Coming To An Aisle Near You

Local Farmers Dish About Upcoming Produce

Posted: March 12, 2014

Jason Ropp (left) of Season’s Bounty Farm CSA talks with Harrisonburg resident David Newman about the program March 4 at Friendly City Food Co-op. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
The Radical Roots Community Farm, which also operates as a CSA, displays jars of tomato soup and salsa March 4 at Friendly City Food Co-op. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)

After a long, cold winter, the warmer weather promises a coming spring. As the seasons change, so do the produce aisles, which will soon be filled with a colorful bounty. Looking ahead, shoppers can expect to start seeing more fresh vegetables and fruits in their local grocers.


Below, local farmers share what types of produce shoppers should be looking out for, and when they’ll start popping up in the aisles. As with any harvest, crop availability depends on the weather; this is a loose guideline, as the dates are not rigid.  


Spring Has Sprung
In the next few weeks, shoppers can expect to find a variety of greens at local farmers markets and stores.


“By the beginning of April, you should start seeing lettuces, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, all the different greens that can handle the cold,” explained Lee O’Neill of Radical Roots Community Farm.


Many local farmers, including Nate Clark of Muddy Creek Farmstead, use high tunnels, or unheated greenhouses, to push the produce season forward, so some greens are currently available and more farmers will have greens available by the end of March.  


By April, however, greens will be overtaking the aisles.


Onions and radishes will make their appearance come April, said Radell Schrock of Season’s Bounty Farm and CSA, providing a healthy topping to any salad.


Friendly City will also have an abundance of okra coming soon. Project Grows, a non-profit community farm located in Verona, is planting a large okra crop that will be available at the co-op by the end of April or early May, depending on the weather, said Sam Berenstain, project manager at Project Grows.


Once May flowers start blooming, a variety of vegetables will also be ready for purchase. Remaining root vegetables, including more onions and radishes, will be thriving, and shoppers will start seeing carrots, red beets, cabbage and broccoli.


The month of May also brings fresh herbs.


“Come May, you’ll start seeing basil, parsley and things that are a quicker season,” O’Neill said.


When thinking about fresh produce in these months, consider a healthy spring salad for all those greens.

Balsamic Bleu Cheese Salad
2 cups mixed baby greens
1 cup leaf lettuce (rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces)
8 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a medium bowl, toss together the mixed greens, leaf lettuce, cheese and walnuts. Set aside.


In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. Pour over the salad mixture and toss well. (Source: allrecipes.com)

The Heat Of Summer
June and July brings those crops that thrive in the hottest part of the season, including tomatoes, green and red peppers, cucumbers and eggplant. It’s during this time frame that the majority of the produce becomes available, as the winter chill has finally ceased. Much of the produce that shoppers first started seeing in the previous months will still be available, as well.  


The fruits of the season will also be plentiful, including summer squashes and melons.


Many of these options will continue to be available throughout the beginning of fall and into October.


June and July will boast the largest variety of produce, so that’s the time to try out recipes with lots of colorful ingredients. Below is a recipe that includes those summer favorites.

Pasta With Roasted Summer Vegetables And Basil
2 pounds summer squash (about four), 1 inch thick
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
8 ounces short pasta, such as campanelle or fusilli
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 cup fresh basil leaves, firmly packed and torn
2 red onions, sliced ½-inch thick
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Divide squash, tomatoes, onions and garlic between two large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat, then spread evenly. Roast (without tossing) until tender and starting to brown, 30-40 minutes.


Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil; add salt. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and return to pot.


Add roasted vegetables, butter, parmesan and basil to pot; season with salt and pepper, then toss gently with pasta to combine. Reheat over medium-low, if needed. (Source: delish.com)

Contact Sarah Stacy at 574-6292 or sstacy@dnronline.com.