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Vegucation: Celery

You might have heard that celery is good for you because you burn more calories chewing it than you do consuming it. Although this is a myth, celery is still a healthy snack and addition to meals. 

About Celery

It was first used in cooking in 16th century Italy. Before that, celery was used in ancient Chinese medicine and during the Middle Ages to treat conditions like insomnia, hypertension, and arthritis. People back then thought it purified the blood. Celery belongs to the same plant family as parsley and carrots. 

Why is it beneficial?celery chopped

Celery is full of nutrients to be so full of water. In fact, it is 95% water, so it makes the perfect snack for staying hydrated in the warmer months. It has vitamins K, C, B6, and B9 (folate) and minerals like potassium. Because of these nutrients, celery has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Eating celery regularly can detox the liver, reduce bloating, prevent infection, and even protect against cancer. 

When is it in season?

You can usually find celery in July and August in Tennessee. Sometimes it comes early or later depending on the weather. Try to buy organic celery whenever possible.

How long will it keep?

Fresh celery stalks will last 5-7 days in the refrigerator. Only wash the stalks you are about to use. Celery leaves are also edible and have the same health benefits.

How can I prepare celery?

There are many ways to eat celery besides the traditional ants on a log snack. Here are a few ideas:

  • Chop up the stalks and the greens and add it to soups. This is especially great when you’re sick.
  • Add the stalks to a juice. It goes great with cucumber and lemon or lime. (Don’t try adding celery to a smoothie because the stalks are too tough. They might tear up your blender.)
  • Sliced celery makes a great crunchy addition to stir fries. 

celery juice

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods. 

Vegucation: Carrots

We’ve all been told as kids to eat our carrots or we’ll go blind, right? Although this isn’t completely true, carrots are important for a number of reasons.

About Carrots

Carrots were originally grown to use as medicine before people started eating them. We can still use carrots as medicine today by nourishing our bodies from the inside. Besides the classic orange carrots, there are also white, red, yellow, and purple varieties. These are usually called rainbow carrots. 

Why are they beneficial?rainbow carrots

Raw orange carrots have beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A when we eat them. This vitamin is important for growth, which is why carrots are a great snack for kids. Vitamin A also helps growth on the cellular level for people of all ages. All cells throughout the body need vitamin A to make new cells. This is why carrots are especially good for our eyes and skin. Carrots also support your immune system with their vitamin C. Different colored carrots offer different nutrients. For example, a specific antioxidant gives purple carrots their color, and it protects against free radicals that cause disease. 

When are they in season?

Local carrots can be found in short seasons in the spring and fall in Tennessee. You can always find different carrot varieties in grocery stores. 

How long will they keep?

Fresh carrots can last up to four weeks if stored properly. Keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If your carrots come with the greens attached, remove them before you store them, but don’t throw them away! Carrot greens are edible. Toss your carrots when they turn white and dry.

roasted carrotsHow can I prepare them?

There are so many ways to get carrots in your diet. They make an easy side dish for almost any meal. Always be sure to wash your carrots thoroughly before eating since they do come from the ground. Here are a few different ways to prepare them:

  • Make carrot fries in the oven. This recipe only has three ingredients and only takes 20 minutes.
  • Add them to your smoothie or juice. Carrots go great with citrus like orange or grapefruit. Add some ginger for an extra health boost and flavor.
  • Make homemade carrot hummus. Just combine carrots, chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice and your favorite seasoning and puree.
  • Saute chopped carrots in grass-fed butter, minced garlic, and thyme for a warm side dish.

 

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods.

Vegucation: Spinach

About Spinachpopeye and spinach

Some of us might imagine Popeye guzzling down some canned spinach when we think of this leafy green. The canned spinach made Popeye stronger, and increased Americans’ intake by a third when the cartoon was popular. Canned spinach isn’t so popular anymore, but there are a few varieties that we eat today. There’s Savoy (which has crinkly leaves), smooth or flat leaf spinach (baby spinach belongs in this category), and a hybrid of the two. Spinach needs a cool and moist environment and partly sandy soil to thrive in. This is why most of the United States’ spinach is grown in California. 

Why is it beneficial?

