Posts

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.

    Richmond farmers markets customer service

    Richmond farmers markets

    The truth about farmers markets customer service — plus recipes!

    Last in a 4-part series on Virginia farmers markets
    By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

    (Part 1: Virginia Beach farmers markets)
    (Part 2: Northern Virginia farmers markets)
    (Part 3: Fredericksburg farmers markets)

    As I was researching this series, I came across this from a shopper at a farmers market: “Enjoyed seeing the variety of pickles and beef truck. The soap vendor spent her time at the pickle vendor’s tent telling us what she thought we should purchase from him….not good. Would have enjoyed spending time ourselves talking with the pickle vendor.”

    Yikes. Because there are so many different vendors at a farmers market, the customer service naturally varies from vendor to vendor, and sometimes it’s real hit or miss — like the poor pickle vendor, caught in a pickle that wasn’t even of his own making. (Sorry, I couldn’t resisit.)

    How do you measure customer service at a farmers market? For me, it’s a combination of things: Friendliness, respect, knowledgeability, and responsiveness. I don’t want to be ignored, but I don’t want them to bug me, either. And what do you do if you get home and discover there’s a problem with something you bought? How do you get help after the sale?

    Richmond farmers markets

    The Richmond area is jam-packed with farmers markets. Here are some insights into the customer services on offer at a diverse selection from around the city, from big well-known markets to smaller neighborhood ones.

    One thing these markets have in common is they’re all friendly (what farmers market isn’t?!), most are dog-friendly, too, and they’re all open at least one day a week this time of year. A few are open year-round.

    South of the James Farmers Market is the big kahuna among Richmond farmers markets, with about 100 vendors in the summers. Folks who shop here say it’s exciting and entertaining. In between its Saturday market days you can reach the market managers by email and USPS snail mail.

    Farmers Market @ St Stephen’s is small and stress-free with easy parking. They’re open on Saturdays. In between market days they offer an email contact on their website.

    Birdhouse Farmers Market, formerly known as the Byrd House Market, is tucked away off the beaten path. It’s open on Tuesdays and considered a real find by loyal shoppers in its neighborhood. One unique customer service that they offer is a pop-up library. On their website they also offer a phone number! Another unique service. So you can reach the market managers by phone or email when the market’s not open.

    Carytown Farmers Market is also a little neighborhood market. Customers like that it’s open on Sundays and surrounded by fun Carytown shopping. To get in touch with the market reps when the market’s closed, there’s an email address, a mailing address, and a contact form on the website.

    Lakeside Farmers Market, open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, is praised for its wide food selection by the folks who shop there — which is at least partly a result of the market not requiring its vendors to stick to local food only. On its website, the market is open about the fact that they’re not producer-only, meaning that some of their vendors sell things they haven’t grown or made themselves, including foods grown way outside our region. Also of note: Of all the Richmond markets listed here, this one is the only one that prominently offers a one-week satisfaction guarantee — anything you’re not happy with you can return to the vendor who sold it to you the following week for a replacement, refund, or credit. There’s also an email address and online contact form to get in touch with the market managers between market days.

    West End Farmers Market is open Saturdays and its managers can be reached by email when it’s not open. Shoppers who live in the West End love that this market is so conveniently close to home.

    What happens to customer service when the market’s not open?

    Most markets are super helpful and friendly during the few hours they’re open for business. But what happens if you get home, unload your bags of booty, and discover there’s a problem? Who do you contact?

    That’s totally up to the market and the individual vendor. All the Richmond farmers markets listed here offer at least an email option for getting in touch with the managers. Many vendors make their contact info available, too, at their booths and online. But assuming they’re willing to give you a replacement or refund, you still have to go to considerable effort. To return anything, you have to return to the market along with the item you want to take back. If you don’t have the time or transportation to get back before their deadline, whatever that may be, you’re out of luck.

    This is where an online farmers market like Seasonal Roots has an advantage. While Seasonal Roots is modeled on the farmers markets we love, the lack of customer service between market days was one thing we decided not to copy.

