Fresh This Week: Weird and Wonderful Kohlrabi

I'll admit it: I like to eat what's familiar. When I'm in the produce section, I pick up what I recognize, and I'm sure many of our customers do too! But that means missing out on a world of new tastes, so I decided to do some research on some of the “weirder” vegetables available at Argus. This week I brought home some purple kohlrabi from Hand-Sown Farm, a versatile, colorful, and healthy choice!

Gorgeous purple kohlrabi on the shelves at Argus.

Gorgeous purple kohlrabi on the shelves at Argus.

Kohlrabi: The Purple Octopus of the Garden

Definitely a weird-looking veggie, the kohlrabi inspires comparisons: a spiky hot-air balloon, an octopus. But don't be worried – the flavor is actually familiar and mild, like a sweeter broccoli stem or cabbage. This isn't a surprise, as like these veggies the kohlrabi is also a member of the brassica genus, and the round part that looks like a root is actually the selectively-bred stem. This veggie may look intimidating, but kohlrabi are healthy, tasty, and easier to use than you might think!

Kohlrabi is definitely an under-appreciated veggie. Like all the brassicas it has many health benefits, including phytochemicals that have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. It's high in dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and calcium, and has more vitamin C than oranges!

It's possible the kohlrabi dates back to ancient Roman times – in the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote about a “Corinthian turnip.” More recently, the word “kohlrabi” comes from two German words meaning “cabbage” and “turnip.” While popular in German-speaking countries, as well as in some northern Indian cuisine, kohlrabi is not a major crop in the U.S., so your best bet is usually to look for it at a local farmers' market like Argus.

Kohlrabi: not as colorful on the inside, but still delicious.

Kohlrabi: not as colorful on the inside, but still delicious.

When choosing a kohlrabi, both the green and purple varieties are delicious, although the purple can be slightly sweeter, and both are green on the inside. The smaller bulbs can be sweeter and more tender, although keep in mind that you have to peel off the top layers, which is best done with a paring knife. (Although in Poland, they eat the most tender specimens raw and unskinned like apples.) Don't throw out those greens, either – those can be steamed or sauteed the way you might use beet greens or collards!

One of the challenges of using kohlrabi is actually its versatility, as the mild, pleasant flavor makes it suitable for a wide range of dishes. What to choose? You can slice, cube, or grate the bulb, and you can use the flesh both raw and cooked. You can try crisp, slightly spicy raw kohlrabi with dip, or grate it into salads. The health benefits may be especially good for raw kohlrabi, but the flesh takes on a sweeter flavor and creamy texture when cooked. You can think of it as a carrot or potato: throw kohlrabi into a vegetable soup, roast it with beets, or steam and blend it into "mashed potatoes" with some cauliflower and butter. Plus, steamed kohlrabi can be throw into just about anything, including pasta dishes and stir fries. It absorbs other spices well, but you can also let its own sweet flavor shine through!

Kohlrabi and patty pan squash, fried together. Yum!

Kohlrabi and patty pan squash, fried together. Yum!

Feeling overwhelmed by options? Start with a simple recipe! Try cubing three peeled kohlrabi, then cook in plenty of butter over medium heat, for about 15 minutes, until the flesh is “al dente.” Add a tablespoon of sage and a pinch of salt – the result is a creamy, delicious side dish!

Another easy possibility is kohlrabi “fries.” Dip slices of kohlrabi into a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and any other spice you like – curry, cayenne, garlic. Place these slices, uncrowded, on an oiled skillet over medium-low heat, and cook on both sides until golden-brown.

Another favorite is savory kohlrabi pancakes! This might be the way to get kids to try this new veggie. (Recipe from Grace Communications Foundation).

Kohlrabi Pancakes

Ingredients:

4 small purple or green kohlrabi, peeled and trimmed
1 small onion, very finely chopped or grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 small green chili, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped or 1⁄4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄4 cup (or more) all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander or ginger
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

1. Grate the peeled and trimmed kohlrabi on the large holes of a box grater. Wrap the grated kohlrabi in a clean dishtowel and squeeze until most of the excess moisture has been removed.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the shredded kohlrabi, chopped or grated onion, optional chilies or chili flakes, beaten egg, flour, coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined. Add additional flour by the teaspoon if batter seems too wet (mixture should be somewhat firm).

