19-5-15 Recipe Blog Header

Heirloom Tomato Pizza

  As someone who eats seasonally, you want to be an adventurous eater and try it all. Maybe some things like heirloom cherry tomatoes have proven their place in your meal plan, but things like fennel and turnip, not so much. Often, when a veggie turns us off, it’s because we had a bad experience […]

celebrate local vegetables

Celebrate Vegetables

– By Duane, Head Veggie Fairy

I remember the first time I experienced Brussels sprouts in the field. I found myself in a fantasy world full of stalks that extended above my head, with beautiful leaves of purple and green. AND I was given a knife and allowed to harvest them myself! What more could a 10 year old boy want?! I ate heartily. Not only were they the fruits of my labor, but they tasted AMAZING and nothing like the frozen Brussels sprouts from the grocery store I was used to. It was veggie adventures like this that now have me celebrating local vegetables today.

May is full of all kinds of celebrations so we’re taking this week to celebrate the veggies themselves. Whether vegetables define your lifestyle or complement your meat, here are three reasons they’re worth celebrating.

Celebrate the Wholesome Goodness

It’s a fact that vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants are the highest in vegetables when they’re harvested at peak ripeness, when they’ve had all the time they need to fully soak in all the goodness sun and soil have to offer. The sooner you eat them after harvesting, the greater the nutritional impact. Their extra fresh flavor will also make you want to eat more! The most tender veggies, like spinach, lose about 60% of their nutritional value within a week of harvesting, so it’s important to cut down the time it takes to get from the farm to your table. If you’re going to eat vegetables, you should eat them as fresh and flavorful as you can get them and take advantage of all that wholesome goodness.

Celebrate the Diversity of Vegetables

Getting your vegetables direct from the farmer introduces you to new and different varieties you may not have access to otherwise. Seasonal Roots has three types of kale on the menu at this moment – Tuscan, red Russian, and curly. All have different flavors. Did you know Russian kale is sweeter tasting than curly kale? Have you tried fresh garlic from the field? Do you know what a garlic scape is and what to do with it? You’ll be inspired to try new things as the changing seasons bring fresh varieties to the market!

Not only will you be inspired to try new vegetables, but you’ll be inspired to prepare them in different ways by other veggie lovers in your local food community. Asparagus is awesome on the grill and you can eat the spears like fries. Brussels sprouts roast to perfection in the oven. Golden beets are milder than their red sisters and won’t trick you into thinking you have a kidney infection! If you massage your collard greens, they give back with a sweeter taste and texture in your salad. Vegetables offer endless diversity… you’ll want to be a part of celebrating and trying new varieties!

Celebrate Working Together as a Community

Have you talked to your local farmer recently? You would be amazed by the amount of passion they put into growing your food. Because they care, practices like what variety and origin of seed they plant, spray/no spray, rotating crops for best nutrients, and picking produce at peak ripeness, matter. They want the community of families they feed to have the best produce! Sometimes that means a bug or two because they didn’t spray, or waiting an extra week for strawberries so they reach their  peak flavor and nutrients before harvesting.

Getting away from mass produced food has become crucial to our health and the health of our world, yet we are still a busy society. We have limited time to spend in the kitchen. Many local food artisans rely on local farmers for their produce. When you can trust your community of local food artisans because they share the same philosophy, it’s easier to pick up some yummy prepared food, enjoy it for a meal, and be confident you are still benefiting from the best food.

By supporting local farmers, food artisans, and organizations like Seasonal Roots, you help create a strong food system in our own backyard. We’re all in this together and when we work together as a community, it’s certainly a reason to celebrate and eat more local veggies!

Try something new this week, whether it be getting to know your local farmer better, trying a new variety of vegetable, or ordering something prepared by a local food artisan that you haven’t tried before. Your taste buds will enjoy the celebration!

 

 

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

red cap patisserie chocolate

Local food takes the guilt out of guilty pleasures

Case Study: Red Cap Patisserie

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

When you buy local food, your money stays in your community instead of going to some faraway corporate headquarters. Buy local food and your dollars create jobs at local farms, food distribution systems like Seasonal Roots, and food artisans like Red Cap Patisserie, which employs eight talented people in Richmond, Virginia.

red cap patisserie local jobs

So you can indulge that craving for, say, handmade chocolate, guilt-free, with Red Cap’s Dark Chocolate Toasted Almond Sour Cherry Bark. Not only is it good for the community, it’s also better for you than mass-produced chocolate. It’s freshly made, with no preservatives or artificial flavors.

And you can feel virtuous about it, too — compared to the global industrial food complex, food from a local artisan like Red Cap Patisserie uses less fuel and produces less CO2. So local food belches fewer greenhouse gases and fights global warming. That’s cool.

(Read this full list of 10 ways local food helps you live better.)

For two decades, pastry chef Martine Wladar handcrafted delicious treats for cafés and restaurants in New York City and New Jersey. We talked with her husband and partner John about how they found their way to Richmond, Virginia, where they now work together on their unique take on traditional French- and European-inspired fare.

red cap patisserie martine & john

VEGGIE FAIRY:

You both grew up in New Jersey. How did you wind up in Richmond’s historic Fan district?

