Today is one of the events we look forward to all year – the Healthy Living Fair! Sponsored by Radish Magazine and taking place at Davenport’s Freight House from 8 am – 3 pm, the Healthy Living Fair is an amazing gathering of our favorite organizations and vendors from the Quad Cities and around our region. Walking around this fair, you can learn so much about local and sustainable food, active lifestyles, mindful living, and much more. And there are always samples and freebies to entice you!
Slow Food Quad Cities is excited to present our booth with the theme “What Would Great Grandma Do?” To answer the question, we’re looking to our own ancestors and the way they cooked and preserved food for their families. This was, for the most part, food they grew or raised themselves, or found in the wildlands near their homes. For more on this concept, you can read the article I wrote for this month’s Radish Magazine, Coming full circle: Local foods hold a wealth of history and family lore. In it, I talk about my food heritage, passed down to me by my dear Grandma Betty and other relatives who came before her.
We’re bringing this idea of food heritage to the Healthy Living Fair by encouraging the folks who visit our table to do what our grandmas, great grandmas, and other ancestors did: grow food, forage for food, cook food, and preserve food for winter. For those of you who visited our booth and would like to learn more about these topics, I’m so glad you ended up at our blog! I’ve got a whole bunch of useful links to share with you…
Urban Gardening is one focus of our booth. Whether you live on a big plot of land or in an apartment in town, you can have a garden. If you have your own yard but space is limited, consider container gardening. Lots of veggies can be planted in containers, like onions, spinach, peppers (look for a “patio” variety), even potatoes! If you don’t have a yard at all, you might try planting a few pots of herbs in your windowsill and/or working a plot at a local community garden. Here are some resources for all kinds of urban gardening methods:
Quad Cities Urban Gardening: a local club devoted to this very topic. They also have a Facebook page.
QC Garden Growers: one of the local organizations that provides community garden space. Find even more community gardens with a web search.
Container Gardening: here’s a page of resources from the University of Illinois Extension.
Straw Bale Gardening: another type of container gardening – some folks swear by it!
Lasagna Gardening: no, it’s not about growing ricotta cheese and noodles. It’s another tried-and-true technique for creating a healthy organic garden.
Keyhole Gardening: a cool technique for a garden and a compost bin in one – it’s drought-tolerant and very striking in a yard!
Companion Planting: your veggies and flowers like to work together to nourish and protect each other. Learn who to plant together and who to keep apart.
Fruit Tree Planting Foundation: your farming ancestors loved to plant fruit trees… and so do these folks, who want to help you grow your own fruit.
Foraging is another way Great Grandma fed her family. Here in the Quad Cities, there are so many native foods growing wild in the forests, along the roadside, and even right in town as decorative accents in front of public buildings. This is free, healthy food! But first, two very important cautions to those who want to learn how to forage:
1. Only forage on land that belongs to you, public land, or land you’ve been given permission to forage on.
2. If you’re not sure it’s edible, don’t eat it!! Make sure you know what you’re hunting for and what it looks like – and be sure you’re also able to identify any inedible foods that may look similar.
If you arm yourself with some knowledge about what edibles grow wild in our area, you will find a wealth of food waiting for you to find it. Some of the forageable foods in the Quad City area include morels, hen-of-the-woods and other mushrooms, raspberries, juneberries, paw paws, apples, elderberries, black walnuts, chestnuts, hickory nuts, dandelion greens, lamb’s quarters, purslane, asparagus… we could go on and on. Search the internet to find out more about these wild foods, or visit these resources:
Quad Cities Edible Landscape: if you join this Facebook group, you will find a massive amount of information about edibles in our area. This is perhaps the most important resource there is for the budding forager in the Quad City area. (They’ve got great gardening resources too.)
Food Foraging from Mother Earth News: info for beginning foragers, from folks who know.
Morels.com: a site devoted to one of the most coveted foraged foods.
Eating Dandelions: why poison them when you can eat them?
Cooking is going to be important once you’ve grown and/or found all those delicious foods! We have collected some of our favorite family recipes, which we’re handing out on recipe cards today at the Healthy Living Fair. We’re also hoping to collect your family favorites. If you’d like to share a recipe that’s been passed down in your family, please either comment with it on this post or email it to email@example.com. We will share our recipes and yours in upcoming blog posts! You can also browse through this blog for some favorite recipes we’ve shared in previous posts – like my recipes for pear pie and blueberry cobbler. Yum!
Preserving is a crucial way to increase the value of your garden or the food you buy at the farmer’s market. You’ll save money in the winter when you eat food that was grown in season and preserved, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your canned tomatoes and refrigerator pickles are just plain better than the ones you can get at the store in winter! Our Healthy Living Fair booth last year focused on Preserving Without Canning, and we published a blog post that gave a bunch of recipes and techniques for preserving via freezing, refrigerating, dehydrating and fermenting. Check it out here.
If you want to learn how to can, there are two unmatchable resources you should consider using. One is the Ball Blue Book, which offers tested recipes that will let you safely and deliciously can your summer produce. The other is friends who know how to can. Reading a recipe in a book is certainly important when you’re learning to can, but watching and learning from someone with expertise is invaluable. Some steps in the canning process are a little tricky the first time, and having your friend walk you through them will make them feel a lot more approachable. Plus, canning with a friend is just fun! This summer, if you’re thinking of trying canning for the first time, send out feelers to your foodie friends. We bet one of them will be delighted to share their skills.
If you have any questions about these topics, or you have suggestions for further resources, we would love to hear from you! Comment on this post or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, about that basket from the beginning of the post! Here’s what it includes: $20 gift certificate to the Food Hub store, $10 gift certificate to Fresh Deli by Nostalgia Farms, Slow Food Quad Cities t-shirt, certificate for one free class from Slow Food Quad Cities, jar of strawberry jam from Crosswinds Farm, jar of honey from Crandall Farms, jar of salsa from Schumaker Farms, handmade dishcloth, onion soup mix, chipotle taco seasoning, garden bug decoration and nature greeting card from QC Collective. What a basket! We wish we could win it ourselves! But it’s for you to win. Read on for details about how you can enter the drawing.
At the Healthy Living Fair, we will be collecting entry forms, and we’ll draw one in a couple weeks to determine the winner. But you can also enter the contest even if you couldn’t make it to the Healthy Living Fair. (Please note: we are unable to ship the basket by mail, so only folks who can pick up the basket locally should enter.) In order to enter, all you need to send us is your name, email address and phone number. But if you want to receive five additional entries, you can share a favorite story of your food heritage with us. This could be a beloved family recipe, a memory of cooking a traditional dish with Grandma, a bit about a favorite locally-produced food, or anything else. At least 50 words, please!
You can write out your entry and drop it off at the Food Hub store, located in the east end of the Freight House building (they’ll also have some of our entry forms, if you’d like to write your entry on that). Or you can email it to us at email@example.com. When you email or drop off your entry, please let us know if we have your permission to add your email address to our mailing list and to share your food heritage story on our blog and/or Facebook page. The deadline for entries is Friday, June 28, and we will pick a winner shortly after that date. We can’t wait to read your stories and see who the big winner will be!