Real Food

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For this huge celebratory feast, invite a dozen or more of your best friends. Stock up a supply of your favorite beverages, including iced tea, lemonade and some adult drinks, and get ready to party!

We set up with a 20-gallon boil pot with strainer basket on a propane burner. After filling the pot to a little less than the halfway mark with the water hose, cover the pot and wait. It takes nearly 2 hours for the pot to come to a boil, so start it up in plenty of time. These huge pots are available at Bayou Classics. Obviously, a boil doesn’t have to be this huge, and you can certainly do a very successful boil on the stovetop in your kitchen. A pasta pot complete with the strainer basket will be ideal. My pasta pot is 8-quart and would do a nice meal for a family of four.

Set up your table — a picnic table is good. Cover the table with a cheap plastic drop cloth and layers of paper, taped down on the corners. Doing this lets you just roll up the whole mess of empty shells and dump it all into a trash bag in one fell swoop. Set out some bowls for shells and a couple rolls of paper towels for messy hands.

Crawfish Boil Recipe


• Cajun Land Crab Shrimp Crawfish Boil seasoning
• crawfish and/or shrimp, unpeeled, preferably heads on
• vegetables of your choice (see below)

Note: If the boil spice is not available at your local store, it is available at as well as other utensils you may need.


1. When the water finally comes to a full boil, add in the spices. When you use the spice mix from Cajun Land or Zatarains, do not try to add to it! As they say in Louisiana, “I guarantee” you will mess it up! Just follow the directions that are clearly written on the package. Use the right amount for the size of your boil: It’s all right on the label of the package.

2. With water to a full boil with spices, add the crawfish and whole, unpeeled heads of garlic and small chunks (about 2-inch square) of sweet potatoes.

3. If you are also cooking shrimp, add it when 2 to 5 minutes are left on the crawfish time, depending on size of the shrimps. We like them pretty big — 20 to 25 count.

4. Stir the pot gently, cover and return to a boil. Stir gently every few minutes. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the fire and stir another time.

Now, add in as many of these below as you’d like:

• small red potatoes
• sausage, usually smoked (some people even toss in hot dogs)
• whole mushrooms
• whole stalks of celery
• small whole onions, unpeeled
• frozen little ears of corn
• whole artichokes, fully cooked by steaming or boiling and chilled or frozen

Let the whole bountiful mix “soak” for anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on how spicy you want your food. We left it for 45 minutes and most of our group was very happy. If there are non-spicy guests, you might scoop some out earlier.

Now — and this took two strong men — lift the strainer from the pot, and set it on top of two sturdy boards or paddles on the pot.  Let it drain for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until it stops dripping.

Again, with two strong men, dump the whole meal right down the center of the table and everybody can dig in. In our group, some just stood at the table, others pulled up chairs.

Optional: butter for the corn. This meal is not for fancy people — I just put a stick of butter on a plate and tell folks to twirl their corn right on the stick.

Recipe Alternative: Crab Boil

A Cajun-style crab dinner is made much the same way. To a hamper (bushel) of crabs, use the same amount of water and seasoning as for the crawfish. When the water comes to a boil, put in the seasoning, then the crabs and as many whole heads of garlic and small sweet potatoes as you want. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes, and then turn off the fire. Add in your choices of:

• oranges, quartered
• lemons, halved
• smoked sausages
• mushrooms
• artichokes, fully cooked and frozen
• little ears of corn

Soak and drain as above. Grab the claw crackers and dig in!

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn


Chef Miguel Valdez in The Red Door's farm

“How many chefs have half an acre to work with?” asks Miguel Valdez, Executive Chef of The Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar in the Mission Hills district of San Diego, California. Among his many tattoos, he sports one on his forearm that reads “Bon Appetit,” making his commitment to food no secret.

With a menu built around local, organic, sustainable and ethically-sourced seasonal cuisine, The Red Door opens to an ever-changing menu of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts crafted by Chef Valdez. He transforms what’s seasonally available into unique dishes like a fried cauliflower with savory ginger soy glaze, a garden chard and kale salad with warm bacon vinaigrette or pepitas-crusted Catalina Offshore fresh catch.

