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Produce News: Spring Asparagus and Brunch Ideas
Deli News: Field Roast Products
Off-site Kitchen News: Open for Business!
Book & Housewares News
Juice Bar & Bakery News:
Soy Protein Powder
Producer Profile: Earth Fire Products
Recipes & Drink Recommendations
Soy: Miracle Food or Poison
A Soy Primer
Ask the Midwife: Food-Borne Risks in Pregnancy
Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference 2005 Staff Reflections
Brainstorming a Better Local Food System
by Jenny Ohlsen, Produce Manager
Greetings from the produce department! I am delighted to be writing once again for the Willy Street Co-op Reader after having many months off to spend with my son Cole. It’s difficult to believe that it has been six months since his birth October 1st, and now we find ourselves at the beginning of the spring season. I am thrilled with the arrival spring and am looking forward to the days getting warmer and longer.
April is an interesting time here in the produce department; it’s not quite warm enough to have our delicious locally-grown produce in great supply, and it’s also not the time of year that we are swimming in the summer fruits like peaches, nectarines and other stone fruits. What then, can the lovely month of April bring us in the produce department? While it may be a bit on the cool side for local growing, the temperatures in other parts of the United States, namely California, are ideal temperatures to get those spring crops rolling. We will continue to have our fabulous staples in the department like carrots, greens (kales, chards, collards), and plenty of lettuces. The essentials that have been with us all winter long will continue to keep us company. This spring, be on the lookout for strawberries, spring onions, watercress, arugula and many other tasty spring treats from California.
The spring crop that truly means warmer weather is soon on its way is the asparagus crop. California experiences peak asparagus season during the months of March and April. These two months set the stage for our very own asparagus season in Wisconsin during the months of May and June.
These skinny veggies are a wonderful source of nutrition. In a 5.3-ounce serving, asparagus contains 8% vitamin A, 10% vitamin B6, 15% Thiamin and 20% Vitamin C of the U.S. recommended daily allowance (USRDA). In addition to all of these nutritional benefits, asparagus is loaded with folic acid. I found a wonderful web site dedicated to asparagus (asaparagus.com) and here is what they have to say about folic acid:
“Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid. A 5.3-ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin, which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folacin has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year.”
While folic acid is found in a majority of fruits and vegetables, asparagus is one of the highest with the exception of lima beans. Without casting any disparaging remarks about lima beans, I think my preference would be asparagus over the lima bean any day. Please keep in mind when cooking any vegetable, it’s best to lightly cook them to maintain the highest possible nutritional value. Eating your vegetables raw is an even better way to maintain optimal nutritional value.
Tasty, delightful asparagus is a wonderful addition to any meal of the day. However, since we are entering prime brunch season I would like to include a brunch recipe to help fill out your menu. This recipe comes from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates:
Bell Pepper and Asparagus Frittata
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups asparagus pieces (1/2 inch lengths)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch matchsticks
1/2 cup diagonally sliced scallions
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta, water, parsley, marjoram, salt, and black pepper. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water to cover for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and plunge into cold water, then drain again and set aside.
Heat the oil in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat and sauté the bell peppers for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Add the scallions and continue to cook for 1 more minute, until crisp-tender. Stir in the asparagus.
Stir the egg mixture into the sautéed vegetables, cover, and cook in medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Preheat the broiler. Reduce the stove burner’s heat to low and continue to cook until the frittata is almost set, 5 to 10 minutes more. Sprinkle the Parmesan on the top of the frittata and place under the broiler for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until bubbly and beginning to brown. Loosen with a spatula, slide onto a place, and serve immediately.
Voilá! Frittatas are fast and easy to make and it’s also a fun word to say. Frittata!
In addition to the arrival of the spring crops from California we have a few April produce specials to share with you. We are featuring Argentina Bartlett pears for $.99/lb, leeks for $1.99/lb and tomatoes on the vine for $3.99/lb.
Springtime is just around the corner, which means it’s about that time again to start planning your garden space. For the week of April 15–22, the Willy Street Co-op will be offering all Seeds of Change seeds for a sale price of $1.99 (normally $2.25) in celebration of Earth Day. There are a wide variety of herbs, veggies, and flowers for your selection, and all seeds are certified organic. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please feel free to ask, and we’ll see if we can get it. Happy planting!
Once again, I am happy to be back at work surrounded by so much fresh, beautiful organic produce. I am equally happy to work again with such a competent group of people. I would like to encourage our member-owners to keep on asking your Willy Street Co-opproduce staff questions, and we are happy to help you and give you a sample or two. I wish you all a bright and happy April.