Category Archives: Jon’s Veggie Blog

Weekly blog posts about the veggie’s in your box and other produce related fun.

The Alchemy of Produce Freshness

Last week we gave you some beginner’s tips on how to begin a compost system for the food you don’t end up using. This week, we thought it would be useful to follow that up with some handy tips and tricks on how to prevent your fruits, veggies, and herbs from ending up in the compost pit. Keeping produce fresh as long as possible can be complicated, but we will try to make it easier for you with these simple steps.

 

Ethylene Gas

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Ethylene is a harmless gas given off by all fresh produce as it ripens. The gas speeds the ripening process of fruits and vegetables, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on what you want to do. You can harness the power of ethylene to ripen hard avocados or stone fruits by placing the unripe items in a paper bag on the counter with a few bananas or apples, which give off more ethylene gas than other foods. This will have your avocados ripe within a day or two. On the other hand, if you want to keep produce from ripening too quickly, simply keep it away from high-ethylene producers in a separate drawer in the fridge. The blog SparkPeople.com has a handy little chart here that will help you figure out what to store together and what to keep separate.

 

Ethylene gas is the principle behind produce freshness bags like Debbie Meyer and Evert-Fresh. These bags contain a chemical called zeolite, which absorbs and cancels out the effect of the ethylene gas. This works well for produce that should be bagged, like broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, but other items, like bananas and tomatoes, shouldn’t be put in plastic bags at all.

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Reviving Limp Produce

Some items, especially stalks like celery or rhubarb, can be brought back from the edge of extinction by placing them in a bowl of cold water for a few hours. If your celery is limp to the point of being unappetizing, try this trick and the celery will soak up the water back into its cells, firming it up and making it look like the day it was picked! This trick works with limp carrots as well, though they won’t taste as fresh as they would have been before going limp.

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Let us know what you think, and as always, have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tips for Novice Composters

It’s ok. We’ve all been there. You have your box of tasty, fresh produce, and you’ve cooked a few meals, but you’re busy. You forget to use an item. Maybe it sits in your produce drawer in your fridge until it is too soft to use. You could throw it in your trash can… Or you could think about recycling the nutrients in your waste food! According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and other organic waste currently comprise about 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and when these nutrients go into landfills, compostthey are no longer usable for agricultural and horticultural applications. When trapped deep inside a landfill, without oxygen, decaying food scraps also produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Why not complete the system and return those nutrients into the soil?

 

Home composting is easy, and if done properly, it shouldn’t be the least bit stinky. If you are a gardener, you can use the compost to fertilize your garden (or you can donate it to a friend if you aren’t the green thumb type). All you have to do is add the right ingredients and do a little bit of maintenance.

 

Proper composting boils down to three main ingredients: browns, greens, and water. According to Umbra Fisk of the web magazine Grist, browns are “dry, carbon-rich materials like cardboard, dry yard waste, potting soil, leaves, sawdust, and wood chips”, while greens are “wet, nitrogen-rich organics like food scraps and grass clippings”. You’ll notice that wormbrowns and greens are meant to supply the two main elemental necessities for healthy plants- nitrogen and carbon. If you mix these two ingredients together with some water, you create an environment that is very hospitable to decomposers like bacteria and fungi, who will process
the waste materials into a rich, dark brown soil-like substance that will instantly enrich any gardening soil. If you want to try something really crazy, build a vermicomposting system, which uses earthworms to do the work of decomposing the food scraps.

 

An important note here- it is important to keep dairy, meats, oils, and pet poop out of your compost. These can contain harmful pathogens that will also grow in the decomposition environment, and the heat that is naturally generated by decomposition will not be enough to destroy them!

 

All in all, composting can be a fun way to help the environment and your garden. It’s fascinating to watch yucky waste food be transformed into a rich soil additive before your eyes.

 

Enjoy the last weekend of May!

 

 

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Spargelzeit! (Asparagus time!)

Good morning harvesters!

As our hardy Washington box customers know, this week was the first time this year that we have seen Washington-grown asparagus in our boxes. We were so excited by the appearance of this prickly, poky little plant that we decided to dedicate a whole blog post to the wonders of Asparagus officinalis. Image   Asparagus was well known in the ancient world. The vegetable appears in the oldest known cookbook in the world, De re coquinaria, by the third-century Roman gourmet Apicius. The emperor Augustus even created a special fleet of ships to haul asparagus across the Mediterranean! It has since become a popular traditional recipe in the countries of northwestern Europe, such as Germany, Switzerland, and Poland. In these countries, asparagus is usually served in its white form, which is created by “hilling”, or mounding soil over the plant as the shoots grow. This prevents photosynthesis and keeps the stalks from producing the chlorophyll that turns them green. Asparagus is a common ingredient in late spring and summer seasonal recipes, which earns the season the German moniker “Spargelsaison” or “Spargelzeit” (asparagus season or asparagus time, respectively). Image These little stalks are surprisingly nutritious! They are a good source of vitamins C, E, and K, as well as dietary fiber and protein and a variety of minerals like iron, phosphorous and potassium. The amino acid asparagine, one of the most common amino acids on Earth, is named after asparagus because it was first synthesized from asparagus juice.

