veteran-owned grassfed farm Cattle Run Farm

Veteran-owned grassfed farm is good for America

From the Army to the farm, this veteran continues to serve

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

When Seasonal Roots’ Farmer Connector, Sam, recently visited Cattle Run Farm, LLC, he quickly observed happy, grassfed beef cows grazing the rolling pastures in central Virginia. You can count on Sam to find the best producers we can all feel good about. Cattle Run Farm, LLC, is a third generation family farm and veteran-owned, with the best grassfed beef.

After five deployments and 21 years in the Army, 1st Sergeant Ralph T. Morton retired in 2017, to his family farm in Ruckersville, Va., to help his father and sister with the 175-acre family farm. But his dad’s health was failing, and just two months later he passed away. Through his legacy and commitment to educating the future, Ralph is excited about continuing the family’s farming tradition with innovation and strategic initiatives. Not only does the farm provide grassfed beef, but they produce thornless blackberries, herbs, and vegetables.

Cattle Run Farm teaching 2

In between his daily farm chores, this veteran continues to serve others as he welcomes school groups, 4-H groups, community members, and other veterans to the farm, to engage in non-formal learning opportunities.

Ralph, a 4-H alum himself, and Cattle Run Farm, LLC, are designing an Agricultural Innovation Learning Lab (AILL) to innovate, motivate, and educate youth and families about science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math (STEAM) using agriculture. The primary focus of the AILL is to provide hands-on, real-life application experiential learning opportunities that support social-emotional learning and community development. Additionally, programs are designed to develop curiosity and stimulate critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills, while linking key concepts to prior knowledge and practice.

The program will run from July 8, 2019, to August 1, 2019. Start your planning early as they only have 60 slots available. We will keep you posted about the registration process!

Cattle Run Farm teaching

Obviously, Ralph is committed to teaching the next generation, and the Veggie Fairy wanted to find out why.


Why teach children who aren’t growing up on farms about good farming practices?


If we don’t preserve the family farm way of life, we’ll be a dying breed. All our food will come from big corporations, who don’t have the same commitment to good animal husbandry and land stewardship as small farmers do. Therefore, we wonder why we have unhealthy communities. Good agrarian practices lead to good health.


How did you learn about farming?


Farming has been a part of me since I was a little boy. I have been around farming my whole life. I was born and raised here on the farm. I grew up learning from my father and grandfather, and participating in 4-H youth development activities.

My vision is to do the same thing with my children that my father and grandfather did with me. I have four kids — the oldest is in college at the University of Arizona, while the younger three enjoy being out on the farm. As a parent, it’s important to expose and engage children at an early age to help them develop skills, a work ethic, and to have a greater appreciation for agriculture and natural resources.

Cattle Run Farm Ralph & his kids 1

I give our kids animals to be responsible for and they look forward to coming out every day to feed and care for them. Kids are sponges. You show them something one time and they’re saying, “I want do it! I want to do it!”

Cattle Run Farm Ralph & his kids 2


Why did you choose to stick with grassfed?


For us, it makes raising cattle economically feasible. We have a lot of grass and living outside on pasture is low stress for them. Grassfed means cattle are allowed to forage and graze for their own fresh food. I use a rotational grazing system, using best practices gleaned from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). We took our pastureland and divided it into ten paddocks. Every seven days the cows rotate to a new paddock of fresh grass. This allows the grass to grow back for the next rotation. We do supplement the grass with a little bit of non-GMO grain, that is purchased from our local co-op. Maintaining good animal health requires giving them proper grasses, forages, and legumes which requires good soil health.


How do you keep the soil healthy?


Soil management is a key part of rotational grazing. We use both commercial and organic fertilizers. We are constantly monitoring the health of the soil by taking soil samples twice a year and adding the proper nutrients as needed. We plant legumes such as different types of clovers that naturally release nutrients into the soil through their roots.

Clover is a legume crop, belonging to the bean and pea family of plants. Legumes perform a unique service among the plant world. They fix nitrogen in the soil, transforming nitrogen gas found in air pockets of soil into organic compounds that can be used by plants. They do this by partnering with beneficial bacteria in the soil called Rhizobia, which grows in rounded nodules along the plant’s roots. Once legumes fix nitrogen, surrounding plants can use the nitrogen compounds to fuel growth.

If you just take, take, take from the land and don’t put back, the animals and the grasses won’t get the nutrients they need to grow and produce.

Cattle Run Farm winter


We see you caring for your cows in the snow. How much do your cows stay outside in their natural environment?


Our cattle stay outside the entire time. Every once in a while, one might get a runny nose which can lead to transmittable respiratory problems – that’s the only time we administer antibiotics. Confinement, once you start confining them into feed lots, they get crowded and hot and it turns into a muddy muck hole. Not to mention a high-stress environment, which causes sickness and impacts the quality of the beef. Cattle turned out on pastures stay healthier and less stressed.

Another health practice for our herd is we fenced off our streams, as cattle like to stand in the water when it’s hot to stay cool. But then they develop foot problems and the streams become polluted, which is not environmentally friendly. So we have natural tree canopies for shade and put in an automatic watering system to ensure they’re consuming fresh water daily.

(VEGGIE FAIRY NOTE: Animals on farms that never give antibiotics may suffer unnecessarily if they do get sick and can’t be properly treated. The opposite problem occurs in conventional feed lots that crowd animals together in an unhealthy environment – often, all the animals have to be given antibiotics all the time just to prevent them from getting sick. As a result, some bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, which is making it harder to fight bacterial infections in humans, too.)


How many cattle to you have at one time?


We run a cow-calf operation, a grow-your-own concept, so we’re not just buying someone else’s calves and fattening them up. We run anywhere from 40-45 head. We “background” all our calves, meaning when they’re ready we wean them off their mothers and condition them for 45 days. This prepares them to be turned out to pasture for grazing. Calves on a good forage program can gain anywhere from two to three pounds per day, which is good basic animal husbandry. The management is very methodical.


How does that compare with feed lot farming?


Finishing cattle is a very methodical process. It takes a great deal of planning and crunching numbers. The farmers who are in the cattle feeding business, operating a feed lot, don’t have much time to get their cattle to a certain weight to meet the packer’s request. They only have a window of anywhere from 120 to 240 days to get a 500- to 700-pound steer to a market weight of 1200 to 1300 pounds. Growth implants are delivered through a pellet under the skin in the animal’s ear. They enhance the reproductive hormones that occur naturally in the animal. In steers implants replace some of the hormones that were removed when the animal was castrated. Implants generally encourage protein deposition and discourage fat deposition. This improves both weight gain and feeds conversion. Fat deposition requires more than twice as much feed energy as protein deposition does. At Cattle Run Farm, we don’t foster these practices.


So those are just some of the facts that back up what we always say here at Seasonal Roots: Humane farming is good for the animals, good for us, and good for the planet!

Read about another grassfed farm that’s also part of the Seasonal Roots family.

Here are tips for cooking grassfed beef, which is different from grainfed because it has less saturated fat, more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and more antioxidants like vitamin E.


