how to store fresh vegetables

How to store fresh vegetables & fruits

Make fresh taste and nutrition last when you store fresh vegetables & fruits!

By the Veggie Fairy Team:

GET YOUR RED HOT PRINTABLE PDF DOWNLOAD OF OUR HANDY DANDY STORAGE CHEAT SHEET RIGHT HERE!

You have to store fresh vegetables and fruits in order to eat fresh vegetables and fruits — that’s just a fact of life. Word to the wise: If you don’t store nature’s bounty the right way, you can undermine the whole reason why you’re making an effort to eat it in the first place.

When you eat fresh local produce, you’re eating the most nutritious, delicious food you can get. It’s picked at the peak of ripeness shortly before you receive it. But it doesn’t last forever. It’s not like grocery store produce, which is usually grown far away, picked early for the lengthy trip, and then waxed and sprayed with preservatives so it will look beautiful and “fresh” for an unnaturally long period time.

Fact is, grocery store produce looks great long after many of the nutrients inside have faded away.

(Read more: Real fresh vs fake fresh)

With local food, what you see is what you get. If it looks fresh, that’s because it really is. The key is to handle and store it right.

Now if you’re in a hurry, skip to the end to get to the bottom line: Our handy dandy cheat sheet that tells you exactly how to store most local and regional produce items.

But if you’ve got a minute, first check out these additional strategies and background info that will help you get the most out of your fresh veggies and fruits.

1. Eat fast

The longer your produce sits in your fridge or pantry, the more nutrients slowly disappear. You get good stuff (like perishable enzymes) from fresh food that you can’t get from anything else, so don’t let your fresh local food go to waste.

(Read more: Why you should eat raw food and keep it on hand)

But you don’t have to eat everything all at once! Simply…

2. Prioritize

To avoid wasting produce, prioritize it so you eat it in the right order. Eat the produce with the shortest life span first, like berries or salad greens or green beans. Once they’re eaten, the more long-lived produce will be waiting for you, with most of their nutrients still intact.

So each week after your order arrives:

  • Indulge in the DIVAS right away: Berries, broccoli, cherries, green beans, leafy greens, mushrooms, peaches and plums (if soft and ripe), peas, and sweet corn.
  • Dive into the more moderate there-for-you BESTIES next — no rush, but don’t wait forever: Cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, green onions, greens from root veggies, herbs, leeks, peppers, radishes, summer squashes, and tomatoes.
  • Save the LOW MAINTENANCE BROS for last. Even if you don’t get them eaten during the week, they can actually kick back and last for a couple weeks, so long as they’re in their happy place. These include: Apples, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions, pears, potatoes, root veggies, and winter squashes.
  • Now on to the part where we tell you how to store fresh vegetables and fruit after your local farmers harvest it for you.

    3. QC before you store fresh vegetables & fruits

    Do a bit of quality control before you store your food. If there’s one mushy or moldy berry, toss it right away. A mushy item is a bad influence, and will lead everything that hangs out with it down the road to ruin.

    4. Do wait to wash

    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 and bruising accelerate decay and nutrient loss.

    5. Do wait to chop or peel

    Store fresh vegetables and fruits whole. While we love meal-prepping, if you prep too far in advance, fresh fruits and vegetables lose those precious nutrients. So hold off on peeling or cutting them up until you’re ready to use them. Peeling and chopping expose the insides to oxygen and light and that kills nutrients. Once you do slice into something ahead of time, store it sealed up and in the fridge until it’s time to use it.

    (Read more: 4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value)

    6. Don’t wait to refrigerate fresh vegetables & fruits

    For most fruits and veggies, a cold, dark place slows down decay and 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 citrus and any fruit that could use some ripening, plus garlic, ginger, potatoes, onions, winter squash, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes.

    7. Don’t crowd your crops

    Make sure produce has room to “breathe” if it’s stored in a bag. If you cram too many items into a bag, more moisture builds up, more bruising happens, and the produce will spoil more quickly.

    8. The humidity factor: A detour into the crisper drawer

    In general, vegetables last longer in a more humid environment, while fruits prefer a slightly less humid environment. So store fresh vegetables separately from fresh fruit when you can.

    The typical crisper drawer is nothing more than a partition inside your refrigerator that offers a more humid environment than the rest of the interior. Some crispers have a sliding humidity control setting that ranges from low to high. Sometimes they’re labeled “vegetables” (high) and “fruit” (lower than the veggie crisper but still higher than the rest of the fridge).

    But of course, the real world isn’t as simple as these low-tech sliders, which usually just open or close a little vent in the drawer that allows moisture and ethylene gas to escape. The complicating factor is that ethylene gas.

    9. Beware the ethylene gas!

    It’s released by some fruits, including apples, apricots, melons, pears, peaches, plums, plus ripe tomatoes and avocados (but not unripe ones so much.)

    Meanwhile, ethylene gas causes ethylene-sensitive produce to ripen faster, which includes most veggies and some fruits (apples, apricots, avocados, cantaloupe, grapes, limes, mangos, honeydew melons, peaches, persimmons, tangerines, and watermelon.)

    So to keep the sensitive ones from turning into overripe mushes, you have to keep them away from the gassy ones. What do you do if a gassy emitter is also a sensitive hater, like an apple? As you’ll see on the cheat sheet at the end, you can keep it in the fruit crisper, or better yet on a shelf in the fridge.

    If you’re the analytical type, here’s an in-depth chart that lists the optimal storage conditions for most veggies and fruits and whether or not they’re an ethylene emitter or an ethylene hater. If you want to totally geek out with this, we’ve created a PDF of the chart that you can download to print and post on your fridge. It will mark you as an expert in how to store fresh vegetables and fruits.

    If you prefer a simpler guideline, here’s the ABC version:

  • A… Keep most fruits in the low humidity drawer along with onions you need to keep cold because you don’t plan to eat them for a long time — onions like low humidity and are neutral in the ethylene gas wars.
  • B… Keep vegetables in the high humidity drawer along with fruits that are gas sensitive haters and NOT emitters that you need to keep cold because you’re not going to eat them within a couple days: unripe avocados, grapes, persimmons, and watermelon.
  • C… Keep gassy emitters who are also sensitive haters on a counter if they’re not ripe yet, and on a shelf in the fridge once they are ripe: apples, apricots, avocados, cantaloupe, mangos, honeydew melons, peaches, pears, and plums.
  • 10. The “How to Store Fresh Vegetables & Fruits” CHEAT SHEET: Store each item in its happy place

    GET YOUR RED HOT PRINTABLE PDF DOWNLOAD OF OUR HANDY DANDY CHEAT SHEET RIGHT HERE!

