Ask the Butcher: Turkey Tips!...

Mark Holzkopf, owner of Holzkopf’s Meat Market in Edgewater, is one of our favorite sources for tips on cooking meat–and was one of our sponsors for our first Harvest Feast (we’re still dreaming about that scallion pancake with Mark’s smoked turkey!). With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we asked him for some tips on buying and preparing a delicious turkey for the holiday. Fresh or Frozen? Frozen turkeys are usually self-basting. This means they are injected with a solution of about 3% of its weight that may contain: margarine, butter, broth, water, salt, or flavor enhancers. These ingredients help keep the bird from drying out during the cooking process. Check the label for percentage of added solution. Frozen birds may be more convenient.  You can purchase your frozen bird weeks in advance and store it in your freezer so you’re not running around at the last minute trying to find a turkey. If you buy a frozen bird, you will have to plan ahead.  To defrost safely in your refrigerator, it will take about one day for every five pounds of turkey. Leave the bird in its original package and place a drip pan under it so it doesn’t leak onto something else. Never defrost at room temperature! Fresh turkeys are non-injected and are minimally processed. They contain no artificial ingredients. Fresh birds are chilled between twenty-six and forty degrees Fahrenheit. They do require some special handling to maintain freshness, as most processors only deliver them locally. I always recommend placing an order with your local butcher shop to assure you get the size you want.  You can pick it up one or two days before the holiday. Fresh turkeys do tend to be a little bit more expensive. Brining a fresh turkey is...

We’re Ready to Feast!...

Only a few tickets remain! Buy your ticket now to join us for our first Underground Harvest Feast on November 10 to celebrate what we’ve grown this year in our gardens and in our community! This special collaboration dinner between Chef Fresh, PGP’s Resident Chef, and Chef Alvin Yu, PGP board member and owner of Fyusion Dining, will feature four courses highlighting what “homegrown” means to them. We asked Chef Fresh a few questions about her inspiration for the evening: Can you tell us a little about your culinary roots? I’m a southern girl transplant to Chicago. I grew up looking to the older people in my family who always made magic happen in the kitchen. When I was old enough, I was in the kitchen cooking right beside them. My mom and I would visit the farm trucks every week because we knew who had the best salad greens, Collards, mustards, or turnips. When I would visit my dad, he always had a tomato plant growing and I would grab tomatoes off the vine and eat them like apples–just a little salt and pepper after each bite. I remember loving to visit a certain cousin because they had the best grapevine that I could literally stand under and grab bunches off to eat. My favorite was riding around with my grandfather out to his farm, feeding the hogs, looking at everything growing, and on the drive back stopping by pecan trees to fill up our bags. How did the idea of “homegrown” or harvest season inspire your menu for this dinner? This was a great source of inspiration. Most of my fondest food memories from childhood are rooted in farming and preparing things from fresh ingredients. When I sat down and reminisced with Chef Al, we had so much in...

Indoor Herb Care – Winter Edition...

After the past few frosty weeks, fresh herbs on the windowsill are a welcome sight in the home of a gardener with an itchy green thumb. Whether you’ve transplanted them from your garden or are eyeing some at the grocery store, we have a few tips for you to keep them in the best shape while they grow indoors throughout the next several months. Type of pot and soil Make sure your pot has a drainage hole at the bottom. If your decorative pot does not have a drainage hole, pot your herb plant in a plastic pot (with a drainage hole) that is slightly smaller than the decorative pot. Place this inside the decorative pot, and keep an eye on the water level so your plant roots aren’t sitting in water. If you’ve transplanted your herbs from outdoors, use lightweight potting soil to fill out the pot. A good potting soil will contain expanded perlite in addition to organic material. Perlite allows for better drainage and air flow around roots that are confined in a pot. Light  Right now in Chicagoland the days are not only growing shorter, but the sun is also positioned lower in the sky. This means that plants have much less light available, so you can expect them to grow more slowly. Be sure to put your plants in south or west facing windows where they can get at least six hours of light per day. If this isn’t an option, you might consider inexpensive grow lights to supplement. A 60-watt incandescent plant & aquarium bulb installed in a clip lamp 10″ inches above the plants will help during the darkest days of winter. If you are using a compact fluorescent bulb, you can position it just a few...

