19 October 2012

Food Day, Food Days and No Waste

Article by Kelly Merrick

This time of year one of my favorite activities is browsing the artfully displayed stands of colorful produce at each of the Portland Farmers Market locations. During every trip I take I discover a variety of fruits and vegetables I have never seen before, and I have found that I have to keep my shopping list and husband close by or I will take home far than I could ever cook before it spoils.

But over the last few weeks we have had a special reason to purchase more than our normal share of produce. My husband Josh and I participated in the Northwest Earth Institute’s 2012 EcoChallenge and for two weeks we pledged to stop purchasing food with packaging. The rules: we could use food we already had in the pantry, we could purchase goods in bulk using our own containers and we were not allowed to stock up before the challenge.

Usually, avoiding food packaging is like avoiding a puddle during Portland’s rainy season – it’s everywhere and hard to avoid. Luckily for us, the farmer’s market featured an abundance of package-free food. The highlights? Apple sauce made from a variety of Old World Apples, soup with roasted butternut squash from Food Waves, black bean chili with sweet peppers and my new favorite side dish: curried mashed purple cauliflower from DeNoble’s. 

I found our challenge to be fun, despite the extra work. The challenge isn’t for everyone, but we can all get in the habit of using less packaging by shopping at the market. Test the water with a few simple recipes, like roasting your own pumpkin and baking with it. If this seems like something that is right up your alley, then head straight for Sun Gold Farm, where they will be so kind as to sell you a sugar pumpkin and then give you a recipe for pumpkin pie made from real pumpkin. I haven’t tried the recipe yet, but their sugar pumpkin did turnout some delicious almond flour pumpkin cookies that I can’t stop eating.

Now that you’ve had a first-hand account of my market food purchases, it’s time to move into other things the market is offering this week.

Wednesday, October 24 is Food Day, a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, and we’ll be celebrating it tomorrow, Saturday, October 20, at the PSU Market.

We will have a veggie-centric cooking demonstration staffed by market volunteers, along with some delicious recipes for you to take home and try. Plus, the following food-and-farming-related organizations will have tables set up for you to visit and I strongly encourage you to stop by their booths and learn about the great work they are doing.

If you are looking for other ways to celebrate Food Day, you can also participate in a free Collective Cooking group training and information session. It will take place tomorrow, Saturday, October 20 from Noon to 2 pm at Trinity Full Gospel Pentecostal Church. You can read our latest blog post to learn more about Collective Cooking.

The PSU market runs through mid-December, but Sunday’s King and Wednesday’s Shemanski run through the end of October, so be sure to make your way over to your favorite vendors, pick up a few goodies and tell them you’ll see them next season.

Kelly Merrick lives in Portland with her husband Josh. Kelly is a Master Recycler and a self-proclaimed locavore. She has been a volunteer at the Portland Farmers Market since the spring of 2012 and says the market is her favorite place in Portland. She is a marketing assistant at PECI for Energy Trust of Oregon’s New Homes and Products team and loves to talk to others about ways they can conserve resources to protect our environment. In her spare time she enjoys exploring Portland’s many parks, cooking, reading, blogging (you can check out her blogs here and here) and spending time with family and friends. She can often be found volunteering at the PSU Farmer’s Market so stop by and say hi sometime. She’d love to chat.