How to eat what's cheap and in season RIGHT NOW - Summer Edition

It is hawt, y'all!  For those of you who don't know, I live in gorgeous Southwestern Ontario, Canada, which sits parallel with Northern California on an old-fashioned globe.

We get the same hot and humid weather during the summer as the deep Southern states. Right now, as I type this, it's 27°C, but with the humidex, it feels like 38°C.  For those Fahrenheit lovers out there, that's 100°F.

Not to steal the words from the Wicked Witch, but "I'm mellllltttttiiinnnng" doesn't seem to cut it.

Although I hate this weather, I love the fresh produce that it brings.

And you know what in season produce means to this frugal foodie? Cheap food!

I'm not going to bore you with other benefits of eating local, in-season food. Details like:

  • you're supporting your local economy and sending someone's kid to summer camp instead of lining the pockets of huge corporations
  • your food isn't travelling 5,000 miles across the world to get to you, which means it has way more nutrients and uses a fraction of the fossil fuels
  • it freaking tastes 1,000% better. A few experts called my tastebuds conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled scientific study, and they concur

It pretty much benefits everybody and your wallet when you eat fresh, in season, locally grown fruits and veggies.

Then one tiny little detail stops you in your tracks: you don't know what half that stuff actually is.

I bring you to my own CSA delivery this week. CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture", and it's a farm business model where each person puts up money at the beginning of the growing season for their share of produce that was specifically grown for the group.

Even in our smallish city (approximately 50,000), we have 4 different CSA's that I know of. This is the second year taking part in ours (click here to find out more about Omagarden), and the best part is that Dana harvests the food and delivers it right to our door the same day.

*UPDATE: Omagarden is no longer offering a CSA, so we've switched to River Bell, which is certified organic. Click here to find out more info.

I figure that our share costs us about $25 to $30 each week, depending on how long the growing season lasts, and we always get way more food than our family of 2 adults and 1 baby seems to be able to eat (plus we grow some of our own greens, too).

The upside? I don't even have to buy produce at the grocery store, and figure out if it's part of the Dirty Dozen or Clean Fifteen, or where it came from. Zucchinis from Mexico, take a hike! This means that I try to keep our grocery store bill $25 to $30 lower to account for the overall cost. If you're really on the ball you could transfer that amount from your regular bank account to a savings account so you already have the money set aside for next years' share when it comes due.

The downside? To quote Forrest Gump (sorry, another movie quote!), "you never know what you're gonna get". To us, this isn't exactly a big deal during the summer, as I don't do as much meal planning as I do in the winter. However, if you're someone who plans everything, this could throw a wrench into your well scheduled week.

As always, I've gotten off track as to where this story was going.

So we got our share this week, and lo and behold there was an alien looking vegetable. I had seen this veggie before, but I went on Facebook and saw that some other Omagardeners were posting pictures asking what the heck it was.

It's kohlrabi, which I've been meaning to try for about 6 months. I'm going to do what everyone else who bought some strange food and has no idea how to cook it should do: Google it.

Seriously, I googled it just now, and found out that you can roast it, sauté it, steam it, stir fry it, eat it raw, or put it in soups, stews, or fritters.

You'll soon find out that most veggies are delicious when they're simply steamed and drenched with butter and a sprinkle of good quality salt. If you want more concrete directions, especially when it comes to cooking dark, bitter greens, see my recipe at the bottom of this post.

I don't even need to tell you how to eat fresh fruit, it's kind of a no brainer.

I was going to list some of the little know local produce 'round these parts, but then it occured to me that a) you're not all my next door neighbour, b) it's already been done for me, and c) it's 100°F out and I've turned into a sloth.

Here'a a link to a year round availability chart for almost all the fruits and veggies you could ever think of here in Ontario. If you don't live by me, for the sake of sounding like a broken record, google "what's in season in [insert your area here]". You can do the same thing to find a CSA that's local to you.

I'm curious, what's one veggie that you were terrified to try and now it's your favourite?

STEAMED GREENS

BY ASHLEY SROKOSZ, RHN

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Serves 2

1 head greens (kale, Swiss Chard, Collard greens, spinach, and dandelion are the most common)
2 tbsp organic butter
pinch of good quality salt (grey Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt are the best)

Optional:
1 lemon, freshly juiced
1 handful cherry tomatoes, or 1 regular tomato, chopped
1-2 tbsp apple cider, rice wine, red or white wine, or balsamic vinegar

1. Start boiling the water for your steamer while you're cleaning your greens.
2. Carefully rinse and clean your greens. There's nothing worse than taking your first bite, only to discover a crap ton of grit in your mouth. Not cool.
3. If there is a thick stem, remove it from the leafy part. You probably won't have to do this with spinach, but you definitely will with kale and Collard greens.
4. Roughly chop your greens and put them directly in the steamer.
5. For delicate spinach, it will only need to cook for 2-3 minutes. For tougher kale, it may need upwards of 5 minutes. You'll know it's done when it's bright green and slightly tender. If it's brownish-green, it's overdone and will be mushy.
6. Transfer the cooked greens into a bowl, and add the butter and salt. Taste them, and if they're too bitter for you, add some lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, or your favourite vinegar.

Notes: You can use this technique for pretty much any veggie, but you'll have to increase the cooking time for harder, less delicate ones.