Mercy for the Overweight

organic eater heart

photo credit @organiceater

Here is one of my pet peeves. I absolutely hate it when I hear people criticize overweight people. It is all too common to hear comments like “well, if they would just put their fork down…” or how about “if they would eat less and move more”, or comments about eating a few too many Big Macs. Why does it seem we treat obesity like a moral failure with the implication that overweight people lack the self-discipline to put down their fork or to go for a walk? I can’t see how gluttony or laziness can possibly be the root cause of all obesity. This is not a moral or self-discipline problem!

Consider that it is not just adults who are overweight; it is also children, and now even babies! It doesn’t make sense that children and babies lack self-discipline or are some type of moral failure, or picked up their fork a few too many times. The story behind obesity must be more complicated than simply eating too much and moving too little (calories in; calories out). If that is the case, then what is the real problem? Why are nearly half of all Americans overweight? Why is obesity and type 2 diabetes a growing problem with both adults and CHILDREN?

I think we Americans have strayed away from eating real food, and the result has been disastrous. Many of us start the day with toast, bagels, juice, Pop-Tarts, bars of something, or bowls of something from a box. Then we move on to a fast lunch and a microwave something for dinner, maybe a few stops at the snack machine during the day, and a couple of diet sodas. All of these things are normally a processed “carbolicious” nightmare! Is it possible this onslaught of sugar, processed grains, strange chemicals, strange colors, strange fake flavors, and preservatives might be destroying our healthy metabolism and sending America on the path of obesity and degenerative diseases at a higher and higher rate and younger and younger age? If this is true, then we really can’t say that obesity is a moral or self-discipline problem. It is a metabolic meltdown, caused by all the strange food we are eating.

What is the solution? I think the start is a move to eating real food. This means food that doesn’t come from a box and has no ingredients list. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables, grass-fed meats, fresh eggs, cheese and butter from grass fed animals, and healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil. For many people, this might just solve the problem. For others of us who are having problems with our weight and blood sugar (they go hand in hand), we might need to restrict the amount of carbohydrates we eat and lean more toward green vegetables, instead of fruits and starchy vegetables. For EVERYBODY, the overweight and underweight, eating fresh real food is the best thing you can do for your life and health. For moms and dads, feeding our children fresh real food, instead of “food” marketed to children, is probably the best thing you can do to ensure their health all the way into old age. The food we feed kids now will be the food they choose as adults. You can’t trust the food industry to make the decision about nutrition for your kids. Their bottom line is profit, not your health. I think that is how we got here to start with.

So have compassion on the overweight. They are not moral failures. They are not lazy. They are not gluttons. They might even be only two years old. We all thought we could trust that food bought in the grocery store aisles would nourish us. It may be that not only is most of it not nourishing us, it is the root cause of our obesity epidemic. Eat fresh and real.

Eat your veggies!
Robin

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary, Butter and Garlic

roasted-butternut-squash

It is fall, and that means butternut squash are all around the market and in your CSA bags. Butternut squash are one of my favorite fall foods. They are sweet, creamy and delicious. They also are full of nutrients such as vitamin A and B vitamins. Butternut squash are also high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. You can eat the flesh and even roast the seeds. With fresh vegetables, the best preparation methods are always “keep it simple”, so try this easy recipe for roasted butternut that brings out the delicious natural flavors of this yummy vegetable.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 butternut squash with the seeds scraped out and the flesh cut into about 2 inch chunks. No need to peel the squash.
  2. A few tablespoons of organic or grassfed butter
  3. Chopped fresh rosemary
  4. Chopped Garlic
  5. Salt
  6. Cayenne pepper

roasted carrots kohlrabi and turnips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Spread the squash chunks evenly on a baking sheet (or do the following prep in a bowl, then move to the baking sheet)
  3. Toss the squash with melted butter and chopped rosemary and garlic
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
  5. Bake approximately 30 minutes, or until they are barely beginning to brown

This simple recipe makes a great side dish at any meal. We even love this squash for breakfast. Although the skins are tough when the squash is raw, they are plenty soft when cooked and add nice fiber. Don’t forget to save those seeds and roast them.