JOHN:

It was a corporate relocation on my part in 2013. Martine had been working in the food industry for years, so we created a kitchen in our home where she could bake more seriously than she could with a residential oven. We signed up for the Saint Stephen’s Farmers Market and did that regularly.

red cap patisserie farmers market

After a couple years, a space opened up in the Fan and we were fortunate enough to acquire it. That let us open the retail operation and expand the commercial operation. Meanwhile I left my corporate job and began working for Martine. I’ve only been fired a couple times and she always takes me back.

red cap patisserie ribbon cutting

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Ha! But… not all couples can actually work together without killing each other. What’s your secret?

JOHN:

It’s something we work very hard at. We’ve been married since 1988, but when we embarked on this it changed our dynamic in many ways. You learn to be patient and just be quiet and listen and really try to hear the other person, which is a good practice whether you work together or not!

red cap patisserie handmade caramel

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So in our market, to start with you’ll be offering Chocolate Chip Brownies, Salty Sweet Pecans, super adorable Marshmallow Chicks, Sea Salt Caramels, and lots of dark chocolate treats. In addition to that, in your shop you offer all kinds of freshly baked sweet and savory pastries. How do you decide what to offer?

JOHN:

What we offer is guided by Martine’s intuition and inspiration. She’s had a lifelong love for baking and cooking. She’s taken various courses at cooking schools and perfected her skills on the job, and opening the shop was a unique opportunity to pull her expertise together in both baking and cooking.

red cap patisserie martine

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How did Martine learn the chocolate side of the business?

JOHN:

She has worked with Jacques Torres, who is a famous French chocolate master. When we opened this place she said, “You know, eventually I really want to offer chocolate!” Within a year and a half we had built up enough in-house staff to break out and offer chocolate treats and caramel. She really loves caramel, so we do our own caramel in-house and blend our own chocolate in-house. We like a particular chocolate taste. Some chocolates are too bitter, some have too much “cherry” flavor, some are just too sweet. We blend it to hit that sweet spot in between.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How do you choose your ingredients?

JOHN:

It’s about quality in terms of the craft of making an excellent product that you can feel good about eating. Whenever possible, we source our ingredients locally. We’ll barter at the farmers market for eggs. We’re using real ingredients — real cream, real butter, real flour. No ingredients you can’t recognize or pronounce. That makes for a delicious product and a healthier one, even when it’s a treat.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What’s your carbon footprint like?

JOHN:

We’re local, so we’re close to our customers. We also aim for sustainability in packaging. We try not to use any styrofoam and reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use as well as the packaging our supplies come in. We recycle everything that leaves the kitchen — unlike larger establishments, where everything just goes in the dumpster.

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red cap patisserie martine pastry chef

Red Cap Patisserie shares Seasonal Roots’ mission to make the world a better place through local food! If you want to see the full range of Martine’s creations, check out the mouthwatering photo gallery on the Red Cap Patisserie Instagram page. If you’re inspired to stop by Martine and John’s shop the next time you’re in Richmond, you’ll find directions on their website.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

farm at red hill ginger turmeric

Ginger and turmeric

They’re good for your health and this local family farm


By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team:

Ginger and turmeric are both ancient spices known for fighting inflammation and boosting your immune system. Ginger is also an old-time remedy for nausea. Best of all, they do it all with amazing flavor — from ginger’s spicy sweetness with lemon undertones, to turmeric’s gentle notes of lemony mint.

ginger turmeric health benefits

The ginger puree and turmeric puree in our home-delivered farmers market is great in smoothies! And it’s grown by Wendy and Richard on the Farm at Red Hill outside Charlottesville, Va. The husband-and-wife team make a variety of artisan foods to jazz up any meal, and it’s all fresh, with no preservatives, no added sugar, and gluten free.

According to Wendy, they got their start making local artisan food thanks to a bumper crop of tomatoes.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Have you always been farmers?

WENDY:

Nope, electrical contractors! But 12 years ago when our two kids were little we were looking for something that would be more conducive to family life. We had five acres, and luckily Richard is very handy and an electrician. We bought all our equipment at auction or on eBay, built four greenhouses, and started growing all sorts of vegetables.

farm at red hill

I’m not a farmer and neither is Richard, but we’ve learned so much — we literally knew nothing. We’ve learned that the number of mistakes you can make is just incredible! We also learned that if you show up good things happen. We started selling what we were growing in the Charlottesvile farmers market. And we had great success! Until the middle of summer when everyone and their grandmother is growing tomatoes. We wound up feeding a lot of ours to our chickens. They were happy but we weren’t making any money.

farm at red hill all-natural salsa

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Oh no! How’d you stay in business?

WENDY:

Well, Richard started making salsa and gazpacho. We were growing sorrel, too, which is a lemon flavored herb, and a friend bought it to make hummus instead of using lemon juice. That inspired us to start making hummus. One thing led to another. We started making jam because our whole farm is a no-spray zone. We didn’t want to send the kids out to pick things for dinner and then have to warn them to put on gloves just to go in the greenhouse or the orchard. But no-spray means we have delicious but ugly peaches that no one would buy. So we made jam. That was really popular. Pretty soon, the artisan foods we were making got to be more popular than the fruits and vegetables we were growing.

farm at red hill all-natural tzatziki

The English Cucumbers were the reason for our tzatziki and gazpacho. The ginger and turmeric are our newest crops and they inspired us to do the fresh grated vacuum packed items along with the jam. The trick was learning how to make everything in a way that it would have a long enough life without using preservatives, since we’re all-natural.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What do you use instead of preservatives?