Enjoy your asparagus, everyone!

 

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Egg-lovers rejoice! Duck eggs are here!

Hello foodies! We hope you are enjoying the first few weeks of spring veggies. As you may have noticed, we have been working hard on expanding our Online Farmers Market to bring you a great variety of locally grown and crafted food items that you can add to your box. We are really excited to announce a brand new product that has been in the works for a while: pasture-raised duck eggs!

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Our new partners at Sky Valley Farms have just presented us with the first sample dozen of their fresh duck eggs. In order to celebrate this addition to our food family, we want to take a moment to explore the virtues of duck eggs and compare them with the traditional chicken eggs.

 

Baking

The egg is the workhorse of pastry and cake baking. The foaminess created by a beaten egg white helps fluff up delicate pastries. Because duck eggs contain more egg white (or “albumen”) than chicken eggs, pastry chefs love to use them to give their confections that extra bit of lightness or to give meringue extra volume. Duck eggs also contain more fat than chicken eggs, so they give baked goods a richer, creamier taste.

 

Nutrition

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Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs, averaging about 70 grams per egg (as opposed to 50 g for chickens). The eggs contain more fat and protein than chicken eggs, as well as higher concentrations of Vitamin A, calcium, and iron.  Yes, duck eggs do have significantly higher cholesterol content than chicken eggs. However, the cholesterol in duck eggs is mostly HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which nutritionists regard as the “good” cholesterol. The Mayo Clinic actually recommends that people increase their HDL cholesterol levels as high as possible to promote a healthy heart!

 

Allergies

Some of our friends and neighbors are allergic to chicken eggs! For these people, duck eggs pose no threat at all, allowing them to enjoy quiche and sunny-side-up eggs just like the rest of us.

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photo credit: Nienetwiler

Check out our Online Farmers Market to get your hands on these scrumptious pasture-raised duck eggs today!

 

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Potato – Potahto

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Welcome back to the blog. We hope you’re enjoying your box this week!

Over your series of boxes, you’ve probably noticed quite a variety of different potatoes, and maybe like me, you’ve wondered at the differences. But, then quickly forget about it because you were hungry.

There are over 100 different kinds of potatoes in the U.S. alone, and despite what you may have heard they did not originate in Ireland. It was the Spanish Conquistadors that introduced the potato to Europe. The vegetable didn’t even arrive in Ireland until the late 1500s! It wasn’t until the 1700s that potatoes were even being cultivated regularly on the North American east coast.

It seems difficult to imagine our diet without it, yet how many of us actually know what all those different types of potatoes are or how they should be used?

For starters, potatoes fall into roughly 7 categories (Russet, Red, White, Yellow, Purple/Blue, Fingerling, and Petite) with 3 different consistencies: waxy, starchy, and all-purpose. For this post, we’ll stick with the types you are most likely to find in your box.

Purple/Blue Potato 

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A week or so ago, the Purple/Blue Potato popped up in your box. Though high in starch, it’s still considered in the all-purpose category. This potato retains its shape and color well throughout the cooking process, and its low sugar content makes it great for soups, salads, or grilling.

Red Gold Potato

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Another common appearance, and one of my personal favorites, is the waxy Red Gold Potato. Red on the outside and golden on the inside, this type is wonderful mashed. I even suggest washing well and leaving the skin on to make sure you get that extra dose of vitamin C and B.

Yukon Gold Potato

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Yukon Gold is one of the youngest variety of potatoes. It was bread into existence by Canadian scientist G.R. Johnston and R.G. Rowberry in the 1960s, and started to become widely used in the 1980s. Due to its smooth golden texture, Johnston named the potato after the Yukon River in Canada, made famous during the Alaskan Gold Rush.  It’s a great all-purpose potato with a creamy buttery texture and taste that is fabulous for mashed potatoes or homemade french fries!

Sweet Potato

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Even though its season has passed, I’ve got to give a shout out to the holiday favorite Sweet Potato. Sweet, starchy, and incomplete without melted marshmallows, this is a true staple for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Is it even necessary to say best served mashed?

Russet Potato

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Lastly, the potato in your box this week is the classic Russet, aka the Idaho Potato. Delicate, starchy, and low moisture, it is the ultimate choice for a traditional baked potato. Its qualities allow it go well with a variety of toppings like sour cream, chives, cheese sauces, as well as a plethora of Latin American seasonings. The high starch content is great for mashed potatoes, but because they are low in moisture they need to be cautiously whipped and will benefit greatly from cream and butter.

