local produce

New & improved baskets of fresh local produce

New & improved baskets of fresh local produce

By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team:

When our online farmers market opens this weekend, our new updated basket options will make their debut. It’s part of our never-ending effort to better support local farmers while helping local families eat better, live better!

The first thing you’ll notice are new names for the baskets. The new names make it easier to figure out which one is the best fit for the way you eat. As Goldilocks would say, one of them will be juuuuust right.

EASY BASKET: This is the smallest basket, offering 5 choices for $24.00. It’s an easy choice if you don’t want to commit to too much food. It’s easy to complete only five choices, and easy to use them up if you’re a household of one or two people or don’t cook much.

FAMILY BASKET: This is the middle-sized basket, offering 8 choices for $34 just like the old medium basket. It’s perfect for a family of four that eats at home several nights a week. It’s also a good option for smaller vegetarian households.

VEGGIE LOVER BASKET: The biggest basket offers 11 choices for $40.00. This is the one for you if your family is bigger, or eats in all the time, or if you just love your veggies – like the name says!

So why make these changes? Like we said, we’re always working to better support local farmers while we help local families eat better. The new baskets are designed to help us all eat more fresh local produce. That’s better for farmers because vegetables and fruits are the foundation of family farming. They’re also the foundation of a healthy diet. So it’s good for our farmers AND good for us — especially since our local fruits and veggies are super fresh and sustainably grown, making them more nutritious and delicious.

As always, you can still pick a different basket size each week, customize what’s in your basket, and order Extras as well. Or you can leave it on automatic default, sit back, and watch the veggies roll in.

To make the update easy on you, your current basket will automatically update to a new basket. The current Small Basket will become an EASY BASKET. The Medium Basket will become a FAMILY BASKET. And the Large Basket will become a VEGGIE LOVER BASKET. If you’re happy with your default, you don’t have to do a thing.

If you want to change you default basket, you an still change it just like before. Here’s how to do it:
1. Log into your account at SeasonalRoots.com.
2. You’ll see a purple icon in the upper righthand corner. Hover over the icon and select “Delivery Preferences”.
3. At the top, click on the “Delivery Preferences” tab and then make your selection.

One thing won’t change at all: Every basket will still be filled with the freshest, most nutritious and flavorful local produce you can buy!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

Grassfed and sustainable Thornebook Farms

Grassfed: Why these “ka-razy” local farmers made the switch

Grassfed: Why these “ka-razy” local farmers made the switch


By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

When Brooks and Jil Davis decided to switch from conventional farming and go grassfed and sustainable, they were pretty much alone. Many of their fellow farmers didn’t like the idea. The couple’s decision cost them one friendship and affected their farm networking. They were labeled, “Ka-razy!”

So why make the switch? Research. Like everything else with their farm, Jil and Brooks did the research and went where the facts led them.

In our last post, we explored organic vs sustainable vs local, and explained why the best way to ensure your food is nutritious and eco-friendly is to know the farmer. So in this post we’d like you to get to know one of our newest farmer partners.

Starting out


Jil and Brooks built ThorneBrook Farms from the ground up. They’re first generation farmers. They didn’t inherit their farm. Jil grew up on a small hobby farm with horses, goats, and chickens that, along with the dogs, were pets, not food. Brooks didn’t grow up on a farm at all.

Still, he had the farming bug. He studied agricultural business at Virginia Tech, while Jil studied accounting and business at a local college. In 2006, they got married and started planning their cattle, sheep, and chicken farm.

“We researched, researched, researched,” Jil recalls. They bought some land near Goochland, Va., prepared it, saved money, and got their financial ducks in a row for the initial herd purchase. They bought their first herd in 2007.

At the time, they were conventional farmers and called themselves “grass-based”. That means they raised their cattle on pasture but still used medicines, vaccines, conventional feeds, and hay grown with fertilizers and sprays. “We were far from organic and definitely not sustainable,” according to Jil.

They were also working really long hours and running a landscaping business on the side. They wanted to do more than just break even financially. They needed their farm to be self-sufficient and were eager to find ways to streamline their operation and reduce their costs.

Their research turned up a sustainable farming practice called intensive and rotational grazing where the animals are moved from pasture to pasture. They were intrigued by both the business end of things and the science that showed how this model supported the health of the land and animals, while also improving the meat quality. Studies show that a truly grassfed process results in more nutritional and tasty meat.

