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!

    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.

  • 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.

    Asparagus

    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

    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

    Blueberries

    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

    Radishes

    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

    Strawberries

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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.

    local food harmony hill farm

    This one thing helps local families find local food

    Plus it helps working moms and dads serve up healthy eats

    By Kristin H, Director of Veggie Communications, and Suzanne A, neighborhood Market Manager:

    That “thing” is our veggie fairies! Seasonal Roots veggie fairies, a.k.a. neighborhood Market Managers, are the irreplaceable links that bring farmers and families together. If it weren’t for our veggie fairies there would be no Seasonal Roots. Not only do they deliver fresh local food to your doorstep, they also handle one-on-one customer care and spread the word about local food. They’re committed to supporting local farmers and local families.

    Seasonal Roots veggie fairies come from all walks of life. Many are work-at-home parents. Others are like Suzanne in the Richmond area, whose kids are now adults.

    Suzanne’s story

    For Suzanne, supporting family farmers through Seasonal Roots is personal.

    When Suzanne was a kid, her dad ran a farm with help from her and her brother and sister. He raised cattle, dairy cows, chickens, pigs, and hunting dogs. She can still remember the breeds: Black Angus cattle; Guernsey, Holstein, and Jersey cows; Rhode Island Red and Leghorn chickens; the dogs were Pointers. “The pigs, I’m not sure,” she says, “They had coarse white hair, pink skin showing through, and muddy most of the time! Also HUGE.”

    (Sort of like the guy in the photo with this post. It was taken at Harmony Hill Farm in Scottsville, Va. That’s where the Ingersoll family raises crops and livestock using humane, sustainable methods that are good for us and the planet. And then they bring all that goodness to Seasonal Roots online farmers market.)

    On the farm where Suzanne grew up, the fields were planted with corn for human and animal consumption, plus produce of all kinds. Out in the pastures, field grasses were harvested for hay. A farm like that is a fulltime job, yet Suzanne’s dad had to work another fulltime job at the same time to make ends meet.

    Many small family farmers are forced to work exhausting double duty like that. It’s because our modern food system favors big agricultural corporations thanks to Big Ag’s money and influence. Yet local farmers are the ones who provide us with the freshest, healthiest food. When they succeed, it’s good for everybody who gets to eat what they produce. Seasonal Roots is all about helping local farmers succeed.

    Suzanne can appreciate the good parts of farm life in hindsight. Looking back, she recalls, “I grew up on a farm and couldn’t wait to leave, honestly. You either have it in your blood or you don’t. It is hard work, and if your farm includes livestock, as ours did, you can’t go on vacation. As a youngster, I didn’t appreciate the clean air, the wide ranging area to run around, and the wonderful food. Like a lot of kids, I wanted burgers and fries.”

    She wanted fast food. Sigh.

    Local food + home delivery = help for working moms & dads

    While Suzanne may have wished for fast food as a kid, she sees it differently as an adult. “I am grateful now that I was raised in a healthy way and that I am not a picky eater,” she says. “I love fresh fruits and veggies… and I love the convenience of home delivery!

    “I so would’ve loved Seasonal Roots when I was working fulltime and my sons were younger. It would’ve saved me time and, therefore, money! Working fulltime and raising kids is exhausting. But I made sure my kids always tried a bite of whatever I was serving. And now, ages 21 and 27, they eat everything. So many of my former co-workers’ kids only wanted chicken nuggets and fries, so I’m glad my husband and I made the effort. I feel certain our sons will do the same when they are blessed with little ones!”

    When it comes to fresh food versus fast food, having healthy eats on hand for kids to try is half the battle. When children are given a chance to try fresh fruits and vegetables, they often discover they like them. We hear that over and over from Seasonal Roots members.

    But when you’re busy juggling lots of responsibilities, you don’t have time to chase around after the freshest, healthiest food — the kind that tastes the best and is the most likely to win kids over. In fact, the way our American food system is set up, the fastest, easiest, most convenient food is often the least fresh and the most unhealthy.

