26 January 2010

Rita's Roots to leave Lowcountry - First Local CSA Program

Unfortunate foodie news today that Rita's Roots, organic vegetable farm located on Wadmalaw Island, SC, will be taking their produce North to Richmond,VA. Hard to believe that only three years ago, Rita Buchmann established the Lowcountry's first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program* on Johns Island, bringing locally-grown organic product directly to consumers. Now one of ten CSA programs, Rita's product has also been readily available at area farmer's markets and found on the menus of local restaurants. See the whole article at Charleston City Paper.

You can also find a listing of all local CSA programs and how to get involved at LowcountryLocalFirst.org. Support your local agriculture!

Vegetable of the Day: Scorzonera (Salsify)
This root vegetable is also known as oyster plant  because its taste resembles a delicately flavored oyster. The parsnip-shaped salsify can reach up to 12 inches in length and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The most commonly found salsify has a white-fleshed root with grayish skin, though there are varieties with a pale golden skin, as well as one with a black skin (also called Scorzonera). Though salsify is more popular in Europe than in the United States, it can be found here from June through February, usually in Spanish, Italian and Greek markets. Choose well-formed roots that are heavy for their size and not too gnarled. Refrigerate, wrapped in a plastic bag, up to a week. Salsify is generally eaten plain as a vegetable, or used in savory pies and soups. 

*Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a program that provides a direct connection between the farmer and the consumer.  CSA’s reconnect these relationships through maintaining open communication and distributing farming’s inherent risks.  Participants purchase a share of the season’s harvest, which ultimately supports the farm’s early season start up expenses such as seeds, irrigation, fuel, labor, and tractor maintenance.  In return, shareholders receive a weekly box of healthy, fresh, sustainably raised produce, fruits, meat, poultry or eggs throughout the season.

04 January 2010

My Charleston Gift-Giving Guide

Giving locally-bought gifts was my mission. What I found was that in buying locally, I was much more thoughtful with each gift purchase, all while providing Charleston businesses with my own micro-stimulus.

Below is a list of the places I shopped, and the establishments I most recommend for your own gift-giving. Happy Holidays!

The Backpacker (1440 Ben Sawyer Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, SC)
I sought the expertise and variety available at The Backpacker, but since moving to James Island, I wanted to be sure that they had what I wanted before going. Luckily, their website holds all of their available inventory. I was able to buy a number of gifts here, and was given great customer service. They appreciated that I went to their website and that I made the effort to shop with them again. It made me want to go back!

The Vegetable Bin (10 Society St., Charleston, SC) 
New packaged goodies including house-made buffalo nuts, banana nut chips, yogurt covered pretzels and more provided great stocking stuffers for my health conscious family members. The Vegetable Bin is my regular market for fresh, local and imported ingredients. I constantly find myself recommending it to people because you get the best of what's available, at the best price. I am no longer tempted to buy overpriced, out of season, tasteless fruits and veggies! When you think about it, what more could you want?

Charleston Cookie Co. (1750 Signal Point Rd., Charleston, SC)
I had the pleasure of trying the Candy Cane Brownies and White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies made for this holiday season by Charleston Cookie Co. I would highly recommend any purchase from local baker, Judith Moore, as it is obvious that she has more than a knack for baking and an acute taste for the classics. A perfect brownie really, the Candy Cane brownie was fudgy and moist, topped with a pink and white candy cane icing. I was worried it would be overwhelmingly minty, but was happy to find the taste as subtle as a Thin Mint. Her gifts arrived with a tasteful amount of Christmas flare and would provide a delicious solution to your gift-giving needs, from client gifts to hostess presents to supper club dessert. I am going to stay tuned to Judith's changing menu and will keep you posted with new offerings and information. Check it out at www.charlestoncookie.com. 

Monster Music and Movies (946 Orleans Rd., Charleston, SC)
Monster Music & Movies is a dying breed. It is truly one of the only music/dvd stores left in Charleston. Other than Best Buy, most national music store chains are gone as well. But in my effort to avoid online shopping, I ventured to the West Ashley establishment. I found not only what I was looking for (Inglorious Basterds), but also a heady second-hand music/movie shop, complete with well-versed, emo employees and an array of burning incense. Tacky stickers and key chains abound. As we enter this next decade, I can't help but think about the way we were all purchasing music ten years ago. What will another ten years bring? It was still nice to be able to enter a store, talk with a person, purchase a gift. That will never change. 

Gwynn's (916 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, SC)
Gone are the days of locally-owned department stores, except for Gwynn's of Mt. Pleasant. What I love about Gwynn's is that it has all of the classics, with just a touch of the trends. Gwynn's selection includes cosmetics, clothing, shoes, and accessories for men & women. The customer service is part of the package, so you should take advantage of the knowledgeable sales associates. Whether it's for you or someone else, Gwynn's is a charming place to shop. 

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." 
-A Christmas Carol