Healthy Living Blog: Hello Sunshine!

imageI have a message for all you staunch localvores out there: Live a little. There’s few things in the produce department right now more delicious than our citrus! Though it’s not grown in our frozen Vermont backyards, we couldn’t be happier to bring you a little taste of sunshine in these jewel-tone fruits. Winter days just got a little brighter!

imageI’ll start by introducing you to an absolutely delectable feature this month: the Golden Sweet Tangelo. Grown for us by Uncle Matt’s Organic family farm in Clermont, Florida, this variety of tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. Whether or not you’re fond of its parents, however, the tangelo is an all around winner. Sweet like a Clementine and incredibly juicy, this is a great one to slurp right off the rind. Get the Golden Sweet while it’s here—it’s not to be missed.  And you can’t beat the price of $1.79/lb!

imageSpeaking of grapefruit, did you ever wonder who its daddy is? It’s the Grandaddy, citrus maxima—the Pomelo. If you’ve been in the department recently, you’ve probably noticed these impossibly large, chartreuse balls and wondered, What the heck is that?? Well folks, I did some investigating. Underneath the thick white pith, you can see where grapefruit gets its light pink flesh and bright tartness. Lacking grapefruit’s bitterness, the Pomelo actually has hint of pineapple flavor. It may not fit in your lunchbox, but the Pomelo makes a delicious garnish for 2 or 3 breakfast plates. Try it alongside your next omelette!

imageAnother pink-fleshed citrus we’re loving right now is the Cara Cara navel orange. Discovered in Cara Cara, Venezuela, this variety is very low in acid, making it taste like a much sweeter Navel. Floral notes and plenty of juice make me partial to this tropical treat, and it’s nice to change things up a little if you’re a Navel lover.

imageLooking for another opportunity to add some variety to your standard Navels and Clementines routine? Look no further than the fabulous Satsuma Mandarin. Tiny, dimpled, and with a reddish-orange rind, the Satsuma peels like a dream and is tender and juicy inside. The succulent tangerine flavor will have you peeling another before you’ve finished the first! Throw a couple in the pocket of your ski jacket—you won’t be sorry.

Let these juicy gems bring a little light into your kitchen this frigid January! And did I mention that all of these citrus make amazing JUICE? Stay tuned for my next post on the juicing adventures you can start in the produce department…

Deeply Rooted

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the season of comfort food. Isn’t it great to be here? I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoyed a heaping portion of mashed potatoes in the recent past, or tucked into a steaming bowl of hearty soup. Well, allow me to introduce you to the newest asset to your purees and stews: the Rutabaga.  Rich in beta-carotene, this sweet golden root has none of the starch and way less of the carbs that your typical potato packs, and it imparts a wonderful delicate flavor to your recipes. Use it anywhere you would potatoes, and kick up your comfort food a notch this winter! Rutabagas will be on sale all month in HL Produce.

image“The Beet is the most intense of vegetables.” So opens the first chapter of one of my favorite books by Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume. Having enjoyed quite a few vegetables since adopting a vegetarian diet 3 years ago, I would have to agree with Tom on this one. It doesn’t get much more serious than beets. The beet’s flavor is decidedly grounding, and its earthy sweetness is unmistakably seductive. More good news: this heart-shaped, blood-red root is actually good for your heart! Beets contain high levels of nitrate, which is known to reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. They are also rich in vitamins C and folate, as well as minerals potassium and manganese. And for a roasting vegetable as delicious as this, winter nutrition doesn’t get any better! I love beets roasted in apple cider vinegar, which makes them tender, sweet and tangy, and like to pair them with any bitter greens and goat cheese.  

imageAlternately, if you want to harness the raw power of beets, simply toss a couple in your juicer along with a cucumber and one lime. The cool and refreshing addition of cucumber rounds out the pungency of the beet, and the lime adds a pleasant tartness, making for an overall delicious and extremely nutritious drink! (Caution: you may look like a vampire drinking this juice)

Our sale price on beets is amazing this month! Come on in today and discover these and many other winners in our robust roots case. Fire up your ovens and let the roasting begin!

One more tidbit from Tom for you all:

“Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets.”