Trish Watlington at the entrance of her restaurant's farm fields.

To make this all possible, Trish and Tom Watlington, owners of The Red Door, have turned their property in nearby La Mesa into a small farm in 2011, now producing a cornucopia of fresh vegetables, small fruits and herbs 365 days a year, thanks to the area’s ideal climate. They harvest about 6,000 pounds of produce a year for the restaurant, likely among the top farmer-producers of any restaurant in the U.S.

What they don’t grow enough of to keep up with their needs, or for various meat and seafood items, they source locally from partners like Suzie’s Farm, Catalina Offshore or Stehly Farms. With eighteen partners in all (they’re all listed by name on the menu), there is no shortage of perfectly ripe or in season ingredients. Chef Valdez also hits local farmers’ markets accompanied by his son, too.

“Our guests understand what we get at the markets, from our farm, or partners – whether tomatoes, persimmons or beets. These ingredients will be on the menu,” explains Valdez. “The dishes will have a unique twist to them. I have to be creative. It keeps me learning.”

His Herbed Gnocchi with Squash Pomodora Sauce captures this mantra, blending the flavors, textures and richness of this popular Italian dish. Chef Valdez shares his recipe below. We can't wait to try it with fresh, in-season ingredients that we organically grow ourselves later this year.

Herbed gnocchi with squash pomodora sauce at The Red Door. 

Herbed Gnocchi with Squash Pomodora Sauce Recipe

Chef Miguel Valdez, The Red Door Restaurant, San Diego, California

For Herbed Gnocchi

Yield: serves 10


• 1 ½  cups water
• 12 tbsp  (12oz) butter unsalted
• 2 cups flour
• 2 tbsp Dijon mustard (whole grain works too)
• 1 tbsp chopped chives
• 1 tbsp chopped parsley
• 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
• 5 large eggs


Mixing Gnocchi Dough

1. Set up a mixer with the paddle and have everything ready to go before you start.

2. Combine water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a full simmer.  Add the flour at once when simmering and stir well using a wooden spoon until the mix comes together and pulls away from the side. 

3. Transfer the mixture to mixer, adding mustard, chives and parsley and let mix for few seconds to incorporate.

4. Add cheese and mix again to incorporate.

5. On low speed, add one egg at a time and then increase speed to medium for a few seconds.   

6. Turn off mixer; if the gnocchi dough mixture is sticky, it’s ready.

Cooking Poached and Pan-Fried Gnocchi

1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Then place dough in a piping bag (pastry bag), leaving a half-inch opening. Place bag over pot and start to squeeze dough out, cutting it as the dough comes out into 2-inch gnocchi. Depending on the size of the pot, you will put at least half the bag of dough in pot.

2. When the gnocchi start to float to the top of the water, pull them out with slotted spoon or spider. Place on sheet to dry; drizzle a little bit of olive oil over them so they don't stick.  Let cool.

3. To finalize the cooking of the gnocchi, have a hot non-stick pan with a teaspoon of oil. Pan fry small batches of gnocchi at a time until they are golden brown on all sides.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For Butternut Squash Pomodora

Yield: 1.5 quarts


• 5 tbsp olive oil
• 12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 2 small (28-ounce) butternut squash
• 1 chopped onion
• 1 cup vegetable stock
• 2 1/2 tsp sugar
• Kosher salt
• 1 small bunch fresh basil (chopped)


1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

2. Add the onion, butternut squash and cook until softened but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic, vegetable stock bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened slightly, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in sugar, and season with salt, to taste.

3. Add all ingredients to blender and lightly pulse it.  Add fresh basil and mix in sauce for extra freshness.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently,9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living”. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10-kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


canning journalHave you ever made a truly superb batch of jam – and then forgotten which recipe you used? Ever lost track of how long a bag of frozen peaches has been lurking in the bottom of the chest freezer?

You aren’t alone. Years ago I made some exquisite plum preserves. I have no idea what kind of plums I used. Ever since, I have been trying to re-create the recipe with no luck. After many summers of trying to perfect my great-grandmother’s ripe pickle recipe I finally got it right. But then promptly lost the sticky note I wrote everything on.

