Author Archives: Emily Margeson

Seasons end!

By Marie Boyd, Executive Director of Healthy Harvest of North Iowa

The crisp air and changing leaves tell us that farmers market season will soon be coming to an end. When it does, there are still several options when it comes to buying local foods. 

First, there is a database on our website (healthyharvestni.com) where you can search for local products such as meat, eggs, honey, storage crops (squash, potatoes, carrots, onions etc.) and purchase directly from the farms – sometimes for delivery! 

Other options include Simply Nourished on Main Street in Clear Lake, and the Hy-Vee stores in Mason City who try to offer local products year-round. 

Until then, shop the Clear Lake Farmers Market, through Oct. 17, and enjoy the bounty of the season! 

KABOCHA SQUASH MASH

You can substitute any sweet winter squash for the kabocha here – like butternut or buttercup! Ingredients with an asterisk (*) are available seasonally right here in North Iowa! 

INGREDIENTS

1 large kabocha squash*

1/4 cup full-fat canned coconut milk + more for serving

2-3 tbsp honey* (to taste)

2 tbsp whisky (optional)

1/4 tsp to 1/2 ground cinnamon to taste

Pinch ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp sea salt to taste

Optional toppings: pecans, roasted squash seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the pith and seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and cinnamon and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven, 45-55 minutes, or until flesh is very soft when poked with a fork.

Once squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add the coconut milk, honey, cinnamon, and sea salt. Mash and stir until everything is well combined.Add more cinnamon, sea salt, and/or honey to taste.

Serve with additional coconut milk, pumpkin seeds, and pecans

Yield: 2 -4 servings

Adapted from The Roasted Root

Food preservation!

By Laura Tidrick

Interest in preserving food has increased this year. Canning supplies, specifically lids, are difficult (if not impossible) to come by. I personally can a variety of vegetables, jams, sauces and meat, and panicked when I couldn’t find lids in the stores. I have since found enough but for those who don’t have the supplies or would prefer not to can there are still a variety of ways to preserve all kinds of food.

Freezing is one of the easiest ways to save food for future use. When I don’t have the time to can tomatoes, I often freeze them in air tight containers or freezer bags and take them out in the winter when I have more time to make a large batch of sauce. A bonus of saving some canning for cold winter days is that you actually want the heat and humidity in your home vs a hot August day. A variety of foods can be frozen including herbs, greens, meats, vegetables and even eggs.

Short on freezer space? We often are as we raise pork and poultry and our freezers are generally full in the fall. Dehydrating is another great way to preserve food. We have a cheap dehydrator that makes all kinds of noise but we put it in the garage while it’s running and are able to dehydrate all kinds of things. One of our favorite things to dehydrate is mushrooms. We forage for morel mushrooms and also buy shiitake mushrooms from a local farmer.They dehydrate easily, and when allowed to set in a bowl of water they come to life again beautifully. They can also be added directly to a pot of stock as it’s boiling for extra flavor. Apples, other fruits, meat and many other things can be put in a dehydrator. Many herbs can be air dried easily too. I often tie up bunches of sage, oregano, parsley and other herbs and hang them in the basement or garage for later use.

Interested in learning more about preservation?  The Central Gardens of North Iowa holds a yearly “Preservation Celebration”. This years’ event will be held virtually on September 18th. Visit https://centralgardensnorthiowa.com/ for details

What’s in season?

What’s in season?  ONIONS!  It seems that onions are one of those foods where you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.  As for me, onions are one of my absolute favorite foods.  They can be pickled, caramelized, fried or eaten raw.  There’s red, yellow, green, sweet, white, scallions – so many varieties and all delicious.  With the weather beginning to change and cooler nights coming I thought I would share one of my all-time favorite recipes and favorite ways to eat onions: French Onion Soup.  Below is my own take on this classic:

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 c. thinly sliced onions
  • 2 Tbsp All-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ c. Beef Stock, hot
  • 4-5 Tbsp brandy
  • ½ c. vermouth
  • ½ c. dry white wine
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • Fresh Thyme leaves
  • 8 toasted baguette slices ¼ – ½ in. thick
  • Swiss/provolone cheese slices

Directions:

  1. Set sauce pan over medium heat with butter and oil.  When the butter has melted stir in the onions, cover and cook slowly until translucent – about 10 minutes or so. 
  2. Blend in sugar and turn the heat to medium-high, let the onions brown, stirring often until they turn a dark walnut color. 25-30 minutes. 
  3. Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook slowly, stirring for 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 c. of stock.  When blended, bring to a simmer, adding the rest of the stock, brandy and vermouth.
  5. Cover loosely and simmer very slowly for 1 ½ hours, adding in more stock if the liquid reduces too much.
  6. Add 1 tsp thyme leaves, salt and pepper
  7. Ladle soup into your bowls, top with 2 bread slices, 2 slices of cheese, thyme leaves and broil until cheese bubbles. Enjoy!

Iowa Sweet Corn

By Jessi Myers

Iowa is known for corn. Most Iowans look forward to sweet corn season and can’t wait to pick up a dozen from their favorite Farmers market vendor or roadside pickup truck. According to Iowacorn.org, only one percent of the corn grown in the United States is sweet corn, which also comprises only one percent of Iowa’s corn crop. No wonder it’s exciting when it’s available August to early October.

