Friday, June 17, 2011
Today I picked up my very first farm share! Joel and I are splitting a small share from Parker Farm this season, and I'm hoping to blog regularly about the produce we receive, what we do with it, and where we go wrong (for example, what we end up wasting...hopefully not much!) Keep an eye out for posts titled "The Weekly Vegetable" - these will all be CSA-related.
So, Week 1 (6/16/11-6/22/11). Here's what we got, along with a little background info on each vegetable:
Beets have been cultivated since the second millenium BC, somewhere in the Mediterranean region, although this was a leafy variety (similar to kale) rather than the purple root vegetable we most often think of when we hear "beet." The purple-red beetroot can be eaten raw or cooked, and the leaves are also edible, tasting similar to spinach when boiled or steamed. Studies have suggested a variety of positive health effects from eating beets: protection against liver disease, lowered blood pressure, and increased athletic performance are just a few.
Broccoli has somehow become the stereotypical hated vegetable by kids everywhere (along with Brussels sprouts). This member of the cabbage family gained popularity in the United States around the 1920s. It's nutrient-rich, especially in Vitamin C, and studies suggest anticancer effects, particularly against breast cancer. Broccoli is also a great source of the retinal carotenoid lutein, which helps fight age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems. (For more information about lutein and vision, please read this article that I wrote after attending a carotenoid conference.)
Cilantro is part of the herb coriander; generally the seeds are called "coriander" and the leaves are called "cilantro" or "Chinese parsley." Cilantro seems to evoke a love-or-hate reaction, with those who hate it reporting a soapy taste, while others detect citrus notes. Research suggests a genetic link between one's affinity or aversion to cilantro. The herb is often found in South Asian and Mexican foods.
Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family, a hardy grower with a taste like a broccoli stem, but milder. Common in the Kashmir, this vegetable is a result of artificial selection for spherical shape. The word has the same German roots as the German word for a rutabaga; both contain roots referring to cabbage and turnip. (The latter refers to the shape rather than the derivation.) Kohlrabi can be cooked or eaten raw.
Red leaf lettuce is a mild lettuce with the added nutritional bonus of beta-carotene, a pigment causing the purplish mottling of the leaves. While data is inconsistent, some research suggests a cognitive protective effect from beta-carotene; read my article from a carotenoid conference for more information. Red leaf lettuce should be eaten within a few days of purchase (and stored in the fridge) - it tends to go bad fairly quickly.
Red russian kale is a sweet and tender variety of kale, less wrinkly and less curly than other varieties. Don't bother with the stems; they're tough and will remain tough through cooking. Just rip the leaves right off. The name comes from the purple-red stems and veins, seen only subtly in the above photo. The leaves also develop a deeper purple color in cold weather.
Romaine (also called "cos" due to its supposed origin on the Aegean island of Cos) is a sturdy lettuce bursting with nutrients, particularly Vitamins A, K, and C, along with folate. It's the main component of a Caesar salad, and it's also found in Middle Eastern cooking. Available year-round, romaine is crunchy and complex, great for salads.
Swiss chard is a leafy vegetable derived from the sea beet. When young, chard can be eaten raw; when mature, cooking it yields good results. It tastes like spinach, but with a more refined flavor. The stems are very edible and often very attractive, particularly in the rainbow variety - think technicolor celery. Bonus: it has tons of nutrients, particularly Vitamins A, C, E, and K, plus iron and manganese.
Throughout the week, I'll be posting about what I've made with these vegetables.
Are you doing a CSA this year? What types of veggies have you received so far?