They’d done their research and they had their answer. Sustainable farming practices, including rotational grazing, were the way to go.

Making the switch


In 2009, they shifted their business model 180 degrees: They switched from conventional practices to a sustainable, natural approach. Grass-based herd management not only fit their lifestyle and goals, it had the potential to maximize their profits — the natural grassfed movement was gaining momentum and they were ready to meet the demand.

Today, their sustainable practices extend throughout their farm operation. They even rely on solar power for the water and electric fencing in their pastures. Watch how well it works!

At first, after they went sustainable, they continued to sell through wholesalers and middlemen. But it wasn’t long before they saw that selling direct to local consumers was a great opportunity. Their sustainable practices were making their farm more financially sustainable, too.

Jil and Brooks sacrificed the comfortable old conventional way of doing things. But by going sustainable, Jil explains, “Our business increased and our foundation grew stronger. We also grew as a couple and business partners. I can say that we are 100% at peace with our model and the quality it produces.”

Here at Seasonal Roots, we love supporting local, sustainable farmers like Jil and Brooks of ThorneBrook Farms! Our members are helping ensure they have an economically viable way to feed us all delicious, nutritious food. We’re excited to make their grassfed lamb sausage the first item we offer to our members. There’s more to come from this farming couple whom we’re getting to know so well!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

Do this to save fresh local produce for a year!

Third in a 3-part series on storing fresh local produce
– By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

(Part 1: You won’t believe how much nutritional value is lost)
(Part 2: 4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value)

In the last two posts, we got into some of the ways Seasonal Roots’ small family farmers are bucking the trends that are killing the nutritional value of modern-day produce… and four easy ways you can max out the nutritional value of the nutritious, delicious produce our local farmers grow. But what do you do if you find yourself with too much of it on hand?

To save fresh local produce from going to waste, freeze it. It will keep in the freezer for 8-12 months! Or can it. Where refrigeration just slows down that ticking clock of deterioration, freezing and canning both stop it cold. The remaining nutrients and flavor stay put until you’re good and ready to eat it.

Freezing requires no special gear, and it’s quick and easy. I’m all for quick and easy, so let’s focus on freezing.

1. To save fresh local produce, start with produce that’s as fresh as possible and in good condition.
2. Clean it thoroughly.
3. Boil water and either drop the produce directly into the water or steam it. Whether boiling or steaming, do this for 2-5 minutes until they’re just done.
4. From there, drop the produce into ice water. This process, called “blanching”, stops the enzyme activity that destroys nutrients and changes texture.
5. Let the produce cool, then put it into plastic freezer bags, squeezing out the air as you seal it up. Or, to keep all that produce from freezing into one big solid unwieldy block, pat it dry, spread it out in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the individual pieces are frozen, pop them into bags. When you’re ready to use them, you can pull out a handful if that’s all you need.

Heat does cause nutrient loss, and both freezing and canning expose the produce to heat. But in most cases, you don’t lose any more than you would from cooking. And if you freeze it right away before those nutrients have a chance to slip away, you’ll generally lose less than you would if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple weeks, even if you ate it uncooked at that point.

So freezing makes it possible for you to enjoy delicious, nutritious meals made from fresh, local produce… in the off-season. Bonus!

For a deeper dive, here’s an article from the University of California at Davis, that compares how much nutritional value is lost during refrigerated storage and cooking versus freezing and canning.

Here’s a more detailed how-to on freezing from Mother Earth News.

And to REALLY get down in the weeds, the National Center for Home Food Preservation lets you look up how to freeze almost anything.

Photo from Dreamstime/Mother Earth News

4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value

Second in a 3-part series on storing fresh local produce
– By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

(Part 1: You won’t believe how much nutritional value is lost)
(Part 3: Do this to save fresh local produce for a year!)

In the last post, we got to know the three biggest enemies that are killing the nutritional value of modern-day produce. But Seasonal Roots’ fearless family farmers are fighting to grow more nutritional produce by working with nature to enrich the soil on their land. They’re also growing old-fashioned heirloom varieties that haven’t been bred for nothing but shelf life.

