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!
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:
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:
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!)
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!
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!
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…
Soups & stews – same deal: the pretty green color will pop, and because of the wilting you can fit quite a lot in!
Pesto – spinach is MUCH cheaper than basil or other herbs, so bulk up your batch with a handful or two.
Smoothies – yup, they’ll turn green…but the predominant flavor will always be the fruit.
Potato patties, salmon cakes, veggie burgers – if it makes a patty, add some spinach! Here’s what I made:
Black bean & quinoa patties
- 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
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!