‘Tis the Season for Farmers Markets! #1

It is officially summer. This may be my favorite time of the year. Not only do we have sunshine for over 12 hours, but the opportunities for in-season, local, fresh produce are almost endless. From farmers markets to roadside stands to CSA’s, each week we can be sure to find a mouthwatering summertime favorite.

As part of my practicum project, I have the opportunity to make it a point to visit farmers markets outside the Raleigh area. This makes me happy, as I get to drive to new places, meet farmers from various counties and most importantly…..EAT! Eat real, wholesome, locally grown food. Anyone who knows me will agree that I absolutely love grocery shopping. It doesn’t get any better when you actually get to MEET the farmer who grew your food. When it comes to waking up early on a Saturday for a market, I’ll be there.

I decided I will start a series of posts of farmers markets I visit over the course of the summer, which will very well lead into fall and winter. I’m so grateful for those farmers who brave the weather all year round! (Thank goodness I live in the South!)

The first ‘non-Raleigh’ market of the year started with a trip to Columbus County. After a drive through back-country roads to meet Elena, not knowing what to expect, I ended up at the pavilion.

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After speaking with a few farmers and buying cucumbers, beets, and turnip greens, grown mostly pesticide free, I was extremely ecstatic when I found a farmer from Higher Ground Gardens selling rhubarb!! Yes, North Carolina grown RHUBARB!!! Being from WI, this was a treat. I have not once found a farmer who was able to grow rhubarb in this state in the past 4 years I’ve lived here. Every time I asked about it, I received the same response: “It’s too hot for rhubarb to grow here.” Well, this farmer has proven that he is able to grow some great looking (and tasting) rhubarb!

The Columbus County Community Farmers Market is surely one I would recommend to anyone who is looking for good quality, wholesome food who lives south of Fayetteville, near Wilmington or even close to the eastern South Carolina border. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Carrot, Beet, Rhubarb Smoothie
Serves 1

1 cup water
½ cup sliced raw carrots, frozen
¼ cup sliced raw red beets, frozen
¼ cup chopped raw rhubarb, frozen
½ tablespoon Coconut oil
Sprinkle of Ginger
Handful of Goji berries

1. Slice and chop carrots, beets and rhubarb after getting back from market. Freeze together in 1 bag for convenience.
2. Pour water into blender, add frozen ingredients and blend to break up.
3. Add coconut oil and ginger, blend. Taste. If the flavor is too earthy, add Goji berries to sweeten.
4. Enjoy!

I thank Elena for inspiring me to add beets to my smoothies and drink them out of blue mason jars!

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 Read more about my ‘Discovering North Carolina’ project here

Food for thought: What is your favorite summertime food or favorite smoothie ingredient?

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Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes

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On one of the coldest Saturdays of the year in North Carolina, I was determined to drive to a farmers market to stock up on needed essentials, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and carrots with ginger from Two Chicks Farm. Much to my surprise and delight, I stumbled upon a booth whose farmer grew Jerusalem artichokes. These little sunchokes resembled ginger and a root vegetable all in one. The farmer explained to me they were from the sunflower family and I could prepare them like a potato. Roasting sounded quite tempting, as I had never laid eyes on these little tubers before.

I was excited with my find and started researching what exactly a Jerusalem artichoke was. I quickly learned that they are not from Jerusalem, rather a native to North America. They grow in the winter months in the central and eastern part of the US. They are rich in nutrients such as Vitamin C, Iron, Thiamin and Potassium. Even though it is considered a starchy vegetable, it has a low glycemic index due to the amount of inulin it contains. Inulin is a carbohydrate that doesn’t breakdown in the human body and may cause GI upset, namely gas, if eaten in excess. As I researched more, I came across that particular tidbit of information in almost every website I visited. I felt as though I had my fair share of warnings, with the ‘Buyer Beware’ theme floating across Google searches that included the words ‘Jerusalem artichokes’.

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Despite the mixed reviews these vegetables received, I was eager to try them. I wanted to know more about their nutty flavor, and creamy texture, apparently similar to that of a globe artichoke. When I decided to roast them with thyme, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper, I couldn’t have been more pleased. These delicate vegetables were light and creamy, had a taste of both artichoke and sunflower. I did abide with the warnings and limited my consumption to a small helping with each meal. I would purchase them again and highly recommend them to anyone who loves to be fascinated with new foods. Since I am a soup lover, these little tubers will be turned into soup the next chance I get. Bon appétit!

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Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes

¼ cup melted coconut oil

½ tablespoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse and scrub artichokes clean with water (no need to peel), pat dry with paper towel. Slice in half or in thirds, depending on size. Place in bowl.
  2. Add melted coconut oil, thyme, garlic powder. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir to combine flavors.
  3. Place on baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, turning halfway through with spatula.
  4. Enjoy as a side dish or a delicious fiber packed snack!

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

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As we head into the winter months, making a pot of hearty, spicy soup may just do the trick to warm your body and please your palate. Creating a soup with odds and ends in your fridge along with some unfamiliar ingredients from your spice rack may give you that confidence that yes, you ARE a fabulous cook! It’s a great way to experiment with tastes and textures of foods you are longing to eat together in one spoonful. For me, the taste of carrot and sweet potato crossed my mind. I share with you the results. It will be sure to warm your body through.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

4 ¼ cups Free Range Chicken Broth Low Sodium, divided

1 yellow onion, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you aren’t a fan of ‘heat’ in your soup, I would reduce to a pinch)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Optional garnish:

¼ cup raw pecans

1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat ¼ cup broth in a six quart pot over medium heat. Once heated, add in the onions and garlic. Stir the mixture occasionally until the onions are softened.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, bay leaf and 3 cups broth. Cover and turn to medium high heat to start simmering. Once simmering, turn heat down to medium and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add remaining spices. Simmer another 5-7 minutes until potatoes and carrots are soft enough to pierce with a fork.
  4. Add last cup of broth, simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Take out bay leaf.
  6. Use a ladle to scoop soup into blender, filling one third of the way full.
  7. Use oven mitt to hold lid down and blend until smooth.
  8. Enjoy!

Optional garnish: Heat iron skillet, add olive oil and brown pecans 3-5 minutes.Top soup with pecans.