    Should it go on a shelf in the fridge? Or in one of the fridge’s crisper drawers? In a cool, dark pantry? Or a sunny window? At long last, here’s our handy dandy cheat sheet to make it easy:

    When the storage advice for how to store fresh vegetables and fruits calls for plastic bags, you can always substitute plastic or glass storage containers for plastic bags. Store everything unwashed, uncut, and unpeeled. Wash and prep just before using.

    (For visual learners, here’s a helpful infographic that shows the happy places of some common fruits and veggies.)

    APPLES: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper, where they can last for a couple weeks. No need to bag them.

    APRICOTS: Store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper, where they can last for a couple weeks.

    ARTICHOKES: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    ASPARAGUS: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    AVOCADOS: Regionally grown winter avocados from Florida can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper. Do not bag them.

    BEANS, GREEN OR LIMA: Wrap in a paper towel in a loosely closed bag in the vegetable crisper.

    BEETS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Store beets in the vegetable crisper.

    BERRIES: Store in single layers divided by paper towels, inside a loosely closed bag or perforated container in the fruit crisper.

    BREAD: Store in an air tight container on the counter or in the pantry. In warm weather, if you can’t eat it within a few days, store it, sliced, in the freezer. (The fridge tends to dry bread out.) Defrost slices on the counter or briefly in the toaster and they’ll still be moist.

    BROCCOLI: Place in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. Eat quickly; broccoli is surprisingly delicate.

    BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Quite resilient! You can store them on or off the stalk in the vegetable crisper. If you cut them off the stalk, leave all the outer leaves intact for an extra layer of protection and seal them in a bag. When it’s time to cook them, remove any leaves that don’t look good.

    CABBAGE: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper and it will last for weeks.

    CANTALOUPE: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry or on a shelf in the fridge.

    CARROTS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Wrap carrots in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. If carrots get soft, just drop them in cold water for a few minutes.

    CAULIFLOWER: Wrap in paper towels and store in a plastic bag stem-side down in the vegetable crisper. Keep the head intact until use.

    CELERIAC: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    CELERY: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. If it gets soft, trim the ends of the stalks and place in a glass of cool water, or soak the whole stalk in cold water, and that should perk it up.

    CHERRIES: Cherries must, must, must be kept cold! Refrigerate in a plastic bag in the fruit crisper.

    CITRUS: Regionally grown winter citrus from Florida tastes best when stored and eaten at room temperature, so store on the counter or in the pantry. But if you can’t eat it within a few days, pop it in the fruit crisper.

    CORN: Store in the vegetable crisper in its husks but eat within a couple days. It can be roasted or grilled in its husks, too!

    CUCUMBERS: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a day or two. Otherwise, wrap individually in paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    EGGPLANT: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry. If you can’t eat it within a few days, seal it in a plastic bag in the crisper or on a shelf in the fridge, but eat within a week.

    FIGS: Store in fruit crisper.

    GARLIC: The kind that has a dry, papery outer skin and no greens can stay on the counter or in the pantry, or it can also be stored in the vegetable crisper.

    GINGER ROOT: Store on the counter or in the pantry.

    GRAPES: Seal in a plastic bag and store in the vegetable crisper, not the fruit crisper.

    GREENS: Includes everything that is mostly green and leafy, from kale, bok choy, lettuce, and spinach, to spring onions, spring garlic, and leeks; also greens cut from the tops of root vegetables. Go through them and immediately discard any leaves that are beyond wilted. Store greens unwashed, wrapped in paper towels, inside a sealed plastic bag, in the vegetable crisper. Use them as soon as you can. They can be a bit delicate. Just make sure you wash before eating!

    HERBS: Trim the ends of the stems (like flowers) and place in a glass of cool water on the counter until ready to use. This method will also help perk up any herb or greens, including celery, that may have wilted en route. To keep them going longer, you can put any herb except basil in the fridge, glass and all, with a plastic bag over it. But leave basil on the counter — the cold temps inside the fridge will quickly turn it black. You can still cook with it, but for fresh uses it gets pretty unappealing.

    HORSERADISH ROOT: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    JICAMA: Can be stored in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can also store them in the vegetable crisper.

    KOHLRABI: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    MANGOS: Regionally grown winter mangos from Florida can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper. No need to bag them.

    MELON, HONEYDEW: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry or on a shelf in the fridge.

    MUSHROOMS: Wrap in a paper towel and refrigerate in a breathable container (perforated plastic or a paper bag) in the vegetable crisper.

    NECTARINES: If at all possible, do not refrigerate. It can produce mealy, tasteless fruit. Ripen on the counter and eat when ready.

    OKRA: Place in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    ONIONS: Store in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can also store them on a shelf in the fridge for longterm storage of a couple weeks or more. Never store them in plastic.

    PARSNIPS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Wrap parsnips in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. If parsnips get soft, just drop them in cold water for a few minutes.

    PEAS, SNOW OR ENGLISH: Wrap peas that come in their pods in a paper towel and refrigerate in a breathable container (perforated plastic or a paper bag) in the vegetable crisper.

    PEACHES: If at all possible, do not refrigerate. It can produce mealy, tasteless fruit. Ripen on the counter and eat when ready. If they’re not quite ripe and you’re in a hurry, they will ripen faster in a bag. But keep an eye on them — they may ripen very fast that way!

    PEARS: Can be stored unwashed on the counter for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper, where they can last for a couple weeks. No need to bag them. Wash just before eating. If they’re not quite ripe and you’re in a hurry, they will ripen faster in a bag.

    PEPPERS, HOT OR SWEET: Store in a paper bag in the vegetable crisper, where they’ll keep for a week.

    PLUMS: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a day or two, or on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper. If they aren’t quite ripe, they will ripen faster if you bag them.

    POTATOES: Store in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can also store them in the vegetable crisper for longterm storage of a couple weeks or more. Never store them in plastic or in the same area as produce that releases ethylene gas — potatoes are highly sensitive!