And that is how you bake a potato! Enjoy your weekend, and your organic potatoes!

 

 

 

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Colorful Chard

Hey again!

Seattle’s fickle spring weather is here! Will it rain, will it shine, or will we get our two flashes of lightening and thunder and call it a storm? Either way, it’s our Northwest springtime and it’s arrived.

file000899060491Around this time of year many people begin planning a vacation to a location where the sunshine is an everyday occurrence rather than a rarity to celebrate. And that’s where this week’s chard came from; a few hundred miles to the south in California, where many Washingtonians wish they lived during the rainy season. Though we strive to always provide local produce some of our produce has to come from a little farther because of the weather. Don’t worry though, it was still organically grown buy responsible local farmers, they were just a bit farther away! This is basically because chard is usually harvested in the fall, but in California they can grow healthy crops much earlier than we can here in Washington. Crops like Swiss Chard.

The name “Swiss Chard” is actually quite misleading. The vegetable is a member of the beetroot, or garden beet family, and originated in the Mediterranean area. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it became known as Swiss Chard. This was to help distinguish it from French Chard, or as we now know it, spinach.

168123_1017Like most leafy greens, chard is full of health benefits, most notably its ability to regulate blood sugar and its supply of vitamin K. Swiss Chard contains large amounts of syringic acid, also known as a flavonoid.This flavonoid stops certain enzymes from breaking down carbohydrates into complex sugars and therefore aids in moderating your blood sugar. Chard is also high in fiber which helps prevent heart disease and stabilize blood sugar levels.

The Vitamin K is extremely necessary for building healthy strong bones. Everyone knows that calcium is essential for bone health, especially among women. However, vitamin K is a prime component used to activate osteocalcinsOsteocalcins attach calcium to molecules inside our bones and keep our bones from breaking down!

Now that you know all the benefits of this veggie, the most important part comes: how to cook it and make it taste good. Below is a quick and delicious recipe to help get you started!

 

 

Rainbow Chard Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 small sweet onion (there is a yellow onion in this week’s box which will work well too), chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
6 leaves Swiss chard (you can add the stems to if you finely chop them), chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  1. Heat butter in an eight to twelve inch skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rainbow chard and herbs. Sauté until the chard is wilted, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until the eggs are solid but still moist to the touch.

Happy eatings!

 

 

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How to fix a leek

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Leeks have always been problematic for me. Not because I don’t enjoy their flavor, but because I was never properly taught how to clean and prepare a leak and therefore rarely attempted to cook with them. And though this is hard to admit, I only got the idea to write about leeks this week after I discovered that I had once again let one spoil. Figuring that I can’t possibly be alone in this, and not wanting any more innocent leeks to go uneaten, I found out how to properly clean and prepare leeks.

One of the first things I learned about the leek is that when it is grown dirt is piled up around it. Why you may ask? Primarily to make it very hard to clean. Dirt seems to permeate all the way through this vegetable.

Though the dirt piling is true, the purpose maybe a bit different than I let on. The dirt is piled around the leek to produce the long, soft, light colored stock that we associate with a good leek. Unfortunately the hard to clean dirt is inevitable, but at least there is a good reason for it!

There are two different ways to prepare leeks, depending on what they’re being used for. We’ll go through both, starting with the chopping method.

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Chopped Leeks (best for Soups)

First, it’s important to know the whiter parts of the leeks are the most usable. Also, good leeks are about an inch thick.

Secondly, wash your leeks under cool water thoroughly.

After cleaning, slice lengthwise and cut off the root. As I mentioned, the pale part is the most usable.

However, the darker, top part of the leek can still be used. It has a stronger taste and is much tougher, and takes much longer to cook. So, you need to decide how much of the green you would like to use, or simply throw out. If you decide to keep the tops, they can be used for stock.

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Next, chop leeks crosswise and place in a colander for a final rinse. Now, they are ready to go!

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Preparing the Whole Leek

About half an inch below the lowest opening make a cut straight through the leek and up through the greens. The lower, paler shaft should still be intact.

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Now that your leek has been cut, it should be easier to rinse all the dirt away. Make sure the water is cool.

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Finally, cut the root off at the end of the leek and the dark green top.

Congratulations, you have now successfully prepared a leek!

 

 

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Tasty Sunchokes

This week I thought I’d offer a couple of recipes with sunchokes. Sunchokes, or Jerusalem Artichokes are a tasty root that we are including this week in our vegetable and Washington box. They look a bit like ginger root, taste a bit like a potato, aren’t actually artichokes and likely their name has nothing to do with Jerusalem. But they are quite tasty and because they aren’t as common or popular as many of the other vegetables lots of people don’t know how to cook them. Anyway here are a couple of recipes that I hope you enjoy.

