Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

How to Grow and Prepare the Best Summer Salad

mesclun salad mix 

Harvesting greens for a dinner salad is a breeze when you plant a mesclun mix.

Salad is perhaps the easiest summer dish to prepare—just tear some lettuce leaves into a bowl and drizzle on a dressing, right? Maybe so, but I like a salad whose texture and flavor profiles are a bit more complex. Here’s how I make it happen.

Salad greens are the first thing to come up in my garden. And am I ever ready for them after a long winter! I’d get tired of plain green salads in a hurry, though. So, I plant lots of varieties of salad greens. Just a few of each variety so I’m not overwhelmed. Then I succession plant every few weeks until the weather gets too warm for these cool-season lovers.

Select Tasty Seeds

A good mesclun mix is my go-to salad seed packet. I mix it up even more with buttercrunch along with red orach and merlot and lolla rossa lettuces for a pop of color. A few mizuna and arugula seeds guarantee extra flavor oomph. I also plant several radish varieties for crunch and zest. They’re ready about the same time as the greens.

handful of radishes

Thinly sliced colorful radishes add pizzazz to salads without being overpowering.

In early spring, that’s about all I have to put into a salads from my raised beds, so I add weeds! Young dandelion greens, purslane, and chickweed are always available and pack a tangy punch.

Raid Vegetable Beds

Soon beets and carrots begin sprouting. Scissors come in handy for thinning beets and you can bet I add those clippings to my salad. While I’m at it, I wander over to the carrot bed and judiciously cut a few fringy tips to toss in my salad. Nothing tastes fresher.

Baby kale and young spinach leaves are growing about this time, too. Both add texture and flavor dimension, but at this stage, they’re so tender and delicate that picky eaters won’t notice them.

As the season progresses, more and more options emerge for salad goodness. Sugar snap peas make a bright addition. Later, beets, carrots, and kohlrabi add color, flavor, and texture. Broccoli florets and shelled English peas, raw or lightly steamed, turn a salad into a hearty dish. Tiny cucamelons add more than a suggestion of citrus to salads; they’re also good conversation starters.

variety of carrots

Grated or sliced carrots add crunch and color to salads. For even more color, plant several carrot varieties.

Don't Forget Herbs and Fruits

Like many gardeners, I plant herbs for all kinds of culinary uses. Only recently did I discover how much they add to a salad’s overall flavor profile. I like to combine dill, basil, and flat-leaf parsley. The Parsley leaves go in whole; I snip dill and basil into tiny bits and mix them in well so every bite gets a hint of fragrant herbal sophistication.

Once blueberries ripen, I may sprinkle of few on top of my salad for color and a burst of acidic sweetness. If I’m feeling fancy, I grace a salad with a few edible flowers. Peppery nasturtium and spicy bee balm are two of my all-time favorites.

Now that I’ve learned about beet raisins, I sometimes add a few of those to my salads, too. They’re delicious.

With all these possibilities, I can tweak my salads any way I want. They never get boring. Better yet, they’re plenty tasty naked. When I decide I’d like a drizzle of dressing, I’m partial to this simple recipe. It will keep for months in the refrigerator and just needs a good shake before each use.

Sweet and Sour Salad Dressing

Ingredients

¼ cup canola or other light vegetable oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)

Directions

1. Pour all ingredients into a small mixing bowl.

2. Blend with immersion blender.

3. Pour into pint canning jar, cover with lid, label, and refrigerate.

Proportions can be adjusted to taste.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here.You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.


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.

When Life Gives You Tomatoes

Abundant Harvest Tomatoes 1

Last year was a very good tomato year. In fact, we still have unused salsa canned last season, not necessarily a bad thing since it is the number one item I use from what we grow. I went a little overboard hedging my bets and insuring another plentiful tomato year by making sure that I started plenty of seeds. I was still stinging from back-to-back bad years a few years ago.

I admit to feeling several questioning eyebrow raises from the wee voice in my head as I was starting so many seeds. But I forged ahead regardless with thoughts of sharing should I have trouble dealing with overflowing harvests. I put 58 plants in the ground in the Spring and several others around the garden volunteered.