3. In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat until the butter stops foaming. Add ladlefuls of the pancake batter (about 1⁄3 of a cup at a time) to the pan, gently pressing down on the cakes with the back of a spatula. Cook kohlrabi pancakes until crispy and golden brown on each side.

4. Drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream, crème fraîche, yogurt or applesauce.

Makes 4 generously sized pancakes.

-- Post by Rose Miller

Sources
http://www.gracelinks.org/485/real-food-right-now-and-how-to-cook-it-kohlrabi
http://www.\vegparadise.com/highestperch24.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/06/good-for-you-kohlrabi
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/11/butter-poached-kohlrabi.html
http://www.thekitchn.com/top-five-ways-to-prepare-kohlr-60321

Our Visit to Crust Bakery - Fenton, MI

Argus Farm Stop recently sent two carloads of employees to visit one of our local producers.

It's a question we hear all the time at the Farm Stop: “Where do your bread and pastries come from?”

Well, the majority come from Crust Bakery, a world-class bakery in the sleepy town of Fenton, MI. They produce a variety of artisan breads and pastries – and they do mean artisan! The owners have traveled to Montreal, Toronto, and the French Culinary Institute in New York in order to find the best bakery practices, and this effort is evident in the quality, consistency, and overall deliciousness of the final product. Every customer has a favorite, from the seed-sprinkled Saskatoon Prairie Bread to the too-big-for-the-bag Pain au Raisin.

We started with a tour of the bakery itself: a sunny, warm building filled with good smells. Large windows stretch the length of one side so that passersby can observe the baking process, demonstrating a visibility important to Crust's mission. Mark Hamel, one of the owners, explained that Crust Bakery started as part of The Laundry, a local restaurant which has been in business for nearly two decades. Part of the original goal for Crust was to supply the restaurant with high-quality products, although of course Crust now does booming business as a supplier for many local stores and restaurants.

At Crust baking bread is a two-day process, as intricate as a science experiment. Getting from an order to a loaf takes time, although once the bread is done with its long rising (which develops the distinctive flavor) there is only a brief window for getting it into the oven. To make this happen, bakers are present in shifts for almost 24 hours a day. Baking happens in an enormous oven that arrived on special order from Verona, along with an engineer to assemble it! We began to understand all the skill and labor that goes into Crust products as we moved through the rooms, watching bakers roll out baguettes and pastry chefs pour melted chocolate into baking tins.

We continued the training a few blocks over, sitting at long tables with empty plates and dishes of butter in front of us. While we looked eagerly at the piled-high bread and pastries at the front, the owner explained the Crust mission, which emphasizes traditional practices and product quality. The cost of each loaf and pastry reflects not the number of ingredients, as list is usually short. There is just flour, salt, and water in most of the bread (plus some yeast, seeds, cheese, etc., depending on the style). Rather, the price comes from the high quality of the ingredients, and especially from the labor involved in following artisan, old-world methods.

Mark explained that the process of baking bread dates back 11,000 years, and that after the discovery of yeast not much has changed in bread making, until the more recent “Wonderbread,” pre-sliced and packaged bread that came with mass production. “The best thing since sliced bread” may be a common saying in our culture, but because Crust bread is preservative-free, with the texture and slight imperfections of a real, traditional loaf, it is best sliced as-needed, and stored not in the fridge or a plastic bag, but in a paper bag or on the counter.

Mark lamented that the public is used to cheap grocery store products, but he hoped that those who are financially able might come to value quality over quantity. In fact, he passed around some store-bought croissants and pastries, to compare to Crust's traditional versions. The difference was striking. The grocery croissants were just rolls with a fake-butter taste, and the pastry was a crumbly, overly-sweet concoction with no real fruit. Meanwhile, Crust is one of the few bakeries that makes an all-butter croissant, as they take the time to spread butter out on each thin sheet of dough. If you've never tasted a real croissant, it might be time!

As a reflection of the thought and care that goes into each loaf of bread, many of Crust's unique names reflect the deeper history behind each style of loaf. For instance, the name for the Italian-style Hammonton Round comes from the town of Hammonton, NJ, where many families of Sicilian heritage settled. The French-style Henry Street bread comes from a real street in Quebec where one of the owners has lived, reflecting his French heritage. And the name for “104 Sourdough” comes from Crust's street address, as sourdough flavor always differs depending on the surrounding air composition.