    RADISHES: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Wrap radishes in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    ROMANESCO: Wrap in paper towels and store in a plastic bag stem-side down in the vegetable crisper. Keep the head intact until use.

    RHUBARB: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    RUTABAGAS: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    SPROUTS: Wrap in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    SQUASH, SUMMER: Yellow squash and zucchini can be stored on the counter. If you can’t eat it within a few days, seal it in a plastic bag in the crisper or on a shelf in the fridge, but eat within a week.

    SQUASH, WINTER: Hard winter squashes, like acorn, butternut, and pumpkin, can hang out in the pantry or on the counter out of direct sunlight. If you store them in the fridge, keep them on a shelf, not in a crisper. They’re very hardy and can last a long, long time in the fridge. Big pumpkins do not need to be refrigerated at all.

    SWEET POTATOES: Store in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can store them on a shelf in the fridge or the vegetable crisper, but be aware that fridge storage can sometimes alter their taste and flavor while cooking — but not always, so it’s okay in a pinch.

    TOMATOES: Best on the counter, or in a sunny window if they need to ripen a bit more. But if you can’t get to them before they turn too ripe, you can store them on a shelf in the fridge. Just let them return to room temp before eating them raw – the cold can reduce the flavor, but most of it usually returns if you let it warm up.

    TURNIPS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Store turnips in the vegetable crisper.

    WATERMELON: Store on the counter or in the pantry. Can also be stored on a shelf in the fridge. Never store it in the same area as produce that releases ethylene gas — watermelon is highly sensitive!

    11. When all else fails, freeze it!

    If you can’t eat it all fast enough, just throw it in the freezer. It’ll keep there for 8-12 months! When you defrost it later, if it’s not as appetizing to eat raw, it’ll still be great cooked… and just about as nutritious as it would have been if you’d cooked it instead of freezing it in the first place.

    And that’s how you store fresh vegetables and fruits so you can eat more fresh vegetables and fruits!

    (Read more: How to freeze and save fresh local produce for a year!)

    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, grass-fed 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.

healthy breakfast foods local berries

Healthy breakfast foods: 7 local foods to start your day off right

Healthy breakfast foods for every taste

By the Veggie Fairy Team

Stock up on healthy breakfast foods, because a good day starts with a good, healthy breakfast. That means different things to different people, depending on what each individual’s body needs to comfortably break the night’s fast.

For some of us, a good breakfast consists of a hearty combination of eggs, toast, and fruit. But for others, it may be a simple cup of coffee.

Whatever your personal power breakfast may be, you’ll get more out of it when you get your ingredients from a local source you trust — you can be sure it’ll be fresher and richer in both flavor and nutrients.

So let’s take a closer look at seven of the best things you can eat when you roll out of bed.

pasture-raised eggs

#1 PASTURE-RAISED EGGS

We Veggie Fairies get our pasture-raised eggs from Authenticity Farms in Amelia, Va., where the hens spend their days in the sunshine foraging for grass, seeds, and bugs — all the things chickens naturally eat. Thanks to their own healthy diet, they produce eggs that are healthier for us too – and sooo delicious!

(Read more about Authenticity Farms humane farming practices and their pasture-raised eggs.)

A pasture-raised egg looks different from an industrial farmed egg (even if it’s labeled “cage-free” or “free-range”). The yolk of a pasture-raised egg is deep orange and is surrounded by a thick, milky white. On top of having more flavor, pasture-raised eggs contain higher amounts of vitamin A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, and choline, as well as omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA.

Pasture-raised eggs offer the highest quality protein, too, second only to the lactalbumin protein that’s found in a human mother’s milk. Eating eggs for breakfast increases your feeling of fullness, so you’ll eat fewer calories for lunch and even out your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Many studies have shown that a pasture-raised egg isn’t just a healthy breakfast food — it’s a true superfood. This study found that compared to industrial farmed eggs, pasture-raised eggs may contain:

  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
  • 3-6 times more vitamin D (thanks to hanging out in all that sunshine!)
  • More K2, B12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, and calcium
  • More antioxidants that help prevent eye trouble like cataracts, according to this study and this study
  • More choline your brain and liver depend on to stay healthy
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 1/3 less cholesterol – that said, eggs don’t actually raise cholesterol levels in most of us. On the contrary, eggs may reduce your risk of heart disease risk by modifying the shape of “bad” LDL cholesterol, increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, and improving insulin sensitivity.
  • healthy breakfast foods whole grains

    #2 WHOLE GRAIN BREAD

    Enjoy your eggs with whole grain toast – your online farmers market has a variety of healthful breads to suit your taste buds. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a number of studies have shown that incorporating whole grain foods in an overall healthy diet may help lower your risk for many diseases, including stroke, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and colorectal cancer.

    Whole grains are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins and many other nutrients that help to lower blood pressure, reduce gum disease, strengthen the immune system, and control weight. (If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, be sure to go for gluten-free options.)

    So in the morning, sit down to toast and eggs cooked any way you like them, or grab a couple of hard-boiled eggs for a portable breakfast on the go.

    local granola

    3. OATS
    4. NUTS
    5. YOGURT

    Combine the first two of these healthy breakfast foods and they add up to… granola! Our granola is made in small batches by Hudson Henry Baking Co. in Palmyra, Va.

    Oats contain a unique fiber called oat beta-glucan which, among other things, reduces cholesterol. Thanks to this fiber, oats make you feel full, like eggs. Oats are also rich in antioxidants that may boost your heart health and lower your blood pressure. (While oats don’t have gluten, they’re often contaminated with it from being processed with other grains. So if gluten’s an issue, look for oats that are certified gluten-free.)

    The nuts in granola are filling and help prevent weight gain. Nuts are high in magnesium, potassium, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They’ve been shown to improve heart disease risk factors, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and decrease inflammation. Yeah, they’re high in calories, but scientists have tested almonds and found that you don’t absorb all the fat – in the case of a one-ounce serving, your body only absorbs about 129 calories.

    To boost the protein content of a nice nutty granola breakfast, toss a few handfuls on top of yogurt. We get our yogurt from sustainable artisans like Mountain View Farm in Fairfield, Va. In addition to leaving you feeling satisfied, full-fat yogurt contains conjugated linoleic acid, which may increase fat loss and decrease breast cancer risk.

