Category Archives: Lindsay

Summer Produce Storage Tips

Summer, the time of year we all dream about during winter once our toes don’t quite remember how to fully thaw before we go back outside, we begin to think of hot beaches and sunburn. Finally summer arrives and with it comes humidity that smothers your skin and mosquitoes that have taken quite a liking to you this year. But who can really be too upset about those things when the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the earth is truly bursting with generosity? The first day of summer this year is June 21, which is also International Yoga Day for all you yogis out there, and the veggies are beginning to tumble in. Many cultures have celebrated the Summer Solstice in different ways: The Egyptians celebrated their New Year at the Summer Solstice which coincided with the rise of the Nile and lead to annual flooding; the Irish would cut hazel branches on the even of the summer solstice that were then used to search for gold, water, and precious jewels. There are not many modern celebrations of the summer solstice, so I guess we can all make our own traditions. But with all of the vegetables coming our way, we can feast and learn how to store the summer produce so that it stays fresh for longer.

PICKLING CUKES 11Cucumbers: Cucumbers should be refrigerated and kept relatively dry. Over exposure to moisture can cause premature deterioration through mold. You can check the life of a cucumber by squeezing the ends. The ends generally turn squishy before the rest of the cucumber, so if they feel soft or start to look wrinkled, the cucumber is coming to the end of its storage life.

 

Growing tomatoesTomatoes: Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature. Refrigerating causes them to become mealy and lose much of their flavor. Check tomatoes occasionally for softening, and use softest tomatoes first. Softness is a sign of ripeness. In good condition, tomatoes will keep for 2+ weeks, but keep an eye on any bruised or dinged spots, as these will deteriorate faster than the rest of the tomato.

 

 

 

Fresh produceSummer Squashes: Summer squashes include a wide variety of squash like zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash, and eight ball squash. Summer squashes live close to the ground, and as such can get a little dinged up or scratched. It’s important to keep summer squash relatively dry, or mold may take form in any small damaged areas of the squash. Summer squash are relatively hardy, but should be stored in the refrigerator for best results.

 

 

Fresh colorful paprika isolatedBell Peppers: Bell peppers come in many varieties and colors. Most bell peppers start out green on the vine, then turn red, yellow, orange, etc. as they ripen. They can be picked early as green bell peppers, or they can be left on the vine and turn color. Since green bell peppers are picked at an earlier stage, they tend to keep longer than do colored peppers. Since colored peppers are left on the vine longer, they tend to have a sweeter more mature flavor than green bell peppers. Bell Peppers should be stored in the refrigerator, and kept dry to prevent mold growth.

 

cornCorn: Corn is best eaten soon after picking, when it will be at its sweetest. Corn slowly loses sweetness after picking, as the sugars begin to convert to starch. If you cannot consume immediately, store corn in the refrigerator, unshucked. Wait until you are ready to use sweet corn before shucking, as this will increase storage life. As the corn season wears on and temperatures rise, you may see evidence of corn ear worm in NC corn. This is a pest that all local growers have to deal with, and eventually takes over entire fields of corn. The corn ear worm generally enters through the top of the corn and stays in that area, so if you find worm damage, you can usually just cut off the top 1-2 inches, and still have a full ear of corn.

Blueberry backgroundBlueberries: Of all berries, blueberries tend to keep the longest. First check for any damaged or squashed berries, and remove those from the container, as they will accelerate deterioration of other berries if they are left in. Blueberries should be stored in the refrigerator, or also take very well to freezing for longer-term storage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeaches: It wouldn’t be summer in NC without fresh, tree-ripened peaches. Peaches are extremely delicate fruits, and sometimes only keep for a few days before going bad. This is why they are best purchased locally, as out of state peaches have to be picked unripe in order to survive the rigors of shipping, which means that they have not developed full sweetness on the tree.   Allow peaches to ripen on the counter, you will know they are ripe when the flesh starts to turn slightly soft, giving under light pressure. Once ripe, it is best to consume immediately, or to store them in the refrigerator. Allow refrigerated peaches to come to room temperature before eating, for optimal juice and flavor.

GREENBEANS66Green Beans: Green Beans are a southern staple, best eaten fresh right after harvest. There are many different varieties grown on a bush or a climbing vine. Once they arrive in your care be sure to store them in the refrigerator and eat within one week for maximum crispness and flavor.

 

okraOkra: Okra are best known for their presence in gumbo or the crispy, fried okra you can get at most southern restaurants (or your grandmother’s kitchen). The biggest complaint about okra is its slimy texture, this can be remedied by soaking chopped okra in white vinegar for half an hour before cooking. Make sure to store okra in the refrigerator and eat within 5 days before it starts to brown and deteriorate.

 

 

Eggplants.Eggplant: Eggplants are in the same family as tomatoes, the nightshade family. So the best way to store eggplant is similar to storage for tomatoes: it does not like being cold, storing in the refrigerator causes it to lose its flavor and texture. The best place to store eggplant is in a cool place on your kitchen counter where it will remain fresh for about a week. Eggplant is delicious fried or sautéed with other vegetables, especially when paired with tomatoes!