You can make this your own by changing the oils and spices. Try olive or coconut oil. Try it with cinnamon, chunks of apples, and cayenne. Try tossing it with oregano and garlic. It is really hard to mess this one up. Get creative. Fear not the squash!

Eat Your Veggies,
Robin

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Staring, Waving, and Horn Blowing!

our-fields

One of our fields is right along Unionville Indian Trail Road, and everything we do is in clear view of people driving. This is one of the main roads through Unionville, as well as one of the main routes to Piedmont High School, so there is often heavy traffic. I have noticed people absolutely love to check out what we are doing. They stare. They wave. They blow their horn. What’s up with this? People in Unionville are friendly, however, I’m a confirmed recluse, so I know I don’t have that many friends!

I think a big part of why this field gets so much attention is because we live out in the country, and country people absolutely want to know what’s going on! We also farm a little differently than most of the Union County growers. This isn’t a soybean farm; it is a fruit and vegetable farm. Fruits and vegetables require a lot of attention, so we are often out there working. Most of the people in our area who grow fruits and vegetables are just growing a home garden. Even so, our methods are much different than most home gardeners, which may also cause people to want to check it out.

For example, we do almost everything by hand, not with a tractor. So it is not unusual to see someone out in our field tilling with a small rotary tiller, planting by hand or hoeing by hand. The rows are spaced very close together, since we don’t have to fit a tractor in the field. This allows us to intensely plant our land. Not only that, we almost never plant more than a row or two of a single crop in one place to avoid a monocrop situation. So, our field looks like a patchwork quilt of stripes, with the stripes being different crops. To top it off, we lay straw between the rows to suppress weeds. This is not how my grandpa used to do it! It really does look quite unusual and very pretty.

the-boys

Here is another funny reason this field attracts so much attention. Two high school boys work for us, so they are often the ones down in the field picking, hoeing, spreading straw, shovelling compost, mowing, or tilling. These guys love to work in shorts, cowboy boots, and no shirt. They crack me up! All their buddies drive by in their big trucks and blow the horn at them and wave. Remember, we are on the main road to Piedmont High School, so there is no shortage of high schoolers in big trucks driving past. These guys seem to know everyone who drives by. Last spring, I spotted one of them standing on top of a huge pile of compost in the back of the truck (he was supposed to shovel it out into the row we were going to plant) in his normal boots and shorts attire. I wonder if the high school girls drive by just to see what these two guys are doing.

The biggest reason I think people always want to see what we are doing is because farming like this is a dying tradition. Almost all farming now occurs with huge planters and combines. There are some people who find our farm very intriguing, and maybe it does their heart good to see a small family farm still thriving. After all, this is not something you see every day. Imagine if a small farm were on every corner, and provided fresh food for the community. Now, that’s something to get excited about and honk for! Keep farming!

Eat your veggies,

Robin

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The Next Generation of Farmers

Vaden

Here are some statistics quoted from the USDA, that might just scare you.

  • We have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need – and also result in the loss of tens of thousands of acres of working lands that we rely on to clean our air and water.

  • The average age of a farmer today in America is 57 years of age. Five years ago it was 55. We have had an increase of 30% of the farmers over the age of 75 and a decrease in the number of farmers under the age of 25 by 20%.

  • Beginning farmers are more likely to have a college degree and have a major occupation other than farming.

  • Only 17% of beginning farms grossed over $25,000, compared to 34% of established farms. (That’s grossed not net!)

Based on these statistics, it looks like most of the farmers are going to be retiring in the next ten years. We need to figure out how to make farming a career the next generation is happy to choose. To start with, we should ask why doesn’t the younger generation choose farming? I have gone to the Organic Grower’s School at UNC Asheville for the past three years, and I can vouch for the fact that there were kids all over the place with dreams of farming. They loved the idea of a more natural lifestyle, a simple sustainable life, independence, and making a living being outside. All kinds of kids were there learning about farming. There were hippie kids, rednecks, both men and women, and even a few that might be growing things that aren’t legal in this state. Where are they? Why aren’t they farming?