I needed a Canning and Preserving Journal. Maybe you do too. Just like a personal journal can help you keep track of your life events, and a gardening journal will keep your backyard garden organized, a canning journal is a valuable resource for those of us who can and preserve fresh food.

A Canning Journal Keeps Us Organized

If I had started my journal 20 years ago, I would know what kind of plums to pick up at the Farmer’s Market. My great-grandmother’s pickles would be on my table this year, and that forgotten bag of frozen peaches might be used, not sent to the compost pile.

No matter if we have one canning project a year, or one hundred, it helps to have a place to keep track of them. It’s our self-sufficiency version of including a “best buy” date on each jar.

None of us wants to waste food, especially when that food has been preserved by our own two hands. A canning journal helps us stay organized so that we preserve just the right amount of food each year.

A Canning Journal Jogs Our Memory

When I was a child my grandmother and her sisters made their mother’s Russian Bear pickles every summer. The whole large family loved them. They are made with the overgrown cucumbers that get lost under the leaves and are usually thrown into the compost pile or to the hogs!

But apparently, none of the next generation made the pickles. The sisters aged, their children and grandchildren grew up and moved away, and the pickle making tradition stopped.

By the time my children were grown, I was wondering how to make those wonderful pickles from my youth. The recipe was found. Only problem – the recipe was simply a list of ingredients, sort of. It says, “make brine, add vinegar and cloves and cinnamon.” Not much to go on.

I researched and tweaked those ingredients for years, until I made a big batch of Grammie’s Russian Bear Pickles. If only I had written it down in a canning journal. The next year I had to start almost all over again, because I lost my recipe. Now it is safely written down to help jog my memory. Writing down your projects saves you lots of time.

A Canning Journal is a Family Heirloom

As the above story shows, you never know which family member will want to re-create your specialties years from now. Although I started canning while in my 20s, I was in my 40s by the time I really started canning more unique items, and wanted to share the canned goods from my youth. By that time, most of my grandmother’s sisters were gone, and my grandmother could no longer remember the exact recipes.

A canning and preserving journal will become a treasured family heirloom. It will show future generations not only how to make your special Frozen Green Tomato Enchilada Sauce, but also is a window into what we ate, how often we enjoyed each product, what kind of produce was popular, and what processes were considered safe.

Wouldn’t you love to have a written record of your mother or grandmother’s favorites? I certainly would. A canning journal helps keep the future connected to the past. Food is love, and a canning journal is the bridge between the two.

Find Your Own Canning Journal

For some reason, finding a canning journal is not an easy task. You can adapt a pantry journal, although that is more of an inventory list and less of an information guide. You could make your own canning journal or purchase a canning log book on Etsy. Also on Etsy you will find my handcrafted Canning and Preserving Journals, like the one I have made for my own use.

The time to start a journal isn’t sometime this summer, the time is now – while we are getting ready for a new canning and preserving season.

Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and real food at Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Depending on your Internet prowess, your social media connections and your inbox, you may have noticed the last few years have brought about a number of new products for fermentation — more specifically, for fermenting in a mason jar.

All you need for lacto-fermentation is salt, a vessel, and some time. It is a pretty simple, ancient technique for processing and preserving our food — after all, humans came up with clay pots some time ago. For tens of thousands of years those clay pots served us well with very little improvement or innovation.

At some point, a potter or a fermenter figured out a water seal crock. This is a ceramic crock with a moat in the rim that holds a bit of water and the lid. This creates a one-way door for the carbon dioxide (created by the fermentation process) — it can leave but air cannot come back in. This helps to produce the anaerobic environment necessary for successful fermentation. 

It is crucial that the vegetables are kept submerged in the brine, but for some the question is should the whole system be anaerobic? It doesn’t have to be — think of regular crocks (not the fancy ones with the water trough), Korean Onggi pots and all the vessels that have an open top with just a weight and a towel.

However, many people prefer not to deal with the yeasts and molds that can take up residence on that exposed top layer of the brine. This can be diminished with the use of a system that allows the carbon dioxide gas, which is created as the bacteria break down the sugars and starches, to escape the fermentation vessel without letting new air into the environment.

