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Farm Fresh Now Recipes
We created the Farm Fresh Now! series of vegetable profiles (with recipes), plus a local foods infographic showing what’s in season when, in order to spread the word about all the great produce grown by Illinois farmers. The project was supported by an Illinois Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Chard will always be there for you. Like a reliable friend, it is one of the greatest, and often least appreciated, of all the gifts from your local farmer.
With heaps of nutrients, almost no calories, and it’s ability to lower cholesterol, collard greens could be one of your best farmers’ market purchases! It’s a big, meaty green leaf that is delicious as a dish all on it’s own, or traditionally served with fried chicken. It isn’t super showy, and can easily be missed on a table full of greens--so be sure to look for the stacks of wide green leaves--and stock up now, because it also freezes well. And you are going to need that infusion of vitamins this winter.
When I go out on hot summer days, I often trade my bottle of water for a cool cucumber—or two, or three. The clean flavor and crunch make cucumbers much more satisfying and thirst quenching, not to mention more nutritious, than plain old water—or even newfangled vitamin water.
Edamame (eh-dah-mah-may) are sweet young things — sweet, young soybeans, to be exact. And they are perhaps the world's easiest and most nutritious snack food. Popped from the pod directly into your mouth, the slick orbs have a pleasing toothiness, followed by a sweet, buttery taste that makes it impossible to eat just one. In fact, in Japan, where I first enjoyed them, edamame take the place of peanuts, and come to the table as a salty snack in bars.
It’s a fruit, it’s a vegetable, it’s a BERRY! Eggplants are not only botanically fascinating (no, they are not a vegetable) but they also come in all sorts of colors and shapes (including a small white one that looks like an egg). And they are delicious. Don’t be fooled by that mushy eggplant parmesan of your childhood. Eggplant can be cooked in lots of ways that show off their delicious creamy texture, and flavor that ranges from mild to bitter--in a good way!
As a child, I often wondered what sort of monstrous creature would lay a huge, purple-black egg, for surely the eggplant was named after such an egg laid by such a creature. Imagine my relief, tinged with disappointment, when I eventually learned that the first eggplants, grown in China, were small, ivory, and egg-shaped, with a delicate pearly skin – just like an ordinary egg.
A plant that thrives on cold winters and humid summers, the gooseberry may just be the ultimate Illinois fruit. The season is short, but it can be extremely prolific, with a single bush being capable of producing several pounds of fruit. And the fruit can be harvested at almost any stage--meaning you can pick it green (or not quite ripe), and make sauces and jams out of it. They can be make into all sorts of desserts, and can be pickled--and let’s face it, saying pickled gooseberries is just fun! Or you can pick them ripe for a perfect snack food.
Besides being different colors on the outside, there’s not much difference . . . after all, they’re just beans, right?
Henry David Thoreau, and anyone who has ever grown their own, or had fresh-picked beans from a local farm, would beg to differ. In Walden, Thoreau writes about his “singular experience” of “planting, and hoeing, and harvesting, and threshing, and picking over and selling them,” concluding: “I was determined to know beans."