bleak cloudy days
nostalgia and a fire.
I recall with fondness meals at my grandma's dinner table: plump tomatoes straight from her garden, meat bought fresh from the market, scratch-made biscuits and chicken noodle soup. Her food nourished, comforted, inspired. Recreating these flavors as a teen and then young adult seemed futile for something, some undefinable essence, was always missing that no amount of salt could ever eke out.
Flavor. There wasn't much to begin with in the ingredients I found at the store. Tomatoes reminiscent of cardboard, bunches of lettuce like bales of straw, pithy bitter fruits. They never satisfied, much less comforted or inspired.
Turns out, flavor directly relates to the nutrition of the produce we consume. The more delicious a food is (real food though, none of that synthetic crap counts here), the more nutritious it tends to be and the more satisfied we will feel at the end of our meal. In a nutshell, there are elements called volatile compounds found in plants which we humans can sense. They define a plant's flavor and aroma, but what's most interesting is that these volatile compounds are derived from nutrients contained in the plant like amino acids, omega-3 fats, etc. So what about our modern tomatoes that taste like cardboard at the supermarket? Apparently they only contain 50% as much calcium and vitamin A as they used to in the 1950's, according to a 2004 study by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Yikes... ah... ahem... thank you agriculture industrial complex...
Anyway, if you'd like to read more about the 'delicious factor' as it relates to nutrition, I highly recommend you check out this eloquent article published in the Wall Street Journal back in April. If you prefer the nitty-gritty, here's the actual paper published from a peer-reviewed, scientific study regarding plant volatile compounds and nutrition. Yeah! Science rocks!
So, speaking of flavors and nutrition and whatnots, here's your CSA weekly update. Rest assured, your farm share's got the stuffs that pleases! Check it out...
Joining us for her CSA debut this week is Sheep's Sorrel (pictured top left). She rounds out our citrus-like group with her own sweet piquancy. I recommend leaving sorrel raw in your dishes- she'll compliment any salad (especially if you use part of that grapefruit to make a honey vinaigrette!), but also pairs raw or wilted with fish and chicken dishes. Just think, anything that you would want to add zest to, sorrel's got that zing! I also enjoy using these greens in a quick pita wrap with hummus or tzatziki and cucumbers. Here's a link to a few more ideas if you really want to get fancy. On that note, I also had a request for some tips on cooking with the fresh lemongrass, so here ya go, as well. (And thanks for asking!) Parts of lemongrass are great for cooking and eating, but other parts of it are more for flavoring and should be treated like bay leaves in a stew. I use it both ways and, honestly, without much rhyme or reason about it. If it feels a bit bulky in your dish then strain it out before serving, no harm in that. (And then put it in your compost!)
This new friend is broccoli raab. Some of you may have had this before, but others of you have not so I'll introduce everyone. The main thing to note is that every little bit of this plant is edible and incredibly delicious! The greens and stalks are tender enough to eat raw, but also hold their own when cooked! Try it in a stir-fry, with pasta, or in a winter veg soup! The florets are also meant to be eaten, so don't leave them behind! They add a sweet charm to salads and are incredible fresh on top of a pizza.
You'll also find some Tendergreen mustard spinach mixed up in your mustards' bunch. This plant is a hybrid between the traditional mustard and spinach plants so it ends up delicately flavorful: a pleasant, savory addition to any dish. I find the stalks to be almost a bit juicy and work well to crisp up salads, so leave them in! I've also made many a pesto from just mustard spinach greens... nice and salty-spicy!
(Please note when I use the word hybrid that hybrid and GMO are not at all the same thing. Sown & Grown is a GMO-free farm.)
Then there are some more usual suspects to round out your week... red mustards and just a smidge of Moringa (she's on her way out of season, sigh). As always, I'd love to see what y'all are creating with your farm shares so don't by shy! Please send photos and recipes as possible so that I may share them on the Harvest Dispatch. Sharing is caring!