Posted on the Healthy Living Blog on Thursday, December 12th 2013 

Healthy Living blog: Pearfection

Have you ever sunk your teeth into a perfectly ripe, juicy pear? Whether you’re still searching for that magical moment or know it well, come on into the Produce Department this week and next week during our fantastic sale on pears!

We are featuring the classic Bartlett, the sophisticated Bosc and the seductive Red D’Anjou all for just $1.79 per pound, and we’re rounding out the selection with unbelievably delicious Red Bartletts, which are soft and apple-sweet, and the jewel-like Green D’Anjous, my personal favorite for supple texture and fresh flavor.

You really can’t go wrong with these pears, and they won’t get any better in quality or price! Don’t miss this chance to celebrate the perfect pear and welcome some variety into your seasonal fruit selection…which for me lately, has been apples, apples, and more apples!

Wondering whether your pear is ripe? Pear’s firm flesh can make it difficult to tell, but a gentle squeeze at the neck can clue you in—if it’s soft there, the pear is ideal for eating! If all your pears are rather hard, there’s plenty of ways you can cook with them, both sweet and savory. Try braising them in broth with parsnips for a truly unique side dish! A more traditional favorite of mine is the Tarte Tatin, a mouth-watering upside-down tart topped with caramelized pears, or in this recipe, apples.

If you’re  determined to eat your pears raw, but they’re not ripe, I have a couple of great suggestions for you! If you have a juicer, pear is the ideal addition to a green juice to take off the bitter edge. Bartletts and Boscs work great here, but any kind will do. If you’re not set up to juice, you can toss your greens and pear into a blender with a banana, almond milk, ginger, and my favorite secret ingredient—cinnamon! This light green smoothie packs a punch of nutrients. And of course, if you’re a fan of cheese (who isn’t??), there’s no limit to the pearings you can dream up.

I also couldn’t resist this opportunity to feature our locally grown fresh turmeric. Coming from just across the lake in Saranac, the folks at Bucksberry Farm are also supplying our fresh ginger at the moment. If you like Indian cuisine, you already know what to do with turmeric, and if you’ve never used it, just grate it into any kind of curry or spicy dish. I add both of them to raw smoothies to maximize my joint recovery after a workout—ginger and turmeric are both anti-inflammatory, among other health benefits. Don’t miss any of these great features in the Produce department–come on in today!

Posted on the Healthy Living Blog on Wednesday, November 13th 2013

Healthy Living blog: Take a bite out of fall apples

If you haven’t noticed yet, our shelves in the Produce Department are overflowing with a multitude of new, local apples! While each variety is uniquely delicious, I want to highlight a few of my favorites that have emerged from the crowd. 

imageThis list could only begin with one name, of course – the all around champion – honeycrisp! A go-to favorite, it’s easy to see why. Their extra-crunchy, golden yellow flesh snaps pleasantly under tender skin, and the flavor is sweet with just the right amount of tartness.

imageWhether grown at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham or even closer at Shelburne Orchards, you won’t be disappointed by these winners! A superb eating apple, the honeycrisp also holds up well in recipes, like the tangy cabbage dish I made recently, or baked into pies and crisps. Strictly for snacking, I like to slice my honeycrisps thin with some of our amazing fresh baby ginger. 

imageHave you tried Eugenie Doyle’s Vermont ginger? If you haven’t, there’s no better time than apple season! Come and find it in the roots case at the heart of the Produce department. You’ll be amazed at its mild yet zesty flavor and supple tenderness, making it easy to gnaw raw (professionals only), or muddle into a spiced hot cider. It also bakes well, as I found when I grated some into my pumpkin bread batter this week. Use it anywhere you would use ginger, and everywhere else, too… you can’t go wrong with this stuff!

Not to be overshadowed by the honeycrisp, we are also featuring several varieties of heirloom apples ecologically grown by the Scott Farm in Dummerston, home of 90 different apples! These heritage breeds are smaller and firmer with more potent flavors, and each is a little different. Fun facts: the Scott Farm is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been growing since 1791, and the award-winning film The Cider House Rules was shot here in 1999!

