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Grilling veggies: Who knew it could be an act of fatherly love?

Here’s to all the veggie grilling dads out there

Grilling veggies is not what most people think of when you bring up the subject of dads and grills. Yabba-dabba-doo-sized slabs of meat, maybe. Tomatoes and Brussels sprouts? Not so much.

Now, I’ll admit to enjoying a juicy grilled steak or lamb chop as much as the next guy. But what really floats my boat is grilling veggies. If they’re fresh and local, the symphony of flavors unleashed by grilling is mind expanding. Veggies take my grilling game to the next level.

For those of you who are new to grilling veggies, I’ve got some tips which I will share with you just as soon as I tell you this:

There’s another reason why I love grilled veggies. A reason that’s closer to my heart.

My kids love them.

When they were little, I loved seeing them reach for more grilled corn on the cob, or grilled broccoli, or grilled onions and mushrooms. Because I knew those fresh local veggies are full of stuff that’s good for them.

Back in the ’90s, I worked for a big corporation. When the first of my two kids was born, parental leave for fathers was a new thing. I wound up being the first new dad in the company to take advantage of it.

That time at home with my baby daughter taught me a lot. Since she had acid reflux, I learned how to snooze while reclining semi-upright so she could sleep on my chest. I learned the hard way to wear an apron while changing her diaper. (Don’t ask.)

But over the years, caring for both children alongside my wife, the most important lesson I learned was how much I loved them. It’s a bigger love than I ever imagined, bigger than I have words for. It also made me realize how much my own dad loves me.

And I love nurturing and protecting them all. I love making food for them that’s really good for them, food that tastes really good, too. Food that makes them smile while it protects them from the inside out with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Food and love. You need both to live.

Duane
Seasonal Roots Founder & Head Veggie Fairy

veggie grilling dad

That’s me with my brand new fancy-pants grill.

grilled veggie menu

Here’s my favorite grilled veggie menu: squash, corn on the cob, tomatoes, onions, and Brussels sprouts. It’s so easy to make a feast with these guys.

I start by putting the squash on foil, sprinkling with lemon zest, olive oil, and salt, then folding up the foil to seal it in. That way the squash will steam in its own liquid on the grill.

grilling brussels sprouts - skewer

I microwave the Brussels sprouts for three minutes to soften them up a little. Then I toss them in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, and mustard powder — or use whatever your favorite sauce may be. Skewer them and they’re good to go.

dad grilling veggies

grilling corn - soak

For the corn on the cob, I peel back the husk without removing it, de-silk it, then soak it for 20 minutes. That will keep the husk from burning. Before it goes on the grill, I fold the husk back up around the cob and gently squeeze out any extra water.

grilling tomatoes onions - perforated griddle

All I do with tomatoes and onions is toss them in olive oil. Since the tomatoes fall apart and the onion slices fall through the grate, I grill them on a perforated griddle. Foil would do just as well.

turn for even grilled veggie browning

For a little protein on the side, I threw on some chicken brats because they’re as easy as the veggies. I grill everything for about 20 minutes, lifting the cover now and then to turn it all to make sure it browns evenly.

grilled veggies on the plate

And voila! At the end I sprinkle a little lemon juice on the squash and call ‘er done. It looks as good as it tastes and isn’t hard to make. The perfect meal.

Happy Father’s Day, everybody!

 

PS: There are more grilling tips from a past Father’s Day right here on the Veggie Fairy Blog, including how to use heating zones on your grill and how to grill the perfect locally raised grassfed steak.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our neighborhood market managers – 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 seasonalroots.com.

Meet the Dairy Cows of Richlands Creamery

Do you know where your milk comes from?

Meet local dairy cows up close and personal at

Richlands Dairy & Creamery’s

FAMILY FARM DAYS!
June 11-13 & June 18-20

Hours on 6/11 & 6/18 (Friday): 1-5pm
Hours on 6/13-14 & 6/19-20 (Sat & Sun): 10am-5pm with live music 1-4pm
116 Cox Rd, Blackstone VA

Info & Tickets

Tour the dairy, handmilk a cow, pet baby calves, climb aboard a hayride, browse the educational booths and craft vendors, and relax over lunch and farm-fresh ice cream! More details below…

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And starting this weekend, look for Richlands Dairy & Creamery’s local half-and-half and heavy cream in the dairy section of your Seasonal Roots online farmers market. Plus, the PB&J Bundle will feature their chocolate milk!

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Okay, so we all know milk comes from dairy cows, right? But when we’re chugging down a tall, sweet, creamy, ice cold glass of milk, how many of us actually know anything about the lives of the cows who made it for us?

