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Cold Seasonal Salads

It’s early May as I write this, and at 1:00pm it’s still only a chilly 41 degrees outside. There’s no denying that it’s been an exceptionally cool and wet spring here in Wisconsin. Farmers have had trouble getting into the fields to plant on time, and that means we can expect our local season to be a bit delayed. All in all, we’re about two weeks behind where we might like to be this time of year, although a little change in the weather could go a long way toward helping us catch up—here’s hoping!

It’s Salad Season!
Lucky for us, most green leafy vegetables thrive in cool weather, so no matter how chilly the temperatures might be, June is still salad month in the Produce department. We’ll have a wide array of local ingredients that can be combined to make creative, delicious, and hearty salads that easily serve as the centerpiece of an early-summer meal.

Think out of the box with your locavore salads this month. We’ll have a huge selection of local greens to experiment with: lettuces, baby salad mix, arugula, spinach, dandelion greens, micro-greens, rapini (a.k.a. broccoli raab), baby bok choi, escarole, endive, Red Russian kale, mizuna... just to name a few! If you’re not sure what a particular green tastes like, just ask a Produce staffer—we’d be glad to give you a sample.

Once you’ve picked the greens for your salad, give it further personality by adding other fresh local ingredients like radishes, peas, sprouts, cucumbers, herbs, scallions, garlic scapes, steamed beets, raspberries... the sky is the limit. Nuts, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, meats, beans, and tofu or tempeh add protein to a main-dish salad, and don’t forget to toss some croutons on top!

The final decision in the making of any salad is the dressing. Homemade salad dressings are always the best, and at my house it’s usually a quick concoction of of oil, vinegar and herbs. Dressing should serve to enhance the flavors of the salad ingredients not overpower them, so when you’re dealing with the flavors of fresh local produce, a simple dressing is almost always better. I try to have a good diversity of oils and vinegars on hand so that I’m ready for whatever salad comes my way.

Here are a few of my favorite June salads

  • Bibb lettuce with fresh raspberries, red radishes, sugar snap peas, pecans, herb croutons, and Hook’s Blue Paradise cheese; dressed with local sunflower oil, white wine vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Romaine lettuce with arugula, endive, fresh Mozzarella, grated Parmesan, chopped anchovies, and garlic scapes, dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh oregano, and basil.
  • Baby bok choi, mizuna, steamed golden beets, scallions, shunkyo radishes, slivered almonds, snow peas, and chow mein noodles with a vinaigrette of white wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

 

Imported Apples
One of the most common questions we hear in Produce this time of year is regarding our apples. Why, when there are so many good domestic apples available through most of the year, do we source apples from New Zealand and Argentina in the summer time?
The answer is a global one–literally. Because of the tilt in the Earth’s axis the seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite from ours. In order for apples and other similar tree fruit to produce a crop, they demand a climate that features cold winters and warm summers. We have such a climate here in the upper Midwest, and they have a very similar climate in countries like Argentina and New Zealand, except that their seasons are opposite from ours.

No matter what hemisphere you live in, apples are picked in the fall. They are kept in cold storage, and by the time summer comes around, our domestic apple crop is getting pretty darn old. Even in state-of-the-art storage facilities, as apples age they become soft, mealy, and more prone to rotting–not exactly the qualities we’re looking for! This is when the southern hemisphere comes to the rescue with freshly picked apples from their autumn (our spring) crop.

Though it seems that the carbon footprint of these world-traveling apples must be huge, in fact the barges they are shipped on are about the most efficient means of travel around. When you compare them to the energy used by the controlled-atmosphere storage facilities that domestic apples are kept in, the fresh Southern Hemisphere apples can sometimes even come out ahead.

If you prefer to eat fruit from closer to home, this is the month of berries. Local strawberries are at their peak, and the early season raspberries are here too. In just a few short months our local and domestic apple and pear season will begin all over again!