    That’s when you need a fairy godmother (or a flock of veggie fairies) to do it for you — someone you trust who can track down local farmers using the best practices and then deliver it, freshly harvested, to your door. So if you’re a Seasonal Roots member, do your working-parent friends a favor and tell them about the veggie fairies!

    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.

    real fresh vs fake fresh

    Real fresh vs fake fresh

    3 things that make local food truly fresh + more nutritious, flavorful

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    The external appearance of modern produce tells you very little about what’s inside.

    Big Corporate Agriculture grows its produce all over the world, usually wherever they can get the job done the cheapest. That means the produce has to be able to survive at least a week, and sometimes months, of travel and storage before it gets to a grocery store.

    The result: Big Ag has focused on developing varieties of produce that have a long shelf life and are tough enough to withstand the rough handling that’s part of industrial agriculture. Nutrition and flavor are not Big Ag’s priority, even when the label says organic.

    If there isn’t much in the way of nutrients and flavor on the inside, all you’ve got left is the outside. So fragile fruits like berries get sprayed with preservatives and veggies get waxed. Anything that looks less than perfect gets tossed. It’s all about appearances. Sure, that grocery store produce looks fresh. But it’s fake fresh.

    So here’s what our local farmers do to provide you with truly fresh food:

    1. Make flavor a priority

    Our local farmers choose to grow produce varieties that are known for their flavor, not their shelf life. If it happens to look pretty too, that’s just icing on the cake. But since they don’t rely on pesticides, sometimes there are signs that a bug has sampled it first.

    2. Pick at the peak of ripeness

    Our farmers let their produce grow until the day it reaches its ripe, nutritional peak. They don’t pick it early in preparation for a long trip (which cuts short its nutrients and flavor, even though it may have technically “ripened” by the time it reaches its destination.)

    3. No tricks or preservatives

    IN SPRINGTIME, WHEN TEMPS CAN SUDDENLY SWING BETWEEN HOT AND COLD, GREENS MAY WILT WORE QUICKLY AFTER THEY’RE HARVESTED. But we don’t douse anything in preservatives or wax to make it look like something it’s not. We simply chill it and deliver it to you quickly, while it’s still really and truly fresh – which we can do because we’re local. If it wilts, you can easily and naturally perk it back up by putting it in water for 20-25 minutes to rehydrate it. The photo with this post comes from Seasonal Roots member Michelle M, who perked up her chives by popping them into a vase full of water, and then told us she noticed an added benefit: “They look beautiful waiting to be used!”

    Fresh = perishable . . . and if it perishes, we want to know!

    The fact is, real fresh food is very perishable. That’s why we check and double check each item before it reaches you. If something falls through the cracks we want to know! Report it the next time you order.

    Here’s how:

  • After you make your choices and click “Save And Review My Order”, scroll to the bottom of the page. Click on “Report Issue With Last Order” then follow the directions. Be sure to click on the green “Submit Issue” button when you’re done!
  • Or sign in anytime and hover over the purple gear icon in the upper right corner. From the drop down menu, select “Report An Issue”, then follow those directions.
  • If the item came in your basket, we’ll replace it. If it was an Extra, we’ll issue a credit. We always stand behind the quality of our fresh, local food!

    How do you keep fresh food fresh?

    The best way to get the full benefit of all the nutrients and flavor in fresh food is to eat it right away. Of course, that’s not always possible, so check out our series on how to make your fresh food last longer.

    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.

    free home delivery

    Free home delivery of local food to the rescue!

    A new member tells her story

    – By Faye D, Seasonal Roots member

    On February 9, I broke my leg. For two weeks I couldn’t put any weight on it at all and for eight weeks I was dependent on a wheel chair, a walker, crutches and finally a cane. Needless to say I couldn’t cook or buy groceries.

    Although my husband is not comfortable in the kitchen and only a little more comfortable in a grocery store, he did pitch in to do his best at cooking and the shopping. Still, it was a very difficult time for us both.

    Online ordering with free home delivery saves the day

    The best thing ever was that just before the accident I had signed up for Seasonal Roots. (In fact, I took that photo of my first home-delivered box of local food.)