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, pastured 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

back-to-school slow cooker

Easy back-to-school meals

Summer’s end is a time of “too muchness” but a slow cooker can help you find “just rightness”

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

Summer’s end is a time of “too muchness” – too much back-to-school busy-ness, too much running around with groups, clubs, and committees restarting after the summer lull, too much local food to cook – and not enough time to get it all done.

This is the time to plug in your slow cooker and enjoy “just rightness”. A slow cooker gives you control and convenience. Throw in the ingredients, set the heat and cooking time, then walk away and forget about it for hours… without burning down the house.

When you come back at the end of another crazy day or after a (hopefully) good night’s sleep, a complete meal is waiting for you. Done right, it’s like the veggie fairies came in and worked their magic while you weren’t looking.


How to pick a good slow cooker

Depending on the recipe, you can fill a slow cooker and hit start in about five minutes, just enough time to listen to this fun interview with Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson while you chop and toss in fresh local ingredients. He’s got a new slow cooker cookbook and a some great advice.

Slow cookers are relatively inexpensive, and paying more doesn’t necessarily get you a better piece of gear. All you need it to do is cook slowly and steadily and keep the food warm when it’s done. Most new slow cookers these days are designed to automatically switch to a warm setting after they’re done cooking, which will keep the food at a safe temperature until you’re ready to eat.

When you’re picking one out, the most important part to consider is the insert pot. A heavy, ceramic insert is best for even heat distribution. Other than that, just pick one with a control panel that’s simple and easy to use.

While a lot of bells and whistles aren’t needed, a programmable option may be a useful convenience. It lets your meal start cooking at a predetermined start time for a predetermined length of time.

Planning ahead makes it even more convenient

If you want to start your slow cooker first thing in the morning and your mornings are pretty crazy, just start the night before.

Chop up the fresh local ingredients, measure out the dry ingredients, and prepare any sauce, putting each group of ingredients in its own container. Don’t refrigerate them in the slow cooker’s insert pot. If the insert is chilled, it will take too long to heat up. That will lengthen cooking time, reduce the cooking temperature, and could make your food unsafe.

So in the morning, add ingredients to the cooker according to the recipe. Reheat any sauce to a simmer before you add it to the mix.

When you set the heat level, here’s a general rule of thumb: Cooking on the low setting (170 degrees for most models) takes about twice as long as cooking on high (usually 280 degrees).

If you won’t be home close to the end of the cooking time, this is when it’s good to have a slow cooker that will automatically switch to the warm setting when the cooking is done.

7 easy ways to boost slow cooker flavor

Slow cookers are admittedly a bit glamour-challenged, mostly because they’ve got a reputation for producing pots of bland mush. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t need help from a Top Chef to make sure your slow cooker meals are satisfyingly delicious.

1. Use fresh ingredients, never frozen. If you want to include some of your fresh local produce that you preserved in the freezer, let it defrost before adding it. That way it won’t interfere with the slow cooker’s ability to get all the ingredients hot enough to kill any harmful bacteria that might thrive if the temp is too low.

2. If you’re cooking meat, choose the right cut. Fatty, tougher meats like chuck roasts, short ribs, pork shoulders, and lamb shanks will melt in your mouth after all those hours in the moist, low heat of a slow cooker. Leaner cuts like tenderloin tend to dry out. Same with chicken — dark meat thighs and drumsticks will remain juicier than white meat breasts.

3. If you have a little extra time, brown meat before you add it to the cooker. For a thicker sauce, dredge it in flour before browning. Then use some of the liquid called for in the recipe to scrape up and pour all the savory, brown, caramelized bits from the pan into the cooker. You’ll get a richer flavor that you can’t get from slow-cooking alone.

4. One more bit of meat advice: Trim the fat and skin the chicken to avoid an oily, greasy cooking liquid. By limiting the excess fat, you’ll wind up with delectably silky sauces and gravies.

5. For even cooking, cut everything into uniform-size pieces. Place firm, slow-cooking root vegetables like potatoes and carrots at the bottom and pile more tender veggies and any meat on top.

6. Definitely use spices! But watch the wine. The slow cooker is sealed so the alcohol can’t escape and evaporate like it would from a normal pot. A splash goes a long way.

7. Don’t overfill. The insert pot should be only one-half to two-thirds full, or whatever your cooker’s owner’s manual recommends. It’s okay to slow cook roasts and whole chickens, but make sure the lid still fits snugly.

8. Never lift the lid while it’s cooking — at least not until 30 to 45 minutes before it switches to low to check for doneness. Each peek lets heat escape and adds 15 minutes to the cooking time. Usually there’s no need to stir, either.

9. Add dairy last. Sour cream, milk, and yogurt tend to break down in the slow cooker, so stir them in during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

10. At the end of simmering, a sprinkle of fresh herbs or squeeze of lemon juice brightens flavors and cuts through all those rich slow cooker flavors. You can also finish off with hot sauce, citrus zest, grated Parmesan, good-quality olive oil, or even sauteed garlic.

Cooking from scratch with fresh local food ends in a meal that’s full of more flavor and nutrients than you get from processed foods out a box, bag, or can. And with a slow cooker, it’s almost as easy. Thanks to slow cookers, you can be busy and still enjoy healthy eating!


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, pastured 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

back-to-school meal planning

Back-to-school meal planning

Actually, meal planning is great for any kind of back-to-busy!

Adapted from veggie fairy Shanna D’s 5-part meal planning series:

After the summer, everything starts back up again, which can leave you grabbing whatever’s convenient to eat on the run. That can be hard on your body and your budget. Whether it’s back-to-school at your house or back-to-busy (or both), meal planning can keep you eating healthfully.

It took me a long time to figure out how to successfully meal plan for my family. I kept trying different meal planning systems – trying and failing.

I’m a busy, homeschooling mom. I’ve been a neighborhood market manager for Seasonal Roots’ home-delivered farmers market, and I used to be an agriculture research specialist… if anyone should’ve known how to meal plan, it’s me! Why wasn’t it working? What was I doing wrong?!

Step 1: Throw out the rules

The thing is, there are a lot of websites out there that will tell you how to plan a week of meals. I’d get frustrated trying to follow their rules and lose all the joy that came with cooking and eating nutritious food. What happened to meal planning making your life better, right?!

Well, better means different things for different people. For you, better may mean less time cooking, or less time shopping and more time cooking. Maybe you’re tired of wasting fresh veggies.

I was. I would find myself standing in the kitchen at 4:30pm wondering how I could turn a pile of wilty swiss chard and semi-mushy zucchini into dinner. It was often easier to compost it or even worse, throw it away and opt for the broccoli from the freezer. It was NOT working.

Meal planning IS the answer but everyone meal plans differently. I have diet restrictions and so does my daughter, but my husband can eat anything. Trying to make someone else’s meal plan fit our needs was a recipe for failure. Meal planning only started working when I figured out which rules fit our life. Then I threw the rest away.

