Friday, September 24, 2010

Farmers Market Fakes

These white radishes were grown locally.

Posted at 8:00 AM
One of my favorite vendors at a Saturday farmers market in Bloomington, IL, posts pictures of his crops and livestock on the farm's blog. Customers get monthly tours during the growing season. It's the real deal. They see for themselves where their long beans and shiso come from.

Purple and green long beans
When many of us head out to farmers markets tomorrow morning, how do we know all the vendors grew what they sell? Is the "pesticide-free" produce really free of unwanted chemicals?

A Southern California television station's investigation (video below) uncovered vendors at multiple farmers markets who falsely claimed to have grown what they were selling. The investigation found that three of five samples of "pesticide-free" strawberries contained pesticides, according to lab tests; one had four pesticides. I choose to be optimistic that the majority of vendors are honest. But if produce-savvy Californians could be fooled, so can anyone else.

The station, NBCLA, asked operators of farmers markets how consumers can protect themselves. They said shoppers should get to know the vendors, ask where the food was grown and, if vendors say the produce is pesticide free, ask what methods they use for pest control. The market operators said to avoid vendors who can't give specific answers or don't want to respond to questions.

That said, I know where my long beans came from. And I know where they went ... fast. (I got the last half pound of beans at the farmers market, but I'd have at least doubled the recipe had there been more.)

Long Bean Stir Fry
serves 2

1 teaspoon canola or peanut oil
1 clove garlic, smashed*
1/2 pound long beans, cut into 2-inch to 4-inch segments (depending on preference)
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon soy sauce**
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

 1. Heat oil with garlic in non-stick skillet*** over medium high heat for just half a minute. Add long beans, stirring to coat with oil, then add water, cover and let steam.

2. When water has evaporated, check bean for doneness. If they need more cooking, add a couple tablespoons more water and cover again until you hear the sizzling that lets you know it has evaporated again.

3. When beans are done, add soy sauce and bacon, toss until beans are coated with sauce, then remove from heat.

NOTES: * Sometimes I use chopped shallot in place of or in addition to garlic.
** You can try a teaspoon or two oyster sauce in place of soy sauce.
***If you use a regular skillet or a wok, you may need to use a little more oil.

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