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Produce Corner - Parsnips

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.

Pity the poor parsnip!

Misunderstood cousin of the glorious carrot, the parsnip is just not that familiar to most of us. Usually grown in the fall so that Autumn's cold weather can turn starches to sugars, the parsnip can be quite sweet and nutty. When people ask me how to eat local during the winter in Chicago, the parsnip is my go-to vegetable. Parsnips store very well and they often last into spring. They are absolutely fantastic when mixed with other roots crops that, incidentally, also store well through the wintertime.

Look for parsnips with good color and firm roots. If they do get soft, use them up right away. Parsnips are great roasted, and in stews and soups. Like most vegetables, I say to leave the skins on for the most nutrients. You'll never even notice. Store parsnips in the crisper section of your refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or a damp towel, and keep them moist – not wet - and cold.

My favorite parsnip recipe is also a simple one. Head on down to the Co-op and get yourself some parsnips, carrots, potatoes, olive oil, and a favorite, fresh herb. Cut the parsnips, potatoes and carrots into one inch slices and mix with olive oil, herb, and then salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 425 for about a half hour, until they are just getting tender. Delicious! - Rob

I have to say parsnips are one of my favorite fall root crops. While most folks are adding pumpkin to anything and everything they can, I'm adding parsnip to anything & everything I can. And yes, this includes juicing it  (for those of you who know me, know I'm an avid juicer!). I love the sweet crunch raw but roasting it like Rob shared in his recipe above, brings its sweetness to a whole other level! It's simply amazing! Nutritionally speaking, parnsips are excellent sources of vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber. With it's vitamin C content, this is a great local food option to munch on all winter to keep your immune system in check! In addiiton to roasting, parsnips are a wonderful addition to soups. Check out this vegan curried carrot & parsnip soup next time your craving a hearty, warm bowl of something delicious. YUM! And I can't possibly write this without paying tribute to oven-baked parsnip fries... DOUBLE YUM! - Kristen

Produce Corner - Delicata Squash

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.

This time of year brings, literally, truckloads of winter squash to the markets each week. After growing for almost the entire summer, these veggies are ready to shine. All shapes and colors adorn the shelves and it is difficult to know what's what. For those of you that are a little hesitant to try something unfamiliar, allow me to steer you in the right direction: delicata squash. You're gonna thank me for this one, folks.

Delicata squash have a creamy flesh that is even more buttery than butternuts and a tad sweeter than sweet potatoes. They are typically small and oblong, about 6-10 inches long. Delicata have a creamy beige skin with green, yellow or orange stripes. They are the perfect size for making 1-2 servings. Best of all, they are one of the easiest of the winter squash to clean, cut, and cook. Look for firm skins on the delicata and no mold. Like most winter squash, they store well, probably about 3-4 weeks. Keep them in a cool (the refrigerator is too cold) and dark spot.

Here's an easy, classic recipe. Clean the delicata squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds (prepare them like pumpkin seeds!) and coat with a little olive oil. Place in the oven at 425 and bake, turning once or twice. Continue until the sides are golden brown and the texture is creamy. Eat, and savor, with a spoon! - Rob

I thought I had already experienced the best winter squash had to offer.  Acorn, spaghetti, and butternuts were always a regular in my house during the fall & winter. Until my friend introduced me to the delicata at the market one year…edible skin?! Sold. One bite in & I was hooked. Not only are delicata delicious, they also pack in a substantial amount of nutrition and lasting energy with their high percentage of complex carbohydrates. Winter squashes like the delicata are great sources of carotenoids, antioxidants (vitamins A & C), fiber, and even provide some healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These are such an economically friendly winter source of healthy carbohydrates to keep you nourished throughout the winter months. And thanks to farmers like Rob Montalbano, we will have locally sourced, organically grown squash all season long! -Kristen 

Produce Corner - Turnips

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.

Think you don't like turnips? Think again.

Two of my absolute favorite turnips are the purple top and Hakurei. Best grown in Autumn's cool weather, turnips can be tender and delicious. The purple top turnip is gorgeous, with a creamy white root topped by a crown of purple. It's your traditional American turnip with a slightly bitter flavor (that bitter flavor gives turnips their amazing nutritional benefits!). The other common turnip you'll find around Chicago is the Hakurei, or the Japanese salad turnip. This all white, smaller turnip is outstanding. Slightly sweet and very mild, these turnips are delicious sliced and put atop salads raw. And please, please, please do not forgot the turnip greens. A staple of Southern cooking, turnip greens are a must. 

When buying turnips, look at both the roots and the greens. Look for greens that are crisp. A few holes in the leaves is a good thing. It means they were very likely grown organically. Just cut around them. Keep an eye out for firm, solid roots. Store roots and greens in separate containers. Place in the crisper where the greens should keep fresh for about 4 days. The roots of purple tops keep at least a few weeks while the Hakurei turnips should be eaten promptly.

Here is an easy and quick turnip recipe. Wash a bunch of turnips (with greens). Take off the greens and chop them up. Cut the turnips into quarters. In a sauté pan with a lid, heat a little olive oil. Add the turnips, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 5 minutes. Remove the turnips from the pan and add the greens to the pan. Cover, stir a few times, and cook until tender. Add a 1/4 cup white wine and cook until almost all the liquid is gone. Put the turnips back into the pan and cook another minute or so. Enjoy! –Rob

I too love the Hakurei & traditional purple top turnips. The flavor of the hakurei is a beautiful medley of sweet & bitter, making it a wonderful addition to any salad or as crudité to accompany your favorite dip. As Rob mentioned, turnip greens are packed with nutritional value; turnips & their greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, & K <-(antioxidants!). One of my favorite culinary explorations is turning a food into its mashed or whipped counterpart – just how many alternatives to mashed potatoes are there? TONS! Using purple top turnips, cut into cubes and toss in olive oil, pepper, and herbs of choice. Roast until soft & toss into food processor to mash up. Add some olive oil or butter to make it extra creamy and enjoy this sweetly bitter, nutritious mashup! - Kristen

 

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

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