So throw out the rules (not the fresh veggies)! With that in mind, check out these free meal planning resources. Just remember: Keep what works, throw the rest away.
This next one has some sample plans, otherwise it’s a paid service:

Step 2: Shop at home

My favorite way to start meal planning is to take inventory of everything I have on hand. In other words, I shop at home.

That was the problem back when I was using prefabricated meal plans. Many have shopping lists prepared for you based on meals selected. I would print these nice little lists and head to the store, completely disregarding what I already had at home or had ordered from Seasonal Roots. Not budget friendly! I was also buying weird products for recipes and never using them again.

Now, before I decide what to cook, I determine what I have, including what’s buried in my freezer. You never want to find the last pound of that beautiful, pastured breakfast sausage bundle you ordered from Seasonal Roots covered in freezer burn!

I was also freezing vegetables to help reduce waste, but… I didn’t know that they should be blanched prior to freezing. The veggies were almost always freezer-burned by time I remembered I had them. Argh.

Now let my order from Seasonal Roots and the freezer inspire my meal planning every week. I’m saving money and time!

Here’s a quick guide on how to freeze extra produce… the correct way, by blanching first!

  • Prepare a stock pot of boiling water.
  • Clean and roughly chop vegetables.
  • Prepare an ice bath for the blanched veggies.
  • Place chopped veggies into a wire basket and lower into rapidly boiling water for a few minutes. The time depends on the vegetable. Here’s a good guide for times.
  • After blanching, put the veggies straight into an ice bath. Once they’re cool, drain them and put them in a freezer-safe container or baggie.
  • You can find more info on freezing produce (which lets you save it for up to a year!), here on the Veggie Fairy Blog.

    Step 3: Know your schedule

    After I finish my home shopping and review my upcoming Seasonal Roots order, I have an accurate idea of what I have on hand. That’s what I use to inspire my weekly plan. But there’s one more vital piece to this puzzle: our weekly schedule.

    It took me a while to figure that out. Normally families have the same commitments week in and week out, but when I assumed I could follow a plan that had a predictable daily themes, like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, and so on, I failed again. It didn’t work.

    Once a week batch cooking — a.k.a. cooking up a storm one day and using the pre-cooked items throughout the week — also didn’t work. No one in my family is ever stoked about leftovers and it felt like that was all we were eating.

    I felt trapped. Once again, these “tried and true” meal plans were not working for me. I was either trying new recipes on my busiest days, or winding up with a large amount of cooked food that had to be eaten whether or not we felt like eating it just to avoid having to throw it away.

    Then it finally hit me. Every week is unique. Duh! It seems so obvious now: If I was going to be successful, I had to plan meals that actually fit our schedule. Rules were tossed again. After all, tacos taste good any night of the week.

    So now, Sunday is my planning day. I take about an hour and sit with a cup of coffee, cookbooks, Pinterest (where every week Seasonal Roots posts new recipes that use seasonal produce items), and my calendar planner.

    Based on what’s actually on our schedule for the upcoming week, I can better decide which nights I should use the crock pot, which nights I can look forward to cooking, and which nights we will need to have leftovers. Leftover night is much more fun when you have a choice in the matter. So make your plan fit your schedule, not someone else’s.

    Step 4: Teamwork

    Teamwork makes the dream work! Five words that make my family giggle and remind us that we are in this together. But if teamwork is so important to our family, why was meal planning and cooking ALL on me?! Involving my family in the planning process was a game changer.

    I was selecting all the meals when I was following prefabricated meal plans. It was easier this way, but I’d wind up frustrated when my family (mainly my daughter) wasn’t interested in eating what I had prepared.

    We all have unique palates and I was only cooking to mine. Meals became more enjoyable for everyone once I started asking my husband and daughter for their input. This is yet another example of why following someone else’s meal plan is not always successful.

    My family helps plan meals each week, which keeps us on track because we are all invested. This is important for children as well. Including kids in the planning process helps them learn healthy eating habits and will make them more excited about what’s on the table for meals. They’re more likely to try new things if they helped choose them.

    My daughter helps me choose the items in our basket every Friday when the Seasonal Roots farmers market opens. Not only is she helping me plan, she’s learning where our food comes from. Many children are not aware of how our food production system works. Food doesn’t come from the grocery store — that’s simply a place where we can buy it. When we order from Seasonal Roots, we can choose our items and see which family farm it’s coming from.

    Knowing where our food comes from and how to prepare it are important life skills. I’m helping my daughter learn by inviting her into the kitchen. In turn, she’s more willing to try new foods and eat what we prepare together. A total win-win!

    And in conclusion…

    Implementing these four things helped us transition from a family that eats on the fly to a family that plans. That’s helping us eat more healthfully. Hopefully it will help you too!


    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

    summer superfoods

    11 summer superfoods to boost health

    Plus recipes for each one!

    Summer is Mother Nature’s blockbuster season. Some faves come early, some late, and some keep coming all summer long. There are dozens of summer superfoods, but here are 11 rock stars — complete with health benefits, harvest season, and a link to a delicious, do-able recipe for each one from our Pinterest library.


    This fragrant herb is popular for its flavor. Its impressive nutrition content is less well known, but it’s actually a great source for vitamin K, manganese, and magnesium, with strong antioxidant and antibacterial qualities. Together they help fight illness and infection. Add to a salad or marinade, sprinkle over berries and ice cream, or tear it into a summer cocktail. Virginia harvest season: May-November. Try this recipe: Easy Caprese Salad

    Bell Peppers

    All colors of sweet bell peppers deliver plenty of vitamin C, as well as some fiber and vitamin B6. Red peppers also contain beta-carotene and lycopene, antioxidants that help prevent cancer, improve cognitive function, and support healthy lungs and skin. Those red colored peppers also give you twice the amount of vitamin C you’d get from a citrus orange. Virginia harvest season: June-August. Try this recipe: Spanish Quinoa Stuffed Peppers


    These antioxidant-packed fruits contain anthocyanins, the flavonoids that give cherries their deep red color along with some serious superpowers. They help regulate immune responses and act as an anti-inflammatory. The sour varieties of this fruit may be even more helpful as an anti-inflammatory. In fact, studies suggest tart cherries could be more effective than aspirin at relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Virginia harvest season: May-August. Try this recipe: Cherry Bread Pudding


    It’s one of the world’s healthiest foods. The anthocyanins in it protect heart health. Its nasunin may help improve blood flow to the brain. It also contains chlorogenic acid, a powerful free-radical scavenger that helps prevent cancer. It supports strong bones, boosts cognition, and protects the digestive system. Virginia harvest season: June-August. Try this recipe: Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach


    Sweet and tangy and bursting with antioxidants, grapes are a good source of vitamin K. That helps blood clot and may contribute to strong bones. A study in Experimental Gerontology found that eating grapes twice a day for six months protected against metabolic decline in regions of the brain associated with early Alzheimer’s disease, and enriched metabolic activity in areas of the brain related to memory and attention. You can snack on them fresh, frozen, or add to salads, salsas, or smoothies. Virginia harvest season: August-October. Try this recipe: Muscadine Almond Smoothie