Fermenting in a Mason Jar

Fermenting in a big crock can be daunting and unwieldy so most people now-a-days choose to ferment in a mason jar. Fermenting in a jar is great for a number of reasons beyond the approachable size.

The biggest benefit is you can see what is going on with your ferment, which is especially handy if you are teaching yourself this craft. For example, it is important to keep the ferment under the brine. You may wake up and see a huge layer of brine on top of your veggies and think “cool, my ferment is making brine.”

However, in the glass jar, you can see what is actually happening: Is the brine getting pushed out due to the trapped CO2? This is called a “heave” or a “surge.” When you see this in the jar you will see the trapped air pockets in the ferment where the brine used to be. If you are using an open fermentation method it is critical that you press on your ferment allowing the brine to sink back down into the ferment, submerging the vegetables.

This becomes less critical with a system that allows the carbon dioxide to escape without letting air in because those air pockets are generally CO2 and not air. That said the flavor can be affected and it is best to press everything back down when this happens, regardless of the system.

Fermentation works in many environments — that is part of what makes it so incredible. If you ferment without a system that allows the air to escape, you have to burp your jar manually during the process, because the CO2 gas molecules wiggle free from the liquid and have no place to go. They are held in by pressure that is released as soon as they shake free.

This actually takes a bit of energy, which we all know from when we were kids and shook a soda before opening the can. This is what creates that fizz that you get when you open an airtight container without an airlock as the millions of CO2 are molecules rushing to get out the door. (If they were bigger it would be a stampede.)

The systems that we are looking at here all do the same thing in that when the pressure builds up as the carbon dioxide is produced, the air already in the vessel gets pushed out — making the whole environment inside the jar anaerobic. The difference is simple in how this is achieved.

Fermentation Airlock System Comparisons

Click here for a larger look at this chart

Do I Need an Airlock?

As mentioned above, fermentation is a process that is ancient and very low tech and forgiving, so the answer lies with you and what you are comfortable with.  Fermentation should be a fun and relaxing process — yes, relaxing. There should be no fear of killing your loved ones. (Don’t worry — you can’t. If it is bad, you will know.)

What a fermentation system will do for you is take some of the babysitting out of monitoring for air pockets and allow you to “forget” about your little jar temporarily while the good bacteria are processing your veggies.

Also, there is less waste because these systems reduce the chances of discolored kraut or scum on top of the ferment that needs to be thrown away, which can happen with open ferments.

Mara Rose, of, collaborated to review some of the more popular jar systems out there. Here you will meet the ceramicist, the classically trained chef and nutritionist, the former ad sales exec, and the reformed business analyst who left all that behind to build a better fermentation lid.

Kirsten K. Shockey is a post-modern homesteader who lives in the mountains of Southern Oregon. She writes about sauerkraut and life — but not necessarily in that order. She’s written a complete book of Fermented Vegetables and maintains the website Read all of Kirsten's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



European breads are frequently made with an overnight starter, called poolish or biga. A super-easy way of developing dough I learned from Peter Reinhart (author of The Bread Bakers Apprentice) has helped me to quickly put together some delicious, full-flavored sandwich breads. Here’s how.

Overnight Starter for 3 Batches of Bread

Ingredients for starter:

• 6 cups (30 ounces) bread flour
• 1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
• 1 ½ tsp instant yeast
• 2 ½ cups tepid water

Directions for starter:

1. You can use the mixer with a dough hook, or it’s easy enough to stir this up by hand — just approximate the mixer directions. Whichever you choose, put the flour into a good-sized bowl, tall rather than wide (your mixer bowl is fine).

2. Put the salt in one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other, then stir together. Never dump the salt and yeast on top of each other — the salt delays the yeast.

3. Make a little well, then pour the water into the mix. Run the mixer on “stir” until the flour is taken up. Turn the mixer off and let it rest a minute or two, then turn the mixer on to #4 and run for 2 minutes. Rest a minute then run on #4 again for a couple minutes. Repeat. The dough will clear the bowl, but still look pretty shaggy.