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Jicama Salad with Sunchokes

Ingredients

  • Honey Mustard Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup raw honey
  • 1/3 cup Dijon-style mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 cup Olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoons fresh dill weed, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The  Salad

  • 1 (2 pound) jicama, peeled and julienned
  • 2 cups unpeeled sunchokes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red kidney, cooked
  • 1 large bunch fresh watercress, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh mustard greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh arugula
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored and julienned
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, cored and julienned
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored and julienned
  • 6 green onions, coarsely chopped

Combine all ingredients and let chill in the fridge for 1 hour before serving.

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Oven Roasted Sunchokes

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 large sunchokes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole.
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice sunchokes 1/4-inch thick. Add the sunchokes and garlic to a roasting pan or baking sheet and toss with the olive oil so the bottom of the pan and the sunchokes are lightly coated. Sprinkle with the salt, rosemary and sage. Bake for approximately 20 mins or until the sunchokes are soft

Give these a try and let us know what you think!

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This week, we are going to explore some new and exciting facts about the Rutabaga, also known as the Swedish turnip, or simply, swedes.

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Courtesy of Bodrugan

This vegetable most likely originated in Sweden, where it grew wild. It is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, so not only can the root be eaten, but the greens often are as well.

In Ireland, it was also the original Jack-o-lantern. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the culture began to switch to using pumpkins instead.

In my opinion, way creepier than a Jack-o-lantern.

ANTICANCER PROPORTIES

Along with giving us a spooky holiday tradition, Rutabagas are invaluable to your health. It is a member of the vegetable family crucifiers, which is high in cancer fighting agents.

The Rutabaga is so well known for it’s cancer-fighting properties, the American Cancer Association recommends eating these vegetables several times a week. They’ve been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and there’s a correlation between fewer tumors and crucifier vegetable intake.

Antioxidants

Part of what makes the rutabaga such an excellent cancer fighting veggie is its reduction in oxidative stress. Very scientific, I know, but hang with me, and then you can be the cool one at parties…as long as your parties are full of botanists and health foodies.

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Courtesy of Seedambassadors

Anyway, oxidative stress is when your body generates all of these harmful molecules called “oxygen free radical.” The reason why no one likes free radicals is because not only do they kill other cells, but they also damage your DNA. That’s why eating veggies that are high in antioxidants, like the rutabaga, helps prevent cancer.

According to a study done by the National Cancer Institute, its participants reduced their oxidative stress by 20% when they added crucifer vegetables, like the rutabaga, to their daily diet.

When cooking, we recommend steaming to retain all of these healthy properties as much as possible. They make an excellent side dish that goes with just about anything. And, it’s always a plus to know you’re helping fight cancer.

 

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Planting Carrots

March has arrived, which means it’s time to plant! Hopefully this will give you something to look forward to as we endure the rainy season.

It is really important that you make sure your soil is completely free of rocks, weeds, and other impediments. Like you before your coffee in the mornings, carrots need their space.

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If you haven’t gotten around to preparing your garden bed, check out our previous post Planning your Garden.

When your garden has been thoroughly prepped, it’s time for seeds. Well, it’s almost time for seeds. It’s still a little cold, so you should probably still wait a few weeks before you plant.

Setup

If you’re using the square foot gardening method it’s important to make sure your seeds are spaced apart appropriately, about 2 inches.

If you’re using the row method, make sure each row is a foot apart, and your seeds have 2 to 3 inches between them.

Digging Holes

When digging holes for your seeds, you want to make sure the holes are ½ inch deep.

Plant about 4 to 6 seeds per hole. You can thin them out later if needed. You can buy seeds from most hardware stores or plant nurseries, but one of my favorite places to buy seeds is the Territorial Seed Company.

When covering, mulch well. The seeds need to be well covered to speed up germination. However, be gentle when tamping down the soil.

After about 2 to 3 weeks, you’ll start to see little sprouts!

ID-10013392Early Care

Carrots need about one inch of water per week. However, it is the rainy season so remember to take into account how much water your garden has already had.

It’s important to make sure the soil is loose and not over or under watered. This will mean the difference between having a traditional looking carrot, and one that looks like a two-pronged fork.

Lastly, don’t neglect to weed and thin! When the tops of the carrots are about an inch tall, thin them out to 3 inches apart.

Harvest Preview

For the first few weeks, keep watering, weeding, and thinning. Carrots typically take about 2 to 2 ½ months to fully mature.

Next month, we’ll tell you how to know when your carrots are ready and how to harvest them.

Happy Gardening!

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