    Every time you bite into a juicy summer peach, you’re getting a dose of antioxidants, vitamins C and A, and potassium. Potassium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and may aid in muscle recovery after a workout. Virginia harvest season: June-September. Try this recipe: Balsamic Peach Chicken

    Summer Squash

    Zucchini and yellow squash are excellent sources of vitamin C and antioxidants for a strong immune system and good eye health. Use a spiralizer to make a healthy pasta substitute, chop them up and add raw to a grain salad, or brush slices with olive oil and grill. Virginia harvest season: May-September. Try this recipe: Summer Squash, Bacon & Mozzarella Quiche

    Sweet Corn

    Is it a veggie or a grain? One thing we can be sure of is that it’s a rich source of vitamin B1, vitamin B5, vitamin C, phosphorus, manganese, folate, and fiber. All of which means that, on or off the cob, it’s good for your heart, eyes, cancer prevention, and memory enhancement. Virginia harvest season: June-August. Try this recipe: Cowboy Caviar

    Swiss Chard

    This dark leafy green may look like it belongs in winter, but it reaches its peak during summer. It’s also full of cancer-fighting antioxidants, as well as magnesium, which helps fight depression and migraines, and control blood sugar levels. It’s also got potassium for good blood pressure, heart health, and bone and muscle strength. Add to your salad mix, use it as a sandwich or burger wrap, steam it, or add it to soups and stews. Virginia harvest season: All summer. Try this recipe: Swiss Chard Rolls


    These guys deliver an army of antioxidants that have been shown to fight various cancers. They’re also a rich source of vitamins like vitamin C and the beta-carotene that makes them red also makes them good for your eyes and skin. Minerals like potassium and phosphorus protect against cardiovascular disease, build strong bones and teeth, and help reduce blood pressure and inflammation. They detoxify the body and are good for your stomach and urinary tract. Virginia harvest season: July-October. Try this recipe: Tuscan Lentil Soup


    Low in sugar and high in vitamins A and C, this summer treat can be eaten as a refreshing snack, a low-calorie dessert, or part of larger dish. Studies suggest watermelon may lower blood pressure and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus the lycopene in watermelon could help protect the body from UV rays and cancer. Virginia harvest season: June-August. Try this recipe: Watermelon Salad with Mint & Crispy Prosciutto


    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

    potato nutrition facts

    Amazing potato nutrition facts

    Behold the mighty potato!

    Adapted from Live Science:

    Fresh potatoes like the ones grown by the McKenney family at Sion House Farm in Farnham, Va., above, may look like pretty dull company. But beneath every potato’s mild-mannered exterior lies a super-tasty, super-nutritional SuperSpud! Or they are when you eat them fresh, like these, not processed into store-bought French fries, chips, tater tots, or hashbrowns.

    Prior to the 1960s, Americans ate most of their potatoes fresh. But as freezing technology improved, processed potatoes became more popular. Today, the USDA says processed ‘taters eat up 64 percent of the potatoes we consume! Compare that to just 35 percent in the ’60s. Americans, on average, eat 55 pounds of frozen potatoes per year, 42 pounds of fresh potatoes, 17 pounds of potato chips, and 14 pounds of dehydrated potato products — whatever the heck that is.

    That’s a lot of potatoes. No wonder potatoes are the #1 vegetable crop in the United States and the fourth most-consumed crop in the world. According to the bean counters at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they’re beaten only by rice, wheat, and corn.

    Anyway, potatoes are often thought of as a comfort food — mashed with rich butter and sour cream or fried up crisp in vegetable oil. But when you prepare them like that, they can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Of course, grassfed butter is a different matter, because grassfed results in healthy fats.

    In fact, a study published in 2017 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate fried potatoes twice a week wound up with an increased risk of death. Yikes!

    But happily, the study did not find any correlation between non-fried potato consumption and increased death. This backs up University of Texas nutritionist Victoria Jarzabkowski, who argues that potatoes aren’t necessarily bad for you.

    The healthiest way to cook potatoes

    Baked, boiled, or steamed — which is healthiest? Well, the best way to eat a potato is in its whole, unprocessed form. So baking, or roasting, a potato is the best way to prepare it. Roasting loses the fewest nutrients.

    The next-healthiest way to cook a potato is to steam it. The worst thing you can do is boil it, because if it’s cut up or peeled, all the water-soluble nutrients leach out into the water. That includes B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. As much as 80 percent of a potato’s vitamin C goes down the drain if you boil it.

    The same thing can happen when peeled or cut-up raw potatoes are left to soak to keep them from darkening. Exposing any cut up veggie to air is no better — air, light, and heat are the enemies of nutrients. Best to do all the prep right before you cook whenever possible.

    So when you cook potatoes the right way, without heaps of butter, cheese, or cream (unless all that dairy’s grassfed, because grass produces healthy fats), they really can be good for you. Just check out these amazing potato nutrition facts.

    Amazing Fact #1: The skin is the best part

    Don’t peel that potato! However you cook it, try to eat the skin. Ounce for ounce, the skin contains more nutrients — including the majority of the spud’s fiber — than the rest of the potato! Speaking of skin…

    Amazing Fact #2: Potatoes are your skin’s best friend

    According to Organic Facts, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous can all help keep skin as smooth and creamy as, well, mashed potatoes. These nutrients are all present in potatoes, mashed or not.

    Amazing Fact #3: Potatoes are lo-cal

    Lo-cal, as in low calorie. Potatoes weigh in at just 110 calories for a medium-sized baked potato. And they’ve got zero fat calories. So a spud’s calorie count is not going to add to your waistline. By the way, in addition to being fat-free, potatoes are also cholesterol-free.

    Amazing Fact #4: Potatoes’ relationship with blood sugar is… complicated

    While a potato’s low calorie count won’t make you loosen your belt, they are starchy carbohydrates with very little protein. And those carbs are the kind that the body digests rapidly. They’ve got what’s called a high glycemic index value. Potato carbs cause blood sugar and insulin to surge and then dip, so you may wind up feeling hungry again soon after eating. That can lead to overeating. Plus the rapid rise in blood sugar can also lead to increased insulin production — not a good thing if you’re diabetic.

    On the other hand, potatoes are also a great source of fiber, and the fiber content helps you feel fuller longer.

    Meanwhile… a 2016 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that different people respond to a food’s glycemic index value in different ways. So this study suggests that the glycemic index is only somewhat useful when it comes to making food choices.

    Bottom line: Whether or not you should avoid potatoes depends on how your individual body reacts to them. There’s no one-size-fits-all.

    Amazing Fact #5: Potatoes and arthritis — also complicated

    Some people think potatoes and other members of the nightshade family — such as eggplants, tomatoes and peppers — trigger arthritis flares. However, the Arthritis Foundation says there is limited scientific evidence to support this hypothesis. They suggest that arthritis sufferers try cutting nightshade vegetables from their diets for two weeks to see if symptoms improve.

    Some studies indicate these vegetables may actually help reduce arthritis symptoms, the foundation said. For example, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that potatoes might actually reduce inflammation.

