As you might have noticed, it’s a little cold out. Even without this week’s POLAR VORTEX, January is not the season when the farmer’s markets abound with perfect rainbows of peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. These next few months are a hardscrabble time of year for local eating, especially when its just easier to just go ahead and buy 2 for $5 blueberries out-of-season and every media outlet is touting their benefits. While it might be impossible to eat 100% local in winter around here – and doing so would deny ourselves the pleasures of pomegranates, oranges, and heck, even broccoli for the time being – we’re lucky that in Philly, January doesn’t mean that we have to forgo access to local foods altogether. Between the badass year-round outdoor farmer’s market vendors (I see you Clark Park! I see you Rittenhouse!), Greensgrow’s Farmstand is still going strong in Kensington from 10 to 3 each Saturday, the Fair Food Farmstand is fully stocked over at Reading Terminal, and you can still find local produce at Weavers Way and Green Aisle Grocery. Keep an eye out for these…
Gold Rush Apples Yes, yes, I love honeycrisp apples, too, but Gold Rush are worth branching out for. These light green, speckled apples are a relative of the Golden Delicious but they’ve got a more dynamic flavor. Their named for their yellow-green color and their “rush” of punchy two-thirds tart, one-third sweet flavor. As some apples sit in storage they can lose crispness, but Gold Rush maintain beautifully. Make a pie for a winter weekend or, if you are self-righteously juicing away the first days of 2014, chuck them in with some spinach.
Kale Is there any vegetable more smug than kale? It used to be so homely; a tough sell for any but the most die-hard of health nuts. Now, like the high-school movie heroine, it took off its glasses, everyone realized what a gorgeous, nutritious vegetable it was and now its so hype it barely talks to the kohlrabi or the cabbage anymore. The thing is, it is super good for you, and even mac-and-cheese from a box feels like a nutritious dinner when paired with garlicky sautéed kale. If you’ve yet to become a convert and you still think kale seems like a bitter Brillo-pad of a vegetable, try it again, but this time cook it with a little bit more liquid. Whereas spinach will easily wilt down in a hot pan because if its water content, kale might need a little more coaxing. Splash in some stock or water, throw a lid on it, and let it cook for a hot second longer.
Horseradish Though not something that one would–or could–eat on its own, this gnarly root is the perfect thing to add heat to mashed potatoes or mayo. The fresh root will taste notably spicier than the bottled stuff, so be forewarned. If you spot it, prepare it by peeling, grating, and then combining with a splash each of white vinegar and water and a pinch of salt.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms The produce at winter farmer’s markets generally falls into one of two categories: its either coming from passively heated greenhouses, or its a storage crop that was harvested last fall. The mushrooms, however, defy convention. They grow in cozy, humid, indoor production and, as a result, they don’t mind winter weather one bit. If you can, try the otherworldly lion’s mane mushrooms which are said to have a flavor reminiscent of shrimp or lobster. Look for them at Primordia Mushroom Farm at Clark Park or Davidson Exotic Mushrooms at the Chestnut Hill market.
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