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boost flavor with local food newsletter

11 Tasty tips to boost flavor

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / July 5,2018

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

11 TASTY TIPS TO BOOST FLAVOR
The Flavor Fairy tells all!

Take it from me, the Flavor Fairy: You have the power to boost flavor, and you don’t need a magic fairy wand to do it. Here’s how.
1. Start with fresh, local produce and artisan fare. The fresher food is, the more flavor it has.
2. Prep garlic, onions at the last minute. Once cut, with time their flavor can get too strong.
3. Keep all those tomato seeds and goopy stuff, too. That’s where the flavor is. Who...

Read the rest of the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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boost flavor with local food

11 tasty tips to boost flavor

The Flavor Fairy tells all!

By the Flavor Fairy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Prep garlic and onions at the last minute.

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

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

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

4. Boil it NOT!

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

5. …Save the broth!

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

6. Strike when the pan is hot.

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

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

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

8. Add soy sauce or anchovies.

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

9. Add fresh herbs at the right time.

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

10. Use fat to intensify dried spices.

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

11. Oh, and keep those fats fresh!

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

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 farmers markets

How to find your local farmers markets … and why

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / June 27,2018

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

HOW TO FIND YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKETS … AND WHY.
'Tis the season for a field trip to explore local food!

Here at the Seasonal Roots online farmers market, we love in-person farmers markets – they’re our inspiration! If you love them, too, check out our Veggie Fairy Blog series on in-person markets before you get out and explore. We’ve got helpful info on markets in Richmond, Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia, and the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area. View links to each area on the Veggie Fairy blog.

In-person or online, farmers markets bring communities together around local food. Both have benefits. At in-person markets, you can enjoy face-to-face interactions with the folks who produce your food. The online market’s convenient online ordering and home delivery save valuable time ...

Read the rest of the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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FLores Farm local food tastes better

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

Local produce has one big advantage over supermarket produce

By the Veggie Fairy Team:

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

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

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

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

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

Supermarkets are selling a lie

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

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

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

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

Supermarkets are selling you a lie.

Local farmers are selling the truth

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

VEGGIE FAIRY:

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

OMAR:

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

VEGGIE FAIRY:

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

OMAR:

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

VEGGIE FAIRY:

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

OMAR:

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

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

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

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What kind of farming techniques do you rely on?

OMAR:

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

VEGGIE FAIRY:

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

OMAR:

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

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How big is your farm?

OMAR:

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

VEGGIE FAIRY:

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

OMAR:

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

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.

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.

    ugly food fresh local sustainable

    We love ugly food!

    What does truly fresh produce look like?

    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.

    So 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 perservatives 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.

    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.

    Plus, 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.)

    After our farmers harvest it, we don’t douse it in preservatives or wax. 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.

    So that’s why we love ugly food. If it’s ugly, nibbled, or oddly shaped, that’s just proof that it’s good for the planet and good for us!

    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?

    Pretty or ugly, 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, 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.