Whole grain salad with root vegetables

grain salad pic

Grains and roots

Whole grain salad with root vegetables

If you love local greens but don’t like the inflated price tag that comes with them in the winter months, try mixing things up with sprouts, grains, kale and shredded winter roots. These nutrient-dense alternatives, with their deep earthy flavors and textures, can be used to make hearty and delicious salads. Not only are they quick and easy to make, but whole grain and root vegetable salads are a tasty way to keep eating healthy even when cold weather limits the availability of fresh veggies.

Cooking whole grains

Some grains, like barley or wheat, rye and spelt berries, can be simply cooked in boiling water for 45 minutes to an hour. This approach is easy in that you do not necessarily need to measure the grain or water. Other grains, like quinoa, bulgur, millet and brown rice, require specific amounts of water when being cooked. Most water to grain ratios are very similar to that of rice. Cook one cup of quinoa, bulgur, millet or brown rice with two cups of water. If you plan to cook more than one grain, cook each of the grains separately in their own pot.

Winter roots

Winter roots, like celeriac, black radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, carrots and cabbage, are sold by the following farms, markets and co-ops throughout the winter months:

Migliorelli Farm
Schoharie Valley Farms
The Berry Farm
The Chatham Co-op
The Honest Weight Co-op

Raw winter green salad with couscous

kale-1

Raw winter green salad with couscous

Winter or summer, kale, chard and collards are hearty greens that can be prepared many ways.  They make a perfect raw salad that marries well with any number of textural additions like nuts, dried fruit, shredded carrots and shaved cabbage.  When lightly steamed or blanched, winter greens are flexible enough to be shaped as a wrapper that can be stuffed with rice, cooked meat and vegetables. Kale leaves make a delicious chip when they are tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried on a sheet pan overnight in a 200 degree oven, while chard can be sliced thinly and stir fried with scallions and brown rice in seconds.

As a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and broccoli, kale is regarded by many as a “super food”. Crucifers are high in antioxidants, beta carotene, calcium, vitamins K and C, soluble fiber and 3,3′-Diindolylmethane, a plant compound with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and cancer preventing properties. Some “Super Food” proponents even believe that levels of sulforaphane that are present in kale and its fellow crucifers posses cancer fighting properties.

Root vegetable salad with Tierra Farm nuts

JANEcarrots

Between winter and spring

Winter roots and the wait for spring veggies

With the latest spring weather, the first greens and vegetables of the season are just around the corner. Already chives are popping up all across the Hudson Valley and Capital regions. In the next few weeks the tender shoots of wild edibles like stinging nettles and ramps will be tall enough for foraging.

As winter officially comes to an end and spring is starting, the availability of local vegetables is scarce. Only a limited variety of hothouse greens and the heartiest of winter roots can still be found.

While Upstate foodies eagerly await the arrival of spring vegetables, there are handful of farms that still have winter roots, and a few that are ahead of the curve on early season greens. In Columbia County The Farm at Miller’s Crossing and Little Seed Gardens are both growing spinach and arugula. Both will be available in the upcoming weeks at the Chatham Co-op and the Berry Farm who offers their own spinach, arugula and braising greens grown in solar heated greenhouses. Also available at the Berry Farm are quality winter root vegetables from Schoharie Valley Farms and Migliorelli Farm. Look for Migliorelli Farm’s produce at the Schenectady Farmers Market on Sundays.

Tierra Farm

If you’ve ever bought nuts, seeds or dried fruit at an upstate health food store it is likely that they came from Tierra Farm in Chatham. The company is one of the largest private importers of nuts and dried fruit in the upstate area and prepares a variety of roasted and value added products that include Curry Cashews, Chocolate Covered Cajun Cashews, Tamari Almonds, and Chocolate Covered Goji Berries.  All of Tierra Farm’s products are certified organic and are available through upstate and Saratoga health food stores, food co-ops and directly to on-line consumers.

Carrot photograph by Jane Feldman