I made my first foray into the world of organic and/or local foods, courtesy of a trip to Heinen's. In case you haven't heard of it, Heinen's is a small Cleveland grocery chain - fewer than 20 stores scattered around the Cleveland suburbs - that caters to shoppers who are looking for high-end foods. If you want fair trade chocolate, or a ridiculous selection of imported cheeses, or locally produced prepared foods, it's the place to go. I don't usually make the 20-minute trek up to the closest location unless I've got a compelling need for something I can only buy there, but I have a feeling I'm going to become a much more regular customer in the coming months.
That's because Heinen's does a pretty good job of labeling the sources of their foods, and a fine job of stocking foods from Cleveland and Ohio sources. Today I found Asiago Pepperoni bread from the Stone Oven Bakery in Cleveland Heights, chevre from Mackenzie Creamery in Hiram, fettuccine from Ohio City Pasta downtown, and milk from Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy. My best find of the day? Sort-of local sugar from Pioneer Sugar in Michigan. Who would have thought I'd find locally grown sugar??
It's only Day 1 of my preparations for the summer and already I've run into the "local vs. organic" question. Is it better to choose locally produced, non-organic items, or organic items that have been shipped from far away? It's not exactly cut-and-dried, especially once you get past the "dirty dozen" foods that you really should try to buy organic. For right now, I'm going with organic stuff that's as close to local as I can. After all, I'm sure the pasture-fed organic beef is great, but what they sell at Heinen's is shipped from Australia, for goodness sake. That's a ridiculous distance, especially for something I'm sure I can buy locally once I know where to find it.
And today I decided to start trying a few of the foods that I predict will show up in our CSA basket when that starts next month. Today's new food: Swiss chard. It sure looked pretty in the store, and sliced up, ready to hit the frying pan.
I used a simple recipe to make sure we could actually taste the vegetable, not just the preparation. The verdict was mixed - Liza took one bite and wouldn't finish the rest of the leaf, Jason was diplomatic but not impressed. It's definitely a different taste - sort of tasted like dirt, to be honest with you, but it sort of grew on me.
It's not something I would want to eat this way every day of the week, but it was pretty and inoffensive and I think I can work with that.