by Karen Curtis (KICS Gourmet) for Tri-City News
In spite of the cold wet spring, Mother Nature has prevailed! My rhodo was only a week behind this year, and my trip to market Sunday filled my basket with lots of lovely food. I even saw purple asparagus!
My favourite purchase was the bag of mixed spring greens I picked up from Ripple Creek Organic Farm. Chris calls this blend his Baby Lettuce Mix. There are six different lettuces in the bag, including butter lettuce, romaine lettuce, and red and oak leaf. The seeds for this blend are sown close together so that the lettuces can’t form heads. Once the plants reach 3-4 inches in height they are harvested and bagged. This blend is so colourful and tasty; all it needs is a light vinaigrette to perfect it. After chasing California romaine all winter it is wonderful to have all our local greens coming back.
This Sunday will see the return of Ripple Creek’s Spring Mix. This one doesn’t have any lettuce in it at all! It includes baby Red Russian Kale, Mizuna, Ruby Streaks, Tatsoi, Golden Frills and Suehlihung. Aside from the Red Russian kale, I’ll bet you haven’t a clue what the others are! Suehlihung, Tatsoi, Golden Frill, Ruby Streaks and Mizuna are all varieties of mustard greens. Mustard greens are members of the brassica family, more commonly known for cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. Mustard greens do share many of the same nutritional benefits such as high levels of Vitamin C, folic acid and calcium. They have a slightly bitter taste to them, but not as bitter as arugula. One advantage to this prolonged cooler weather is that the greens are tender and sweet.
While green may be the biggest colour at market this time of year, you can find other colours too. Thanks to a little extra protection from the greenhouse, peppers and tomatoes are available now too. And what about that purple asparagus? Amazia Farms, one of the new vendors this year, is bringing limited quantities of purple asparagus to market. This variety is less fibrous and sweeter that it’s green cousin. You can even eat it raw.
How about some ruby red rhubarb? It ranks right up there as a source for Vitamin C, as well as Vitamin K. Did you ever dip a stalk of rhubarb in sugar and eat it raw? If that isn’t to your liking, rhubarb is very versatile and can be used in all sorts of ways, from chutney to wine.
A perfect way to get your kids involved in learning about these great greens is to sign them up for POP (Power of Produce). This brand new weekly kids program kicks off on June 4th. For the first week, two local nutritionists will be running cooking classes with the kids. Then, get ready to get your hands dirty as kids will plant a few seeds for their home garden. Activities run from 9am – 1pm. This event is for kids ages 5-12.
If that isn’t enough colour for you, be sure to stop by Floralia Growers for some of their lovely hanging baskets, Never Say Die Farm for some fresh cut Gerbera daisies, or a perfect perennial from S & S Nursery.
Here a couple of recipes to make the most of the new spring greens and rhubarb
LEMON HERB VINAGRETTE
1/3 c olive oil
1/3 c KICS Lemonade Syrup (or lemon juice if you prefer a less sweet dressing)
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp original AJI (A South American condiment found at market)
1/2 tsp fleur de sel with herbs d`provence
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 clove minced garlic
½ c chopped fresh herbs (basil, thyme, tarragon etc)
Combine above ingredients and let rest 20 minutes or so to let the flavours mingle
NANA OF THE NORTH’S RHUBARB CHUTNEY
6 lbs Rhubarb, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 10 cups)
8 c white sugar
2 c white vinegar
4 c chopped onions
2 tsp each- ground allspice, cinnamon, ground cloves, freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients and simmer over low heat until dark brown, about 3 hours. Will keep for several weeks in the fridge, or can be frozen.
Just in case you need more recipes, come visit the market on June 11th and sign up for my class – The Perfect Summer BBQ Workshop! Find out more here! I hope to see you there!