4. Put out a large cutting board (mine is 16 by 20 inches) or a sheet pan will do. Put about a Tbsp of oil on the board, smear it around with your hands, and leave your hands greased. Then dump the dough out. Pat the dough into an oval, about 10 by 12 inches.

5. Now, pick up the far edge of the dough and pull and stretch it away from you, then fold it back onto the back half of the dough. Pick up the front edge, pull and stretch it and then fold it back onto the dough. Turn the dough over so the stretched and folded surface is now on the bottom. Repeat the pull-and-stretch again, and turn the dough over.

6. Walk away for a few minutes. Because the dough is oiled, you don’t need to cover it now. Go back and repeat the pull-and-stretch, both sides, and again let it rest a few minutes. Repeat one more time. If you pull and stretch a small area, you’ll see the “window” — a bit of dough that will stretch so thin you can read through it. This indicates that the dough is nicely developed even though you’ve done very little work.

My hands always need care, so I usually just massage the oil into them, then wipe just my palms on a paper towel in between stretches.

7. Put the dough into a greased bowl large enough to allow it to fully double. Cover the bowl with plastic and put it in the fridge overnight to rest and develop flavor. The dough will rise nearly double, then deflate a bit. (It can rest for as long as two nights if you’re not ready to bake.)

8. Now, we just continue as with my previous sandwich bread recipes — here and here — and the steps are below. Ingredients are about the same as with the basic breads but with the addition of the starter.

Sometimes I go half and half, with half bread flour and half white whole-wheat or other whole-wheat flour.

Using Pre-Fermented Starter for White Sandwich Bread and White Whole-Wheat Sandwich Breads

Ingredients for White Sandwich Bread:

With tiny amounts of sugar and fat, this is a very low-calorie bread. Makes 2 fat loaves or boules

• 6 cups bread flour in all, (divided), plus extra in reserve
• 1 tbsp fine sea salt
• 2 tbsp instant yeast
• 16 ounces pre-fermented starter (about 1/3 of a batch)
• 2 cups hot water
• 1 tbsp or so honey (optional)
• 1 tbsp or so non-GMO oil

Ingredients for White Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread

This very lean dough makes a low-calorie bread. Makes 2 fat loaves or boules

• 6 cups white whole wheat flour in all (divided)
• ¼ cup vital wheat gluten
• 1 tbsp fine sea salt
• 2 tbsp instant yeast
• 16 ounces pre-fermented starter (about 1/3 of a batch)
• 2 cups hot water
• 1 tbsp or so honey (optional)
• 1 tbsp or so non-GMO oil

Directions for both variations above:

1. Set up the mixer with the dough hook.

2. Put 4 cups of the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients into the bowl — salt and yeast on opposite sides. Give it a stir.

3. With your bench knife or just your hands, cut the 16 ounces of starter into about 10 pieces, dropping each into the dry ingredients. Add the hot water and turn on the mixer to “stir."

4. Run the mixer until the flour is nearly taken up and then turn up the speed to #4. Run on #4 for at least 5 minutes — the hunks of starter will be well incorporated into the dough.

5. Add the remaining flour, holding back a little. Again, run on “stir” until the flour is taken up and then turn to #4 for a good 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough has come together well and clears the side of the bowl. (A bit of oil down the side will help the dough clean the bowl.)

6. When it all comes together, transfer the dough into your rising bucket or bowl. Allow it to rise until nicely doubled and puffy. This could take from ½ hour to an hour, or sometimes even longer, depending on the room temperature.

7. Turn the dough out onto your floured kneading board. Knead several turns, adding a little bit of flour if needed, until the dough is smooth, satiny and doesn’t stick. With your bench knife, cut the dough in half, as evenly as you can. Pat each half out to an oval, about 8 by 10 inches, and then tightly, stretching a bit, roll it up to a nice, fat loaf. Pick up a little flour from the board on the bottom of each loaf and sprinkle, if you wish, with a bit of flour on the top. Put each loaf into a greased or well seasoned loaf pan.

8. While the loaves rise, check them a time or two. If you see a big bubble on the top, pinch it carefully so you don’t have a burned blister on the top of your bread.

