If you stroll through just about any farmers market, you’ll see signs announcing leafy greens you’ve probably never heard of: Tuscan black kale, mizuna, komatsuna, mustard greens, turnip greens, even wrinkled, crinkled, crumpled cress. The odd names and odd look of these greens put some people off, but don’t let them deter you!
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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.
Add a little spice to the heat of your summer! It’s the time of year when you will find dozens (if not more) varieties of peppers at your local farmers’ market--or in your own garden. So now is the time stock up. You can use them in fresh salsas, you can stuff and grill them, and you can roast them to use in all sorts dishes--or freeze them for winter (sorry I mentioned the W word).
Buy it, grow it, love it, and definitely eat it! Kale may seem like it appeared out of nowhere a few years back, but it’s been around since ancient Greek and Roman times. And you can get fresh kale most of the year, even in cold climates it will over-winter, and with a hoop house, or even a simple plastic cover, you can be eating fresh, nutritious greens in the winter. But even if you start your garden in early spring, kale will be one of the first things that you harvest--or that is available at your farmers’ market.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite. It was called Sputnik, and it looked a lot like a kohlrabi.
Now, with so few people familiar with kohlrabi, the vegetable is often described as looking a lot like Sputnik, which is not far from the truth. The flattened globe rests just above the surface of the earth, and long stems shoot up from the curved sides as well as from the top, giving it a spiky space-age look.
Leeks are thought of (when they are thought of at all) as a base for winter soups and stews. But they deserve far more attention than a bit player in a winter’s tale. Although the leek is a member of the onion family, the flavor is more subtle and refined than the standard onion.
Add some spicy to your green! Mustard greens can be green or purple, can be eaten as micro or baby greens in salads, or can be steamed when the leaves are larger. They are a beautiful and nutritious addition to your summer plate, and they add a wonderful spicy bite to your stir fry dishes. Use them as a bed for a poached egg for a peppery addition to breakfast.
If you grew up in Illinois, you were probably like me and okra never crossed your mind–or plate. The fact is that I never laid eyes on an okra plant or ate an okra pod until my brother started growing it on his central Illinois farm. Now I pluck it off the tall beautiful flowering plants and eat it raw, stir fried, or sauteed with fresh tomatoes and sweet corn.
A rose by any other name might just be a pear. Okay, so my poetry might leave plenty to be desired, but gorgeous fall fruit can make the onset of even the coolest days feel welcoming. The delicate scent of a fresh pear is a sweet reminder that it is time to start putting up fall’s bounty and planning your Thanksgiving menu. So as the fickle days of fall tease us, throw a few pears on the grill with a bit of thyme and serve as a side dish or dessert. And remember to store some in a cool basement, or can some for winter--you’ll be happy to have them this winter!
There is nothing quite so graceful as trellised pea plants in full swing. And nothing quite so tasteful as a crunchy sugar snap pea eaten straight off the vine. And nothing that so captures the essence of spring as peas—all kinds of peas.
Peas love cool, wet weather, and so are often only in season for a few weeks. That’s when you’ll find local farmers bringing in the irresistible sugar snap pea, the Chinese or snow pea, and the good old fashioned shell (or English) peas.
Seeking out food from your local farmers is a patriotic thing to do. Fresh fruits and vegetables connect us in a literal and visceral way to our land, and buying them is good for our local farmers and local economy. And they taste great, and are good for you, too.
So this year, declare your independence from high-fat, high-sugar crackers, chips, dips, cookies, and other processed foods. Swap them out for low-calorie, high-nutrition fruits and vegetables from local farms, and this will be your best Fourth ever!