    Again, figure out what works best for you.

    Amazing Fact #6: Potatoes may help prevent cancer

    A 2017 study published by the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that consuming purple potatoes might reduce the risk of colon cancer. Purple potatoes are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce levels of a protein linked to cancer cell growth in the colon.

    Amazing Fact #7: Potatoes have as much vitamin C as half an orange

    Spuds are the new citrus! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and antioxidants ward off damaging free radicals that destroy healthy cells throughout your body.

    Vitamin C also keeps your immune system strong, helps wounds heal properly, and aids in the absorption of a certain type of iron. Because of vitamin C’s many roles throughout your system, keeping up with your daily intake is important. Potatoes can get you there.

    Amazing Fact #8: Potatoes may help lower blood pressure

    According to Jarzabkowski, the nutritionist, there may be several reasons for this. All that fiber may help lower cholesterol by binding with cholesterol in the blood. “After it binds, we excrete it,” she says.

    Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, even more than a banana. A lot of it is in the potato’s skin, which also contains a good deal of fiber. Potassium is a mineral that helps lower blood pressure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, by widening blood vessels.

    Plus, scientists at the Institute for Food Research have discovered that potatoes contain chemicals called kukoamines, which are also associated with lowering blood pressure.

    Potatoes are just plain good for your heart. Vitamins C and B6 help reduce free radicals; and carotenoids help maintain proper heart functioning. B6 also plays a crucial role in preventing damage to blood vessel walls, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

    Amazing Fact #9: Potatoes make you smart

    Potatoes’ high level of carbohydrates may have some advantages, like maintaining good levels of glucose in the blood. You need that for your brain to function properly. A 1995 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that modest increases in glucose could help enhance learning and memory. Potassium, by encouraging wider blood vessels, also helps ensure your brain gets enough blood.

    Also, the B6 vitamins in potatoes are critical to maintaining neurological health. Vitamin B6 helps create useful brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This means that eating potatoes may help with depression, stress, and maybe even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    Amazing Fact #10: Potatoes go down easy and come out the same way

    Potatoes aid digestion, big time, due to their high fiber content, Jarzabkowski said. Their high level of carbohydrates also makes them easy to digest, while their fiber-filled skin can help keep you regular.

    Amazing Fact #11: Potatoes are a win for athletes

    When athletes sweat they lose sodium and potassium, two important electrolytes. Electrolytes are necessary for optimum body function, and having too few can cause cramps, as many athletes know. It just so happens that potato skins are full of sodium and potassium and can help restore electrolyte balance.

    And last but not least…

    Amazing Fact #12: Eek! Potatoes are poisonous… sort of

    Potato stems, branches, and leaves are toxic, containing alkaloids such as arsenic, chaconine, and solanine. Solanine is “very toxic even in small amounts,” according to the National Institutes of Health. But, seriously, who eats the stems, branches, and leaves? No one.

    Still, poison is also found in green potatoes. They turn green if they’re exposed to light too much. NIH says you should “never eat potatoes that are spoiled or green below the skin.”

    What about a potato’s “eyes”? Are they poisonous? The “eyes” of potatoes are buds, which will sprout into branches if left alone. If they’re not sprouting, they’re totally edible. If they are sprouting, NIH recommends cutting off the eyes and the sprouts. Once that’s done, you can chow down on the rest of that ‘tater.

    To get more details on the science and history of potatoes, read the original article.


    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

    boost flavor with local food

    11 tasty tips to boost flavor

    The Flavor Fairy tells all!

    By the Flavor Fairy:

    Full disclosure: There are some flavor elements you can’t do anything about. Mother Nature gets a say in the flavor of your food because she controls the weather. Like the way cold snaps sweeten up greens, or the way dry weather can boost the flavor of fruiting crops like tomatoes. Those tomatoes will wind up with a lot more flavor than you’d get from a very wet season — if the farmer relies on mulches, soil that’s full of organic matter that retains moisture, and a little irrigation.

    But take it from me, the Flavor Fairy: You have the power to boost flavor, too, and you don’t need Mother Nature’s wondrous weather or a magic fairy wand to do it. Here’s how.

    1. Start with fresh, local produce and artisan fare.

    The Veggie Fairies who bring you your local food will tell you that there are many reasons to eat local food. Well, yours truly the Flavor Fairy is here to tell you that there’s only one reason, and one reason only: FLAVOR. Seriously — fresh, local food just freakin’ tastes better!

    But okay, I’ll admit that with local food, taste and nutrition do go hand in hand. The sooner you eat food after it’s harvested or made, the more flavor and nutrition will still be inside there to be eaten, since both immediately start to fade after harvesting and making. But as far as this Flavor Fairy is concerned, the extra nutrients are just a nice bonus. The flavor boost is what it’s all about!!

    As I’m sure you know by now, fresh, locally grown produce and freshly made local foods have a big advantage over the stuff in the supermarket because it doesn’t have to travel as far or as long. So it’s fresher. Plus local farmers can choose to grow things for their flavor, not their ability to withstand long trips and still look good. Many so-called improvements (more productive, disease resistant, tough enough to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping) have been made at the expense of taste (and, okay, nutrition, too.)

    (This profile of the Flores family farm explains it all!)

    2. Prep garlic and onions at the last minute.

    Chopping them up unleashes sharp odors and strong flavors that just keep getting stronger and stronger until they’re overpowering. Frankly, this Flavor Fairy is horrified at the thought of chopping up any fruits and veggies that you aren’t going to eat right away — the longer you expose the interiors of fruits and vegetables to light and air, the faster the flavor and nutrients escape, never to return. So, whenever possible, wait with the chopping.

    3. Keep all those tomato seeds and the goopy stuff, too.

    Think they’re gross? The Tough Love Fairy says: Get over it. Most of the flavor is in the seeds and surrounding jelly, not the flesh and skin. Who knew?!

    4. Boil it NOT!

    Lightly steam or briefly sautee greens instead of boiling them. For root veggies, you can roast, grill, or braise them instead of boiling. When you boil veggies and then discard the water, you’re tossing the flavor, and the nutrients, too. But if you do boil…

    5. …Save the broth!

    Boiling is fine for some things. After you boil proteins like legumes and meat, save the leftover liquid for recipes that call for broth. It’s flavor-rich and (bonus!) nutrient rich, too.

    6. Strike when the pan is hot.

    When you sautee or stir fry, don’t rush the preheating. A hot pan seals in flavor. So wait for the oil to shimmer before adding veggies to an empty pan. Before adding meats to an empty pan, wait for the first wisps of smoke to rise from the oil.

    7. Add a wee splash of cider vinegar, salt, or sugar.

    Vinegar and salt brighten up the flavors of veggies and proteins, especially soups and stews. Reach for the sugar when you’re browning something. Browned food tastes better, and a pinch of sugar speeds it up. Sprinkle on veggies and lean proteins like chicken, pork, or seafood.

