Lemon Cucumber and Cherry Tomato

We start with the lemon cucumber, that golden ball of sweet goodness – round like a lemon – but no tartness or even the bitterness that some other varieties have.  Perfect raw!  A sweet curiosity and not much more as the nutritional value is low…

Some of the freshly picked veggies from my CSA. Perfect for snacking on.

Some of the freshly picked veggies from my CSA. Perfect for snacking on.

Next we move on to the cherry tomato, getting to the meat of this post. Switching things up I avoid the sweet – red in color – picking the tart orange and yellow cousins instead.  Freshly picked is always the best -refrigeration makes tomatoes lose flavor – so I have my daily pit-stop into work at the u-pick fields of the Full Plate CSA*.  My morning-pick-me upper! Pop a cherry and mouth is merry!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself and made it rhyme.

Want to get your five servings of veggies every day?  Just 7 cherry tomaotoes count as 1 serving.  Tomatoes are low in fat, high in fiber and cancer fighting lycopenes. And the tang of the orange/yellow cherry is a perfect substitute for those crisps your hands reach for when hunger pangs hit. I also found a detailed nutritional profile of the tomato if you are interested in finding out more.

Note: A little background on CSA mentioned in my post. The Full Plate Farm Collective is my CSA .  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it is an arrangement where people/community agree to support a farm/s and the farm/s agree to supply the community.  This works out well as it gives a farm the financial support it typically needs upfront to get the harvest, and the consumers/community can get food at a price less than they would pay at a typical grocery store.  While some CSAs get upfront monetary payment, others support other options such as monthly payment plans, or reduced/no monetary payment in exchange for labor.  And there are many CSA types: fruit, veggies, freshly prepared meals, bread (which you can find out about on the Full Plate website)… with more being thought up every day! The CSA model being applied to other local businesses than just the farm, as part of the flourishing cooperative movement.  Indeed it is a great way to support -and be part of – the local sustainable economy!

Broccoli Raab

This week my CSA introduced me to raab.  Broccoli Raab, also known as rapini and broccoletti, is a common veggie in China and Italy.  Its’ many spiked green leaves surround clusters of green buds that resemble small broccoli heads – though no heads ever actually form.  Ironically, raab is not related to broccoli, but shares a relationship with turnips – probably the reason the leaves reminds me of turnip greens.  Nutritionally raab is a good source of vitamins A, C, K, and more.

Munching on broccoli raab raw I get the combination of nutty broccoli (particularly from the clustering buds) and then then pungent/bitter of mustard greens.  (Note, any blooming yellow flowers found among the buds are just as good to eat.)  The mustard is more of an after-taste.  Try it for yourself and see.  Doing a little google searching I see that it is typically used as a cooking green such as at Marquita Farm, but I often will also just snack on them raw.  That is just the way I roll.

Beans on Branches – Endamame

Enda what? Not many people have heard of Endamame.  I myself was just introduced to them through my CSA, this year, and am hooked.

Endamame from my CSA before I pick it for parboiling and freezing.

Endamame, meaning “beans on branches” is just a fancy name for fresh soy beans.   Containing all the amino acids required for human health, endamame is a great protein source for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, alike. A healthier alternative, they also provide a variety of minerals and vitamins without the cholesterol and saturated fat of meat.

Endamame is usually found in the grocery store frozen, either shelled or in the pod, and already pre-cooked (parboiled). The beans make a great snack, and taste pretty darn good too.  I just got some endamame from my CSA recently, and have enjoyed it tremendously.

According to WebMd this is what you will find in a half cup serving of shelled endamame (1 and 1/8 cups in the pod):

  • 120 calories
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 2.5 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
  • 0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
  • 11 grams protein
  • 13 grams carbohydrate
  • 15 mg sodium
  • 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
  • 10% Daily Value for iron
  • 8% Daily Value for vitamin A
  • 4% Daily Value for calcium

Head over to your grocery store frozen section and enjoy!

Red Ruskie, Dino and Curly: Three Kale Cousins

In the past couple weeks I have enjoyed a variety of kale from my CSA, specifically Russian, dinosaur and curly kale. Kale or borecole – a member of the brassica vegetable family – is a nutritionally rich and underutilized veggie. Commonly used through the Middle Ages in Europe it disappeared from our food radar, but it is making a comeback once again as people learn about the nutritional punch that it packs.  Best steamed, not to lose too much nutrients, kale is an outstanding antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cancer-preventing food that is rich in fiber and omega-3.   The tough stems of kale are often removed before cooking, though there is one particular variety I enjoy in the raw!