    All together, oats, nuts, and yogurt add up to a breakfast of healthy champions!

    local berries

    6. FRUIT, FRESH OR FROZEN

    Fresh fruits are arguably the healthiest of all the healthy breakfast foods. All fruits contain vitamins, potassium, and fiber, and they’re relatively low in calories.

    To get your daily dose of vitamin C, savor one large Florida-grown orange while they’re in our winter-time market. It’ll give you more than 100% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C.

    A cup of strawberries also contains the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. In fact, all berries are mini superfoods. They’re packed with antioxidants, including anthocyanins that protect your heart and may help you age better. They reduce inflammation, too.

    To keep you supplied with fresh-picked berries during berry season, we rely on local farmers like the Geyer family of Agriberry Farm in Hanover, Va.

    local coffee

    7. COFFEE

    Believe it or not, that cup of Joe is a healthy breakfast food — not to mention an excellent way to jumpstart your day. And it’s not just the caffeine – a 2005 study found that, believe it or not, coffee is the number-one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet. That’s because we drink so much of it. Doctors say it’s actually best if you get most of your antioxidants from things like berries.

    But the antioxidants in coffee are icing on the cake. And combined with caffeine, coffee is surprisingly good for you. Coffee drinking has been linked to a lower risk of diseases such as diabetes and prostate cancer, and it may even help you live longer. It reduces inflammation, protects the cells lining your blood vessels, and decreases liver disease risk.

    Sipping on some caffeine has been shown to improve mood, alertness, and mental performance. In addition to waking you up, caffeine also increases your metabolic rate and fat burning. Just 100 mg of caffeine can help you burn an extra 79–150 calories in a day.

    Even the little bit you get in decaf can offer health benefits. An analysis of 41 studies reported that you can maximize the benefits while limiting the side effects if you get 38–400 mg per day (18). Depending on the strength of the coffee, that’s about one-third of a cup to four cups of caffeinated coffee per day.

    We Veggie Fairies like our coffee with a conscience. So we get our caffeine fix from local roasters like Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters in Gloucester, Va. Celeste and Jo source their beans from small plantations that they’ve personally vetted, and they continuously give back to their community, with a focus on keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean and healthy. Read their story here.
    *
    So to get your day off to a great start, make one or all of these seven great local healthy breakfast foods part of your morning routine!

    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, grass-fed 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.

    find joy with local food

    Find joy with local food

    After work, this local business owner actually finds joy in the kitchen

    By Sherri B, Veggie Fairy & Area Manager

    It’s a joyful story that starts with vintage aprons…

    So, I heard that one of our Seasonal Roots members collects vintage aprons. I couldn’t wait to see for myself on the next delivery day. Little did I know it would lead me to a new discovery about how to find joy with local food.

    When delivery day rolled around this week, Richmond business owner Melissa Barlow of Your Joyful Space was sporting one of her aprons. She was busy cooking up some joy when I delivered her Family Basket at the wellness co-working site, Balance RVA.

    While I was there, I got to ask Melissa about her unique collection.

    find joy with local food

    Why aprons?

    Melissa explains, “Everyday at my business, Your Joyful Space, I am committed to helping my clients find the joy in their homes and businesses. We do it by sorting and creating a space that works for them.

    “After work, I focus on my own home. And cooking in my kitchen is a big part of expressing joy for me. When I get in my kitchen with fresh ingredients to cook a meal for my daughter, I put on one of my vintage aprons.

    “It makes me feel strengthened by all the women that wore it before me. It also helps me enjoy my time in my kitchen and adds comfort to the end of my day.”

    Why find joy with local food?

    According to Melissa, “I cook with Seasonal Roots produce because it’s fresh and food tastes better when it’s fresh.

    “As a local business owner myself, weekly deliveries make sure my fridge is stocked. That way I’m ready to throw on an apron and put a quick, healthy meal together.

    “This week, I kept dinner simple by roasting leeks, white sweet potatoes, and beets together and added chicken.”

    find joy with local food

    A happy ending

    If you’re cooking for kids, too, like Melissa, check out 7 ways to help kids eat veggies & fruits here on the Veggie Fairy Blog.

    The way Melissa uses local food and vintage aprons to find joy really brightened my day. How do you use local food to find joy?

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Seasonal Roots is much more than an online market — we’re a community of farmers, artisans, and members. We’re all dedicated to eating healthy, buying local, protecting the environment, raising animals sustainably and humanely, and spreading joy to our friends, family, and neighbors.

    Since 2011, we’ve been empowering our members to live better by eating better. That means more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. Every week, we provide you with hand-picked local produce, sustainable meat and dairy, and hand-crafted artisan goods — all hand-delivered direct from Dirt to Doorstep®.

    heart-healthy local food for American Heart Month

    American Heart Month & heart-healthy local food

    This American Heart Month, show your heart some love!

    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    While Valentines are nice, a healthy ticker is even better! February is American Heart Month, the perfect time to get in the habit of keeping heart-healthy foods on hand.

    We’ve rounded up our top 10 heart-healthy, local foods. They’re all recommended by the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the Cleveland Clinic. Some of these items are available year-round, and some are seasonal. So keep an eye out when you’re browsing our online farmers market. If you put a few of the foods on this list in your Seasonal Roots basket each week (not just during American Heart Month!) your heart will love you for it!!!

    heart healthy leafy greens

    #1 Dark leafy greens

    Leafy greens are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to heart health. Examples include kale, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and watercress. These tasty greens are grown locally all year round and can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Try using these greens in sandwiches instead of lettuce, or mix them up for a heart-healthy salad. We’ve got more ideas on how to cook greens, plus kale recipes for kids of all ages!

    heart healthy whole grains

    #2 Whole grain items

    Opt for whole grains when you can. This applies to items such as pasta, breads, cereals, and crackers. In their original, unprocessed state, whole grains still have the outer layers that contain healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber, plus carbohydrates, protein, and healthy, unsaturated fats. So grains like whole wheat, oats, and kasha provide more heart-healthy fiber than white flour. Bonus: They’re more filling too!

    heart healthy tomatoes

    #3 Tomatoes

    This versatile fruit masquerading as a vegetable can be added to most savory dishes — think salads, pastas, eggs, and sandwiches. In addition to antioxidants, tomatoes are high in potassium, which can help control high blood pressure.