If you bought that milk at a big grocery store, it’s nearly impossible to really know, even if there’s a nice story about a farmer on the carton. Today’s impersonal industrial food supply chains combine milk from many dairies and ship it long distances.

But at Seasonal Roots, our mission is to connect you with the local folks who provide the food you eat. Since June is National Dairy Month, it’s the perfect time to get to know the humans and dairy cows at Richlands Dairy & Creamery. They’re less than an hour southwest of Richmond and we’re super excited they’re joining our online farmers market — starting this weekend!

dairy cows in pasture

We talked with Coley Drinkwater, who runs the farm along with her father, her brother, TR Jones, and his wife, Brittany.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Seems like everybody’s jumping on the sustainability bandwagon these days because it’s so important for the future. Sometimes it’s just lipservice, though. Where does sustainability fit into your family’s approach to farming?

COLEY:

Our farm’s been in our family since colonial times. We wouldn’t still be here if we hadn’t been practicing sustainability all along. Our goal as farmers is to care for the land and the animals so it will be there for the next generation. Right now our farm is home to four generations: my 93-year-old grandmother, my parents, my brother TR and me, and our families.

dairy farm family

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Has it been a dairy farm all along?

COLEY:

Well, there were always a few cows to provide milk for the family. Tobacco was the cash crop. But in the 1950s, my grandfather already saw the writing on the wall and figured tobacco was on the way out. So he switched to dairy. After my dad graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in dairy science, he brought his education back to the farm and really built it up.

old-time dairy family

VEGGIE FAIRY:

From everything we hear about dairy farming, it’s not for wimps! The cows gotta be milked twice a day, every day, rain or shine, in blinding snow or blazing heat, right? And the market is very volatile.

COLEY:

It’s not for people who like to sleep in! Traditionally, most dairies sell to a milk co-op, including mid-size dairies like us. We’d produce the milk and the co-op would take care of picking it up, pastuerizing it, bottling it, plus marketing and distribution. It takes a lot off the farmer’s plate, but you’ve got no negotiating power. You can’t plan or budget, and it’s hard to afford to make upgrades to improve your practices because the price has nothing to do with what it actually costs to make the milk.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Didn’t milk price hit an all-time low back in 2016?

COLEY:

It did, and it stayed low for a while. Plus, when COVID hit, milk price dropped again. With prices lingering at those lows for such an extended period of time, it changed the milk industry. Some dairies went under and a lot of mid-size dairies sold out to the really big dairy operations. The historical dairy industry is pretty much gone now.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

If they’re disappearing, that explains why it’s so hard to include truly local dairies in farmers markets. How’d you get through it?

COLEY:

We cut everything we could cut without sacrificing our cows’ health. And we were still losing money every month. We didn’t want to be the generation that lost the farm so we knew we were going to have to do something different.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What were your options?

COLEY:

We could sell, but then the whole family would’ve had to move. We could expand, because there are efficiences of scale that kick in when you have more than a thousand dairy cows. Or we could change our business model.

local dairy & creamery bottling line

I had been thinking for awhile, ever since the local food movement started taking off, that it would be cool to have our own creamery. That way we could pastuerize and bottle our own milk and then sell it direct to customers. We didn’t have enough land to get expand and get bigger, so we said, “Okay! Let’s build a creamery!”

local dairy tour

VEGGIE FAIRY:

And now you’re a destination! Not only do you have a storefront at the farm selling fresh milk and ice cream, you give tours so people can see exactly how the milk is made.

COLEY:

The tour takes about an hour but it’s more than that. We want our farm to be a place where families can come and create happy memories and feel good about where their milk and ice cream comes from. There’s no wifi, so people can put their phones down and relax and enjoy some ice cream. It’s really rewarding to see families visiting with each other and hear children laughing on our playground.

local dairy playground

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What are the tours like?

COLEY:

You see the whole process. One of the most common comments we hear after a tour is, “I had no idea the cows were so well taken care of!” One woman even told us that after seeing how well dairy cows are treated, she was switching from soy milk back to dairy milk! Our girls have an on-call, 24-hour vet and their own nutritionist to make sure they’re getting a balanced grass-based diet. They only work two hours a day while they’re being milked, and they get a two month vacation from milking every year.

dairy cow in barn

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Do the cows live out in the fields?

COLEY:

A dairy cow gets hot at around 75 degrees and doesn’t get cold until below freezing. So in the summer time here in the South, she wants to spend most of her time in the barn underneath the sprinklers and fans to keep cool. But in the winter time, a nice little nap outside in the sun when it’s 30 degrees is perfect.