WENDY:

Shutting out the air by vacuum packing is one way. Also, lemon is a natural preservative. Of course that makes things sour, so to counteract that in the salsa we add carrots, which are naturally sweet. We don’t add sugar to anything. You look at salsas in the grocery store and even a lot of the all-natural ones still put sugar in there. Even if they call it stevia or agave, it’s still a form of sugar.

farm at red hill all-natural local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Do you still make it all yourselves?

WENDY:

We’ve grown so much we’re able to employ other people, too, to help us make and distribute everything. We’re providing jobs for eight people right here in our community.

the farm at red hill

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So did farming turn out to be good for your family life?

WENDY:

Oh, the kids were mortified when we started out. They didn’t want to be farmers! But now, twelve years later, they like to say their parents have a farm. Now it’s a status thing. But it’s more than that. When our daughter was applying to colleges, for her essay she wrote, “What does a teenage girl and a rooster have in common? The answer is absolutely nothing.” She wrote about how she was tortured and mortified to be the child of a farmer. But in the end, she wrote, “I can’t believe that ten years later, I can now see that when life gives you tomatoes, you can make salsa!”

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Check out Wendy and Richard’s ginger puree, turmeric puree, jam, hummus, tzatziki, and more in the Extras section of our home-delivered farmers market. You can also visit the Farm at Red Hill on Facebook.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

organic vs sustainable vs local

Organic vs sustainable vs local — which is best?

Organic vs sustainable vs local — which is best?


By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team:

We get this question pretty much daily: “So are your farms Certified Organic?” When people ask that, we totally get where they’re coming from. We all just want to eat nutritious, safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly food, but it’s not like any of us have the time to research every item we buy. So the government’s “Certified Organic” label has become a convenient shortcut to eating healthy without harming the planet.

If only it were true.

Organic vs sustainable vs local… how do you decide which is best? Here at Seasonal Roots, we’re more concerned about sustainable and local than organic, so we don’t require our local farmers to be Certified Organic. Here’s why:

1. We partner with local farmers.

Many of them are multi-generational. That means they care for their land, crops, and animals with the next generation in mind. They use sustainable practices like rotating their crops to avoid sucking all the nutrients out of the soil. The vast majority of our farmers don’t spray, either, because that would jeopardize the integrity of their land. If they do spray, it’s minimal and only as required. One of our sustainable farmers has a friend who runs a Certified Organic farm not far from him. One year, our sustainable farmer sprayed his yellow squash one time all season because it was necessary. His Certified Organic friend, on the other hand, sprayed his squash on a weekly schedule using a spray approved by the USDA. Our farmer isn’t considered Certified Organic, but his weekly spraying friend is allowed to use that title.

2. “Organic” doesn’t equal “locally grown”.

In fact, it may even be grown in a foreign country and shipped to the U.S. The result? A bigger carbon footprint. That’s not eco-friendly. There’s also no guarantee that the food was produced under ideal conditions for farmers, laborers, or livestock, and an organic label has nothing to do with food safety.

3. The best way to know if your food is nutritional, eco-friendly, and safe is to know your farmer.

That’s not possible for most of us as individuals. But when we come together as a group like Seasonal Roots, that’s exactly what we do. We know our farmers. We talk with them, visit their farms, and develop relationships with them. We share their stories with you so you can know them too, even if you don’t have time to go visit them yourself. It’s not quite as easy as the “Certified Organic” shortcut, but it’s a lot easier than trying to do it all by yourself.

4. Most nutrients begin to degrade from the moment produce is harvested.

The sooner it gets to you the better. Also, many studies have shown that fruit that’s picked closer to the peak of ripeness (rather than being picked green and ripening on the shelf or by being gassed) is more nutritious than fruit that’s picked before or after peak, whether it’s organic or not. This is why we hustle to get your produce to you as soon as possible after harvesting, and why being local helps — it doesn’t have to travel very far. Much of the food in grocery stores has traveled thousands of miles and many days to get there, losing nutrients every hour of the way.

5. There’s no standard definition for “local”.

Our standard is within about 150 miles of our delivery areas in Virginia. So most of our local partners are in Virginia, and a few are in southern Pennsylvania or eastern North Carolina. To maintain a healthy variety of options during the winter, we partner with sustainable farmers in Florida. We call that produce “regional” because it can get to us within a day of harvest without resorting to flying. Members who prefer to eat only what’s in season locally can opt out of our winter-time regional offerings.

We support our local farmers because we know and trust them and their practices. They produce safe food for their families, our families. and your families. Wherever you may be, we hope you’ll join us in supporting your local farmers, too!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

Truly Scrumptious convenient local food

This artisan makes convenient local food

You won’t find this “Truly Scrumptious” local food in the grocery store but it’s just as convenient

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

There’s more than one way to eat your local veggies — and you don’t necessarily have to go to the trouble of cooking them up yourself. That’s because local produce is also a big part of many of our locally made artisanal foods, like Truly Scrumptious in Richmond, Va.

Truly Scrumptious specializes in frozen, ready-to-heat prepared foods that are locally sourced whenever possible and bursting with flavor. Freezing freshly made, handmade food makes it convenient to serve, and also makes it more flavorful and nutritious than most other convenience foods. (For more on that, read our post on the benefits of freezing fresh food.)

For the inside scoop on convenient local food, we talked with Mela, the British chef who grew up on the west coast of Scotland and now makes Truly Scrumptious so scrumptious in Richmond, Va. And she’s too modest to tell you this part herself, so we will: Back when she lived in London, she worked for a company that held the Royal Warrant — catering events at Highgrove, Charles and Diana’s private residence, and Buckingham Palace garden parties. Cool beans!