    heart healthy acorn squash

    #4 Red, yellow, and orange veggies

    Many studies show that carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and acorn squash are packed with carotenoids, fiber, and vitamins. These are all beneficial for your heart. So cook with color and eat the rainbow!

    heart healthy legumes hummus

    #5 Hummus

    Legumes in general are great for your circulation, and hummus is chock-full of chickpeas. Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans, and they’re a type of legume. The olive oil in hummus is good for your heart, too! A study compared eating legumes once a week to eating legumes four times a week. The result: eating legumes four times a week was associated with a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease.

    heart healthy berries

    #6 Berries

    Everybody loves berries, and local berry season is coming soon! Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are rich in fiber and antioxidants. This is especially true when you eat them in season — at their flavorful and nutritional peak. There’s evidence that getting your antioxidant vitamins from food is much more effective and beneficial than getting them from supplements. So go ahead and grab another helping of berries!

    heart healthy tofu

    #7 Tofu

    If you’ve never cooked with tofu, don’t be intimidated! Try tofu in a flavorful stir-fry with fresh veggies for a heart-healthy lunch or dinner. Research indicates that including more soy foods like tofu in your diet may have cardiovascular benefits, like lowering blood pressure. The prepared vegan meals in your online farmers market are a super-easy and tasty way to get your tofu. So go for it, whether your a tofu newbie or a tofu super fan.

    heart healthy asparagus

    #8 Asparagus

    According to the NIH, asparagus is filled with mighty nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate, and fiber. This tender, sweet vegetable is delicious when roasted and drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Plus, asparagus only has 25 calories per cup (or about 5 calories per large spear) – win-win!

    heart healthy broccoli

    #9 Broccoli

    Crisp, fresh broccoli florets dipped in hummus are an extra powerful snack with a whopping list of heart-healthy nutrients. The list includes vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps lower total and LDL cholesterol levels by binding to bile in the gut (which is made up of cholesterol). Then it gets removed from the body along with the body’s waste.

    heart healthy chocolate red wine

    #10 Dark chocolate & red wine

    Since this is Cupid’s month, we veggie fairies are happy to report that dark chocolate and red wine are both good for your heart! (Based on personal experience, there are definitely some days when wine and chocolate are really good for mental health, too. Just sayin’…!) The Cleveland Clinic put dark chocolate up against red wine to see if one is better for you than the other. Find out which one was the winner here!

    SO IN CONCLUSION…
    Make American Heart Month last all year long. By eating these foods locally when they’re freshly made or in season, you’re maximizing the nutritional benefits for your heart. Other heart-healthy staples to keep on hand include nuts like almonds and walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, canned or dried legumes, and quinoa (a grain that’s a great source of protein and rich in fiber). So with a clink of our glasses of red wine we say: Here’s to your heart!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Seasonal Roots is much more than an online market — we’re a community of farmers, artisans, and members. We’re all dedicated to eating healthy, buying local, protecting the environment, raising animals sustainably and humanely, and spreading joy to our friends, family, and neighbors.

    Since 2011, we’ve been empowering our members to live better by eating better. That means more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. Every week, we provide you with hand-picked local produce, sustainable meat and dairy, and hand-crafted artisan goods — all hand-delivered direct from Dirt to Doorstep®.

    picky eater kids healthy recipes

    Got a picky eater? Try these healthy recipes

    Three easy healthy recipes for picky eaters, whether or not they’re kids!

    Got a picky eater? Whether your picky loved one is a kid or a grown up, here are three easy recipes to help picky eaters of all ages eat more spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes, plus other veggies… with or without their knowledge.

    To make it even easier, you can get many of these ingredients and sides home-delivered from Seasonal Roots’ year-round farmers market. Check it out here. If you’re not a member yet, the 30-day money back guarantee makes it easy to give it a try.

    HEALTHY SPINACH RECIPE

    Who doesn’t love meatballs? And they’re a great place to hide the greens!

    picky eater spinach meatballs

    Sneaky Spinach Meatballs

    4 servings
    For a quick delicious meal, serve with your favorite local artisan’s prepared sauce, pasta, and a simple side of apple slices.

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 c fresh local bread, cut or torn into pieces, or substitute Seasonal Roots’ gluten-free options
    • 3/4 c Oberweis milk, or water
    • 1 lb grassfed beef or a mixture of grassfed meats of your choice
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 pastured egg
    • 1/2 c cheese (parmesan or your fave), grated, or substitute Unmoo’s Notz
    • handful parsley and basil, chopped finely (optional)
    • 1-3 handfuls spinach or kale, puréed in a blender to make it invisible
    • salt/pepper to taste

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Get ready to bake or fry, your choice. Preheat oven to 350 or coat frying pan with grapeseed oil or vegetable oil.
    2. Soak bread in bowl of milk/water.
    3. Combine ground beef, garlic, egg, cheese, and greens. Feel free to use or mix together different types of ground meat: veal, pork, chicken, etc.
    4. Mix the soaked bread into the ground beef mixture and add milk. Form into balls.
    5. Oven: Bake meatballs on cooking tray for about 15 minutes, depending on size. Stovetop: Heat frying pan before adding meatballs for a nice crust.
    6. Meanwhile, boil your favorite pasta according to package directions and heat up a local artisan sauce in a saucepan or microwave. Dish up and serve!

    HEALTHY KALE RECIPE

    Serve a smoothie as a drink, or for a really picky eater, go one step further — popsicles! Kids and adults alike sometimes don’t care for the texture of smoothies, but most of the time we all love popsicles.

    picky eater kale smoothie popsicles

    Hide the Kale Smoothie Popsicles

    2 servings as a smoothie / or many popsicles

    When bananas are a little past their prime, that’s when they’re perfect for smoothies, so pop them in the freezer. That way they’ll stop ripening and will be the right texture and temp for a smoothie whenever you’re ready to whip these up.

    TIP: Freeze the kale ahead of time, too. Wash it, dry it, and throw it in the freezer as soon as you get it. Freezing it makes it less bitter. It will keep for weeks, even months, so you’ll have it whenever you need it with most of its nutrients intact.