Spinach has an abundance of beneficial nutrients for your entire body. Leafy greens are known for their high levels of iron, which is important for growth. It also has magnesium that activates over 300 reactions in the body. In addition to these minerals, it contains vitamins A, C, E, K, and some B vitamins. All of these vitamins work together to protect against free radicals and cancer, lower cholesterol, and promote a healthy heart, bones, brain, and respiratory system. The B vitamins in spinach–niacin, thiamin, and folate–work to convert carbs into energy. The body does not store vitamins B and C like it does the other vitamins, so it is important to eat them every day. 

When is it in season?spinach

Local spinach is found in the spring and sometimes fall when the weather is cool. Be sure to buy organic spinach whenever possible since it is one of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides.

 

How long will it keep?

Fresh, unwashed spinach will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Eat it as soon as possible for optimal nutrition. You can also freeze spinach at peak freshness, just make sure to wash it first.

How can I prepare spinach?spinach smoothie

Eating fresh, raw spinach is the best way to receive all the benefits. However, if you are prone to kidney stones, you might consider cooking it slightly to decrease the amount of oxalate that causes them. Also, if you are trying to get more iron in your diet, cook the spinach with a little lemon juice or vinegar  to preserve the iron. Here are a few ways to get your dose of greens:

  • Use frozen or fresh spinach in a smoothie. Bananas, pineapple, and strawberries all go great with spinach.
  • Sauce it with garlic and red pepper flakes for about a minute. Add an egg or two and scramble it together for a healthy breakfast. 
  • Replace the iceberg lettuce in your salad or on your sandwich with spinach for an extra serving of veggies
  • Make this homemade spinach pesto to top your favorite whole wheat pasta with. 

Eating more spinach might not make you instantly stronger like Popeye, but it will benefit your whole body and wellbeing. 

 

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods.

Vegucation: Sweet Potatoes

About Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes come in different varieties, but the most common ones we see are the brown ones with orange flesh. These are sometimes called yams, but they are in fact just sweet potatoes. True yams are native to Asia and Africa and difficult to find in the U.S. A yam in your typical grocery store is most likely a mislabeled sweet potato. Other varieties can have paler skin and flesh, or even a red or purple skin with deep orange flesh. Sweet potatoes have been around for about 8,000 years, and are native to the tropical regions of South America. Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to eat sweet potatoes in 1492. George Washington even grew them in his garden in Mount Vernon, Virginia. These root vegetables have certainly been around so long for a good reason, too. 

sweet potato varietyWhy are they beneficial?

Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, just like other orange colored vegetables such as carrots and squash. Beta-carotene is a form of vitamin A that is found in raw foods. It’s an antioxidant that gives us radiant skin, healthy mucus membranes (including our eyes), and supports our immune systems. But what about the purple sweet potato varieties? Those contain a different antioxidant called anthocyanin that also helps our skin and immune systems. Sweet potatoes in general also have some B vitamins and essential minerals like potassium. They are a healthy carb that will give you energy and keep you feeling full. 

When are they in season?

You can usually find local sweet potatoes in the late-summer and fall to the spring in Tennessee. Of course this may change depending on the weather. 

How long will they keep?

If stored properly, they will be best within a week. Keep them in a cool, dark, and dry place like in a pantry. Don’t refrigerate them. The cold will alter their flavor.

baked sweet potato fries

How can I prepare sweet potatoes?

You can eat potatoes with the skin on or off. Just make sure to clean all the dirt off before eating the skin. To get the optimal nutritional value, boil or steam your sweet potatoes. These methods do the least amount of damage to the nutrients. However, sweet potatoes are still good for you no matter how you cook them. Here’s a few ways to eat them besides in the traditional casserole:

 

  • Make these baked sweet potato fries  featured on our meal plan this week for a healthy alternative. (Recipe courtesy of Bessie Bakes.)
  • Add mashed sweet potatoes to your average pancake mix to add natural sweetness and sneak some veggies into breakfast. I like this made from scratch recipe.
  • Roast them in the oven with your favorite vegetables. They go great with broccoli or brussels sprouts, seasoned with salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  • If you have a spiralizer, you can make sweet potato noodles to make healthier stir fry or pasta. 

Sweet potatoes are a great staple food because they can be savory or sweet, depending on your mood. They are also one of the most nutritious vegetables for you, so eat up!

 

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods.

Vegucation: Zucchini

Learn more about this versatile summer squash!