 

 

“Eat a tomato and you’ll turn red
(I don’t think that’s really so);
Eat a carrot and you’ll turn orange
(Still and all, you never know);
Eat some spinach and you’ll turn green
(I’m not saying that it’s true
But that’s what I heard, and so
I thought I’d pass it on to you).”

–Shel Silverstein

Find A Little Peas In Your Life

At the sudden appearance of different kinds of peas on the order page this week, my curiosity peaked. Last week we were graced with the presence of Butter Beans, Dixie Field Peas, and English Peas; this week we have Pink Eye Purple Hull, White Acre Peas, and Butter Beans. Peas are a southern staple and are incredibly versatile, not to mention how many different varieties we have to work with: Dixie, Crowder, Black Eyed, Zipper, White Acre, Pink Eye, etc. All of these peas can be dried to preserve but they are best when fresh–we have come into the season of fresh peas! So what are all these different kinds of peas and how can we use them?

There are several basic categories of peas (which are technically beans):

Black-eyed. These are white or beige with a black circular “eye” in the inner curve. Colored eyes also may be pink, brown or tan.

Crowder. Starchy and hardy in texture, crowder peas are so named because they are crowded in the pod. The close spacing blunts the ends of the peas and gives them a squarish shape. They cook up darker, too.

Cream. Smaller, light-colored peas that cook up light. These peas have a more delicate, buttery flavor and creamier texture.

Field pea. Robust and small, they produce a dark liquid when cooked.

You can use a lot of these peas in very similar ways, it just depends on what texture you’re going for. The lighter, more creamy peas (such as butter beans) will be softer and more delicate. Field and crowder peas are generally heartier and darker. Honestly, when in doubt, just throw the peas in with some tomatoes, other vegetables, and spices, and you can’t go wrong!

I grew up with a very southern grandmother who made elaborate “Sunday Dinners” that often included butter beans. As a child I was addicted to butter beans, and have carried this love into adulthood; but I didn’t know until recently that there were other ways to cook them besides boiling them with butter and salt. As delicious as this traditional southern staple is, you can get as creative with peas/beans as you want to! I took home some Dixie Field Peas to experiment with and found an amazing recipe for Smoky Black Eyed Peas with Fried Green Tomatoes. My love of fried green tomatoes convinced me that it was ok to substitute the black eyed peas with Dixie peas, and I was correct! As strange as it may sound, this turned out to be one of the best dishes I have made in a while. The smoky flavor of the peas complemented the fried green tomato—and who doesn’t like peas cooked in beer? The consistency of the peas reminded me of baked beans without the smushy texture or the sweetness. Top with fresh cilantro and feta cheese and your taste buds will be in heaven!

Ingredients
1 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups fresh black-eyed peas
2 Smoked Ham Hocks or purchased smoked ham hocks
1 (12-oz.) bottle amber beer
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 (7-oz.) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain white cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 large firm green tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
Canola oil
3 large ripe red tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices
1/2 cup crumbled feta or Cotija cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Hot sauce  

Preparation

  1. Sauté onions in 3 Tbsp. hot oil in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in peas, next 4 ingredients, 3 1/2 cups water, and 2 Tbsp. adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers. (Reserve peppers for another use.) Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes or until peas are tender. Discard bay leaf. Remove hocks. Remove ham from bones; discard bones. Chop ham; stir into peas. Add salt to taste; cover and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Stir together 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a shallow dish. Whisk together cornmeal, ground chipotle chile, and remaining 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a second shallow dish. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk in a third shallow dish.
  3. Dredge green tomatoes, 1 slice at a time, in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture, and dredge in cornmeal mixture.
  4. Pour oil to depth of 1 inch in a cast-iron skillet. Heat over medium-high heat to 375°. Fry green tomato slices, in batches, in hot oil 3 minutes on each side or until crisp. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels. (Let oil temperature return to 375° between batches.)
  5. Divide peas among 6 plates. Top each with 1 red tomato slice and 1 fried green tomato slice. Repeat tomato layers once. Sprinkle cheese and cilantro over tomatoes. Serve with hot sauce.

green tomatoes

peas fgt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made a few alterations to the recipe: I didn’t use meat at all for flavoring the peas and when I made the fried green tomatoes I used some magical tips a friend gave me. Firstly, if you don’t have buttermilk you can make it easily with regular milk and apple cider vinegar. Simply put about a capful of apple cider vinegar into a cup of milk, stir, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and voila—buttermilk! Secondly, I usually just use cornmeal with spices (garlic salt, pepper, cayenne pepper) for the breading because it fries really nicely and, if you have any kind of gluten-aversion, it is gluten-free. Finally, if you are looking for the perfect breading on a fried tomato, the secret is double dunking—dip the tomato in your milk, then in your cornmeal mixture, back in the milk, and then finally in the cornmeal mixture one more time and then drop (carefully) into your hot pan. Cooking fried green tomatoes is by far one of the most enjoyable southern dishes to prepare, and it tastes so fresh you almost forget that it’s fried! But back to the peas…

It was a bit harder to find an interesting recipe for butter beans–everyone loves the traditional way so much! But I discovered a recipe for Italian butter beans that looks simple and delicious. The only alteration to this recipe calls for canned butter beans so fresh ones will have to cook for a bit longer. I haven’t gotten to try this one out yet, but it is going to be my next meal!