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 frozen ripe banana, peeled and sliced
    • 1/2 c frozen mixed berries, blueberries, or fresh apple, cored and chopped
    • 1 T chia seeds
    • 2 c frozen kale, chopped if leaves are large
    • 2/3 c pomegranate juice (it hides the taste of kale best)
    • 3/4-1/2 c water, or milk for more creaminess
    • 2/3 c pomegranate juice (it hides the taste of kale best)
    • 1 t – 1 T honey (for more sweetness – optional)
    • 1 T peanut or almond butter (optional)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Add all ingredients to a blender.
    2. Blend until smooth, adding more water as needed. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. Add more banana or honey for more sweetness as needed.
    3. Pour into popsicle molds, freeze, and enjoy for a snack or dessert.

    HEALTHY SWEET POTATO RECIPE

    Actually, you can hide just about anything, including sweet potatoes! Use puréed or mashed sweet potatoes to thicken your favorite chili. It’s delish! Don’t have a chili fave? Try this one…

    picky eater sweet potato chili

    Secret Sweet Potato Chili

    Serves at least 4
    This is a good recipe for a busy day at home. Throw it all in one big soup pot or Dutch oven and let it cook — the longer the better! In fact, you can make it ahead and refrigerate or freeze for later.

    Also, there’s a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the amount of each ingredient. So feel free to adjust everything to your taste for spice or thickness. Serve with fresh, locally baked crusty bread, and/or over spaghetti noodles, plus a side of carrot sticks… or if your picky eater “does” salad, go for the green — just keep it simple: lettuce or arugula, craisins, and sunflower seeds, topped with bits of cheese, for instance.

    TIP: Bake sweet potatoes ahead of time, then slip off the skins and either mash them or give ’em a spin in the blender.

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 3-6 slices pastured nitrate-free bacon, sliced
    • 1-3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 onion, chopped or diced
    • 1-3 lbs grassfed chuck roast or similar cut, cubed
    • 4-8 tomatoes, chopped, or up to a 20oz can of pureed tomatoes
    • 1 c or more water, as needed
    • 1 c or more mashed or pureed baked sweet potatoes (optional)
    • 1 can kidney beans (optional)
    • 6 slices of jalapeno (jarred or fresh), minced, discard seeds
    • 1 t salt (optional)
    • 1 T chili powder, or to taste
    • 1 T cumin
    • 1 T oregano, dried (if fresh, use 3x more)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Don’t bother pulling the bacon slices apart. Just pull them out of the package all stuck together and cut them up as is into half-inch slices. Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears, whichever you find easier. Fry in a big, deep soup pot.
    2. As bacon bits start to brown, add garlic, then onion.
    3. When onion starts to turn translucent, add beef cubes to brown. If you’re making a larger amount of chili, dump the bacon, garlic, and onion into a bowl on the side and brown cubes in batches, pouring off liquid as needed and dumping each batch in the bowl. When all the cubes are browned, dump everything from the bowl back into the pot.
    4. Add tomatoes, fresh or canned, and enough water (if needed) to just barely cover everything. Increase temperature to bring to a boil.
    5. While waiting for it to boil, stir in sweet potato, beans (if using), jalapeno, and seasonings.
    6. When it reaches a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Stir occasionally and add water as needed while it cooks for at least an hour. Two hours is better. You’ll know it’s done when the meat cubes are so tender they fall apart easily with a fork.
    7. After you turn the heat off, it will stay hot on the stove for a good hour. You can also reheat it later. Then ladle it up and enjoy!

    FOR MORE INFO ABOUT. . .

    …Tips to help kids eat more veggies, click here.
    …Signing up for Seasonal Roots home-delivered farmers market, click here.
    …How to order from Seasonal Roots, click here.
    …Seasonal Roots, click here.

    Heirloom Tomato Pizza

      As someone who eats seasonally, you want to be an adventurous eater and try it all. Maybe some things like heirloom cherry tomatoes have proven their place in your meal plan, but things like fennel and turnip, not so much. Often, when a veggie turns us off, it’s because we had a bad experience […]

    celebrate local vegetables

    Celebrate Vegetables

    – By Duane, Head Veggie Fairy

    I remember the first time I experienced Brussels sprouts in the field. I found myself in a fantasy world full of stalks that extended above my head, with beautiful leaves of purple and green. AND I was given a knife and allowed to harvest them myself! What more could a 10 year old boy want?! I ate heartily. Not only were they the fruits of my labor, but they tasted AMAZING and nothing like the frozen Brussels sprouts from the grocery store I was used to. It was veggie adventures like this that now have me celebrating local vegetables today.

    May is full of all kinds of celebrations so we’re taking this week to celebrate the veggies themselves. Whether vegetables define your lifestyle or complement your meat, here are three reasons they’re worth celebrating.

    Celebrate the Wholesome Goodness

    It’s a fact that vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants are the highest in vegetables when they’re harvested at peak ripeness, when they’ve had all the time they need to fully soak in all the goodness sun and soil have to offer. The sooner you eat them after harvesting, the greater the nutritional impact. Their extra fresh flavor will also make you want to eat more! The most tender veggies, like spinach, lose about 60% of their nutritional value within a week of harvesting, so it’s important to cut down the time it takes to get from the farm to your table. If you’re going to eat vegetables, you should eat them as fresh and flavorful as you can get them and take advantage of all that wholesome goodness.

    Celebrate the Diversity of Vegetables

    Getting your vegetables direct from the farmer introduces you to new and different varieties you may not have access to otherwise. Seasonal Roots has three types of kale on the menu at this moment – Tuscan, red Russian, and curly. All have different flavors. Did you know Russian kale is sweeter tasting than curly kale? Have you tried fresh garlic from the field? Do you know what a garlic scape is and what to do with it? You’ll be inspired to try new things as the changing seasons bring fresh varieties to the market!

    Not only will you be inspired to try new vegetables, but you’ll be inspired to prepare them in different ways by other veggie lovers in your local food community. Asparagus is awesome on the grill and you can eat the spears like fries. Brussels sprouts roast to perfection in the oven. Golden beets are milder than their red sisters and won’t trick you into thinking you have a kidney infection! If you massage your collard greens, they give back with a sweeter taste and texture in your salad. Vegetables offer endless diversity… you’ll want to be a part of celebrating and trying new varieties!

    Celebrate Working Together as a Community

    Have you talked to your local farmer recently? You would be amazed by the amount of passion they put into growing your food. Because they care, practices like what variety and origin of seed they plant, spray/no spray, rotating crops for best nutrients, and picking produce at peak ripeness, matter. They want the community of families they feed to have the best produce! Sometimes that means a bug or two because they didn’t spray, or waiting an extra week for strawberries so they reach their  peak flavor and nutrients before harvesting.

