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Porthos

Why I Am Sometimes Not Thrilled With Organic Veggies

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The person who does the purchasing of most of the veggies used in the Ren Faire kitchen of which I am the leader of right now prefers to go to an "organic" farmers market for the produce. (More about the feast here http://forums.egullet.org/topic/149513-what-we-cook-in-my-fall-ren-faire-kitchen/) Part of what I asked for for this past weekend was 12 pounds of carrots and 40 pounds of red potatoes.

 

The carrots have a very different texture than those I am used to purchasing through supermarkets. They have irregular circular crevices intermittently run down the carrot. These crevices do a marvelous job of holding on to dirt. I had to hand-wash each carrot before being able to slice it. It took me over a half hour yesterday to process 4 pounds. Given that we as the kitchen staff have 4 hours to prepare all of the food being served to 80-90 people that is way too much time to devote to one veggie.

 

The red potatoes all had many eyes sprouting. We prepare the potatoes skin-on. That meant in addition to the regular hand-washing (about a 5 minute job for 10-12 lbs of potatoes) each potato had to be hand-trimmed to get the eyes removed from the surface of the potatoes, about an extra 15 minutes.

 

The Brussels Sprouts, onions, melons, red and yellow peppers, celery, grapes, broad beans, mushrooms beets and tomatoes were all fine.

 

Since I personally don't give a rip about organic produce to begin with this added time impacts getting our feast out on time. We do cook from fresh foods except for four items: store-bought dinner rolls, prepared meatballs from Costco and prepared sauces used in 2 dishes.

 

If you are an advocate of organic please do not try to convince me of the value of organic, I have my viewpoint and reasons and AM NOT looking for yet more people to tell me I'm wrong, mis-informed, etc.

 

Are there other eGullerters who find that dealing with quantities of organic produce sometimes trying?


Edited by Porthos (log)

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Are there other eGullerters who find that dealing with quantities of organic produce sometimes trying?

 

Dealing with produce in general is sometimes trying.

Try a better producer.

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"----I had to hand-wash each carrot before being able to slice it. It took me over a half hour yesterday to process 4 pounds. Given that we as the kitchen staff have 4 hours to prepare all of the food being served to 80-90 people that is way too much time to devote to one veggie.---"

 

Solution is simple.

 

Get an electric power washer that has a variable nozzle. You can adjust that pressure as well as the spray pattern to wash any dirt away in minutes. It can be powerful enough for you to peel the skin off, if you want to.

 

Do not get the kind of nozzle which has a rotating spray jet, too powerful.

 

The power washer is also good for blasting thick grease away on anything.

 

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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The power washer is also good for blasting thick grease away on anything.

 

dcarch

 

Which is why I own one. Don't think I try hauling it up 350 miles from here to clean veggies, though.

 

My 8-burner event grill and the grease build-up on it is why I bought it to begin with.

 

If you want to try it and post about it ...

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Which is why I own one. Don't think I try hauling it up 350 miles from here to clean veggies, though.

 

My 8-burner event grill and the grease build-up on it is why I bought it to begin with.

 

If you want to try it and post about it ...

 

 

Buy a smaller one. Not that expensive. $150 to $250.

 

Another tool for cleaning veggies: They do make ultrasonic cleaners for veggies both to clean and to sanitize.

 

 

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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The problem isn't that the vegetables were organic, but that they were either bad varieties with irregular shapes or they were improperly harvested/stored. I've purchased plenty of organic carrots and potatoes that don't have any of these issues.

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The problem isn't that the vegetables were organic, but that they were either bad varieties with irregular shapes or they were improperly harvested/stored. I've purchased plenty of organic carrots and potatoes that don't have any of these issues.

 

I have no control over where they are purchased if we get the organic ones. I live about 350 miles from this faire site so others do the shopping. I am going to have a conversation with our guild mistress tonight about alterimg the sourcing of those 2 items. I know of a specific option that she can take care of.


Edited by Porthos (log)

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The problem isn't that the vegetables were organic, but that they were either bad varieties with irregular shapes or they were improperly harvested/stored. I've purchased plenty of organic carrots and potatoes that don't have any of these issues.

 

 

Yeah, that!

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You noted organic versus supermarket. In my experience the issues you bumped up against in terms of shape and conformity are frequently expressed by those who begin purchasing at farmers markets in general - not exclusively organic product. The buyer needs to know the issues you face in the kitchen and be more selective in the sourcing. 

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The buyer needs to know the issues you face in the kitchen and be more selective in the sourcing. 

 

To put this as politely as I can with respect to that person: She is a very strong personality who doesn't much care for being told no. I like to describe her as someone who has trouble coloring between the lines. When I brought up the issue of the potatoes her answer was, "They're organic. They don't spray them." Translated: "it's just the way it is - deal with it." That typical attitude makes for a less than symbiotic relationship.

 

Also I should have noted organic farmers market versus supermarket. My bad for that. Her push is that the veggies are organic.


Edited by Porthos (log)

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The sprouting potatoes have been improperly stored, or, are old. I would have attempted to have her return them, or at least be educated on selecting produce.

 

On the carrots, I'd insist that she have a seller cut a sample open before she buys.

 

If she pulls this sort of stunt again, put her on the line prepping those veggies alone -with a strict deadline. She'll get the message pretty quickly.

