Last Saturday, I gathered my dishes and marched my way to the teaching kitchen at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op in my home town. I spread out my Thai Butternut Squash Soup and my Beautiful Beet Salad, my Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins, Blue Cheese Herb Spread and Apple Honey Cake. Plus I brought locally harvested Maitake mushrooms and some assorted beets, butternut squash and pie pumpkins. My class and I cooked and ate and talked and shared. It was a lovely exchange with questions like: Is it nutritionally better to boil or roast beets? (Raw preserves more nutrients than cooked, but I wasn’t able to find a difference nutritionally between the two cooking methods.) Which do you prefer, butternut or pumpkin? (Me, I choose butternut. For its flavor and for how much easier it is to work with.) How can we incorporate more nutritious grains into our diet? (Embrace quinoa!)
In an effort to share most widely the information I gathered for the class, I’ll post it here. Though this won’t be relevant for many not living in Southwest Virginia, I encourage out-of-towners to seek out local meat providers, local orchards and farmers and farmers markets where they live. These providers are the key to eating local food.
One last link: A thoughtful and generous blogger friend wrote about her visit to my class. If you’d like to read what she had to say about eating local and her fall flavor discoveries, click here for her post. Thanks, Becky!
How can you eat more local food?
1. Sign up for a CSA: Good Food-Good People, Seven Springs Farm, Waterbear Organic Farm, Thornfield Farm, Farm to Table Roanoke at Greenbrier Nurseries. Never have there been so many choices.
2. Buy in bulk: Good Food-Good People A la carte menu; Weathertop Farm, Bramble Hollow Farm, Four Corners Farm.
3. Meal plan Friday or Saturday before the weekend. Farmers market and grocery store shop on Saturdays. Cook ahead on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
(Year ‘round farmers markets: Farm to Table Market at Greenbrier Nurseries (Thursdays and Saturdays), Downtown Roanoke Farmers Market (most vendors on Saturdays), West End Community Farmers Market (Tuesdays 3 to 6 p.m.) Grandin Village Community Market will have two dates this fall inside the CoLab. Saturday, Nov. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 17.)
4. Prep your dinner in the morning or the night before.
5. Cook and finish for a half-hour before meal is on the table. Enlist your kids for help.
6. Plan for a raised bed, planting box or gardening space of some sort for next summer. Even if you only grow herbs and a few favorite veggies, it can change your eating habits.
What food is available in Southwest Virginia in the fall?
Fruit: Apples, Pears, Figs
Squash: Butternut, Acorn, Delicata, Pumpkins, Kuri, Spaghetti
Root Vegetables: Carrots, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Beets, Radishes, Parsnips, Turnips, Celeriac, Sunchokes
Greens: Swiss Chard, Kale, Lettuce, Spinach, Arugula, Radicchio
Cruciferous Veggies: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Brussels Sprouts, Bok Choy, Horseradish
Other Fall Foods in Virginia
Mushrooms: Shiitake, Maitake (Hen of the Woods)
Nuts: Chestnuts, Peanuts, Walnuts
Meat: Pork, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Rabbit and Duck
Plus: Cheese, Honey, Eggs, Milk