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
2 x 400g tins butter beans, rinsed and drained
small bunch basil, chopped

Method
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Fry the garlic for 1 min, then add the tomatoes, sugar and some seasoning. Tip in the beans and a splash of water. Cover and simmer for 5 mins, then stir in the basil and serve.

So get adventurous, it is the perfect time of year! The traditional Southern dishes of Hoppin’ John and Succotash are always a great place to start. If you need some inspiration Southern Living has a great article called ’21 Ways With Summer-Fresh Field Peas.’ As the summer continues we will get to experience many different varieties of peas and I challenge you to welcome them into your kitchen with an army of cookbooks, a good sense of humor, and your favorite kind of wine.

Meet Your Farmer: Contrarian Farm (And Its Contrarian Farmer)

brittany and bunnyBrittany Kordick of Contrarian Farm is perfectly happy to admit that both herself and her farm are indeed contrarian. She has to do things her own way, and this drive has produced a farm that is wildly and chaotically organized, a beautiful extension of herself. In addition to the produce we partake in through Papa Spud’s, Brittany has goats and rabbits for milk and meat for herself. Her mother (who is the woman behind the Malus Hill Apple Eighths) owns the land and commutes to work in her orchards and Contrarian Farm is nestled among the trees. They sit on about 75 acres of land about an hour north of Winston Salem, right on the Virginia line in the breathtaking foothills.

road

Brittany has been farming for eight years in total, five years in her location now. She first started farming in Chatham County along with a partner until the owner of the land they were leasing wanted to sell. So her mother invited her and her partner to farm on her land. Brittany has been rufieldnning the operation entirely on her own for about two years and truly making it her own. She went to school at Elon for Writing and Philosophy originally and realized that she didn’t want to make a career out of what she was studying, so she dropped out to pursue farming. She then went to Central Carolina Community College for Sustainable Agriculture and after getting through the basic classes, she decided she wanted to farm for real. She and her partner left school and started farming and she has been going ever since.

dogs and buns

Brittany might be what you would call an idealist, except she determinedly puts her ideals into motion. When she moved to the location where she is now, she discovered that the soil was terrible. It was once a large monoculture of tobacco, corn, or soybeans and the fumigant that the farmer used on the fields completely destroyed the soil. They spent the first year of farming realizing that everything that they had learned didn’t work. Brittany has spent the past five years nourishing the soil back to life. On top of this she is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Sauratown Mountains, which is a beautiful sight but it creates a lot of wind. After a year of being at the farm, there was a windstorm that completely tore apart their hoop house. She is learning to work with the land she has and use her knowledge and experience in conjunction with understanding the challenges her farm faces. This is the first year that she is really beginning to notice a difference, the soil is beginning to improve and her plants are healthier. She grows spinach, arugula, tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes, and many different flowers. Her favorite vegetablepeppers2 to grow are peppers, when I asked where they were planted she pointed, smiled, and said “here is the pepper paradise!” She is growing red, yellow, green bell peppers, and poblano peppers. She explained with excitement that she finds delight in harvesting peppers and finding that perfect one that is completely unblemished. Knowing that she can grow the perfect pepper and have the satisfaction of picking it herself brings her so much joy. I asked her what her favorite part of farming is and she said: “just being able to do it.” It is challenging and relentless, but it is the lifestyle she has grown to love and she can’t imagine living otherwise. “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I can’t give it up”.

goatses

She also works as a line cook at a restaurant in Winston Salem and has found that working in a kitchen is incredibly valuable. She used to be a vegetarian, brittany and goatsand during that time she didn’t really like vegetables. She would grow them and not eat them, but was so in love with the actual farming that she kept with it. Once she began to learn how to cook what she was growing and enjoy the food she sold, she could talk to customers about the best ways to cook certain things. Also, she now knows what chefs are looking for and why, and she can grow with that market in mind. It looks like Contrarian Farm has found its home and its roots grow deep. She can’t imagine moving again, her blood, sweat, and tears are in this land. She has plans for blueberry bushes and an asparagus patch in the future. She started with a blank slate of soil and has created a farm that is building and growing every year. Not only has she changed the land, her mentality has completely shifted as she has learned to work with the challenges. Contrarian Farm’s unique methods have lead to an evolving farm that will continue to flourish. Brittany’s love and hard work have gone into every single vegetable you eat from her farm, and you can taste the quality in each bite.

hill

 

“I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
in spite of the best advice…”
–The Contrariness Of The Mad Farmer, Wendell Berry

