Citizens Market Interview – Rosewater’s John Tucker

John Tucker’s restaurant Rosewater is in Park Slope Brooklyn.

How are you able to keep your menu sustainable?

It is a big project. I am not sure people understand how much effort goes into sourcing as much product as possible to sustainable sources. Fortunately, there are a lot of companies out there who are middlemen to people like me, restaurant owners, and those middlemen help us a lot. They are good, reputable people who have the same values as we do. We also have direct relationships with farmers, orchardists, fish mongers – and those relationships take time and effort. Our chef puts a tremendous amount of time and effort in cultivating these relationships and talking to the people we work with about where the food comes from and how it is grown, raised, or caught.

Why is sourcing your food locally and sustainably important to you?

This [eating seasonally and locally] was was introduced to me while working at Savoy in 1994. To have a blueberry in January probably isn’t a good experience; They are probably from deep South America, probably not very good, probably very expensive, and probably required a lot of jet fuel to get here. I would much rather have a blueberry from Maine in season because it travels far less to get here, will be more ripe, and far more delicious. From seasonality comes sustainability. Eating seasonally means you can eat something at its peak ripeness at its peak freshness. That is something that didn’t come from very far away. As we start to understand the implications of global warming and the use of petroleum products in pesticides herbicides and beef production – we also understand that there are so many things we can do to make a greener place by making choices around where our food comes from.

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Citizens Market interviews of local restaurants

Citizens Market is nonprofit that is developing a crowdsourced website and mobile phone application where information about company behavior is organized into scores that consumers can see while they shop. Several organizations rate companies on their social and environmental behavior, but due to capacity constraints they can usually cover only the largest multinational companies. Citizens Market is taking a different approach: tapping the power of the crowd gathering information about big and small companies.

This is a joint initiative by Taste of Local and Citizens Market to engage business owners and encourage them to be part of the process through video interviews. It’s particularly important to understand the interests of local owners in this process. The idea is to create a replicable model for other consumers and businesses to use going forward.  Your feedback on this process is encouraged.

Our first interview is with Jacques Gautier from Palo Santo in Brooklyn, NY. This video can also be viewed on Citizens Market’s Facebook Page. Please also see the review of Palo Santo here.

Urban farming for the formerly incarcerated (Local Blurb)

Via – Prisons in California, Florida, and Connecticut are training prisoners to become local farmers.  According to the article; this can lead to potential savings by the states:

In Florida, during the first quarter of 2010 alone, the prison farming program saved taxpayers $60,000

But more importantly this is a great opportunity for ex-offenders to gain valuable, usable skills as once they reenter society. According to a 2008 report by the New York Bar Association’s Task Force on Employment Opportunities for the Previously Incarcerated, one year after leaving prison, 60 percent of formerly incarcerated people are unemployed. Urban farms are becoming more common in cities and these farms will require skilled laborers.

Interview with author and forager Maria Finn

Maria Finn founded the blog City Dirt ( and sends out a weekly newsletter, City Dirt: The Bay Area Weekly Garden Newsletter for Foodies, Foragers, Tree-Huggers and Beauty Lovers. She has written for publications such as Saveur, Sunset Magazine, the New York Times, Audubon, and The Los Angeles Times among many other places.

TL: How did you notice your cooking habits change once you decided to eat locally?

MF: I find that I can easily get in to a cooking rut—I make things I’m familiar with over and over. The exciting part of eating seasonally or getting vegetables in your CSA that you’re not familiar with is getting out of your rut and growing as a cook. The answer to this is finding a few great cookbooks that have easy recipes. I like to leaf through some of my favorites before going to the Farmer’s Market. “Everyday Greens” by Annie Somerville is great for veggies. (She has a recipe for leafy greens over polenta sprinkled with pumpkin seeds). This takes minutes to make. I absolutely love “Seven Fires” by Frances Mallmann. He’s Argentinean and so it’s mainly about grilling meat, but a favorite from there is a roasted squash, arugula and goat cheese salad. He also has a recipe for a meat stew served in a large winter squash. Guests are wowed by this, and it’s not hard to make. The classic, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan and the newer “Mediterranean Fresh” by Joyce Goldstein have easy-to-follow recipes that are just great. Then there’s always the Internet…I believe that if you can read, you can cook.

