Friday, February 13, 2015

Thoughts on Eating in Season

Eating in season is more of a challenge here in the North, with such extreme temperatures, but it's not impossible. It may be a challenge to give certain items up, waiting until such time that they are gracing farmers' market tables and filling CSA boxes. Learning the many and varied skills of food preservation can help you build your pantry and fill your freezer, for better winter or year-round eating.

This past week we indulged in local and regional foods heartily. Fish from John's trip to Lake of the Woods. Vegetables, canned or frozen, from our farm, including broccoli, tomatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, parsnips. Apples from home and our friends at Hoch Orchards. Summery pesto graced our pasta and grape jam our toast. Of course home grown pork and eggs provided protein, as well as local beef. For beverage, both hard and sweet cider pleased our palates, along with homemade apple cider vinegar.

"Waiting for foods to come into season means tasting them when they're good, but waiting is also part of most value equations. Treating foods this way can help move "eating" in the consumer's mind from the Routine Maintenance Department over to the Division of Recreation. It's hard to reduce our modern complex of food choices to unifying principles, but this is one that generally works: eating home-cooked meals from whole, in-season ingredients obtained from the most local source available is eating well, in every sense. Good for the habitat, good for the body."

I love the thought of the "recreation" of local, in season foods. It brings to mind, for me, foraging wild mushrooms and asparagus, as well as the joy of opening a CSA box to see what the week's bounty brings, and customers at farmers' market waiting for the first tomatoes - the thrill is visible.

There are certain items in our household that we never buy out of season - strawberries and asparagus come to mind first. However, when winter peak citrus season rolls around we stock oranges and kiwi to keep our family in fruit, as our apples in the pantry and fridge continue to decline in quality and quantity.

I refuse to feel guilty about eating these items not raised local, as it's done with thought and intent - with a consciousness that is key in the move towards seasonal eating. Keeping our family healthy is of great importance, providing natural snacks at hand to promote healthy choices. Choices and habits only get better with each passing season, as conscious eating is a growth process with a learning curve. We are going against the grain, society does not teach seasonal eating, even if this knowledge was practiced with our ancestors. We must relearn old practices and create our own rules.

"It had felt arbitrary when we sat around the table with our shopping list, making our own rules. It felt almost silly to us, in fact, as it may now seem to you. Why impose restrictions on ourselves? Who Cares?

The fact is, though, millions of families have food pledges hanging over their kitchens - subtle rules about going to extra trouble, cutting the pasta by hand, rolling the sushi, making with care instead of buying on the cheap. Though they also may be busy with jobs and modern life, people the world over still take time to follow foodways that bring their families happiness and health. My family happens to live in a country where the min foodway has a yellow line painted down the middle. If we needed rules we'd have to make our own, going on faith that it might bring us something worthwhile.

On Saturday morning at the market as we ducked into the wind and started back towards our car, I clutched my bags with a heady sense of accomplishment. We'd found a lot more than we'd hoped for. We chatted a little more with our farmer friends who were closing up shop behind us, ready to head home too. Back to warm kitchens, keeping our fingers crossed in dogwood winter for the fruits of the coming year."  -from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver

Strive to be conscious about your food choices, eating as much locally, organically and in season as you can. Do this especially when it is easy, when items are fresh for the offering from your local farmers and farmers' markets, co-ops and CSA program. Strive to try new items and recipes each season and build up your preservation tools. Feel great about your choices and avoid making yourself feel guilty about a bunch of kale going bad, that you still don't bake your own bread, or you forgot to go to market this week. Eating with intention and a consciousness about where your food comes from and how it was grown will naturally lead you towards more seasonal eating.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Shout Out for Sprouts

Broccoli seeds in a jar.
Seeds. Nature's powerhouse. Tiny capsules filled with all the nutrients a plant needs to begin its life and take hold in the world. Sprouts give you a great way to capture a nutrient burst for yourself! Sprouting your own seeds is inexpensive, economical and pretty darn easy.

Soaking broccoli and alfalfa seeds for sprouting.
It is my goal to keep sprouting seeds in the cupboard at all times, so we can make a batch whenever. We purchase our seeds from the St. Peter Food Co-op's bulk section; when our jars get low on seeds we simply bring them in a fill them up (no packaging!). I'll go in fits and spurts, growing sprouts all the time, then forgetting for a while, but it's an easy skill to learn and have in your toolbox to use when you want.

A wide variety of seeds can easily be grown to eat as sprouts including radish, pea, chick pea, mung beans, alfalfa, fenugreek, sunflower, lentil, and broccoli. Each has its own unique flavor and can be eaten on its own or used to top salads, or other dishes. We regularly use them for salad and sandwich toppers. (We had a friend in Bemidji who used to grow sprouts for her chickens on a regular basis - they loved it!)

Growing Sprouts 

Grab a pint jar with a canning ring, and some cheesecloth. This is my preference, but any small-medium jar will do, as long as the lid allows breathing and drainage (without loosing seeds); there are also specially made screens for this purpose.

Place 2 teaspoons of seeds into the jar and fill the bottom couple inches of the jar with water.

Soak the seeds for 10-12 hours. After soaking drain all of the water off of the seeds, simply by pouring out the top of the jar. The cheesecloth will hold the seeds in the jar.

The next step is rinsing. Rinse 2-3 times per day until the sprouts are ready to eat. This will be about 3-5 days. If some seeds stick to the cloth, just tap to knock them down.


Storing Sprouts 

When the sprouts are finished you will want to let them dry before storing them in the fridge, they will keep longer this way. Transfer to a paper towel, or new container, to let them dry to the touch.

When they are dry, refrigerate in a closed container and use within about 4 days. A clear, preferably glass, container will let you keep any eye on them and remind you to use them!

Finished sprouts, dried and headed to the fridge.


6 Easy Steps to Sprout Heaven (includes directions for making a sprouting jar) Health Benefits of Sprouts

Ten Reasons to Eat Sprouts

Sprout People