    8. Add soy sauce or anchovies.

    They contain natural glutamates, which enhance savoriness. Add a teaspoon or two of soy sauce to chili, or cook a few minced anchovies along with the vegetables in a soup or stew.

    9. Add fresh herbs at the right time.

    Hardy herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, and marjoram can go into whatever you’re making early in the cooking ­process. They need time to soften up and release their maximum flavor. Save delicate herbs like parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chives, and basil for the last minute. Add them too early, and all their fresh flavor and bright color will be lost — and that breaks this Flavor Fairy’s heart.

    10. Use fat to intensify dried spices.

    Cook ground spices and dried herbs for a minute or two in a little butter or oil before adding liquid to the pan. If you’re sautéing something like onions, wait until they’re nearly cooked before adding the spices to the fat in the pan.

    11. Oh, and keep those fats fresh!

    Ever tasted a rancid almond or oil that’s turned? It’ll give you a prune face for sure. Keep those off-flavors out of your cooking by keeping on hand only as much fat as you can use promptly. While your fats are waiting to be used, store them in ways that limit their exposure to oxygen and light to slow down the process that turns them rancid. Extra butter and nuts go in the freezer, nut oils go in the fridge, and vegetable oils go in a dark pantry.


    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

    FLores Farm local food tastes better

    This farm family’s local produce tastes better. Here’s why.

    Local produce has one big advantage over supermarket produce

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    Local produce tastes better than supermarket produce, and there are three reasons why. For local farmers like the Flores family in Hauge, Va., those three reasons add up to one huge advantage when it comes to flavor:

    1. Local produce travels a short distance in a short amount of time — within 150 miles of where we deliver, going from Dirt to Doorstep® within just a couple days.

    2. On its way to you, our local produce passes through just a few hands — the hands of our farmers and our veggie fairies. We all handle it gently to avoid damaging it.

    3. So because local produce doesn’t have to travel far, and is handled gently, it gets picked when it’s supposed to be picked: at the peak of ripeness. That’s when it has absorbed its full portion of flavor (and nutrients) from the sun and the earth.

    So being local is a huge advantage. We talked about that with Omar Flores, whose father Gerardo started the family farm.

    Supermarkets are selling a lie

    But before we get to the Q&A, compare local produce like the Flores’s to supermarket produce:

    1. Most supermarket produce travels long distances over long periods of time. It comes from across the country and overseas, sometimes halfway around the world. It’s usually at least a week old by the time it arrives in the supermarket.

    2. It has to withstand rough handling as it passes through middlemen and warehouses and factory-like assembly lines. Supermarket produce has to be bred to be tough enough to prevent damage. It’s not bred for maximum flavor.

    3. Because it has to travel so far and long, it has to be picked before it’s ripe. Otherwise it would rot before it gets to you. It either ripens indoors along the way or gets gassed at the last minute to make it look ripe in the supermarket. Either way, it doesn’t get to absorb its full portion of flavor and nutrients from the sun and the earth, so it isn’t ripe in the true sense.

    Supermarkets are selling you a lie.

    Local farmers are selling the truth

    Local family farmers like the Floreses, on the other hand, are selling you the truth. Produce that is truly ripe, truly nutrient-rich, and bursting with true flavor. We asked Omar Flores how they do it.


    Your family provides our members with a jaw-dropping array of vegetables and fruits, a lot of them really unique. This week alone you’ll be bringing us multiple varieties of potatoes, cucumbers, beets, garlic, basil, and kale, plus cabbage, radishes, red sweet onions, Swiss chard, fennel, curly parsley, collards, and hyssop — what the heck is hyssop?


    It’s a mint-like herb that’s been used since ancient times. It’s even mentioned in the Bible.


    That’s why it sounds familiar! You also provide us with greens, beans, carrots, squashes, tomatoes, and more pepper varieties than we can count, many of them inspired by your family’s Mexican heritage.


    My father, Gerardo, he always tries to grow anything that’s different, so his produce stands out.


    And it does — your family’s farm is like an adventure in veggies. Do you grow it all yourselves?


    We do grow all our own stuff. We’re not a big commercial farm — we’re just my dad and my mom, my two little brothers and little sister, and me. It’s a lot of work. When my dad was growing up in Mexico, he helped his father grow corn. After he emigrated to the U.S., he worked in apple and peach orchards and other farms. Eventually he started growing his own vegetables. So he has the knowledge and experience to do most of the farming, and the rest of us help him. I help with planting and delivery and farmers markets.

    Omar has been helping his father Gerardo since he was a kid.

    Omar has been helping his father Gerardo since he was a kid.


    What kind of farming techniques do you rely on?


    We’re sustainable. We use water conservation methods and although we’re not certified organic, we use the same chemicals as organic growers. We don’t do the big mono-crop type of farming like the big corporate farming operations do. We start our own plants from seed in our greenhouse, and transplant them into the fields. We grow a big variety of produce on our land, side by side with open fields of wild flowers, so we’ve got a pretty healthy ecosystem. We live right there on the farm, and my wife and I have two toddlers, so we want it to be healthy and safe for all of us.


    And how often do you do planting? Just in the spring?


    Oh no, we’re planting something new every week throughout the growing season. And every week something else that we planted earlier is reaching maturity, ripe and ready for harvest. Like for instance, we plant tomatoes four times a year, and cucumbers every three weeks. Because we’re constantly planting, that’s why our produce has so much flavor. We only pick it when it’s naturally ripe, and that’s happening every week. There’s always something turning ripe, full of flavor and ready to eat.


    How big is your farm?


    We now own 40 acres of fields and open land, and we lease another 18 acres. The first year, though, we didn’t even have a tractor. We did everything by hand. The next year, we bought a tractor. And year by year we’ve been buying the equipment we need to expand, mostly used equipment. Thanks to the families who support us by buying our produce, we were able to put in a small irrigation system. But most of our fields are watered by Mother Nature, whenever she decides to make it rain.


    And this spring she was a little too generous with the rain!


    Yeah, it affected the peppers and squash, but we just replanted and kept going. That’s farming. You work without knowing how it will turn out. It’s a gamble every year. If you think about it, we’ve been working since February for free, when we first started planting. We don’t get paid until we have something to sell. So we really appreciate your members. We couldn’t farm without them. That’s really my favorite part of farming — knowing we are feeding people and making them happy with food that tastes better than anything they can buy at the supermarket.
    For more photos of Flores Farm on Virginia’s Northern Neck, visit the family on Facebook.


    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

    grilling tricks grilled local food

    9 simple grilling tricks

    The do’s & don’ts, plus how to grill the perfect grassfed steak

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    Although fatherhood has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s ability to captain a grill, Father’s Day does happen to land right as grilling season is getting underway. So whether you’re an alpha-griller dad or a guy who likes to kick back and watch someone else do the sweating in all those clouds of smoke, we veggie fairies salute you with this guide to grilling fresh, local food!

    Anything you can cook inside in your oven or on your stovetop, you can cook outside on your grill — that includes fresh local fruits and veggies in season, as well as grassfed meats and other proteins. You can even grill blueberries (which are now in season here in Virginia) as a delish topping for your protein. Or use them to make a mouthwatering, outlaw kinda pie — (here’s how.)

