By 2nd Lt. Miriam Craft
Dietetic Intern, Department of Nutritional Medicine
Spring has sprung! And here in the heart of Texas there’s no better time to begin eating what’s in season. Eating seasonally usually goes hand-in-hand with eating food that is grown locally. This not only benefits nearby farmers, but can also benefit you by saving you money at the register.
Produce that’s picked closer to peak ripeness provides more nutrient-rich flavor to you and your family for every dollar you spend, and purchasing what’s in season will ensure you are serving up the best tasting fruits and vegetables available. Have you ever tried dewberries, rainbow chard, or blood oranges? When at their seasonal best, these and other curious crops may cause even the pickiest of eaters to appreciate their novelty.
CSA and Pick-Your-Own Farms
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farms that allow you to Pick-Your-Own are great ways to get the whole family involved in taking advantage of the delicious foods grown right here in Central Texas.
Farmers sell shares of their crops directly, often packaged in a box or basket and delivered, or they’re available for pick-up in a convenient location every week during the growing season. This system cuts out the middle-man cost to you, saves you time at the grocery store, and provides you with super-fresh food and ample opportunity to try new recipes and explore the flavors of each season. The shares include a colorful variety of tastes and textures encouraging creativity!
In the spring it’s tender herbs, lettuces, leeks and oranges; summer means melons, peaches, tomatoes and okra; fall brings apples, figs, grapes, parsnips and pumpkin. Winter in Texas is perfect weather for greens, broccoli, fennel and golden beets, just to name a few. Getting hungry yet? Learn more about CSAs and finding one near San Antonio at www.LocalHarvest.org.
If you’re not ready to commit to a CSA, you may prefer to visit a farm in a nearby county and Pick-Your-Own favorites. You’ll be able to enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables right from the source, and in the quantity that suits your needs. These farms often have already picked produce as well as other items for sale including Texas honey, fresh eggs, or even apple cider (in the late summer/fall). To find Pick-Your-Own farms nearby, visit http://www.pickyourown.org/TXsanantonio.htm.
Right here in the city, farmers markets bring the goods to you. Homemade baked goods, herbs and even flowers can be found alongside bags of shelled peas, mounds of cucumbers and pints of blackberries. Be sure to ask how produce is best prepared if items are unfamiliar to you. Farmers and vendors alike usually have great suggestions for how to prepare their wares and may even help you find other items to complement your meal. Cooking can be an adventure in and of itself, but remember that variety is the spice of life! Get your family or friends in the kitchen and make a memory, surprise your co-workers with your latest creation, or impress your loved one with a homemade meal. Here’s a recipe from my kitchen to yours, to help you relish this season.
Roasted Beet Salad with Tangy Orange Vinaigrette
1 head butter lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
½ small bunch of baby spinach (about 2 cups), washed with stems removed
4 small red beets (2 ½” diameter), scrubbed, trimmed, and cut into ¾” pieces
1 large navel orange, or other variety of your choice
Zest, then peel and section over a bowl; reserve juice from cutting for the dressing
3.5 or 4 oz package fresh goat cheese
1 green onion, sliced into thin rings
½ c sliced almonds
Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp vinegar of your choice (I use rice, apple cider, or balsamic)
2 tsp Texas honey
Preheat your toaster oven or conventional oven to 350 F. Toss cut beets with a drizzle of olive oil or use cooking spray. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and spread out on a cooking sheet lined with parchment. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make the dressing.
Whisk 1 Tbs olive oil with the vinegar, honey, orange zest, and 1 Tbsp reserved juice. Add the sliced onions and orange slices and toss to coat.
Divide lettuce and spinach onto plates. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the lettuce, add the beets, and pour the dressing/orange mixture over the top. Garnish with sliced almonds.