The training class included many free samples, and after so many pieces of bread, danishes, and pie, we left the class feeling like we could run a marathon (and, later, take a nap)! But we also left knowing the best practices for everything from displaying to storing bread. A few tips for customers:

– Never refrigerate Crust bread. (The reason everyone refrigerates grocery-store loaves is because we have come to expect some mold growth. This mold arises from the excess yeast used to speed the baking process, which also results in lost flavor, then additives to add flavor back in. Real bread flavor arises only from giving the dough time to develop, as they do at Crust!)
– If you need to, you can freeze bread to store it, then “re-bake” to get it as good as new!
– If you want to know more about a particular bread – its flavor or best uses – just ask us!
– As delicious as it is, don't try to eat a whole loaf of Crust bread in one sitting. You just can't!

Wondering what we sell? Want to try something new? Our many usual bread and pastry offerings include:

City White – Classic white bread, sometimes available sliced.
Downtown Brown – With whole wheat and some rye, a classic brown bread.
Hammonton Round – Italian-style, with toasted sesame seeds throughout.
104 Sourdough – A big loaf, with flavor unique to the area.
Village Round – Simple Italian bread, great with garlic or olive oil.
Prairie Seed Saskatoon – Dense and delicious, with rye, oat, and wheat bread, with flax, pumpkin,sunflower, and sesame seeds.
Henry Street Provincial – French farm style, slightly sour with thick crust.
Tri-County Pepper – Asiago, cheddar and Gruyere cheese, with strong peppery flavor.
Cinnamon Raisin – A hearty loaf sweetened with a little honey and dark raisins.
Challah – Jewish egg bread, great for French toast.
Baguette – French bread with the classic thick crust and chewy interior.
Focaccia – Pesto or Parmesan rounds with sliced tomato.
Butter Croissant – All-butter, flaky, flavorful; you've never tried a croissant like this!
Almond Croissant – Butter croissant with sweet almond filling and powdered sugar.
Chocolate Croissant – Butter croissant sweetened with baker's chocolate.
Pain au Raisin – Flaky raisin roll, sweetened with apricot.
Pecan Roll – Rich roll with brown sugar and pecan topping.
Cinnamon Rolls – Sweet and gooey, the cinnamon roll done right.
Ginger Molasses Cookie – A flavorful, chewy customer favorite.
Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie – Just the right balance of sweet and salty.
Peanut Butter Cookie – A classic, wholesome cookie.
Cherry Scone – A denser, sweeter scone than you're expecting! Cherries throughout.
Lemon Scone – A bright scone sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Apricot Gorgonzola Bacon – Try this unique scone!
Brioche Donut – A glazed, fluffy donut.

-- Post by Rose Miller
Sources include: Crust Bakery website, handbook, and training visit

Fresh This Week: Why Nettle Tea Should Be Your Go-To Summer Drink

You may have already seen the prickly leaves in our produce section. And just this week, we added nettle tea to our cafe menu. But you probably haven't yet cooked up some nettle soup, or tried a nettle-tea latte – and here's why you should!

Folk wisdom, and the Internet, suggest that there are many health benefits for nettle tea. We can't speak for all the claims, but there is some evidence in support of nettle's traditional uses, and the best thing to do is try it for yourself! Nettle tea is often used as a “detoxifying” diuretic, and as an aid for arthritis pain. Many people drink a cup a two or day to help with skin conditions, and as a way to lower blood pressure. Also, you should know that many swear by nettle tea as a way to treat allergy symptoms. 

We sell fresh nettle for cooking, too! Be sure to wear gloves when preparing fresh leaf – otherwise you will get stung. But the leaves are perfectly safe once cooked, and if you're looking to eat healthy, nettle is worth the hassle. According to Livestrong.com, ten grams of spinach offers a paltry 10 mg of calcium and 8 mg of magnesium – but the same amount of nettle boasts 290 mg of calcium and 86 mg of magnesium! Happily, these minerals occur in nettle tea, too. And both nettle leaf and tea contain vitamins A, C, and K, plus B-vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and folate. Nettle also contains high levels of protein, fiber, and many minerals, including zinc, ironic, magnesium, and more. All this information may be little overwhelming, but the point is – it's good for you!

wikipedia.com

wikipedia.com

We're excited to offer our nettle tea, which is made with local nettle, dried in small batches, and available iced or hot. Not sure what flavor to expect? It's definitely a “green” taste, but not overpowering. With honey and milk, it tastes a lot like a matcha latte, without the caffeine!