From what I can see, the biggest barriers to entry for these young farmers are experience and money. Consider that purchasing an acre of land in Union County will probably cost well over $10,000 per acre. The cost of land will limit how much they can buy. If they buy just ten acres (enough to qualify for farm tax exemption) that is at least $100,000. Times are changing, and the way new farmers farm is going to have to change. The payment on this ten acre farm hopefully won’t be more than $500, since a down payment is required to buy land. A payment like that might be manageable with some hard work and some good business practices. Gone are the days when new farmers buy 100 acres, which would be a million dollars in Union County. That means the new farmer will need to be savvy enough to grow a profitable crop and make a living on only a few acres.

Although I can’t change the price of land, I can help some young potential farmers gain the skills they need to be successful, either as a farm manager or a farm owner. Jay and I have developed a unique business that leverages my agronomic skills (M.S. Plant Pathology, Clemson University) with Jay’s business skills (MBA, Clemson University). We have both been around the farming and business block a few times. We can teach potential new farmers not only how to grow the crop, but also the business side of selling the crop. Running a successful small farm is much more than just being able to grow some kale. You also have to make money on it!

We have two high school kids and a young college graduate who work for us after school. I often think about how I can encourage them to considering farming as a career. If the two high school kids work for us until they get out of high school, they will have three years of very good farming experience. I try to involve them in the “why” of what we are doing. I don’t just tell them, “go hoe the carrots.” I specifically explain that carrots are slow to emerge and not strong competitors with weeds. This means they need our help, more than most crops, to keep their area clean. I also try to involve them in the decision making by explaining the problems and asking for their input. Often their ideas about how we need to manage a project are better (or at least as good) as mine. I have a “heads up” list in our pack-house, where they can write down any problems or ideas we need to consider. I do this because I want each of them to feel a sense of responsibility for what goes on around here, as well as have the eye of a farm owner or manager. I want more from them (and for them!) than just picking tomatoes and hoeing weeds.

I look for specific talents that each of these guys have. My goal is to be able to promote them as “Junior Managers” of certain areas. For example, Jonathan is very good at organizing and packing our CSA bags. At some point, I want him to be our CSA manager. Then in a few years, he can easily go and have his own CSA, and not have to go through the learning pain we went through.

Cullen is good a good field man. He recognizes many of the insects and lets me know when he spots something unusual or a problem. Every week he gives all of our crops a good feeding with seaweed extract and closely checks every field. I count on him to be the one who keeps things growing and catches small problems before they become big ones. I can easily see him being the operations manager of the agronomics of a farm. Not today, but someday. He has the talent.

Vaden is our picking/packing organizer. He is almost a little OCD about things, however, this works well in this role. He picks and packages what we need for our CSA, chefs, and farmers market. With great attention to detail, he labels the bags with what is in it, as well as the weight and restaurant if it is going to a chef. When I go into the cold room after he has been working all day, I see that he has neatly organized all the CSA produce, the restaurant produce, as well as the market produce. Everything is in its place, and even has a card on the bin to let me know what it is. These skills are key, because managing a small farm has a million ways of messing up. He helps keep things organized and keeps the moving pieces manageable. This is one of the most difficult jobs, and it is closest to the customer. He is the one who makes sure that what goes in the bag looks nice. I don’t know how to define the future of this role, however, I do know it is very important. Maybe his title should be “Harvest Manager”, which could eventually translate to “Harvest Crew Boss” if the farm grows to the point that we can have people helping him.

I hope these guys realize the key to all of this is the farm being profitable enough to support this type of thing. We are all working toward that goal. Recently we purchased a new 11 acre farm in Union County. Right now it is just a cotton farm. In the future, it will become a beautiful fruit and vegetable farm, and I hope these three guys are around to manage it. If we can have them in the roles I have in mind, it will give them the skills they need to someday have their own farms.

Jay and I have a goal of traveling for a week next July, and having our three farm workers completely capable of managing the farm for the week we are gone. By then, we will have been working closely with these three guys for two years. That is long enough that they should be able to manage without us. I’m a little nervous, however, I know it is the step we need to take. Jay and I need to be able to let some responsibility go, and these guys need take on more. Hope to be sending you an aloha from Hawaii next summer, and you still get an amazing CSA bag, the chefs get their produce, and the table at the Farmers’ Market looks amazing.