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I love the Holstein, a light-colored russetted apple with a citrusy bright flavor, which makes sense as it’s related to the better-known Cox Orange Pippin. To me, it’s reminiscent of pineapple… what do you taste? This is a superb pie apple for all you bakers!

imageAnother star of the heirloom lineup is the Orleans Reinette, a rosier-cheeked apple with a flavor that is more aromatically floral with a nutty undertone. It’s delicious sliced and dipped in your favorite nut butter (think chocolate and hazelnut).

This apple lover could go on and on, but alas, it seems we have a case of too many apples and too little time… come on into Produce and discover your own favorites today!

posted on the Healthy Living Blog on Friday, October 4th 2013

Healthy Living blog: The Field Trip

imageFall has arrived in Chittenden County! September 5th brought us the first taste of autumn, and another farm trip day for Healthy Living staff. These opportunities to see how and where our products are being grown bring us that much closer to our amazing farmers, and at Healthy Living we work hard to bring that experience directly to you! Though the busy season for Vermont farms has peaked and preparations for colder months are underway, there was still plenty in the ground for us to feast our eyes on…as well as plenty of tasty winter delights that haven’t yet hit shelves (think colorful squashes, hearty roots and pastured meats!).  

imageOur first stop on this cool but sunny morning was at Bread and Butter Farm right next door in Shelburne. At the store, we know Bread and Butter best for their hearty seeded breads, their grass-fed beef, and their curly green kale. When we arrived, farmer Corie and 4 farmers-in-training from UVM were in one of their hoophouses harvesting kale destined for our own shelves. Coincidence? We would see this happen again later in the day…so I think not!

imageCorie took us down to see their mixed herd of dairy and beef cows, who are grazed rotationally and constantly on the move. On our walk, she explained that their rich, claylike soil is best suited for growing grass. Lush, diverse, and perfect for grazing, this green gold is their bread and butter! Corie and Adam, her business partner are passionate about dairy and sell their raw milk in their farm store. The beef cattle are available there too, as well as in our own Meat Department, and ground up into burgers every Friday night. The Bread & Butter trilogy of meat, bread and veggies is featured all summer long at their Burger Night. Being able to serve up patties, buns and salads on the ground from which they came could only happen on a small-scale, diversified farm like those which we support.

imageOur final stop of the tour was in the bakery, where Adam was mixing dough for a weekly bread bake. All the flour used is milled freshly on-site, and their several varieties of bread are a year-round staple. What I like most about Bread and Butter is their emphasis on farm diversity and community involvement, and their clear intentions to stay small and develop what they are obviously excelling in. Whole-systems thinking is in action on this innovative farm!

imageIt was hard to imagine greener pastures, but we had other stops to make. With Cheesefactory Road in the rearview, we headed for Jericho Settlers’ Farm in Richmond, one of two sets of fields that they work (the primary farm is, of course, in Jericho). Though the largest of the farms we visited, it’s still family owned, and operates on the two oldest farmsteads in Jericho. Roots run deep for these hardworking folks. When we arrived, farmer Christa politely asked us to move our cars—we were blocking the way for pigs to be moved! In addition to a huge diversity of vegetables, JSF raises pastured pork and lamb, as well as beef cattle which graze at their other location, and a large flock of chickens who lay their famous solar eggs for us at Healthy Living.

imageChrista walked us through their fields in the floodplain of the Winooski, where they had a very wet start to the summer. Despite the mud, they’ve more than managed to supply us a rainbow of produce, with tender lettuces, colorful chard, and delectable squashes, to name a few. We saw what seemed like endless rows of carrots still in the ground, which they’ll store throughout the winter, and a dense, shimmering cabbage patch. Much to look forward to from these folks in the coming months! Christa fired up a mechanical greens harvester to show us how our mesculun mix is brought in, which was the neatest piece of farm machinery this city girl has ever seen! Next she showed off their seeder, which adjusts to minutely control the spacing between seedlings. By fine-tuning the seeding process, they achieve perfectly spaced rows, eliminating the need to return and thin seedlings, saving time, effort, and of course, seeds.