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed this year (because one can hardly ignore pound after pound of tomatoes moving from the garden into the kitchen) is that the tomatoes are coming earlier and earlier. Once upon a time here in Ohio, I had to wait until late August to enjoy my first sun-ripened breakfast snack of a fresh tomato. Then I would twiddle my thumbs ever so patiently until early September for a large enough haul to preserve.

Processing Tomatoes

Last year I canned most of my tomatoes in August with just a few carrying into September. This year I canned more than 80 pounds in July and about a third of my plants are ready to call it quits. I’m almost afraid to consider what the story could be next year.

My mind still hasn’t adjusted to the new harvest schedule because I had our son book his visit to help me process the tomatoes in early September. My tomatoes will be long gone by then. I’ve already told him to shift his expectations to helping with the apple harvest. We’ll be making applesauce and cyser instead.

The tomatoes that have come so far this season have been wonderful—I’ve canned a lot of them with basil and made a couple of large batches of salsa. I’ve also “sun-dried” a few in my dehydrator and plan to do more since I discovered a lovely use for them in my garlic scape sourdough bread. I have more Italian-style tomato canning ahead of me along with a few more of the spicier salsas, but having weekly harvests of 40 pounds allows me to relax when sharing with friends.

I tried a new-to-me approach to skinning some of my tomatoes this year. I really don’t enjoy processing the smaller varieties—though their flavor and meatiness keeps them in my mix of favorites. I’d read about using a broiler rather than the boiling bath/ice water plunge method. I have to say that I won’t likely repeat this broiling method. It tends to cook the tomatoes too much and makes them mushier. They may be easier to seed and the skins do slip off quite easily, but the loss of tomato meat isn’t worth it to me. If you look at the upper left part of the above photo, you’ll see the broiled red and yellow tomatoes next to their bath/ice water twins. Even though I eventually cook the tomatoes down further, it’s evident to me how much substance is lost—it seems wasteful.

My preferred method of skinning is to immerse the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then move them to ice water. I move batches of 10 at a time. I core, skin, and squeeze out the seeds. I put these into a bowl to await chopping. I put my ice water bowl in a cooler surrounded by ice packs to keep the ice intact longer. By working in smaller batches, I keep myself less bored and my body gets a chance to change positions more frequently.

Home canned Tomatoes

Because I’m enjoying such a bumper crop year of my many varieties of tomatoes, I’ve also been having fun doing some color-coordinated batches. I figure it’s another way of playing with my food. It gives me a chance to create fun combinations while I’m processing in the now and will also offer opportunities to create when the time comes for plating them in the future. When life gives you tomatoes and lemons, can salsa!

Photos by Blythe Pelham

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and 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.

Pickles 101

 Finished crock of refrigerator pickles

It’s pickle time in Wisconsin! Bumper crops of gorgeous green and gold vegetable torpedoes elegantly dangling from the vine are ripe for the picking. The farmers markets are filled with brimming baskets in case you didn’t grow your own.

Green and gold cucumbers

I picked a lot of pickles as a kid. After what seemed like a hundred bushels we got some pocket change to go get Popsicles or root beer. I remember the little ones were worth more but it took so long to fill the basket. The work was hot and dirty but we made our own fun. We rode our bikes to and from the patch. Somebody would always find a giant yellow over ripe cucumber and start a pickle fight. 

Growing up, my family made a lot of pickles. The basement walls were lined with jars. Giant stoneware crocks I could sit inside filled corners of the cellar. These were mainstays to get through the winter. Everything harvested from the garden was preserved.

I spent many warm summer afternoons in the kitchen with my grandmother and aunt, assisting in assembly line pickle production. There were crock pickles, hot water baths, pressure cookers and giant cauldrons bubbling on every burner. The smell of vinegar, onion, dill and garlic permeated the steamy air. They taught me well. 

As an adult, one of the greatest compliments I ever received was from my father. He came to visit when I was making pickles. He breathed in and said “Ahh! It smells just like Ma’s in here!” I felt proud and smiled inside.

