Friday, December 18, 2009

Stick with Your Roots

Evolutionary Organics (and their turnips) were featured in the NY Times. That's because: 1) Kira's certified naturally grown veggies are fantastic, 2) the Hudson Valley supplies the city greenmarkets with the bulk of the their produce, and 3) everyone should eat turnips and other roots. (Um, and the greens that grew attached to those roots.)

I had a conversation this week with a local organic grower who is also interested in preserving food. We were talking about how we (and most people in the U.S.) are clueless about the value of various foods. Take, for instance, tomato sauce. So many tomatoes go into a jar, and so much time, that it should sell for about twenty bucks. Those little cans of tomato paste you buy for $.99 should cost about fifty dollars. How can you compete with the out-of-control food industry on these things? I, personally, am just tempted to let tomatoes be something that I eat raw, in season, only, preserving only late season green ones, or only if there's a bumper crop in my own little garden. But is everyone willing to give up tomatoes for half the year?

There are some things we do just as well as big commercial farms, or better, really. (I've just lumped myself with HV growers, which I am not! But, as someone who champions and funds HV growers, I'm gonna leave it alone.) Roots, for example, grow fantastically in our area, store well, and taste much better when just pulled from the ground, or stored in a moist root cellar rather than refrigerated in traveling trucks. Because foods like turnips aren't as popular with consumers as something like tomatoes, they don't command as high a price at Key Food or Shop Rite, and those sold at the farmer's market are more likely to be able to compete on price.

This, then, is another reason we should investigate local foods and their seasons. Just as the first ripe tomatoes of summer taste amazing because you haven't had any for months, so do roots. Most of us just need to get more acquainted with them.

Put that jar of cheap "pasta sauce" back on the shelf, and check out some turnip recipes.

Note: If you need vegetarian "fish" sauce, you can get it at many Asian markets. You can also replace it in recipes with a little kimchi brine or concentrated mushroom broth. If you're determined to replicate fish sauce's flavor, here are two recipes to try.

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