A recipe for salad? You betcha. Along with a highly encouraged nudge to visit your local farmer's market to browse, nibble, sample, and pick up some of these wonderful tidbits to go into your guaranteed, bonafide delectable, splashy, full-of-color garden green salad! What do I have in this one?
red romaine (a new variety I can't remember the name of)
baby Swiss chard
red leaf lettuce
baby green leaf lettuce
baby beet greens (this is what you "weed out" when thinning your beets that may be growing in the garden, but they are extremely tasty and in demand, so savvy farmers now offer them for sale)
snipped baby beets (Why waste the root that you would otherwise eat when it's bigger?)
crumbled feta cheese
fresh black ground pepper
balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing
Of course, you can add whatever is available and in season from your own local market, like shaved fennel root or snipped fennel tops. But I encourage you to try something new. Fennel was a new thing for me that I tried a couple weeks ago, but my source was out of it by the time I got to the market this past weekend.
How did I come to be inspired to create, let alone write about what some may otherwise overlook as a common table food? Because I am lucky enough to be a year-round teacher for some special students. In the summer I teach an environmental science class, and during our unit on agricultural resources I always schedule in a field trip to some local farms. Bill Masslich and his wife Penny own a small organic farm named First Frost Farm. I've known Bill for more than 20 years. He was one of the first people I met when I moved to Cache Valley, and I can whole-heartedly say that he is one of the best guys I have ever known. His sincerity and honesty and goodness just emanate from within. My students always pick up on this, and always become immediately enamored with him as soon as they meet him. Without a doubt our annual field trip to his farm is always a favorite. And even though I've known Bill for many years, and have talked to him many times about gardening and growing vegetables, I always learn something new.
The most important thing that my students and I take away from our annual visit is that local farms are important. They are vital to communities. They are vital to local economies. They are vital to our health and survival. Good agricultural land is disappearing too quickly. Healthy produce (that won't make you sick, as in recent headlines) is vital to local consumers. People want to know where their food comes from, who grows it, who takes care of the land. Farmers like Bill and Penny at First Frost Farm are doing just that, and we should do our best to support them. So visit your local market and scoop up what's in season. Ask about what you can do to grow your own produce. You don't need a whole lot of space, and local farmers are always more than happy to offer ideas on how to do it, and well as ideas on how to cook whatever they are offering.
For example, this past weekend, Penny talked me into trying fresh mustard greens. She chuckled when I asked her what to do with them. But per her suggestions, I brought them home and sautéed them with butter and fresh scapes of garlic (another new hot item which you can also get right now at your local farmers market). It was quick, easy, and delish!
Just like me, you'll walk away inspired to eat better, and feel great about supporting your local community and the people who are working to preserve the heart of it.