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Time to cook: Get the book. May 11, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. The seasonal farmers’ markets in our area have finally reopened for the growing season. Soon, our local CSAs (organic subscription growers) will be offering lucky members the first fresh produce of the season. I’m hoping all Poor Richard’s Almanac readers share our commitment to supporting local growers, even if you’re not entirely committed to organics and eating seasonally. But what do you do with all that produce, especially when a lot of it isn’t particularly familiar?

Spring is especially tough in this respect. How many radishes can you eat, after all? Spring mix, mesclun, and sprouts are all well and good, but what do you do with all those Asian greens, mustard greens, pea shoots, garlic scapes, and the like? How do you persuade your family that eating fresh asparagus, sugar snaps, and snow peas every night is a luxury? How long will it be before they start demanding tomatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, and summer squash?

Fortunately, help is at hand, in a cookbook I first picked up at our local CSA called From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. Created by the Madison (Wisconsin) Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, mine’s the third edition, published in 2004 by Jones Books (www.jonesbooks.com) and priced at $19.95. With 420 recipes for more than 50 vegetables and herbs, it’s bound to give you some good ideas for how to use even the most obscure-to-you veggies, from fiddlehead ferns, ramps, sorrel, and dandelions to daylily buds and tomatillos to kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, rutabagas, Jerusalem artichokes, burdock root, fennel bulbs, celeriac, Swiss chard, all the dreaded greens, and even edible flowers. There are handy storage tips for each vegetable, too.

From Asparagus to Zucchini also gives thoughtful essays on eating locally and seasonally and “thinking outside the shopping cart.” Not to mention some eye-opening statistics. (Did you know that the top ten items purchased at grocery stores are Marlboro cigarettes, Coca-Cola Classic, Pepsi-Cola, Kraft processed cheese, Diet Coke, Campbell’s Soup, Budweiser beer, Tide detergent, Folger’s coffee, and Winston cigarettes?! Hey, where’s the food?!!!)

This book is a must-have for your cookbook collection, and now you can get it for free. Well, you can if you hurry up and if you’re lucky enough to be one of the five winners chosen by LocalHarvest.org. Hurry up, because eligibility for the drawing ends May 17. Go to the LocalHarvest website (http://www.localharvest.org/), check out the 9871 offerings from family farms in their store, order something before midnight on May 17, and you’ll automatically be entered in the drawing to be held the following day. You can also find CSAs and farmers’ markets near you on their site.

Other cookbooks I’ve found useful in terms of cooking and eating seasonally are the pioneering book on the subject, Learning to Eat Locally (Juliette Spertus, Williams College, 1998, $10); the colorful, anecdotal Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables (John Peterson and Angelic Organics CSA, Gibbs Smith, 2006, $29.95); and Simply in Season (Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, Herald Press, expanded edition 2009, $19.99). And there are the garden-to-table cookbooks, from Rosalind Creasy’s Cooking from the Garden, which started it all (Sierra Club Books, 1988, $20), to Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff’s Recipes from a Kitchen Garden (Ten Speed Press, 1993, $11.95) and The Gardener’s Table (Richard Merrill and Joe Ortiz, Ten Speed Press, 2000, $24.95). These days, there are many more; ask at your own local CSA and farmers’ markets about their favorites. And remember that you can buy them at deep discount or used (for even less) through online sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

Fortunately, our friend Ben and I love our (at least once-daily) salads, and we delight in tossing in every conceivable kind of green, herb, and allium, including the abundant spring scallions (green onions). It’s all good.  We love radishes, as long as they’re fiery and not woody, munched on plain with salt as a snack, sliced into salads, or sliced and layered on a buttered piece of crusty baguette with salt and eaten French breakfast-fashion. We love asparagus, boiled and tossed with butter, lemon juice, salt, and lemon pepper, or roasted with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, lemon pepper or cracked black pepper, and herbs (try it, it’s fabulous), added to pastas and omelettes, and creamed on toast. We love snow and snap peas, cooked briefly and tossed with butter, salt, and pepper, or added to stir-fries, Thai curries, or salads.  We need no inducement to feast on spring’s glorious bounty.

Join us, please!

               ‘Til next time,

                           Silence

Comments»

1. tangledbranches - May 12, 2011

Gosh, I thought I had a lot of cookbooks, but I have none of those. If I may, there’s one oldie that’s stood the test of time here and that’s “The Victory Garden Cookbook” by Marian Morash.

Next time I’m book-shopping, I’ll look for some of your suggestions.

Great addition, tangledbranches, and thanks! I must have that one in the office with my other Victory Garden books rather than in the kitchen, so I forgot it. Shame on me!


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