A Spotlight on Pierogi

This past Saturday at the Exeter Farmers’ Market located in Exeter High School, the pierogi being sold by Jaju stood out. Believe it or not, locally produced pierogi are rare if nonexistent in Seacoast New Hampshire, a google search even shows that not many local restaurants offer them on their menu. Jaju, out of Lynn, Massachusetts is the closest producer of them and offer a variety of fillings (vegan pierogi can even be special ordered according to their website), you can purchase them from these local stores. I was extremely interested in the varieties offered by Jaju and decided to purchase the sweet potato and caramelized onion variety, yum!

That led me on a search to learn more about them, their origin, and how they are made. Pierogi are a thinly rolled dough dumpling (similar to a ravioli or gyoza) and can be filled with a variety of fillings. Pierogi can be filled with savory foods like meats, potatoes, caramelized onions, cheese or even sweet foods like berries for a tasty dessert. The only variety I have ever tried are the common frozen potato, cheese, and onion variety that come to many people’s minds when the word pierogi is spoken. The common potato and cheese pierogi that many people are familiar with are actually referred to as “ruskie” pierogi.

Pierogi are one of the national foods of Poland and the word pierogi is Slavic for the word festival. It’s actually incorrect to call them “pierogies,” because the word pierogi is already plural. The tasty dumplings first popped up in Poland around the 13th century however, recipes didn’t start to appear in literature until the 17th century. Polish immigrants first brought pierogi to the United States over 100 years ago. The largest pierogi ever created was 92 pounds, and there is a Guinness Book record for making pierogi (in 100 minutes, 1663 dumplings were created)! Pierogi also spelled pyrogy are so popular in Canada, there is even a statue located in Glendon, Alberta dedicated to the dumpling!

Nutritionally, the pierogi varies depending on the filling, but the majority of the pierogi is carbohydrate. To be honest, most people are not eating pierogi because of their health benefits, mostly because of their flavor. Pierogi can be part of a balanced diet. When preparing the dumplings they can be pan fried or boiled depending on your preference and the filling. I pan fried the sweet potato and caramelized onion pierogi in a garlic butter sauce and served with shrimp and they were extremely tasty. Pan frying gives a nice airy, yet crispy texture to the dough which is a treat to bite into. It can be both difficult and time consuming to make these delicious treats from scratch if you are not experienced in the kitchen, but here is a recipe for homemade pierogi if you want to give it a try.

Consider the Effects of Pesticides on Your Food Choices

Blog post by SEL Intern and UNH Student Samantha Lent

Pesticides are substances used to repel or kill plants and animals that are pests to the crop. There are different types of pesticides: chemical pesticides and biopesticides. Chemical pesticides include organophosphates and carbamates. Biopesticides are plant-incorporated, biochemical, or microbial pesticides. All of these are highly used in agriculture, households, and even on ourselves with bug spray. The health effects of pesticides are still being researched, but their use has been in correlation with cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects.

Some benefits of pesticides are that they help control disease organisms. Pesticides can protect our homes and health by controlling insects like termites and in extreme cases of rodent populations. Also, they protect our drinking water and medical instruments. Additionally, we as consumers gain from pesticide usage by lower costs and a wider selection of food and clothing. This is especially helpful for the various parts of the world that fight for hunger, but it should be noted that food production is also negatively affected by pesticide use. Food is often lacking in nutrients, flavor, and other qualities after prolonged pesticide use.

Chemical pesticides are the pesticides that are most harmful to our health. A short amount of time with a large amount of these chemicals can result in poisoning. This increases the risk for farmers who frequently touch and breathe these pesticides in. This is where the research is unclear, but some studies link them to cancer, diabetes, and neurological defects. Chronic and low-dose exposure to pesticides increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, exposure to pesticides has been correlated with increased infertility in women and developmental issues in children.

When possible, it is best to reduce exposure to pesticides, especially in groups that are more susceptible, such as pregnant women and children. At local farmers’ markets and farm stands, one-on-one conversation between the consumer and farmer is the best way to learn about how food was produced. The farmer is available to answer any questions on how the food was produced, and if pesticides were used. Purchasing organic foods is another way to make sure there are no unnecessary pesticides if the farmer is not around to answer questions.