The (Eclectic, Antiquated, and Beloved) Farmer’s Almanac

You’ve probably seen the Farmer’s Almanac around for years, maybe in a small grocery store or general store, or at your grandparents’ house. Countless friends have told stories of their grandparents swearing by the Farmer’s Almanac, checking its weather predictions for the year as well as its planting guides. But it also provides general cooking tips and recipes, home remedies for sickness, jokes, and hunting and fishing tips. You can even learn random facts about natural phenomena such as heat lightening or information on all different types of rice. This eclectic collection of traditional knowledge seems to be  surprisingly accurate at times, and at other times pretty far off the mark. In a world of increasing technology, traditional knowledge is often scoffed at, but their weather predictions are generally accurate about 80% of the time . I would say that 80% is pretty swell considering their predictions are done two years in advance and are based off of a top-secret formula that includes “sunspot activity, tidal action, the position of the planet, and many other factors.” According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this coming summer “will bring near-normal temperatures, on average, with the hottest periods in early to mid-June, mid-to late July, and mid-to late August. Rainfall will be below normal in the north and above in the south. Watch for a tropical storm threat in mid-July.” And if you’re a gardener, this week is a “barren period,” good for killing pests, cultivating, or taking a vacation.

All of their planting guidelines for gardeners are based off the cycles of the moon, which sounds surprisingly new-agey to be part of such a traditional magazine. This is what I find most fascinating about the Farmer’s Almanac—it’s used by many gardeners and people interested in living a sustainable and simple life but it is based off of ideas that many today would call superstitious. It is a beautiful, seemingly antiquated, publication that pays attention to the natural cycles of the earth and has learned to work with them for the better cultivation of plants. You always hear of people out in the sticks who can predict crazy weather patterns based on something seemingly unrelated—there is a man in the NC Mountains who can predict the number of snows every winter based on the number of foggy mornings in August. He puts a bean in a jar every morning with fog and at the end of August he counts them out and can tell you how many light dustings and how many big snows the area will get—and he’s usually almost spot on. This is the kind of knowledge that the Farmer’s Almanac publishes, and some people still use it!

I was curious to know if any of the farmers we work with use The Farmer’s Almanac or if they had any opinions about it, so I called up Gary Wise and Vernon Britt to hear their thoughts.

Gary Wise, of Wise Farms in Mount Olive, NC, does use the Farmer’s Almanac, but not as much as he used to. His wife and father-in-law both use it a lot. Gary uses it for suggestions for when to plant but his father-in-law uses the home remedies and cooking tips as well. When I asked him if he found it to be accurate he said: “Well, it makes me feel better to have something to go off of.” He doesn’t think that modern farmers use it and seems to use it more as a way to start off the season.

Vernon Britt of Britt Farms in Mount Olive, also uses The Farmer’s Almanac. His ancestors swore by it and he uses it at the beginning of the season when they’re seeding everything in the greenhouse. He tries his best to go by the planting dates but once the season picks up and they get really busy it is harder to stay with the calendar. “If we have time to do something one day then we’d better do it,” he explained of his busy summer season. He does believe that the Farmer’s Almanac’s planting guide works, as his experience has always been positive.

However, according to this Modern Farmer article, no farmers use the Farmer’s Almanac anymore; it is often much easier to just look at a seven-day weather forecast when trying to plan your week, echoing Gary Wise’s assumption. But, personally, I’m glad it’s still out there—where else are you going to look for information on the best day to wax your floors, dig holes, potty train your children, or get married? Need the best guide to stargazing for the summer? Guess where you’re going to find it…The Farmer’s Almanac, it seems, is a phenomenon that just keeps going and no one quite knows how or why. Will it last the next 100 years? Only time will tell. Curious about what all the hype is about? Check out their website at farmersalmanac.com for a plethora of information along with an almanac blog!

2,000 Calories at Papa Spud’s

As you may have seen, the New York Times recently published an article about caloric intake. We are told that depending on gender and age, we need to eat between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day. But how many of us actually know what 2,000 calories look like? Despite how arbitrary it may sound, paying a little more attention to calories may actually do you some good, especially when you’re eating out. The article goes on to show how difficult it is to eat 2,000 calories a day if you’re eating at a restaurant. Shockingly, there are meals at many different restaurants that are around 2,000 calories themselves: Louisiana Chicken Pasta from Cheesecake Factory, one Peanut Butter Caramel Pie Milkshake from Sonic, or a Carnitas Burrito, Chips and Guacamole and a Coke from Chipotle. The whole point of the article is not to terrify or guilt trip you, but to point out that when you cook at home you are in control of your calories. They end the article with a whole day’s worth of home cooked meals all of which equal, you guessed it, about 2,000 calories. This begs the question: what are those restaurants putting in their meals to make them 2,000 calories? I wish I knew the answer to that.