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Lisa has a wonderfully pragmatic answer. Hit her (your procurer, not Lisa) where it hurts.

Do you think you could get leverage with the water shortage? Something along these lines: "Sure, the produce is organic, but with this poor quality it takes x more time and therefore y more gallons of water to prepare...is this a good tradeoff?"

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Lisa has a wonderfully pragmatic answer. Hit her (your procurer, not Lisa) where it hurts.

Do you think you could get leverage with the water shortage? Something along these lines: "Sure, the produce is organic, but with this poor quality it takes x more time and therefore y more gallons of water to prepare...is this a good tradeoff?"

 

Does Porthos have the power to assign the procuress of the carrots and potatoes to kitchen duty washing them?  (He is the head of the kitchen but he has not said that he also is the head of staffing)

How are the supplies paid for?  Does the procuress use Ren Faire funds or (somehow I get this feeling) donate those carrots and potatoes to the faire?  If the latter and she is as stubborn as Porthos says she is (and as he says he has no control over the shopping) then his talk with the faire mistress, as he mentions, may be the only way out...  Perhaps the faire mistress can reassign the procuress (or request her) to do something else.

 

----------------------

 

But with regards to the original question of the topic - yes, sometimes I get tired of certain kinds of "organic produce" too.  Bugs, for one.  the COST, for another.  ($4 for a bunch of maybe 5-6 medium-sized carrots, to use the example of one of the produce items being hashed over in this thread...eh, I'm supporting local farmers, I tell myself...unless they are red/purple/heritage ones, not available in supermarkets...)  I enjoy going to Farmers' Markets and get nice stuff but I am another who doesn't particularly care if it is organic or not, in the end.  Certainly my local Chinese or "Asian" groceries - let alone the usual supermarkets - can furnish much cheaper produce and I buy their stuff - which is almost certainly not "organic" - without much agonizing over it at all.


Edited by huiray (log)

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Does Porthos have the power to assign the procuress of the carrots and potatoes to kitchen duty washing them?  (He is the head of the kitchen but he has not said that he also is the head of staffing)

How are the supplies paid for?  Does the procuress use Ren Faire funds or (somehow I get this feeling) donate those carrots and potatoes to the faire?  If the latter and she is as stubborn as Porthos says she is (and as he says he has no control over the shopping) then his talk with the faire mistress, as he mentions, may be the only way out...  Perhaps the faire mistress can reassign the procuress (or request her) to do something else.

 

No power over the person doing the purchasing. Not my money going for the supplies. This is a "fight" that gets better for a while then escalates again. This week she is out of the loop completely so I will get what I am requesting. There is no requirement for organic, it is a preference of this person.

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I was thinking about this further, potatoes, right now at market should be super-fresh and halfway between new and mature, as there's another month or so of harvest left to go depending upon location. The sprouted eyes indicate that they've been stored a while... that's sort of weird right now when they should have been super-fresh and in the ground a few days before purchase. Right now is prime potato buying season. Makes me suspect bad actors, in addition to your buyer being an uninformed sucker. Every year the people who run the local organic farmer's markets where I live catch people selling conventional produce they bought from distributors -repackaging it and selling it as their own organic harvest  when they live in apartments downtown.

 

Someone has to tell this person that it's ok to buy organic, but only if the produce meets certain standards. Maybe you need to start saying that you'll only accept 70s or something. Yeah, your supervisor needs to know about this, as it affects the number of hours used to make the food. If you have to pay a bunch of people extra hours on top of a premium for the produce, maybe word will come from  above to stop buying organic.

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I have talked with my guild mistress and she has re-confirmed that organic produce is not a requirement. I am going to remove these 2 root vegetables from her shopping list and move them to the Costco shopping list. That is where the used to come from and that is where they will start coming from again.

 

Thank you all for you insight and comments.

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I thought potatoes hadn't been invented yet.

 

We don't serve a strictly period feast. Potatoes that have been chunked do not stand out.

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We don't serve a strictly period feast. Potatoes that have been chunked do not stand out.

 

I was going to ask much the same thing, but JoNorvelle beat me to it.  :P

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I could be mistaken but I believe that Sir Francis Drake brought potatoes back from his travels. Since Queen Elizabeth is coming to our village as part of her current progress, and she may dine with us, it is remotely possible that she would have some of this strange new delicacy with her. After all she is the Queen.

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I could be mistaken but I believe that Sir Francis Drake brought potatoes back from his travels. Since Queen Elizabeth is coming to our village as part of her current progress, and she may dine with us, it is remotely possible that she would have some of this strange new delicacy with her. After all she is the Queen.

 

Don't forget that she won't eat anything unless it has vanilla in it.

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So 2 years later things are better but not perfect. This year we received celery that looked like it was grown next to Chernobyl. I can live with that although it slows the process of producing celery sticks. The bigger issue was that they were old. Two different prep people, one each weekend, complained about the quality. What I found out from my good friend in the kitchen that lives in the same town she does was disappointing. She goes to the farmers market with the worst reputation in town. This is in the middle of a major agricultural area. There are lots of choices. As for the celery I started sourcing it from Costco.

 

When the veggie-buying person saw that I took celery off the list, she brought it up and when I told her why (old celery) she took exception. Too bad.

 

One item does stand out for very high quality that she has been buying; Romanesco Cauliflower.

 

edited to remove a redundant statement.


Edited by Porthos (log)
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