Furthermore, pesticide use is being analyzed and regulated by organizations like the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization. Before the EPA allows pesticides to be used on crops, it sets a maximum tolerance for each treated food and if more than that limit is being used, then the government will take action. Make sure when you buy food you are aware of how that food was produced. Purchasing food that is free of harmful pesticides is the safest for you, your family, and your farmer!

Tasty Kale Guacamole

This guacamole recipe is a great way to incorporate more greens and nutrients into the diet in the up coming colder weather. This would be a wonderful holiday party dish served with tortilla chips, and kale is in season and can be found at your local winter farmers’ market right now.

Ingredients

3 cups chopped kale

4 ripe avocados

1/2 red onion chopped

1/2 jalapeño deseeded and chopped into small pieces

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Juice of two limes

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

Wash and massage the kale and then chop 3 cups.

Cut the avocados in half from stem to base and remove the seed by tapping with a knife. An easy way to get the avocado out is to slide a spoon between the skin and flesh.

Add the kale, avocados, chopped red onion, jalapeño, cilantro and lime juice to a food processor and pulse until smooth, if you want a chunkier dip you can also just mash with a potato masher or fork to your desired consistency.

Remove from the food processor and add to a bowl.

Mix in salt and pepper and any other desired spices.

Enjoy with tortilla chips!

Taking the Farmers’ Market Experience to Schools

Guest post by Maggie Morrison, Oyster River School District Sustainability Coordinator

There is an adage that you learn the many ways to navigate being an adult in kindergarten.  With a precious dollar gripped in their fists, 5 and 6 year-olds had a chance to visit a mini indoor farmers market at Mast Way Elementary School, in Lee.   Each of the four kindergarten classes got an introduction of the ways to visit a farmer’s market and purchase vegetables, fruit and flowers grown on local farms.   Four Durham and Lee farmers gave the children an opportunity to visit tables displayed with orange pumpkins, multicolored carrots, red crisp apples, shiny green and red peppers. Farmers from Teece, Do-Be-Doo, Pinewood Yankee and Tuckaway welcomed students as each classroom took turns visiting the market.  Now in its third year, this farmers market experience marks the end of a unit of study on farming and where your food comes from. New this year was a tasting table sponsored by Seacoast Eat Local. Unusual vegetables to a 5 year-old palate were offered by Shelly Smith, SEL program coordinator as an opportunity to be brave and try something new.  Students received a coveted sticker if they tried a bite of a watermelon radish, a slice of a crunchy kohlrabi, or a pea shoot.

Weeks earlier, children experienced the first field trip of their academic years by visiting Tuckaway Farm in Lee, NH.  Students walked up the road lined with farm equipment and the last vestiges of the farms’ crops. Students eagerly helped to shuck corn and beans while learning all about the importance of these “three sisters” crops used in indigenous farming.   A horse drawn wagon ride took them to a potato field where they got a chance to dig in the dirt to discover the round yellow orb of a German Butterball potato.

Back in school, Oyster River’s Sustainability Coordinator, Maggie Morrison ask if the students were farmers, only a few hands flew up.  “You’re all farmers!” Morrison enthusiastically explained. “On your visit to Tuckaway, you did the harvest work of the farmer.” Although simple in explanation, these experiences are what kindergarten teacher, Mary Ellen Webb hopes will take root as these students grow up.   “This experience will help a young generation of students become comfortable with visiting local farmers markets. We’re hoping that students will encourage their parents to visit local markets and support local agriculture.” As the days get shorter into the winter months, if one child’s visit to a local farm and farmers’ market has a lasting memory and transforms later to an interest in farming or a lifelong habit of supporting local agriculture, it will be a visit well spent.

For questions email [email protected]

The Energy Crisis and its Role in Agriculture

By Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Samantha

Agriculture is the method of farming which includes growing crops and reproducing animals for food, materials and other products. Unfortunately, global agricultural systems are collapsing because of the increase in the human population and the degrading of land and water which is affecting the energy demand and supply. Many scientists believe the high human population outruns the carrying capacity for the planet. Additionally, there’s a limited amount of space for agricultural land and water. The global agriculture is also being affected by an energy crisis.

