Growing Little Locavores in Chicago

I’m pleased to introduce Melissa Graham, a Chicago mom who launched a family food organization, Purple Asparagus, and authors the brand new blog, Little Locavores. Read on to learn about her work, an upcoming event in Chicago, and some market fresh recipes to enjoy with your kids.

melissa grahamA few weeks ago, I was noodling around on the web and came across Colleen’s wonderful blog full of great information for parents looking to instill a love of good food in their children. I was so glad to find this resource as it dovetails so well with the work that I do out here in Chicago.

About 4 ½ years ago, with a group of Slow Foodists, I began a family-friendly organization called Purple Asparagus. Our mission is to bring families back to the table by promoting all the things associated with good eating, eating that’s good for our body and for the planet. In kid-words, we celebrate the notion that not all asparagus is green.

We’ve got our hands in a lot of different projects to promote good, healthful eating, including school workshops, family dinners, and cooking classes, but one of the most important pieces of our programming is at the farmers’ markets.

Each year, we travel to markets throughout Chicago and the suburbs organizing hands-on cooking projects for children using market produce. Starting the season with homemade strawberry yogurts and ending with pumpkin tortellini, we show families and children how easy, fun and delicious it is to cook with local and sustainable products.

Through this work and watching my own son’s eating habits develop and flourish as a result of our family trips to the farmers’ market, I’ve learned that the reward for market trips was not simply to get the freshest and best tasting ingredients, but also to forge a deeper connection between the food that we eat and the people who produce it. Visits to the market can be a fun and easy way to connect children with the source of their food, create a sense of community and develop in them a respect for farmers and producers and the food that they sell.

Peach-Basil Salsa
Serves 2 as a snack,
multiply the recipe accordingly

Out here in the Midwest, the peaches are at their peak. This recipe for Peach-Basil Salsa is one that can be completed in just a few minutes, making it a perfect project for our farmers’ market visits. Serve it with tortilla chips or some baked whole grain tortilla spikes or on top of grilled fish or chicken. For adults, I would add about 1 teaspoon of finely chopped Serrano chile.

1 firm ripe peach
½ scallion, finely chopped
2 basil leaves
1 small wedge of lime
kosher or sea salt

Roughly chop the peach and scrape into a small bowl. Purple Asparagus has hand choppers that the kids can safely use for the task. Mix in the scallion. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces. Squeeze the juice from the lime wedge over the peaches and discard the wedge. Add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Mix the ingredients and serve.

Whole Wheat Tortilla Spikes
Makes approximately 36 tortilla spikes

6 whole wheat-flour tortillas
Cooking spray

Slice the whole wheat tortillas into ½-inch slices. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the tortilla spikes on top. Spray the spikes lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.

Join Purple Asparagus Sunday in Chicago: For those of you who happen to live in Chicago or will be in Chicago this Sunday, August 30, Purple Asparagus is having its annual fundraiser, Corks & Crayons, at one of our local restaurants, Uncommon Ground. Just a few weeks ago, Uncommon Ground was recognized as the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country. In addition to great food and beverages, the event features music, gardening demonstrations and a mini-farmers market, which will be manned by our pint-size guests.

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One Response to “Growing Little Locavores in Chicago”

  1. Live cooking

    Try our live cooking concept. Your guests can watch our cooks while they are making the most delicious dishes.

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