    What a life-saver! It was easy for me to go online and order the vegetables we needed. They always arrived on time, fresh and plenty to last the entire week. That was something I could count on.

    The icing on top: Vegan options

    Because we both follow a vegan diet, vegetables are a central and necessary part of our diet, and because of Seasonal Roots having good fresh vegetables to eat, that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. I loved that. My husband loved getting his favorite vegan cinnamon buns!

    Then this week, Margo, one of Seasonal Roots’ market managers, even brought the box in for me and put it in the kitchen since I’m still using a cane. Thanks, Seasonal Roots…

    VEGGIE FAIRY EDITOR’S NOTE:
    Many thanks to Faye for sharing her story – we’re so glad our free home delivery was a help. And a big shout out to Tracy at Yummvees for her vegan-licious buns and other vegan treats and meals!

    Also, like a lot of Seasonal Roots members, Faye’s first box of local food inspired her to snap a photo. We love it when members post their veggie pix on our Facebook page!

    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.

    Schuyler Greens mushroom health benefits

    Secret mushroom health benefits

    Plus surprising new things they’re making out of mushrooms!

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    In American culture, there’s a stigma attached to mushrooms. They are, after all, a fungus. They’re funny looking. They have a reputation for growing in manure, which isn’t exactly appetizing. And when it comes to wild mushrooms, most parents tell their kids, “Don’t touch them, you’ll die!”

    That may be why, until relatively recently, most mainstream grocery stores just carried those bland, clean-looking white button mushrooms. There are so many mushroom varieties — portabello, shitake, enoki, morel, and on and on… but it takes a certain sense of adventure to move beyond those white buttons to a mushroom that looks like, say, an oyster.

    It’s an adventure that rewards you with an amazing array of flavors, nutrients, and a surprisingly long list of health benefits. But wait! There’s more! Creative engineers are using mushrooms to make animal-free leather, and Ikea is starting to use mushroom-based biodegradable packaging for its furniture.

    Turns out mushrooms are pretty magical, which is right up our fairy alley. So we turned to our Seasonal Roots mushroom farmer to find out more. Mike M’s oyster mushrooms come to us through Schuyler Greens, the company his brother founded for growing greens, herbs, microgreens, and specialty crops.

    Mike definitely has a sense of adventure. He’s been foraging in the woods for years around his family farm, Magnolia Farm in Esmont, Va. To him, the woods are a world of wonder. Hunting for wild treats like pawpaws, a native fruit that shyly hides among the leaves, was like a treasure hunt.

    One day he came across a cluster of wild oyster mushrooms on a dead tree, like the ones his daughters are holding in the photo.

    Mike was fascinated, started reading about them, and discovered they have all kinds of health benefits. He told us that because of the mushroom stigma, scientists didn’t study them much until recently. Now we’re learning lots of new things about mushrooms. Modern-day scientists are rediscovering what the ancients knew from living close to nature. For example, there are elements in mushrooms that may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. (Read the study here.)

    Oyster mushrooms in particular are used in traditional medicine to treat infections, diabetes, cancer, and to lower cholesterol. They support the immune system. Laboratory experiments and studies done in mice have shown that oyster mushrooms do indeed have antitumor, antifungal, and cholesterol-lowering properties. A study of children with upper respiratory tract infections showed that oyster mushrooms have anti-allergic effects, too. They have even been shown to lower glucose levels and increase insulin levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, though more studies are needed to confirm that. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has details on oyster mushroom health benefits here.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Why are mushrooms so good for us?

    MIKE:

    Well, one reason is that they don’t have skin to protect them from bacteria. Their cell walls are their exterior, so they’re programmed to fight off bacteria. We get some of that anti-bacterial benefit when we eat them. Scientists and engineers are also using the mycelium — the vegetative tissue of mushrooms — as a filter in water treatment to make contaminated water drinkable. Mushrooms are so adaptable and they grow exponentially. Because of that you can train them to do things like break down diesel fuel and other petrochemicals to treat contaminated soils in a process called mycoremediation.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    The oyster mushrooms you sell for eating — do you gather them from the wild or do you grow them yourself?

