Have you met Rosemary?

February 27th, 2017

2.27.17 – For February’s Produce of the Month, we’re featuring a humble herb that grows all over Southern California and goes into all sorts of different kitchen creations.

Here at Food Forward, we love profiling ingredients that do the heavy lifting as the main flavors in hearty meals. Sometimes, however, the most important part of a delicious, local dish is the seasonings. This month, we’re featuring an herb that grows easily in our Southern California climate and can be thrown into pretty much anything: rosemary!

Picture of Rosemary

Rosemary (scientific name: Rosmarinus officinalis) has wood-like stems and needle-like leaves and grows in areas big or small. In suitable climates (like ours), rosemary can grow to hedge size, or even larger. It likes full sun and well-drained soil and is a member of the mint family. This aromatic plant has been cultivated for medicinal purposes in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. You’ll recognize it by its fragrance when you rub your fingers against it. Have you seen it growing in your neighborhood? Next time you’re out for a walk, take a look, you may be surprised at how ubiquitous this plant is.

How to Grow Rosemary

As a native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary thrives here. It is great to grow at home because it does well in pots and is not very finicky — just make sure it’s in soil that can drain. Growth may be slower in the first year, but your patience will be rewarded in the second year. Trim your rosemary plant regularly to encourage new stems and leaves.

Culinary Uses for Rosemary

If you have rosemary growing at home (or at a friendly neighbor’s house), cut sprigs of it at any time and put it in your favorite dishes. It can also be dried for later use by hanging it upside down.

One of the simplest things you can do with rosemary (if you’re new to using it) is create a delicious dipping oil. Take a few sprigs and store them in olive oil, mix with some salt, pepper, and garlic, and break out a loaf of whole-grain bread when you’re ready to enjoy. Get fancy by heating the oil with the rosemary in it, and then cooling it back down.

Once you have some familiarity with this herb, try using it as a rub on meat before cooking it. Rosemary pairs especially well with chicken, pork, and lamb.

Making roasted potatoes or veggies? Sprinkle rosemary on top and get ready for a delicious pop of flavor.

Once you’ve really gotten the hang of using rosemary in your daily cooking, try it in baking. There are quite a few baked goods made with this herb such as: Rosemary Shortbread Cookies, Rosemary Apricot Bars, and Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now that you see how versatile this plant is, honor it this month by showing it off in your cooking!

A collection of herbs

Can you guess which herb is playing a supporting role – pictured here on stage left – at our Spring Melt Craft Table?

Resources:

https://bonnieplants.com/product/rosemary/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary

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Can you help us get fresh fruit to those in need?

February 23rd, 2017

You may know that Food Forward harvests fruit from all over Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. One of the most abundant regions we work in is the San Fernando Valley where we harvest tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce to donate to the agencies we serve in the area.

We recently received unfortunate news from the California Department of Food & Agriculture that will prevent us from harvesting any fruit from a very large part of the east San Fernando Valley due to a quarantine zone in effect for the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, a pest that can potentially have significant consequence on California agriculture.

medfly-quarantine-zone

While we are fully complying with the quarantine, we are obviously concerned about our inability to connect generous homeowners with fruit trees to hunger-relief agencies that rely on this fresh produce. In order to minimize the impact this quarantine could have on our partner agencies, which is currently estimated at nearly 100,000 pounds of fresh produce lost, we are reaching out to you to help spread the word!

How can you help?

Please consider sharing your experience with Food Forward to encourage homeowners outside of the quarantine area to donate their fruit too!

Sharing our work is as easy as a post on social media, NextDoor.com, or in your local community or homeowner association newsletter. Here are sample texts to use, but feel free to share your own story about why you are involved with Food Forward!

If you are a homeowner who wants to donate, please click here to register your fruit tree!

Donate your fruit!

Please note: if you live within the quarantine zone and have fruit trees, your fruit is safe to eat. Fruit cannot be transported off-site in order to minimize the risk of spreading the fruit fly.

