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Welcome to my first post about learning to grow fruits & veggies at Potomac Vegetable Farms!

It’s a family-founded and run farm in Vienna, VA (they also have a Purcellville location) that I’m working on a few days a week to expand my platform for nutrition education.  Most of the education I do centers around how to plan and prepare meals; this will add a layer of helping people understand where their food comes from and how it’s raised. Hope you enjoy!
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Field work

On one of my first days at PVF, we picked spinach.  It had grown through the winter, and was the best-tasting spinach I’d ever tried – light and herbacious, no trace of bitterness, and a deep, vibrant green color.  “Over-wintering,” it was explained to me, is the reason.  When a plant (that has the capacity to survive freezing temperatures; not all spinach varieties do) needs to make it through the coldest months, it does so by converting starch to sugar (the scientific details of this are here).  While I wouldn’t call the leaves “sweet,” they definitely have a different flavor than other spinach I’ve tried.  If you’re in the northern Atlantic region, the spinach you see at farmer’s markets in the spring is likely produced this way – ask the farmer how they do it!

Picking spinach (if there aren’t weeds!) is fairly easy: you just cut the leaves off the bunch with a short knife or a scissors and throw them in a crate.  *Hot tip: it’s best to pick in the cool mornings as leaves will lose moisture and turgor throughout the day, so the spinach is at it’s crispest and juiciest in the AM*  On Friday, we picked 40 crates of spinach (~200 lbs) to sell at the opening market weekend for a few lucky locations.  Here in the hoop house, we cut it to the ground since tomato plants will go into this bed soon:2016-04-15 09.28.31

And then comes the rinsing – every crate is dumped into a sink and swished to remove the field dirt, then put back into a washed crate to be bagged.  Though regulations around how produce is washed are currently under revision, it’s always a good idea to give them another rinse after you buy!  Here Anne & Kelly get soggy doing the dirty work:IMG_20160415_123556328_HDR-01

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Eat more spinach

Regardless of where it comes from, eating more dark leafy greens should be a top priority for almost everyone’s meals.  Here are my go-to ways for incorporating them! (Click the pics for direct links to recipes!)

  1. Sandwiches & melts – forget iceburg lettuce, and get a big bump of vitamins A & K by using spinach in nearly any sandwich or melt – remember to ask if it’s an option when you’re ordering out, too!green-goddess-grilled-cheese-top-down

  2. Eggs – if you’re a scrambled egg lover and you’re not adding veggies, it’s a huge missed opportunity to fit in a serving…quiche is another no-brainer!goat-cheese-spinach-sun-dried-tomato-quiche

  3. Pasta dishes – upgrade the nutrient density AND the eye catching color contrast by adding chopped spinach (use whole grain noodles for a fiber boost, too!).  Nearly any pasta dish will work – lasagna, shells, tortellini…Spinach-Ricotta-Pasta-skillet

  4. Soups & stews – same deal: the pretty green color will pop, and because of the wilting you can fit quite a lot in!
    lentilspinachsoup3

  5. Pesto – spinach is MUCH cheaper than basil or other herbs, so bulk up your batch with a handful or two.
    Processor-Pesto

  6. Smoothies – yup, they’ll turn green…but the predominant flavor will always be the fruit.

    Healthy-Shamrock-Shake_001

  7. Potato patties, salmon cakes, veggie burgers – if it makes a patty, add some spinach!  Here’s what I made:

Black bean & quinoa patties

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoke paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

In a bowl, combine all ingredients – use your hands and get messy!  When mixture is evenly combined, the trick to getting it to stick together is to puree 1.5 cups in a blender or food processor and add it back into the bowl (add a few splashes of water, too).  Form patties the size of your fist (I made 7) and bake on a nonstick sheet for 30 minutes at 350F.  Store in the fridge and enjoy hot or room temp!  Best served over greens – they’re too carb-rich to eat on a bun!2016-04-18 12.27.06 2016-04-18 12.34.28 2016-04-18 12.39.36 2016-04-18 18.40.38

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