Come on young farmers! We are pulling for you!
Robin

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Seared Pak Choy (Asian greens) with Cashews

pac choy

Many people are intimidated by Asian vegetables. We often bring beautiful red or green pac choy (also called pak choi, bok choi, and bok choy) to the market, and it is one of the last things to sell. The same is true with things like mizuna, or even Napa cabbage. A grower at the Union Square Farmers’ Market in New York sold me some pac choy a few years ago, and this is how he told me to prepare it. It is simple and delicious. Don’t fear the choy!

Ingredients:

  1. Baby pac choy
  2. Sesame oil
  3. Chopped garlic
  4. Chopped onions
  5. Soy Sauce
  6. Sriracha Sauce

holey pac choy

Instructions:

    1. Quarter the Pak Choy long-ways.
    2. Try to leave a small piece of the base in each quarter so it doesn’t fall apart.
    3. Heat wok (or frying pan) and add some sesame oil. After oil is hot…
    4. Add some chopped onions and garlic and cook a few minutes until fragrant.
    5. Push the garlic and onions to the sides of the pan and add the pak choy quarters.

Spread them out to one layer.

  1. Let them sear until they are starting to brown.
  2. Turn them all and let the other side sear until brown.
  3. Add a dash of soy sauce and a handful of cashews.
  4. Add a little squirt of Sriracha or chili garlic sauce if you like heat.
  5. Voila! Done and Yum!

Eat your Asian veggies,
Robin

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Tina’s Story

Tina B

Tina Brenize has been a CSA member for several years and is a constant inspiration to me. Not only is she a super mom, she also is a true CSA pro!  She hasn’t always been a nutrition enthusiast though.  Let me share her story with you.

Tina is a wife and homeschooling mom of 3 young children.  Back in 2012 she was overweight, suffering from bouts of depression and it seemed like someone in the family was always sick. Her oldest daughter, Kailey, had struggled with allergies, asthma and eczema since she was a baby. The doctors had prescribed 3 medications to be taken daily and 2 additional medications to be taken as needed. She wanted to find natural alternatives to help her daughter so she began researching how changing our diets can heal our bodies. She began a journey of eating healthy whole foods.

Now they have a “clean-eating” or “low-crap” lifestyle. They eat grass fed meats and plenty of fresh local vegetables, grass-fed butter and the occasional grass-fed cheese, and steel-cut oatmeal about once a week, They soak and sprout beans several times a month and occasionally buy Ezekiel bread or non-GMO corn tortillas.  It wasn’t always this easy though.

Things started off pretty difficult.  Her youngest was the hardest. His favorite foods were yogurt, toast and crackers, all of which went away. He would go days refusing to eat anything she prepared and they spent several dinners in agony as he would have complete meltdowns and throw fits on the floor. She refused to make separate “kid-approved” meals for him but would make sure each meal included a “clean” version of something he liked and would eat. She continued to offer the new foods to him and little by little, he stared trying (and sometimes even liking) the new foods.

Her oldest seemed to do a little better because she noticed immediately the positive changes regarding her health. She was using her inhaler less, she was no longer getting stomach aches after eating and she noticed she was better able to control her behavior and attitude. She also had more energy and was better able to concentrate during school. But even with all the benefits she was experiencing, there were still days where she would baulk at the foods Tina prepared, pitch a fit at the table and was sent to her room with nothing to eat. Tina said that these were days that she would hide in her closet and just cry. She was trying to do what was best for her family. Giving them the best chance she could for a long, healthy, joy-filled life and more times than not, she felt like the bad guy, depriving them (in their minds) of all things good.

Her middle child did the best. For the first 10 min or so after sitting down for dinner, she would huff & puff and pout with her arms crossed and eyes browed. But after realizing that she would not be getting anything else to eat, and being the child that is ALWAYS hungry and freaks out if they ever skip a meal, she too would eventually eat her meal (even if it was with a scowl on her face).

For her husband, it wasn’t the change in the foods as much as it was about the money. She completely cleaned out the pantry/fridge, and then went out and replaced it with all clean, healthy foods/ingredients. The first month, the food budget more than doubled and her budget-conscience, sole-provider for a family of 5 husband totally freaked out.  He told her she had to stay on budget, even if it meant going back to eating ramen noodles.  They finally came to some good compromises.