Many are intimidated by the thought of canning. Many pickle recipes do require knowledge of hot water baths and the like, but this recipe is super easy. Anybody can do it. If you can boil water, you can make these pickles.

Never fear! The pickle busha is here! Grab your babushka and let’s get to it! I’m sharing my favorite family recipe from my grandmother, Grandma Ski. The only equipment you need is a large kettle and a crock or jars to put your pickles in. You can use whole cucumbers of any size or slice them any way you please. Make my grandma proud! Enjoy! 

Grandma Ski’s Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

2 C white vinegar

1/4 cup canning salt

1 quart water

Pickles to fill crock

4-5 sprigs of dill (heads)

Medium onion

2-3 garlic cloves (I use a whole head-YUM!)

Instructions

Pack pickles, garlic, onion, dill in crock.

Bring brine to boil

Pour brine over pickles

Put on lid or cover crock with a plate

Refrigerate

Wait 4 days 

Steps

1. Gather your ingredients: Cukes, onions, garlic, dill, canning salt, vinegar and water

Gather your ingredients

Gather your ingredients

2. Boil full kettle of water

3. Wash your hands

4. Wash your jars (and lids if using) or crock; sanitize them in the boiling water

Scrub cucumbers in plain water

5. Scrub your cucumbers in plain water

6. Coarsely cut onions (you can also use tiny ones)

7. Peel garlic

8. Pack cucumbers, onion and garlic in crock

Pack ingredients in crock

9. When crock or jar is almost full place more onions, dill (heads only, not stems) and garlic on top

Bring brine to a boil

10.Combine brine ingredients in kettle

11. Bring brine to a boil

Pour brine over cucumbers

12. Pour brine over cucumbers *If you don’t have enough brine to cover, make another batch*

Cool and cover then refrigerate

13. Cover (“plate” in the old days because they used a plate to cover them)

14. Cool and put in fridge (crock in a cellar in days before refrigerators)

14. Wait 4 days and you have the best pickles you ever tasted! Mmm! Fantastic!


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.

Eggs: Washed or Unwashed?

Unwashed Eggs

Did you know that an egg is laid wet? As the egg passes though a chickens (or duck, or turkey...) system and just before being laid, it is coated in a protective ‘bloom’ or cuticle. Why is this important, you ask? An egg shell is a permeable surface, meaning it is covered in tiny pores.  When an egg is laid and coated with the bloom, this bloom seals off all of those tiny pores. When the pores are sealed, no bacteria can be pushed in from the outside of the egg and no moisture can be lost from the inside of the egg.

In most other countries, the bloom is left intact as this is often much safer for the egg quality. Go to Europe and you will often find eggs stocked on the unrefrigerated shelves in their grocery stores. As an American you may wonder how in the world that is safe? It all has to do with the different ways our eggs are produced and processed. Here in the U.S.A., eggs must be washed, disinfected and promptly refrigerated. Sometimes the egg producer may try to recreate the bloom with a thin coating of mineral oil, but by then, it’s too late. The pores have already been opened and who knows what may have passed through or how much internal moisture has been lost.

The sad fact is that factory farmed chickens and eggs are raised in such close and dirty quarters (even ‘free range’!) that the eggs quickly become filthy. So filthy that they must be washed and disinfected, with bleach or a similar chemical sanitizer, and refrigerated to be presentable and to reduce the risk of salmonella infection to the public. In Europe, washing eggs is not allowed as it is thought the act of washing may aid in the introduction or transfer of harmful bacteria from the outside to the inside of the egg. Two interesting and very different takes on how eggs should be handled! Due to the sad living conditions of the factory farmed chickens, many people have turned to backyard chicken keeping so that they can ensure the eggs their family eats are as nature intended- with the bloom intact.

