My Blog List

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Eating Locally

Please welcome my guest, locavore Edith Maxwell. Her Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing) lets her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although she never had a murder in the greenhouse. A fourth-generation Californian, she has also published short stories of murderous revenge, most recently in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold (Level Best Books, 2013) and  Fish Nets (Wildside, 2013).
Edith’s alter-ego Tace Baker writes the Speaking of Mystery series, which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau (Barking Rain Press). Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics. The second in the series, Bluffing is Murder, releases in November, 2014.
A mother and former technical writer, Edith is a fourth-generation Californian but lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors, and you can also find her at @edithmaxwell, on Facebook, and at
Thanks for letting me contribute to Potluck with Judy!
I write a local foods mystery series, and the books follow organic farmer Cam Flaherty through the vagaries of growing and selling locally. Most of her farm customers are eager to make local foods as much of their diet as they can.
Traditionally, of course, everybody ate local. If it didn’t grow in your region, you didn’t have access to it. New Englanders didn’t eat oranges and southern Californians didn’t eat apples. And if a crop could be harvested only in June and it was January, you still didn’t have access to it unless you had canned it or stored it in the root cellar. Slowly, with transcontinental transport systems, like trains and trucks, we started being able to buy anything we wanted any time of the year we wanted it. Now, of course, you can get grapes from Chile, clementines from Morocco, shrimp from Thailand.
These days more and more folks are interested in eating primarily foods that come from within, say, a fifty- or hundred-mile radius of where they live. Barbara Kingsolver’s non-fiction book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, describes the story of her family doing exactly that in Tennessee (with one exception for each person: Coffee! Chocolate! Olive oil!). They belong to a local farm-share program like Cam’s, they shop at the weekly farmers’ market. They even seek out locally brewed wines and beers. They are locavores.
I love this idea, although I don’t love eating sagging root crops out of storage in March or not being able to have some fresh citrus fruits in December. But I do try to use as many local crops as possible, and several local farms in my area have been growing fresh greens all winter long in high tunnels (greenhouses).
The second book in my series, ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part, came out at the end of May (Kensington Publishing, 2013). It starts at a fall Farm-to-Table dinner, with a local chef cooking Cam’s produce in her barn and a bunch of guests eating under a big rented tent on the farm. Days are getting short and the mood at the dinner is unseasonably chilly.
When one of the guests turns up dead on a neighboring farm the next day, even an amateur detective like Cam can figure out that one of the resident locavores went loco – at least temporarily – and settled a score with the victim. The closer she gets to weeding out the culprit, the more Cam feels like someone is out to cut her harvest short. But to keep her own body out of the compost pile, she has to wrap this case up quickly. A subplot features rescue chickens, which Cam finds both delightful and problematic, but at least she’ll have local eggs to sell.
I hosted a Labor Day cookout last fall and was pleased that I could present my guests with all kinds of locally based dishes. And doubly pleased that nobody turned up dead the next day!
One of the dishes I served was one I call Fall Locavore Orzo. Use fresh local ingredients wherever possible. We don’t grow wheat in New England, so the pasta is never going to be local!
½ box orzo
2 T good olive oil
1 pound washed and drained kale leaves stripped off stems, cut into ribbons
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb green beans, cut into inch-long pieces
1 handful fresh basil, cut into ribbons
1 T. rice wine vinegar
bottled hot sauce
  1. Cook orzo according to directions on box until al dente, then rinse in cool water and drain. Transfer to medium serving bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  3. Sauté the beans and kale in the oil until tender.
  4. Add the garlic and sauté one more minute. Do not let brown.
  5. Remove from heat and add vegetables to the orzo.
  6. Add basil, salt and pepper to taste, and a shake of hot sauce.
  7. Add 1 T. vinegar and toss all. Add more oil or vinegar to taste.
  8. Serve at room temperature.
Good as a side dish. To make into a main course salad, add cubed feta cheese or some diced ham or chicken. Can also serve hot if you omit the vinegar.
Readers, what’s your favorite local food? Or the one you most like to read about?



  1. I'm lucky to live in Portland, Oregon where it's easy to grow lots of things. I love the local berries in particular: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, marionberries ... and more! I grow raspberries, tomatoes, and herbs in my front garden. My #1 favorite of all: tomatoes. Nothing beats home grown tomatoes, imo.

  2. Oh, Portland is a fabulous place for local foods, Sandra! You're so lucky. And I totally agree about tomatoes. I have some tiny ones formed up on my plants, but it'll be another some weeks before they're ripe.

  3. Okra is my favorite because the grocery stores never seen to pick it early enough when it's tender, nor does it stay fresh very long. Unfortunately even I can't grow enough to sell but is definitely best when you pick it off the day you eat it! And absolutely yes to buying fresh corn and tomatoes locally.