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Produce Corner - Beets

The Produce Corner is a collaborative column by farmer and Dill Pickle owner Rob Montalbano and Dill Pickle's Produce Lead Buyer, Kristen Martinek. Here Rob shares info on some of his favorite in-season veggies including history, cooking ideas and storage tips; Kristen offers nutritional information and additional recipe ideas. Rob lives and works with his wife Christina on their farm in Sandwich, IL.

When I first started farming, I had a little stand at the Logan Square market. As I was deciding what to grow for the season, I put in a row of beets. I figured that they wouldn't really sell too well because who eats beets anyway?

Logan Square eats beets, that's who. Crikey, Logan Square eats a lot of beets. I've grown quite a few beets since then and learned a bit about one of my favorite roots. They come in all sorts of colors and sizes, for example. You can buy red, purple, white and golden beets. They are round, sometimes blocky, and even cylindrical. They're almost always extra sweet and did you know that table sugar is often made from beets?

They store great too. Just take off the beet greens before storing. The beet greens, by the way, are a big bonus. If they are young and tender, you can add the greens right on top of a salad for a spinach-like flavor. If they are a little older and bigger, chop them up and saute with a little olive oil and garlic and sundried tomatoes. When storing the roots, they like low temperatures and high humidity. So wash them well and put in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. They will last up to a month.

There are all different ways to prepare beets but definitely try the grill. When roasting on the grill, I don't even peel the beets. Just wash them and chop them into quarters, rub a little with olive or walnut oil, and wrap in foil. After about 25 minutes, open up the foil and add some chopped walnuts and a little salt. Leave the foil open as you finish them. They are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork, about 30-40 minutes. -Rob

As Rob mentioned, beets come in a variety of colors and sizes, meaning they also provide a variety of nutrients. Beets are loaded with folate, manganese, fiber and they pack in a good amount of potassium as well. Beets are also full of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other powerful compounds that help protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Beets are nutritional powerhouses that are thankfully so versatile, I am certain there is a recipe out there for everyone to enjoy! One of my favorite ways to prepare beets is by whipping them into a 'hummus'. Beet hummus can be enjoyed in a variety of ways: alone by the spoonful (it's that good), as a dip, in place of salad dressing, spread on crackers, or as a compliment on sandwiches/wraps. Check out this recipe for how I have traditionally prepared my beet hummus - enjoy! - Kristen

Produce Corner: Summer Squash

The Produce Corner is a column by farmer and Dill Pickle owner Rob Montalbano. Here Rob shares info on some of his favorite in-season veggies including history, cooking ideas and storage tips. Rob lives and works with his wife Christina on their farm in Sandwich, IL. This month's column also features some words from Kristen Martinek, Dill Pickle's Produce Lead Buyer. 

Summer squash. Zucchini. Crookneck. Patty Pans. What's the deal with that plant anyway?

Every gardener in America and beyond has a story to tell about the zucchini plant that got away. It's a story that loves to be told. Chicagoans grow squash because it's easy and prolific but it's good for you too. Like most vegetables, it's loaded with vitamins and minerals and, if you keep the skins on, fiber. On the farm, we plant four different types of summer squash (there are dozens of varieties) every two to three weeks. This ensures a plentiful supply from June through September. Summer squash is different from winter squash primarily in that we eat the fruit in an immature form, with the skin still soft.

When you buy summer squash, the most tender fruits will be less than 8-10 inches long (larger squash are excellent for use in bread). Look for a smooth, firm skin but a few wrinkles will be fine if you're planning on using it for dinner that night. Store summer squash in a protected place inside the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp towel or plastic bag. Summer squash also freezes very well. It will not retain its texture but frozen squash works great in wintertime stews and soups and breads. Lastly, be sure to try summer squash on the grill. First, I slice the squash into quarters, lengthwise, and marinate a little with some olive oil and fresh herbs. Keep the skins on (of course!) and grill it until the skin gets a little charred. Roast it up with some other fresh vegetables from the market and you'll even impress yourself. Enjoy! - Rob

Another great way to enjoy summer squash is by turning it into noodles by way of a spiralizer (if you don't have a spiralizer, vegetable peelers work well too). You may be thinking raw, squash noodles?! Is she nuts? Well, coming from someone who isn't too keen on raw summer squash or pasta, I absolutely LOVE zucchini noodles! It is by far one of my favorite summer meals; it is light, refreshing and takes less than five minutes to prepare. Zucchini noodles are a great option for those who adhere to a gluten-free diet, for anyone who may be overwhelmed with too much squash this time of year, or someone who is merely intrigued by new ideas. You can enjoy them as you would a typical pasta dish topped with your favorite pesto or marinara sauce, add to a salad, and/or incorporate into a wrap. Here is a delicious recipe to get you hooked on zucchini noodles; remember the possibilities are endless! -Kristen



The Brine - Live Foods Edition

The Summer issue of The Brine is dedicated to all things pickled, fermented and home-grown. Also, find out how you can help get the Co-op Jobs Act through Congress AND what your pickle preference says about you. Pick up a copy in the store, or download the pdf here.

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