When the bloom is allowed to be left on the egg, it can safely be left at room temperature for up to three months. How? Why? No bacteria is allowed inside through the pores, and no moisture is allowed to leave through the pores. It remains a perfect, sterile environment. At our house we do not wash eggs from our birds when they are collected, but instead we may wash a dirty egg right before we crack it. And you know what? Most of our eggs are pristine and clean to begin with. When it is the muddy season, yes, you will have some dirtier eggs as the chickens legs brush up against them when entering or exiting the nest. And that doesn’t bother me! We prefer to leave eggs in their most natural state, with the protective bloom intact and unaltered.  

Unwashed Eggs

More often than not, Mother Nature knows best. The egg bloom is Mother Nature’s way of preserving a perfect food, no alteration necessary. If you are interested in finding eggs with an intact bloom, start your own egg laying flock or seek out your local farmers for the freshest eggs possible.


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.

Enroll In Yakima Valley College Wine School

 

Washington wines are garnering tons of attention and awards over the last decade. What was once a state known for apples, ocean, and Mount Rainier is a rising force in the wine world. At the epicenter of this wine culture is Yakima Valley College (YVC) where a pair of degree offerings are training the new masters of grape growing and winemaking.

I was in Yakima for a travel writer’s event and was able to participate in a two-day wine tour of the Yakima/Prosser area. Within this region are the famed Rattlesnake Hills and Horse Heaven Hills AVA-American Viticulture Areas. I had seen these AVAs listed on wines in restaurants and wine shops recently.  On our tour, we tasted dozen of excellent wines from the Yakima Valley.

When our wine trip continued at the Yakima Valley College on day two, we were treated to a comprehensive tour of the wine school.  Brad Smith gave us a presentation in the Vineyard & Winery Technology Program’s tasting room, wine lab, barrel room, and vineyard. All through the tour, I witnessed a modern facility teaching a wide range of age groups, and genders the art of winemaking. Residents of states near and far come to learn to be a winemaker and grape grower.

YVC offers both a two year and three-year program for students.  Although YVC is a small college with only 6-8 graduates most years, their students are making a difference in the marketplace. Prospective students must decide on whether to take the winemaking path or the vineyard option. YVA offers a Vineyard Technology and Winery Technology Associates Science degree (AAS). When the students have graduated, many of them have won significant awards in their first year out of YVC.

Part of this success can be traced to the wine tasting room where plenty of gold and platinum awarded wines grace the shelves. What sticks out is these are wines made by the students before they even graduate from YVC! The award winners are hard to get wines. Only 300-500 cases are bottled and sold each year. With more than 90 awards given to these vintages, it’s not a surprise they sell out soon after being released.

If winemaking is the desired path, students will get all they need to graduate and enter a growing workforce throughout North America and beyond. Internship opportunities are posted on the YVA’s website helping students get paired with the best on-the-job training. With two years of college, an internship, and dedication to the craft of winemaking YVC graduates are making an impact on the wine world.

New Grape Growers

The vineyard program is cranking out grape growers to fill the anticipated growth of this sector in agriculture. From a humble beginning of only a handful of wineries in the 1980s to over 800 presently, Washington State’s wine expansion is impressive. Somebody needs to grow these grapes and Brad told us the students come from all over the world, but that most are from Washington State. Brad said that some of the students are fresh out of high school, sent to YVC by their parents to learn the craft then come home to the family farm to grow grapes.

Older students in their 60s-70s have been enrolling to see if grape growing might be the crop of the future for farms that have been in the family for several generations. After learning modern vineyard methods and the expected profits, many farmers are adding grapes to the list of produce to supply a thirsty market.

Not all the students attend the YVC’s wine programs on site. An online study course is offered where the student does the bulk of classwork from home. Towards the end of the program, some students visit the YVC campus to attend about two weeks of coursework to finish the required studies. Students choosing the online route pay $118 per credit.  This online college path is a very affordable way for a student to graduate and remain at home for most, or all of the two years of study. Even if students decide to move to the Yakima Valley to attend this college, the tuition is reasonable.

Trent Ball, the program chair of YVC told me the on-campus tuition for a non-resident can get a two-year degree for around $9,800. Residents of Washington State pay approximately $9,000 for a two-year degree, and some are hired before graduating.

