This year, I’m taking on a farm-to-table, #localmonthly challenge where I eat local, home-cooked meals for one day every month. All ingredients from these meals are from Texas.
This month, I volunteered at Johnson’s Backyard Garden, a farm in Austin. Their vegetables have made a regular appearance in my farm-to-table challenge, and I was excited to finally volunteer! It was a fun day on my feet and wait until you see the vegetables. Keep reading to hear all about it and to see what I ate this month.
Local Vegetables from Johnson’s Backyard Garden
Our first stop at the farmers market is usually Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG) because they usually have a bounty of good-looking vegetables. What started as an East Austin backyard garden in 2004 has grown to 186 acres producing over 200 different crops!
JBG has a strong community supported agriculture (CSA) program. This is a weekly or bi-weekly membership to receive produce grown at the farm delivered to your door or picked up at the farmers market. JBG has four different box sizes: individual ($22), small ($27.50), medium ($35), or large ($41). It’s a beautiful thing to invest in a community farm and in return, receive fresh, organic, high-quality vegetables to eat. Joining a CSA encourages you to eat local and try new produce. Did you know JBG also delivers to Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and some of their surrounding areas?
I’ve been wanting to volunteer at JBG for years but since volunteer days are only on Tuesdays and Fridays, I had to plan for a holiday. JBG has two volunteer locations and offer five-hour shifts. While I wanted to volunteer on the farm, which involves tasks like harvesting produce, spots weren’t available, so I ended up at their packing shed. This is where the harvest is washed, sorted, and packed to go out to farmers markets and to be put in CSA boxes. On my Friday shift, we bagged mixed greens, spinach, arugula, and carrots. JBG employees were also there rinsing and organizing carrots, beets, and onions, which looked beautiful!
As JBG has grown its number of crops and customers, they have also learned best practices to provide the best end product. It’s a popular and beloved organization in Austin. One bite from a fresh carrot and you’ll understand why!
April’s Farm-to-Table Meals
In exchange for volunteering, I received A LOT of vegetables from JBG, about the equivalent of a small CSA box, including:
- Two bunches of carrots
- One bunch of bok choy
- Two lettuce heads
- One bag of spinach
- One bunch of golden beets
- A handful of black radishes
- One bag of mixed greens
- One bunch of mint
To supplement the vegetables, here’s what we ended up buying at the farmers market for $38:
- Chevre Cheese from Pure Luck Farm & Dairy in Dripping Springs, TX ($6) [See the post from my visit to the farm here.]
- One duck breast (one pound) from Belle Vie Farm and Kitchen of Thrall, TX ($19)
- One pint of strawberries from Engel Farms of Fredericksburg, TX ($4)
- Two garlic bulbs and a dozen chicken eggs from Fruitful Hill Farm of Bastrop, TX ($9)
Here are the resulting meals:
Breakfast: Egg Scramble with Spinach
Lunch: Mixed Greens Salad with Carrots, Golden Beets, and Chevre
Dinner: Mashed Black Radishes, Garlic Bok Choy, Duck Breast, Strawberries
I didn’t start eating and cooking beets until the last few years and now I can’t get enough of them! These golden beets were especially delicious. I could also eat scrambled eggs for every meal. They are so fresh and light!
The Downside of Eating Local
While I’m enjoying most of the meals in this challenge, I’m noticing many similar dishes month to month. I know to eat completely local means simplifying meals, but I would love to try some new recipes.
In the last two months, I’ve realized including protein is very important. I cheated because I got so hungry, I’m grabbing whatever processed snack I had handy.
The black Spanish radishes I got from JBG were a mystery to me but I found a few recipes that recommended roasting and mashing them like mashed potatoes. Well, let me tell you, while the consistency is similar to mashed potatoes, the flavor was much more bitter! We ate them out of obligation but I’m not making that again! Other than cutting small radishes into salads, I have a hard time finding tasty ways to eat them.
Ways to Eat the Whole Vegetable
If you’re wondering why grocery stores keep the tops of vegetables like carrots and beets, it’s because they’re edible! Here are some recipes you should try to avoid food waste.
I said it last month and I’ll say it again: I’m ready for peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon! The strawberries I had for dessert this month were not quite ready but summer is getting closer.
P.S. Curious about my other posts from this challenge so far? See them here.