Local TN Produce You Should Be Eating RN
I was brainstorming what I was going to say for the introduction paragraph of this very article while I was in the shower this morning. As I tried out various opening sentences in my head, over and over again I came up with something along the lines of, “I can’t think of a season I love more than the transition between Spring and Summer—”and I’d stop myself in my tracks. I was lying. Straight to myself, I was lying. Truth be told, I’ve always claimed Fall as my sweetheart of the four seasons, so suddenly changing heart felt inauthentic. Not only that, but I drove the knife even deeper describing the transition between two seasons as the sweet spot. How dare I? It was blasphemy. I let the train of thought go and focused on conditioning my hair.
The fact of the matter is I was trying to come up with some clever little introduction or quirky-smart segue that would eventually lead me to profess my love for produce at this time of year. That’s it! There you have it, folks. I love the produce at this time of year. Ta-da!
Although I cannot claim fondness for the sky-high heat indexes, the swamp-like humidity, and the overall physical drain my body feels when the weather warms up here in Nashville, the Tennessee produce somehow outshines all else.
Currently we’re in the middle of some primo vegetable harvests, and the big fruit hauls are just around the corner. Meander through the farmers market and you’ll find tons of beautiful, fresh, Tennessee-grown products: cabbage both green and purple; leafy greens like collards, kale, chard, and lettuce; sweet and crunchy sugar snap peas and buttery smooth fava beans; and I’ll never go to the farmers market this time of year and without getting a bunch or two of asparagus. I think all aforementioned greenery would do well in a pasta sauce with a little bit of crumbled sausage plus a splash of cream and a shower of fresh parm or pecorino. Or heck! Toss it all together to make a super salad bound together by a simple lemon vinaigrette (1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil + salt and pepper).
Turnips and beets are also in their prime right now, so don’t skip a chance to enjoy them while they’re at their peak. Roast them in a hot oven, and serve with a sprinkle of fresh dill and some sheep’s milk feta. Or add them to that salad we talked about above! Damn, that sounds good.
Pink and purple radishes are coming up quickly and cool green cucumbers aren’t far behind them. The ones growing in my yard are just about the size of my pinky toe #cute. Once your first cucumber begins to show a little more size, make this Herb and Radish Salad with Sheep Feta and Walnuts from NYT Cooking. Herbs are also really wonderful right now, and they are the real showstopper of this dish. I made it for my dinner when my parents came over for Mother’s Day and both of them actually lost their minds.
Now, can we talk about ramps for a second? Part of the allium family, ramps are kind of like a cross between garlic and green onions, and I am literally obsessed with them. They’re admittedly a pain in the ass to clean (ramps hold even more dirt in their roots than leeks, y’all! That’s a lot of dirt!) but the work is worth the reward. Inspired by the Spanish Calçotadas I fell in love with when I studied abroad in Barcelona back in my college days, I decided to use ramps in lieu of the traditional calçots (basically, Spanish spring onions) and brought a Tennessee Calçotada to Cooking Club two weeks ago. I tossed the ramps in olive oil, salt, and pepper, roasted them in the oven at 450 until they looked pretty (about 20 minutes-ish), and then served them with a big ol’ bowl of romesco sauce and some pan con tomate. With my porrón in tow for fun and messy wine drinking, we had a gooooood time.
Also, Bon Appetit emailed me this recipe for ramp fritters last week and you’re kidding yourself if you think I’ll avoid rolling up my sleeves to clean another pound or so of ramps in order to make it. I’ll report back.
Lastly, don’t you dare miss the prime window of opportunity for sweet, local strawberries. It’s happening NOW and even though Kroger sells them 365 days out of the year, you haven’t had a strawberry until you’ve had a sweet little baby nub of a strawberry grown right here in middle Tennessee. The little ones, my friends, are where it’s at. Obviously strawberries don’t really need much else to make them insanely delicious, but if you happen to get a pint of not-quiiiite-yet-ripe-and-juicy ones like I did just a week back, simply cut the tops off and sprinkle them with a dash of sugar. Let them sit for about 5 minutes and eat with a spoon. Hell yes!!
And that’s just the produce we’ve got coming to the markets right NOW. But in about 4 weeks time? We’re gonna be snacking on berries — from black, to razz, to blue — like it’s our job. We’ll sink our teeth into peaches, watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe and won't even notice when the juices dribble all the way down to our elbows. And one day soon -- one day very, very soon -- ripe and juicy tomatoes will be so abundant and delicious, there will be an entire weekend dedicated to celebrating them over on the East side of town.
Oh, y’all….what we’ve got going on right now is reeeeally good — don’t you dare miss it!! Get out there and shop + eat local! — but what we’ve got coming up is arguably even better. Let’s eat!