For more information on the quarantine or for more details on sharing Food Forward’s work, please email media@foodforward.org

NextDoor.com sample post

Do you have fruit trees? If you can’t eat all of the fruit that your tree produces, Food Forward can help! They will pick the extra fruit from your trees and make sure it is donated to a hunger-relief agency in our community.

Food Forward staff coordinates with a homeowner’s schedule and sends volunteers out to pick the fruit. They are fully insured, provide all equipment, and supply a tax-deductible receipt for the donation but, most importantly, donate every piece of fruit to people in need.

If you have fruit trees and are unable to eat all of the fruit, please consider donating it instead of letting it go to waste! To learn more about how it works or to register your fruit tree, please visit www.foodforward.org/fruittrees. You can also email harvest@foodforward.org for more information.

Facebook or Instagram sample post

Find Food Forward on Facebook at foodforwardla and on Instagram at foodforward

Got fruit trees? Can’t eat all of the fruit? If you are in LA or Ventura Counties, donate your fruit instead of letting it go to waste! Food Forward can pick your fruit and make sure it gets to people in need in our community. Visit www.foodforward.org/fruittrees

Newsletter sample

Do you have a fruit tree? Would you like to donate your excess fruit to those in need?

If your property has mature, well-pruned fruit trees that are less than 15 feet tall with easily accessible fruit, and Food Forward has volunteers in your area, your fruit can be harvested and donated to those in need!

Food Forward is a Southern California-based nonprofit organization that has recovered over 30 million pounds of produce that would normally go to waste. If you have an abundance of fruit on your property, Food Forward volunteers will pick the excess and then donate 100% of the fresh produce collected to local food banks and other hunger-relief agencies.

Fruit Donors are ensured that every piece of fruit is going to someone in need and will also receive a tax-deductible receipt for an in-kind donation. If you would like to register your tree, go to foodforward.org/fruittrees, call the fruitline: 818 530 4125 or email harvest@foodforward.org. If you would like to volunteer with Food Forward, sign up at www.foodforward.org/volunteer.

 

fruit-tree-food-forward

 

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What does all this rain mean for your citrus trees?

February 20th, 2017

2.20.17 -Is this stormy weather bogging your citrus trees down? Find out more in this post from Sam Royall, our wonderful Volunteer Program Assistant from Occidental College.

Rain and your Citrus Tree

As you may have noticed from LA’s lush and uncharacteristically green mountainsides, we are in the midst of one of California’s rainiest winters in recent history! And while this has probably allowed you to slip-on a rare pair of rainboots and splash around, have you wondered how these storms have been impacting your citrus trees? Grab a cup of tea, play your favorite rainy day song, and learn a bit about how to best care for your citrus trees in this blustery weather!

Picking Fruit in the Rain

 

How much is too much?

Depending on the age of your tree and the composition of your soil, citrus trees require varying amounts of water, ranging from a good soak every 7 to 28 days. This rain has probably drenched the your trees’ roots, but do you know if they’re being over watered? Check-out these signs of overwatered citrus to figure out when to give your citrus tree its next soak!

 

Signs of Over-Watering

Citrus leaves curl with too much water

Leaf curling: With too much moisture, air isn’t able to properly circulate throughout your tree, resulting in a rumpling of the outer edges of your citrus leaves

Leaf discoloration: If your leaves are looking pale and yellowish-green, the roots of your trees may be waterlogged, meaning that the proper amount of nutrients isn’t able to be distributed

Citrus can split from overwatering

Split fruit peels: If your fruit is starting to split while still on the tree, it can indicate that the fruit is being injected with too much water after the peel is fully grown

If you notice any of these signs in your citrus trees, check to make sure that the soil around your tree is draining, and then take a break from manual watering for a few days or weeks depending on the severity of these symptoms. Keep checking the moisture of the soil around your tree, but don’t worry! All of this water will make your fruit even bigger and juicier than ever!

More on Fruit Tree Care

For more details:

Signs of Overwatering in Orange Trees 

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Above and Beyond the Call of Fruity

February 6th, 2017

2.6.17 – Meet Kathy, our Volunteer of the Month of February. Kathy hasn’t been with Food Forward very long – she started picking fruit with us in mid 2015 – but she has already made a huge impact on citrus trees all across the Valley and beyond. Since becoming a Pick Leader in June of 2016, she has led over 30 fruit harvests, ranging from Huntington Gardens in San Marino to Moorpark up in Ventura County. When citrus season slowed down, rather than rest on her laurels Kathy decided to reach out to see how she could get more involved, and immediately began training as a Glean Team Leader at the Studio City Farmers Market. Kathy’s dedication to Food Forward is far above what we ask of our Super Volunteers, who are all very busy folks when not volunteering, and her enthusiasm for harvesting food, fighting hunger, and building community is what keeps us going when times get tough. Thanks, Kathy!

Kathy leading a pick

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?

My daughter, who was an environmental studies major at the time, found Food Forward and took me with her on some picks.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?

I like that it so tangible, pick and give immediately. It’s a great sense of accomplishment and making a difference.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?

Read, travel, volunteer at the school where I used to be a principal (helping to take care of their roses and edible garden)

Kathy at the Women's March

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? Any particular memories you’d like to share?

The time when I had a large pick in Sylmar: it was super hot and hardly anyone signed up. I emailed all of my past pick volunteers and they showed up! I learned that if you ask, people are incredibly helpful.

Any words of wisdom you live by?

From a school superintendent for whom I have great admiration: DWYSYWD (Do what you say you will do)

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Food Deserts in Los Angeles

January 30th, 2017

1.30.17 – What is a “Food Desert” anyway? Today, we dive into this complicated subject to look at how accessibility, affordability, and information about fruits and vegetables contribute to the health of Los Angeles and other cities and towns across the United States.This piece was written by Catherine Achy, one of our amazing student interns from UCLA

What is a “Food Desert”

Los Angeles is home to many different communities, some more affluent than others. It can be hard to imagine, but many neighborhoods do not have a single grocery store, limiting the local access to fresh and healthy foods. The people living in these areas either have to travel long distances to purchase fresh food, or may rely only on the fast food and convenience store options in their area. The lack of access to healthy foods is an injustice, and areas that face this are called food deserts.

Map of Food Deserts in LA

The official USDA definition of a food desert is an area that lacks a grocery store. This is just one definition, and it fails to take into account other social and economic issues that limit access to healthy food. A food desert can also be defined as an area where residents lack the financial capabilities to purchase healthy food because the stores in the area are overpriced. Another contributing component is the knowledge and education needed for purchasing healthy foods. Clearly, availability is not the only factor in determining where food deserts exist. Healthy food needs to be accessible and affordable, and residents need access to information about what food is healthy or not.

Go to a USDA map of food deserts in the United States.

Health Effects

Food deserts have many health-related implications. The USDA maps food deserts based on income and grocery store availability. These areas are also areas where obesity rates spike in the city of Los Angeles, suggesting that less access to produce is a contributing factor for obesity. Fresher food is generally more expensive, it keeps for fewer days, and it takes time and resources to cook. People with low incomes often work longer hours, and finding time to prepare healthy food is often difficult. A study conducted in New York City that tracked who purchased the most fruits and vegetables at supermarkets in low income areas found that poorer families often buy less healthy foods that richer ones, and a bigger gap exists between families with and without a college education.

The truth of the matter is that there is a lack of supermarkets that provide healthy options to the residents of food deserts in Los Angeles, but there is not a clear reason why. Supermarket chains avoid low-income areas for many reasons. Often, they anticipate that the residents cannot afford to purchase their products, or that the residents do not have the education to understand the importance of healthy eating. In addition, supermarkets do not expect residents to change their buying habits just because a supermarket opens in the area. Other factors that deter supermarkets are high crime rates and unsatisfactory transport infrastructure (like a majority of residents not owning a car), which are common in low-income areas. There is not a clear answer as to why there are no supermarkets in food deserts, but the low average income is probably a significant factor. Blame cannot simply be placed on grocery stores that choose not to locate themselves in food deserts. The educational component falls upon the government, and purchasing healthy foods is ultimately the responsibility and choice of the consumer.

Variety of Produce at a Farmers Market

Food Deserts in the United States

Food deserts are not specific to Los Angeles. The unavailability of healthy food is an issue that plagues many cities in the United States. A peer reviewed study that gathered global statistics on food deserts from 1996-2007 drew strong conclusions about the United States. Overall, geographic areas with a high proportion of low-income or African American residents were underserved by food retailers. The average distance to supermarkets was farther for low-income areas and areas with a high proportion of African Americans. Lastly, these same areas had more convenience stores. These trends illustrate that food deserts are not just a local issue, but a nation wide one.

Despite the widespread issue of food deserts in the United States, there are solutions. Public policy attempts show lots of potential. They have the ability to decrease price disparities between unhealthy and healthy foods and facilitate the entry of supermarkets into low-income areas with subsidies. For example, Los Angeles just passed an ordinance mandating EBT readers at all Farmers Markets in the city. Good policy can also encourage the development of grocery cooperatives and bring farmers markets to neighborhoods. These efforts will combat both availability and cost of healthy foods. Advertisements and awareness campaigns that encourage healthy foods can help address the information gap.

Food deserts are a huge issue affecting Los Angeles, but they can be combatted. Food Forward helps to increase people’s access to fresh and healthy foods by connecting the abundance of produce in the city to people in need.

More on Food Insecurity

Sources

Beaulac, Julie, Elizabeth Kristjansson, and Steven Cummins. “A Systematic Review of Food Deserts, 1966-2007.” CDC: Preventing Chronic Disease (2009): n. pag. NCBI. Web. 16 May 2015.

“Food Access Research Atlas.” USDA. USDA, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 06 May 2015.

“Market Match.” Hunger Action LA. Hunger Action Los Angeles, n.d. Web. 27 May 2015.

“Median Income.” Ranking. LA Times, n.d. Web. 16 May 2015.

Paulas, Rick. “Where Are L.A.’s Food Deserts?” KCET. KCET, 15 Mar. 2013. Web. 05 May 2015.

Sanger-Katz, Margot. “Giving the Poor Easy Access to Healthy Food Doesn’t Mean They’ll But It.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 8 May 2015. Web. 9 May 2015.

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Rooting for Root Veggies

January 23rd, 2017

1.23.17 – It’s a new year, and for many of us that means new goals and new resolutions. Here at Food Forward, one of our goals (all year round!) is to discover new ways of cooking with local and seasonal produce.

This month, we’re featuring something delicious and healthy that you may have forgotten about. Although we were always “rooting” for these veggies, they had fallen out of favor for a while. Luckily, now they’re back and more popular than ever. Let’s talk about root vegetables!

Volunteer carrot harvest

What are root vegetables?

Root vegetables are the underground, edible part of a plant. In root vegetables, the roots swell up and can grow quite large. When it’s time, we pull them up and eat them! Because they have been growing underground, these veggies may have thick skins or funny shapes, but that’s all part of their charm.

Vegetables in this category are very nutrient-dense because they pull in many nutrients directly from the soil in which they grow. They are filled with complex carbohydrates and fiber, and they are often very low in calories.

While root vegetables are generally available all year round, they are at their peak in the winter. Historically, when little else grew in the dark months of the new year, families would take root vegetables from their storage spot in the root cellar and make them the stars of stews, soups, and other hearty dishes.

Even though today we have access to many kinds of fresh produce all winter long, there’s something special about cooking with these important vegetables during the colder, darker months.

At your farmers’ market, shop for high quality winter root vegetables the opposite way you shop for summer fruits. Look for hard specimens that don’t have any softness to them.

Can't beat these beets

Popular root veggies:

Carrots: you know them and love them as a raw snack and in salads, but they are also great roasted and in well-flavored winter stews. Carrots are sweet and they pair nicely with other vegetables.

Parsnips: they look like larger versions of carrots, but they’re white. Parsnips have a mild, slightly spiced flavor and are often pureed into soups.

Turnips: a very mild flavor, making them great for supporting other stronger-flavored vegetables. Puree turnips or include them in chunky soups.

Rutabaga: a subtle flavor which tends to be on the earthy side. Rutabaga pairs well with herbs, especially dill.

What are the ways to eat root vegetables?

Raw – while we often eat carrots raw, many of the other root vegetables are be too tough and too earthy for most people to enjoy raw.

Steamed or boiled – cook root vegetables this way if you’re going to mash them (as a replacement for mashed potatoes) or puree them.

Roasted – this is a hugely popular way to enjoy root vegetables of all kinds. For the simplest version, cut the veggies up into pieces, coat in oil and salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven until crispy. For more complex roasted veggies check out these recipes:

In stews or soups – chopped up root vegetables combined with herbs and other ingredients are a great way to showcase the unique flavors these vegetables impart. If you’re chilly in the California winter, try some of these hearty, warming recipes:

You can’t beet those roots – Enjoy!

Vendor with carrots

Sources:

http://www.naturalnews.com/048207_root_vegetables_health_benefits_garlic.html

http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/2015/01/what-are-root-vegetables.html

http://ohmyveggies.com/a-guide-to-root-vegetables/

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Happy MLK Day!

January 16th, 2017

1.16.17 – Today, January 16th, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This national holiday, which falls on the third Monday of January every year, honors the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and legacy.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In recognition of Dr. King’s efforts and intentions for the benefit of all people, MLK day became a nationwide day of service in the 1990’s. It is officially part of United We Serve, the president’s call to service initiative. This means that all around the country, folks like you will be teaming up for the day with awesome organizations to better their communities.

Here at Food Forward, we’re proud to be a part of the MLK Day of Service program! We had a great time working with students from Occidental College and USC last year over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

Oxy Volunteers MLK Day 2016

Volunteering for MLK Day

So what can YOU do to help?

If you’re reading this today and you would like to help out, you’re in luck! This is the perfect time of year to get involved in the work we’re doing. We rely on our excellent volunteers and we want you to join us in any way you can. Want to pick fruit? We’ve got opportunities multiple days a week. Want to help at a farmer’s market? We’re in markets all over the Los Angeles area. Want to help in some other way? You can!

Everything you need to know about volunteering with Food Forward can be found here, along with our calendar for the next couple of months.

Sign up to volunteer!

Below are just a few of our upcoming events:

  • Tangerine Harvest in Goleta: 1/21 & 1/28
  • Glean Team Leader Training and Info session: 2/11
  • Volunteer Orientation for New Volunteers: 2/15
  • Community Ambassador Training: 2/25

Volunteers at the Huntington Gardens

We hope to see you soon!

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What is Asian Citrus Psyllid?

January 9th, 2017

1.9.17 – ACP? HLB? If you’ve heard these abbreviations, or their even-more-confusing full names, you might be trying to wrap your head around what people are talking about. Here’s a quick and dirty introduction to Asian citrus psyllid and HLB, and why you should care about it.

Asian Citrus Psyllid on a Leaf

What is ACP (and HLB) and why you should care?