First, they prioritized their budget. They also noticed that since it was difficult to eat out and still eat clean, they were saving lots of money by preparing and eating foods at home. They also started researching and making their own cleaning supplies/laundry soap and body-care products which saved tons of money!   Second,  they prioritized their foods. Instead of buying EVERYTHING organic, she followed the Dirty Dozen / Clean Fifteen list.  She also joined a CSA and stared receiving local, in-season produce each week.  This not only helped save money, but forced her to learn how to prepare and eat food they would have never bought.  In addition, they planted a small garden for items they use the most like tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and peppers. Tina also found a local farmer that raised grass-fed meat and started buying direct from the source at ½ the price of what was in the stores.  You can find farmers in your area by going to www.eatwild.com. The last thing they did was to start buying foods on Amazon using the subscribe and save feature.  This saves tons of time and money having it delivered right to the door!

The biggest challenge (next to the financial cost) was not knowing how to prepare and cook the foods that were healthy for her family. She said she was so used to opening up a can of this or a box of that, stopping through the drive-through or simply just making a sandwich. It was almost like learning to cook all over again and relearning everything that she had been taught about what was healthy and what was not. But the time and effort spent learning and experimenting was so worth it.  It seems like people are always taking the time to learn new hobbies or to learn how to use the latest technology but we don’t want to take the time to learn how to keep our families healthy and strong.

That brings us to the second challenge: TIME. It’s the most common excuse.  “I just don’t have the time.” There is a quote that says  “Over the past decade we have found 2 hours a day to be online but we say we don’t have time to cook”.  She took a one-month Facebook hiatus and also cut cable (which also freed up money for the food budget).  Then she used the extra time to learn how to prepare homemade foods, preserve veggies from her CSA and garden for later use, and to find ways to be more efficient in the kitchen.  The biggest challenge now is dealing with family and friends who don’t either understand why they make the food decisions they do or who simply don’t respect the decision.

The positive changes have been astounding.  She lost 50 pounds, no longer has the allergies and sinus problems that she struggled with her whole life and is off the antidepressants.  Her oldest daughter is almost completely off all her medications other than an inhaler if needed but she has only had to use a few times over the past year.  All of the children experience more self-control in their behavior and better concentration during school.

Tina’s story has always been an inspiration to me.  The wellness that comes from healthy food is well worth the trouble.

So don’t give up! You can do this!

Robin

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Don’t Hate The Beets

The lowly beets get more bad press than any other vegetable.

To help with the beet hating problem, we called in an expert, Chef Julia Simon with Nourish.   If you don’t know Julia, and haven’t tried the great vegan food from Nourish, you are missing some of the best food in Charlotte.  If you don’t want to cook, but you want to eat fresh, local and healthy, these guys got you covered.

”

Chef Julia Simon with Nourish

Nourish, LLC exists to make it supremely easy for busy, health-oriented North Carolinians to have locally-sourced, clean, nutritious, prepared foods at their fingertips, while supporting our planet, our local economy, and our neighbors at the same time.”

Here’s Nourish Borscht: they usually top with Hemp Seed Sour Cream, but crème fraiche or regular sour cream (or goat cheese!) would be nom too!

Ingredients:


• 2    Tbl    refined sesame oil (or another light-tasting oil)• 2    Cup    onion, thin slice

• 2    Cloves garlic, minced

• 1    Cup    apple, diced

• 1    Cup    celery, diced

• 1    Cup    carrot, peeled, chopped

• 0.75    Cups    cabbage, chopped

• 2    Cups  beets, peeled and diced

• 1    Cup    turnip, peeled, diced

• 6    Cups    vegetable stock

• Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings
:

• Minced parsley• Minced fresh dill

• Sour cream, crème fraiche or goat cheese

Preparation:


• Sauté first 6 ingredients 6-10 minutes, until onions are soft and fragrant• Add cabbage, sauté 4 minutes more

• Add everything else (except toppings) and simmer 20-25 minutes, until beets are fork-tender

• Simmer 10 more minutes, until flavors have blended

• Taste for sweet/salt

• Serve with your favorite fresh toppings

cooked-beets

Photo Credit Organic Eater Spiralized Beets

I also chatted with a confirmed beet-hater, who has recently come to love the poor beet.  CSA member Dana Ramsey (@organiceater)  struggled with loving the beets for quite a while.  Then she got a new spiralizer, and love came into the beet world. Ok, well, maybe just like, rather than love, but a growing like, none the less. A spiralizer cuts veggies in spiraled “strings” (like curly fries). All you have to do is spiralize the beets, toss in a little coconut oil, a little salt and maybe a dash of cinnamon and toss them in the oven (baking sheet at 400) to roast until they begin to get crispy.  Mixing beets with sweet potatoes spiralized like this, is extra tasty, and the orange and reds are so gorgeous for fall cooking! Let’s all try to give the lowly beet some love as we support local produce and eat more veggies!

