Mystery Food Week 1!

11 Jun

Ah yes, nothing says summer harvest season like a mystery bag full of fresh-picked vegetables and herbs.

This year, I’ve purchased a small farm share from Bull Run Mountain farm ( and will be receiving a bag of produce each Wednesday until the end of October. Whatever is ready to harvest each week is what ends up in the bag, which I find really fun. I also bought a fruit share and will start getting fruit along with the vegetables in mid-July. Most fortunately, one of Bull Run’s weekly delivery spots is less than 2 miles from my house.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share with my readers what’s coming into season here in Northern Virginia each week. I would love to hear from folks in other areas about what’s growing in their neighborhood, so please leave a comment if you’d like to be involved.

Week 1: 1 very large head of pac choi, a handful of Italian basil, several sprigs of oregano, some chives (fatter than any I have ever seen before!), baby onions, garlic scapes and a potted parsley plant. I was also offered pick of some of the farm’s excess seedlings and chose a red cabbage plant and a purslane plant. I do love a good red cabbage shredded on top of barbecued pork. Purslane I have never grown or used before, so I’m looking forward to trying something new.

A very green harvest this week! The only supplements to this batch that I plan to pick up at the farmer’s market are a head of cauliflower and a pepper or two. I chopped and sauteed the head of pac choi in a small amount of fat left from a slice of bacon along with one of the baby onions, some cannellinni beans and some of the garlic scapes. That’s currently waiting in the fridge because it is to become soup later today. (I’ve been saving some vegetable/herb scraps to make vegetable stock and today finally have time to do so.)

I was recently asked how I plan out meals for the week with what most people would consider fairly scant information about what I might/might not have. So, here it is, a brief venture inside of whatever part of the brain does meal planning…

Wednesday: Get CSA share and start looking at recipes for whatever is in the bag.

Saturday: Visit the Arlington Farmer’s market:

Meat: Weekly I usually get 2lbs. of ground bison (or 1lb. of ground bison and 1lb. of steak/hot dogs), and 1 lb. of pork loin chops or a small tenderloin. Every two weeks, I pick up a whole chicken and sometimes a few extra assorted chicken pieces. Sometimes, if there is a special deal on a particular cut of meat, I’ll grab that in lieu of extra chicken to save money.

Dairy: Weekly I pick up yogurt and ricotta cheese. Every few weeks I might get some milk or cream to make ice cream, and I get butter about once a month. A tub of butter stored properly lasts us a good while since we use it sparingly.

Produce: I like to grab some fruit and a vegetable or two to supplement the CSA share. This will probably change once the fruit portion of my CSA share starts and more vegetables (as opposed to greens) come into season.

Other stuff: There’s a lady who makes amazing apple dumplings, cookies, and doughnuts, so sometimes I stop to get Joe something special for Saturday morning breakfast. I also get a jar of honey about once a month.

And the rest? Right now I shop at two small markets (MOMs and YES!), both of which have nice “bulk bin” sections. These are a great thing to look out for because you’ll pay less to buy grains by the pound than you will to buy them pre-packaged. I store grains in a cool, dark closet usually in mason jars. This has never failed me, so I don’t need to buy frequently. As a bonus, mason jars have measurements on the side so you always know exactly how much volume of something you have. On hand, I like to have whole wheat pastry flour, brown rice flour, spelt flour, graham flour, rolled oats, steel cut oats, quinoa, some type of multi-grain hot cereal, and durum semolina (for pasta). Occasionally, I’ll get something like arrowroot, soy, or sorghum flour to experiment with, but the above list is what I try to keep in the house regularly.

I also pick up things like nuts, nut butter, dried beans, and a few little snack foods that I haven’t mastered making on my own (yet). I try to buy from companies that are local, or at least in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic regions. That said, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love to get a juicy Florida orange as a treat from time to time.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful for anyone who is looking to get more local food into their diet. It does take some planning, but it’s really worth it at the end of the day.

That’s all for now, but for those of you who’ve been following the Stanley Cup Finals, I think that Rex (a creation of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh) describes fairly well what I have to say about tomorrow’s Game 7…


2 Responses to “Mystery Food Week 1!”

  1. agoldste June 21, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    How cool! You sound UBER healthy. I am envious. (And I KNOW "anyone can do it"…. It's the matter of DOING it that is the problem.) Do you live on farm? It kind of sounds like it–you make your own ice cream! That is so great. It was one of my favorite parts of visiting my grandparents growing up, because they had an ice cream stenner.I, too, love shopping at local farmer's markets. And here in NYC, there are actually a lot! Greenmarket is the biggest "organization," as it were, and it is very cool to see what's in season. I never was so aware of that until I started trying to buy more of my food from fresh stands–now that I CAN of course.p.s. What is pac choi? What do you do with it? And what is purslane? And what do you do with THAT? I'm very curious about these things, particularly b/c I'm not very good at using spices spontaneously (i.e. when not instructed by a recipe), so I like learning about stuff. And I love cooking with vegetables, so anything new I can find out there, I'm ready to learn!

  2. Neen June 22, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    Hey! No, I don't live on a farm. I'm considering possibly apprenticing at one after I finish graduate school, but that's still a good way off. I'm in the suburbs outside of DC, but we're fortunate in this area to have so many farms that visit our farmer's markets. I'm told there's actually a waiting list to get a stand at Arlington's market! Many of them also run CSA programs. I pick up vegetables once a week at a drop-off site about 2 miles from my house. It's been a wonderful experience thus far and I'm really excited to get into the more hearty veggies later in the summer.Pac-choi is a type of cabbage that responds well to long cooking. Baby bok choi is better for raw eating in my opinion because the Pac-choi can be a little bit bitter. Purslane is another leafy green often used in salad mixes. I've never played with it before, so experimenting will be fun.I definitely want to visit one of the Greenmarkets next time I'm in NYC! They look fantastic.

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