Truly Scrumption convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

The flavors of everything you make really stand out! How do you do it?

MELA:

I don’t make the typical soups you find in the grocery store. Having traveled a lot in the Far East I like my food to have big flavor. I’m inspired by Indian, Thai, and Morroccan flavors and then I make it my own — so it’s always full flavored but not too spicy. I use local produce whenever it’s available, and that’s going to taste so much better, too. Plus you know where it comes from, how they grow it, that it’s fresh picked. Then freezing it gives me the ability to offer a much greater variety. Everything’s been tested, so I know it will be fine when it’s reheated.

Truly Scrumption convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Did you go to culinary school to learn all this?

MELA:

Actually my degree was in engineering! But what I really loved to do was cook, so I was always cooking for the guys in the class and on field trips. Then I came to the U.S. on a work exchange program. I wound up working for top notch restaurants in Colorado and on Martha’s Vineyard, where I met my husband Robert, and my love of food took over.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So how did you wind up Virginia?

MELA:

Robert is from Roanoke and he wanted to come back to Virginia. So I moved to Richmond without having ever visited it. Turns out I’m very happy here! Once my children were a little older, I started Truly Scrumptious in 2007, and I focused on serving businesses and private entertaining. Then in 2010 the farmers market scene in Richmond exploded. I noticed the quality and variety of produce I could pick up in the markets and I knew I could use it as the basis for prepared ready-to-eat foods. One of the family farmers I work with is G Flores Produce, on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

(FAIRY NOTE: The Flores family has been part of our home-delivered farmers market almost since the beginning! That’s their produce below, which went into Mela’s Roasted Virginia Winter Vegetable Bisque, available in the market this weekend.)

G Flores Produce convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Do you have a set menu?

MELA:

No, that’s the best part. Everything’s seasonal. I create different entrees to utilize what’s being harvested. It’s creative and exciting to be doing something new all the time. One week one of the local farmers had beautiful bok choy, so I turned that into a delicious bok choy and mushroom soup. I want to let that local produce shine. That’s the most important thing.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What’s been the biggest challenge?

MELA:

Applying to the health department and the agriculture and consumer services department for a license seemed scary. It’s intimidating as a person who doesn’t have a big team of business advisors. But once I did it, it turned out it was straight forward and easy and gave me a sense of satisfaction of having done it myself. Then there were the logistics of figuring out the best place to sell what I was making and a place to make it. You have to have an inspected kitchen. I’m lucky enough to use a lovely large commercial kitchen in Bon Air United Methodist Church. They let me rent the kitchen and I cater activities for the church like Wednesday night dinners. I’ve been working out of that kitchen for 12 years now. So creating it all from the ground up by myself and then seeing it take off has been the biggest challenge but also very satisfying.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So you’re running a business and also doing the sourcing and cooking. How do you get it all done?

MELA:

Robert helps at in-person farmers markets. Our son Jack, who’s 21, handles deliveries. And our daughter Molly, who’s 17, is my righthand lady. If I need cupcakes decorated, she’s on it. She’s also a good calming influence for me! I count on the farmers, too. I love meeting and getting to know local farmers and seeing them week by week. They’ll ask me if I want such and such… It’s all very rewarding. I’m so lucky to be involved in something I enjoy 100%. It’s my interest, not just my job.

Truly Scrumptious convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

For some of us, cooking is a chore. What is it about cooking for others that you enjoy so much?

MELA:

For me, it’s providing families with something that’s nutritious, flavorful, locally sourced, and convenient. I love knowing that people really appreciate being able to have my home-cooked food in the freezer to pull out, heat up, and then sit down and eat a scrumptious meal. Some of my customers buy five soups and take that to work each day instead of buying fast food for lunch. It’s gratifying to know I’m making life easier for other people with food that’s locally sourced, locally handmade, and nutritious. I do try to make it as healthy as I can. I use high quality olive oil, spices, and a lot of my soups are vegan. Not because they have to be but because the recipes lend themselves to using coconut or almond milk.

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You can find Mela’s convenient local food in the Extras section of our home-delivered farmers market. You can also visit Truly Scrumptious on Facebook, or check out the Truly Scrumptious website.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

grassfed beef harmony hill farm

Here’s why grassfed beef is worth the money

Plus tips on how to cook it up — it’s different from grainfed beef

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

All our family farmers are transparent about the way they farm. They do it the old fashioned way: slow and natural.

harmony hill farm grassfed beef

That’s how Earl, his wife Robin, and son Jesse raise their animals (cows, pigs, chickens, and more) at Harmony Hill Farm in Scottsville, Va. We talked about it with Earl, and we’ve got the whole conversation below, plus info how to cook grassfed beef without ruining it!

The motto of Earl and his family is: “Farming in harmony with nature.” It’s not the cheapest way to farm. But here’s why it’s worth paying a little extra money to benefit from what they have to offer.

grassfed beef

Before the days of industrial corporate farming, the typical American family spent 30% of their income on food… about the same as what they spent (and still spend) on housing.

Nowadays, thanks to industrial agriculture, most Americans spend less than 10% of their family budget on food. But it’s true what they say: You get what you pay for. Treating plants and animals like widgets on an assembly line has made them cheaper in every sense of the word. Today’s food has fewer nutrients, less natural flavor, and more unhealthy stuff like pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and bad fats.

