Fresh food on wheels

Edible Pedal Bike Kitchen, a lesson in cooking with local ingredients

Karen Goodwin and her mobile kitchen, which she designed herself based on a converted pedicab.

Karen Goodwin and her mobile kitchen, which she designed herself based on a converted pedicab.

Photo by Ernesto Rivera

Swiss chard creamy soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped separately
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 4 cups broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil potatoes in just enough water to cover until soft. Drain off (save 4 cups of potato water to make broth if needed). Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and Swiss chard stems and sauté for three minutes or until softened. Add potatoes and broth, bring to a boil. Add chopped chard leaves and simmer for five minutes or until chard is wilted. Add milk. Puree soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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When most people first notice the Edible Pedal Bike Kitchen and see what looks like a food truck with a full kitchen pulled by a bicycle, the first thing they ask is, “What are you selling?”

“We’re selling an idea,” is Director Karen Goodwin’s go-to answer. The price tag? Free.

Edible Pedal Bike Kitchen isn’t a food truck, and it isn’t selling $10 grilled cheeses. Instead, it’s focused on teaching consumers the benefits of eating local fruits and vegetables. Goodwin and her small staff do that by holding cooking demonstrations at community events and giving away free samples of unique vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The recipes, created by Goodwin, offer people opportunities to try vegetables they may have never even heard of, let alone cooked with, or to find new ways to use local ingredients. Some of her concoctions include chia seed energy balls, Swiss chard creamy soup, fruit salads and butternut squash sauce. Recipe cards are given out at events, but to reduce the use of paper, Goodwin encourages people to find Edible Pedal on Facebook, where all of her recipes are posted, along with information on where they’ll be next.

The kitchen on a bike, technically a trike, is a 650-pound pedicab that’s been converted into a kitchen complete with an oven and a stove with two burners that are powered by propane, and a sink with both potable and gray water tanks. There’s also a covered roof with a demo mirror so people can see what the demonstrator is doing, plus a small tray to line up samples.

Goodwin conceived of Edible Pedal four years ago, based on similar cooking demos she was then giving for several different community organizations. Much of the mission is the same: introduce people to healthy, locally grown produce. The community responded positively to those classes, but Goodwin wanted to expand her reach.

“The idea is to take the venue to where the people are,” Goodwin said. “We just wanted to grow it. We designed this so we can go to a community garden and have a full kitchen ready.”

And so, after designing the mobile kitchen herself—she couldn’t find anything like it that she could buy premade—she enlisted the help of a Chico State engineering student to bring it to life.

“I can’t tell you the number of people that I went to before we got this built who said, ‘You can’t do it,’” she said. “They didn’t really get what I was talking about, but I knew.”

Edible Pedal is part of Cultivating Community North Valley, which aims to increase the community’s involvement with growing and eating local foods. The organization runs two farmers’ markets, workshops on gardening and the Organic Vegetable Project at the University Farm. The bike kitchen was created and funded through a specialty crop block grant program given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grant pays all the food, equipment and employee costs, which is how the Edible Pedal is able to focus on education rather than the bottom line.

“People are pretty impressed with the taste of whatever they’re trying,” she said. “People will say they’ve never tried something or they didn’t know about a certain vegetable, and that’s really satisfying because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do: expose people to these options.”

While the bike kitchen does make it out to local farmers’ markets, that’s not its main focus, Goodwin said, mostly because people at farmers’ markets are already exposed to local produce and well aware of the benefits. Instead, they focus on community events and organizations like the Growing Healthy Children Walk/Run, the Wildflower Century bike ride, the recent This Way To Sustainability Conference, and setting up on the Chico State campus.

For Goodwin, being the director of Edible Pedal combines her love of bicycling (she’s also a founder and president of the Butte Bicycle Coalition) and her love of cooking and promoting healthy cooking—all things, she says, that benefit the health and beauty of our community.

“If we can teach people how to grow and eat their own food, that is saving a lot of resources,” she said. “If you go to a grocery store, you’re getting apples from New Zealand or Washington, but we have great orchards around here. We’ve promoted apple salads or apple salsas and inspire them to be creative using the resources that we have locally.”