Green Grab Bag

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I love vegetables.  My husband and my daughter do too.  But I must admit, sometimes I stand in the produce section just staring at everything with no ideas in mind at all.  I love to see all the colors staring back at me, but somestimes even that brilliant display isn’t enough to inspire me.

I keep telling myself that “next year” I’ll sign up for a farm co-op so I’ll get a beautiful box of fresh fruit and vegetables from somewhere here in SC.  The thought of supporting local farmers and buying/eating seasonal foods is most appealing and has become increasingly important to me.  However, it seems that every time “next year” rolls around I am distracted, busy, preoccupied (whatever you want to call it), and I miss the sign up period.  Once again, I pencil in “next year” on my mental calendar.

My church hosts the Seeds of Hope farmers market during the summer months.  Each Saturday morning, our farmer arrives with an assortment of fruits and veggies available for sale.  This year, the church decided to add a new feature to the market.  If there are vegetables left at the end of Saturday, rather than sending them home with the farmer, the volunteers bag them up and sell them the next day at church.  This has worked like a charm!  If you couldn’t make it on Saturday, you could simply pick some up at church the next morning.  For me, this was awesome.  I was able to get a mixed grab bag for only $5.

But what came in that bag was a lot more than vegetables.  The bag was full of inspiration. I learned that when you’re presented with a bag or box of produce, it eliminates that ‘staring-at-the-vegetables-trying-to-make-a-decision’ problem.  I opened this bag and found 2 eggplants, 4 yellow squash, 2 heirloom tomatoes and 3 sweet potatoes.  I introduced my 6-year-old to eggplant parmesan (it was fantastic, by the way), we had Caprese salad with a few dinners, and my daughter tried raw squash on a vegetable tray (and liked it).  We still have our sweet potatoes to use this week, as well as the remainder of the squash.  Getting this mixed bag took all the pressure off of me to plan every detail of the week’s meals.  I just took what was there and used it happily.

The moral of this story? Next year I am signing up for a co-op.  I’m putting it in my iPhone calendar, my Outlook calendar and what the heck, I may even go buy a hard copy calendar and put it there too.  Just the thought of opening a green grab bag gets me excited about cooking-after I stare at all the brilliant colors for awhile, that is.

Elizabeth Akre is the author of a  blog called “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef)” which can be found at www.ElizabethAkre.com.

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