TL: How do you think getting ‘closer’ to your food has changed your approach to eating in general?

MF: I certainly eat a lot more leafy greens in the winter, as kale, chard, mustard, and collards are my bumper crop. Strawberries are coming in now.

I live in Northern California, and our farmer’s markets are amazing all year round, so it’s really easy to eat locally and I belong to a meat CSA that supports organic ranchers in Sonoma County. This doesn’t cost more than buying meat at a supermarket, and it’s all free range, antibiotic, hormone free–and delicious. I tend to cook a lot at home, and make simple rustic food. (That said, I’ve rarely met a taco truck I didn’t like).  But even so, I love my garden. Recently a niece and nephew were visiting me, and my nephew especially was one of those kids who only ate macaroni & cheese. I’m actually astonished he’s grown on his diet of trans fat. But when he was here, we picked greens from my containers, cut shiitakes off my logs and made omelets that they both loved. I think the process of being in the garden encouraged them. As well, we made ice cream out of kaffir lime leaves and lavender from my garden and they were really impressed. So I’m not only eating locally and seasonally, but using my garden to bring in more to the fold.

TL: How did you become an urban forager?

MF: I actually learned to forage before I lived in an urban an environment. First with my grandmother in Kansas. We would walk her property and forage asparagus gone wild and morels. Then I lived in Alaska and food in the grocery stores was so expensive, and wild food so bounteous that we foraged nettles, fiddleheads, berries, and mushrooms. So when I lived in Brooklyn, and I’d spot a fig tree overhanging the sidewalk, or mulberries on a tree, or even grape leaves in easy reach, then I’d grab some as I passed by. Now I live in California and it is a forager’s paradise: miner’s lettuce, fennel, wild plums, neighbors’ fruit trees. And because it’s a growing trend, there are opportunities to try new things and learn about more unusual foraged fare like ginkgo nuts and seaweed.

TL: What should the first steps be for a would-be forager?

MF: To start: I tend to be a little intrepid when it comes to tasting things. I saw a wild plum on the ground–it was about the size and shape of a cherry–so I picked it up, smelled it, and then tasted it. Tasted like plum! My sister loves to going foraging with me so she doesn’t have to be the guinea pig. But for mushrooming, I went out with and expert and he taught me to hunt and identify porcini’s and Chanterelles.  He also runs a nursery nearby my house, Green Jeans, so if I find other mushrooms I am 90% sure are edible, I still take them by his place for identification. The wild greens I mostly learned about from friends. For beginner’s, there are tours, classes, festivals, clubs and societies people can learn from. This is the safest way to go, especially when it comes to mushrooms.

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Is more regulation required for Farmers’ Markets? (Local Blurb)

Farmers’ Markets, along with local food profits, are on the rise. The increase in commerce has reintroduced the fear of “resellers,” but is this legitimate? Many nonprofits that run farmers’ markets require that all items sold are locally sourced and produced by the farmer selling behind the booth. (Original article WSJ, follow-up by Slashfood).

Taste of Linkals

Good afternoon all.  How about some links!

Mars, Incorporated’s Petcare will use “fish from 100% sustainable wild catch and sustainable aquaculture sources” (Got2BeGreen)

CSAs in Pasadena (Pasadena Star News)

More about the value of CSAs (JustLive.Us)

Time to change unhealthy paradigm (The Root)

LA Farmhands (via I Run in Heels)

Making the CSA pickup easier (Local Blurb)

Convenience is often sited as a drawback to the CSA model. The pickup is usually once a week, during a short window, and in one location.  As the model grows, so too does the innovative thinking.  In Illinois, a group of CSAs will have drop-offs at some larger buildings in the downtown area, which will allow shares to be sold to those who work in the building, rather than by neighborhood. Also tollway oases are being used as drop-offs.   (Chicago Tribune via MNN)