    More of our advice here applies to grilling meat because it’s trickier than grilling produce. And this is not a comprehensive list of all the great tricks out there — just 9 simple grilling tricks for cooking up your favorite local food in the great outdoors.

    Trick #1: Starting the fire

    DON’T use lighter fluid if you have a charcoal or wood burning grill. Just don’t. It’s dangerously flammable, smells bad, and gives off toxic fumes. It shouldn’t be anywhere near your fresh, local, healthy local eats.

    DO use something called a charcoal chimney – wad up newspaper and stuff it in the bottom, put charcoal on top (more coals for more food, fewer coals for less food), then light the paper. Your coals will ash over nicely in about the same amount of time as when you use lighter fluid. If your grill uses gases, preheat it too, so the cooking grate is hot enough to make the food sizzle when you put it on.

    Trick #2: Fire size

    DON’T build one big fire. It forces you to cook everything at the same temperature and tends to burn things fast.

    DO create two zones. Place charcoal or wood to one side of the grill, or turn on the gas on only one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty or flameless. The “direct” zone is where the heat source is. Use it for direct heat cooking, like searing meat with the lid open. The “indirect” zone away from the heat source is for indirect heat cooking. In general, use this zone to gently roast your food with the lid closed. Having two zones also gives you more control over how fast things cook as you move them around on the grill.

    Trick #3: Spacing

    DON’T crowd the grill.

    DO leave enough room between all the food items to work with each one and ensure even heat distribution. The intensity of the heat changes in different areas of the grill. In addition to creating the two cooking zones, get to know where the hot spots and cool spots are and move things around as needed to keep them from burning or overcooking.

    Trick #4: Cooking temps

    DON’T cook things like ribs or pork butts over too hot a grill.

    DO cook those chunkier cuts more slowly. Once the grill is heated up, place ribs or larger cuts of meat on the grate in the indirect zone and close the lid. For faster-cooking fish and chicken on a charcoal grill, you can use fewer coals or let the coals cool down a bit. Ribs and pork butts, though, need higher temps even when you’re cooking more slowly over indirect heat.

    Trick #5: Cooking time

    DON’T guesstimate when it comes to cooking meat.

    DO use an instant-read thermometer. Stick it into the meat’s thickest part to get an accurate read on doneness.

    Trick #6: Steak! (And chops!)

    We’re going to take a little detour here, because grassfed steak and chops require some extra TLC to get them right — and by right, we mean tender, not tough and chewy.

    To grill the perfect steak…

  • Bring it to room temperature and oil it. If you’re going to season it, now’s the time to coat it with a good spice rub.
  • Preheat the grill on high until it’s so hot you can’t hold your hand over the grate more than a couple seconds.
  • When the grill is ready, leave the top open while you cook. Grassfed steaks and chops are best when cooked hot and fast.
  • Sear the steaks for about 30 seconds per side before lowering the heat a little and continuing to cook with the lid open.
  • Since grassfed meat tends to be leaner, it has less fat to protect it and keep it tender even if it’s accidentally overcooked. So top it with a pat of grassfed butter as you cook each side. It won’t add to the fat content because most of the butterfat will cook off, but it will protect the meat as it goes.
  • How long do you cook it? The rule of thumb for a medium-cooked 1” filet is 4 minutes per side; for a medium-cooked 1” ribeye or t-bone, 7 minutes per side. Go shorter for rare and longer for well done. If your steak is more than 2” thick, it will continue to cook inside after you take it off the grill, so remove it from the heat a little sooner. If you have an instant read thermomenter, you can stick it in the middle to test doneness: 125 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, 130-135 for medium rare, and 155 for well done. Don’t make more than one hole, though, to limit the loss of juices.
  • After you take the steak off the grill, loosely tent it with foil and let it rest for 8 minutes. That will give the meat fibers time to relax and reabsorb the liquids back to the center.

    Trick #7: Watching

    DON’T. Don’t open the lid too often to watch your big hunks of meat cook over indirect heat.

    DO… not peek. Every time you open it, you let heat escape, which reduces the temperature and affects the cooking time. You could well wind up with the unhappy surprise of unappetizing, underdone meat. If you have to feed a fire, get a hinged grate that will let you quickly add coals or wood chips and keep the fire steady during a long grilling session.

    Trick #8: Sauce

    DON’T add sauce too soon. The sugar in the sauce will caramelize and burn.

    DO start basting with the sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Or even better, use a spice rub and let the magic happen on its own between the rub, the juices, and the smoke.

    Trick #9: Cleaning

    DON’T fail to clean the cooking grate. There is no such thing as a self-cleaning grill.

    DO scrub the grate after it has cooled with a wad of aluminum foil or a non-metal bristle brush. DO NOT USE A BRUSH WITH METAL BRISTLES. Now and then the tiny bristles fall out, and if one gets left on the grill, it can wind up in your food and get stuck in your throat… until you go to the ER to get it unstuck.

    So after you’ve scrub the grate clean, oil the grate with a rag or paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. To reduce the amount of food that sticks to the grate in the first place, oil your food before cooking. Or wait a little longer before turning to give it time to caramelize or acquire nice black grill marks. At that point, it will let go of the grate more easily.

    Now go forth and grill and enjoy the smoky flavor of flavorful, nutrient rich, grilled local food in season!


    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

  • strawberries spring superfood

    10 spring superfoods to put in your belly ASAP!

    Discover their amazing super powers

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    Spring’s a great time to go local, because to tell the truth, no list can do justice to spring’s amazing bounty. Every spring, Virginia’s fields overflow with foods bursting with flavor and nutrition and week by week, they’re all on offer in our online farmers market. It was really hard to settle on just ten spring superfoods, so treat this list as a starting point for enjoying Mother Nature’s seasonal treats! To make it easy, we’ve included links to inspiring recipes on our Pinterest boards for each and every item on the list.


    These spears are one of the best veggie sources of folate, a B vitamin that could help boost your mood. Folate plays an important role in synthesizing the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all crucial for a happy day. A single cup of cooked asparagus has two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance of folate for women! Asparagus is also rich in folic acid, which helps the body produce and maintain new cells. Plus it’s got potassium, fiber, vitamins C, A, and B6, and thiamine, it’s an antioxidant, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. Whew! Try this recipe: Spaghetti With Asparagus and Lemon Balm


    Beets are a superfood for the liver. They contain a substance called betaine which has a powerful positive impact on the liver’s detoxification pathways. Beets can also aid in reducing systemic inflammation in the body. Steam or roast them, then eat ’em as a side or chop them up for salads. Cook beets in batches and store them in the fridge — they store well. Try this recipe: Chocolate & Balsamic Roasted Beets


