How To Shop & Cook Locally, Seasonally & Sustainably / by lee tilghman

Attending farmer's markets are pretty high on my priority list, along with working out and eating a healthy, balance diet. Farmer's markets are not only a great place to get inspiration for your cooking, but are a constant reminder of all the beautiful treasures the earth so kindly gives to us. I love attending them solo and meeting like-minded people and chatting with my farmers.  We can also learn a lot from them, and I love going every week and cultivating relationships with the people that grow my food. 

I am lucky to live in what I consider one of the produce epicenters of the world. We've got a lot of farmer's markets boasting their big, bountiful, and beautiful produce almost every day here in SoCal. They are the best place for starting a local and seasonal diet because the vendors only grow what they sell, and if something is not available, they will not have it. They are great for our environment as well, because they use less fossil fuels to get from the farm to the stand. 

There's really no greater feeling for me than waking up, going for a run, then stopping by my local farmer's market in Silver Lake. Or, if I am feeling especially determined, I'll wake up earlier to beat traffic and head to the best one in Santa Monica. Some of the freshest, more varied produce can be found at the SMFS.

It's easier than you think to incorporate these local fruits and vegetables into your diet. This blog post is a way to show you how I shop locally and seasonally, and then turn those purchases into delicious, vibrant, and healthy food that you see around my instagram. 

In the summer of 2008, I WWOOF'd at Sylvester Manor Farm on Shelter Island, right off Sag Harbor in New York. I was living on the farm with a handful of young, passionate, and eco-conscious people who taught me all about eating seasonally, organically, and especially locally. Emma Hoyt of Columbia University, Edith Gawler, Bennett Konesni, Alex Holey and Andrew Raymond were my farm mates and I give a lot of credit for my love of whole food cooking to them. They made a profound and lasting impression on who I am as a person today. 

When I arrived at the farm, they told me of their local food challenge. They were to only source ingredients from within a 20 mile radius for the entire summer.  I was more than happy to join.

This was my first summer eating like a locavore. I was lucky to live on a farm where we were growing and harvesting over an acre of organic produce for us to create any type of dish we wanted. We cooked many many meals that summer- I recall dining out less than a handful. We had to be more creative in the kitchen- no take out meant if I wanted Pad Thai, we had to make it ourselves. We traded other local farms for eggs, dairy, and specialty meats. It was a huge growing experience for me; mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was out of my comfort zone and constantly pushing myself in all areas. I also did not buy a single item of clothing or "material good" for the whole summer, which was totally new to me. That summer taught me a lot of things, but most importantly, it taught me how to live a life that was sustainable, eco-conscious, and about something bigger than myself. 

Because this type of living holds so near & dear to my heart, I only found it appropriate to share some tips and examples on how to shop, cook and prepare your food seasonally. 

SHOPPING

Start small, and start reasonable. Shopping even once or twice a month at the market helps. I bring my own tote bags (I really make an effort to cut down on my plastic bag use) to fill with veggies. If I am buying beans or coffee, I will bring mason jars too. Reducing your plastic bag usage is extremely important and an awesome place to start for living more eco-consciously. 

Garlic, Avocado, Zucchini, Yellow Nectarines, Broccoli, all 100% Organic (not pictured: eggs!)

Garlic, Avocado, Zucchini, Yellow Nectarines, Broccoli, all 100% Organic (not pictured: eggs!)

This was my haul from a Saturday at the Silver Lake Farmer's Market. Most of the produce is from Tutti Frutti's Farms. I always make sure to buy 100% organic. I usually hit up the farmer's market twice a week, if not three.

I usually head to the market with a few items in mind that I want to pick up. I'll then do a once-over of the market to see what each vendor has. Once I've seen all the stalls- then, I will get to purchasing.

Tips for shopping at your farmer's market:

  • bring tote bags- more than you need! don't use their plastic bags. Consider the environment!
  • make sure to buy organic. not each vendor is 100 % organic
  • don't buy more than you can use in a few days. the point of produce is to use it, not store it. it's easy to get over excited and overbuy, but you won't be so happy when you have to end up throwing a lot of your veggies away 
  • find your local market by using google - there are lots of local websites up to let you know seasons, locations, hours, & parking
  • go home and get creative! produce is best used when used right away - so make a breakfast, lunch, or dinner with your locally purchased treasures.

COOKING

Farmer's Market Breakfast Scramble

Breakfast scramble using my tomatoes, broccoli stems, zucchini, & avocado, and some local eggs

Breakfast scramble using my tomatoes, broccoli stems, zucchini, & avocado, and some local eggs

When I got home from the farmer's market I immediately chopped up the broccoli heads, tossed them in some coconut oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, and roasted them on a cookie sheet at 350 for 30 minutes. I saved the broccoli stems and decided to make a breakfast scramble. It was super satisfying, fresh, light and full of local flavors. You can change up the vegetables weekly, based off what your local market has in stock that week. This recipe is meant as a loose base of inspiration for cooking with local, seasonal goods.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Organic Tava Life Himalayan Salted Ghee
  • 1 cup organic broccoli stems, peeled skins and cut into .5" pieces
  • 1/2 organic zucchini, chopped and quartered
  • 1 clove of organic garlic, minced
  • 1/3 organic avocado, sliced
  • 2 farm fresh eggs
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tbsp salsa of your choice
  • wedge of lemon optional 
  • S + P to taste

Melt ghee over medium high heat in a non stick pan. Once melted, add broccoli stems. Wait 1 minute, then add zucchini. Stir frequently. Add minced garlic. Cook for 4-5 minutes over medium high. Add cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Turn down to low- medium. Push all the veggies over to one side of the pan. Crack 2 farm fresh eggs over your scramble. Cover the pan. Watch carefully. I like my yolks loose, so I cooked them for about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes.

When finished, transfer mixture to plate. Top with salsa, avocado, and a squeeze of fresh lemon- voila! A delightful, local, fresh and seasonal breakfast. Does it not tastes better, knowing that you did something awesome for your community and for your body!?