To minimize cost while maximizing profit, industrial agriculture harvests produce before it’s ripe from soil full of chemicals, then ships it long distances. Industrial ag crams animals into confined spaces, stuffing them with unnatural feeds, antibiotics, and hormones to fatten them fast during their short, often miserable lives. The result is food that’s much less nutritious and flavorful than what your grandparents ate, and worse for the environment.

To get the food our bodies were meant to eat, you have to turn back the clock to the old ways of doing things. You have to take your time and grow your produce in soil that’s naturally rich and fertile, not chemically enhanced. And you have to leave your produce there until it has absorbed all the nutrients and flavor it was meant to absorb from the earth and the sun.

You have to raise your animals the way nature intended — out in the pastures and woodlands and sunshine, eating what they were meant to eat. For cows, that means grass. Grassfed beef contains more healthy things like vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and cancer-fighting fats.

Yes, it costs more to make food this way. But better health is worth it. The better flavor that comes with it is icing on the cake.

As a farmer, it’s not easy to go the unconventional all-natural route. The American industrial food system is designed to support conventional farmers. We asked Earl about it.

harmony hill farm

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How long have you been farming?

EARL:

We’ve been farming full-time here in Fluvanna County for two and a half years. Before that I was a landscape contractor for 30 years in Hanover County. We’d gotten a few cows and hens and broilers, raising them on the side as hobby. But our hearts became more involved with that than the landscaping. So we left the landscaping business, found a farm, and moved up here and started farming full-time.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

That’s a big change! Any regrets?

EARL:

None so far. We moved away from our family and friends, so we don’t have that everyday interaction anymore. We thought it would be more of an emotional strain. But it really hasn’t been. It was time for a new season in our life and where the Lord was leading. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been difficult or we haven’t had our struggles. But any new venture you’re always going to have those things.

The other day I was talking with Sam (Seasonal Roots’ Farmer Connector) about mindset and emotional things. You’ve got to turn a profit and make a living and support your family. But for us it wasn’t all about the money. It was about a lifestyle change and the direction we wanted to head.

harmony hill farm grassfed beef

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How’d you pick up the hobby and then turn it into a second career? Do you come from a farming family?

EARL:

We’re first-generation full-time farmers. My grandfather always did it on the side. But he never did it full-time. We were the first to do it as a career. Some new farmers do their research early and get started really young. But financially it can be really hard. Getting in when we did later in life, we had a monetary base we could fall back on because of the landscaping business.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Why did you get into all-natural farming? Was that your grandfather’s influence?

EARL:

No, my grandfather’s methods were more conventional. We call our type farming unconventional because we’re out of the mainstream, unlike industrial farming. My wife was the driving force. Robin started the research to learn about healthy food and healthy eating, where we bought our foods from and how it was raised. She wanted our family to have healthier food. As we started doing it on the side for ourselves, we thought we might be able to make a go of this.

harmony hill farm

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Healthier eating motivates a lot of us. What else motivated you?

EARL:

Our faith — our belief that things are created a certain way, and they need to be allowed to perform in a manner in which they were created. Cows were created to be herbivores and eat grass, not meat byproducts and grain. Our society has changed that, wanting to get away from how something was designed to live, and that’s how we cause a lot of our problems. No animal was designed to live in an industrial situation, crammed in together.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So how did you learn how to farm unconventionally, as you call it?

EARL:

Our learning has been schooling with folks who have been in our type of farming. We were reading Wendell Berry and Greg Judy. We’ve been to classes with Polyface Farms, falling back on their wisdom and experience. And of course trial and error — you learn by doing.

grassfed beef

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What’s been the biggest challenge of becoming an all-natural farmer?

EARL:

That hardest part is that here in America, because of the industrial, commercial way that we do things, the food is so cheap. Our food is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. That’s hard to overcome. The food we grow is more expensive because our animals are so much more healthy and better for you. It’s more work and takes longer to grow a quality product.

But still, it has to turn a profit. So it’s been hard because that’s the biggest thing you hear: “Why is your meat so much more expensive?” We have to do a lot of educating. It’s better for you and tastes better. We do what we can to be transparent. We invite folks to come out and see how we do it. Our customers visit our farm and they can see our animals out on pasture or in the woods. With a local family farmer like us, you know where your food comes from. You’ve got no clue when you pick something up from one of the big box stores.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So what kind of response do you get?

EARL:

Usually folks, if they want to eat healthier, once they get it, they’re sold for life. And those folks are everywhere. You’ve just got to be able to find them. That’s where Seasonal Roots fits in — you help us connect with those families who want to eat healthier food.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

We’ve mentioned already why grassfed meat is healthier for people. Is eating grass healthier for cows, too?

EARL:

Grassfed is so much better. Because our herd is out on pasture, like nature intended, they stay healthier. They don’t get sick as often as they would crammed into a crowded, dirty feedlot eating grain. And their ruminant stomach can’t digest grain, so if you feed them grain, well then they need antibiotics. The meat we provide has no antibiotics and no GMOs.

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Grassfed vs grass finished

Not only is the beef from Harmony Hill Farm grassfed — it’s grass finished, too. Many farmers who claim to be grassfed actually switch their cows to grain at the end to fatten them up faster. The cows of Harmony Hill eat grass their whole lives.

grassfed beef grass finished beef

There’s more on that, plus the environmental benefits of grassfed on Harmony Hill Farm’s website.

Their site is full of great information, including their favorite books on these subjects, so be sure to check it out. You can also visit them on Facebook.

How to cook grassfed beef

To get the full benefit of lean, healthy, grassfed beef, you have to cook it right. Fortunately, it’s easy to cook right. You just have to know how. So don’t let anyone tell you grassfed beef is tougher than grainfed.

