Saturday I went to the farmers’ market. I was hoping to find a variety of autumn vegetables, and I certainly got what I had hoped for. The tables were loaded with lots of root vegetables: carrots, beets, kohlrabi, breakfast radishes, daikon radishes, and my personal favorite – Japanese salad (or hakeuri) turnips. There was quite the bounty of greens as well. It was a greens lover’s dream come true – a wide variety of lettuces, lacinato kale, red Russian kale, collards, escarole, tatsoi, mustard greens, cabbages, spinach and arugula.
I have a “thing” for the roots, radishes, kale, and other hearty greens that can be found at the farmers’ market this time of year. The quality of the greens you will find at the market most often surpasses the produce you can buy at grocery stores.
Your greens will have a much longer shelf life when you buy what is locally grown. The less “travel time” there is from farm to market, the greater the amount of enzymes and nutrients the food will retain. And the healthier it is for our bodies.
Here’s a tip for keeping your root vegetables and greens livelier longer. I learned this technique while working in the produce department of a little neighborhood gem: The Turnip Truck natural market. Most larger grocers also use this method to keep their produce livelier and looking good for their customers.
The process is called hydrating. You are basically giving your vegetables a good drink of water. It’s amazing what this does for them. Let’s begin with the roots – if your root vegetables get soft, simply put them in a sink or bowl of lukewarm water. Allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes or until you feel them get firmer to your touch. Then you can drain the water off and either use the vegetables immediately for a recipe or put them back into the crisper in your refrigerator. If you buy a lot of carrots (or other roots) at once, but don’t use them that often, you can repeat this hydrating process as many times as you like.
For the greens and lettuces, fill the sink or a large bowl about 2/3 full of lukewarm water. Next, trim the very bottom stem off of the lettuce head with a paring knife. If you have a bunch of greens like kale or collards, trim the stems off by ¼ inch. Immerse the lettuce or greens in the water. If you plan to use the greens right away, you can make the water a little colder. This will make a lettuce like romaine a little crisper right before eating it in a salad. Make sure not to put the vegetables into extremely cold water, because this shocks the plant. Soaking the lettuce or greens for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour and a half will liven them up really nicely.
When you take the lettuce or greens out of the water, you can simply shake off the excess water and return them to your fridge, or put them into your favorite salad recipe. If I am going to put lettuce or greens back into the fridge, I wrap paper towels around them to absorb some of the excess water and to keep my other veggies dry.
The hydrating process can help extend the life of your veggies and give them a good cleaning at the same time! In addition to the roots and greens, you can hydrate green onions, potatoes, fennel, and celery. However, I do not recommend this process for squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, or eggplants.
Enjoy the fall harvest! If you haven’t tried it yet, check out the farmers’ market bounty. You might be surprised how much you like it!
Lesson: The energy and care that we put into our lives is what we get in return. Taking time to care for our veggies and ourselves gives a beautiful return on our investments. What are you going to do to care for yourself this week?