9. Cover the loaves with greased plastic wrap or a proof cover and allow them to rise until fully doubled. Just before the rise is complete, make a slash or two with a lame or very sharp knife or razor blade.

10. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake your loaves for about 50 minutes, until nicely dark gold and a thermometer inserted through the side reads 190 degrees. Turn out the loaves immediately onto a wire rack. Never cut a loaf until it is completely cool.

11. Wrap the loaves well to freeze. I put each loaf — or half loaf — into a cheap plastic bag and then two loaves into a 2-gallon zipper freezer bag. (The zipper bag can be re-used several times.)

Forming Rustic Boules — and Pizza Crust!

These doughs also make great rolls for sandwiches or nice “country” boules or rustic loaves for the dinner table. And, my favorite: pizza crusts! I love to form several pizza crusts to stock up. A chunk of dough about the size of a baseball makes a 10-inch pizza, use a hunk the size of a softball for a 12-inch pie.

Pat, roll and stretch the crust to where you want it. Put each crust on a piece of parchment on a baking sheet. Allow the crusts to rise until puffy. If the crust tries to hump up in the center, give it a stab with a knife to settle it down. Par-bake the crusts about 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Cool, and then you can freeze in zipper freezer bags with the parchment between the crusts. Handy to have.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



The local food movement is growing all over the country as small farms, farmers markets, and CSAs flourish. It has strengthened the connections between farmers and consumers, as more people know where their food comes from and build direct relationships with producers.

Despite this growth, local food is still a small part of the food economy, and there are many barriers for local producers to reach larger markets such as institutions and grocery stores. Across the country, farmers and food organizers are developing food hubs to address this need and rebuild the regional food infrastructure that has been lost in the past 100 years.

At the end of March, more than 400 food hub organizers, organizations, funders and supporters met in Atlanta for the 3rd Annual National Food Hub Conference, hosted by the Wallace Center.

What is a Food Hub?

The USDA defines a food hub as “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.”

While the term food hub is new, the concept of a food hub has existed for many years. Cooperatives have brought farmers together in shared ownership to aggregate, store, process, distribute, and market their products. In the mid-19th century, the Grange Movement was forming cooperatively owned food infrastructure to get farmers products to the growing urban centers.

In the 20th century, farmer cooperatives grew into many of these recognizable brands today such as Cabot Cheese, Blue Diamond Almonds, Ocean Spray, and Land of Lakes. In the 1960s, farmer cooperatives expanded in the South among African-African communities, who joined together to form the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

Consumer and worker food co-ops in the 1960s and 70s, joined together to form cooperative warehouses that provided a space for aggregation and distribution of food for their stores, such as FedCo in Maine and San Francisco Cooperating Warehouse or Veritable Vegetable in California.

Developing New Markets

Food hubs are starting up all over the country as a way to reach new markets, share marketing, and build needed infrastructure. While this development is positive for the growth of local and regional food systems, it also poses challenges to maintain the values that developed in our local food movement.

The National Food Hub Conference examined the theme of “Maintaining Values while Building Value,” through plenary sessions and workshops. Food hubs are attempting to meet many needs: paying a fair price for farmers, offering fair price for consumers, expanding market access for producers and food access to low-income consumers. These different needs are not always complimentary and it is challenging for food hubs to balance these needs while developing a sustainable business.

Building Racial Equity into the Food System

At an afternoon plenary, African-American food hub organizers shared about their work to grow racial equity in the food system. Cornelius Blanding from The Federation of Southern Cooperatives talked about the importance of building cooperative ownership of the food system rooted in their communities.

Haile Johnston, founder of Common Market in Philadelphia, talked about their work to increase access to healthy local food in their community. Now they are helping form a new Common Market food hub in Atlanta that will work with refugee farmers and African American farmers to expand their market access.

Together these food hubs are learning, growing and building a food system that is rooted in local ownership and shared values.

