Signs of spring are all around New York. As flowers and trees bloom and winter clothing is stored away until next year, spring is also the time when New Yorkers enjoy spring produce popping up at farmer’s markets. At Red Rabbit, we are busy planning our spring menus. As always, our focus is on eating fresh and local fruits and vegetables, with a special emphasis on seasonal produce.
We take pride in the fact that we get our produce from locally sourced farms. We purchase produce from two local farms: Corbin Hill and Winter Sun Farms. We are happy to be providing our school partners and Red Rabbit kids with the freshest ingredients as well as supporting our regional farmers. Here is some information about both:
Corbin Hill Farms works with farmers from upstate New York and community groups in New York City to deliver fresh, local produce to Harlem and the Bronx. Through their farm shares, Corbin Hill Farms gives communities direct access to high quality, fresh produce while also meeting the needs of low-income communities by offering flexible membership terms and affordable prices.
Winter Sun Farms has a similar mission of creating a more regional, fair, and sustainable food system as they partner with local sustainable farms to supply a wonderful winter share of great tasting frozen and storage vegetables all winter long. They have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share that families can join in the fall to receive the winter farm share.
I’m often asked about community supported agriculture (CSA), and why it is vital to our farmers and to our health. CSA allows city residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. Once you become a member of CSA, you’re purchasing a share of produce (eggs, meat, and flowers may also be an option) from a farmer, and from June until October or November, your farmer will deliver that share of produce to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront, which allows your farmer to plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs, and more. Most CSAs have a variety of payment plans to allow flexibility in paying for shares. Some arrange for payments in installments, accept food stamps & EBT, or may offer sliding scale fees.
Last month, the education team had the opportunity to attend the Just Food Conference. Just Food is a well-respected, non-profit organization that connects communities and local farms with the resources and support they need to make fresh, locally grown food accessible to all New Yorkers, in every neighborhood. This conference was an amazing opportunity for Red Rabbit to connect with our fellow cooking and gardening instructors, local businesses, and to meet our farmers. I was thrilled to meet my CSA farmer, and to know the family behind the farm, who has provided organic produce and eggs to my family for over five years.
At Red Rabbit, we believe that everyone has the right to fresh and healthy food, and we support organizations such as Just Food, who are helping families receive fresh produce through their CSA. Spring is the time to sign up for your family’s CSA share, and to get started just click on the link below, which Just Food has created to make signing up for a farm share an easy process.
In addition to fresh produce and supporting our local economy, there are health benefits to purchasing local and seasonal produce through a CSA. Fruits and vegetables are at their peak nutritional value when ripe and start to lose nutrients and flavor as soon as they are picked or harvested. Produce that will be traveling long distances to market are picked before they’re naturally ripened in order to survive the journey. While the produce might gain color and softness on its journey to the supermarket, nutritional value will not increase. Once harvested, a fruit or vegetable is as nutritious as its going to get. The nutritional value actually decreases EVERY day past harvest.
Furthermore, since manufacturers want the food to look fresh and ripe, produce that travels far to get to a neighborhood supermarket is often sprayed with plant hormones to speed up ripening. Since the ripening occurs so quickly and often in some crowded box, the plant cannot accumulate as many nutrients and as much flavor as it would if it slowly ripened on its own. This explains why a strawberry can have a beautiful deep red color and have zero taste.
Instead, buying local produce leaves the fruits and vegetables on the vine, tree or in the ground longer, and allows them to ripen and develop their nutrients and flavor properly. Additionally, the reduced packaging materials and shipping distances have global health benefits as they are much more environmentally friendly.
Don’t forget, the nutrient content of food is also affected by the way we cook and how produce is stored. So, don’t toss out the water the veggies are cooked in, avoid frying or adding lots of sugar and sweeteners and only wash produce when you are ready to consume it! Support local farms and tell us where your favorite place to buy local is. Enjoy the warm weather and your families.
All the best,
Red Rabbit’s Cooking & Nutrition Instructor