Tucson has a strong agricultural and culinary history. It has recently been name the first City of Gastronomy by the UNESCO because of its cultural food heritage and because of the strong cooperation of the community towards a sustainable food system. There are many farmers’ markets, food distribution organizations (CSA, COOP, etc.) and tons of good restaurants that use ingredients from local producers.
Being lovers of all things food related, David and I set out to explore the town’s best hidden secrets and restaurants.
The first thing we did was to subscribe to the Tucson CSA. Every week, we get our share of produce (veggies) and bread, which allows us to discover new produce of the area on a weekly basis. It’s quite exciting, because we never know what we’re going to get and most of the time, it differs from the usual go-to product we pick at the grocery store. It challenges us to be creative about the way we cook and eat, but so far it’s been fun and delicious! To top it off, because it comes from so close and because it is extremely “seasonal”, every produce we get is at it’s peak of nutritional value and freshness, so you don’t need to be a culinary genius to transform it into a delectable meal.
DOUBLE CHECK CSA
The Tucson CSA is awesome for vegetables, beans and sprouts, but even if they offer some to buy separately, the share doesn’t include meat. On a recovery ride a few days ago, we came across a farmers’ market close to home and learned about the Double Check Ranch who offers meat shares (or meat CSA). The animals come from a ranch that is 1h30 north of Tucson. It is a self-proclaimed “Beyond Organic” farm that raises chicken, pork, lamb and beef on huge free pastureland. People are invited to visit the ranch, so maybe we’ll go see it in the next few weeks. But for now, we picked up our first share (between 3-6lbs of meat of or choice) last night, as we will do every Thursday, at the San Augustin Market. We got to choose among a huge selection of different cuts. For example, yesterday we got 2 lamb chops and a little less than 2lbs of beef chorizo. Basically, by subscribing for 10 shares, you receive 30$ worth of food, for only 25$ every week. We are still not sure if we will need our share every week, but they are totally okay with that - they keep track of when you come to make sure you receive 10 shares, no matter how long it takes. "But where is the fraud?" you might be wondering. Well, we're still new to it, but I'm pretty sure there is none - it is just awesome!
MARKET ON THE MOVE
One of the coolest things we discovered so far is the Market On the Move. We heard of it from people we met at a race and decided to go check it out. This organization gathers the fruits and vegetables that are classified as “B” or “not good enough for grocery stores”. Basically, these organic fruits and vegetables did not pass the grocery store test because they were not pretty enough or had too may seeds in them, etc. The organization takes all these “left out” products and brings them to a warehouse called The 3000 Club and distributes them to people. To give you an idea of how awesome it is, last week we got 40 oranges, 36 pickle cucumbers, 10 real-size cucumbers, 24 Chilaca chile peppers and 10 grapefruits… for 10$! Every week, the produces change depending on what was harvested that week, but the system stays the same – for a 10$ donation, you get up to 60lbs of fresh local produce. Not only is it financially beneficial but you also contribute to not throwing away all that deliciousness.
Of course, we had to figure out what to do with all that food, but cooking and researching about it has been a really fun way to spend our rest week and our down time. If you have some time on your hands, the Market on the Move is definitely amazing. If you don’t have much time, however, I think it could still be a really good and cheap way of getting amazing products (that would be lost if no one buys them) because you don't need to take the full amount that is suggested.
Here are a few of the things we cooked so far with our produces from the Market on the Move - but we still have more to do!
Bon appetit everyone!
Orange and Pamplemousse Marmalade: With 6 oranges, 1 grapefruit, water and a bit of sugar, we made 10 half pint jars. I've been putting marmalade on everything since we made it.
Orange cake: You use the whole oranges to make it, so it is extremely tasty! Thank you Georgia :)
Orange juice: Turns out you can juice the orange, freeze the juice and it comes out as fresh as new when you unfreeze it. My dad is a HUGE orange juice fan, so we juiced up a few litres for the next time he comes.
Orange zest: We zested the skin of the oranges that we juiced. You can freeze zest on a baking sheet, then put it in a small container in the freezer – you will always have orange zest on hand!
Orange vinaigrette: We receive so much greens from the CSA that we had to find a way to make salad more interesting - Stir together 1 cup of freshly juiced orange juice, 2 tbsp or balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp of dijon mustard, 4 tsp of honey. Shake well and put it on any kind of salad!
Pickles (Different shapes: long slices for burgers, rond slices for salads) We made 3 jars – 2 original with garlic clove, one with fennel seeds and garlic cloves.
Salsa: If you have an oven and a food processor, you can make delicious salsa!