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April 28, 2018
Back in the Kitchen
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Come midsummer I might take salad with a ho-hum attitude (note that I said “might”) towards salad, but right now the return to our homegrown bounty is a relief. Some may call me a veggie snob, but I truly believe nothing tops fresh picked baby lettuce and radishes…except the summer heirloom tomatoes!
Everyday I think about the obstacles that keep me from eating 8-10 servings of vegetables daily - not an easy thing to accomplish, even for the Farmer’s Wife! I see the issue as two-fold. First is the ready access to fresh produce that inspires the palate. Second, is the time and know-how needed to prepare the vegetables in a way that satisfies the family. I am always looking for creative and simple ways to incorporate more vegetables into my family’s diet.
Of course the first step to eating more vegetables is to buy, or grow, local produce. The flavor and nutrient value will leave your kids asking for more. Personally, I think Red Earth veggies are the best and there is nothing like getting my box each week (yes, I really am a CSA member - with benefits!). Each week I eye up my box with the goal of finishing it before the next one arrives. It becomes a personal challenge that rewards me with a feeling of health and vitality.
The second step to eating more vegetables is to take some time to do some vegetable prep before your busy week begins. Wouldn't you be more likely to cook at home and use more vegetables in your meals if your refrigerator was full of perfectly washed, chopped and stored veggies just waiting for you? True you still have to do the washing, chopping and storing in advance unless you're lucky enough to have a sous chef, but this can be done especially if you make it fun with your kids. My daughter has her special own chopping knife that is kid safe and yet effective enough she feels involved. Her involvement inspires her to eat more vegetables either while she's chopping or later when they land on the plate.
Ideally, you have done some menu planning before your CSA box arrives, but if you are like me, you probably haven’t. That means the box dictates your meals, or to put it more poetically provides inspiration. On CSA day, when you come home with your bag of goodies, stop before you shove the entire bag in the fridge and sit down with a beer. Instead, follow these steps to ensure that you will be using this fresh bounty to the best of your ability.
1. Assemble your tools: Clear off a bit of counter space, center a cutting board and line up a series of glass or plastic containers or various shapes and sizes. Have one large chopping knife, and 1 small paring knife and maybe a pair of scissors handy. A roll of paper towels and a salad spinner are also helpful.
2. Assess your CSA box and determine which items might be used for healthy snacking, which might be used for soup, salad or stir fry, and which might be used for smoothies or juicing. If you are already stuck for ideas, fear not, I will be addressing these choices in later posts.
3. Chop items for snacking into bite-sized pieces. I like to place mine in a glass container so they are visible and enticing to refrigerator perusers.
4. Chop soup, stir fry or steamable items and store in glass or plastic containers with lids or ziplock bags. Some items, such as broccoli and carrots can be tossed into the freezer for future soup. Diced onions and crushed garlic can be stored tossed with a little lemon juice, salt and olive oil and stored in fridge or freezer.
5. Wash lettuce or salad mix, spin in salad spinner, and place in plastic container lined with a paper towel. You will be amazed how fresh it will keep. Be aware however that salad mix is more perishable than stiff head lettuce like romaine. Always use salad mix first. In fact I almost always use the salad mix on CSA night. It is only one day old and so packed with flavor it needs little else to make it tasty. In the spring I slice a little radish, add grapefruit sections and a bit of avocado for a refreshing side dish.
6. Smoothie and juicing items can be washed and stored in ziplock bags lined with paper towels, or you can get the juicier out, juice and freeze in single serving containers.
Yes, this takes time, but it might be only 15 minutes now and the rest of your week is streamlined. And yes, produce that has been chopped does lose some nutritional value, but not as much as produce that you never eat.
If you haven't already, get started with Step 1, support a local farm and join Red Earth Farm CSA
January 31, 2017
Intimidated by a Daikon Radish
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Any chance you have a huge daikon radish in the back of your fridge? I stuffed one in the depths of mine after unpacking my final CSA box in December (yes, the Farmer’s Wife really does sign up for her own CSA share at a massive discount). There it sat for a few weeks, while I pretended it wasn’t there. It is true, I ordered it, but once the gigantic root arrived, I felt intimidated, uncertain how to tackle the beast.
