Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Support your local farms!

I received my first basket of organic goods last week. And it was full of goodies!

Young turnips: the first turnips of the season are sweet and tender. They can be eaten raw, shredded in a slaw or cut into chunks, steamed and doused with butter. The greens are great in a salad or eaten cooked like spinach.

Lettuces are abundant this time of the season, and terribly inexpensive at the market: though this beautiful head was included in my basket, it can be found for a dollar or two at the market (I checked yesterday at the supermarket, and they were1.99$. Boston lettuce was 2.99$. Boston and other special lettuces were 2$ at the market.)

Baby spinach, so lovely and tender there's no need to remove the spines.


Baby wild roquette is less spicy than older leaves, yet it is still full of flavour and personality.




Mixed baby greens can be terribly expensive, so it's always a boon when one finds a big bag of them in CSA baskets! The farm I get my veggies from makes a nice mix of lettuces (red and green oakleafs, red and green lollos -frilly edged leaves, baby romaine, and others), all very nice and mild, so I usually mix in some of the spinach and roquette in my salads.

Tatsoi is an Asian green that isn't very easy to find in stores, especially in the baby size, though bigger ones can be found in Asian supermarkets. Young leaves can be eaten raw in a salad (with pickled radishes as the dressing!), but they are especially delicious stir fried with some ginger and soy sauce.

Mizuna is another Asian green that can be eaten raw in salads or stir fried. It has a bit of a kick, and it really livens up milder lettuces.


Rapini has been enjoying a bit of the limelight of late. Also known as brocoli raab or rape, it has been introduced to Montrealers ages ago by the Italian community. It is a wonderfully bitter green that is traditionally sautéed in olive oil and garlic, and served with white cannili beans or Parmesan shavings. Really tasty on some crusty toast!
If you can stand the bitterness, rapini can be boiled in a huge pot of water with a pinch of baking soda. But you have to keep a close eye on them or they will turn into a smelly sludge: as soon as they turn a deeper shade of green, pull them out of the water and cool them off in an ice bath or cold, running water. The greens will be well done, and not a hint of bitterness. You can cook French green beans (the really thin green beans) this way too, but don't try it with regular green beans as they only take 2 minutes to cook.
And the star of the week is the garlic flower. These can be found at most farmers markets right about now, and for the next couple of weeks. No, they are not some alien vegetable, nor are they grown in zero-gravity greenhouses: they naturally grow in a curly cue fashion. These are the flower heads of garlic bulbs, and they must be trimmed off in order to allow the bulbs to grow fat. They can be sliced and briefly sautéed, or chopped and kept in oil and used instead of garlic. Unless you live at the same latitude as California, you won't be getting any local garlic for at least a couple of weeks, so garlic flowers a nice local alternative to imported vampire-busters.

But do keep your eyes open for new garlic: it should be making an appearance in a week or three, depending on where you live. Quebec new garlic tends to be really small, but some warmer regions will be producing regular sized bulbs. New garlic, if you can get your hands on it, is really, seriously, gorgeous! First of all, the skin hasn't been dried, so it is a cinch to peel off the moist outer layers. Second, it is sweet! I seem to be repeating myself, but new anythings are often sweet: vegetables, like most animals, get their energy from sugars, so naturally when they are fresh and young they will be full of sugar. New garlic is so mild that I could eat a whole head raw, though I do prefer roasting it and eating it on toast with some rapini...

Going out of season:
Asparagus:
If you haven't already had your fill of asparagus, you better get a move on, because they will soon disappear from the shelves and stalls!

Coming in:
Raspberries:
Mmmmm! I was so jealous when a friend from France called to gloat that she had just picked her first raspberries from her garden for an afternoon snack. My canes have nubbings of berries, but none are anywhere near ripe!

Cherries:
California Bings (black) and Rainier (yellow) cherries have been around for the last couple of weeks, but they haven't been very sweet. They should get sweeter with the coming weeks, but the Niagara cherries should have hit the market by then. I don't know how things are going on the West Coast, as I hear they are suffering a severe drought. I hope that the rain these past few days will be enough to help growers in the Okanagan and the Prairie provinces.
Meanwhile, the sour cherries on my Mum's tree are gradually getting redder, and I am just looking forward to a serious jamming session!

Mulberries:
I was walking down the street from work, and I saw a huge mulberry tree covered with blush and tan berries. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for when they turn black. I'm sure that the squirrels are also on the lookout.

Artichokes:
If you're lucky enough to live in a warm enough clime, local artichokes will soon be gracing the market stalls. Unfortunately for me, Quebec is too chilly for this tender thistle.

Bon app'!




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