windmill

The energy crisis consists of increased demand for energy, but a decrease in supply. Coal, oil, and gas are needed in considerably high amounts for the conventional household and most industries. All of these sources produce high amounts of greenhouse gases which increases the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a natural process where the sun heats up the planet’s surface. Some of the sun’s energy reflects back to space and is absorbed. The rest of the heat is trapped by greenhouse gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane in Earth’s atmosphere causing the extra heat to raise the planet’s average temperature. Human activities related to unsustainable massive scale agriculture, clearing land, and burning fossil fuels are all contributing to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Conventional agriculture needs diesel for tractors and transportation of produce. Also, coal is needed to produce many fertilizers. Currently, coal is declining which means the amount of fertilizer produced is too. Without coal, there is a decline in crop yields from traditional agriculture. Additionally, electricity is needed for irrigation which is the process of giving water to land typically through a channel. Without the proper drainage and flooding of crops, many can get destroyed. Overall, if there isn’t enough energy for agriculture, then more intense labor is necessary.

All of this doesn’t mean agriculture is going to suffer and significantly decline. As the agriculture industry evolves, a focus on renewable energy sources and more efficient systems will be needed to produce enough food to support the population. Sustainable agriculture that feeds local regions will yield a more sustainable food supply than the global agricultural and distribution systems discussed above. Everyone needs to do their part and support different solutions to the energy crisis. Unlike fossil fuels, there are sources out there that are fully renewable. This includes solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal energy. Also, people need to be more efficient and conserve energy within households by switching light bulbs to LED bulbs for example. Additionally, reducing dependence on gasoline whenever possible and shopping locally will all ensure our planet can support our needs for generations to come.

Three Onion Soup

With the Seacoast of New Hampshire just getting its first snowfall of the season yesterday, I thought focusing on a warming recipe would be appropriate. This three onion soup is versatile, and with onions being so easy to find at farms and farmers’ markets right now, it makes it super easy to throw together for a chilly evening’s dinner. You can also throw this in the slow cooker to get the most out of the flavors.

Ingredients

1 pound yellow onion

1 pound white onion

1 cup shallots

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups vegetable broth

1 Tablespoon coconut aminos or Worcestershire sauce

2 cups water

1 tablespoon flour

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon ground sage

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

Your choice of cheese for melting over the top

 

Directions

Heat the butter in a dutch oven until melted and starting to bubble.

Add chopped onion, garlic, and salt and pepper.

Cover and cook until the onions start to brown and are fork tender.

Take the cover off and continue to cook the onions until they are brown and fully caramelized.

Once the onions start to stick add a little water, about a teaspoon to get them off the bottom.

Add the flour and cook with the onions for 2 minutes.

At this point you can transfer to a slow cooker and add all remaining ingredients or continue with the directions as follows.

Add the broth, water, thyme, sage, and rosemary.

Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to get all the bits stuck to the bottom off as it is cooking.

Cook for 30 minutes and then add the Worcestershire sauce, mix well.

Transfer to individual bowls and sprinkle with cheese (you can also put oven safe dishes in the oven to melt the cheese even more if you prefer).

Enjoy!

 

Vendor Spotlight: 45 Market Street Bakery and Cafe

45 Market Street Bakery and Cafe out of Somersworth, New Hampshire is well known for all the amazing treats and goodies they serve at the cafe and bring to local farmers’ markets. The bakery owned by Cheryl Arsenault and Seacoast Eat Local’s very own Celeste Gingras has been in business for over 15 years, but the recent newlyweds have a combined over 75 years restaurant experience! The experience shows when you take a bite into any of the items they have for sale. The bakery and cafe has a wonderful selection of baked goods, but also offers a breakfast and lunch menu. Everything is scratch made at the bakery from the bread for the sandwiches to the sought after whoopie pies that are always flying off the shelf. They have a passion for sourcing local food and often many of their ingredients are purchased from the very farms you see at the farmers’ markets and in our local area. You may have also heard of them before because they were featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, a television show on the Food Network (2016-“Turkey-giving”).

You can stop into their brick and mortar location in Somersworth, New Hampshire, as the name suggests, on 45 Market Street. Upon entering, you will always be greeted with a smile by the knowledgable and talented staff. They are open Tuesday-Saturday, and take call-in orders a head of time too, whether it be for catering or breakfast/lunch. On any given day you can walk into the bakery and find fresh baked cookies, tea breads, muffins, scones, breads, coffee cakes, whoopie pies, and so much more. You can also find them this winter at the Seacoast Eat Local Rollinsford and Exeter farmers’ markets. Make sure you stop by their table to say hello and grab a tasty treat, the cookies and beverages are always very popular!

Online you can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and featured on the Food Network website.