grown in Washington

Lucky Us, Living and Eating in Washington State

[Photo by  Dane Deaner  on  Unsplash ]

[Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash]

Less than ten days until the Bellevue Farmers Market opens for the season on Thursday, May 17! We recently had some folks to dinner who hailed from southern California, and the wife said it took some adjusting to move up here and "eat seasonally." I did wonder what grocery store she went to, since all the ones I know subscribe to the "it's summer somewhere" mindset. Strawberries and blackberries midwinter? No prob. But maybe she meant she likes to eat locally wherever she finds herself. In that case, yes, seasons matter. And we are entering the most wonderful time of the year, eating-wise!

Did you know Washington State is the third largest exporter of food and agricultural products in the United States? That 95% of Washington farms are family-owned? Washington farms provide 164,000 jobs, and each farmer feeds 155 people. Washington wheat and apples and potatoes get sent all over the world, but, lucky us, we who live here just get to sit right back and reap the bounty. Of the top ten Washington-grown products, I've seen these ones in our Market:

  1. apples,
  2. milk,
  3. potatoes,
  4. cattle (beef),
  5. wheat (flour at Hedlin Farms),
  6. cherries,
  7. pears, and
  8. eggs

(If you're wondering about the other two products, they're hay and hops, and I guess you could argue that hops are available in the beers you can buy at our Market.) How lucky we are that our farmers grow a variety of crops, so that, when the "season" hits, our seasonal eating is so rich.

When we support our farmers, we're supporting our local and state economy, as well as eating the freshest foods from the hands from the folks who grew it (or at least work alongside the ones who grew it). And how nice for us that eating Washington-grown foods seasonally requires no deprivation. (Unless you still aren't ready for a break from citrus and bananas.)

Ten more days...

Two weeks till the Market opens!

Come to me, fresh produce. [Photo by  Alexandr Podvalny  on  Unsplash ]

Come to me, fresh produce. [Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Unsplash]

And it can't happen soon enough. As I slice into an Argentinian pear, I find myself looking at charts like this one, of Washington grown foods. Grown in May I see...

  • Arugula
  • all sorts of dark, leafy greens
  • varieties of salad greens
  • carrots
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • sunchokes
  • asparagus
  • beets
  • radishes
  • rhubarb
  • turnips

With a mother-in-law suffering from Alzheimer's (and the whole rest of the family suffering as a by-product), I'm always interested in what will keep our brains sharp. Exercise, yes (yuck), but also those dark, leafy greens! (You may also say yuck to that, but I'd rather eat kale than work out.) NPR reported on yet another study linking eating our greens to keeping our gray matter. The bottom line? "Healthy seniors who had daily helpings of leafy green vegetables — such as spinach, kale and collard greens — had a slower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who tended to eat little or no greens." What constitutes a serving size? Half a cup, cooked, or one whole cup, raw. The link isn't completely understood or established yet, but it does seem that all the folate those greens provide help lower homocysteine levels in the body, leading to less arterial plaque. High homocysteine levels are tied to cognitive decline. Let's be strong to the finish 'cause we eats our spinach.

And then reward yourself!

Perhaps it's only fitting that tonight I have to provide a dessert, and I'm making a banana pudding, the world's best totally-artificial dessert. Meaning, when I had it as a kid, it involved a box of Nilla Wafers, a couple boxes of vanilla pudding, bananas, and a container of Cool Whip.

The only "real" ingredient in traditional banana pudding [chuttersnap-330199-unsplash.jpg

The only "real" ingredient in traditional banana pudding [chuttersnap-330199-unsplash.jpg

I know I've written about banana pudding here before, somewhere in the annals, but some things are worth repeated efforts to perfect.

Lessons learned from failed banana-pudding efforts:

  • You cannot get rid of the boxed Nilla Wafers. I've tried a couple homemade "vanilla wafer" recipes, and neither one tasted like the boxed version. There's something about those dumb things (that are also pretty danged expensive, considering their cheap, fake ingredients) that cannot be matched at home. Their beautiful uniformity. How delicious they tasted dunked in a glass of milk. Their perfect texture when they soak up the vanilla pudding. Even the Trader Joe's versions don't do it for me.
  • Cool Whip, on the other hand, is gross and totally replaceable with whipped cream, sweetened to your taste.
  • Boxed pudding is also perfectly replaceable, you just have to make sure to thicken it enough. Today I'm giving this recipe a try.

Easy peasy, and the guests can dig in. But family members, on the other hand will have to plow through the greens to get to the gold.