Monday, September 3, 2012

Tomato Taste-Off: the FoodShed Project's September Focus

This was just posted to the Edible Monterey Bay's blog. Click here to read it there.

Tomato Taste-Off: September´s FoodShed Focus 
Written by Camilla M. Mann    

To-MAY-to or To-MAH-to? Pronunciation doesn't really matter when it comes to this nutritious, summery fruit. It’s all about what you do with it. Some might argue that it’s a vegetable; it’s not. A tomato is a luscious and versatile fruit that should be celebrated at its sun-kissed best. And you’ll have the opportunity to do just that at two Foodshed Project events coming up this Wednesday Sept. 5 and Friday Sept. 7.

This summer, the Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market (SCCFM) launched an educational series that focuses on the connections between farmers, food artisans, and the community that make up our local foodshed: the FoodShed Project. A foodshed can be defined in a variety of ways. But, to put it simply, a foodshed includes where a food is produced, where it is consumed, and everything in between—the land on which it grows, the route it travels to get to market shelves, the tables on which it’s served, how it’s being prepared and presented, and the waste that is produced.

From its inception in 1990, the SCCFM has had the goal of providing educational programs within the community. Now, that plan is coming to fruition with a grant funded by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program and in a partnership with the Ecological Farming Association.

The FoodShed Project series kicked off in June and continues through October—on the first Wednesday of each month. All of the FoodShed Project events are free and are typically hosted at the Downtown Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market. This month, in addition to the first Wednesday event, there is a special, second event—La Comida Del Pueblo de Watsonville—which will be held at the Watsonville Farmers’ Market on Friday, September 7th.

The FoodShed Project’s monthly events shine the spotlight on seasonal food items, showcasing them with tastings, talks, music, cooking demonstrations, and activities for the entire family. Food, What?! youths have been hired to lead scavenger hunts and lend helping hands during the mini cooking classes and demonstrations at each event. The FoodShed Project hopes to grow their partnership with Food, What?! and nurture the local agriculture industry by funneling young, food-justice leaders into local agriculture-related jobs in the coming years.

The FoodShed Project’s first September event—Tomato Taste-Off—is on Wednesday, September 5, from 3-5pm, at the Downtown Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market. The second event—La Comida Del Pueblo de Watsonville—follows just two days later. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the sun-kissed flavors and regional history of the tomato. On Wednesday, you’ll learn about the famous dry farm tomato from the pioneers at Molino Creek. You can make googly eyes with heirlooms of every size, shape, and shade while listening to Happy Boy Farms talk about growing practices and flavor. Witness Joseph Schultz from India Jose work his magic with this summery fruit.This month, the tomato is the FoodShed Project’s guest of honor. The English word ‘tomato’ comes from the Spanish word tomate, which derived from the Aztec word tomatl. Native to western South America and Central America, the Spanish explorer Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma's gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornaments, but not eaten. More than likely the first tomato varieties to reach Europe were yellow; in Spain and Italy tomatoes were known as pomi d’oro, literally ‘apples of gold’. Italians were the first culture to embrace and cultivate the tomato outside of South America.

On Friday, September 7, from 4-6pm, JCG Farm will be dishing out growing tips while Lidia Mendez Juarez will whip up some of her fabulous tomato creations. At both FoodShed Project events, you’ll be able to follow Food, What?! on an educational, family-friendly scavenger hunt after the presentations. It’s free, fun, and informative.

Don’t miss the chance to celebrate the tomato with the FoodShed Project!

Peaches in August
Photo Courtesy of the FoodShed Project

To get a picture of the kind of activities that are in store at this week’s Tomato Taste-off, read on for the juicy details of happened at last month’s Peach Partay.

About 70 market-goers gathered, sitting on hay bales, while Frog Hollow Farm peach expert Jon Harvey held up the fallen limb of a peach tree, heavy under the weight of ripe, juice-filled fruit. Harvey pointed out the place in the wood where the new growth began and explained how the fruit-bearing part of the tree is the previous year’s growth.

Following the Frog Hollow Farm’s presentation, Kendra, Zach and Ana of the Penny Ice Creamery stepped forward and, with the assistance of local food justice leaders from the Santa Cruz based organization ‘Food, What?!’, launched into a mix of story-telling, ice cream making and peach grilling.

Each audience member received an ice cream making kit. Small bags of ice cream mixture nestled inside larger bags full of ice and, gripped tightly in the hands of customers young and old, the sounds of clinking ice cubes filled the air. Participants smiled with the excitement of this do-it-yourself demonstration while they learned about where the ingredients came from and what is possible in their own homes.

Following the presentations, the band sounded, a face painter set up shop, and mural making continued at the art table. The ‘Food, What?!’ youth leaders led interested participants on a stone fruit hunt around the market. With a free scoop of ice cream from the Penny for those who completed the hunt, participants learned foodshed facts: a large peach contains 3 grams of fiber, is a good source of vitamins A and C, and is rich in many vital minerals such as potassium, fluoride and iron.

Peach juice will dribble down your chin, make you smile, and a peach is large enough to share. And since peaches are on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of fruits and vegetables, you should always purchase organic due to high pesticide residues in the conventionally grown fruit.

For more information about the FoodShed Project, which is directed by Nicki Zahm, please go to:

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