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You can see it all for yourself! To learn more about tours, events, and how the dairy is run, visit https://www.richlandsdairyfarm.com

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our neighborhood market managers – 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 seasonalroots.com.

tomatoes vs squirrels

Tomatoes vs Squirrels and Other Garden Foes

Spoiler Alert: The squirrels won

This is a story of tomatoes vs squirrels. It’s a sad story. But it has a suprise happy ending, so read on!

I grew up eating fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. Biting into that sun-filled explosion of fully ripened flavor was one of the great joys of my childhood summers. So delicious!

But then I grew up and life got busy. I tried to keep a garden going but, you know — kids, work, traveling for work… I stopped gardening for a long time. At the grocery store, I’d always try to find the best tomatoes I could, but those homegrown, vine-ripened tomatoes of my youth had ruined me. Grocery store tomatoes looked beautiful but they just tasted like pale imitations of the real thing.

So I finally got back to gardening several years ago. I turned the soil, added compost, planted my seedlings, watered, and nutured. The tomato blossoms came, then the first hard green fruits that slowly grew bigger and began to turn a teasing shade of almost-red. I could practically taste them. Little did I know.

The squirrels were lying in wait.

Not just any squirrels. These were greedy squirrels. Ferocious squirrels. Greedy, ferocious, tomato-loving monster squirrels. And cruel! Sometimes they’d spot a tomato when it was about two seconds shy of being fully ripe and take a big bite out of it. But just one bite. Just enough to spoil it for anyone else. Other times they’d carry off their booty and leave a mangled, blood-red mess of a veggie massacre. They’d sit up in the trees and laugh.

I tried netting. More netting. Netting on top of netting. So much netting that I’d wind up tangled in it like a mummy. But not the squirrels. They came and went in that netted fortress like it had a revolving door.

I tried putting the fear of fake owls in them. They knew no fear. Even my three dogs got nothing for their squirrel-chasing efforts but a scolding from the fearless tomato bandits.

I should have put up a marquee over my garden and sold tickets: BIG FIGHT TONIGHT! TOMATOES VS SQUIRRELS! And don’t get me started on slugs, kale-devouring caterpillars, those worms that rot your squashes just before they’re ripe… my gardening Enemies List is long.

But now that I’m with Seasonal Roots, all my gardening woes are solved. When tomatoes are in season, whether they come from the field or the greenhouse, I get to enjoy that mouthwatering burst of vine-ripened tomato goodness with every order. Yum.

As for the squirrels, they’re now raiding the bird feeder. But that’s another story.

Leslie
Seasonal Roots Marketing Maven

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our neighborhood market managers – 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 seasonalroots.com.

Summer Mocktails or Cocktails

Summer Mocktail or Cocktail Recipes!

It’s hard to beat a cold refreshing drink while enjoying the great outdoors this Memorial Day — or any day! Whether you’re at the beach soaking up some rays or just kicking back on the patio, you’ve got to try these yummy drink recipes. They’re fun, fresh, and actually pretty healthy, whether you serve them as mocktails or cocktails, because they start with super fresh local produce.

Strawberry Cooler Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups water
  • 5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • crushed ice
  • additional strawberries, optional

Directions: 

  1. In a blender, process the water, sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and zest in batches until smooth.
  2. Strain the berry seeds if desired.
  3. Pour mixture into a pitcher; stir in the ginger ale.
  4. Serve in chilled glasses over ice. Garnish with strawberries and enjoy. Or add vodka for a refreshing cocktail.

 

The Green Giant: A Garden-Fresh Cocktail With Peas

Peas?! Yeah, seriously, you have to try this refreshing green cocktail. It’s perfect for spring!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 sugar snap peas
  • 1 sprig tarragon
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce honey

Directions:

  1. Muddle 4 sugar snap peas, 10 to 12 tarragon leaves, and honey in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and shake with ice.
  3. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over crushed ice.
  4. Garnish with two sugar snap peas.

