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Locally Yours: Better options than ‘paper or plastic?’ available

By: Carol Arnold
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Paper or plastic? It’s a polite question usually asked by an earnest young person who is anxiously waiting to pack your groceries. By now most of us know the question is important. With the negative environmental impact associated with cutting trees for paper bags and the millions and millions of plastic bags in circulation we might want to re-think how we package our purchases. An easy place to start reusing and recycling is the farmers market. In an effort to reduce the use of plastic bags, some farmers markets have banned plastic bags outright. Some markets provide compostable bags made of corn for their customers. Our approach is somewhere in the middle. Although we aren’t banning plastic, we are encouraging our customers to recycle and reuse. Why don’t consumers ditch the plastic? Barriers to using alternative packaging methods include forgetting reusable bags at home and lack of education of how to effectively reuse what already exists. The simple solution to the first problem, forgetting your bags, is to carry bags with you at all times. Put together a neat basket or tote bag packed full of other bags and leave it in your trunk or the back of your station wagon. If you like to keep your car tidy, put a crate in your car and fill it with all of your baskets, totes, and reusable plastic bags. I currently have an inventory of two baskets, 10 muslin totes, and over fifty plastic bags in my broom closet. The trick is getting them from the closet to the market. Now I have a system. I leave an adequate amount of bags in my car at all times. I use baskets and bags, clean them up after use, replace what I can’t recycle, and then repack my car. Here’s the system I use to avoid plastic. I bring three large containers to the market. I place heavy produce items such as potatoes, onion, and melons directly into my market basket. I use one insulated tote to carry fish, meat, cheese, and other perishable items. I carry a muslin tote for bread, olive oil, and other non-produce items. I use small, washable muslin or net produce bags for more fragile fruits and vegetables. I layer those on top of the market basket and the tote bag. Two additional tips. One, don’t bring more bags than you will use. I brought so many last week I didn’t have room for anything else in my basket. Two, designate one bag for personal items; i.e. car keys and cash. I put them in a net bag and just kept moving that bag to the top of the heap as I shop. If you are looking for a market basket or other alternatives to plastic, you can visit our market booth. We have several alternatives available for sale and proceeds from the sales benefit the Foothill Farmers Market Association. The recipe this week is something special. Featuring fabulous Bartlett pears, local honey, and fresh thyme, the flavor combinations create a late summer taste sensation. This salad is simple enough to prepare for a weeknight dinner and special enough to serve for a special guest. See you at the market! Carol Arnold is general manager of the Foothill Farmers Market Association. Reach her at foothill farmersmarket@gmail.com. __________ Gorgonzola and Almond Stuffed Bartlett Pears with Green Salad 1 tablespoon butter, melted 2 teaspoons honey 2 medium firm-ripe pears, halved lengthwise and cored Kosher salt 8 thin slices pancetta ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped almonds 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese (1/4 cup) ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped 1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard Freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons olive oil 4 cups salad greens Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and one teaspoon of the honey. Brush the mixture over the cut sides of the pears and season lightly with salt. Arrange the pears cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the upper rack until just tender, about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange the pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the lower rack until crisp, 10 to 13 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. In a small mixing bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the almonds, the Gorgonzola, thyme, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of honey. Remove the pears from the oven and divide the cheese filling evenly among the pear cavities. Sprinkle with the remaining almonds, return to the oven, and bake on the upper rack until the cheese starts to soften, about three minutes. Turn the broiler on high and broil until the nuts brown slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil. Toss the salad greens with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and divide among four plates. Top each salad with two pancetta rounds and one pear half. Season with salt and pepper and serve.