So what does 2,000 calories look like at Papa Spud’s? I’ve compiled a day’s worth of meals for one person with food that is available through Papa Spud’s. I used calorieking.com to estimate calories for each food item.

breakfast collage

Breakfast:
-1 cup of coffee 2 calories
-Breakfast sandwich: 2 slices of La Farm Bread 200 calories, ¼ of an avocado 69 calories, tomato 4 calories, 1 fried egg 78 calories
-1 pear 103 calories

456 Calories

lunch collageLunch:
Butternut Squash Soup (one bowl) 203 calories 
-Roasted Scallions and Arugula Salad Recipe Kit (1 serving) 225.5

428.5 calories

dinner collageDinner:
Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken (1 serving) 465 calories
-Grilled Peppers and Onions 71 calories
-Wild Rice (1/4 cup) 41 calories
-1 Beer 155 calories

732 calories

STRAWB SHORTCAKE RECIPE KIT

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe Kit (1 serving) 334 calories

Total Daily Calories: 1,950.5 Calories

Since I’ve started eating more vegetables and unprocessed food, I have realized among what true abundance we live. One onion, one bunch of kale, a bag of carrots all go a long way—and there is so much you can do with them. Eating at home does not mean not eating adventurously or deliciously. There are plenty of recipes for quick and delicious meals; it just takes practice and a little willingness to be creative and soon you’ll be cooking up a storm! None of this is to say that you should never eat out—treat yourself sometimes! It is just important to not make it a frequent habit. I have become a fan of eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods, as Michael Pollen famously suggests: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If you haven’t read In Defense of Food, I highly suggest it. This book made me rethink everything I was eating and helped me to shape a more healthful diet—and it turned out that eating at home was also a lot cheaper. There are plenty of resources out there to help transition from a quick and convenient lifestyle of eating to one of relationships and intentional time in the kitchen. Something tells me, though, if you’re reading this blog you’ve already begun that journey.

If you have any tips or recipes for quick and delicious meals that you have come across, please send them to us and we will share them on Facebook or the blog!

Documentary Review: Dirt! The Movie

If you’re looking for a documentary that covers a plethora of subjects all tied together with the stuff that kids trek through our houses, then you have come to the right place. Those of us naturally interested in gardening already feel a strong connection to the soil, but many of us interact with dirt only to clean it off of our cars, our houses, our shoes, etc. Dirt, however, is a living organism full of billions of microorganisms and nutrients. This documentary is a beautiful ‘Ode to Dirt’ through the eyes of authors, photographers, a Nobel Laureate, a professor, entrepreneurs, and natural builders. Despite a few cheesy graphics in the introduction, Dirt! is an incredibly informative and ultimately hopeful documentary.

There are dozens of good documentaries out there about food, farming, and environmentalism, but this one stood out to me because of the wide variety of subjects it covers while still maintaining a solid and unified purpose. It starts with a discussion of different creation stories all with the premise that humans were created from dirt. We are dirt, we are what we eat; all those old adages are meant to remind us of our connection to the natural world. No matter how much we try, we cannot separate ourselves or our well-being from the world that surrounds us. Dirt! takes us through the world of soil and introduces us to people whose life work revolves around it. It draws you into a complex and luscious world that you cannot help but fall in love with. It reveals the many different directions one can go with caring for the soil: from farming, to teaching, to social work – dirt supports all of our lives. From here, I will warn you that like most documentaries about food or the environment, it takes a very heavy turn toward the middle. They draw connections to poverty and environmental degradation, discuss wars waged over healthy soil, and the effect that big agriculture has had on developing countries and their farmers. These are sobering truths to face, but there is value in being aware of what is happening in other countries. Fortunately, the documentary does not stop hummingbirdthere; it takes the despair and degradation and turns it into hope. Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, tells a poignant story of a hummingbird who attempts to put out a forest fire while all the other bigger animals just watch. “I may feel insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to stand by and watch as the world goes down the drain” she says, “I will be a hummingbird, I will do the best I can.”

The final section of the movie follows the amazing work that different people are doing to protect and heal the earth. They interview Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, who is committed to creating green roofs to cleanse the air and manage water runoff. Sustainable South Bronx also focuses on green-collar job training in order to alleviate poverty through environmental development. We get a glimpse into the Riker’s Island prison garden program called The Greenhouse Project that allows inmates to work in a garden, which provides better food for the prison as well as providing healing and rewarding work. We also get to explore the Instituto Terra, a nonprofit organization in Aimores, Brazil that was started by a couple that promotes biodiversity, restoration, environmental education, and sustainable development. These are just a few of the incredible organizations and entrepreneurs the documentary introduces. Its overall premise is that this world is beautiful and we have to tend to it. Despite the destruction we have already wrought, we can make a change. It does not have to be a huge movement that sweeps up a country, but small, intentional choices and movements toward a greater goal are incredibly powerful. If we all do something little, it makes a huge difference; we cannot sit around and wait for one person to do everything. This documentary does a fantastic job of inspiring, not inciting guilt. It reminds the viewer that there is always hope.

gardening

Dirt! The Movie can be found for free on hulu.com. There is also a showing and informal discussion on Friday, May 15 at Ramble Rill Farm in Hillsborough, NC. Check out this link for more information and directions.

Spring Storage Tips

As spring continues to blossom, more varieties of vegetables begin to line our counters and fill our refrigerators. Strawberries make their bold entrance with a burst of color and sweetness that cannot be replicated, arugula reaches upward with fervor and spice, asparagus pushes from it’s network of roots to reign over our meals for its short existence. The spring vegetables demand to be noticed and appreciated. The gray hue of winter departs from our eyes as we fill our stomachs with flavorful, new life. Our kitchens become art studios, sacred spaces of creation with the finest supplies; as Douglas ponders in his grandmother’s kitchen in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine:  “Grandma, he had often wanted to say, Is this where the world began? For surely it had begun in no other than a place like this. The kitchen, without doubt, was the center of creation, all things revolved about it; it was the pediment that sustained the temple.”

