By Mike Van Steinburg, produce assistant manager at People’s Food Co-op
As the movement to support local businesses gains national traction, it’s important to note that farmers should be included. There are many benefits to supporting your local produce famers.
The money you spend on local produce stays in the community. The farmers who grow the produce are reachable if you have questions or concerns about their products. The shelf life of local produce is considerably longer than well-traveled produce. It tastes fresher and may have more nutrients.
Here is a closer look at some of the farmers that sell fresh produce at the People’s Food Co-op.
Mueske Family Farm
Carol Mueske provides the co-op with lots of local apples in the autumn. In the summer months she delivers the tastiest plums. The most interesting plum is called the “Bubble Gum” plum. It is a small red plum that tastes like traditional bubble gum with extra sweetness!
J & J Produce
J & J brings us delicious cherry tomatoes at a very fair price and wonderful mini cucumbers all summer long.
Easy Yoke provides us with certified, all- organic produce year-round. In these summer months they provide green kale, lacinato (aka dino) kale, rainbow chard, spring mix, spinach, collard greens, radishes, strawberries, heirloom and slicer tomatoes, whole red and green leaf lettuces, and our favorite, sugar snap peas. These sugar snap peas are so large, plump, and sweet! It is very hard to eat a sugar snap pea from a big box store after trying these local favorites. I usually buy them to put into a dish for dinner, but my family eats them raw before the meal gets cooking!
River Root Farms
These farmers grow some of the best organic salad greens around. They grow their greens in a giant greenhouse in Iowa. River Root Farms supplies us and three other co-ops with local salad blends. This is a big deal, because most of our salad blends once came from California. Now, we carry many varieties, such as spinach, salad mix, 50/50 mix (half spinach and half salad mix), kale, arugula, and a mighty green mix. These salads stand alone as far as taste goes. The spinach is rich and crisp, the kale is durable and tasty, and the arugula has a perfect peppery-ness. It makes you wonder why other stores carry California salad mixes in the summer!
Spotlight on chard
There are many varieties of chard. Here are some suggestions for chard newbies.
White/green: great for white sauces, gratins and pesto.
Red, pink, and orange: beautiful in salad or pickling (note: color will bleed during cooking and turn pesto brown).
- 1 1/2 cups tightly packed chard leaves
- 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 medium-sized lemon
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Thoroughly rinse the chard and basil. Roll both tightly into the measuring cup, then place in a food processor or blender. Add the olive oil, walnuts, lemon juice, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Blend until well combined and smooth.