    MIKE:

    We grow them. We started doing it for fun. We have cattle, sheep, and so on, but we’ve got two little daughters and growing mushrooms is something we can do as a family. It’s not dangerous like working with animals or equipment can be. And mushrooms are fascinating. I’ve got the kids doing all this really great science with mushrooms. We have petri dishes with all these different strains growing in our bedroom — my wife is very patient. Anyway, it’s turned into a family thing.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Okay, so be honest. Do they really grow in, um, manure?

    MIKE:

    Some do. But oyster mushrooms grow on cellulose, like wood or straw. That’s why out in the woods you find them on logs or dead trees. They help break down the wood as it decomposes. But we grow them indoors where we can control the elements. For example, a change in temperature will change the color a little. The cellulose in straw grows excellent mushrooms but straw has a lot of variability when you pack a big bag. It’s hard to be consistent and predict what you’re going to produce and that makes it hard to fill orders. So we’re trying sawdust now, which is more uniform. Everything’s an experiment. Each tweak you make changes the yields.

    Schuyler Greens oyster mushrooms health benefits

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    So what do you do — like, plant seeds in the straw?

    MIKE:

    Sort of. The mushroom equivalent of seeds is called “spawn.” You mix the spawn in with the sawdust and incubate it in the bag at a certain temperature. It takes a few weeks to colonize the substrate. Shitake mushrooms trigger with water. With oyster mushrooms, you cut a hole in the bag and the surge of oxygen tells the mycelium that it’s time to fruit. In the woods, the mycelium grows inside the log. When it reaches the outer edges it runs out of food and hits oxygen. Then when humidity and rain come that’s when the fruiting happens. That’s the magic of the woods. Every time it rains there’s something new and exciting to find.

    *

    So the next time you go for a walk in the woods, keep your eyes peeled — you’ll probably spot some fabulous fungi. But — at the risk of sounding like your mother — unless you are an experienced mycologist like Mike, do not eat any of the mushrooms you find growing wild! Many poisonous species look very similar to the edible ones. Best bet is to place an order for Mike’s magically delicious, nutritious, farm-grown beauties, then sit back and enjoy all those mushroom health benefits with yummy peace of mind.

    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.

    Mobjack Bay fair trade coffee

    This is how Fair Trade coffee helps the Chesapeake Bay

    Fair Trade coffee’s good for rainforests and people, too!

    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Celeste was a professional ballet dancer. Jo was a corporate IT guy. But they had always dreamed of running their own business together. And they both loved the waters of the Chesapeake Bay near their home in Virginia. Back in 2007, they’d talk about it over coffee.

    “Our morning ritual has always been having our first cup of coffee together,” Celeste says. “We wanted to wake up in the morning knowing that we were working to make a difference in the world.” They decided to launch Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters… and make it eco-friendly.

    The business combines their love of coffee, family, and the water: The coffee beans are roasted right in the shop… Celeste’s father helps in the retail store while a close friend is the master roaster… and a portion of every coffee bag sold benefits the Chesapeake Bay. (Learn more about efforts to save the Bay and the challenges it faces.)

    Their focus on doing good didn’t end there. As Celeste and Jo gained experience in the coffee industry, they learned coffee was the cornerstone of life for families and communities in many countries.

    “We realize that it would be self-serving to only think of our front yard, the Bay, without considering our backyard, the source of our beans,” Celeste says. “So we have structured our business as a model that also supports our interests in environmental protection.”

    Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters has chosen to focus on beans grown by socially responsible farmers who follow Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance guidelines. These are two very challenging certifications.

    “At times, we must be understanding of the difficulty and length of time it takes to become certified,” Celeste explains. “In these cases, we learn about the plantations’ processes so we can make our own decisions regarding responsible purchasing. This assures us that we are thinking globally while acting locally.”

    What does “Rainforest Alliance Certified” mean?

    The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior.