The biggest culprit is overcooking. Grassfed is made for rare to medium-rare cooking. If you prefer beef well-done, first sear it over high heat to seal in the juices, then cook it at very low temps in a sauce to add moisture, like in our beef bourguignon recipe. The reason: grassfed is high in protein and extremely low in fat.

However you like your beef, be sure to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before you cook it, so it’s closer to room temperature. Like your muscles, it’s more relaxed (and tender) when it’s warmer. As it warms, it also releases moisture that you can pat dry ahead of time. That prevents the meat from steaming itself into a gray lump instead of searing nice and brown. Rub it with extra virgin olive oil, salt it, and if you like, coat it with your favorite dry rub seasoning.

For grassfed steaks cooked indoors:
1. Preheat your broiler to 450 and place a heavy, oven-proof skillet in the oven to preheat along with it.
2. When the skillet is sizzling hot, turn a burner on high, grab an oven mitt and move the hot skillet from the oven to the burner. Turn the fan over your stovetop on high and place the steaks in the skillet. They will smoke like crazy! But be strong and let them sear for a minute, then flip them to sear on the other side for another minute.
3. Put the skillet back in the oven. One-inch steaks will take 4-6 minutes to hit medium rare (120-130 degrees inside). Since it will continue to cook even after it’s removed from the heat, take it off when the internal temp is still 10 degrees below the target temperature. Using tongs (not a fork — don’t poke holes for the juices to escape), place the steaks on a cutting board and loosely tent them under foil for 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat while it finishes cooking, making for juicier steak.

More tips for grassfed cooking, plus recipes, are on our Pinterest beef page.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

wreath welcome dominion harvest

Welcome, Oberweis Dairy customers!

Everything you need to know to get started

By the Veggie Fairy Team

Seasonal Roots is Virginia’s oldest and biggest home-delivered farmers market, specializing in locally sourced, sustainably grown produce. When Oberweis Dairy asked us to help make sure you can enjoy the convenience of the freshest, best-tasting, healthiest home-delivered dairy, we said sure!

Seasonal Roots members order a weekly home-delivered produce basket, and can add on Extras like pastured eggs, grassfed meats, and artisan fare. To help you out, we’re now making it possible for you to also add on your favorite Oberweis items.

So for all our new Oberweis customers who join and become Seasonal Roots members, here’s a step-by-step introduction to your new community of fresh local food lovers:

When to place your order

You can place your order all weekend long. Your online farmers market is open from Friday at 2pm until Sunday at 11:59pm. We’ll send you an email on Friday to remind you that the market is open. During that time you can browse and shop all you want. When the market’s not open, you can take an offline tour of the ordering process by clicking here.

How to order your basket

When you sign in while the market is open, you’ll see that each order is fully customizable. It starts with a basket of fresh local produce that you can swap items in and out of. Then in the Extras section you can choose to buy bakery items, meats, artisan goods, more produce, and Oberweis dairy products.

First, the basket. There are three basket sizes to choose from:

basket assortments prices

Whichever basket you choose, it will come pre-filled with a selection of produce. You’re free to change that — just swap out items to get exactly what you want.

How to order Extras

Browse the tabs in the Extras section and add to your order whatever items strike your fancy. You can change your order as often as you like until the market closes on Sunday at 11:59pm. If you do make changes, only your most recent save will be processed, so you can disregard the email confirmations you’ll receive for the earlier saves.

Need to skip a week or more? You can schedule skips anytime before the market closes, up to 12 weeks in advance. If you don’t skip or customize, the default order that was in the Friday email will be processed when the market closes.

The money stuff

Here’s what you need to know, in no particular order:

  • After each weekend that you order, your credit card will be charged on Monday morning.
  • We don’t charge a bottle deposit. We just ask that you return your bottles so Oberweis can sanitize and reuse them.
  • Seasonal Roots has a small annual membership fee of $50 the first year, and $35 every year after that.
  • Delivery

    If you live in Northern Virginia, Wednesday will be your delivery day. If you live anywhere from Richmond to Virginia Beach, Thursday will be your delivery day. If you’re unsure about your delivery day, drop us an email.

    On your delivery day, your box of local food will be delivered to your doorstep — hand-delivered by a neighborhood Market Manager who lives near you. She or he will send you an email reminder the night before that will give you a delivery window of just a couple hours so you’ll know when to expect it. Your Market Manager is there to help, so feel free to send an email if you ever have any questions or concerns.

    On delivery day, you’ll also receive a “Field Notes” email from Sam, your Farmer Connector – he’ll update you on the harvest. Sometimes Mother Nature has plans for our crops that we can’t foresee. If something foils the harvest of a basket item, we’ll substitute the closest item we can find – for example, yellow squash instead of zucchini. If it’s an Extra item that you ordered, we’ll credit it to your account.

    By the way, we check and double check each item before it reaches you, but if something falls through the cracks, like a bruised apple or a missing item, we want to know! It’s easy to report an issue — visit our FAQs and scroll down to “Quality Control” for instructions.

    Each week on delivery day, please leave out a cooler, along with an ice pack if you have one. That way your fresh local food will stay fresh and safe from hungry critters.

    Next to your cooler, please leave out your empty Seasonal Roots delivery box and glass milk bottles from the week before to help us reduce our carbon footprint. Your Market Manager will whisk it all away so it can be reused. That will save energy and, in the case of the boxes, trees!