However, with increasing abundance can also come a feeling of being overwhelmed. We don’t have to eat everything at once but we do need to be able to store it well. There are tricks with each vegetable that can make it last longer. So, sit back, don’t let the freshness overwhelm you, and enjoy these tips for fresh vegetables all week long:

ArugulaArugula (5-7 days): Arugula is actually an herb in the mustard family. It is generally used similarly to salad greens, either as a substitute or as a complement. Arugula should be kept in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss, and refrigerated. It will keep for just a few days. Arugula tends to be gritty, so don’t forget to wash it just prior to using. If cooked, it should be added in just the last few minutes to prevent flavor loss and overwilting. Arugula makes a great pizza topping!

asparagus3Asparagus (3-5 days): Cut ½ – 1 inch off of the base of the asparagus. Place asparagus stalks in a glass with water and refrigerate. Asparagus is best used within a few days, so try to use it at it’s freshest.

Green Onions (1-2 weeks): Cut off any damaged greens from the green onions bungreen onionch. You might also consider removing the rubber band, which can damaged the onion tops. Store green onions in a plastic bag to retain moisture and refrigerate.

 

BUNCH SPINACH 11Spinach (7-10 days): Spinach should be stored in a plastic bag to retain moisture. Spinach is generally rinsed by the farm, so it should have some moisture, but check the bag to make sure that it is not sitting in water. If it is, punch holes in the plastic bag, and drain any excess water and refrigerate.

strawberriesStrawberries (5-7 days): Check for any damaged or bruised strawberries, and remove them from the container. Damaged fruits release ethylene gas which signals other fruits to ripen at a faster rate. Berries can go bad quite quickly, so make sure they are covered, and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. However, strawberries will be at their juiciest at room temperature, so if possible bring them to room temperature prior to consuming.

Bunches of fresh herbsHerbs, bunched: Commonly bunched herbs include basil, cilantro, and parsley. Remove band or tie, and pick out any stems or leaves that have been damaged from banding. Snip the base of the stems, wrap in damp paper towels, and store in plastic bag in the refrigerator. This will help herbs to retain moisture, and extend storage life.

MUSTARD GREENS 22Mustard Greens: Mustard greens are considered to be just as healthy and nutrient packed as other cruciferous vegetables, like collards and kale, but haven’t gotten the same kind of press for it. They can be prepared as you would other greens, sauteed, boiled, or steamed. For more interesting options, consider taking a look at Indian or Chinese cuisine where they are use frequently. Like other greens, it’s best to store mustard greens in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss and refrigerate.

BREAKFAST RADISHES 44Radishes (1-2 weeks): Remove tops from radishes to prevent moisture loss and refrigerate. Radishes have a peppery flavor that usually goes well in salads or in appetizers. A simple and delicious appetizer is just sliced radishes served with melted butter and salt on the side. The peppery flavor is most concentrated in the skin, so they can be peeled for a milder flavor. Radish greens can also be used raw in salads, or cooked as you would other greens.

PICKLING CUKES 11Pickling Cucumbers: Pickling Cucumbers are a shorter, thicker skinned variety of cucumber that as the name suggests are commonly used for pickles. However, pickling cucumbers are also consumed raw as well, and tend to have significantly more flavor than the long green cucumbers most of us are accustomed to in the grocery store. Cucumbers should be refrigerated and kept relatively dry. Over exposure to moisture can cause premature deterioration through mold.

With these tips you can move forward and allow your creativity to flow through your fingers and your spatulas. Enjoy the flavor the spring has to offer and keep it fresh for as long as possible.

The Kingdom of Water And Lettuce, Meet Your Farmer: Coastal Plains Produce

Coastal Plains Produce is located in Grifton, NC, a small town outside of dirt roadGreenville, NC—serious farm country. I drove down to see Jedd Koehn’s operation and found his greenhouse buried deep in the country down a dirt road, off a dirt road. The greenhouse appeared amongst the pine trees and sandy soil with Jedd and his son Tanner waiting outside to wave me down. Stepping through the door of the greenhouse, I did not expect what I  was about to walk into. I had seen hydroponic lettuce in its final stage, beautiful and crisp in the clamshells that Koehn uses to transport them, but I was not able to fully understand what hydroponic meant until I saw the whole whole greenhouseoperation. A hydroponic growing system means that it is grown entirely in water. The seeds are started in seed trays and then transplanted into a floating tray and placed in a pool of water—otherwise known as a deep hydroponic lettucewater system. Nutrients are added every few weeks and the water is constantly aerated to ensure plant health and stimulate growth. Koehn’s greenhouse is incredible: it is the size of three greenhouses, it is completely full of greens in all different stages and equipped with grow lights, fans, heaters, a water aerator, etc. He grows over 20 different varieties of lettuce and greens including watercress, arugula, braising greens, and many different kinds of lettuce. He just started growing microgreens at the request of a local chef and is slowly starting to expand to other kinds of greens. This is Koehn’s third year as Coastal Plains Produce but he has been around farming his whole life.

