Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dark Days Challenge Finale! (Breakfast)

There will be no Garden Best/Worst post this month. Blogging time got away from me, and I want to focus on the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge, which ends today.  We were tasked with coming up with an all local breakfast, so for my last meal of the Challenge, I made a two-cheese-spinach omelet with hash browns:

Omelet Ingredients:
eggs -- organic and from PA (which falls within the 150 miles rule)
mozzarella cheese -- Blue Ridge Dairy, VA
sheep's milk cracked pepper cheese -- Everona Dairy, VA 
red and purple peppers -- my garden
spinach -- local farmers' market (purchased in December and frozen)
potatoes -- local farmers' market
butter -- Blue Ridge Dairy, VA
Salt was the exception to the local ingredients rule. I also had a steaming cup of coffee, which was not locally sourced either.

{Those bites of mozzarella cheese were A.Maz.Ing.}

I cannot believe it has been four months since I started the Challenge! I'm very glad I did it. It was a fun experiment, and I learned a lot. First,  I learned that the farmers' market close to my house is actually not a producers-only market; they allow re-sellers. This was disappointing to learn, but it led me to FreshFarm Markets a network of producer-only farmers' markets in the DC-area. The market at Dupont Circle is open year-round, and this gave me access to meat, winter veggies, and even other veggies that farmers had in storage (it's how I scored potatoes in January). One of the markets in the network is near my office, and it just re-opened for the season, so I won't have to deal with the crowds at Dupont anymore.

Second (and it's kind of obvious, but goes hand in hand with #1), I learned that eating locally also means eating seasonally for the most part. We shouldn't see asparagus or peaches in January, which is what they have at the resellers market near my house. I have certainly become more aware of what it means to eat locally, organically, sustainably, and ethically.

Third, I tried a lot of new food. I ate rainbow chard for the first time ever a few weeks ago, and I also made my first gratin ever!

I was also forced to try new food combos or get creative with meals in order to meet the Challenge rules, like when I had apple-sage-chicken, apple-potato hash, and shell-less tacos. I don't know if I'll do shell-less tacos again. There are a lot of things that I like in my tacos that cannot be sourced locally, like avocados, limes, sour cream, and a ton of spices. But that was the fun of the Challenge. It forced me to think creatively about my meals, and you REALLY appreciate things like citrus when you suddenly can't have them.

I found new local vendors that I plan to support from now on, like the Blue Ridge and Everona Dairies--I am now a big fan of their cheese and butter. We also liked the bison meat from Cibola Farms, ground beef from Lamb's Quarter, and chicken from Eco-Friendly Foods.

{Virginia has some great vineyards. Local wine rocks}

It was a fun experiment, and not really much of a hardship to create one local meal a week. Of course, I had the benefit of a freezer stocked with some home-grown veggies and year-round access to local meat and produce from the farmers' market. I've been trying to educate myself for quite some time about the benefits of eating in season and from local sources. This Challenge helped focus those efforts by making me document my progress.  Although this Challenge is over, I will continue to try to make entire meals using only local ingredients. This will become much easier when the warm weather brings the summer veggie harvests. The last thing I learned was the importance of planning ahead so that my freezer and pantry and stocked for next winter. I'm looking forward to next year's Challenge!


  1. This was an interesting challenge. I would find it hard to eat fresh in season here with our long winters, but freezing like you did and canning would help.I do not eat breakfast foods, but cook them for my husband, and your dishes gave me some ideas.

  2. @Donna--Oh, I'm so glad! Throughout the challenge I often thought of how much easier it would be if I lived in Florida, and how difficult it must be for people in colder climates. Lots of canning and preserving, I guess. Thx for the comment.

  3. Dear Angela, Congratulations on completing this very inspirational challenge! You inspire me to can and freeze more. P. x

  4. I will pay more attention to who sells(and re-sells) what on our local market. Thank you!

  5. Great wrap up. I used to get a weekly veggie box (when I lived in the UK and didn't grow as many veggies) and I loved that what they sent forced me to become a lot more inventive in my cooking. I find it too easy just ot make the same things over and over and I do think that eating seasonally forces you out of that comfort zone which can only be a good thing.

  6. @Pam--Hi Pam, thank you! It was fun. There are a lot of vendors in Southern PA who come down here to sell their produce.
    @Tatyana--I didn't realize about the resellers at my market until I started ths thing. It was kind of disappointing, because you're paying more at a farmers market, so I want to know I'm buying from the people who grew it.
    @Liz--I agree. I was forced out of my comfort zone a few times, but it was fun. Makes me want to grow more of my own food so I can be sure to have all the things I like.

  7. I like the look of your meals and loved hearing your self-recap about the challenge. I find it so frustrating that all farmers markets aren't created equal (allowing re-sellers) You have learned a lot. I have been recapping for the South Regions (VA, MD, NC, SC) and some of the participants have found local resources for grains and flours. I know some of them might not be w/in 100 miles of you, but you might find some that are (or their source is close to you.) I did a recap for them on my personal blog today. If you have time, maybe pop over and click on the ones in states closest to you. Many of them have set up pages that list their local resources or have them listed in their right had sidebar.

    I just found a source for organic wheat. It isn't local (500 miles from me) but I am thrilled to find some in TX. I will keep looking for some closer to me. Now I just need to get a grinder! I kind of put the cart before the horse I guess. Oh well.

  8. I have loved hearing about this challenge. You have done very well. I hate the re-sell thing. I always ask a lot of questions of the "farmers" in our markets because that's the only way I can tell if they actually grew it or if it came from Dallas (via Mexico). So glad you found a great "real" farmers market! Congratulations on completing the challenge!

  9. It has made very interesting reading following your progress with this challenge. I admire your stickability and also the ingenuity involved.

  10. What an interesting challenge and you made it so yummy!!

  11. What fun and what a challenge! Everything certainly looks Yummy!

  12. This sounds like such an interesting challenge. We try to eat out of the garden as much as possible. Many years ago, I would eat one month a year using macrobiotic methods which dictates eating vegetables in season. It makes a lot of sense on so many levels. Having the garden forces us to eat that way as well.

  13. I really admire you for sticking to this. Once a month I head to a natural foods shop that sells local beef. It's easier for me than the markets in DC. But getting veggies has been a lot harder. Are you changing what you grow based on what you couldn't find this winter?

  14. I just found your blog - on AnnieRie and Emily's recommendations. It looks like we are in the same region. Can I ask what market you shopped at permitted resellers? (or point me to the blog entry where you discussed this)! I'm looking forward to following along with your blog from here on out.

  15. Way to go!! That potato and chard gratin looks absolutely fabulous! I'm a potato girl fo sho!

  16. YUMMO! Gosh this post just made me hungry =) Love your challenge!! Cheers Julia


Hello, and thanks for stopping by my garden site. I appreciate the time it takes to read posts and comment. Happy Gardening!