Seed Surprises and Scarecrow Stories!

This is our third year now being part of a CSA (community supported agriculture). We have slowly, but surely developed a seasonal eating mindset and can even now recall, for the most part, what is in season at what times here in upstate New York. We’ve gotten used to eating oddly shaped fruits and vegetables that are much smaller than their grocery store equivalents. We are always amazed to see the differences between our farmer’s food and our grocery store’s food.

This summer for the first time we got a watermelon as a part of our CSA share. We have had other melons from our CSA before and they have all been wonderful. We excitedly brought the watermelon home and cut it up that very day.

I eagerly cut the melon open and was stunned to discover it had seeds inside! I tried to remember when the last time I had a watermelon with seeds in it and regret to admit, it was probably when I was a child. That’s twenty years ago! It has been twenty years (give or take a few years) since I have had a watermelon with seeds! How crazy!

It's got seeds! What?!

It’s got seeds! What?!

The whole time I was cutting our CSA watermelon up, I was having a mental discussion with myself. It went something like this…

“It’s not a big deal that it has seeds. It will still be delicious. Watermelons are supposed to have seeds. It’s not a big deal, really. You just need to get over it.”

So, I decided to not let the seeds bother me and just eat it with seeds. I cut the melon into slices and took a huge bite only to nearly choke on it. It was awful! I just couldn’t wrap my brain around eating it and either swallowing or spitting out the seeds. (Pathetic, I know!). So, I did the only thing I could think of to remedy the situation. We enjoyed our watermelon in chunks instead of slices and I picked out every little seed from every singe chunk. The melon part was incredibly delicious, but I doubt I am going to get another watermelon from our CSA. Next time, I will just stick with a honeydew or cantaloupe, at least those seeds are easy enough to scoop out!

Isn’t it crazy how spoiled most of us have become with all the food modifications that are now considered normal? After three years of eating fruits and vegetables from a local farmer, one would think our family would be used to eating food in its naturally grown (not genetically modified/no pesticides, etc.) state. I am ashamed to admit, I was repulsed by the seeds in the watermelon. Over the past twenty years, I have grown so accustomed to what, in my mind, was “normal” watermelon. So when I saw all those seeds, instead of focusing on the delicious melon, I was aghast and somewhat put-out that I either had to spit out the seeds or swallow them. Isn’t it interesting the way our mind and food tastes are shaped by the food we may have always thought of as “normal”?

A friend of mine recently sent me the following video. The video itself is an advertisement for a new Chipotle app/game. The video shows an interesting perspective of our commercialized food system and, at the very least, is quite thought-provoking. Hats off to the company for continuing to raise awareness of the unhealthy, commercialized food practices found in America today. If you have never heard of Chipotle, it is a mexican grille that unabashedly announces its dedication to “Food with Integrity”. It is a fascinating company to look into. You can find lots more information about them at their website. So, without further ado, here’s the video:

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Scoot Over Farmer’s Market!

Our two-year old loves to smell all the flowers at the Saratoga Farmer's Market!

Our two-year old loves to smell all the flowers at the Saratoga Farmer’s Market!

Every Saturday morning our family goes to the farmer’s market. We roll out of bed, munch on a light breakfast, gather our reusable bags and empty glass bottles, and head to the market, our eyes still gritty with sleep. It’s our family tradition. Our girls eagerly anticipate going to the market each week. They delight in choosing the fruits and vegetables for the week and later timidly ask for their special weekly treat from Miss Linda, one of our favorite vendors. Their excitement over seeing their favorite vegetables appear throughout the different seasons, like tomatoes or strawberries, explodes from their little bodies as they excitedly beg to eat “just one” cherry tomato, sweet pea or strawberry before we have even left our favorite farmer’s stand. In the summer, we typically get our items and settle down in a warm sunny spot to enjoy our weekly treats and maybe snitch a few veggies from what is supposed to be our weekly (not Saturday morning) supply of CSA veggies. We love our Saturday morning tradition. It works for our family. But, we know it’s not something that works for everyone.

We have shared at length about being a part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Essentially, we pay for our year’s supply of veggies (occasionally we get a few fruits too) in advance. This helps us because we do not have to budget for veggies each week and we get a discounted rate by buying everything in advance. It also helps our farm because they get a large sum of money from numerous CSA members, which they can then use to buy larger items for the farm and better budget/plan out their year. Most of the CSA’s around this area are designed to get picked up at a farmer’s market. There are several different markets in the Albany region. At the Saratoga Farmer’s Market, where we go, there are three or four farmers that offer a CSA option. As wonderful as it is to get veggies at a cheaper rate, it can be difficult for some to get to the market to get those veggies, especially when the market is only once or twice a week.