microgreens

seedlings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koehn grew up on a 1200-acre organic farm in Kansas that was started by his grandfather. He worked in the fields as a kid and became accustomed to the lifestyle. His grandfather also started a grain mill called Heartland Mills. Before delving into hydroponics, Koehn and a friend started an aquaponics operation, which includes fish in the process. The idea of aquaponics is that the fish provide the nutrients needed for the lettuce to grow, creating a system with very few additives. They built their aquaponics system completely by themselves using an old greenhouse but ran into a lot of problems with scale—their system was too small to make enough money to keep it going. With an aquaponics system they found it difficult to regulate bacteria; Koehn now uses hydrogen peroxide in the water sometimes to kill any bacteria but could not have done so with an aquaponics system. Taking everything he learned from this operation and applying it to his own space, he started Coastal Plains Produce in November of 2013.

lettuce mix

He now works with local restaurants and distributors, and sells at farmers markets from Grifton to Durham and is continuing to learn and perfect his system. He has grow lights throughout the greenhouse that he uses for the seedlings he starts in trays and has to use on all the lettuce during the winter when there is not enough sunlight. Throughout the summer he uses a shade cloth to keep the temperature down and to keep the sun from burning the lettuce. Lettuce only needs about 10 hours of sunlight and cannot grow in very hot or very cold conditions, and he has found a way to accommodate to these restrictions and can now grow lettuce year-round.  Koehn does all of this work with just three part time workers and sells about 1,000 pounds of produce a week. I asked him what his favorite part of farming is and he responded by saying: “Walking into a restaurant and seeing my lettuce on a table. Knowing that we beat the bugs and the weather.” For him, farming is extremely satisfying work and the lifestyle is wonderful; he can go home for lunch and he brings his son to work with him most days. It is easy to see how much he enjoys his work by the way he talks about and handles his lettuce and his greenhouse. In a few years Tanner will be working alongside his father and learning the trade.

tanner

jedd and tanner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their favorite way to eat their lettuce (and they eat a lot of lettuce, as you can imagine) is to just have a simple garden salad with ranch dressing. The lettuce is so flavorful that it doesn’t need much–it cannot be compared to iceberg lettuce or any lettuce you might find in a regular grocery store. This lettuce is crisp, fresh, and full of flavor, and its shelf life is twice as long with the root ball still attached! Not only can you find Coastal Plain’s Produce through Papa Spud’s and many local farmers markets, you can visit some gourmet restaurants in Eastern North Carolina such as The Chef and the Farmer and The Boiler Room Oyster Bar both in Kinston, NC. So treat yourself with some of the best lettuce you’ll have the pleasure of tasting and keep in mind the farmer whose days are spent with your salad.

dog

Seeking An Earth Day Lifestyle

Earth Day summons ideas of planting trees, tie-dye and hula hooping, music outside, and sunshine. It begs for bare feet and green grass for one day but does not often extend much past the celebrations. But Earth Day has an amazing history, so why not use Earth Day to remind us of the incredible world we live in and take steps to protect it? The fact that you’re reading this means that you already buy or are interested in buying local food, an incredibly huge step in protecting the environment. So when that defensive guilt kicks in about how hard it is to live sustainably, let go, you’ve already started! I’m not asking you to go completely waste-free or to start washing your clothes in your bathtub, just take a minute on Earth Day to step outside and enjoy the lush greenery that has finally returned.

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970 when Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson earth dayorganized an environmental teach-in after an extremely destructive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969. As politically aware and active as the ‘60s were, there was very little conversation about the environment; pollution and gas-guzzling were considered the norm, a sign of progress. Rachel Carson’s release of Silent Spring in 1962 slowly started the conversation and Nelson’s teach-in jumped onto that momentum and propelled it forward. He worked across party-lines, class-lines, and managed to unite people of all walks of life in a drive to protect the environment. On the very first Earth Day 20 million people took to the streets in protests and demonstrations to fight for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy. It then lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts. Today there are events and festivals organized around Earth Day to bring people together and raise awareness about environmental issues, children go on field trips to plant trees, and more events have sprung up involving farmers and farming communities.

So, I have compiled a simple list of things you can do to live more sustainably. These are just a few ideas, take them and make them yours, no one formula is going to work for everyone.