I’m blown away by all the growth in the wine industry throughout the U.S. A. All 50 U.S. states have vineyards and wineries nowadays. Someone has to grow these grapes and make the wine consumers are demanding. The YVC programs are attractive to those who want a quality education at an affordable price. And the Yakima Valley is a great place to be for two to three years while you get a degree that will lead to a job that seems to be a sought-after career path.

The YVC wines are sold under the name Yakima Valley Vintners (YVV). I sampled three YVV wines recently and found them all award winners in my book.  If you find yourself in the Yakima area be sure and drop by YVV, whether your interest is in purchasing wine, a career in grape growing or in winemaking. Either way you’ll learn a lot about wine.

 Kurt Jacobsohas been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt's travel blog, TasteofTravel2.com.


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.

Beets: The Perfect Vegetable

Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it’s hard to beat beets for healthy eating. But there’s even more to like about beets. For the gardener, they’re easy to grow. They store well. Did you know beets are a zero-waste veggie? Every part of the plant is edible: root, stems, and leaves. Why, they’re so versatile you can even use beets to dye fabric.

canned pickled beets

Home canned beets retain top flavor and quality for a solid year. Photo by Carole Coates

Health Benefits of Beets

Beets can lower blood pressure; promote eye, respiratory, and bone health; build immunity and increase stamina; and fight premature aging. There’s evidence they may even help prevent cancer. They’re highly nutritious, abundant in phytochemical compounds, low in fat and calories.

Beet Varieties

Some beet varieties are perfectly round. Others grow long, cylindrical carrot-like roots. They may be fire engine red, deep magenta, yellow-orange, or white. Some have alternating rings of color—pretty in a salad.

Mcgregor favorite beet

McGregor's Favorite is one of my favorite beet varieties. Photo by Carole Coates

If you keep a garden, consider growing several varieties of beets. The leaves will create a lush visual sensation ranging from light green to purplish-black. Check seed catalogs for the best selection.

Growing Beets

A cool season vegetable, beets are best planted up to four weeks before your area’s average last frost date. Early planting’s always a plus, in my opinion. You beat the heat and frenzy of the garden’s busiest season.

Beets are subject to the same pests as other leafy and root vegetables, but I’ve had very few issues. I think of them as a plant-’em-and-forget-’em plant, the best kind for me. The one caveat to this philosophy is that beets do need to be thinned. Since the ‘seed’ you plant is actually a cluster containing anywhere from two to five seeds, you’ll get several beet seedlings in each planting spot. Just use scissors to snip the weakest seedlings, leaving two inches between the remaining plants. Those thinnings make a tasty salad addition.

Harvesting

Young greens make the best eating, so during growing season feel free to snip off a few of each plant’s small leaves, leaving the taller ones intact to support root growth.

Beet roots are ready to harvest six to eight weeks following planting. You can pick immature roots or wait until they grow a little bigger if you want a weightier harvest. But remember that, like the leaves, smaller means more tender. If you leave them in the ground too long, they become woody. When you see the beet’s top above ground, it can be pulled.

Storage

Wash beet greens and roots before storage and pat dry.

Roots will keep in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for up to three months. Cut the root from the stems, leaving an inch or two of stem so the root won’t bleed. Store in a plastic storage bag, removing as much air as possible.

Beet greens can be stored in the same manner as other greens—wash, shake or pat dry, wrap in a paper or cloth towel, and store in a tightly sealed storage bag for up to two weeks in your fridge’s vegetable bin.

Eating Beets

Tender greens need just a few minutes in a very small amount of water to reach peak flavor. Avoid overcooking. Season lightly with salt. That’s all they need.

Roots can be boiled, roasted, or pickled. Smaller tender ones can be eaten raw. Simply peel and shred into a salad for a burst of color and flavor. Beets pair well with gorgonzola or goat cheese, apples, walnuts, or oranges.

If you’re preparing a dish of mixed vegetables, consider using yellow beets. Unlike red beets, they don’t bleed, so your dish will retain the colors of all the ingredients.