    Last but not least: Enjoy!

    Once you receive your order, all you have to do is enjoy it! If you ever find yourself with more fresh local produce than you can eat right away, here’s how you can preserve the nutrients and flavor until you’re ready to use it.

    To get to know us better, please visit our Web site where we’ve got FAQs, the story of how we got started, and more. We also hope you’ll join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for recipes!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ home-delivered farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    rooted delights vegan mac and cheese

    This local food beats food allergies 5 ways

    No gluten. No tree nuts. No soy. No dairy. No eggs. Pure comfort.

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Food allergies are on the rise. Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. That includes 5.9 million children under the age of 18. That’s 1 in 13 kids, or just about two in every classroom. And 30 percent or so of those kids are allergic to more than one food.

    Others don’t suffer from a full blown allergy, but just feel better when they don’t eat gluten, soy, tree nuts, dairy, or eggs. Still, just because you or someone you love can’t eat those things, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a yummy comfort food like macaroni and cheese…

    rooted delights vegan cheese

    …or even an entire wheel of cheese! Not when Rooted Delights is handcrafting artisanal, plant-based cheese using ingredients you can pronounce.

    Rooted Delights is one of the new locally prepared foods we’re welcoming into our home-delivered farmers market this year — part of our goal of making it easy for you to eat the healthiest food available: local food!

    rooted delights vegan allergen-free local food

    Rooted Delights was co-founded in 2016 in Alexandria, Va., by Janay, a fellow sufferer of food intolerances… until she realized that, lo and behold, she felt so much better when she cut things like gluten, dairy, and soy out of her diet.

    We veggie fairies were curious about Janay’s journey from food sufferer to food artisan. We also love, love, love her cheddarliscious vegan cheese and mac and cheese. And so, as usual, we just had to her a bunch of our usual nosy questions.

    Veggie Fairy:

    For you veganism was the cure, right? How did you discover that?

    Janay:

    My vegan journey started with meatless Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. During that short period, I noticed amazing changes in weight loss, fewer cravings, improved sleeping habits, and overall more energy. I was convinced that my new diet was a positive lifestyle change that could easily and permanently be done.

    Veggie Fairy:

    What made you jump from cooking vegan food for yourself to cooking for others?

    Janay:

    I couldn’t wait to share my experience with others and provide plant-based alternatives to help with transitioning! I was determined to create vegan comfort food for my loved ones to enjoy without compromising its taste. While doing research, I found that a high percentage of people have allergies to soy, gluten, and tree nuts. I knew then that I had to be particular with the foods I decided to use and buy so everyone could enjoy it. My co-founder Alexander and I started out with a vegan food truck/catering venture, and I just fell in love with how our food made others feel — that feel-good feeling we all crave. I quickly realized the need for more plant-based cheese alternatives.

    Veggie Fairy:

    So you graduated from the food truck to creating artisanal cheese. What was the hardest part of getting the cheese business off the ground?

    Janay:

    The hardest part was finding a cheese type to start the Rooted Delights product line. At the time, I was making different vegan cheeses at home as a hobby.

    rooted delights vegan allergen-free local food

    Veggie Fairy:

    How did you learn to make vegan allergen-free cheese?

    Janay:

    Lots of trial and error, haha! It took almost a year to get it right. I tried many different ingredients and quantities. But I kept at it because I believe plant-based foods have the ability to be flavorful and make you feel good. As I experimented with those different vegan cheeses, that’s when the cheddar-style cheese was born! I figured a cheddar-style taste has so much diversity and can be used in so many dishes, which in my opinion, makes it a perfect transitioning cheese.

    Veggie Fairy:

    What do you love most about making artisanal food?

    Janay:

    I’m so excited that Rooted Delights can provide delicious meals for all! I love that one by one, we are changing people’s perspective of what plant-based food tastes like.

    Veggie Fairy:

    What makes Rooted Delights different from other vegan food makers?

    Janay:

    For me, veganism is a movement based on love and positivity. So Rooted Delights is about more than just food making — we are a feeling! We want to provide our customers with the same great feeling as non-vegan foods, but with a plant-based product. That’s how we give our customers something to enjoy with their nachos, burgers, pastas, and mac and cheese… pretty much all the amazing foods we thought we had to give up!

    rooted delights allergen-free mac and cheese

    Veggie Fairy:

    Well, we’re super excited to welcome you and Alexander and Rooted Delights to our home-delivered farmers market! Is there anything else you want to tell our members about Rooted Delights?

    Janay:

    Yes, one last thing! Rooted Delights is also part of a group called ‘Less Media More Social”. We visit different cities and we provide four-course vegan cuisines, poetry, and great vibes. We also take away our guests’ phones for a small session of the night. Yes, we take their phones. We do give them back! But in the process, we all educate and learn. We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Seasonal Roots and look forward to sharing more cuisines and cheeses in the near future.

    *

    Learn more about Rooted Delights on their website and on Facebook.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    Birdies Pimento Cheese healthy eating

    Healthy eating starts with local pimento cheese. Seriously!

    With pimento cheese, even picky eaters eat their veggies

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Pimento cheese may have been invented in New York, but it became a southern staple long ago. South of the Mason-Dixon, everybody’s got a favorite — a cherished family recipe, a potluck tradition, a beloved deli.

    Now, it’s true that dairy products do provide lots of nutritional value. And pimento cheese is gluten free! But admit it: With all that cheddar and mayo, you eat pimento cheese for the fabulous creamy comfort it provides, not to achieve excrutiatingly correct nutrition.