    To start with, our farmers market online shopping is open all weekend, from 2:00 Friday afternoon till 11:59pm Sunday. So the available “open” hours when you can get your local food shopping fix are a lot more convenient.

    We also provide farmers market home delivery at no extra cost. So you don’t have to go anywhere and that saves you time. Plus everything we deliver is guaranteed. If there’s ever an issue with anything, we’ll give you a replacement or refund, no problem.

    To report an issue, we built in an easy way to do it on our website. (Near the end of this article is a description of how to report an issue.) It takes about a minute. After that, if a replacement’s in order, we’ll home deliver it to you along with your next order. If a credit is due, we’ll issue it pronto. Easy peasy. You never have to track down individual vendors or mess with trying to get in touch with market managers who often have other day jobs.

    For any other questions or concerns, you can contact our dedicated support team of veggie fairies by email or phone (757-351-4565).

    And one more thing… recipes!

    Of course, most of the stuff you bring home from a farmers market or receive at your doorstep from Seasonal Roots is totally fine and ready to eat — and the sooner you eat it, the better. Fresh local produce is loaded with more nutrients and flavor than grocery store produce because it’s just days from the field, whereas grocery store produce is at least a week old, often older. The longer it sits, the more nutrients and flavor it loses. So it’s best to get busy eating!

    To make it easy for you to do that, we include several recipes with every delivery and post them on Pinterest, too. We think that’s just good customer service. Check it out!

    In the end, any Virginia farmers market that features local food is good for local farmers and food artisans. That’s our bottom line goal here at Seasonal Roots. As long as family farmers can make a living, we’ll all continue to have access to delicious, nutritious local food that’s good for us and good for the planet. So when you have the time, go spend a few hours at your local farmers market. For your day-to-day local food needs, there’s Seasonal Roots.

    Either way, in-person or online, we’ll see you at the farmer’s market!

     

    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.

    Fredericksburg famers markets

    Fredericksburg farmers markets

    Farmers markets: A summer treat; winter, not so much

    Third in a 4-part series on Virginia farmers markets
    By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:
    (Part 2: Northern Virginia farmers markets)
    (Part 4: Richmond farmers markets)

    On a sunny weekend, I love wandering past rows of beautiful fruits, veggies, and artisan fare at a farmers market, carried along by the energy of the crowd. At the one near my house, musicians are playing, artists are exhibiting, and there are lots of treats to sample. Most markets start up in the late spring as the first harvests get going. They boom in the summer and slow down again in the fall. Then over the winter, most disappear until the harvest seasons roll around again.

    Fredericksburg farmers markets

    The market scene in Fredericksburg gives you three farmers markets to choose from: Hurkamp Park Farmers Market, Mayfield Market, and Mary Washington Healthcare Market Express.

    They’re all open-air markets. The Hurkamp Park market is open Monday through Saturday, its busiest day, and includes produce and baked goods.

    The Mayfield Market is open Thursday afternoons. It specializes in flowers and plants in addition to produce.

    The Mary Washington Healthcare Market Express is also open Thursdays, from late morning into the afternoon. It’s located on the campus of Mary Washington Healthcare.

    Year-round availability?

    The thing about farmers markets is that you can’t depend on most of them to serve as your primary source of groceries year-round. In Fredericksburg, only the Hurkamp Market is open during the winter, and even there, most of the vendors bow out until spring returns. That’s true for all the Virginia regions we’re covering in this series — the majority of markets close down over the winter, and at the ones that stay open the pickings get slim.

    If you’re committed to eating local, that’s a bummer. After all, eating food that’s local, sustainable, and humane offers all kinds of benefits. It’s got more nutrients, more flavor, it’s better for the environment, and it boosts the local economy. That’s why a lot of people rely on online farmers markets like Seasonal Roots to meet their day-to-day food needs with home delivery year-round . They can hit the nearest farmers market when it’s open and they have the time, but they don’t have to depend on it.

