Hey there everyone!
If you follow along with my Instagram stories, you may know that I read a phenomenal book earlier this year about vegetables, gardening, and eating locally (and seasonally!) called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It has greatly impacted my life, taught me a ton of new information, and was genuinely a well-written book that was enjoyable to read. (If you’d be interested in a full book review I would definitely love to do one! Let me know in the comments if that would be something you would read!) Since finishing that book, I have gotten really into all of those things the book is about (veggies, gardening, and eating locally) and am trying to incorporate the things I learned into my life.
I have been an advocate for supporting small and local businesses for a while now and this book meshes well with that concept. Large corporations are taking over our world and I don’t believe that it is making our world a better place in the slightest. More convenient, perhaps, but if we continue to live so focused on the short-term we are going to wake up one day to find there no longer is a long-term. There’s a plethora of ways we are killing the environment and each other, choosing to value things like profit or speed over health, community, connection, or sustainability. I could go on and on about this… And even as I am writing I am thinking of all the ways I still would like to adjust my life to more accurately reflect these values. But these changes to our habits take time and conscious effort, which brings me back to the point of this post….
I Joined A Farm Share!
I am so pumped about this decision and thankful that my husband was supportive of the idea! About a month ago, I signed up for a farm share through a local farm called Glade Road Growing (located on the same property as Rising Silo Brewery, which I mentioned in my post all about Blacksburg!) and since then have been patiently awaiting the day for the local veggies to be ready! And on Tuesday, March 5th they finally were and I got to go pick up a bag full of farm fresh goodies!
You may be wondering a couple questions such as: how do you afford local produce when you are a freelance designer and your husband is a grad student? Or, how do I sign up for a farm share in my area? Or, what the heck are those vegetables in that photo?! And how are you going to cook/eat them??
The Monetary Investment
Well, for starters, it really isn’t that expensive! I was expecting to pay an arm and leg for farm fresh, local produce but in reality it came out to be only about $15 a week! If I went to the farmer’s market every week (which I still might when it gets warmer in order to supplement these veggies) I would spend at least that much on this amount of food. And if I take that fifteen bucks out of our normal grocery bill, I still have plenty of money to spend on our weekly canned, boxed, and frozen goods. Plus, even if it is a bit more of an expense than the dirt cheap big-box-store produce, I am definitely willing to cut back in other areas (like getting my books from my local library instead of buying used copies online) in order to know that I am 1. supporting a local farmer, 2. getting vegetables that are in season, and 3. getting vegetables that are grown responsibly and sustainably.
How to Find a Farm Share Near You
As for signing up for a farm share in your area, there are a couple great ways to go about that. First, go to you local farmer’s market and ask around! I am sure you will find someone who either has their own or knows of one. Second, if the thought of talking to strangers in public about vegetables makes you nervous, there’s always the internet! Google is a great and wonderful tool, my friends. No matter how ridiculously large of a corporation they are… You can also try searching ‘CSA’ or community supported agriculture or visit this site where you can search for CSA programs near you. Or third, ask a knowledgeable friend! This last way was how I found out about Glade Road Growing (and it was their website that informed me of their farm share program).
Umm… What ARE Those?
As for the identification question, this past week’s bag of veggies included potatoes, rainbow swiss chard, celeriac (celery root), and microgreens. To be fair, I only knew that those black things were celery root because the farm share email told me so. And before I was introduced to the cookbook by Once Upon A Chef a couple months ago, I had never heard of swiss chard! Microgreens are a bit of a trendy superfood these days so I have heard of those before, but had never cooked with them. And well, potatoes are potatoes. Duh. (I wrote that, and then cut into them and discovered they were purple inside!! Not your average Idaho potatoes!)
But honestly, this part is a large part of what I am excited about! Learning about new vegetables or finding out new ways to cook tried and true veggies. Given that I am almost a vegetarian (I don’t eat red meat… sometimes turkey or chicken. And I have yet to find a fish that I like.) and moderately lactose intolerant, I rely heavily on veggies for sustenance and vitamins. Some people get their iron and protein from hamburgers… I get those from spinach and beans. I didn’t realize until recently, however, how many different types of produce I had never heard of or eaten! I’ve gotten a little better this year, trying roasted parsnips and radishes that I bought from the grocery store… But I don’t even know if Kroger sells celeriac! (And if they do, it is not exactly appetizing looking. Not your typical, spontaneous “let’s try something new this week” type of food.) So hopefully this farm share will lead to a bit more diversity in my food life!
As for the final question, how did I cook and use all of these veggies last week? Well, in a minute, I’m going to share the different recipes I have tried and let you know how they went. But first, a quick house keeping item…
How To Wash Your Veggies
There’s been a lot of debate about the best way to get your veggies clean. Both in talking to people and reading article online I have discovered a bunch of different answers. The main responses are:
- Rinse with Water
- Use Vinegar
- Soak in a Baking Soda Bath
- Commercial Washes (Note: these are not recommended by most sites!)
Some of these things work better than others depending on the type of produce and some of them are more necessary depending on whether you are cleaning organic fruits and veggies or not. Commercial washes, however, have been negatively reviewed on all of the sites I have visited, claiming that they tend to leave more harmful residues on your food than was initially present. No bueno. (See this University of Maine Cooperative Extension bulletin for more details about this topic.)