    Which is what makes Virginia-made Birdie’s Pimento Cheese such a great secret weapon for getting picky eaters to eat their veggies. You can transform veggies into pimento cheese delivery vehicles by dipping it up with sticks of raw carrots or celery, wrapping it in collard greens, and adding it to tomato sandwiches. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s addictively delicious, and on a busy day it’s a lot better for you and your family than fast-food take-out.

    birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

    We’ve got some how-to’s on that at the end of this post. Because figuring out how to eat healthy meals even when you’re pressed for time can be a real challenge.

    Bad news about kids’ restaurant meals

    It’s especially hard to find convenient kids’ meals that are also healthy. Ninety-seven percent of the children’s restaurant meals studied by the Center for Science in the Public Interest did not meet expert nutrition standards for children’s meals. Even at home, less than one-fourth of family dinners include a full serving of vegetables, according to a recent survey by Birds Eye.

    Good news about convenient home-cooked meals

    Yes, they CAN be convenient! That’s why we’re including prepared foods like Birdie’s Pimento Cheese alongside the vegetables and fruits in our home-delivered farmers market — to equip you with the tasty tools you need to eat healthy, even when you’re in a hurry or faced with a picky eater.

    birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

    Birdie’s story

    Birdie’s is our fave because it’s locally made, its ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible, and we’ve got it in five — count ’em FIVE — fun flavors: Classic, Cream Cheese & Black Pepper, Garlic Parmesan, Smoked Gouda with Roasted Red Pepper, and Jalapeno.

    Birdie’s is co-owned by Robin and Glenn, affectionately known as Birdie and Bubba. Robin grew up in North Carolina, and there was always some pimento cheese in the fridge. Since it was easier to eat a spoonful of pimento cheese than to make a sandwich, she chose it for her go-to after school snack. She didn’t think much about it, other than sneaking a few bites between playing outside and maybe doing some homework. (Let that be a lesson to all you parents out there — always stash those celery sticks next to the tub of pimento cheese to encourage sneaky kiddos to use veggies instead of spoons!)

    birdies pimento cheese picky eaters

    So Robin grew up, got married, and she and Glenn ran their own printing business. When Robin’s niece got pregnant, everybody in the family was picking out their grandma name or family nickname.

    “I think my niece thought I was going to feel left out and she pondered what to call me,” Robin recalls. “You have to be careful letting others nickname you, you could end up as Fruit Loops. So I jumped in with an offer: With a bird as my first name, I thought how about Birdie!”

    After that, Robin was once asked if her pimento cheese recipe was hers or her Aunt Birdie’s. She said, “I’m Aunt Birdie!” It was only in July of 2014, as Robin was about to turn 50, that she saw an opportunity to make and sell her own pimento cheese. “My great niece thinks it’s very fine that she’s the catalyst for the name of our pimento cheese. She’s a super fan!”

    It happened like this. A revitalization grant brought a farmers market to the Allen’s home of South Hill, Virginia. Eventually, Glenn caught the market bug and figured he’d try his hand at growing and selling cabbages.

    “He planted about 24 cabbages in our little garden,” Robin remembers. “As the cabbages started to grow, like good little cabbages do, our hound dog, Day-z, would nip the tender heads right off. Glenn was beside himself. Every afternoon, there was another dead cabbage in the driveway. I suggested I could make pimento cheese.”

    So Robin and Glenn came up with a plan to sell three flavors of pimento cheese at the market — just for one day, just to see what it was like.

    birdies pimento cheese farmers market

    Turns out, they loved everything about it. The town of South Hill cleared the way for Robin and Glenn to get their pimento cheese inspected and their business established, and after that first day — making new friends over pimento cheese, feeling the thrill of the sale, and selling out all 30 tubs of cheese they had in stock — Robin and Glenn launched the next phase of their lives together. They sold the printing business and started making pimento cheese full-time.

    birdies pimento cheese farmers market

    Why we love pimento cheese

    Robin, a.k.a. Birdie, explains what she loves about it all:
    “When I would take my pimento cheese to people’s parties, people would say, ‘Oh, well, I put a little onion in mine,’ and that’s when I realized that people are really doing things with it. That’s why we have five flavors. Familiar and exotic at the same time, we’re wildly curious about this Southern tradition. Store-brand pimento cheese has become blander, a please-all attempt that has just left it flavorless. People will taste ours and then they start talking about their aunt’s recipe or the way their mom would make it. That’s one of the beautiful things we’ve experienced with having this business — we get to share everybody’s memories.”

    We veggie fairies love that about it, too… almost as much as we just love eating it. It’s so fresh! You’ll find Birdie’s Pimento Cheese in the market’s Extras section.

    birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

    How to cook with pimento cheese

    Watch Robin demonstrate how to make chicken breasts and collards stuffed with Birdie’s Pimento Cheese. To max out the flavor and nutrients, use the healthiest possible ingredients: local pasture-raised chicken and bacon and local sustainably grown collards. They’re available in our home-delivered farmers market. Serve it up with a salad of veggies and/or fruits and you’ve got a complete meal full of fresh nutrition, especially if you double up on the collards.

    Watch Robin demo how to make grilled pimento cheese and tomato sandwiches. Be sure to use fresh local tomatoes and fresh-baked local bread. She’s also got other suggestions like sandwiching the pimento cheese between cucumber slices.

    Visit Birdie’s Pimento Cheese on Facebook or on her website.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.