The Cooperative Development Institute was founded in 1994 with the explicit mission to foster an inter-dependent dense network of enterprises and institutions that allow us to meet our needs through principled democratic ownership, and that care for community, combat injustice and inequity, and promote conscious self-governance. Read all of CDI's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


wild dandelion

Wild Dandelion

Wild dandelion grows abundantly on our land. Early spring before the yellow flowers appear, the leaves are tender and mild. Later in the season they develop a stronger flavor and texture, but still work well in a salad. Cultivated dandelion retains a milder taste, but denies one the pleasure of foraging and (unless one has a greenhouse or lives in a warm climate) enjoying a homegrown salad early in the season.

Dandelion Green Salad Recipe


• 2 cups wild dandelion leaves, washed and patted dry
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• ¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts*sorrel
• scant tbsp maple syrup (less if leaves are mild)
• 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
• wild ramps, washed and patted dry (optional)


1. Julienne the dandelion leaves.

2. Slice the ramps, if using, and add to the leaves.

3. Toss salad with olive oil. Coat well.

4. Add salt. Toss again. Add toasted walnuts and maple syrup. Toss again. Serve.

*You can toast nuts in the oven or on the stove top. Here’s my recipe for the latter. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the chopped nuts in a single layer to the dry pan. Stir occasionally. Cook until the nuts are golden brown.



Sorrel, a hardy perennial, appears in our garden as early as the middle of March. In the past, we’d enjoyed the idea of it, its cheery arrow-shaped leaves poking through snow presaging more greens to come. But the raw leaves with their acidic lemony flavor made us pucker. We can’t say we liked them.

Recently, I tried sautéing the leaves in butter. My wife still finds the flavor too pungent, but I adore it.

Sautéed Sorrel Recipe


• 2 cups sorrel, washed and patted dry
• 2 tbsp butter
• 1/8 tsp salt or to taste


1. Julienne the sorrel leaves.

2. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a stainless-steel pan. (Do not use cast iron or aluminum since these metals mix with the leaves giving them a metallic flavor and rendering them inedible.)

3. Add the leaves.

4.Toss with salt.

5.Sauté for 7 to 8 minutes or until the leaves have turned a deep olive color.

Serve with eggs, use as a spread for toast or eat alone.  

Note that sorrel leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, which may be of concern for some.


Parsnips taste best after a hard frost. The parsnips we planted last spring have benefited from several frosts and are all the sweeter for them. We find that parsnips keep best in the ground, and so we dig them up when we need them. Their earthy aroma is a reminder of why we garden.

Braised Parsnips Recipe


• 2 parsnips, washed, peeled and sliced into rounds
• 2 tbsp butter
• ¼ cup chopped toasted pecans*
• 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
• 1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)


1. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Lower the heat.

2. Add the parsnips and sprinkle with salt. Sautee until lightly browned.

3. Add ¼ cup water, cover the pan and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Add more water, a tablespoon or two at a time, as needed.

5. When the parsnips are soft, remove the lid, allow the water to evaporate, add the sugar if you’re planning to do so, and then sauté the parsnips on both sides until they turn golden brown.

6. Add the pecans and serve.

*Note: You can toast nuts in the oven or on the stovetop. Here’s my recipe for the latter: Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the chopped nuts in a single layer to the dry pan. Stir occasionally. Cook until the nuts are golden brown.



Hyssop, a hardy perennial, appears in our garden in early April bringing with it a soothing aroma. The leaves taste faintly of licorice and make a wonderful tea.

Hyssop Tea Recipe


• 2 cups cold water
• about 20 to 25 fresh hyssop leaves, washed and patted dry
• 2 tsp honey
• 1 tsp loose black tea (optional)


1. Place the hyssop leaves and water in a pot.

2. Bring to a boil. Brew for 10 minutes.

3. Add black tea, if using, and brew for another two minutes.

4. Remove from heat. Add honey and serve.

Felicia Rose moved from her native New York to a homestead in northern Utah several years ago where she grows and preserves tomatoes, arugula, garlic, rhubarb, and many other crops. She is currently sustaining a permaculture garden, experimenting with new recipes that use the food she grows, and living a bountiful life on a limited budget. She writes an occasional column entitled “A New Yorker in the Valley” for the Cache Valley Voice. Read all of Felicia’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

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