Eating Our Greens

We currently have 9 kinds of greens in our refrigerator. All from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market - and most from our Brines Farm winter greens CSA.  That nine counts the salad mix - which probably also has nine different varieties in it - as just one.  And it doesn't count the cabbage and brussels sprouts  lounging in the fridgidaire either.  

I spent over an hour yesterday listening to Prairie Home Companion while cleaning these greens - which are now ready for instant cooking or eating as is:

- Arugula
- Kale
- Mizuna
- Komatsuna
- Red Giant Mustard
- Salad greens
- Spinach
- Swiss Chard
- Tokyo Bekana

These, I remind you, are all currently in (hoophouse) season here in the wintry north.  And while we're spending $15/week on our greens, that's about the cost of 2-3 beers at most of the micro-brew places around.  Probably a lot of people would go for the beer, and say that greens are too expensive.  We're getting the greens because something else is included too - community food security. That's probably the main reason that I decided to plunk down the cash. If we want food from Michigan year-round, we need to pony up and create some demand year-round. 

And on that topic of food finance, a report called "Is Local Food More Expensive?" released today from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture compares prices in Iowa farmers markets and grocery stores during the summer growing months.

Specific findings of the research show that the mean price per pound for the local farmers’ market vegetable basket is $1.25, while the mean price per pound for the non-local supermarket vegetable basket is $1.39. It should be noted that the differences in price between the local and non-local vegetable baskets were not statistically significant. Additionally, if an individual were to buy one pound of each vegetable in the vegetable market basket, the local vegetable basket would total $8.84 while its non-local supermarket counterpart would total $10.45.

In the news release, the author is quoted as saying:

"the study also points to an obvious opportunity for growers who extend their production season by using greenhouses or high tunnels and market their harvest at competitive prices. “Given the increase in construction of high tunnels (aka hoophouses) in the past two or three years, Iowa growers may be able to increase the supply of locally grown vegetables and sell to a wider array of market venues."  

Just like Michigan.

I like how eating my greens makes me feel.  More energetic. More virtuous. More likely to see my 90th birthday.  My friend Diana's blog, 365 Days of Kale, details exactly why greens are so good for you and why you should probably be eating them several times every day. 

I have a feeling I'm going to be consulting her blog quite a bit for new cooking ideas.  Since greens are a bit of a challenge to make into some kind of succulent goodness.   And I admit to mostly cooking them one way - sauteed with plenty of garlic.  This winter we are going to need some new ideas because we're going to have greens growing out of our proverbial ears.   I'm looking at it as an adventure in a new frontier of eating. Can we do it? 

Here's a recipe from Epicurious that I tried last winter that was wonderful.  This is how I'm planning to use up my arugula.  Now what to do with the Red Giant Mustard? 


White Bean and Arugula Soup

Soup:

  • 2 1/3 cups Great Northern beans (about 1 pound)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs

  • 1 large russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 10 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

Parmesan Oil:
  • 2/3 cup (packed) grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 bunches arugula, tough stems removed, cut into 1-inch strips (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

For soup:
Place Great Northern beans in large pot. Pour enough water over beans to cover by 4 inches. Let soak overnight. Drain beans and return to pot. Pour enough water over beans to cover by 4 inches. Add 2 bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and fresh rosemary sprigs and simmer uncovered until beans are barely tender, about 30 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in another large pot over medium heat. Add russet potato pieces and sauté until brown in spots, about 8 minutes. Add half of garlic and sauté until beginning to color, about 3 minutes. Add 6 cups chicken st0ock and boil until potato pieces are falling apart, about 10 minutes. Pour beans and cooking liquid into potato mixture. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer just until beans are tender, about 10 minutes. Season soup generously with salt and pepper. (Soup can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before continuing, thinning with additional chicken stock if necessary.)

For parmesan oil:
Blend 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup olive oil in processor until smooth. (Parmesan oil an be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover oil and refrigerate.)

Stir 2 bunches arugula into soup. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add remaining chopped garlic and dried crushed red pepper; sauté until golden. Add to soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir Parmesan oil into soup. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

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