Faces of Bloomingfoods: Katie Zukof

From Argentina to an Urban Garden: Cultivating a Love of Local & Seasonal Foods
by: Katie Zukof

I got hooked on local foods when I moved to Argentina in 2005 to volunteer for two seasons on a couple of organic farms. Without a lot of money to spare, the families that I lived with ate what they had in abundance – and that meant they ate seasonally and locally.

When I arrived in late winter, our salads were mainly comprised of escarole, leeks and chicory and the watercress that we foraged from the banks of a stream. But as spring came, we enjoyed tender asparagus, robust artichokes, fresh fava beans and succulent English peas. Summer brought us mountains of fruit – strawberries, apricots and cherries, followed by peaches and plums, and in the fall we picked apples directly off the tree for our breakfast or mid-morning snack.

Not only did my Argentine sojourn change my diet, but it also changed my style of cooking. Previously, I had always cooked from recipes, planning our menu and writing detailed grocery lists, then shopping for those specific ingredients. In Argentina, we cooked with what we had. That meant we had a repertoire of basic meals for which we kept some staples around (grains, beans, pasta, and so on) and then we added to the dish whatever vegetables happened to be in season.

Though it may at first seem like a sacrifice to cook only with what is in season, it turned out to be far more delicious, because fresh food, no matter how it is prepared, has so much more flavor than anything else. Our salads also rotated throughout the year. In spring we ate tender greens, peas and scallions. A summer salad consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, raw green beans, grated zucchini and bell peppers, and in late fall and winter salad our salad bowl was filled with lettuce, cabbage and grated beets, carrots and apples.

After harvesting vegetables for salad twice a day as I walked back from the fields to the kitchen before lunch and dinner, there was no way that I could go back to buying mushy, tasteless supermarket produce. So upon my return from Argentina, my fiancé and I became committed to eating local, organic products throughout the year (including winter).

Although we live in the city, we managed to start a small garden when we moved to Bloomington this fall. In November and December, we enjoyed beets and carrots from our garden. In late fall, we planted arugula and spinach to overwinter under cold frames and row cover so that we could enjoy bountiful salads in early spring. We are now watching our peas and fava beans grow, our garlic bulbs sprouting and our rhubarb and asparagus plants awakening from their long winter’s rest.

As for everything else, we are able to get most of what we need from the Farmers’ Market. Along with produce, we shop for whole wheat flour, corn meal, honey, maple syrup, cheese, eggs and mushrooms there. Most of these items are also available at Bloomingfoods, along with some great wildcrafted items such as ramps and morels. Lastly, we have a cow share in which we pay a local farmer a fee for boarding, caring for and milking a cow and in exchange we obtain 1 1/2 gallons of raw milk per week, part of which we make into yogurt.

I would like to leave you now with an easy recipe from my fiancé, Eric Schedler, that you can make 100% local year-round All Season Pizza.