From left to right Russian, Dinosaur and Curly Kale. Note the purple reddish veins of Ruskie, the flatter leaves of Dino, and Curly who is named after her most distinctive feature.

Red Ruskie, is the most delicate of the kale varieties, the raw cousin.

Did you ever think of the Russians as delicate? The name’s saving grace?  Red, probably from the colored veins of the leaves.

I often use Russian kale for quick salads, (removing the stems first), or will grab a leaf while on the go.

Dinosaur kale.  When I think of dinosaur I imagine ancient tough strong leathery.  A perfect image for this kale!  The tough middle cousin, Dino – also known as Tuscan, Italian, or Lacatino kale) – has flat dark green embossed leaves.  The darkness of the green lends it a dark taste raw – I rarely sample it that way.  It still is a favorite snack of mine as the flat leaf screams veggie chips!

Copied from a friend’s recent fb post: “Kale Chips anyone? Easy!!
You’ll need organic kale (clean & then dry well). Remove all large stems. Spread on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with your favorite oil bit, pinches of sea salt and bake @ 275 degrees F for 30 mins then done! I topped this with chili sesame oil .. crispy & spicy 😉
(I’ve done this raw too by baking at a lower temp ie 105 -110 degrees F for 6 hrs roughly) Another option is to sprinkle Green Za’atar (its in the International section at your food store) on the chips for a more intense & amazing flavor.”

Finally, Curly or Scotts kale, appropriately named after their crinkled leaves.  I typically steam this veggie before I use, even in a salad.  Unlike dinosaur and Russian kale I have been steaming  the curly variety for several years.  It is great means of adding texture to a dish – a mess of crinkled dark green veggie.


The Freedom Choice: My Summer 2012 CSA

The beauty of okra – a much maligned and under-appreciated veggie. Seeing the beauty of our food and where it comes from excites interest and broadens our food palate.
Three Swallows Farm, U-pick field, Danby, NY.

Interested in just picked fresh local organic veggies bursting with flavor at a reasonable price? Try a CSA.

This summer I signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share with the Full Plate Farm Collective. (Note a photo album of my CSA is available – click on “photo album”.) Now CSAs come in a variety of flavors, but this is how mine works for me.

Every Wednesday I go to Stick & Stone farm to pick up my grocery bag of veggies: a weeks worth of veggies for a family of 4 – 2 adults and 2 kids.  I check out the “Free Choice” and “Limited Quantity”  veggie lists as I need to make sure that if they limit, for example, garlic to 1 clove, or green beans to 1 quart, I don’t take more of those.  Then the exciting part.  I dive right into the open boxes/containers of veggies and help myself to what and how much of what I want – one grocery bag worth.

This way of getting ones weekly veggies is wonderful!  If I am not a fan of spicy greens on the “Free Choice” list and there are field greens listed as well I can just take field greens. If I am traveling that week I can take less. So everything I get is consumed and there is no waste. This “freedom to choose” is what distinguishes Full Plate from the typical CSA arrangement of providing a box of veggies packed for you.  When you get a box what happens if you don’t like or don’t want a veggie given? Tough luck! A couple years back I tried a winter CSA that did the box thing. I wasn’t too happy and decided that this wasn’t for me.

What makes this “Freedom Choice” CSA even better is the upick! At the Stick and Stone and Three Swallow farms there are rows and rows of flowers and veggies that one can pick. I have picked cutting celery, flat leaf Italian parsley, green and purple basil (purple basil is great for Thai), okra,  cilantro, tomatillos, sungold tomatoes (I rarely leave with many of those outside my tummy), heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers (cayenne, Hungarian wax, jalapenos, banana, and Thai), plus flowers to brighten my home daily. I also am looking forward to Roma and big beef tomatoes when I am ready to use them.

I did start out saying a CSA is reasonable. Well, it is great to have better tasting and healthier food, but at what cost? A farm pick up share at Full Plate is $515 for the season, which is about 6 months from June to November, or 26 weeks, weather permitting. That is 20 dollars a week! I do one better splitting my share with a friend and so I get veggies a plenty for 10 dollars a week. Combine the grocery bag and u-pick portions and you won’t get a better deal at any grocery store.

Healthier, better tasting, and cheaper veggies sourced locally! Cheers!  Time for you to try out a CSA too?