Plus, there are things YOU control that will boost your food’s nutritional value, too. Here are 4 easy ways to max out the nutrients in the produce you eat. Bonus: in most cases, you’ll be maxing the flavor, too.

1. BUY LOCAL. As soon as produce is picked, the clock starts ticking as the produce starts losing nutrients. The sooner you get your hands on it after harvest, the more nutritional value it still has. Most grocery store produce comes from all over the world and is at least a week old. By then, green beans have lost 77% of their vitamin C. Seasonal Roots local produce doesn’t have to travel far, so it arrives at your door within a couple days of leaving the field.

2. EMBRACE THE DIRT. You should definitely wash your produce to make sure it’s safe to eat. But wait to wash until right before you eat it or cook it. Until then, leave it in its original state and handle it as gently and as little as possible. Excess moisture, bruising, pre-chopping and peeling (we’re looking at you, ready-to-eat bag o’ salad) all accelerate decay and nutrient loss. In the case of pre-processed produce, the problem is that vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants, so when produce gets cut or damaged, oxygen gets inside and the antioxidants are not happy to meet it. That’s another advantage of buying local — after the farmer harvests your produce, it gets handled once by Seasonal Roots veggie fairies, who gently handpack your order. Grocery store produce, well, it has to endure a lot of long, hard travel and repeated rough handling by lots of middlemen along the way.

3. REFRIGERATE RIGHT AWAY. For most fruits and veggies, a cold, dark place slows down the loss of nutrients, because it inhibits destructive enzymes and the loss of vitamin C. B vitamins are particularly sensitive to heat and light. There are exceptions — namely potatoes, onions, and tomatoes (this is why tomatoes lose their flavor in the fridge). Here’s a helpful infographic that shows each fruit and veggie’s happy place.

4. EAT FAST. The longer your produce sits in your fridge or pantry, the more nutrients slowly disappear. But what if you can’t eat it all right away? No worries. There’s still a way you can hang onto most of that nutritional value. In the next post, I’ll explain how.

You won’t believe how much nutritional value is lost

First in a 3-part series on storing fresh local produce
– By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

(Part 2: 4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value)
(Part 3: Do this to save fresh local produce for a year!)

The fruits and vegetables your grandmother grew up eating were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. 1950’s broccoli, for example, had 130 mg of calcium, but only 48 mg today, based on USDA data.

When it comes to the loss of so much nutritional value, soil depletion is Public Enemy #1, according to Scientific American. The modern corporate food industry uses highly intensive agricultural methods that strip nutrients from the soil, and they strip it over and over again: “Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.”

Public Enemy #2: Big Corporate Agriculture has been focused on developing produce that can travel from California or even New Zealand for days or weeks and still arrive at the supermarket looking good – as if shelf life and good looks are all that matter. In the process of selecting for looks and shelf life, Big Ag sacrificed yet more nutrients and flavor.

Public Enemy #3: The very act of transporting, packing, and storing produce over long distances for long periods of time makes the problem worse. Most of the produce in grocery stores is at least a week old. But just look at the graphic of what happens to the vitamin C in broccoli in that amount of time. Even when it’s refrigerated, after 3 days a steady drop in nutritional value begins — it’s even worse for tender produce like spinach and green beans. It drops even more when produce is handled roughly by machines, or when things like broccoli, carrots, and celery are pre-cut for those ready-to-eat salad bags.

Seasonal Roots is working to change all that by partnering with small local farmers who use sustainable farming practices to keep their soil nutrient-rich. Then, after they harvest the produce grown in that rich soil, it doesn’t have to travel far. So, working fast, our veggie fairies gently hand-pack your produce and deliver it to you within 48 hours. We know that as soon as it’s picked, the clock starts ticking.

Plus there are things YOU can do to make sure get you more nutritional bang for your produce buck. Next week we’ll lay out some of the ways you can stop the lost-nutrients clock… or at least slow it down!

Cooking with kids – PS

PS: CLEAN UP & CELEBRATE!

The wrap up of our 4-part series on cooking with kids
By Jamila T, chief area manager & veggie fairy godmother:

(TIP 1: Start with projects)
(TIP 2: Let them do hard things)
(TIP 3: Set kitchen ground rules)
(TIP 4: Use common sense)

Involve the kids in clean up and celebrate the accomplishment! Good kitchen habits extend beyond preparing food. When you’re cooking with kids, clean up is important too! Enlist your children’s help in washing pots and wiping counters. Quick clean-up will make you more inclined to do another kitchen project in the future.