Thankfully, there are other options available to people who want to get fresh fruits and veggies that are non-GMO and locally grown. Often, especially in the summer time, farms have farm stands where they sell their crops. Additionally, some of the farms that offer CSA’s will let you pick up shares at their farm or at an alternate location. Often, just a quick email or phone call is all it takes to set it up.

Other services are cropping up around the country that deliver fresh crops directly from the farmer to you or to a set location that is not a farmer’s market. One such service is available here in the Albany region. It’s called, “Field Goods.” (Click here to access their website) Field Goods takes fresh crops from a variety of small local farms and distribute it as shares (small, standard and family-sized)  throughout our community. In addition to the usual fruit/veggie CSA, they also offer a bread and herb/allium CSA. They deliver year-round to numerous locations throughout the Albany region, including many apartment/housing complexes and work places. For a list of all their delivery locations, click here. This is a great option for those who may not live near a farmer’s market or are unable to attend their market when it is open. A friend of ours is a member of Field Goods and has her fruits/veggie CSA delivered right to her workplace!

Finally, Local Harvest is a wonderful resource for putting people in touch with their local farmers. It has a terrific search option that allows you to search for CSAs, grocery stores, farmer’s markets, farms, and even meat markets that grow/sell sustainably grown food in your area. There are even some farms that allow you to purchase items online at Local Harvest and have them delivered right to your home!

So, if, for whatever reason, farmer’s markets are not an option for you and/or you are unsure of where to get wholesome, local foods, take heart! There are lots of other options out there and, if your area farmers are anything like the ones I know, they’d be more than willing to work with you on the best way to get their delicious food to your door.

Aside

Garlic Scapes to the Rutscue!

I am a sucker for a good rut! I fall into one and, before I know it, we have been eating the same three meals on a rotating basis everyday. This could go on for weeks until I realize, “Whoops! I’ve done it again.” After I realize I have fallen into a rut, I usually try to avoid whatever food item (or group) we have been living off. This is a slight exaggeration, but basically true. When it comes to cooking, I usually like to stick to tried and true recipes. It is easier, after all, than searching for new recipes online, making sure I have all the ingredients, trying to read the recipe on my handy-dandy phone, and then prepare the new recipe all the while simultaneously trying to keep two toddlers happy right before dinner (ahem- bed) time. Yes, that’s my life and that is why I find myself falling into mealtime ruts on a regular basis. It is much easier to just throw a few ingredients together for a recipe I already have memorized than juggle the fiasco that ensues whenever I decide to cook a new recipe.

Even healthy ruts are still ruts. Our bodies need a variety of foods and sticking with one food (or food group) too long can be unhealthy, not to mention boring. My tendency for falling into ruts is one reason why I am so thankful to be a part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It forces me to be creative. We eat what is in season, and so the types of food I have in our fridge is constantly changing. For dinner tonight we had garlic-herb roasted chicken, kale with spring onions, and diced turnips with garlic scapes. Yes, that is one meat with a whopping four veggies in one meal. It was delicious and, yes, both of our toddlers ate it with gusto.

I had heard of (but never cooked with) kale, onions, and even turnips before we decided to switch to eating more wholesome foods. Once we switched over to a more wholesome diet, kale, onions and turnips became staple items in our home. However, I had most definitely never heard of garlic scapes before last week’s trip to our farmer’s market stand. I grabbed a few as a part of our share and came home and promptly ruined a perfectly good batch of garlic scapes by trying to roast them in the oven. Perhaps my ratio of scapes to oil was off or maybe I cooked them too short or long in the oven. Whatever the reason, it was enough for our family to wonder why on earth everyone at our CSA was raving about garlic scapes.

I decided to give garlic scapes one more try this week and I am so glad I did. They were incredible! All I did was saute them in a bit of butter and olive oil with salt and pepper along with some turnips (I chopped and boiled the turnips to soften them a bit before adding them to the scapes). After ten minutes or so I added a half cup of homemade chicken stock and cooked the mixture till the stock reduced to a glaze. My O my, were they tasty! If you have never had them before, they taste like a cross between asparagus and green beans- only much, much better (and that is saying a lot coming from me- I am a passionate fan of asparagus!). With little to no fat, garlic scapes are loaded with fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin C. Have a look at the picture below to see what I am raving about and then go out and try some! Garlic scapes are a fabulous way to pull yourself out of whatever meal rut you may find yourself in and spice up your meals! They are a great addition to many dishes (especially mashed potatoes) and I have heard they make a great pesto! If you want an even easier recipe for scapes than the one I shared above, simply cut the scapes into the desired size pieces and saute them in butter/olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper for ten minutes or so. Delicious!

Garlic Scapes! Cook them like this or chop into desired sized pieces!