About Zucchinizucchini vegucation 

Although we don’t usually call zucchini a squash, it’s part of the same family. These summer squashes most likely originated in Central America, and you can find them growing there year-round. People began growing them in North America and Europe during the warmer months, giving them the name “summer squash”. In Tennessee, we can have some pretty hot summer days. Fortunately, foods like zucchini and squash have such a high water content that it helps keep your body hydrated longer, making those hot summer days more bearable. The name “summer squash” really is appropriate. 

Why is it beneficial?

Zucchini is a very low calorie vegetable with only 17 calories per 100 grams. Many people that are trying to lose weight often utilize this veggie. Its peel has a lot of fiber, so it’s low calorie and keeps you full. The antioxidants in zucchini, vitamins A and C,  protect our bodies from damaging free radicals which can cause certain diseases. Eating zucchini and other summer squashes is often recommended to pregnant women because of their high amounts of folate. Folate is important for growth and development. It also contains the essential mineral potassium which is important for heart health. There are seemingly endless health benefits of zucchini.

When is it in season?

Since it is a summer squash, local Tennessee zucchini can be found whenever the weather stays warm both during the day and night. This is usually from June until October

zucchini vegucationHow long will it keep?

If you buy the freshest zucchini, they will have a smooth, shiny skin and will feel pretty firm. Avoid floppy or wrinkled zucchini. You can store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Larger and wider zucchini will usually have more seeds in the middle. 

How do I prepare zucchini?

Make sure you wash the zucchini before preparing to rid of any dirt or debris. If your zucchini is not organic, consider soaking it in a vegetable wash (store-bought or homemade). Here’s a few different ways to eat it:

  • Slice the zucchini into rounds, cover in olive oil, and roast in the oven at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes. (It will be more or less depending on the size of your slices.) Season with spices of your choice.
  • Make zucchini noodles with a spiralizer. Be sure to press out some of the moisture in the zoodles with a paper towel. Sauté them in a pan until soft and top with anything you normally put on pasta. (Pro tip: these do cook down, so a good rule is one small zucchini per person)
  • You can even bake with zucchini. Grate it and add it to batter to make zucchini bread. Add chocolate chips for a healthy dessert. This is a good way to get an extra dose of vegetables! I like this recipe. It can be easily adjusted for any dietary restrictions. 

Zucchini just might be one of the most versatile vegetables in existence. It has the perfect balance of fresh and savory, which complements any meal. 

 

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods. 

Vegucation: Golden Beets

About Golden Beetsgolden beets

People have known about the health benefits of beets since Ancient Rome. There are even historic texts describing them in hanging gardens in Babylon. Beets are actually the second largest source of natural sugar next to cane sugar, so it’s no wonder they have been around so long. Beets come in many varieties like red, white, golden, and striped, but golden beets have the sweetest and mildest flavor. They are much less earthy-tasting than your common red beet. 

Why are they beneficial?

Golden beets are full of nutrients like vitamins C and A, iron, potassium, and antioxidants. All of these nutrients work to keep your heart healthy, cleanse your kidneys and liver, lower blood pressure, and promote healthy skin and eyes. Beets are especially good for athletes because they give you natural energy and improve endurance. Eating beets or drinking beet juice before a big event can improve your athletic performance. 

When are they in season?

Peak seasons for golden beets in Tennessee are usually spring and fall. They may come earlier or later depending on the weather. 

 How long will they keep?

Separate the beet root from the beet greens. Store them in separate bags in the refrigerator. The greens are edible, but they will only last a few days in the refrigerator. The beet roots will keep for around two weeks. You’ll know they’re still fresh if the root is firm. 

 

beets close upHow do I prepare them?

You’ll need to clean the beets before you cook with them. Peel any parts that look too tough to eat, but keep as much of the skin on as possible to preserve the nutrients. Peel your beets completely if they are not organic to avoid ingesting any pesticides. With golden beets, you don’t have to worry about the juice staining countertops or clothes. 

You can eat golden beets in a variety of different ways:

  • Roast them in the oven alone or with other hearty vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes. Just coat in olive oil and seasoning of your choice. 
  • Make homemade pickled beets. This is a good idea if you have a large quantity and won’t be able to eat them all before they go bad.
  • Juice them! The flavor of golden beets goes well with citrus and ginger. 

Although the flavor of beets might not appeal to you at first, try them prepared different ways to find the way you like them. Then reap the benefits!

 

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods. 

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