Wondering how to cook with nettles? To start, it's easy to include nettles anywhere that you might use cooked spinach – in soups, pizzas, omelets, or pasta dishes. While wearing gloves, discard the stems and boil the leaves for 3-4 minutes. Drain, and if you like, throw into ice water to stop the cooking process. You can then use them in your recipes, or store in a container for later use.

Is there any reason to be careful with nettle? Pregnant and breast-feeding women might want to avoid it, as it can have powerful effects. And people with diabetes or low blood pressure may want to ask a doctor, or proceed with caution.

Nettles have a springtime harvest, so like many of our products it is only available seasonally. Come and try some while it's here!

flickr.com

flickr.com

Try this easy and delicious Nettle and Green Garlic Soup from Food 52!

Serves 3-4

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 small leek

  • 2-3 stalks green garlic

  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 quart water or vegetable stock

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 bunch nettles (~1/2 pound)

  • regular or greek yogurt (optional)

  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foamy. Add leeks and green garlic, stir. Sauté for 5-6 minutes until soft. Add potato, water or stock and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, simmer for 15 minutes or until potato is fork-tender.

  2. Meanwhile, remove the nettle leaves from the stem and rinse to clean. Wear gloves! Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop cleaned nettle leaves in the pot. Cook for 2 minutes. Drain and quickly put nettles in a bowl of cold water for 30 seconds. Remove and drain again.

  3. When soup is ready, add nettle leaves and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender, blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Serve soup with dollops of yogurt, if desired.

-- Post by Rose Miller
Sources:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/440537-nettle-tea-benefits-and-warnings/

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/12-surprising-benefits-nettle-tea-you-should-know.html
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-664-stinging%20nettle.aspx?activeingredientid=664&activeingredientname=stinging%20nettle
http://www.thekitchn.com/cooking-with-spring-nettles-where-to-begin-188155
http://www.nettlesforhealth.com/

Fresh This Week: It's Strawberry Season!

If you've been missing fruit at Argus, you'll be happy to hear that we now have strawberries! Our producers are just starting to bring in trays of locally-grown berries, so hurry in and get them while they're fresh! You can expect these strawberries to be more densely sweet and flavorful than anything you've tasted that was grown industrially or far far away. Our customers have been raving about the flavors!

Strawberries are definitely a healthy choice, too. You probably don't need to be convinced to eat this delicious fruit, but did you know that strawberries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants, plus anti-inflammatory properties, high vitamin C, and more? Plus, studies have found that the natural sugars in these berries actually helps to regulate blood sugar.

There are good reasons to choose strawberries from Argus, too. We have several organic producers, and the rest use complex and soil-healthy growing practices like crop rotation, in order to apply chemicals only as needed. (Because strawberries are such a fragile,  fungus-prone crop, it is difficult to grow them entirely without spray. Even some conventional "organic" strawberries are exposed to some chemicals). One Argus farmer took the time to explain that they spray as little as possible, never close to harvest days, and that these sprays are a much different formula from those used on industrial farms, where strong chemicals regularly deplete the soil and put workers' lives at risk. 

What does all this mean? Buy strawberries at Argus! Our producers' strawberries are grown with your health, soil health, and farmer health in mind. Plus, these strawberries are guaranteed to be delicious. Like all our produce, strawberries are a seasonal joy, so hurry in and choose a carton or two. And remember to pick up some whipping cream, while you're here...