    Virginia winters are cold enough that filling any market with a variety of fresh, local produce is a challenge, no doubt about it. We can all get our hands on plenty of winter squashes, greens, and root vegetables but most people want more variety than that.

    Some online farmers markets resort to offering produce that isn’t local or even regional or wasn’t grown sustainably, and they may not tell you where it’s from.

    Not Seasonal Roots. During the coldest couple months of the year, what we do is offer regional produce in addition to local produce, with the source and location clearly labeled. While there’s no official definition for ‘local food’ or ‘regional food’, we consider food local if it’s grown or made within about 150 miles of where our members live. We call it regional if its outside that range but can still get to us within a day or so of harvest without flying. The rest of the year we’re 100% local, and we’re always sustainable and always humane. We’ve got a whole article on local vs regional if you want to read more.

    A year-round farmers market like Seasonal Roots is more reliable for family grocery shopping, and for the farmer too. In addition to winter crops, our local farmers grow other kinds of produce sustainably in greenhouses. Their hens are still laying and their cows are still producing milk. With a little help from more southerly parts of our region, there’s always plenty of local food to get us through the winter.

    But during the warmer harvest seasons, nothing beats an in-person farmers market when it comes to music, entertainment, friendly crowds, and yummy samples. There should always be a place in our lives for both kinds of markets, in-person and online!

     

    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.

    Northern Virginia farmers market

    Northern Virginia farmers markets

    Farmers markets help you know where your food comes from

    Second in a 4-part series on Virginia farmers markets
    By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

    (Part 1: Virginia Beach farmers markets)
    (Part 3: Fredericksburg farmers markets)
    (Part 4: Richmond farmers markets)

    Do you know where your food comes from? It’s hard to figure out the backstory of anything you buy in a grocery store — even organic items from eggs to milk to produce aren’t always what they seem. The only way to know for sure is to get to know the farmers and food artisans who make your food.

    Get to know your farmers & food artisans

    Local farmers markets and online farmers markets like Seasonal Roots can help you do that. Sam, the Farmer Connector for Seasonal Roots, gets to know each farmer and food artisan personally. He visits their farms and kitchens and knows the methods they use to grow or make their local food. He makes sure they all rely on sustainable, humane practices that are good for people, animals, and the environment. Thanks to Sam, it’s easy for Seasonal Roots members to get to know each farmer and food artisan, too — while they’re shopping at our online farmers market, they just click on the vendor info that’s next to every item in the market.

    In-person farmers markets that are “producer only” farmers markets give you a similar opportunity. “Producer only” means every vendor grows or makes the things they sell. No re-selling is allowed. An example of re-selling is when a vendor buys produce at a wholesale market, then takes it to the farmers market to sell it there. That kind of produce is almost never local and it’s almost impossible to figure out how and where it was really grown.

    When you go to a producer-only farmers market, it’s a safe bet that the person standing there next to a mound of gorgeous produce or tempting pies had something to do with growing or making it. They’re either the farmer or food artisan themselves, or they’re a family member or friend or employee. You can stop for a chat, find out where they farm and what kinds of farming methods they use. To ensure their produce has the most flavor and nutrients, how soon after harvest do they get their produce to market? Are they environmentally friendly — are they low- or no-spray and do they conserve water? Do they treat their animals humanely — are the animals raised in pastures and are antibiotics avoided?

    Local producer-only farmers markets, whether they’re in-person or online, give you an old school connection to your food that’s impossible to get at a grocery store. They give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing and trusting the people you get your food from, even in a big, impersonal metropolitan area like Northern Virginia.

    Northern Virginia farmers markets

    The Spotsylvania Farmers Market is the largest local farmers market in the region. They say that more than 60 vendors are out there every Saturday selling locally produced goods.

    Another large local farmers market that proudly declares itself producer-only is the Dale City Farmers Market. Nearly 50 vendors set up for business on Sundays.