Lastly… celebrate! You made it. Gobble up a muffin with a big glob of strawberry jam and pat your kid on the back. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back because you taught your child something today…. and you survived the lesson!

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE
Encourage the kids to show off what they learned!

THIS WEEK’S RECIPE

SAUSAGE STRATA

Ingredients:
1 lb sausage or ham
6 slices of bread, cubed
2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
6 eggs
2 c milk
1 t salt
1 t ground dry mustard
optional: chopped broccoli or other veggies

Directions (Watch the video!):
1. Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain and set aside.
2. Lightly grease a 7×11-inch baking dish. In the dish, layer bread cubes, sausage, and cheddar cheese.
3. In a bowl, beat together eggs, milk, salt, and mustard. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cube mixture.
4. Cover the filled baking dish and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
5. Remove the dish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking and uncover it. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Bake 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
7. Optional: Top with mushrooms and onions — we’ve got a yummy how-to in this week’s newsletter!

Success?
Celebrate some more by posting a picture on our Facebook page!

Cooking with kids – Tip #4

USE COMMON SENSE

Fourth in a 4-part series on cooking with kids
By Jamila T, chief area manager & veggie fairy godmother:

(TIP 1: Start with projects)
(TIP 2: Let them do hard things)
(TIP 3: Set kitchen ground rules)
(PS: Clean up & celebrate!)

Common sense is key when you’re cooking with kids. While it’s important to give children challenging, meaningful tasks, it’s equally important to make sure those tasks are appropriate for their ability. Appropriate tasks build confidence and character, and will ultimately be a rewarding experience for everyone. Not to mention, your little ones will actually help you… not just “help” you.

So… cooking with a three-year-old? Leave the chef knife in the butcher block and opt for one with a small blade. Better yet, select a recipe that calls for tearing rather than cutting!

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE
Tearing and baking. If you have tiny helpers, let them try their hand at tearing kale leaves from the stems. Older kids? Put them on oven duty!

THIS WEEK’S RECIPE

KALE CHIPS

Ingredients:
kale
olive oil
salt
optional seasonings: roasted sesame seeds, finely grated Parmesan, paprika, chili powder, flax seeds, nutritional yeast, brown sugar, taco seasoning, lemon or lime zest

Directions (watch the video!):
1. Tear kale from stems.
2. Wash and dry torn kale.
3. In a large bowl, toss kale with oil and salt.
4. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet and sprinkle on seasonings if desired.
5. Bake 20 minutes at 300 degrees F.

Success?
Celebrate by posting a picture on our Facebook page!

Want to try another recipe project? It’s in the PS post, and here’s what you’ll need:
Add sweet potatoes, Bella Vita sourdough bread, Trickling Springs Creamery whole milk, Saddle Ridge Farm eggs, and maple breakfast sausage to your basket when the Seasonal Roots online farmers market menu opens on Friday.

Cooking with kids – Tip #3

SET KITCHEN GROUND RULES

Third in a 4-part series on cooking with kids
By Jamila T, chief area manager & veggie fairy godmother:

(TIP 1: Start with projects)
(TIP 2: Let them do hard things)
(TIP 4: Use common sense)
(PS: Clean up & celebrate!)

Kids love to taste things and will often gobble ingredients without considering food safety. Before getting started on any cooking project when you’re cooking with kids, set some kitchen ground rules.

  • Discuss ways to keep themselves safe around hot elements and sharp tools.
  • Also request that they ask before tasting ingredients.
  • Designate a bowl that is specifically for samples and drop something in there from time to time. A “tasting bowl” gives kids an opportunity to explore without worry.
  • THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE
    Dicing! Watch this video and learn to dice like a pro!

    THIS WEEK’S RECIPE
    ROOT VEGETABLE CANDY
    Use a variety of Seasonal Roots root veggies for a local, fresh, kid-pleasing dish!

    Ingredients:
    4-6 c root vegetables such as celery root, parsnips, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
    olive oil for drizzling
    salt and pepper to taste
    Tasty Tip: Not beet fans? Use golden beets which blend beautifully with carrots and sweet potatoes.