-- Post by Rose Miller
Sources:

http://civileats.com/2015/01/12/the-future-strawberry-will-the-loss-of-a-major-pesticide-help-the-industry-to-go-green/#sthash.923k7AGy.dpuf
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/10/-sp-california-strawberry-industry-pesticides
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=32

Villa Villelyon: Goats, Soaps, and More - South Lyon, MI

Villa Villelyon, a small goat and duck farm in South Lyon, MI, was one of the first friends of Argus Farm Stop. Rumor has it that Kathy – who boards her horse next door – rode up the lane one afternoon and found Curt and Tim unpacking, newly arrived from San Francisco. Before long, Villa Villelyon was supplying the Farm Stop with all-natural goat milk soap, bath salts, and lotion, made right in their house kitchen! Within their community Villa Villelyon also serves as a co-operative farm, providing duck eggs and meat, goat shares, CSA veggies, and even seasonal calendars.

Villa Villelyon became a reality when Curt and Tim, who were living (and paying high rent) in San Francisco, decided they wanted a change. Tim worked in the entertainment / information technology business – and still does, remotely – while Curt, an architectural designer by training, was rolling sushi at Whole Foods. They bought the land off the Internet, sight unseen, for what Curt says is 'probably the same price as a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco.' Now they are proof that city folks can be farmers too, although when asked where they get their know-how, Curt admits: mostly from Google!

Ever since they made the move, these two have been making their dreams a reality – always with humor, flair and imagination. The farm has expanded to include a small greenhouse, a garden and pumpkin patch, and a solar panel able to power one 70-watt light bulb (if the sun is shining). They have just finished transforming a grain silo into a living space for volunteers, who might never want to leave after they see the loft skylight, composting toilet, and reclaimed-wood counter tops. Along with their many farm animals they have two barn cats and a white, fluffy dog named Squirrel, who is an important part of the team: he likes to helpfully watch out for shiny objects and trot along in front of visitors' cars.

From the start, Villa Villelyon has had a distinct community focus, which extends to their many Facebook fans. Online you can watch videos of their baby ducks dancing to Francoise Hardy songs, or use the “barn cam” to watch Curt milking goats! For Curt and Tim, this friendly and fun atmosphere is an essential part of farm life. They are happy to have in-person visitors as well, and plan to offer a full “demonstration farm” experience, for kids and adults to learn about milking goats, making soap, and growing veggies.

Image courtesy of Villa Villeyon

Image courtesy of Villa Villeyon

Curt and Tim are always looking for ways to make their passions profitable. Their main project for Argus Farm Stop is the Villa Villelyon soaps and lotions, which typically include all-natural and raw ingredients, such as goat milk, olive and coconut oils, and essential oils. From a No-Nuthin' bar for sensitive skin, to Bergamot for skin conditions, and a historic-recipe Spice Bar, there is a soap for everyone. He also makes an all-natural, non-toxic spray cleaner. (No time to visit Argus? Find their products on Etsy.) Besides soap making, Curt has used his artistic background to design and construct various features out of reclaimed barn wood. If you've ever sat and sipped a latte at Argus, you've probably seen the gorgeous benches he built! A sense of quality and beauty is obvious in all their designed products, and it is this mix of the artistic and natural that sets Villa Villelyon apart.

As farmers, Curt and Tim have found that the process of dreaming and self-educating never ends. They are always learning about every aspect of their farm: what crops grow best in their soil; how to de-worm goats; how to herd escaped ducks out of their neighbor's pasture (very slowly, with a walking stick). And as they have proven so far, these two are willing to take the risks necessary to help their young farm succeed.

If you want to learn more, buy soaps, or visit or volunteer at Villa Villelyon, check out their website, or Facebook page!

-- Post by Rose Miller

Welcome to Our Blog!

If you've ever been to Argus Farm Stop, you've probably met owners Kathy and Bill, along with the rest of the team. But do you know our dozens of producers? If you're lucky, maybe you've met one of our farmers drinking coffee in the cafe, or you've seen them dropping off some produce in the grocery section. But although you've experienced their incredible range of products (not just produce, eggs, meat, and dairy, but packaged food and gift items, too), you might not know the people behind the scenes.

That's where this blog comes in. We want you to “meet” the many great people who sell at Argus! Producers are the cornerstone of the Argus Farm Stop mission, because unlike at commercial grocery stores, products at Argus come from individuals, each with a unique story. Some live right here in Ann Arbor; all live within a day's drive, and we consider each one a neighbor a worth talking to.

This blog also gives us a chance to tell you about our seasonal produce as it comes in the door, and keep you updated on new products. There's a lot to be excited about around here. So welcome to the Farm Stop! Come on in!