A new report came out this week that says Louisiana ranks near the bottom of the country for everyday people's access to locally grown foods. Like only three states — Arizona, Nevada and Texas — rank worse.
The report, called the Locavore Index by a Vermont-based group, ranks states according to number of farmer's markets, number of CSAs, number of food hubs (basically people who collect and distribute food from local farms and producers) and percentage of schools districts with farm-to-school programs.
And Louisiana doesn't look good. I don't know about you, but I've lived in the South long enough that I get tired of all the reports and research that shows the South stinks on everything from education to obesity and now access to local food. And yes, I know most are true. But I also know statistics don't define us.
So with that, I guess I see the discussion, discovery and celebration of local produce and the ways we share our food — I don't think the researchers in Vermont know about all my friends' backyard gardens or the guy that sells raw honey off his back porch — that we can nurture a culture that champions fresh, local foods.
And like the new Saint Francis Vegetable Garden that will start supplying fresh local food to area food banks this year, I see the interest. And everywhere I see the tradition. . . if we can just fight the culture of advertisers and their fast food.
Anyway, I've been thinking about farmer's markets, accessibility and the cost of produce a lot lately. So look for more on farmer's markets, home gardening and untracked roadside/home produce "stands" in Louisiana and the US. All things that make this assessment of accessability more complicated than stripped-down data presents and all the more reason to keep finding fresh.
I came across this cool graphic that, against what dairy marketers have been telling us for years, shows we can get just as much if not more calcium from plants than from dairy.
And, if you look, kale is a calcium superhero. Which got me thinking about kale and then later at the grocery store I saw a gorgeous bunch of organic curly kale . . . . which got me thinking about that stupid article last month in The New York Times that said you can't get kale in New Orleans. Well, I just bought some and I eat it regularly. Even my 3 year old loves Brad's vegan kale chips that we pick up at our South Louisiana grocery store . . . so there, uppity New Yorker.
Anyway, after that strange mental turn, my new bunch of kale got me thinking about how to eat it. Which led me to one of my favorite kale recipes.
WARNING: my Kraft-Macaroni-&-Cheese-"It's-the-Cheesiest" loving husband isn't a huge fan of this recipe. BUT, my two children like it . . . . after they complain a little about the large green chunks . . . . sigh . . . kids.
Anyway, this is my beautiful, crazy healthy sister's recipe for Indian-inspired red lentils and kale. And I love it. Even reheated for leftovers.
Red Lentils and Kale // from Erin's kitchen
4T butter or ghee
1 1/2t cumin
1t mustard powder
1/2t red pepper flakes
2 cups onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2t ginger, minced
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups red lentils, washed (I have to order these online)
2lbs kale, deribbed and chopped
salt & pepper
Melt butter in large pot (I use my stew pot). Add spices until aromatic - about 1 minute. Add onions, sweat until soft. Add garlic and ginger until soft and fragrant. Add chicken stock, 3/4t salt and lentils and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in kale and cook until lentils are cooked - about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
And my sister recommends topping it with a sprinkling of coconut for flavor and a dollop of pasture-based butter or ghee to create the "holy trinity" of calcium, K2 and vitamin A.
And after all that, I got more kale this week — a gorgeous bag of local Red Russian kale in my weekly CSA bundle from Country Table. This kale is one of the sweetest kale varieties with a mild, peppery flavor. Just make sure to remove as much of the fibrous, hard-to-chew red stems as possible before cooking/eating.
So take that NYC. We be having all kinds of kale for dinner in South Louisiana.