    Eat up and you may score big for your brain. In a recent study, people with age-related memory decline who drank roughly two and a half cups of blueberry juice per day for 12 weeks (the equivalent of eating a cup of blueberries) made significant improvements on memory and learning tests compared with those who drank a placebo juice. Now that’s a whole lotta berries, but even some blueberries are sure to benefit you. Turns out blueberries have a type of antioxidant that’s been shown to increase signals among brain cells and improve their resilience. That helps enhance learning and memory. Try this recipe: Quinoa Blueberry Salad

    Bok choy

    One cup of bok choy has just 9 calories and barely a trace of fat, yet delivers protein, dietary fiber and almost all the essential vitamins and minerals. It’s rich in antioxidants and helps build strong bones, a healthy heart, and may help protect against cancer. As for taste, one of our members described it as tasting like spinach and celery had a yummy baby! We love that! Try this recipe: Tom Tom Chicken

    Dandelion greens

    Before you pull that “weed” out of your lawn, remember this: In early spring, tender young dandelion greens have four times as much calcium, 1.5 times as much vitamin A, and 7.5 times as much vitamin K as broccoli. Also twice as much iron and three times as much riboflavin as spinach — which provides no vitamin E or carotenoids. But dandelion greens do, with 17 percent of the daily adult dose of vitamin E and 13,610 international units, or IUs, of lutein and zeaxanthin per 3.5-ounce serving. Try this recipe: Dandelion Salad with Bacon & Mushrooms

    Garlic scapes/green garlic/spring garlic

    Green or spring garlic is immature garlic and looks like a slightly overgrown scallion. It’s often mistaken for garlic scapes but while spring garlic is harvested before the garlic bulb attains its full size, garlic scapes are harvested later — they’re the curly shoots that form later in the season. These shoots look like green stalks with closed buds on top and may help with weight loss — they contain a compound called allicin, which gives garlic its pungent smell and may keep you from overeating by stimulating satiety in the brain. Try this recipe: Cilantro Black Rice with Roasted Garlic Scapes & Asparagus

    Lettuce (field)

    In the spring, our local field lettuce is ready for your salads and more. The darker the lettuce, the more good-for-you stuff it’s likely to contain. Lettuce can deliver moisture, energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and sugars. Its minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc, and its got vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, C, A, E, and vitamin K. Lettuce can help with lowering cholesterol levels, preventing cancer, protecting neurons, sleeping better, controlling anxiety, lowering inflammation, and supplying antioxidants. Amazing! Try this recipe: Easy Ginger Beef Lettuce Wraps

    Peas (garden, snap, snow)

    They’re loaded with fiber, protein, and micronutrients but low in calories, which means they will keep you feeling full without blowing through your daily calorie allotment. They also have high levels of iron, calcium, zinc, copper, and manganese, which can help boost immunity. Try this recipe: Pea & Herbed Goat Cheese Tart


    Oh, the radish! It’s at its sweet, crunchy best in the spring. Radishes are very good for the liver and stomach, and they act as a powerful detoxifier too. Radishes are considered roughage, which means they’re composed of indigestible carbohydrates. That’s good for digestion, water retention, and helps prevent or undo constipation. They’re good for your skin, your cardiovascular system, your urinary tract, your — oh, just read this, we can’t list it ALL here! Then try this recipe: Cinnamon Sugar Radish Chips


    They may not have the smoothest complexion themselves, but strawberries are great for your skin. Who knew?! Their secret is the antioxidants they’re packed with — antioxidants help your skin repair damage caused by environmental factors like pollution and UV rays. Plus, they’re full of so much vitamin C that less than a cup gets you your entire recommended daily allowance. And vitamin C is associated with fewer wrinkles and less dryness, per research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Try them in a homemade facial, too — if you can stand not eating them. If you’re like us, you’ll rather try this recipe instead: Strawberry Smoothie

    There’s more on some of the science we’ve mentioned here in this article. Now get eating!


    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

    local organic food

    Is organic worth it?

    And can you even trust those organic labels?

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    So you want to eat food that’s good for you. But it’s hard to tell what’s truly good just by looking — you can’t see pesticides or lost nutrients.

    When you’ve got nothing else to go on, that organic label seems like an easy solution. Organic foods have a reputation for being more nutritious and safer than non-organic. Plus, organic costs more, sometimes twice as much as conventional. If it’s more expensive, it must be better, right?

    The truth, it turns out, is complicated.

    Organic toxins — yep, that’s a thing

    Think that organic label means something hasn’t been sprayed? Think again. A Bloomberg News reporter wrote a good article that explains the history of how and why organic labeling got started. She also gets into the uncertain science on whether or not organic actually more nutritious.

    Some of the uncertainty is based on who’s doing the farming. In the beginning, organic labeling was driven by family farmers who relied on old school, eco-friendly organic practices instead of spraying chemical fertilizers and pesticides. But because there were no rules on what was officially “organic”, lots of farmers who did spray were claiming to be organic when they really weren’t.

    But as the labeling movement gained steam and the government began writing regulations about what could be called organic, big agriculture corporations saw an opportunity and got involved. Needless to say, many of the resulting regulations benefit Big Ag, not small, truly organic family farmers.

    So today, you can grow, say, lettuce that’s USDA certified organic that nevertheless tests positive for toxic substances. USDA guidelines allow certified organic farms to spray their crops with certain chemicals under certain conditions. According to this NPR story about organic pesticides, some of them probably aren’t harmful to humans. But some probably are.

    Fake organic labels — yep, that’s a thing, too

    Labels are only as good as the USDA’s ability to oversee the production of organic food and enforce the rules. Turns out, the department’s ability to do that is limited. There just aren’t enough inspectors to keep tabs on all the farmers and corporations here in the U.S., much less overseas.

    Last year, a Washington Post investigative series revealed just how much of a problem organic food fraud is — bad enough that now Congress is working on legislation to double USDA’s oversight.

    Organic or not, freshness counts

    The sooner produce gets to you the better. Research shows that most nutrients begin to degrade from the moment produce is harvested. Spinach, for example, loses up to 60% of its nutrients in a week, the typical age of most grocery store produce. Our local produce gets to you within just a couple days of harvest.

    Also, many studies have found 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) contains more nutrients, more vitamins and minerals, 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.

    Some of our local farmers are certified organic, and some use organic practices but just can’t make the financial investment that’s required to get certified. All of our local farmers are low- or no-spray. Many of them are multi-generational, so they care for their land, crops, and animals with the next generation in mind. The vast majority of our farmers don’t spray because that would jeopardize the integrity of their land. If they do spray, it’s minimal and only as required.

    They also use sustainable practices like rotating their crops to avoid sucking all the nutrients out of the soil. That’s why we call sustainable farming “old school organic” — the way it was often done before the government got in the business of regulating it.

    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.

    So how can you tell what’s good for you?!

    Organic can be great! But only if you go beyond the regulations that were developed for Big Ag. There’s no official label that will tell you if something is only a couple days out of the field and truly fresh. There’s no label that will tell if it was grown by a farmer who’s sustainable or old school organic, using traditional methods with future generations in mind. The only way to know if something is really good for you is to know and trust 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 reading a label, but it’s a lot easier than trying to do the due diligence all by yourself!


    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