Sweet corn can be boiled, grilled, steamed, oven-roasted or cooked in a slow cooker. What then though?

One recipe to consider is Elote or Mexican street corn. This can be made on the cob or remove kernals and serve as a dish. Elote doesn’t require specific measurements – everything can be added to taste. Cook corn using your preferred method. Brush with melted butter when it’s done. Mix sour cream or greek yogurt and mayonnaise and spread it on the corn. Then add chili powder, cayenne pepper and chopped cilantro, and finish it with your choice of cotija cheese or queso fresco and a few squeezes of lime.

Whether you want to get adventurous with flavors, or prefer tried and true, freezing corn can extend your access to the tasty treat.

In a blog post for the Iowa State Extension, Liz Meimann gave the following tips:

“Whole kernel corn: can be frozen by blanching the kernels before removing them from the cob. Blanch the corn for 4½ minutes, cool in ice water, and then cut the kernels from the cobs.

Cream style corn: follow the above directions but only cut the kernel tips. Next scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to remove the heart of the kernel and form some “cream”.

Corn on the cob: Blanch the ears for the time listed. Cool the cobs in ice water. Cooling the corn requires a longer time than blanching: small ears (1¼-inch diameter) for 7 minutes, medium ears (1¼-1½-inch diameter) for 9 minutes, large ears (over 1½-inch diameter) for 11 minutes.

Stop by the Clear Lake Farmers Market in the Surf parking lot for corn and many other locally-grown vegetables. Farmers market is held Saturdays 9am-noon through Oct 17th.

All About Melons….

By Judy Delperdang

Nothing says summer quite like a juicy melon. Whether your tastes run to ripe red (or yellow!) watermelon, or creamy cantaloupe, a melon can be just the thing to quench your thirst, fill you up, and satisfy your sweet tooth.

According to Healthy Harvest of North Iowa’s 2020 North Iowa Local Food Guide, melons are in season (https://www.healthyharvestni.com/guide/ ).

Watermelon is 92 percent water, which makes it a great option for hydration. And during the dog days of August, it’s important to stay hydrated.

It’s an important source of lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Not surprisingly, it’s also rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A). These antioxidants may help strengthen the immune system, and who doesn’t want that?

At only 46 calories per cup, watermelon can be enjoyed by the slice, or in salads, smoothies, salsas, or a chilled summer soup.

Maybe you want a cantaloupe for your salads and smoothies.

At 90 percent water, and 60 calories per cup, cantaloupe is also a great choice for keeping hydrated. It has more beta-carotene than other orange/yellow fruit (as much as carrots!). And a cup of cantaloupe contains more than 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

A ripe cantaloupe should be symmetrical, feel slightly heavy, and be a creamy, light yellow-orange with little to no green. Ripe cantaloupe should smell sweet and a little musky.

A watermelon should be smooth and heavy for its size, with a large, creamy yellow “field spot.” The longer the watermelon is allowed to ripen in the field, the brighter and larger the spot.

Look for these summer fruits – and more – at the Clear Lake Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Oct. 17 in the Surf Ballroom parking lot.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and visit our webpage at www.clearlakefarmersmarket.com for up-to-date information.

New program adds access for ALL families

The North Iowa and Clear Lake Farmers Markets add program benefiting low income families

By Lisa Packer, Local Food Coordinator, Healthy Harvest

The North Iowa and Clear Lake Farmers Markets have added the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program, a healthy food incentive supporting families living with food insecurity.

A program of Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, DUFB matches the value of federal nutrition benefits spent at participating farmers’ markets, helping people bring home more healthy, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

Here’s how it works: Double Up matches the value of SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) purchases at participating sites with additional dollars to spend on fresh, locally-grown produce. For instance, a family that spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a participating farmers market receives an additional $10 in Double Up Food Bucks to purchase Iowa-grown produce.

With 50 vendors across both markets, farmers markets are a great avenue for everyone looking to buy local, including our Double Up families.

The benefits ripple through our community: low-income families eat more healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay local.

Adding DUFBs helps low-income families stretch their food dollars, and easily access fresh, local produce.

Our farmers markets are family-friendly where people connect with the farmers who grow their food, try new foods, set healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime and enjoy affordable, accessible fresh fruits and vegetables.

Double Up Food Bucks began in six Iowa farmers markets in 2016 and is now active at 13 sites including farmers markets, farm stands, and mobile markets across Iowa. In 2016, the program reached 1,000 SNAP recipients resulting in more than $25,000 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables purchased from Iowa family famers. From a 2016 program evaluation, 94 percent of SNAP shoppers reported eating more fruits and vegetables and 74 percent of farmers reported making more money because of Double Up.

The Clear Lake Farmers Market is 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Surf Ballroom parking lot through Oct. 17.

For more information about Double Up Food Bucks, visit ww.iowahealthieststate.com/double-up-food-bucks, call 515-309-3227 or email info@iowahealthieststate.com. The Healthiest State Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization driven by the goal to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation.