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Produce at Its Peak: Brussels Sprouts

For the most part, even a light frost signals the end of the growing season across the north. But for many members of the brassicaceae family (Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collard greens), cooler temperatures trigger a survival response that enables them, to not only survive, but improve with hard frosts. As temperatures plummet, these plants sweeten, as starches are converted to sugars as a form of anti-freeze.

Unlike local kales and cabbages, which have grown sweeter as the seasons progress from summer to fall, local Brussels sprouts reappeared a little over a month ago and are truly a seasonal treat both in timing and flavor. A slow-growing crop, Brussels sprouts are started in the spring but aren’t harvested until the late fall, ideally after a transformative frost. We source organic Brussels sprouts from the Thimmesch Farm (La Farge, Wis.), Keewaydin Farm (Viola, Wis.), and Wisconsin Growers Cooperative (Mondovi, Wis.) and receive fresh deliveries up to four days a week.

Select small, bright green sprouts with tightly compact heads. Store in an uncovered bowl in the fridge for a few weeks or longer. The outer leaves may wilt with time but they can be removed just before cooking.

Brussels sprouts may be prepared whole, halved, quartered, chopped, or pulled apart leaf by leaf for salads or tossed in oil and baked for a variation on a kale chip. If cooking whole, be sure to score the base with an ‘x’ to allow the heat to penetrate the core for more even cooking. In their prime, Brussels sprouts are delicious very simply seasoned withbutter or olive oil, lemon juice, salt and roasted in the oven until browned and tender.

I also love a sweet late season Brussel sprouts salad with a warm vinaigrette.

5 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. grainy mustard

1 Tsp. sugar

1 small shallot finely sliced

¼ cup lardons

¼ walnuts

1 lb. Brussels sprouts finely sliced

½ cup loosely packed arugula

Shaved Pecorino Romano

Salt and pepper

Warm the vinegar, mustard, and sugar in a small saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. When the sugar has dissolved, pour the mixture into a small bowl with the sliced shallot. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

In a skillet, brown the lardons then remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon. To the same skillet, add the chopped walnuts and cook also until slightly browned. Remove from heat and add the shallot mixture and a pound of thinly sliced Brussels sprouts. Toss until the sprouts are well coated. Transfer to a bowl, mix in the arugula, thinly shaved Pecorino, and the reserved lardons. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Produce at Its Peak: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

For the most part, even a light frost signals the end of the growing season across the north. But for many members of the brassicaceae family (Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collard greens), cooler temperatures trigger a survival response that enables them, to not only survive, but improve with hard frosts. As temperatures plummet, these plants sweeten, as starches are converted to sugars as a form of anti-freeze.

Unlike local kales and cabbages, which have grown sweeter as the seasons progress from summer to fall, local Brussels sprouts reappeared a little over a month ago and are truly a seasonal treat both in timing and flavor. A slow-growing crop, Brussels sprouts are started in the spring but aren’t harvested until the late fall, ideally after a transformative frost. We source organic Brussels sprouts from the Thimmesch Farm (La Farge, Wis.), Keewaydin Farm (Viola, Wis.), and Wisconsin Growers Cooperative (Mondovi, Wis.) and receive fresh deliveries up to four days a week.

Select small, bright green sprouts with tightly compact heads. Store in an uncovered bowl in the fridge for a few weeks or longer. The outer leaves may wilt with time but they can be removed just before cooking.

Brussels sprouts may be prepared whole, halved, quartered, chopped, or pulled apart leaf by leaf for salads or tossed in oil and baked for a variation on a kale chip. If cooking whole, be sure to score the base with an ‘x’ to allow the heat to penetrate the core for more even cooking. In their prime, Brussels sprouts are delicious very simply seasoned with butter or olive oil, lemon juice, salt and roasted in the oven until browned and tender.

I also love a sweet late season Brussels sprouts salad with a warm vinaigrette.

5 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. grainy mustard

1 Tsp. sugar

1 small shallot finely sliced

¼ cup lardons

¼ walnuts

1 lb. Brussels sprouts finely sliced

½ cup loosely packed arugula

Shaved Pecorino Romano

Salt and pepper

Warm the vinegar, mustard, and sugar in a small saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. When the sugar has dissolved, pour the mixture into a small bowl with the sliced shallot. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

In a skillet, brown the lardons then remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon. To the same skillet, add the chopped walnuts and cook also until slightly browned. Remove from heat and add the shallot mixture and a pound of thinly sliced Brussels sprouts. Toss until the sprouts are well coated. Transfer to a bowl, mix in the arugula, thinly shaved Pecorino, and the reserved lardons. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nourish 101: Thanksgiving Sides

November 19, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Nourish 101 classes feature basic scratch-cooking techniques and recipes. Nourish holiday recipes show simple and cost-effective side dishes that are great for any time of year. We’ll be making Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and deviled eggs with buffalo Blue cheese and an avocado crema!

Jessica Toliver, Jess Delicious

$5; Receive a $5 gift card at the class!

New in 2019, Nourish classes have a $5 registration fee, with participants receiving a $5 gift card at the class. Scholarships are available by contacting arogosheske@seward.coop. We hope this change will make classes accessible to the largest number of people in our community by reducing no-shows at our free classes.

Recipe: Roasted Veg with Seward-made Dressing

Bring home our highly requested, housemade dressing for salads and fresh-cut produce. Use as a marinade or to season vegetables before roasting in the oven. Seward-made salad dressing is cooperatively handcrafted in small batches with ingredients that meet our product commitment. We prioritize small-scale, local vendors when sourcing ingredients.

Find all four flavors now in the produce section!

Buttermilk Ranch
made without gluten

Miso Onion
vegan + made without gluten

Garlic Tahini
vegan + made without gluten
formerly called goddess dressing

Balsamic
vegan + made without gluten + no soy

Recipe: Roasted Veg & Tahini
Seward-made salad dressing is very versatile; pour it over hot veggies to serve hot or cold, over noodles, over rice and veggies. It’s a great marinade/sauce for chicken, fish or pork, too. While it’s still chilly outside, try it with roasted veggies and a heartier ingredient of your choice, such as Equal Exchange avocados, Seward-made sausage or nuts. This recipe is inspired by this National Co-op Grocers recipe.

Ingredients
Seward-made Garlic Tahini
•Olive oil (or oil of your choice)
•Salt and pepper to taste
Various veggies, such as:
•Brussels sprouts
•Delicata squash
•Cauliflower
•Sweet potatoes
•Kale

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut your veggies into bite-sized pieces. Drizzle with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat, then spread veggies evenly on the pan. Roast until veggies are tender when pierced with a paring knife (time depends on how large you cut the pieces). While they roast, prepare your tofu, avocado, Seward-made sausage or other heartier topping. Pull out veggies and let cool.

To serve, plate the veggies, drizzle with dressing and top with your favorite heartier ingredient or protein.

Produce At Its Peak: Chestnuts

Chestnut trees once made up a significant portion of North America’s hardwood forests. The nuts were widely eaten by Native Americans and later by European immigrants, until the chestnut blight of the 1930s, which nearly eliminated the American chestnut tree. There has been a recent revival with the planting of blight resistant breeds from Europe or Asia. Chestnuts sold at Seward are organically grown on Chinese chestnut trees in Iowa by Bill Brookhiser and his family.

Technically a nut, chestnuts are low in oil (9% compared with walnuts at 83%), high in water content, and nutritionally resemble grains because of their high carbohydrate content. Select tight, shiny, dark brown nuts that feel heavy for their size. Fresh chestnuts should be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag for around a week.

Chestnuts are an incredibly versatile nut. While many are familiar with roasted chestnuts, they may also be boiled, mashed, candied or pureed – and used in both savory and sweet applications.

When roasting score an “x” on side of the shells with a paring knife, soak in hot water for a few minutes, then roast for 15-20 minutes until you begin to see the shell peel back along the scored lines. Peel while warm and be sure to remove the thin inner skin. I love to roast up a few pockets full before heading out for a brisk autumn walk – peeling as I go to warm the hands and the belly.

To mash, puree, or sauté, score the flat side of the shell and simmer in water for 15 minutes. Remove both the outer shell and the inner skin. Return to the pan to simmer further until soft for a puree or mash – enjoy as a side on its own or mixed with potatoes, butter, and cream for a nutty variation on the traditional mash. To sauté, finish in a hot buttered pan with garlic and halved Brussels sprouts.

For a chestnut stuffing, either roast or boil 1 pound of chestnuts before removing the shell and inner skin. Then simmer in 2 cups of vegetable broth for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of dried cranberries – let sit for 5 minutes. In a large saucepan, brown wedges of two large onions. In a large bowl combine the chestnut mixture with 10 cups cubed dry or toasted whole grain bread, the browned onions, chopped parsley, thyme, and sage. Add 1 ½ cups of broth and salt and pepper. Bake in a shallow baking dish at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes.

Produce At Its Peak: Chestnuts

Chestnut trees once made up a significant portion of North America’s hardwood forests. The nuts were widely eaten by Native Americans and later by European immigrants, until the chestnut blight of the 1930s, which nearly eliminated the American chestnut tree. There has been a recent revival with the planting of blight resistant breeds from Europe or Asia. This year, Seward shoppers will find local chestnuts from Badgersett Farm out of Canton, Minn. on Seward shelves.

Badgersett Research farm grows chestnut, pecan and hazelnut trees using sustainable and organic methods. With roots going back to 1978, Badgersett Research Corporation works on bringing “Woody Agriculture” into the mainstream world of full scale staple food production. Local pecans are certainly a novelty, these are the farthest north growing trees.

Technically a nut, chestnuts are low in oil (9% compared with walnuts at 83%), high in water content, and nutritionally resemble grains because of their high carbohydrate content. Select tight, shiny, dark brown nuts that feel heavy for their size. Fresh chestnuts should be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag for around a week.

Chestnuts are an incredibly versatile nut. While many are familiar with roasted chestnuts, they may also be boiled, mashed, candied or pureed – and used in both savory and sweet applications.

When roasting score an “x” on side of the shells with a paring knife, soak in hot water for a few minutes, then roast for 15-20 minutes until you begin to see the shell peel back along the scored lines. Peel while warm and be sure to remove the thin inner skin. I love to roast up a few pockets full before heading out for a brisk autumn walk – peeling as I go to warm the hands and the belly.

To mash, puree, or sauté, score the flat side of the shell and simmer in water for 15 minutes. Remove both the outer shell and the inner skin. Return to the pan to simmer further until soft for a puree or mash – enjoy as a side on its own or mixed with potatoes, butter, and cream for a nutty variation on the traditional mash. To sauté, finish in a hot buttered pan with garlic and halved Brussels sprouts.

For a chestnut stuffing, either roast or boil 1 pound of chestnuts before removing the shell and inner skin. Then simmer in 2 cups of vegetable broth for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of dried cranberries – let sit for 5 minutes. In a large saucepan, brown wedges of two large onions. In a large bowl combine the chestnut mixture with 10 cups cubed dry or toasted whole grain bread, the browned onions, chopped parsley, thyme, and sage. Add 1 ½ cups of broth and salt and pepper. Bake in a shallow baking dish at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes.