  1. Shop Local—from local food to drink to clothing to your local hardware store, when you buy local products from a small local business you are positively impacting the environment. Your products did not have to travel as far to get to you and you are investing in a system that can greatly change the way we interact with each other and with consumer goods.
  2. Buy bulk items when you can—Buying in bulk cuts down on both packaging and cost. You can even bring your own container to put whatever you’re buying in bulk into so you don’t have to waste a plastic bag.
  3. Carry a reusable water bottle and travel mug, reusable shopping bags, and Tupperware in your car—buying water bottles is one of the most wasteful things you can do; bring a water bottle with you to refill and that will make a huge difference. Also if you know you are going out to eat you can bring your own Tupperware to put leftovers into so as to not use plastic or Styrofoam.
  4. Unplug electronics from the wall when you’re not using them—When you are done charging your laptop or your phone, unplug the charger from the wall. Even if the charger is not attached to an electronic, it is still using electricity when plugged in.
  5. Observe an eco-sabbath—This idea is from Colin Beavan, or No Impact Man, who took a year to learn how to live without creating any waste. He recommends to take a day once a week and use no electronics, instead go outside, read a book, or volunteer somewhere!
  6. Carpool, walk, bike, scooter, rollerblade—there are always innovative ways to get places; if you don’t have to drive, don’t!
  7. Mange your thermostat—keep your house at a reasonable temperature, open your windows when you can, put on a sweatshirt before you turn up the heat, etc.
  8. Educate yourself—A huge part of living more sustainably is being aware of the impact we are having on the earth and those around us. There are plenty of books, documentaries, clubs, and websites about all of the different aspects of the many environmental issues we are facing today.
  9. Plant a garden—Any kind of garden, vegetables, flowers, trees, herbs, bushes, it doesn’t matter! Supporting any kind of life is good for the environment and good for you.
  10. Get a rain barrel—You will inevitably have to water something at some time, so get a rain barrel to catch rainwater instead of using water from the sink!

earth day 2

The most important things to remember are to be creative and to be patient with yourself. Living more sustainably is not going to be an easy, overnight change – it’s going to be a process full of baby steps. It’s important to do one thing at a time and do it in a way that works for you and fits your personality. It’s not meant to cage you in, it’s about creating a lifestyle. Pick one of these things and figure out how to make it work for you, figure out how to do it well, and then move onto another. Pretty soon the momentum will build and you will find yourself gravitating toward a more holistic and sustainable mindset.

Resources:
-Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
-Cradle to Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart
-trashisfortossers.com
-www.zerowastehome.com
-www.sustainablebabysteps.com
-No Impact Man—Documentary
-Dirt!—Documentary
-Tiny—Documentary

Celebrating Asparagus

The season of asparagus has descended upon the Piedmont, a time, for some, that is highly anticipated. Europeans have festivals celebrating the arrival of asparagus; in the weeks before its appearance you can practically hear all the menus being rewritten to incorporate the cherished vegetable. The first recipes for asparagus date back to 2,500 years ago “written in ancient Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics” and the passion continued with the Caesars who sent out ships to search for the best asparagus(Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). When you eat asparagus lovingly and in season you will be joining in with royalty. But all of this asparagus-frenzy is not unfounded, it is a truly remarkable vegetable. Planting asparagus is hard work, but once planted an asparagus patch can produce for twenty to thirty years. After it is planted it takes three years before it can be harvested and then the first year of harvest can only last for two weeks. Asparagus needs an adequate amount of dormancy in the warmer months in order to store enough starch underground so that it can produce the next year. Once the patch is mature it can still only be harvested for about eight weeks before it must be allowed grow past it’s crown stage and into the stage that resembles a smaller, feathery Christmas tree—the female plants even produce bright red berries.

asparagus3

For most of my asparagus information I turned to Barbara Kingsolver, an asparagus aficionado. She is so infatuated with the plant that she has dug it into the yards of almost everywhere she has lived, including rental homes where she would never see it come to fruition. She has a whole chapter entitled ‘Waiting For Asparagus’ in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and joins in with other local food writers and chefs in using asparagus as the spearhead for eating seasonally and locally. “[Asparagus is] best eaten the day it is cut, period…Waiting for the quality experience seems to be the constitutional article that has slipped from American food custom. If we mean to reclaim it, asparagus seems like a place to start” (Kingsolver, 32). If we are to follow in the footsteps of Kingsolver—fantastic footsteps to follow in, I would argue—we would eat asparagus like mad for the eight weeks we can grow it and not touch it again until it peaks its grey-green head through the familiar soil the next year. What better way is there to stay in touch with the seasons than eating what they offer as they offer it?

asparagus1So with all of my research and writing about the amazing flavor of freshly harvested asparagus I couldn’t resist a trip to the farmers market for fresh asparagus. I arrived and found beautiful, alluring bunches of green and purple asparagus everywhere so I quickly chose one and ran from my urge to continue buying produce. I wanted to find a different way to cook asparagus that I had never heard of before and discovered this recipe for Lemon Dijon Crusted Asparagus Fries, which turned out quite deliciously.

Asparagus Fries

  • asparagusprep21 bunch of asparagus, washed, ends trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Lemon Dijon Aioli

  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • salt & pepper

Asparagus Fries

  1. asparagus fries oven2Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with baking spray.
  2. Combine egg, dijon and lemon juice in a shallow bowl, whisk together.
  3. Combine breadcrumbs, lemon zest, red pepper and salt & pepper in a dish and mix together.
  4. Coat asparagus first in egg mixture and then in breadcrumb mixture. Line up on baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until breadcrumbs have turned golden brown and asparagus still has some “bite” left to it.
  6. Serve warm out of the oven.

Lemon Dijon Aioli

  1. While asparagus bake, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

asparagus fries2

You have eight weeks to enjoy the crisp, sweet presence of asparagus. Relish it while its here and, if you’re feeling daring, take after Barbara Kingsolver and experience the long wait to celebrate its majestic return.