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Feature Fri Mar 11 2011
March is my make it or break it month.
The snow is gone; it's grey and wet and I am starting to go stir crazy. Somehow a winter of stews and soups and casseroles still has left me hungry. I try eating out more often in hopes that the freshness I'm looking for will suddenly appear on my prepared plate. But even out on the town in good restaurants, my plate is wanting. Everything just feels tired.
Needless to say, it doesn't seem like anything could possibly grow out of the compacted muck I like to call a "backyard." If I cut into one more mealy tomato that I paid two dollars for, I think I'm going to lose it. We're turning our clocks back this weekend and with your extended light into the evening, I propose that you help usher in your own little spring. Start reminding yourself that the end is near, asparagus is on the way and spring is coming.
there's hope for you just after the jump...
Chicago farmers markets, where you and your favorite chef find the best produce money can buy, are looking thin these days. We're still culling through bins of root vegetables, cheese and meats. Green City has started back up with markets every other week and the Logan Square Market at the Congress Theatre is running every Sunday. Despite the thin pickings now, it's getting to be time to pick up your regular attendance, and be first in line for fresh peas, asparagus and spring greens.
Grow your own: Nothing is better than tomatoes fresh out of your own backyard. Plus think about how much you spend on buying fresh herbs from the store, only to waste half of your bunch. If you are planning your own little garden or maybe just beginning with a window box of herbs, you will want to be ordering your seeds now. Early Chicago crops need to be sown in early March which means now! The Almanac has a handy little guide to help you figure out when to plant what, and to buy seeds check out Seed Savers Exchange and Hudson Valley Seed Network. Shops like Brew and Grow, and other DIY garden spots sell the containers and lighting you will need.
Community Supported Agriculture: Consider a CSA box this year as your very own Top Chef mystery basket. CSA's were hot last year as the home cooks of Chicago realize that better food is made from local sources, demand is going to be even higher this year. The Local Beet released their exhaustive list of CSA's which details what each farm supplies, how they drop off, cost, frequency etc. Plus if you were on the fence last year, perhaps we can sway you. Loaded Bikes, a non-profit committed to make bike trailers more common in Chicago will pick up your shares and deliver them by bike. Look out Peapod.
And the last thing? Have a night where you blatantly ignore the weather. Last Friday night, I decided I needed a burger. A real, good, home-cooked, grilled-outside burger. I took some really quality beef, mixed in some leftover compound butter from a killer steak recipe and mixed up my own chipotle ketchup. And you know what? When I took that first bite and closed my eyes, it almost felt like May. Almost.