Know Our Grower: Heartbeet Farm

Heartbeet Farm

Co-op shoppers! This Saturday, producers from Heartbeet Farm will be in the Franklin store! This family farm is owned and operated by Joe and Rebecca Schwen. Located in Zumbro Falls, Minn, the fields that now comprise Heartbeet Farm are the same fields that Joe was raised on and where he learned to farm. Recently, Joe and Rebecca have begun to cooperatively market their produce as Heartbeet Farms along with two nearby small family farms: Easy Yoke and Hare & Tortoise. Working together allows these farms to operate at a scale that enables them to directly interact with the plants, soil, animals, and farm ecosystem while still being productive, efficient, and sustainable. They employ a combination of draft horses, small tractors, woodstove heated greenhouses, and other technologies to grow a wide variety of vegetables. Look for beets, shiso, Hakurei turnips, and many other items from Heartbeet Farms throughout the growing season. All three farms are dedicated to farming in a healthful, holistic, and sustainable way and are certified organic.

Q&A with Rebecca from Heartbeet

1. When did you begin farming and what inspired you to pursue farming as a profession?
For Joe, he grew up doing it. It came as a natural progression in his life, and he always really enjoyed it. He says he liked watching things grow (still true!). For me, Rebecca, it came out of my love for food, and my desire to live a handmade life. The irony now is that I have no time to cook, despite being surrounded by spectacular veggies and other farm fare. My passion for food led me to work on a farm, which I found immensely fulfilling in a direct, hands on way. I pursued it as a “career” as I pursued it as one of my life’s passions.

2. Can you describe your approach to farming?
Our approach focuses on a few things. The appropriate scale is important, which for us is a human scale. What can we do and how can we do it in a way that allows us direct interaction with our plants, soil, animals, and farm ecosystem while still being productive and efficient, and sustainable on many levels. We don’t pursue organic certification partly due to this practicality of scale issue and also because our goal is to do not only what is required for certification but to go beyond that and focus on building soil and curbing erosion.

3. What distinguishes your products from other local produce?
Our farm and its health and vitality are very important to us. Farming is not only how we support ourselves financially, it’s what we do, as a lifestyle! We try to approach farming with craft and make our farm sustainable on many different levels. We involve our kids on the farm and raising them in this environment is important to us as we are a completely family owned and operated business.
On the more technical side, we decided last year to dedicate the time and finances toward long term soil balancing. We are working field by field to return the trace minerals to our soil so that our plants are healthier and our produce is sweeter, tastier, and more nutritious. In this way, we focus big time on the quality of our product, and the quantity will always take second place. Another practice that sets our farm apart is our use of draft horses. We have a team of Percherons that do many of the field work tasks on our farm.

4. What is your favorite way to enjoy your own produce?
We wait all year for heirloom tomato season and enjoy them in great quantity every day when they are around. Tomato, egg, & cheese sandwich (raw sharp cheddar from Organic Valley); tomato on top of a bagel & cream cheese; with slices of fresh sweet onion and mayonnaise in a sandwich, & especially the classic Italian caprese salad – tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, & whole fresh basil leaves drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, all soaked up with some crusty bread. We fry thick slices of eggplant in plenty of olive oil & salt them and eat as is or added to some kind of tomato sandwich! Many of our favorite ways to eat cole crops (vegetables in the mustard family, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi) and root veggies is in fermented form

Produce at its Peak: Seasons Turning

For the most part, I adore living in a seasonal landscape. Still as I cycled to work this morning pushing against a truly Arctic wind, I felt defiantly not ready for the weather to change. One of our flower farmers dropped off buckets of celosia (cockscomb) and asclepia (Oscar) earlier in the week and he casually mentioned that snow was on its way. Our last delivery from our other local flower farm was a few weeks back after a frost put an end to the wild and beautiful blooms at Humble Pie. Whether I am ready or not, the season is turning.

The Last Local Tomatoes

That same frost signaled the beginning of the end for local tomatoes. While some plants may rebound from an isolated frost, the shortening days and overall cooler weather make it difficult for developing tomatoes to ripen. Once the field plants have passed we’ll continue to bring in delicious locally-grown hydroponic tomatoes until it just becomes too cold and dark for those operations to produce. Local tomatoes ripened on the vine have a far superior flavor and texture to winter tomatoes brought in from other regions. Take advantage of these fruits while you can – eat them fresh until you’ve had your fill then preserve them for a taste of the garden in February.