imageImpressive is the word I would use to describe JSF, a farm that is clearly meeting and exceeding its potential, running an efficient operation and maintaining a strong presence in the Burlington local food landscape. Christa had lost count of their hoophouses at the Jericho farm—was it the 8th, or 9th currently under construction? They show no signs of stopping what they’re doing, and we love it!

imageAfter a brief siesta at On The Rise Bakery, we continued down the road to Burnt Rock Farm in Huntington, nestled in a vale alongside the Huntington River. This fertile glacial soil is farmed by Justin and his wife Lindsay, from whom we’ve already received beautiful burnished eggplants this summer. The lion’s share of their harvest is yet to come, however. With only 7 acres, these wise folks have taken a more specialized approach to farming. They pump out greens all summer long—baby spinach was thriving in the moist soil and still being planted when we visited—and the rest of their harvest is winter storage crops, to be cured and sold throughout the winter. Their specialty is potatoes (especially the sweet ones!) and they also grow winter squashes, garlic and onions.

imageJustin took us out to see the sweets, which were nestled under layers of black plastic, practically invisible beneath their spreading shoots. I had never seen sweet potatoes in the ground before, and was stunned by the beauty of their pale pink flowers and dark rusty leaves. He punched through the plastic to pull up a bunch of glowing tubers, which were already hefty and with plenty of room to grow. Look forward to seeing these gems in the coming months!

imageWe ended up in the storage house, where Justin’s assistants were boxing up an order of delicata squash destined for none other than Healthy Living! Their several varieties of squash were quickly filling up the storage space, and with more still to come, Burnt Rock clearly has strategized for a bounteous fall and winter. The industrious Justin also showed us a round of red chard that had just gone into the ground in his hoophouse, to be ready in late November when other farms’ greens were dwindling. Pretty clever—but this all made sense when we saw where he learned his tricks. Before buying his own farm, Justin was a farmhand at none other than Full Moon Farm.

imageHaving one more stop to make, we said goodbye to Justin and drove through Hinesburg Hollow to the Zuckerman’s sprawling farm on the other side of the mountains in Hinesburg. Full Moon got its start in the Intervale, but has moved on to new horizons and an expansive swath (155 acres, to be exact) of well-drained, scenic farmland. Dave is a busy man these days with a senate seat, not to mention a farmstead, to hold down, and unfortunately our little visit went under his radar. Though we didn’t get to talk to Dave, we got an excellent tour from Rachel, his witty and incredibly down-to-earth wife. She brought us through the silo-flanked barn, which, by amazing feats of architecture and what sounds like plenty of hair-tearing, is also their dwelling space.

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They had just completed a chicken slaughter in their certified facility, and though we won’t see their birds at the store, their 300 CSA members will! Full Moon is primarily focused on their shareholders and the Burlington Farmers’ Market, and after seeing how much bounty these customers receive, we felt lucky to feature some of it on the shelves of the Produce Department.

imageAlso in the barn were Rachel’s dozen-plus English Angora rabbits, which she raises for their wool. Clearly, she has a soft spot for these fuzzies, and so do the kids who participate in Full Moon’s Farm Camp, which I would gladly relive childhood to attend. Before we had even seen the fields, I was regarding Dave and Rachel as ambitious, tireless people whose ideals were never far from sight. They are embracing the full circle that connects people and food, and doing it all with a big dose of honesty. The realities of farming are no picnic, and they still manage to inspire others to take on both the joys and the challenges of it all. What a team!

imageWe strolled past the Children’s garden accompanied by Clementine the barn cat to their greenhouses, where the pearly red onion harvest was curing. Rachel led us through rainbow chard and rainbow carrots, destined for winter CSAs, to a spectrum of winter squashes, a forest of brussel sprouts and kale, and a picture-perfect field of corn, which we are currently selling at HL. The shadows were growing long as we returned to the barn, where Rachel bid us farewell. It was at Full Moon that I felt most humbled and awed by the full spectrum of farm life, and gratitude welled up in me for good people like Dave and Rachel who aspire to do what needs doing and do it well. There’s no one I’d rather have as my farmer, and I hope you feel the same way!

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posted on the Healthy Living Blog on Tuesday, September 17th 2013