Recently at a friend’s house, I poked around her fridge and saw a familiar sight - a long, whitish green root, tucked along the back wall of the fridge - too big for any crisper, or even a bag for that matter.
"Let’s eat this!” I proclaimed as I wrestled the beast from it’s hiding place. My friend raised dubious eyebrows. “Hmmm…what do we do with it?” Without hesitation I grabbed a big, sharp knife and proceeded to slice about a dozen wafers, 1mm thick and bravely tried the first slice. The flavor was surprising: mild, very similar to our salad turnips that are so popular, and the texture incredibly crisp and juicy.
We artistically arranged a plateful of our new favorite vegetable, grabbed salt, pepper and some delectable “goes-on-to’s” and set it before her family. In less than five minutes the plate was empty, the giant root, now only a green stub, settled into the compost bin.
Now daikon has become my favorite gluten-free “cracker,” a lot more affordable and interesting than those cardboard-like crackers that come in a box.
I love the challenge of eating local foods, even in winter. Now you can make a little room in your fridge too!
June 11, 2016
Take the Challenge
By now our veteran members are quite familiar with the concept of eating seasonally, but for newer members, the CSA might be their first real experience with it. The concept is simple: when each crop is ripe, we harvest it and send it to you. Some crops take months to ripen, like winter squash, and some only do well in the cooler part of June, like arugula, radishes and spinach. We do not offer some items like asparagus, because the height of the asparagus harvest is in May, before the CSA (except now that we offer a Spring Share we are planting asparagus!)
The Main season kicks off with LOTS of green stuff. The cooler weather lends a sweetness and delicacy to the salad greens and cooking greens alike. Enjoy them now, for when the weather gets hotter, they grow slightly less tender and acquire a more bitter flavor. Indulge in the health benefits the green antioxidants afford, and know that before you know it you box will be awash with tomatoes, beans and potatoes.
We think trying new vegetables and eating seasonally broadens your palate and exposes you to more nutrients. The flavors of what is fresh far out-compete out of season produce from the grocery store.
Ready to accept the challenge? Pick a vegetable that is either new to you, or that you think you do not like. Prepare it, take a picture and post it on Facebook or Instagram. Then eat it! Each week try a new vegetable. This will broaden your palate, and possibly offer new nutrients that your body needs. I love that my CSA box begs me to eat more vegetables than I would otherwise. While many foods end up on some sort of taboo list from time to time, gluten, sugar, alcohol, dairy, meat, for example, one dietary piece of advice seems to stand the test of time: eat more vegetables.
July 5, 2015
A Tomato and a Kiss
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
By now our veteran members are quite familiar with the concept of eating seasonally, but for newer members, the CSA might be their first real experience with it. The concept is simple: when each crop is ripe, we harvest it and send it to you. Some crops take months to ripen, like winter squash, and some only do well in the cooler part of June, like snap peas, radishes and spinach. We do not offer items like asparagus, because the height of the asparagus harvest is in May, before the CSA. So how does Romance figure into this equation? Please remember that vegetables are REALLY important to the Farmer and sharing them with others is one of his greatest joys. Now, the Farmer's wife likes vegetables a whole lot too, almost as much as flowers, and once upon a time she was a CSA member, back when the Farmer's CSA was only about 35 members. Way back then, a little romance in the CSA box began.
Little vegetable gifts began appearing in the Future Farmer's Wife's box: hearts of fennel, sugar snap peas, the first sungold tomatoes, delicata squash - her personal favorites. This was in the end, as you all know, very effective, and remains one of our favorite romantic moments. The Farmer still brings her the very first ripe of our favorites: 6 or 7 small red new potatoes appear on the empty kitchen counter, the first tender small zucchini, and most recently, 5 plump red cherry tomatoes - just enough to decorate our evening salad, and highly deserving a of a kiss on the Farmer's scruffy face.
So the Farmer's romantic gifts to his wife, are a herald of what will soon be ripe in in your box. You will have to wait for your tomatoes, but they are indeed coming, and maybe you can find a way to celebrate the first ones in your box!