    Getting away from mass produced food has become crucial to our health and the health of our world, yet we are still a busy society. We have limited time to spend in the kitchen. Many local food artisans rely on local farmers for their produce. When you can trust your community of local food artisans because they share the same philosophy, it’s easier to pick up some yummy prepared food, enjoy it for a meal, and be confident you are still benefiting from the best food.

    By supporting local farmers, food artisans, and organizations like Seasonal Roots, you help create a strong food system in our own backyard. We’re all in this together and when we work together as a community, it’s certainly a reason to celebrate and eat more local veggies!

    Try something new this week, whether it be getting to know your local farmer better, trying a new variety of vegetable, or ordering something prepared by a local food artisan that you haven’t tried before. Your taste buds will enjoy the celebration!

     

     

    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, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome 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.

    red cap patisserie chocolate

    Local food takes the guilt out of guilty pleasures

    Case Study: Red Cap Patisserie

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    When you buy local food, your money stays in your community instead of going to some faraway corporate headquarters. Buy local food and your dollars create jobs at local farms, food distribution systems like Seasonal Roots, and food artisans like Red Cap Patisserie, which employs eight talented people in Richmond, Virginia.

    red cap patisserie local jobs

    So you can indulge that craving for, say, handmade chocolate, guilt-free, with Red Cap’s Dark Chocolate Toasted Almond Sour Cherry Bark. Not only is it good for the community, it’s also better for you than mass-produced chocolate. It’s freshly made, with no preservatives or artificial flavors.

    And you can feel virtuous about it, too — compared to the global industrial food complex, food from a local artisan like Red Cap Patisserie uses less fuel and produces less CO2. So local food belches fewer greenhouse gases and fights global warming. That’s cool.

    (Read this full list of 10 ways local food helps you live better.)

    For two decades, pastry chef Martine Wladar handcrafted delicious treats for cafés and restaurants in New York City and New Jersey. We talked with her husband and partner John about how they found their way to Richmond, Virginia, where they now work together on their unique take on traditional French- and European-inspired fare.

    red cap patisserie martine & john

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    You both grew up in New Jersey. How did you wind up in Richmond’s historic Fan district?

    JOHN:

    It was a corporate relocation on my part in 2013. Martine had been working in the food industry for years, so we created a kitchen in our home where she could bake more seriously than she could with a residential oven. We signed up for the Saint Stephen’s Farmers Market and did that regularly.

    red cap patisserie farmers market

    After a couple years, a space opened up in the Fan and we were fortunate enough to acquire it. That let us open the retail operation and expand the commercial operation. Meanwhile I left my corporate job and began working for Martine. I’ve only been fired a couple times and she always takes me back.

    red cap patisserie ribbon cutting

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Ha! But… not all couples can actually work together without killing each other. What’s your secret?

    JOHN:

    It’s something we work very hard at. We’ve been married since 1988, but when we embarked on this it changed our dynamic in many ways. You learn to be patient and just be quiet and listen and really try to hear the other person, which is a good practice whether you work together or not!

    red cap patisserie handmade caramel

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    So in our market, to start with you’ll be offering Chocolate Chip Brownies, Salty Sweet Pecans, super adorable Marshmallow Chicks, Sea Salt Caramels, and lots of dark chocolate treats. In addition to that, in your shop you offer all kinds of freshly baked sweet and savory pastries. How do you decide what to offer?

    JOHN:

    What we offer is guided by Martine’s intuition and inspiration. She’s had a lifelong love for baking and cooking. She’s taken various courses at cooking schools and perfected her skills on the job, and opening the shop was a unique opportunity to pull her expertise together in both baking and cooking.

    red cap patisserie martine

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    How did Martine learn the chocolate side of the business?

    JOHN:

    She has worked with Jacques Torres, who is a famous French chocolate master. When we opened this place she said, “You know, eventually I really want to offer chocolate!” Within a year and a half we had built up enough in-house staff to break out and offer chocolate treats and caramel. She really loves caramel, so we do our own caramel in-house and blend our own chocolate in-house. We like a particular chocolate taste. Some chocolates are too bitter, some have too much “cherry” flavor, some are just too sweet. We blend it to hit that sweet spot in between.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    How do you choose your ingredients?

    JOHN:

    It’s about quality in terms of the craft of making an excellent product that you can feel good about eating. Whenever possible, we source our ingredients locally. We’ll barter at the farmers market for eggs. We’re using real ingredients — real cream, real butter, real flour. No ingredients you can’t recognize or pronounce. That makes for a delicious product and a healthier one, even when it’s a treat.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    What’s your carbon footprint like?

    JOHN:

    We’re local, so we’re close to our customers. We also aim for sustainability in packaging. We try not to use any styrofoam and reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use as well as the packaging our supplies come in. We recycle everything that leaves the kitchen — unlike larger establishments, where everything just goes in the dumpster.

    *

    red cap patisserie martine pastry chef

    Red Cap Patisserie shares Seasonal Roots’ mission to make the world a better place through local food! If you want to see the full range of Martine’s creations, check out the mouthwatering photo gallery on the Red Cap Patisserie Instagram page. If you’re inspired to stop by Martine and John’s shop the next time you’re in Richmond, you’ll find directions on their website.

    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, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome 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.

    farm at red hill ginger turmeric

    Ginger and turmeric

    They’re good for your health and this local family farm


    By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team:

    Ginger and turmeric are both ancient spices known for fighting inflammation and boosting your immune system. Ginger is also an old-time remedy for nausea. Best of all, they do it all with amazing flavor — from ginger’s spicy sweetness with lemon undertones, to turmeric’s gentle notes of lemony mint.

    ginger turmeric health benefits

    The ginger puree and turmeric puree in our home-delivered farmers market is great in smoothies! And it’s grown by Wendy and Richard on the Farm at Red Hill outside Charlottesville, Va. The husband-and-wife team make a variety of artisan foods to jazz up any meal, and it’s all fresh, with no preservatives, no added sugar, and gluten free.

    According to Wendy, they got their start making local artisan food thanks to a bumper crop of tomatoes.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Have you always been farmers?

