Downpours all morning turned the grand opening of the new and improved Nashua Main Street Farmer’s Market into a soft opening with a few hardy vendors in attendance. By noontime, the rain lightened and Nashua’s Country Dreams Farm was selling summer squash, zucchini, Walla Walla onions, rhubarb and strawberries. Garlic scapes were already gone to those that braved the weather earlier.
Also from Nashua, Dirty Girl CSA, in its first year of production thanks to a locally famous start-up campaign through Kickstarter, was selling early greens and radishes, as well as tomato seedlings, T-shirts and stickers.
Fred’s Farm made the hour and half long trip from Alexandria and was selling a great variety of salad and cooking greens, all organic, all harvested hours earlier. Spiczka Farm from Dunstable, MA featured early peas and strawberries.
I picked up some squash, radishes and an onion to roast up. I may get adventurous and cook up the radish greens – something I’ve never tried before – perhaps into a frittata. Check this space for a hopeful success story on that. Oh yes, and of course some strawberries, perfectly ripe.
Can the average New Englander find produce grown in New England at an average New England supermarket on an average winter day? I went to my neighborhood Shaw’s to find out.
If you want to eat local, should you even bother with a supermarket? We all know that most of the produce you find in supermarkets is from South America or California – at any time of the year. Even during the height of the local apple season, we find Washington apples on the shelves. Now, add to that that it is winter. It would appear to be a lost cause.
But I found some things. You just have to look carefully.
The Shaw’s I stopped at last week is a smaller one in Nashua, but fresh produce section has a good variety of items from all around the country and beyond. The first thing that greets you upon entering is the fruit section. In the winter, we have a lot of oranges and grapes and there are always apples, but nothing local. Not even the apples. I will never understand why local supermarkets don’t take advantage of the miles of surrounding apple farms here. Once in a while, I’ll see local apples in the supermarket during the very height of apple season, but there’s no reason to not sell them through winter. You can go to any one of these apple farms in the winter and find excellent apples.
Moving on, we hit the salad greens, tomatoes, and other cold-eating vegetables. No local greens – another surprise, considering that they are often grown year-round indoors – but they did have something I never expected: tomatoes. Big, beautiful Ugli Ripe heirloom tomatoes from Maine’s Backyard Farms sat on the shelf next to basic varieties shipped from as far away as Mexico. Turn the corner and I also found 10oz boxes of Cocktail Tomatoes on the vine from Backyard Farms. These tomatoes are grown year-round indoors and distributed only as far as day’s drive.
There were no local selections among the cooking greens and herbs, but there were a few choices within the root vegetable section. Maine potatoes are an easy find in any supermarket and Shaw’s has some bagged from Fresh From the Start – a New York state distributor. There is no indication where in Maine the potatoes come from and since they might travel from Maine to Long Island and back, one might question how local that ends up being. I set my boundaries to the ends of New England, but since New York State is just beyond that, I guess I’ll take it.
They also had bagged Sugar Mountain Parsnips from Manheim Farm in Whatley, MA. Manheim is a larger farm along the Connecticut River that sells their produce wholesale only.
The last item I found was a bag of Morning Kiss Organic Onions in the organic section. These onions are distributed by Gold Bell of Arrow Farms in Chelsea, MA. Keep in in mind, however, that it is a distribution center. Arrow Farms makes no claims on its website that its produce is sourced locally, so the onions could have actually been grown anywhere.
All-in-all, this was not a bad excursion. I enjoyed a nice plate of sliced tomatoes and some roasted potatoes and parsnips with dinner. I didn’t expect an abundance of local produce, but I found enough to get by and that’s what counts. You can find local food in the off-season. You just need to read labels and stickers and be persistent.
I had one of the best burgers in my life at b.good in Nashua. The Adopted Luke is a messy delight of all natural beef from Maine, smoked Gouda, bbq sauce, sautéed onions and mushrooms. I added Vermont bacon for more spectacularness. Amazing. And I don’t even like mushrooms! I guess I do, now.
You can order the Adopted Luke as a beef burger (sourced from Pineland Farms Natural Meats), or as turkey burger, a vegan veggie burger or as an all-natural chicken sandwich. There are five other equally delicious choices, including the seasonal Joanie with avocado, spicy slaw and sriracha. They also have oven-finished fries, sautéed veggies and seasonal Butternut Squash Soup. But that’s not all. There is a great selection of salads and “kale & quinoa” bowls that are newer additions to the company’s menu and have become big hits.
I went into b.good with the idea that its focus is on local food, but that’s not exactly true. The focus at b.good is on “real” food. That means, for example, that when you want to have pumpkin milk shakes on the menu for Halloween, you’re not squirting pumpkin-flavored goop into your vanilla shake, you are sourcing out and roasting real pumpkin to make that shake. The added bonus is that they try to source their food as locally as possible. The pumpkin in that milkshake came from Lanni Orchards in Lunenburg, MA.
Of course, not everything is locally sourced. We’re not told where the turkey or chicken comes from, and the avocados are surely not from around here. It may be too much to expect of a growing franchise restaurant to be entirely locally sourced, but b.good spends a good deal of time trying to get the most without sacrificing quality and competitivity. Down in Boston, where the franchise is based and there are six locations, they grow their own produce on the roofs of buildings.
b.good in Nashua has been open a few months. It’s located on the South End of Nashua, at 219 Daniel Webster Highway, across from Best Buy and next to the new and popular Not Your Average Joe’s. I am so glad they are here and I suggest you go and check them out.