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The Locavore’s Dilemma

Ordinarily, I would never eat turnips. I managed to go 30 years without buying one. But now every winter I’m faced with a two-month supply, not to mention the kale, collards, and flat-leaf Italian parsley that sit in my refrigerator, slowly wilting, filling me with guilt every time I reach past them for the milk. After three years of practice, I’ve figured out simple ways to deal with most of these problem vegetables: I braise the turnips in butter and white wine; I sauté the kale and collards with olive oil and sea salt; I wait until the parsley shrivels and then throw it out. The abundance of roughage is overwhelming.

I subscribe to a CSA —a program, short for “community supported agriculture,” in which you pay in advance for a weekly box of fresh produce delivered from a local organic farm. For the most part, it’s great — until you reach your seventh straight week of radishes and start to lose the faith. I wrote for Slate about my attempts to get it back.

16 Comments

  1. Patrick W. Says:

    Consider yourself on the lucky end. We live in Anchorage, and our CSA box is shipped to us (every other week) from Washington. The leafy greens are usually within 2 days of going full wilt, but we’re thrilled to have any fresh organic veggies in the midst of our long dark.

  2. Coconino Says:

    I just read your column in Slate. I cannot help but think of the mealtime horror I would go thru with my very carnivorous, picky, and anti-fruit and vegetable 5-year old if I were to be a member of a CSA. Sadly, it’s simple vegies, mostly frozen, at our house.

  3. ACR Says:

    I make my own blue cheese dressing (lots of recipes on the Internet) and make a salad with turnips and cabbage.

    Google “A Veggie Venture” she has some great turnip recipes.

    Take a whole-grain crisp bread like Wasa or Finn Crisp and top with a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese or cream cheese, then top with sliced radishes or raw turnip.

  4. Shannon Says:

    A few words about kiwi:

    I used to get these by the bag-load as well, so I turned to a friend of mine, a young up and coming chef to ask what to do with them, because, not only were we up to our eyes in them, but my father couldn’t eat them raw. The solution: tropical salsa.

    Pretty much anything you’d put in a regular salsa will do, but I sauteed the cubed kiwi (sans skin) and added a little sugar to the salsa mixture while it stewed in its own juices. It’s great for anything salsa is good for, but especially wonderful spooned over salmon.

    Enjoy!

  5. Pete Says:

    Last summer I tried to overcome an excess of peaches with a dehydrator. While the peaches turned out well, a sliced kiwi I slipped in with the peaches topped my list of favorites. I found the dehydration really brings out the sweet and sour flavors in the kiwi.

  6. peter Says:

    Re your aversion to kale (a completely understandable emotion), I would recommend using it for juicing. In fact, that would probably work for a great deal of the vegetables you’re talking about. I assume you already know about the health benefits of vegetables such as kale (or else you wouldn’t be paying for them), so you just need to figure out a way to get them into your stomach. I use a Vitamix blender every day (well, most days) and fill it up with kale, oranges, pineapples, lettuce, spinach, or whatever else is in the refrigerator and drink it down at breakfast. It solves two problems: 1) removes soon-to-be-wilting things from the fridge and 2) puts nutrients into my stomach. You’ll need to buy a heavy-duty blender to do this, but considering how much food you wouldn’t be throwing away on a yearly basis, $300 or so for a good blender isn’t that expensive. Believe it or not, I use kale all the time, because it’s cheap and full of vitamins. And, in case you’re thinking, “Yeah, great, now I get to drink green sludge for breakfast,” if you dump enough fruit or honey or maple syrup in the blender, the taste is actually quite good.

    ps: As for the radishes and turnips, I hear they’re good for throwing at pesky crows.

  7. Amy Fair Says:

    Thank you for this article. I am “subscribing” to a CSA this year for the first time and know choosing the fruit CSA is a definite, but have been waffling on the vegetable CSA for fear of what to do with kohlrabi, turnips, and other things I have no clue about and that I to convince my husband and children of. My fear has subsided after reading the article and I am reminded of great food artists like Deborah Madison, who can provide inspiration.