The Asian citrus psyllid (aka “ACP”) is a small bug that eats the leaves and stems of citrus (orange, grapefruit, lemon, etc) trees. While the bug is not harmful to people, it is an efficient vector for spreading the bacterial citrus disease known as huanglongbing (aka “HLB”), previously called citrus greening disease, which is one of the most destructive diseases of citrus worldwide. Once a tree is infected with HLB, the quality of it’s fruit will deteriorate and the tree will eventually die.

A federal quarantine restricts all movement of citrus and Rutaceae (the citrus family of plants) into California in order to prevent introduction of the psyllid or the disease from outside the state. Currently the California Department of Food and Agriculture is working to eradicate HLB by tracking the presence of both the bug ACP and the disease HLB, and if necessary, establishing quarantines to prevent either from spreading. If the psyllid and the disease were to become established in California, the disease would devastate the citrus industry as well as kill backyard trees.

Close-up image of ACP pest

What is Food Forward doing about it?

Since we depend on the abundance of California’s citrus trees, Food Forward is committed to preventing the spread of ACP and HLB, and educating our community about the disease:

1) Educating homeowners about how to minimize the risk of disease spread by implementing the solarizing method.

2) Instructing volunteers to place leaves/stems of the citrus in a bag that is left to dry in a sunny, open area.

What is Solarizing?

Solarizing is the practice of packing citrus sticks, leaves, and twigs into a plastic trash bag and leaving the bag out in the sun until everything dries out completely. This effectively kills any psyllid pests that may be on the sticks or leaves.

Solarizing eliminates the potential for insect travel between different properties or while in transit. The psyllid lives on, consumes, and travels on the foliage. By leaving plant matter on site or solarizing it before it leaves the property, it reduces the potential spread of the disease.

Use a trash bag to kill ACP pests

What can YOU do?

If you have a citrus tree or are harvesting a friend’s:

1 – Pack all sticks, leaves, and twigs into a plastic trash bag.

2 – Let bag of foliage sit in the sun until everything is completely dried out.

3 – Dispose of foliage properly (use as mulch under trees, put in your yard waste bin, etc.)

4 – Recycle, reuse, or save the bag until the next harvest.

If you suspect your tree has the psyllid or the disease, please call the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture pest hotline at 800-491-1899.

Learn More:

Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program 

University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources ACP Distribution and Management site

More Fruit Tree Care Resources

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Gleaning Gardens to Share our Surplus

January 3rd, 2017

1.3.17 – Do you know that Food Forward has a special Pick Leader who is growing gardens for people in need? That’s right! John Parmenter, our Volunteer of the Month for January 2017, has been cultivating gardens at two locations – one in a backyard of a Food Forward fruit donor and one at his community garden – for over 6 months now and donating the gleanings to Turning Point Foundation in Ventura. Every Thursday, John tends to the gardens, harvests any ripe produce, and delivers it all to this local agency. If that isn’t fresh produce, we don’t know what is!

Volunteers at a squash harvest

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?  

Well, my wife and I retired from teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District a few years ago, and with more time on our hands we looked to volunteer some of that free time to help others. I went online and found the Food Forward site, and felt it was the right fit for me.

At that time I remember reading about the need for volunteers to pick squash in Camarillo so I signed up. It was very hot work that day, but we managed to fill quite a few boxes. That was my first pick.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?

The Food Forward mission makes perfect sense to me. With an abundance of food to share in our community there’s no need for anyone to go hungry. It’s simply a matter of gathering the surplus and delivering it to those in need.  

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?

I try to stay active to fill my days, and so far it seems to be working. I’ve been an avid fly fisherman for many years and this interest has kept me busy with a number of projects. When I’m not out fly fishing in the local Ventura surf, I’m usually doing something fly-fishing related like tying flies, writing about the sport, or crafting bamboo fly rods.

I also enjoy organic gardening and have been maintaining small garden plots for years. Currently I have two plots at a community garden in Ventura, and most of what I grow now is donated to Food Forward.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? Any particular memories you’d like to share?