Katerina Whitley’s Around a Greek Table cookbook contains several great beet recipes. Or try this confetti beet salad. Or this hearty recipe.

Boiling beets calls for patience—they can take a while. Place whole, unpeeled beets in a large sauce pan, add water to cover, and cook until fork tender, which can take up to an hour, depending on size. Drain, rinse in cold water, and cool. The skins slip off easily by rubbing against your fingers. Slice, cube, or leave whole. Your choice.

Boiled beets can be eaten plain, but there are many tasty alternatives. For a tasty sweet and sour side dish, try Harvard beets. (Use canned beets to cut preparation time.)

To pickle beets, boil as above, then marinate in a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and spices. Here’s a good basic recipe. If you like pickled eggs, place shelled hard-boiled eggs in pickled beet liquid and refrigerate for at least twenty-four hours. Follow the National Center for Food Preservation Guide to safely can either plain or pickled beets.

Beets are naturally sweet, and roasting makes them even sweeter. Roast alone or add to a pan of mixed vegetables. Just peel, cut, and combine with chopped potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, winter squash, sweet potatoes—whatever you have on hand. Toss with olive oil and your favorite seasonings. Spread the mixture into a roasting pan and bake at 425° s for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

My favorite beet recipe is this beet burger by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist. Around here, we like it so much we've tripled the size of our garden beet patch. I double the recipe and freeze the burgers in vacuum-sealed bags for hearty winter eating that lasts all the way to next year’s harvest. (Note: I’ve found it hard to get these patties to stick together, so I give the shredded beets an extra strong squeeze to remove excess liquid. If I still have trouble, I add some rolled oats to the mix.) They’re fabulous!

For a truly spectacular treat, try Barbara Pleasant’s beet raisins. Yep, you heard that right. They’re delish—a perfect salad topper.

It seems there's no end to what you can do with beets.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living on the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.


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.

Supporting Your Local Farmers

farmer's market

Question: I’d really love to support local businesses and farmers who I know are struggling to make ends meet, but I live on a shoestring budget myself and the prices of chain stores are really tempting. How do I settle this inner dispute?

This is a valid question and something we’ve often struggled with ourselves. The truth is, in many cases the small-scale farmer, local store owner or craftsman cannot compete with mass produce and large chains: they just don’t have those connections, machinery or bulk discounts. They don’t use underpaid manpower overseas. Also, in many cases they are committed to providing organic produce or using the highest quality ingredients available, as opposed to unconscientious companies who don’t mind cutting corners and favor profit over quality and health.

On the other hand, I also know some local farmers and business owners who charge exorbitant prices not because they really need to do so to make ends meet and keep their business going, but simply because they can, doing shameless marketing for all it’s worth. Others cheat by making false claims about their product, for example labeling their eggs “free-range” when in fact their chickens have access to only a tiny dusty square of a yard. Such behavior is especially indecent when your customers are local people you actually know on a more personal basis.

When it’s possible and our finances allow, I’m usually willing to pay more for a locally made or grown product of superior quality. How much more? I’d say about 20% above what I’d pay in a chain store for a similar product of comparable quality. This, when I see a justifiable reason for the higher price – such as extra input of time, care or cost of materials.

Also, as much as I love supporting local economy, the product does have to be of good quality and, if we’re talking about food, fresh and hygienically prepared. Some time ago we bought some cheese from a local farmer and discovered a fly in it. Now, we’re usually very forgiving customers, and our concern was mostly for the farmer, whom we wanted to stay in business and who would certainly encounter other customers who wouldn’t be so laid back. So we gently advised him to pay closer attention to hygiene. I mean, if we had discovered a fly in a store-bought container of cheese, I’d write a scathing complaint letter and demand compensation.

Bottom line: customers, be generous and remember that lower prices in chain stores are often obtained by lower quality, buying in bulk and low-paid labor force. Farmers and artisans, make sure your product is top quality and really has added value that makes up for the higher price. Don't hype up prices just because you can.

From Your Own Hands: Self Reliant Projects for Independent Living

Image source: Creative Commons

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna'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.