Jul 092014
 

Over 25 participants braved the heat of the summer on Sunday, June 29, to attend an urban farm bike ride adventure to the Westbank. Riders began meeting up for the ride at the Zeitgeist (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd) at 11 a.m. and departed at noon to make the 12:30 p.m. ferry across the river to Algiers.

Participants gather at the Zeitgeist before the ride

Participants gather at the Zeitgeist before the ride

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Riders wait for the Algiers ferry to arrive

The first of the three gardens the group toured was the Federal City Community Garden (400 Guadalcanal St.). Garden members were kind enough to provide refreshing flavored water, tomatoes,  and non-alcoholic mojitos to participants.

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The Federal City Community Garden was established about a year ago at the former decommissioned Navy base in Algiers. Master gardener Cynthia Metcalf would pass by the abandoned, decrepit tennis courts nearly everyday which she called an “eyesore.”  With 2,000 residents in Federal City who had nowhere to garden, she began to think about the possibility of utilizing the space for gardening. While some folks thought her idea was out there, she went for it. With a Home Depot grant and a donation from the Master Gardeners of Lousiana, she was able to obtain cinder blocks and soil for the garden.

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Cynthia Metcalf explains the history of the garden to participants

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Today, the garden has 23 growers. Half of the garden beds are occupied by military families and the other half by Westbank residents. Two of the beds are owned by the military school and police.
“It’s been great for the community,” said Metcalf. “It’s really brought people together.”
As participants explored the many garden beds, entire families were at the garden for the event to show off their hard work. Huge bushes of basil and flowers filled a few beds to the brim, while other garden beds had flowering okra plants and various hot peppers growing. This year, they are trying to grow their own popcorn.
“I’ve heard growing your own can be compared to the difference between Hershey’s and Godiva chocolate,” explained Metcalf with a chuckle.

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Purple and green basil

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Flowering okra plants

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Visitors are invited to join the garden

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For only $20 a year, you can lease a garden bed, which includes all plants and seeds in the price. Metcalf was proud to note that the garden is growing “too much food!” Her motto is, “grow food, not lawns.”

Urban Farm Bike Tour participants pose outside of the Federal City Community Garden

Urban Farm Bike Tour participants pose outside of the Federal City Community Garden

The next stop on the tour was the Magellan Street Garden (3320 Magellan Street, Algiers). Lead gardener Tony Lee welcomed participants with a big smile as they parked their bicycles in the designated “Bike Parking” area across the street.
“I almost didn’t want to host you all because I wanted to join the bike tour myself,” said Lee with a chuckle.

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Lead gardener Tony Lee

Raw vegan chef Dominique Bachemin was on-site preparing green smoothies with various produce including mustard greens, kale, dates, mint, and banana.

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Raw Vegan Chef Dominique Bachemin

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Pineapples growing in one of the beds

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One of two ponds inside the garden

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Participants in the tour were fortunate to have LaFiets, a custom-built beverage bicycle, join them along for the ride. LaFiets provided riders with free lemonade and ice tea, and they also captured a time lapse video of the entire event.

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The third stop on the tour brought riders into Algiers Point, at Algiers-Behrman Community Garden (615 Opelousas Ave.). The gardeners set out watermelon for participants to enjoy as they wandered past the chickens, garden beds, and vertical growing set-ups. A few of the gardeners who have plots came out in the hot heat to chat with everyone, although they normally operate on such different schedules they rarely ever see each other. One gardener tends to the chickens while another manages empty plots.

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With the ferry just a short ride away, riders quickly headed over to the terminal to catch the 4:45 p.m. ferry in time. The ride ended at the Eat Local Challenge finale party at Pistil & Stamen Flower Farm and Studio (1226 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd). Participants and Eat Local Challengers feasted on grilled shrimp and squid, raccoon po-boys, local cocktails, and rosemary ice cream.

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Raccoon po-boy

Everyone who attended the ride had a blast – many thanks go out to all of the gardens that were involved, the Eat Local Challenge, LaFiets, and the NOLA Social Ride. For further information about the gardens and the people behind them, view the article below:
http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/features/9559277-171/locavore-bike-tour-pedals-past

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Jun 292014
 

Why NOLA Farms is presenting a series of local recipes for the Eat Local Challenge throughout the month of June

Please note that this recipe is not 100% local. The tasso has spices in it that are not local. You can choose to omit the tasso, but it really does bring a lot of flavor to the dish.

White beans with tasso and kale

Purple rice

Tasso from Cleaver and Co.

Homemade vegetable stock

White Beans and Purple Rice with Kale
4 cups fresh white beans
3 ½ cups of water or homemade vegetable stock
1 package tasso
1 ½ cup onions, diced
1 ½ cup bell pepper, diced
3-5 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup green onion, chopped
½ jalapeno, finely diced
1 bunch kale, chopped

Method:
1. First, brown the tasso with garlic and jalapeno in a non-stick pan.
2. Remove and place tasso mixture into a large dutch oven or pot. Add onions, bell peppers, and kale to a non-stick pan and sauté down until translucent.
3. Add onions, bell peppers, green onions, kale, stock, salt, and beans to pot.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally.
5. Allow the beans to cook for an hour and a half, or until the beans are creamy.
6. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.

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Jun 082014
 

Meatballsedited

If you’re looking for a comfort meal centered around beef, here is just the entrée for you. This recipe incorporates vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy, and protein all into one dish. The meatballs simmer in a tomato and milk sauce for an hour; making them juicy, flavorful, and hard to resist.

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Jalapeño Rice Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Makes 18-20 medium-sized meatballs

1 lbs. ground beef
1/3 cup uncooked rice
½ cup onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
2 tablespoons green peppers, diced
4 tablespoons green onion, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt to taste

For the sauce, combine the tomatoes, milk, two garlic cloves, salt to taste, and the sugar into a saucepan on medium heat. Add a teaspoon of the jalapeño if desired, adjust according to your desired heat level. Allow it to cook down while preparing the meatballs, stir occasionally. Add more milk or water if it becomes too thick.

In a large bowl, add the beef, rice, green peppers, jalapeño, green onions, remaining garlic cloves, and salt to taste. Mix it all together and shape into meatballs.

Over medium heat, brown the meatballs in a large skillet. Drain the fat, then add the tomato sauce to the skillet. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour.

Notes: If you’re worried about the spice level, you can omit the jalapeño and add another vegetable if you wish. The spice level in this dish came out just right for me – it wasn’t too spicy, but I could still taste the jalapeño. If you want more veggies or herbs in your meatballs, add them in. This dish is rather forgiving, so feel free to be creative with it. The sauce cooks down quite a bit, so if you prefer more sauce I would suggest adding more tomatoes and milk.

Produce tip: If you haven’t been able to find local garlic yet, a farmer sells it at The Marketplace at Armstrong Park (901 N. Rampart St.) on Thursdays from 3-7 pm.