    The veteran-owned, family-owned Long Sunday Market (formerly known as the North Stafford Farmers Market) is also open on Sundays and everything is locally produced. They’re also now hosting a smaller Wednesday market, so check it out!

    The historic Fredericksburg Farmers Market offers three locations that feature family farms — one open on Saturdays, the others on Thursdays.

    The Reston Farmers Market, open on Saturdays, has a history of focusing on nutritious eating and says it’s also producer-only.

    The Herndon Farmers Market and Annandale Farmers Market are both open on Thursdays. Like the other farmers markets in this list that are sponsored by Fairfax County, they are strictly producer-only. Their farmers and producers all come from within a 125-mile radius of Fairfax County. They even encourage their food artisans to use local ingredients in the creation of their products as much as possible.

    One final note: Most of these Northern Virginia farmers markets do not allow pets within the market area. Sad as it is, please leave furry family members who aren’t service animals at home — especially during the summer months when it’s just too hot to safely leave them in the car.

    So if you want your food to match your values (and if you want to make sure you get what you pay for!), get to know your local family farmers and food artisans and buy local. Like we say here at Seasonal Roots: It’s all about food that’s good for you and good for the planet… from people you know!

     

    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.

    Virginia Beach farmers markets

    Virginia Beach farmers markets

    Farmers markets bring communities together

    First in a 4-part series on Virginia farmers markets
    By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

    (Part 2: Northern Virginia farmers markets)
    (Part 3: Fredericksburg farmers markets)
    (Part 4: Richmond farmers markets)

    Here at Seasonal Roots online farmers market, we love in-person farmers markets. They’re our inspiration! In this series we’ll explore in-person farmers markets in Richmond, Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia, and the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area — communities that are lucky enough to have a local farmers market or two… or more! No need to Google “farmers markets near me”. We’ve got ’em right here. In this post, we’ll start with Hampton Roads.

    Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach farmers markets

    When you have the time, you can make a day of it at a larger market like the Virginia Beach Farmers Market. Over the course of 25 years, it has grown to include local and regional produce, a butcher shop, dairy store, bakery, organic grocery, wild bird store, seafood, florist, candy maker, specialty garden shops — even a restaurant.

    “Next door” in the Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area, the Newport News City Center Farmers Market offers a nice break from the workday. During the summer it’s open Thursday’s from 10-2.

    The historic setting and live music at the Williamsburg Farmers Market make for a memorable all-day Saturday outing.

    Same for the Portsmouth Olde Towne Farmers Market, which even sneaks in some educational and cultural opportunities by partnering with local museums and concerts.

    The key to enjoying these local farmers markets, of course, is TIME. Getting in the car on the Saturday or Thursday the market is open, driving, parking, wandering the market, comparing what’s on offer, detouring to check out a kid-friendly vendor, stopping to chat with a farmer or neighbor or enjoy the live music… it’s fun but not exactly convenient.

    Upsides, downsides & building community

    Healthy eating has got to be convenient to make it a regular part of busy lives, and we’re all busy, right? For that, you’ve got Seasonal Roots, with farmers market online shopping and farmers market home delivery. Saves you tons of time and makes it easy to eat nutritious, delicious local food every day.

    In-person farmers markets are time-consuming for the farmers, too. Markets like the one in Williamsburg require the vendors to make or grow the stuff they sell. The upside is, you know you’re buying real local food direct from the farmer, not mystery produce some guy bought at a wholesale market and hauled over to the farmers market.

    The downside is, the farmer has to spend a whole day at the market. That’s a day they’re not plowing, planting, weeding, feeding, harvesting, or the thousand-and-one other things that farmers have to do. An online farmers market like Seasonal Roots is a much easier and more efficient way for local farmers to connect with local families.

    Still, whether a farmers market is in-person or online, there’s nothing like it for bringing a community together. So join us on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. And when you have time, we’ll see you at the local farmers market!

     

    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.