Best Winter Surprises Part 3: Arugula and Pac Choy

In the summertime, eating local is a breeze.  I gorge myself on blueberries until I start to take on a round, purplish appearance.  Basil is everywhere, cheap and fresh (saucy minx that it is).  Tomatoes, heavy-bottomed and perfect, abound.  When I step into the actual foodstore from June through September–as opposed to farm stores, where the vast majority of my summertime food spending takes place–it takes a lot of control not to meddle as I see poor sops dishing out good cash for overpriced bagged spinach shipped in from California.

The wintertime is different.  And it feels different.  Yes, I did a happy dance every time I produced one of my home-canned jars of tomatoes.  But the amount of local fresh produce goes way down at this time of year.  But it doesn’t have to go out.

Last week, while at one of my other favourite local farms, I scored some of the good stuff:

Yes, that would be arugula.
Yes, that would be arugula.

Big-leafed and gifted with a grown-folk peppery bite, this arugula is magnificent stuff.  I love the scent of fresh arugula.  It has an earthy, savoury, hearty aroma, and enough flavour to make me actually feel excited about salad.  I’m one of those vegans who isn’t all that wild about raw greens.  Yes, they’re good for me.  And I down plenty of veggies.  But salad doesn’t always do it for me so much, especially when the weather is cold.

Unless it’s arugula salad.  It’s hard to imagine that arugula and iceberg lettuce actually inhabit the same world.

Also acquired at the farm:

Pac choy, maybe an hour after it was harvested.  So fresh it squeaks!
Pac choy, maybe an hour after it was harvested. So fresh it squeaks!

Yes, pac choy so fresh it squeaks.  No, there wasn’t a songbird trapped in the leaves.  I checked.  It was just that fresh, that perky and crisp and bouyant, that when it moves, the stem and leaves … squeak.  If you don’t know what I mean, get ahold of some pac choy that’s literally just been cut.  You’ll understand.

Tasty pac choy stems waiting to be stir-fried.
Tasty pac choy stems waiting to be stir-fried.

It’s almost ridiculous how exciting fresh, local food can be.  I mean…it’s food.  Isn’t it supposed to be fresh and local?  Well, of course.  And I had a back yard growing up.  We didn’t farm it, but I know what it is to pull fruit that’s just been rain-washed.  Best thing ever.

A handful of tasty.
A handful of tasty.

But it’s not always our reality.  Probing my local produce store, I was disgusted to find almost every vegetable available was sourced from China.  Really?  I mean, I don’t grudge buying fancy wood ear mushrooms that have travelled that far.  But are we going such long distances just for carrots and basic greens?

Winter greens...yummy!
Winter greens…yummy!

Well, these bad boys came from down the street.  I can walk to where they grew.  It takes 40 minutes, but it can be done.

Bowlful of local goodies.
Bowlful of local goodies.

Stir fried, and served up with a few similarly local potatoes, I enjoyed a bowlful of local goodness.  It can be done.  In winter.  And it tastes amazing.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ally says:

    I am enjoying your winter surprises series.

    Oh, I haven’t bought squeaky fresh pac choy in ages. I love how plump the leaves are, compared to the limp supermarket version.

    I’m loving the sound of gorging on local blueberries! Oh, that is nearly as good as munching on mangoes 😉

  2. Yum yum! I love local buys and like you, haaate seeing things shipped in from China. Their food standards aren’t the same as ours, so I’m pretty weary about eating anything from there. Hello lucky dip of pesticides! :s

    The greens look so fresh and delicious that I’m tempted to lick my screen.

  3. kyarul says:

    Yup! Licking the screen!! See what winter does to us! I do enjoy seeing what my local farm veg box has to offer each week. Had some asparagus!!!! Just a handful but tasty. Sometimes I have to pace myself not to stuff all the wondrous farm fresh veggies into one meal. It was the undisguisable tastlessness of carrots from the supermaket which finally pushed me back to wangling a veg box from the farm every week. More expensive but SO worth it. ‘Usband actually remarked…’Oh, these carrots are so nice and sweet! What did you do to them?’ Well, I’d just dry fried with a little garlic till tender. No going back to the supermarket now. And yup! My rocket’s waking up too (that is arugula isn’t it?). Using it to beef up the salad which #1 always dresses with salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar (red or white wine if we have it-otherwise just the bog standard wariety!)
    Always enjoy your food posts. As you can see I haven’t visited for a while so I’ve been feasting!

    1. Ooooh, asparagus. Yum yum. Yes, it’s only in season but once a year for a few months. I’ve been turning my nose up at the pesticide-riddled imported ones for months, in hopes of a delicious local bounty. Sadly, our organic farm (a la honour box) hasn’t been getting them. They don’t grow it themselves, and last year they got a ton from friends several hours drive up, who were commuting or visiting back and forth. I put in a good word, though, so perhaps the farmers will find a spare 16 hours to make a ‘quick’ run! One can but try. And yes, rocket’s arugula. It took me a while to nail it down, but they are indeed one and the same. Such a tasty green. I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about salads, but arugula has brought me over to the good side.

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