Sneak Peek of HomeGrown: An Underground Harvest Feast...

Fall is time for harvest–buy your ticket now to join us for our first Underground Harvest Feast to celebrate what we’ve grown this year in our gardens and in our community! This special collaboration dinner between Chef Fresh, PGP’s Resident Chef, and Chef Alvin Yu, PGP board member and owner of Fyusion Dining, will feature four courses highlighting what “homegrown” means to them. We asked Chef Yu a few questions about his inspiration for the evening: Can you tell us a little about your culinary roots? Originally from San Francisco, California, I have spent a large portion of my life in the kitchen. Our family owned and operated several restaurants during my childhood. Growing up in a large family, I was amazed at how my aunts and uncles could produce plentiful amounts of high-quality food for 20 to 30 people in a few hours. My family believed that we work to eat, and we were always in search of the perfect meal–whether it was a dinner at home with the family or exploring the variety of cultural cuisines that San Francisco had to offer. This emphasis on food as more than daily sustenance sparked my interest to experience, learn, and eat all the things in the culinary world. How did the idea of “homegrown” or harvest season inspire the menu for this dinner? Fresh ingredients are a cornerstone to any dish and ingredients grown in your own garden are second to none. When I though about the harvest season, I thought of all the fruits, vegetables, and flowers my mother would cultivate in our backyard, from the most delicious strawberries, buttery avocados, and the most fragrant herbs. The backyard garden was  cornerstone of our daily diets. This led me to think about all the family recipes that I...

The Magic of Mulch

It’s difficult to understand the importance of mulch, or even how to properly use it, when there are so many bad examples around our city. When parkway trees have mulch volcanos piled close to the trunk, or urban farms are growing vegetables in bare soil, it’s hard to know what the best practices are for this important resource. Although tended vegetable beds are hardly part of a natural habitat, it’s good to think about the processes that contribute to healthy, self-sustaining environments and try as best as possible to mimic them. Every autumn, deciduous trees drop leaves on the soil in the forest, creating a thick layer to help with moisture and nutrient retention; provide habitat for beneficial microbes and macrobes; insulate against fluctuating temperatures and frost heaving; and gradually decompose, adding organic matter to the soil. This is exactly what you want to try to do in your own garden. Mulch material matters! Although colored shredded bark, recycled shredded rubber, gravel, and large pebbles are sold in the mulch section at the garden center, not all of these contribute the basic functions of mulch in the garden. Not only does the mulch material matter, but how it is used and the size of the material affect whether the mulch will be effective. Shredded wood chips (undyed, not bark-based) are great, while sawdust is not.     Join us tomorrow (Oct. 29th, 10-11am) for Mulch Magic at Global Garden, where we will discuss and demonstrate how to use different types of mulch available in the city, as well as the pros and cons of each material. ...

Growing to Give to Care for Real...

Grow2Give is Peterson Garden Project’s program for growing fresh, organic produce for food pantries and nutrition programs. We dedicate at least 5% of the beds at each garden to Grow2Give. Care for Real in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago has been a long-time partner for the program, and Lyle Allen, Care for Real’s executive director, kindly shared his thoughts below. Care for Real, a 501(c)(3) not for profit, has been providing free programs and services to our neighbors in need for more than 45 years. We manage an innovative food distribution that reaches approximately 65,000 annually. Our organization offers a client choice model, essentially operating as a small grocery store, allowing clients to pick and choose the food they bring home to prepare. The majority of our clients are seniors and families with children under the age of 18. We understand the importance of not only filling bellies, but providing better food options to ensure clients are eating better and living healthier lifestyles. Care for Real is so grateful to Peterson Garden Project for their support and dedication to our mission. Their weekly donation drop offs harvested from their Grow2Give gardens make for especially exciting days at our agency, bringing bounties of fresh, locally grown, organic produce to a population that does not have the financial resources to purchase on their own. From the smile of an immigrant discovering a unique vegetable that reminds them of their own homeland, to the look on a child’s face the first time they truly taste a delicious cherry tomato, I give sincere thanks to Peterson Garden Project for bringing joy (and healthier food) into the lives of our clients. —Lyle Allen, Executive Director, Care for...

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