My favorite method for preserving tomatoes is roast them long and low in oil to create a type of tomato “confit”. Slice tomatoes in half, generously coat with olive oil, and set skin-side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and place a half-dozen sprigs of thyme among the tomatoes. Place in an oven at 250° and cook slowly for several hours until the tomatoes have nearly flattened and are slightly shriveled. They should be chewy but not tough or leathery. Pack them tightly in a jar, pour over the oil and juices from the pan adding more oil if needed to cover the tomatoes then heat process to seal.

Winter Squash

In name and association, winter squash sounds like a cold-hardy plant but it really isn’t. Unlike tomato plants that may rebound from a dip below freezing, these temperatures more often than not finish the squash plants. Thankfully, by this time of year the plants have done their work – the squash themselves are mature and ready for curing and storing the winter long.

Squash has a flexible flavor- one that can be prepared beautifully as a sweet or savory dish. I use squash as a base for soups and risotto as well as for baking – my “pumpkin” pie is usually made with butternut squash. In the autumn, we see so many more squash varieties from our local growers. Stick to the old time favorites if you like, but the sweetness of a delicata and the nuttiness of the small orange Hubbard are not to be missed. Squash doesn’t need to be fussed with and any of these varieties can be halved, de-seeded, and roasted flesh-side down with a few herbs and a clove of garlic in the cavity. Or just roast them whole and do the cutting once cooled when the squash has softened from cooking.

Sweet and Hardy Brassicas

Luckily, there are plants that not only weather the cooler temps but are better for it. Most brassicas transform with a frost to become sweeter more flavorful versions of their summer selves as the cold triggers the plant’s starches to convert to sugar. There are so many delicious brassicas to choose from this time of year: several varieties of kale; broccoli, cauliflower, and the fractal florets of romanesco; kohlrabi in green and purple; red and green cabbage as well as savoy; and fresh, firm, and tiny Brussels sprouts. We are also lucky that some among this list not only withstand the cold but store well and will provide us with locally-grown produce well into the winter.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes began arriving from Wisconsin Growers Co-operative a few weeks ago and along with long-storing brassicas, they will sustain us with some locally grown produce throughout most of the winter. There are over 300 varieties of sweet potatoes and this year we are excited to add the Bonita and the Stokes Purple varieties to the now familiar Beauregard, Jewel, Garnet, Japanese purple, and O’Henry White. In general, sweet potatoes fall into two categories: soft and firm. The soft varieties – Beauregard, Jewel, Garnet, and for the most part the Stokes Purple – become soft, moist and sweeten considerably with cooking. The firm varieties – O’Henry, Japanese purple, and now the Bonita – remain firm and have a nutty – only slightly sweet – flavor. Like squash, sweet potatoes can be roasted whole (with a few pricks to the skin with a fork) and the longer one cooks, the sweeter the result. This is especially true with the “soft” varieties. I love adding a few cups of mashed Beauregard to my biscuit batter for a beta-carotene rich and flavorful take on this classic.

For firm varieties, I prefer roasting. Using a knife or mandolin, cut thin disks from a firm variety of sweet potato – my personal favorite for its nutty flavor, firm texture, and contrasting color is the Japanese purple. Brush a deep oven-safe sauté pan with a mixture of butter and olive oil – reserving half the mixture for later. Arrange the disks in the pan in concentric circles similar to a roll of coins. Brush the sweet potatoes with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the edges are golden and the flesh is cooked through. Heat a cup of crème fraîche along with a sprig of rosemary and a dried hot pepper until the crème fraîche is more liquid than solid. Pour the herbed crème fraîche over the sweet potatoes and garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley and rosemary. Warming and delicious.