Eat your beets,
Robin

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Which Kale Should I Buy?

farmers-market-which-kale-to-buy

We offer multiple types of kale at the Farmers’ Market. There is the dark green Lacinado Kale (also called Dinosaur Kale), the red stemmed and frilly Red Russian Kale, the Portuguese Kale, the thick and ruffly Ripbor Kale, and the flat leafed Siberian kale. Which one is best?

If you want to juice, I would choose the thick stemmed and ruffly Ripbor kale. This is also called “curly kale.” I like this one for juicing because the thick stems and leaves yield a lot of juice. In addition, the flavor is reasonably mild, so it won’t take over your juice too much. I have seen other customers choose the dark green Lacinado kale for their juice. Although this variety doesn’t yield very much juice, the juice it does produce is amazingly dark and beautiful. Maybe it is more nutritious than other varieties? I’m not sure, but it sure does look like a quarter cup of this juice is as potent as a full cup of any other kale juice.

Lacinado kale

Lacinado kale

If you want to make a raw salad, I would choose one of the flat leaf varieties. This includes Red Russian, Lacinado, Siberian, White Russian and others. These flat leafed varieties are tenderer, so they are easier to chew up and eat raw in a salad. Nobody wants to feel like a cow, chewing their raw kale. It is also best if you can find smaller young leaves, so they are tenderer. After the first frost, they will be even sweeter and lack the bite that many people dislike in kale. Just to give both sides of the story, have you ever noticed that many restaurants, and even Earthfare, use curly kale in their kale salads? They do this because the curly leaves hold up well to the dressing, and it makes a fluffy salad that looks pretty, even though the leaves might be a little tougher than one of the flat leafed varieties. To each his own.

Red Russian kale

Red Russian kale

If you want to cook crispy kale, like kale chips, I would use one of the curly varieties such as Ripbor or Winterbor. Be sure to remove the midrib from the kale before you start, because it contains so much moisture it will never become crispy. When you spread your curly kale out on the baking sheet, you will notice that the curly leaves stand tall. They bake up into crisp chips that don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. The flat leafed varieties tend to lay flat on the pan and stick. The final texture is not nearly as crisp as the curly kales.

If you want to sauté some up, as with this Brown Buttered Kale recipe, you can use any of them! They all taste great. I always remove the midrib when I prepare kale, because I like my kale to be softer and without the “sticks” that the midrib form. I also think much of the bitterness in kale is contained in the midrib, though it is just personal opinion. Many people think Lacinado is the king of kales and that it has the best flavor overall. I think I agree. Maybe you should do a taste test, get a different variety each week, and see for yourself!

Eat your veggies!
Robin

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Brown Buttered Kale (Recipe from Sheila Tennaro)

My good friend, Sheila Tennaro, told me how to cook kale like this about a year ago, and it has become a family staple dish. Fall is when kale is in its glory, so give this one a try. There is no bitter taste and the flavors rock. I love to use Lacinado or Red Russian kale for this recipe.

Washed Kale

Ingredients

1 bunch of kale
 
Real butter from grass fed cows
 
Garlic
 
Salt
 
Lemon
 

Instructions

Remove the midrib from the Kale and chop the leaves into bite size pieces.
 
Roughly chop some fresh garlic.
 
Get your pan warm, then put a good chunk of butter in a large frying pan (couple of tablespoons).
 
Let that cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is just starting to become the color of butterscotch. Be careful, it can go from perfect to burned quickly.
 
Add the garlic and let it cook just a few minutes, until fragrant.
 
Add the kale and cook it until it is wilted and bright green (not too long).
 
Add a bit of salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
 
Serve. Simple, healthy, yummy.
 

finished-kale

Another one of our CSA members, Dana Ramsey who blogs as Organic Eater, has a video on how to cook kale in a frying pan, if you need a visual on this.

