Extending the season leads to healthier food, more business for farmers
Doesn't this recipe for winter vegetable pasta sound good right about now?
The good news is that consumers are demanding more seasonal local foods at their farmers' markets and grocery stores. "The bad news is that, for those of us in the north, winter means some slim pickings if we are looking for locally grown fresh produce," according to Rachel Fox, a registered dietitian pursuing her master’s degree in public health at the University of Michigan.
But the news is getting better.
"While some states are fortunate enough to have climates that allow for continuous outdoor growing, farmers in cold-weather states, including Michigan, are starting to use more creative growing techniques," according to Fox, who is working as an intern with the Ecology Center’s Healthy Food in Health Care program.
"Hoophouses," heated just by sunlight, or greenhouses, which use an artificial source of heat, are becoming an increasingly familiar way to extend the growing season. In addition to seeing them in rural areas, you can see hoophouses large and small popping up on vacant lots in Detroit and near hospitals and health care facilities around the region. If you're curious about whether there's a hoophouse in your future, Michigan State University provides tours.
In addition to providing farmers with more business during what has been traditionally a slow time of the year, longer growing seasons are good news for consumers since they help sustain year-round farmers markets, both in their communities and in the growing number of farmers' markets connected to hospitals.
"Currently there's a winter farmers' market at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital hosts one year-round. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says there are 42 other winter markets nationwide," Fox said. "Not only are the markets open through the winter, most are accepting food assistance dollars to help promote healthy eating across all socioeconomic classifications."
Ingredients • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil • 1 small onion, diced • 4 cloves garlic, minced • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed • 4 cups vegetable broth • 1 cup dry white wine • 8 ounces whole-wheat medium pasta shells or other small pasta • 2 cups bite-size cauliflower florets • 2 cups bite-size butternut squash cubes • 1/4 teaspoon salt • Freshly ground pepper to taste • 1 10-ounce bag frozen lima beans, thawed
Preparation 1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and sage and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. 2. Add broth and wine; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta, cauliflower, squash, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is not quite tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in lima beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lima beans and pasta are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes more.
Nutrition Per serving: 468 calories; 9 g fat ( 1 g sat , 6 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 76 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 16 g protein; 13 g fiber; 655 mg sodium; 862 mg potassium.
EcoLink — December 2012 An online publication of the Ecology Center