  8. Michal Says:

    Turnip soup is my favorite, and I get so excited when the first batch comes in the fall! Brown the diced turnips in butter (you can dice up some sweet potatoes along with the turnips too (what could taste bad when sauteed in butter??) then add chicken or vegetable broth and whatever fresh vegetables you have- we like carrots, broccoli, soybeans, peas, zucchini- and cover it and let it simmer until everything is tender. You can also put in some rice or barley to make it a bit hardier. I like to add some minced garlic and green onions just before serving. Because you use different vegetables every time, this soup is never the same! (I’ve adapted this recipe from http://www.mrneep.co.uk)

    I also love sweet potatoes, yukon gold potatoes, and turnips cut into steak fries, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, baked at 425 until golden.

    Enjoy the turnips!

  9. George E. Kotcher Says:

    Our company makes and sells software that is USDA approved for the Children’s Nutrition program, but more importantly supports the Cooking from Scratch movement. Just key in “cooking from scratch” into a search engine.

    More importantly, although we sell mostly to professionals, I have been preparing family dinners for over 30 years for spouse, children, and grandchildren, including non meat eaters and periodic vegetarians. I do not accept that there is a recipe to make every bit of produce palatable but certainly there are ways to make root vegetables and greens not just acceptable but valued as they are in our family.

    First, a method. I often cook for 2 to 4 these days but make recipes routinely that feed 8-12 (or more). I use a 13 quart cast iron, dutch-oven. I store leftovers in containers that run from moderate size to individual portions and place uneaten containers of these in the freezer. If food goes immediately from cooking utensil to air-tight container (where it is allowed to cool), prefereably with no air contained in the container and then immediately to the freezer, it is “flash-frozen” and does not suffer taste degration. Not the same as fresh, but very, very close.

    Secondly, the cooking. Use onions (red) and peppers (colored bell, jalepeno, poblano, anaheim) to flavor and moisten your root vegetables (turnips, parnips, any kind of squash including butternut) and greens – mustard, kale, turnip, dandelion, etc. Greens should be washed so as not to be gritty, dried and cut. Onions and peppers should be washed and dryed before preparation (Below).

    Greens

    Season your onion/pepper mix (all peppers seeded;onions and peppers cut into small pieces) with salt, pepper, red-pepper if no spicy peppers included and you want it spicy.

    Greens should be cleaned, dried and cut into small enough pieces. These are not required to be miniscule, any good chopping will do. Saute’ greens and remove from dutch oven or large pot. Use good, extra-virgin olive oil, a tablespoon or two for the greens. Saute at low-medium heat.

    Put 2 to 4 fluid ounces of olive oil in your pot. Heat on low-medium heat for a minute or two. Put onion/pepper mixture in pot. Put in the greens that you have previously saute’d. Sprinkle paprika over the top of the greens. This adds flavor and thickens the liquid. If you have a heavy cast iron pot, less liquid should “cook off”. This could cook up to 60-120 minutes at lowest heat. It should be checked every 30 minutes. if you do not have a heavy cast iron pot, use any pot large enough for your quantity of greens and add 1 cup of water.

    Root Vegetables

    Pretty close to the same recipe except saute’ the root vegetables to begin with for 5-8 minutes or so at least, turning once. Root vegetables should cook for no more than 30-45 minutes even with a heavy pan. Do not put water into these vegetables. Mix thoroughly before placing the lid back on for the 30 minutes cooking. The onion/pepper mixture should “cook down”. Check every 15 minutes, stirring thoroughly.

    Family and friends go for these home cooked vegetables.

    Depending on pot, altitude, etc., cooking times might have to be adjusted. The important thing is to not let the vegetable mixture burn. A dish is done when vegetables are fork tender and good to taste. Eat with fresh, crusty bread.