    In the 1970’s coffee farmers were introduced to modern farming techniques. Forests were cleared, agrochemicals were sprayed, and yields were increased. Simultaneously, the shaded canopies of traditional coffee farms vanished. Birds and all types of animals were displaced while rivers were choked with silt and pollutants. In 1993 the Rainforest Alliance partnered with Sustainable Agricultural Network to demonstrate that traditional, forested coffee farms were the only choice for sustainable farming in harmony with nature. The Alliance helps its farmers survive the erratic global market by improving farm management and accessing premium markets.

    The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal is a guarantee that coffee is grown on farms where forests are protected, and rivers, soils and wildlife conserved. Workers are treated with respect, paid decent wages, properly equipped, and given access to education and medical care. Forested coffee farms are critically important to serve as migration stopovers for birds traveling from as far away as Canada and Alaska. In areas where deforestation is rampant, these coffee farms may be the only habitat available to provide shelter and food for weary birds.

    Is Fair Trade certification different?

    Fair Trade coffee is a different way of achieving the same goal. We Americans are the number one consumers of coffee in the world. In the race to offer competitive pricing, the losers in the economic equation are often the people who work the hardest — the farmers who grow and pick the coffee. This forces them into cycles of poverty and debt.

    Fair Trade pays farmers a fair minimum price for their coffee. Importers that are certified Fair Trade have met stringent international criteria, pay a guaranteed minimum price per pound of coffee, and empower farmers to grow sustainably. Successful sustainable farms lead to stronger communities, better health care and education, and improved stewardship of the environment. Fair Trade plants seeds of hope.

    So that’s why all the beans roasted at Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters are either source certified Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance.

    Meanwhile, Celeste and Jo also continue to support grassroots efforts to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. Along with their three children, they spend many days in the tributary waters that feed the Chesapeake Bay and out on the Bay itself — Jo especially, who is an avid sportsman and outdoor enthusiast.

    Whole bean or ground?

    In the Seasonal Roots online farmers market, Mobjack’s whole bean coffee is available in the Extras section. Plus, for the first time ever, members can swap up to two single-pot packets of ground coffee into their baskets! It’s so delicious (thanks to Mobjack’s all-American-made San Franciscan Roaster), and best of all, with every cup of joe you’re helping make the world a better place, right here at home… and far away, too.

    If you’re in the area, stop by Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters at 7060-A Woodsville Rd. in Hayes, Va., and check out their tasting room! It’s open Fridays 10-5 and Saturdays 9-4.

    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.

    riley shaia spinach health benefits

    Spinach is good for your brain, too…

    …and other cool spinach facts

    By Riley Shaia, certified holistic nutritionist, fitness instructor & Seasonal Roots member (Pictured: center, kneeling)

    VEGGIE FAIRY NOTE: You can connect with Riley on Instagram and Facebook!

    Vintage cartoon fans can probably quote Popeye the Sailor Man’s famous line from memory: “I’m good to the finn-ich cause I eat my spinach!” A whole generation of kids grew up thinking they would be stronger if they ate spinach.

    While that’s still true, it turns out the genesis of that popular notion actually began by mistake. A scientist misreported the number of grams of iron in spinach. According to thekitchn.com, in “1870 a German chemist, Erich von Wolf, correctly ascertained the amount of iron in spinach, but while transcribing his notes, he accidentally misplaced a decimal point: Instead of recording that spinach had 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100-gram serving (as is the case), he wrote that it had 35 milligrams.” That is a lot of iron!

    In response to this, the creators of Popeye decided that this would be his superfood. The rest is history. Despite the error, it helped spinach gain popularity with parents and children alike.

    In my opinion spinach is extremely versatile and I use it almost every day. Spinach is a great way to get your servings of greens in your diet. It’s easy to throw into smoothies or soup and easy to finely chop and add to spaghetti sauce and other foods.

    What is spinach?

    Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse that is in the same family as beets, chard, and quinoa.

    Spinach’s amazing health benefits!

    Spinach is rich in vitamins A, C, and K; minerals such as magnesium and calcium in addition to iron (obviously!); and antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids. These good things are associated with boosting immunity, lowering blood pressure, fighting the causes of cancer, reducing inflammation, easing constipation and ulcers, and supporting good vision, healthier skin, and stronger bones. It may even improve your memory and slow down the aging of your brain! Watch this quick CBS News report about a recent scientific study on spinach brain power.

