WiLd grEEnS!

May 12, 2010

What is a farmer to do when all of the delicious green vegetables in the fields are on the verge of being plucked off the plant and steamed, but are still too small for harvesting?!  She is dying, that’s what!  Not really.  But I refuse to buy kale or spinach or lettuce from the store, shipped from California.  Greens are one of those vegetables that are really best to always eat locally.  Not only for sustainability issues, but also for nutrition.  Those Earthbound greens in the store were picked maybe six weeks ago, thrown in bleach water for lord knows how long, and stored in a refrigerated area until shelved in stores.  So the nutrition in these greens?  Not so great.

Not that I NEVER buy them, but I rarely do.  This is why I make so much saurkraut during harvest time so I can have all those vitamins and minerals in the winter that I do in the summer when my beloved greens are around.  (Shameless plug:  We will be selling our very our Radical Root Sauerkraut and Kimchee this year, later in the year!  All raw and fresh and fermented in glass and chockfull of nutrients and pro-biotics!).

But anyway, greens.  As much as I love saurkraut, I have been missing eating greens.  The other day Alex and I visited the store to buy a few things, and as I walked around the produce department, I noticed bunches of dandelion greens for sale.  Not that I’ve never noticed the selling of dandelion greens, but I have been noticing they had been looking very lush at our farm lately.  I picked up a bunch and inspected it.  I had thought about harvesting dandelion greens for a while to eat, and the ones around our farm looked exactly the same as these ones being sold for 2.99.  I am not really sure why I hadn’t really paid much attention to them before this year, but I figured I should try it now, especially since Susun Weed (acclaimed New York herbalist) recommends it for pregnant women.

So that evening we went to the farm and I harvested a bunch of dandelion greens.  One thing about dandelion greens is that they do get more bitter as the spring goes on, so I knew I’d have to cook them as opposed to eating them in a salad.

Dandelion Greens, Harvested and Rinsed

So I cooked them.

And I dressed them in an oil and vinegar dressing with salt and pepper.  But I must warn you, dear readers, I did not cook them enough.  Dandelions are very bitter this time of year.  I cooked them only a couple of minutes, but I’d recommend doing it longer.  Susun Weed recommends boiling them in water for at least 5 minutes.  I should have done this, because while I like bitter, I could have used alittle less so.   The last few bites I actually sort of had to choke down.

So if you’re living in the city and if you know of a place that is definitely not sprayed, I’d harvest some dandelion greens!  Some may have even planted themselves in your pots (if you have potted plants outside) or if you have a small box garden.  Then experiment!  Dandelions are very high in vitamins A and C as well as many detoxifying minerals.

Another weed that you may see, especially if you have a small garden or a small yard or, again, a potted plant outside: chickweed!

Chickweed is a sweet little plant that makes a great salad green (I top my bean and rice tacos with some sprigs) that is also high in vitamins.  Sorry this picture isn’t better..if you are unsure what it is, I’d look in some plant ID books.  A nice thing about chickweed is that it is not bitter and actually just tastes like a greener salad green.

And meanwhile, our greens are coming!  Even though it’s been a little chilly, the rain has really invigorated the plants.  I cannot wait to make my first batch of kale of the season!

Swearing off Restaurants.

April 14, 2010

Alex and I are thrifty people.  Very thrifty.  Partly because we are anti-consumerist ecofreaks and partly because we are–well–cheap.  I decided recently that since we work such long hours during the season, we need to have a little fun time.  So I suggested having a date night, and it will ideally happen twice a month.

I picked a Saturday for this month’s first date night, and we combed the internet reviews looking for a restaurant to eat at.  We are new to Grayslake, as many of you know, so we wanted to try some place close by.  However, our track record with restaurants has not been good.  The town we were at before had horrible, fast food-tasting restaurants, and most of them we had tried.  But we always searched for that restaurant we could come back to, some place we could take friends.  Plus, I always like the idea of restaurants…I like the idea of taking a night off from cooking, I like experiencing new atmospheres…it always seems like a good idea to try them out!

Listening to some rave internet reviews AND listening to a few people in Grayslake swear it to be good, we picked an Asian restaurant that will go unnamed.  We had high hopes.  Alex ordered his dish, I ordered mine.  And when it came to us….well, let’s just say I was having some de ja vu.

This has all happened before, I thought.  Sure, the food smells good, and looks kind of good, but the flavor just tastes cheap.  I ate half of the veggie and sickly-sweet spicy noodle dish and immediately starting feeling like crap.  Eating restaurant food without much thought has been something I have done before, but just then it felt impossible to do so.  My mind was reeling:  how was this cooked?  What oils did they use?  What country did these bell peppers or ginger come from?  Is it one of the countries where it’s still legal to spray DDT, and if so, how much of that am I ingesting right now?

Oh, the agony!  What happened to the days where I could eat at any given Thai or Mexican restaurant and not give a freak?  I could ingest all of the oily vegetables and rice I wanted and not even think about it, the plate’s grease a distant memory forgotton with a swig of beer.  I was so carefree then.  Now I am constantly tortured by my consistent upkeep of food politics.

Of course, my nonenjoyment of date night was driving  Alex crazy.  He was hungrily wolfing down his basil noodle stir-fry.  He seemed to be enjoying it ok, so I tried not to let my dissatisfaction ruin it.  I yearned for the days where I could enjoy food like this, greasy Asian noodles that were alittle too sweet and possibly laced with MSG.  But alas, I could not.  I kept thinking, I could have cooked something better than this at home!

At least then I could have used a good, organic oil to cook it in, I’d know what ingredients I was using, and it would have been a heck of a lot cheaper of a date night.  We could have even eaten outside at our small patio table, an option not available to us at this restaurant.

We walked out, Alex feeling too full, me feeling sick and annoyed we had spent so much money on my feeling sick.  It was then that I told Alex I was swearing off restaurants.

Now, maybe not all restaurants.  You can go to Chicago and see restaurant owners and chefs that really do care about ingredients, cooking methods, etc.  Chefs periodically email us looking for organic vegetables and ask if we can sell some to them.  These restaurants are worth seeking out and perhaps worthy of our date night.  Maybe we can save up for these restaurants and eat a meal at them once in a blue moon.  Until then, date night might just be limited to eating in our little kitchen or on our patio outside followed by an evening walk.  I guess I’m just a cheap date.