Whenever I finish a pick, and run a delivery to one of our agencies, I always walk away with a good feeling knowing that people will benefit directly from my efforts. What could be better than that?

Any words of wisdom you live by?

Stay active, stay involved, and allot time in your life for helping others!

Leafy greens ready to be gleaned

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Produce of the Month: Winter Greens

December 19th, 2016

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This month, the sweet ripe peaches and strawberries of last summer have faded to dusty memories and when we look outside at what’s growing in Southern California we see greens, greens, and greens.

There seems to be an endless list of greens, most of which grow this time of year, and a huge number of them are available here in our backyards. This is great news because it means that we can learn in-depth about varieties local to Southern California as we showcase their flavors in our cooking.

Today, we’ll profile three greens to give you a head start on winter cooking. Keep in mind, there are tons of other interesting greens out there and many recipes allow substitutions for one green over another. So take a look at whatever you’ve got at home and let’s get going!

 

 The very well-known: Kale

Kale is a leafy green that has such high levels of vitamins and minerals, it’s often listed as a “superfood.” It’s part of a plant species called Brassica oleracea (which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) and is an excellent source of calcium and iron. It has been cultivated by humans for 6000 years and its 50 varieties are grown all around the world.

Kale even has its own official day – October 5th!

You can plant Kale in containers or in the ground in SoCal in the fall, winter, and early spring. It benefits from some frost and it is harvest-ready when the individual leaves are the size of your hand. Store it in plastic in the refrigerator and use it raw or cooked. If you find it too dry in salads, try massaging the leaves before eating them.

 

bok-choy

The familiar: Bok Choy

This sweet white and green winter vegetable, also known as Brassica rapa, is a type of Chinese cabbage. It is native to China (which is why it’s historically been used in Chinese cuisines) but it is now also grown in Europe and America. These days, it is an all-purpose vegetable that can do heaving lifting in stir-frys, steamed dishes, and soups. It packs a great punch nutritionally as well, with high levels of vitamin A and C.

Growing bok choy requires rich, loose soil and cool weather. The leaves grow close together (similar to celery) and should be harvested when they are 12 to 18 inches tall. Both the green part and the white part of the plant can be eaten and are delicious, just make sure to thoroughly wash them first.

 

The hardly-known-at-all: Water Spinach

Water spinach, botanically classified as Ipomoea aquatica, is native to parts of Asia. Its leaves and shoots are typically enjoyed in their early growing stages and have a mild, sweet flavor. Eaten fresh or cooked, they are nutritious and delicious and should always be used as soon as they are picked. They are a staple in many Asian cuisines. While water spinach may taste slightly like the spinach you’ve had before, it is actually more closely related to sweet potatoes!

If you find water spinach growing here in California, you’ll be looking at a piece of history. Why is that? Water spinach was brought to the US in the 1970s and it started growing out of control. Because this invasive plant crowds out other native species, it has been federally regulated for decades. It’s listed as a noxious weed in many states, meaning it can’t be planted without permission.

 

winter-greens-3

 

Recipes:

These simple recipes are written for specific winter greens, but other greens can absolutely be substituted instead. Pick substitutions with similar structure and texture for the best results, and don’t be afraid to get creative!

Hearty Winter Greens Sauté

Winter Greens Salad with Roasted Pear and Pecorino

Warm Wilted Winter Greens

Vegan Stir Fry with Mushrooms and Water Spinach

Coconut Water Spinach Stems

Spicy Bok Choy Slaw

Bok Choy Steamed Rice

 

Sources:

http://www.livescience.com/50818-kale-nutrition.html

http://nationalkaleday.org/kale-101/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kale

http://www.almanac.com/plant/kale

http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Bok_Choy_Cabbage_4151.php

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/bok-choy/planting-bok-choy.htm

http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Water_Spinach_3132.php

http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/horticulture/vegetables/vegetables-a-z/growing-water-spinach-kangkong

https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/waterspinach.shtml

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