for another year. The time window is opening for pickling artichokes, simmering berries and suspending plums in time, and syrup.

On Sunday, about 80 people are expected at a community kitchen in San Francisco’s Mission District, to preserve 500 pounds of ripe apricots trucked in from local organic farms. “The morning team will macerate them in sugar, cardamom and vanilla and the afternoon team will process them,” said Anya Fernald, who conceived the project and publicized it on Facebook and on www.yeswecanfood.com.

Shares in the apricots (future canning parties will tackle cucumbers in July and tomatoes in September) have been sold online, with a discount for those who show up to work in the kitchen. “By joining C.S.A.s or shopping at farmers’ markets, people have made the commitment,” Ms. Fernald said, referring to community-supported agriculture programs, in which people buy a weekly share of a farm’s output. “Now they will learn to deal with the ingredients.”

The yeswecanfood site led me to this interesting place, Live Culture, which

consults to companies and organizations and builds values-driven events and media focused on sustainable food and agriculture.

Live Culture is dedicated to building a sustainable food system based on the values of human and environmental health, quality, and accessibility.

Along the lines of places that sounds really cool to work, Wired had a short piece featuring FarmsReach, which aims to link small farmers with buyers like restaurants and foodservice using teh interwebs. A restaurant or a hospital cafeteria has built its operations around reliable supplies of standardized items, which is what Sysco provides, something that a small farm has a lot of trouble providing. Just as I think meat eaters should commit to using entire animals, I also believe that institutional foodservice will have to allow in a bit of uncertainty and improvisation if we’re going to get local food into wider use. But it can’t hurt to aggregate local farms into a larger pool that can provide more of the predictability that big commercial kitchens are designed to need.

Finally, turning to water, Peter Gleick uses the language of locavorism to encourage people to drink tap water instead of bottled. He calculates that it takes approxoately 4 megajoules/litre to manufacture a plastic bottle, the same to move water from Fiji to Los Angeles, and that it takes 4 gallons of water to make a gallon of bottled water itself.

Of course, if we’re really talking about local water here, then we’d stick to our groundwater and up our production of recycled water, instead of bringing in water through the Delta via the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. But I don’t think he was going that far.

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Working to build a local, sustainable food system in San José