Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It's all about the veggies, about the veggies, about the veggies - how we make the veggie share work in our house

I'm clearly concerned with what I eat being at least somewhat healthy. And during Ironman training I feel like I eat all the time. Although as I say this I'm relishing the taste of girl scout cookie ... thin mint if you're curious. I just indulged. I'm not perfect and who wants to be?

Over the years I've learned more about food and made my own decisions about what I find to be a good option for me and my family. Food is of course all about options and what works for one person may not work for another.

Know your farmer
Eventually I came to the conclusion that sourcing local and organic foods was very important to me. To that end I signed up for a veggie share. It was called Endlessly Organic and I picked up my box every two weeks and we had a mixed experience with it. Eventually we went on vacation and I put the box on hold and when I got home I cancelled it because it wasn't working for us. The main reason was we had tons of left over veggies.
kumquats. You eat the skin so it's good to know where they are grown.

Shortly after that I found a new share and I signed up for that (much to the shock of my husband who may still have been scarred from the first go around) but that one has worked for us much better although I quit that one too because it wasn't convenient. Now we're on our third go around and I thought it might be worth a go to share how I make it work for us.

First, it really does help if you cook or at least eat at home. If you rarely eat at home it will be tough to use enough of the veggies to make it worthwhile. I'll just be honest about that. I cook a lot for my family and we actually will go through our bag of veggies in under a week. We are a family of four.

My share has full and half shares so another option is to not get a full share and then you get less veggies. They also have fruit only shares and a juicer share - so pick what works for you.

Second - I have learned to shop with the share in mind. My pickup is every other Monday and I go to the grocery store on Sunday or Monday. So every other week I don't really buy produce in the supermarket. That way I have an empty veggie/fruit crisper to fill with the veggies from the share.

There is no filter here. Do you see how red that is? And notice there isn't a huge white stripe. Crazy sweet.
The produce that comes from my veggie share is often ripe and ready to eat. In fact, it has changed what I know about when veggies are ripe. We are getting peppers now, sweet red peppers. They are so red that they put to shame any red peppers I have ever eaten before. Also they have practically no white strip inside.  It will honestly be a challenge to eat traditional peppers again. My daughter loves red pepper with ranch dressing. So I chop these up and put them in her lunch for school.

My share gives me a list of what is expected in the share the day before so I can use that when shopping. It's almost always not exactly correct though since they don't know what they have until the day of and substitutions are the norm.

Third - It should be convenient. I will be the first person to admit that shopping locally can be a huge hassle. After all I can never remember where or when the farmers markets are. This is the third share I've tried and I pick up from a business - not a home which I actually prefer. It is literally two minutes from my home.

Ready, Set ... Salad. I mentioned that the produce from the share is usually ripe and ready to eat. Especially fresh harvested baby greens which I get a lot. So farm share day is salad day. In fact I have learned to try to put at least one or two things from the share straight into dinner. So last night we had salad with fresh greens, fresh tomatoes and fresh red peppers. I also roasted the red potatoes that came with our share for dinner. Today for lunch I had left over salad with added fresh avocado sliced on top. 

An extra bonus for me with the farm share is that I have learned what foods really are local to my region which is different wherever you are. I actually quit one of the shares because it was really just delivering the same thing I could get at the store (cal-organic label and all). We get a lot of citrus, strawberries, green beans and tropical fruits. I've also learned what they taste like when they are allowed to ripen on the tree. It's a huge difference. I guess is makes sense that to get it to the store takes time so it needs to be picked earlier.

Next, I learned to speak up about what I like.  I cancelled my first share because it was too heavy on greens like kale and collard greens. I like kale but seriously too much of a good thing is just too much and I don't like collard greens so not much of that is too much. Some shares aparently offer switching but not mine - what you get is what you get. But in the beginning I just happened to send an email that I was thrilled to have fresh herbs in that week's share and low and behold now I get fresh herbs at least once a month which is really fun.

I happen to enjoy trying new things. We have really discovered a lot of fun things with our veggie share. I live in the tropics but I didn't grow up here. When I get a native local fruit like dragon fruit or thai guava sometimes I don't know what to do with it.

red dragon fruit - there is also white but it's not so pretty
I'm known to post pictures of unknown things on Facebook where I have always gotten great advice. We discovered that we love rainbow chard. We discovered dragon fruit smoothies and lots of other fun things. Some take more than one try. Others we don't like boniata root we aren't sure we like and that's okay too. 
this is a dragon fruit smoothie which is really yummy

I will also email the share if I'm really confused by what something might be. For example Boniata root looks like sweet potato so I cooked it like one only to discover it was most definitely not a sweet potato. So I emailed the share and they let me know what it was and shared recipes to try. I haven't found a winner yet with them but I'll try again next time.

Sometimes it's best to share the bounty. As I mentioned I don't like collard greens. I also don't like squash. I know I know ... everybody loves squash. I'll keep trying it but so please share your recipes but so far it's not my favorite. So I've learned that when I get things I know I don't like I give it away to friends. I literally will take veggies to school drop off and say to a friend, hey do you like squash? If they say yes ... it's theirs. Immediately I hand it to them. They never know quite what to say when I produce a bulb of fennel from my purse for them on the spot.

persimmons and oranges
Yes, of course, it does feel very strange to take veggies to school but I have learned that this little trick almost always returns itself as a bottle of wine or chocolate or an invitation to dinner all of which I happen to like a lot so it all works out.

You can usually customize your share. I get 2 dozen local fresh eggs and 6 organic lemons in addition to my veggies. These are staples that we use all the time in my house so this way I'm sourcing those from a local farm. The eggs are really a lot better and one thing we have a lot of in Florida is local citrus.   Although it can be a challenge to find organic lemons so this solves that problem for me.

I drink a lot of lemon water ... because I drink a lot of water and sometimes adding lemon makes it more interesting.
One last thing to know about me which might help make sense why this works so well is that while I love fresh food I have a totally black thumb. I cannot garden to save my skin. So this is my only option for fresh produce. 

Don't you get like 30 rutabegas or something? I currently have 2 eggplants and two batches or watercress staring at me in the kitchen that I'm not sure what I'll do with. So it's true you can get a lot when things are ripe. I've never actually gotten a rutabega though. But I've learned to enjoy the seasonality of the veggies. They taste better fresh and in season so it's worth it to me.

I did once get a cabbage that was so big I couldn't fit it into the fridge that was pretty funny. My husband called it the mutant communist cabbage. It was so big I needed help to cut it open. I made coleslaw and threw a bunch out because I didn't know what else to do to be honest.

Our current Farm Share is called Farm Fresh Miami. It really is affiliated with a local far. I think it's is a good feeling to support a local farm.. If you're local and want to give it a try I recommend it.

How about you ... do you take part in a coop or a veggie share? If so how do you make it work?

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