A few years ago when I was working the Boulder Wednesday night Farmer’s Market, it seemed as though almost every patron that stepped under our tent and struck up a dialogue was singing the praises of the then-newly released book Eating On The Wild Side. The book, written by Jo Robinson, examines the history of agriculture with a focus on crop selection - meaning how our farming forefathers altered wild plants to make them more productive, easier to grow, and more enjoyable to eat. The book goes on to categorically give advice on what are the best varieties of vegetables as well as preparation methods and techniques to maximize nutritional value that is available in each piece of produce we consume. This past week I took advantage of the cold nights and started on this book, and conveniently the first chapter dives into a discussion on greens. Wow, how eye opening! Allow me to congratulate each of you CSA members and adventurous vegetable eaters on trying new things. According to the USDA, Americans consume more servings of iceberg lettuce per week than all other fresh vegetables combined, with the exception of white potatoes. Furthermore, half the population has never purchased any salad greens other than iceberg lettuce.
I grew up in rural America and certainly ate my fair share of iceberg lettuce. In fact, I probably didn’t have any salad green that wasn’t iceberg until high school. But, call me naive, I assumed this was a sign of the times having grown up in the early 1980s - you know, when it was not only okay, but expected to eat margarine (before trans fat was bad for you), Snackwells Fat Free cookies (when fat was the culprit and to blame for every diet related health problem), and Lunchables (they were fast, easy, and nutritious, right?). In reading this book, however, I am reminded yet again of how important education is when it comes to our fruits and vegetables, but also how critical it is to make these nutrient powerhouses, aka fruits and vegetables, accessible.
To this point, at the end of the Farmer’s Market season this year, a loyal weekly customer came up to me and presented me with her hemoglobin A1C values from June and September. For those who may not know, simply put, hemoglobin A1C blood values are used to measure average blood glucose and diagnose diabetes. This customer was elated because over the course of the summer she was able to reduce her values by increasing her vegetable intake, shopping farmer’s markets, and controlling her diet. She had effectively turned her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis around with food. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Much of what Robinson has to say in her book supports consuming vegetables soon after they are harvested. As a farmer, we think local food tastes better, but the research shows now that it is actually healthier in many cases to buy local - the maximum amount of nutrients from these foods can be obtained when they are consumed within a short time after harvest. With this in mind, here is what is in today’s CSA bag:
Radishes (De 18 Jours & Giant Radish of Sicily) - De 18 Jours are long, French breakfast style radishes and the Giant Radishes of Sicily are the eye-catching, red globe shaped radishes.
Head Lettuce (Winter Density Romaine, Red Cross Butterhead, or Mirlo Butterhead): If you didn’t make the thai lettuce wraps last week, this is another opportunity to do so. Or, if you are trying the romaine heads, I absolutely love grilled romaine salads. It’s never too late (or cold!) to fire up the grill! Quarter the romaine head, brush it with oil, and lay over medium heat until it starts to lightly wilt. Top with whatever other salad fixings you might have around. Another idea is to make Caesar salad. I’ve never been a fan of anchovies, so here is a vegan recipe that uses almonds and nutritional yeast: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/vegan-caesar-salad-dressing-143126#activity-feed
Asian Greens (Bok Choy, Pak Choy, or Tatsoi): Use any of these beautiful greens interchangeably! Tonight, we’ll be having a stir fry of pak choy, cabbage, tatsoi, and fresh ginger with noodles topped with fresh lime and cilantro. Remember, the stem is also edible and adds nice crunch!
Frisee: Another bitter green, frisee is also known as curly endive and is a “tendrily”, hardy salad green that likes the cold weather. I like to make a salad with this, sliced apples, bacon, onion, crumbled soft cheese (blue or goat), and red wine garlic vinaigrette. If you usually do not like bitter greens, try mixing a bit of this with another milder salad green. Keep in mind that many of these bitter tasting greens tend to have the highest number of phytonutrients in them!