Eat your veggies, especially that kale!
Robin

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Emerging Trends in Fresh Produce

Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association annual meeting

This month I attended the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association’s annual meeting. There was a session on emerging trends in fresh produce. They did a great job of elucidating several trends in the produce industry. Trends that those of us who eat, have restaurants, and/or grow produce should consider.

• Food trends start in fine restaurants and are dictated by excellent chefs. If fine restaurants begin serving dragon fruit and Brussels sprouts, and make them delicious, it won’t be long before Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday’s are serving them too, followed by some version of it showing up at fast food places, and then the consumer begins looking for them at the local grocery store. Most consumers are first introduced to new foods at a nice restaurant. This is even further solidified by the popularity of food TV, where new and unusual ingredients are utilized on a regular basis, for the whole world to watch.

• One of the hottest trends is “local food”. The opinion of the speaker was the large commercial growers feed the world, while small local growers romance the world. The thought was that if the small local growers can get more consumers eating produce in general, then the trickle-down effect will be that more and more people like fruits and vegetables, which is a good thing for everyone. These consumers will then be far more likely to purchase fruits and vegetables in restaurants, as well as pick them up in the grocery stores. Their propensity to purchase fresh produce won’t be limited to their CSA and farmers’ market. Local is good for everyone: both small and large growers, and the consumer.

• Consumers want a wider offering of healthy options, both at restaurants and in the store. We aren’t happy with burgers and fries any more.

mixed-produce

• There is a government push to detour obesity. Although I’m not sure we can trust the government to dictate nutrition, I do believe people can’t be healthy without the focus of their diet being fresh produce. If the government wants to get involved with addressing the obesity epidemic, they should start with encouraging people to stop eating processed foods and start eating plenty of fresh vegetables. Why do I doubt this is actually going to happen?

• Food will become more and more multicultural. Did you know 45% of the millennial generation is not Caucasian? There will be more and more people asking for new and different types of produce. The savvy chef and grower will be considering things beyond potatoes and broccoli. How about some lemongrass? Maybe some turmeric and ginger? Perhaps a few poblano chilies?

• Consumers not only want food to be nutritious, they want it functional. Chefs will be the pharmacists of the next century. Wow! I like this trend because I am firmly convinced food is the foundation of health. We already see some Charlotte area chefs in this role, such as Julia at Nourish, the folks at Viva Raw, and Julianna at Luna’s Living Kitchen. You might think it sounds a little odd, but just head over to Luna’s on a Saturday afternoon, and you will see a long line of people who are already sold on the idea of “food as functional”.

• Consumers want absolute transparency. People want to know who grew it, where it was grown, what were the farming practices, if there are any GMO’s involved, and the list goes on. We already see this happening all the time. At the Farmers’ Market, people ask these questions every day. We also see a big push to label GMO products. Things like trans-fats are now listed on food labels (and are being phased out by the FDA). Grocery stores have photographs of their farmers hanging up in the produce aisle. This idea of transparency will likely continue to grow. I wonder if people feel a certain sense of distrust of the food industry. Perhaps it has betrayed us by telling us their “foods” nourish us, when they don’t… their “foods” make us skinny, when they won’t, and that their “foods” make us healthy, when they don’t. I’m not surprised at this trend of demanding transparency.

• Millennials eat six meals per day. This basically means they are snacking and not eating full meals. It implies they don’t cook. However, they want these six meals to be healthy, nutrient dense, fast, delicious, and easily available. They also want to be able to pre-order it, take photos of it to post on Facebook, and have their meals personalized exactly the way they want it. This is going to take a marketing genius to meet these needs, however, I’m sure it is going to happen, so we should start trying to get our brains around it, because these will be our customers. Did you know this generation now has buying power that exceeds the baby boomers?

I listened to all of these trends, and realized that selling produce to today’s consumer is going to be challenging. They watch the food network and want beautiful meals. They want fresh, nutritious, functional food with absolute transparency. They want many different ethnic types of food. They want all of this in a fast and convenient way, that requires minimal preparation, because a good percent of the population doesn’t cook. Alright, this is going to be difficult.

Eat your veggies,
Robin

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