    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Throw diced vegetables on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands, then arrange in a flat layer on the baking sheet.
    3. Roast 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are golden brown.
    4. Allow to cool to room temperature and eat as a snack, or serve them as a side dish with pork chops, roasted chicken, etc.

    Success?
    Celebrate by posting a picture on our Facebook page!

    Cooking with kids – Tip #2

    LET THEM DO HARD THINGS

    Second in a 4-part series on cooking with kids
    By Jamila T, chief area manager & veggie fairy godmother:

    (TIP 1: Start with projects)
    (TIP 3: Set kitchen ground rules)
    (TIP 4: Use common sense)
    (PS: Clean up & celebrate!)

    Knives are important culinary tools, even when you’re cooking with kids. Instead of limiting your child’s involvement in the kitchen, teach them how to responsibly handle sharps and other tools. Expectations should be reasonable and based on age, but kids are capable of more than stirring bowls and pushing buttons.

    Let them cut vegetables, flip pancakes, and stir sauces. If they are strong and confident enough, let them add and remove things from the oven. Just use your best judgement based on your child’s maturity level and abilities. You know them best!

    This week’s challenge

    Chopping! Use a knife small enough for them to handle safely. Show them how to keep their fingertips out of the way.

    This week’s recipe

    SUMMER FRUIT SKILLET JAM

    Ingredients:
    1 qt LOCAL fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, etc), chopped
    1 small SAUNDERS BROS apple, peeled, grated
    ½ c ALFREDO’S BEEHIVE honey
    ½ lemon/lime/orange, juiced

    Directions:
    1. Combine ingredients in 12-inch skillet. Cook on medium-high for about 8 minutes.
    2. Mash the fruit as it cooks, stirring frequently. Caution: Warm jam bubbles and pops!
    3. Once a spoon can be pulled through the pan without fruit immediately filling the empty space, the jam is finished.
    4. Pour into a glass container and cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Jam will firm as it cools.

    Success?

    Celebrate by posting a picture on our Facebook page!

    Want to be ready for next week’s recipe?

    Add a variety of fresh, local root vegetables to your basket when the Seasonal Roots home-delivered farmers market menu opens on Friday.

    Cooking With Kids – Tip #1

    START WITH PROJECTS

    First in a 4-part series on cooking with kids
    By Jamila T, chief area manager & veggie fairy godmother:

    (TIP 2: Let them do hard things)
    (TIP 3: Set kitchen ground rules)
    (TIP 4: Use common sense)
    (PS: Clean up & celebrate!)

    Confession: I love to cook. I HATE cooking with my kids.

    I have four of them, and every adventure that begins in the kitchen ends in a mess. A big one. They eat half of what I am preparing and poke holes in the rest. Boredom is inevitable, which leads to wandering during tasks or frustration. It is borderline terrible, but in my eyes, it is terribly necessary.

    Learning to cook is an important life skill and will empower kids to make wise food choices. Time in the kitchen is also an opportunity to model practical applications of math, reading, and following instructions. It gives my girls time to hone fine motor skills, explore food science, and practice the art of patience. Cooking with kids is important, even if it drives me crazy.

    Does cooking with the kids in your life make your brain hurt? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite tips. Here’s the first one.

    1. Start with projects

    Family meals tend to be more time sensitive than cooking projects. Projects like zucchini muffins will allow your child to experiment with new skills, without ruining dinner. Once skills like grating, chopping, tearing greens, and peeling garlic (my personal favorite), have been mastered, they can graduate to meal prep. Trust me, your children will revel in simple tasks. Plus, it is very helpful to have little fingers peeling garlic cloves while you sauté chicken.

    Ready to dive in?

    Challenge the kids with grating zucchini and make these zucchini muffins. Instead of Greek yogurt, substitute Seasonal Roots’ Trickling Springs Creamery yogurt made from grass-fed milk for extra goodness. You can also use yellow summer squash instead of zucchini — pretty much the same taste and texture.

    Mission accomplished?

    Celebrate by posting a picture on our Facebook page!

    Want to be ready for next week’s recipe?

    Add honey and summer fruit like strawberries, blueberries, or peaches to your basket when the Seasonal Roots home-delivered farmers market menu opens on Friday.