We trust you’ve had a good week. The weather has broken just a little and is beautiful. New in your box this week: fennel, amaranth greens to try, and green peppers. Also, the squash has turned into zucchini and the kohlrabi has turned purple. The kohlrabi is great – I hope you’ve tried it and are ready for it again this week!
July 4th pickup, now on July 3rd
First, a little housekeeping: Next week, Wednesday pickup will be moved to Tuesday, July 3rd in honor of the holiday. Get your veggies Tuesday so you can grill them on Wednesday!
Anatomy of a plant, in brief: Greens
We eat all different parts of plants. The vegetables and fruit that we generally eat have been bred over centuries for certain qualities like taste, nutrition, adaptability, and even just plain interest. In your box this week is kohlrabi; we mentioned last week how it is in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale – all bred from the same ancestors and with similar nutritional profiles, but those nutrients come in different packages, and we eat different parts of the plant.
I know you all remember that plants start life as a seed. After using the energy reserved in the seed to germinate and push its first leaves to the surface, it begins to photosynthesize. It grows more leaves, and more leaves, harvesting and storing energy until it is ready to reproduce. Then it flowers and, as its flowers are pollinated, it forms a new seed. Usually, it makes many seeds, and in some cases these seeds are surrounded by a fleshy nutrient package you would see in an apple or tomato. These are fruit. In other cases, there is not so much flesh and we may be talking about grains like wheat or rye. We also eat roots of other plants, like carrots and beets, or tubers that they may make below ground as an alternative reproduction strategy, like potatoes, or even an enlarged stem as in kohlrabi.
When we talk “greens” at the farm, we mean Leaf Vegetables. A plant’s leaf can be very nutritious – high in phytochemicals like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; low in calories and fat; high in fiber, and high in protein per calorie. And it can be versatile in the kitchen – they may be boiled, stir-fried, stewed, steamed, eaten raw as a salad, as a wrap to hold other ingredients like a tortilla, used to top a sandwich, juiced… a little like Bubba Gump shrimp, there’s a never-ending list of ways to use them, the most nutritious involving the least amount of heating (so better to eat them raw or to steam them, if you want to preserve more of their nutrition).
The mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. is a unique growing environment, where we have hot, almost tropical summers but cold, temperate winters. So we may grow many kinds of plants for their leaves here, as there are times for vegetables from one part of the world (spinach in spring and fall) and times for others (Swiss chard and sweet potato greens in summer). The exciting part is that there are so many interesting species to grow, from all over the globe.
This week we’re harvesting Amaranth, also known as Calalloo, Cheera, or Bayam. Amaranth is grown all over the world for its leaves, and for its seed: it was known as the Grain of the Gods throughout the Andean and Central American world. Highly nutritious, it has some essential amino acids that most other grains are low in, and is high in protein and vitamins. It’s also a beautiful plant. The variety we grow here has large green leaves with a deep red blush. We are growing it in part for the seed, which is gluten free and contains thirty percent more protein than other cereals like rice and rye.
My favorite use of amaranth greens, which you pick from the stem (discard and compost the stem) is to steam them, toss them in garlic and sesame oil and add some sesame seeds. I put this next to chicken or fish that I bread with corn meal and put on top of quinoa or rice. Also try adding a starch—potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash, depending on the season.
If you’re taking a walk during the next several weeks, wild berries are starting to produce around the farm. Along the Farm Loop Trail, which starts on the north side of the Farm Garden on Founders Drive, there are blackberries. Blackberries are a native “weed” and you’ll find some along the fence on the west side of the farm, and pretty much anywhere else there is an overgrowing field or field edge. Careful – they’re thorny. But well worth the picking.
Have a good week and be great,