    Obtain any vegetables that you might not have separately if you want to thoroughly enjoy the ones that you do have, especially the abundance of greens and root vegetables that you describe.

  10. Carol Says:

    It takes a while to get your “sea legs” under you when you are getting into a CSA…. I, too, had my problem vegetables like kale, kohlrabi, rutabagas, and turnips. Rutabagas and turnips are wonderful in a romertoff — just soak the romertoff, toss in the rutabagas unpeeled, and cook at 450 degrees for 1 1/2 hr. They carmelize and are so good. Kale, I found a good italian recipe to make kale and tomato soup (use the romertoff). Italians use a lot of kale so look for recipes there.

    Kohlrabi is used in german and central European cuisine — I am still working on getting my kohlrabi legs under me.

    Cabbage is easy — look at indigenous recipes of people who eat cabbage aka Eastern Europeans. Steam the cabbage and toss it in butter with toasted caraway seeds. There is sweet and sour cabbage (red cabbage). Always, you can make pierogies with potatoes and cabbage. I have made the absolute best stuffed cabbage (golabki) with fresh cabbage. The freshness of the cabbage takes a mundane dish to a new level. Cook up the hamburger with garlic and onion. I toss in a little tomato paste. Steam the cabbage (save the water) and roll up the hamburger. Use some of the cabbage water, tomato paste and tomato sauce to make a little sauce. Put a little sauce in the bottom of a casserole and then add the rolled cabbage. Pour the rest of the sauce over the rolled cabbage.

  11. Christie @ Fig & Cherry Says:

    I just read your article – love your writing style.

    Re: Kiwi fruit. It’s a wonderful meat tenderiser. Chop it up and rub all over beef, lamb or pork and marinate for an hour or so. Scrap off all the excess and bin it before cooking. (Then you’ve used it but didn’t have to actually eat it!).

  12. Bonnie Burch Says:

    Catherine,
    Kale goes great with sausage. Brown italian or garlic sausage in a large pot and cook through. Remove from the pot, saute onions, and red and green peppers. Cut the sausage in slices and put back in the pot. Add the chopped kale, salt and pepper. Cook unitl the kale is tender. Enjoy! Works well with loose sausage too.

    Use the Cabbage in Cabbage and Noodles. I grew up in a town with many Eastern Eruopean descendents and this is a favorite. Chop cabbage and an onion. Saute in olive oil unitl a bit browned. Add salt and pepper (lots of pepper!) Add to cooked egg noodles or bow tie noodles. Add butter to taste.

    Hope these ideas helped.
    Bonnie

  13. Frank B G Says:

    luckly I grew up to a family of Hungrians parents living in Chicago, a city emerised in a melting pot of ethnic foods. Can’t cook this just ask. 40 yrs ago ‘health foods’ were just happening! Luckly paid attention learned to combo up all types of foods. Funny Hungray has the most diverse form of using alsorts of foods.

  14. Aimee Roderick Says:

    I too suffer weekly from the wilting turnip guilt…but this year I found a new way to use the turnips…I pawn them off on my mother under the guise that I’m giving her fresh organic veggies. Every week she takes the turnips and every week asks me why there are just turnips. Its been a fun game. And I’m happy and guilt-free because I’ve paid it forward to my mom.

    Thanks for the great article…it was hysterical!

  15. Jan Says:

    Enjoyed your article Catherine – and just wanted to mention that rabbit owners like myself, would love people’s excess parsley, kale, etc!!! If you know any bunny lovers, leave them a bag of your excess veggies – and they will find something to do with it, I guarantee!

    One good place to contact in San Diego: http://www.sandiegorabbits.org

  16. DT Says:

    Enjoyed your article Catherine – and just wanted to mention that rabbit owners like myself, would love people’s excess parsley, kale, etc!!! If you know any bunny lovers, leave them a bag of your excess veggies – and they will find something to do with it, I guarantee!

    One good place to contact in San Diego: http://www.sandiegorabbits.org

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