    WENDY:

    Nope, electrical contractors! But 12 years ago when our two kids were little we were looking for something that would be more conducive to family life. We had five acres, and luckily Richard is very handy and an electrician. We bought all our equipment at auction or on eBay, built four greenhouses, and started growing all sorts of vegetables.

    farm at red hill

    I’m not a farmer and neither is Richard, but we’ve learned so much — we literally knew nothing. We’ve learned that the number of mistakes you can make is just incredible! We also learned that if you show up good things happen. We started selling what we were growing in the Charlottesvile farmers market. And we had great success! Until the middle of summer when everyone and their grandmother is growing tomatoes. We wound up feeding a lot of ours to our chickens. They were happy but we weren’t making any money.

    farm at red hill all-natural salsa

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Oh no! How’d you stay in business?

    WENDY:

    Well, Richard started making salsa and gazpacho. We were growing sorrel, too, which is a lemon flavored herb, and a friend bought it to make hummus instead of using lemon juice. That inspired us to start making hummus. One thing led to another. We started making jam because our whole farm is a no-spray zone. We didn’t want to send the kids out to pick things for dinner and then have to warn them to put on gloves just to go in the greenhouse or the orchard. But no-spray means we have delicious but ugly peaches that no one would buy. So we made jam. That was really popular. Pretty soon, the artisan foods we were making got to be more popular than the fruits and vegetables we were growing.

    farm at red hill all-natural tzatziki

    The English Cucumbers were the reason for our tzatziki and gazpacho. The ginger and turmeric are our newest crops and they inspired us to do the fresh grated vacuum packed items along with the jam. The trick was learning how to make everything in a way that it would have a long enough life without using preservatives, since we’re all-natural.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    What do you use instead of preservatives?

    WENDY:

    Shutting out the air by vacuum packing is one way. Also, lemon is a natural preservative. Of course that makes things sour, so to counteract that in the salsa we add carrots, which are naturally sweet. We don’t add sugar to anything. You look at salsas in the grocery store and even a lot of the all-natural ones still put sugar in there. Even if they call it stevia or agave, it’s still a form of sugar.

    farm at red hill all-natural local food

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Do you still make it all yourselves?

    WENDY:

    We’ve grown so much we’re able to employ other people, too, to help us make and distribute everything. We’re providing jobs for eight people right here in our community.

    the farm at red hill

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    So did farming turn out to be good for your family life?

    WENDY:

    Oh, the kids were mortified when we started out. They didn’t want to be farmers! But now, twelve years later, they like to say their parents have a farm. Now it’s a status thing. But it’s more than that. When our daughter was applying to colleges, for her essay she wrote, “What does a teenage girl and a rooster have in common? The answer is absolutely nothing.” She wrote about how she was tortured and mortified to be the child of a farmer. But in the end, she wrote, “I can’t believe that ten years later, I can now see that when life gives you tomatoes, you can make salsa!”

    *

    Check out Wendy and Richard’s ginger puree, turmeric puree, jam, hummus, tzatziki, and more in the Extras section of our home-delivered farmers market. You can also visit the Farm at Red Hill on Facebook.

    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, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome 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.

    organic vs sustainable vs local

    Organic vs sustainable vs local — which is best?

    Organic vs sustainable vs local — which is best?


    By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team:

    We get this question pretty much daily: “So are your farms Certified Organic?” When people ask that, we totally get where they’re coming from. We all just want to eat nutritious, safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly food, but it’s not like any of us have the time to research every item we buy. So the government’s “Certified Organic” label has become a convenient shortcut to eating healthy without harming the planet.

    If only it were true.

    Organic vs sustainable vs local… how do you decide which is best? Here at Seasonal Roots, we’re more concerned about sustainable and local than organic, so we don’t require our local farmers to be Certified Organic. Here’s why:

    1. We partner with local farmers.

    Many of them are multi-generational. That means they care for their land, crops, and animals with the next generation in mind. They use sustainable practices like rotating their crops to avoid sucking all the nutrients out of the soil. The vast majority of our farmers don’t spray, either, because that would jeopardize the integrity of their land. If they do spray, it’s minimal and only as required. One of our sustainable farmers has a friend who runs a Certified Organic farm not far from him. One year, our sustainable farmer sprayed his yellow squash one time all season because it was necessary. His Certified Organic friend, on the other hand, sprayed his squash on a weekly schedule using a spray approved by the USDA. Our farmer isn’t considered Certified Organic, but his weekly spraying friend is allowed to use that title.

    2. “Organic” doesn’t equal “locally grown”.

    In fact, it may even be grown in a foreign country and shipped to the U.S. The result? A bigger carbon footprint. That’s not eco-friendly. There’s also no guarantee that the food was produced under ideal conditions for farmers, laborers, or livestock, and an organic label has nothing to do with food safety.

    3. The best way to know if your food is nutritional, eco-friendly, and safe is to know your farmer.

    That’s not possible for most of us as individuals. But when we come together as a group like Seasonal Roots, that’s exactly what we do. We know our farmers. We talk with them, visit their farms, and develop relationships with them. We share their stories with you so you can know them too, even if you don’t have time to go visit them yourself. It’s not quite as easy as the “Certified Organic” shortcut, but it’s a lot easier than trying to do it all by yourself.

    4. Most nutrients begin to degrade from the moment produce is harvested.

    The sooner it gets to you the better. Also, many studies have shown that fruit that’s picked closer to the peak of ripeness (rather than being picked green and ripening on the shelf or by being gassed) is more nutritious than fruit that’s picked before or after peak, whether it’s organic or not. This is why we hustle to get your produce to you as soon as possible after harvesting, and why being local helps — it doesn’t have to travel very far. Much of the food in grocery stores has traveled thousands of miles and many days to get there, losing nutrients every hour of the way.

    5. There’s no standard definition for “local”.

    Our standard is within about 150 miles of our delivery areas in Virginia. So most of our local partners are in Virginia, and a few are in southern Pennsylvania or eastern North Carolina. To maintain a healthy variety of options during the winter, we partner with sustainable farmers in Florida. We call that produce “regional” because it can get to us within a day of harvest without resorting to flying. Members who prefer to eat only what’s in season locally can opt out of our winter-time regional offerings.

    We support our local farmers because we know and trust them and their practices. They produce safe food for their families, our families. and your families. Wherever you may be, we hope you’ll join us in supporting your local farmers, too!

    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, grass-fed 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.