    How to store and wash spinach

  • Fresh spinach should be kept unwashed, wrapped in a paper towel, and placed in an airtight container in your fridge’s cool, dark crisper. If it’s local and freshly harvested, it can be stored this way in the refrigerator for up to a week. But the sooner you eat it, the more nutrients it will still have.
  • To be the most economical and still get the nutrients, you can buy it frozen. If you buy it fresh but can’t eat it right away, it’s easy to freeze yourself to preserve the nutrients. Here’s how.
  • DO always wash freshly harvested local spinach just before you use it! It’s grown in fine sandy soil, which gets splashed up on the leaves. Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water and gently agitate the leaves with your hands so the grit sinks to the bottom. Lift out the greens and change the water as needed, repeating until the water remains clear.
  • Surprising fact: Cooked spinach is better for you — with one exception

    In most cases, cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits! (I’ll explain the exception in a moment.) Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you three times as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. That’s because the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach to make full use of all the goodness contained in the leaves.

    Here’s the reason why: There’s a compound in spinach called oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. The problem is solved when you cook the spinach — the heat reduces oxalic acid’s power. But cook spinach lightly to preserve the nutrients while reducing the acid.

    By the way, avoid cooking spinach in aluminum – some reports indicate it may ruin the spinach’s color and taste.

    The exception to the “cooked is better for you” rule is when you pair raw spinach with a food that’s high in vitamin C. Vitamin C counteracts oxalic acid, too. Mandarin oranges and cantaloupes will do the trick, and combining them with fresh spinach leaves makes for a delicious salad.

    There are so many ways to use spinach!

    Cooked or raw, you can add spinach to almost anything.

  • Throw it in soups or smoothies for a nutritional boost.
  • Saute it in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and/or onions.
  • Sneak it into sauces — chop it finely first.
  • Use it in salad alone or with other lettuces.
  • Add it to a stir fry.
  • Make it an appetizer! Check out the following recipe…
  • Dive into this highly addictive spinach appetizer

    DAIRY-FREE SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP

    Recipe from ForksOverKnives.com

    INGREDIENTS: (Shout-out to our local food providers in all-caps!)
    1¼ c unsweetened unflavored plant-based milk (such as soy), or grassfed TRICKLING SPRINGS CREAMERY milk
    3 T all-purpose or oat flour
    1 t onion powder
    1 t garlic powder
    1 T fresh lemon juice
    2 c COTTLE ORGANICS spinach (fresh, or frozen and thawed), finely chopped
    1 (14-oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped (about 1½ c)
    sea salt to taste
    black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

    DIRECTIONS:
    1. Combine the milk, flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens to a spreadable consistency. If using cow milk, use medium heat and watch closely to avoid burning the milk or boiling over.
    2. Add the spinach and artichoke hearts. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2 minutes more, until the spinach has wilted. Add 1 to 2 T of water if the sauce gets too thick.
    3. Let the dip cool completely.
    4. Serve the dip warm or cold with the baguettes, tortilla chips, or pita chips.

    This recipe and lots more are on the Seasonal Roots Pinterest spinach board.

    No spinach? Try creasy greens!

    Creasies are native plants that are much hardier than spinach, while still rich in iron and calcium with lots of vitamin A and C. Cooking tames creasy greens’ peppery arugula flavor, turning it mild like spinach. You can substitute it for spinach in any of our recipes. If you’ve never tried this native treasure, enjoy the thrill of discovery — that’s what eating local and seasonal is all about! Click here for a farm wife’s tutorial on creasy greens.

    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.

    great harvest bread co whole grains

    Does freshness matter in whole grains?

    This local baker grinds fresh whole wheat flour daily. Is it worth it?

    By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Two of our most popular breads are the honey whole wheat and the 9-grain from Great Harvest Bread Company in Mechanicsville, Va. They’re both really popular with Seasonal Roots members, partly because they’re full of whole wheat goodness, but also because they’re just delicious.

