This week in her Village Futures Food newsletter Natalie talks about how to tackle the weekly box of seasonal produce.
“Whilst we have been enjoying our fresh and tasty produce from Nature’s Grove there have been some challenges to obtaining our weekly produce in such a manner.
Where I used to plan a menu for the week and then purchase food to fulfill this, I now have to plan what to eat based on what veggies have come out of the farm’s garden that week. Some of it I wouldn’t normally choose to buy or grow, purely because it was foreign to me.
It has been made easier by the members and farmer exchanging recipe ideas and helpful websites to visit with each other.
A very helpful link shared by a member has helped us all think “inside the box” and use it more effectively.
Google is your friend. Be flexible Roast, soup or stew the leftovers. Some of us have also begun preserving and freezing to be prepared for those leaner months in the garden.
Currently the produce from Nature’s grove is feeding 3 families. We are looking at having an open day for all our members and others who are interested in how the farm operates later on in May. Watch this space! If you are interested in subscribing to a membership and would like to visit the farm on the open day then contact Natalie. Numbers may be limited.”
If you have an abundance of produce, just don’t like the produce, have made something with the excess or have seedlings or plants to swap there is often somewhere local that you can swap it for something else.
A pilot Food Swap was held on 24 April at ACES, St John of God Accord in Greensborough, NE Melbourne. It was well attended and there are plans to have this on a regular basis. Watch PWF for more info.
Village Futures Food are distributors of:
1. Use the greens first. Some vegetables are long lasters. While others wilt and start looking tired within only a couple of days. Therefore it’s important to take care with the order in which you use the vegetables. My basic rule of thumb is:
* Use the greenery first. Spinach, watercress, mixed salad leaves, Asian greens, fresh herbs, anything with a soft green leaf will start to look quite sorry after a couple of days. So use these up first.
* Potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, onions, garlic, leeks, even beetroot and sometimes carrots will all survive a week. Some will be good for longer than that. So I plan to use these vegetables at the end of the week.
* Use your judgement with the rest. The longevity of everything else lies somewhere between these two extremes. Use your own judgement about the produce you have. If something is starting to lose it’s freshness then use it up.
* The same is true for fruit. At the moment I’m making sure I use the ripe stonefruit first, while I’m leaving apples until later in the week.
* There’s a useful chart at the end of this post showing the fastest to slowest spoilers.
2. Talk to other people
I know a number of people who are also getting fruit and vegetable boxes. Talking to them about how they use the produce and what they’ve been cooking, has been immensely useful.
I’ve also had some useful recipe suggestions from people on Twitter. It was through a discussion about kale that @cheapdatesydney pointed me to this mashed potato with kale and olive oil recipe. While @crazybrave suggested I used my Chinese broccoli in a caramelised tofu recipe.
Find other people who are also subscribing to a vegie box and learn from them.
3. Google is your friend
I’ve also been making wide use of Google. A search engine can help you find background information and recipes for a particular food item. For example, this week’s delivery included water spinach, which I’ve never eaten before. Google led me to this recipe for water spinach with ginger.
A search engine can also help you find ways of using up large amounts of one food, or produce which is going bad. In the first week I ended up with some over-ripe stonefruit. Rather than throwing it out, I Googled “how to use over-ripe fruit” and came up with this recipe for oven poaching with cinnamon.
4. Be flexible
One of the dangers with getting a vegie box is you can end up buying a whole lot of other ingredients, to make up specific recipes and meals. Which of course means your weekly grocery bill rises. To prevent this I find it helps to be flexible with your cooking. I try to take the attitude of making do with what I have, rather than buying a whole lot of new ingredients.
An example – the original caramelised tofu recipe I listed above is made with Brussels sprouts. I made mine with Chinese broccoli and it worked just fine.
5. Roast, soup or stew the leftovers
At the end of the week there’s usually something leftover – a bit of pumpkin, a few leaves, some extra fruit. If that’s the case then I’ll try to cook it up in some way. Over the last few weeks I’ve:
* Roasted the last bits of pumpkin, with spices and then used this as a spread on toast and to make a risotto.
* Blitzed half a bunch of leftover basil with pine nuts and olive oil to make a dairy-free pesto – which I’ve used on toast, in pasta and as part of a filling for jacket potatoes.
* Used leftover apples in a crumble.
* Made the remnants of watercress into a soup and put this in the freezer.
“I’m loving my weekly fruit and vegetable box and the way it’s making me think more deeply about what I’m eating and cooking. It feels like a surprise present and opening the box and rifling through is becoming a weekly pleasure. Plus I’m eating produce grown within a five hour radius of where I live – the Australian version of ‘local’.”