 

Celery Cup No. 1

Ingredients: 

  • 2-inch piece celery stalk
  • 1-inch slice cucumber (fresh, English)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (fresh)
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce vodka
  • 1-1/2 ounces cucumber vodka
  • 3/4 ounce agave nectar

Directions: 

  1. In a mixing glass, muddle the cucumber, celery, cilantro, and lemon juice into a pulp.
  2. Add the vodka and agave nectar.
  3. Cover in ice and shake hard for 10 seconds.
  4. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice and garnish with a piece of celery.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

 

Strawberry Mojito

This delicious and refreshing cocktail is perfect for a sunny day, or it can even cheer up a cloudy day.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lime
  • 5 strawberries
  • 1 sprig mint
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 2 to 3 ounces club soda
  • strawberry, garnish
  • sprig of mint, garnish
  • lime wedge, garnish

Directions:

  1. Cut the lime in half, then cut each half into three or four wedges. Remove the stems and slice the strawberries. Pull six to eight leaves from a sprig of mint, leaving the top intact for a garnish.
  2. In a tall glass, add 3 to 4 lime wedges, the sliced strawberries, and individual mint leaves. Top with the sugar.
  3. Muddle well to mash the fruit and dissolve the sugar.
  4. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the rum.
  5. Stir well to integrate the fruit and mint into the ice. Top with soda.
  6. Garnish with a strawberry, lime wedge, and sprig of mint. Serve and enjoy!

Credit: thespruceeats.com & tasteofhome.com

Donation List from Teacher Appreciation Week

Donation Announcement and Other Shout Outs! 

This year, teachers have had to adapt to constant change. And now that teachers are in the final year-end sprint, we know they’re still doing it every day. We so love our teachers! So in early May, we organized a drawing for three lucky teachers to win a free membership to Seasonal Roots (usually $50) and a $100 credit toward fresh veggies, fruits, dairy, eggs, meat and more from Seasonal Roots.

Knowing how much teachers care about kids, we also asked them to nominate their favorite kid-related cause to receive a Seasonal Roots donation. After randomly selecting our three teacher winners, we randomly selected one of the teacher-approved organizations.

And the winner is:
REACH OUT & READ VIRGINIA!!!

We’re excited to donate and support their great work! Reach Out & Read Virginia believes all families should have the tools and information they need to make reading aloud a daily routine. They help integrate reading into pediatric practices, advise families about the importance of reading with their children, and share books that serve as a catalyst for healthy childhood development.

Check out all these worthy charities that were nominated by our local teachers!

Other causes that teachers care about:

  • Youth civic engagement
  • Child trafficking
  • Youth sports coaching
  • Ending childhood obesity

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our market managers – 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 seasonalroots.com.

Teacher Appreciation Week starts May 3rd!

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week!

Wow, do we need to send some extra love to our teachers this year! The Seasonal Roots community feels so connected with teachers. Among our team members and customers, many of us in the Seasonal Roots family are teachers. And many of us are parents with kids in the “classroom” — in all the forms that it took this year.

The past year has posed unending challenges for all of us – especially our teachers.

To respond to the shifting safety protocols, teachers had to…

  1. Change their curriculum weekly (if not daily… or hourly.)
  2. Teach and motivate students online and in the classroom (often at the same time.)
  3. Look out for, and advocate for, students facing extra family challenges because of the pandemic.
  4. Deal with the realities of periodic COVID cases or exposures involving themselves, loved ones, and extended school family.
  5. Technology challenges and hiccups every day!

What a year it has been. So during this Teacher Appreciation Week we want to send some extra recognition and thanks your way.

We’re giving away 3 local food prizes worth $150 each for 3 deserving winners, who will be selected in a random drawing on May 6. Winners will need to live in our delivery area. https://www.seasonalroots.com/delivery-areas

We’ll also be donating to a cause that helps children. Which cause? We’ll let you teachers guide us.

Any teacher is welcome to enter the drawing. When you enter, be sure to nominate your favorite kid-related cause to receive our donation. We’ll pick one and also highlight them all to raise awareness.

Be sure to enter before noon on May 6!

 

Click here to enter the drawing!

Many, many thanks for all you do!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our market managers – 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 seasonalroots.com.

free home delivery

It’s national Tell-a-Story Day: “Local food to the rescue!”


Hey, gather ’round – today is national “Tell a Story” Day! Do you have a local food story? Like the first time your kids tasted truly fresh green beans? Or that hilariously ugly potato that was shockingly delish? Spin your yarn on our Facebook page, and feel free to illustrate with pix! To kick things off, Faye tells her story about the time she broke her leg… and yes, it actually does wind up being all about local food! 
– The Veggie Fairy Editor

Once upon a time: A member tells her story

– By Faye D, Seasonal Roots member

A few years ago, 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 wheelchair, 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!

This all happened back in the before-covid time. So one of Seasonal Roots’ market managers, Margo, even brought the box in for me and put it in the kitchen since I was still using a cane at that point. Thanks, Seasonal Roots…

THE END (sort of)

Vegan options, free home delivery, and lots of TLC will never end!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our market managers – 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 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.

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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.