    Seasonal Roots is all about fresh local food, so we wanted to know if the freshness factor has anything to do with how good and tasty this bread is. Is just being fresh-baked enough? What about the flour — how fresh does that have to be? We talked with June, the bakery’s owner and head baker, but first the backstory.

    Does grain have to be fresh to be good?

    We all know that when it comes to produce, freshness counts — the minute veggies and fruits are harvested, they start losing their vitamins. The longer they’re exposed to air, light, and heat, the more vitamins they lose.

    Does the same thing apply to whole grains? After all, in their unmilled seed form, grains are designed to last at least until next year’s planting. The thing is, once you grind those whole grains for flour, the seed’s protective coating is crushed to pieces and some of the sensitive insides are exposed to air. Air is the enemy of vitamins B, A, and E, which are all found in whole grains.

    Now we do eat grains for more than just the vitamins. Grains are an excellent source of energy, fiber, and proteins, and we can only access those nutrients once the grain is ground into flour. The vitamins do help with the digestion of these important nutrients, but we also get those vitamins in the other things we eat. So even if the flour isn’t super fresh, it still has a lot to offer.

    But taste-testing bread connoisseurs will tell you that the freshness of the flour definitely affects the taste of the bread. Just like freshly harvested produce, freshly ground whole grains are more flavorful, plus they still have most of their original vitamins.

    So when you have the choice, bread that’s fresh-baked from freshly ground flour is always better, as we discovered in our conversation with June of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Mechanicsville.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    So what part does freshness play at your bakery?

    JUNE:

    To make good quality bread, it really is a science and freshness is one of the most important factors. We get started at 4:00am every morning, fresh milling our 100% whole wheat flour daily right here in the bakery. We’ve got our own stone-grinding mill because the fresh milling is really the key. When you grind your wheat fresh it maintains the quality so you’ve got more nutrients, more proteins, and definitely more flavor!

    great harvest bread co june's whole grain bread

    June in her element!

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    What are some of the other factors that go into quality bread?

    JUNE:

    Definitely the ingredients. For the honey whole wheat bread, we use only five simple ingredients: fresh milled whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, honey, and water. No preservatives, the water’s filtered, and the wheat is non-GMO. The same ingredients go into the 9-grain, both red and white wheat, plus buckwheat, corn, rye, barley, flax, millet, and oats.

    great harvest bread co kneading whole grains

    Some of the kneading crew, working their magic.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Have you always been a baker?

    JUNE:

    When I was little I loved baking pies from scratch with my mother, but then I grew up and worked in the insurance industry. After 25 years of that, I was ready to give up the corporate world and that childhood experience was my inspiration. So I started my own Great Harvest franchise.

    great harvest bread co whole grain team

    The bakery staff are like family.

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Why a franchise? Why not just open “June’s Bakery”?

    JUNE:

    The franchise really simplified the business side of it, and taught me the science side, too. So for five years now I’ve been able to focus on my favorite parts of what I do. I have a passion for the bread and I’m a people person. The staff here at the bakery are like family. There are eight of us, including two with autism, and everyone’s an important part of the team. And I love getting to know our customers, they’re like family, too. We love to share samples with everybody. We’re also big on bakery tours with Girl Scout troops and elementary schools.

    great harvest bread co future whole grain bakers

    June with the whole grain bakers of tomorrow!

    VEGGIE FAIRY:

    Sounds like you’re really part of your community.

    JUNE:

    We are, this is where we live and work. We really try to live our mission: Be loose and have fun. Bake phenomenal bread. Run fast to serve others. And give generously. We donate bread to area church food pantries, to make sure it goes to local families in need. And we donate on several levels to local charities, like giving them gift certificates that they can use to get nutritious, flavorful bread for free. We really appreciate everyone who shops local and shops fresh, people like the members of Seasonal Roots.

    Want to drop in and meet June and her team at Great Harvest Bakery Company in Mechanicsville? Directions and more are right here.

    And here are some tips on whole grains from the USDA, including how to store whole grain bread.

    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.