Additionally, one article noted:
“One thing that surprised us was how long it took to wash the pesticides away,” He said. Submerging apples in a baking soda solution for two minutes removed more pesticides than a two-minute soak in the bleach solution, or two minutes of rinsing in running tap water. But it took 12 to 15 minutes in the baking soda solution to completely get rid of the pesticides used in this study.” (consumerreports.com)
The positive thing about farm fresh veggies from a sustainably-minded, local farm is that the levels of chemicals are going to be much lower than commercial produce and so, while washing is still very important, the risks are generally lower.
My plan going forward, is to simply rinse the delicate items (like the microgreens), rinse and scrub the roots (potatoes and celeriac for example), soak the more sturdy, ridge-filled ones (like the swiss chard) in a baking soda solution, and only use vinegar when I feel like it’s necessary. (note: I ended up soaking the microgreens too. It really wasn’t that much more difficult than rinsing and they were more sturdy than say, raspberries would be.)
The common complaint about vinegar is that it tends to negatively impact the flavor of the food… And the last time I used it to wash my swiss chard it definitely was not as good. All of the nooks and crannies do make me a little nervous from a dirt and bugs standpoint and I think a good soak would be worth the time, effort, and peace of mind. Additionally, I am not pregnant nor feeding a developing child so I am a little less stringent about these things than I would be with a kiddo. PLUS, buying organic reduces a lot of the usual pesticide issues associated with produce which is great.
Cooking with This Week’s Farm Share Veggies
I decided to split the Swiss chard in half to use in two different recipes last week. One recipe that I know is good comes from the Once Upon a Chef cookbook I listed earlier (which I am not going to post online for copyright reasons) but involves Swiss chard, an onion, olive oil, salt and pepper, feta cheese, lemon juice, and an oven. There are a ton of incredibly similar recipes online like this one. There is also a slightly different sautéed version including white wine and parmesan cheese which can be found here. This was a great use of the Swiss chard and I will be making it again this week!
Because I have made cooked Swiss chard before and already know that I like it, I also decided to try a new recipe as well. Particularly one that used the Swiss chard raw, as I’ve never eaten it uncooked before and the email I got this week said: “The chard this time of year is especially sweet, non-bitter and less acidic than its summer counterpart. It has also taken on a much darker leaf hue. Since it has been so tender this winter, we have been eating it raw in salads and slaws.” I opted to make this salad recipe from Organic Authority. It was pretty good but I highly recommend NOT putting as much salt as the recipe calls for. I might make this one again sometime with less salt… but it’s going to be hard to bear the oven roasted chard recipe from above.
First of all, I needed to do some research to determine if these were indeed microgreens. The email said the bags would include a “variety of other fresh spring greens (either cilantro, pea shoots or microgreens).” I know what cilantro looks like (because I despise it) so I know this isn’t cilantro. But I wasn’t sure about the different between pea shoots and microgreens so I did a little research. This article not only contains links to recipes using microgreens, but also information about growing them yourself and the difference between sprouts and microgreens.
Based on this info, I was pretty sure I received a bag of generic microgreens… until I started washing them! Once I dumped them out, I found some little plants with extra leaves, that tasted more mellow than the other ones, which I am assuming were pea shoots. Regardless, they were all yummy and many were intensely flavored, which was surprising given their size! I added them to my go-to salad of late (an unchopped version of Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing) which is DELICIOUS and was only made better by the microgreens!
This article (from Eat Fresh Southeast Iowa) lists some yummy looking non-salad recipes that include microgreens (but just a note…the photos pictured are not from those exact recipes). I ended up also making a pizza (my homemade crust was too thick…) with microgreen, tomato, and pea pesto, topped with feta and mozzarella cheese and whole microgreens. This went decently well and we ate the whole thing, but it wasn’t our favorite thing in the world. I just got more microgreens in the new farm share bag for this upcoming week so I guess I’ll get to try out some of those other options and let you know how they go!
Celeriac (celery root)
Next we have the celery root, which I wanted to split into half so I could attempt two different recipes but there wasn’t quite enough. Instead, I just made Celery Root Mash (with added garlic) which was surprisingly good! It ended up tasting mostly of garlic and butter… kind of like mashed potatoes, but I’m not complaining! If I come across celeriac again I would love to try this recipe: Roasted Celery Root with Walnuts and Thyme… If you try it, please let me know how it is!
And finally the humble potatoes… which honestly may have been my favorite from the week!! They were so surprising on the inside and have a beautiful flavor. I am also pretty comfortable with making roasted herb potatoes so that probably helped me to not mess them up.
One Week Down
Well, hopefully that was a semi-coherent blog post! I felt a bit scattered trying to round up all of the different recipes and information I had been reading but I am proud to say I cooked all of those veggies and we are officially on to a new week! Like I mentioned earlier, I went today to go pick up my new bag and found that it contained Swiss chard, spinach, microgreens, potatoes, and radishes! Thankfully, I know what I am going to make with 3 of the 5 of those so there won’t be quite as much research this week. (Well, and to be honest, I made garlic/herb roasted potatoes as soon as I got the bag in my apartment…) The sign today mentioned that the radishes would be good for pickling, which I had never considered! I’m not even sure I’ve had a pickled radish… so stay tuned to find out if I end up going on a pickling journey this week!
Oh, and one more thing…
If you didn’t read the post from last week, I just want to let you in on a little secret… there’s a giveaway going on right now!! Go check out how to enter here.
And as always, thanks for reading!