Meatless Monday: May Farmers Market Edition #1

If you aren’t already a regular Farmers Market customer, May is the month to start, at least in North Carolina. May is the month that the local farmers’ bounty really start to show up, particularly what I look forward to most every year––the arrival of FRESH LOCAL STRAWBERRIES!

Because here’s the thing. I no longer buy fresh strawberries any more except for our local strawberry season. Because, honestly, the ones in the grocery stores don’t really taste like strawberries anymore. If you go out now and eat some fresh, local, non-pesticide-grown strawberries, you will know what I mean. Fresh local strawberries are sweet and have an actual strawberry taste and a texture that is neither too hard or too soft, but just right. Outside of the local growing seasons, the ones in the grocery stores are more often than not like eating styrofoam than eating real strawberries. And I’m not talking about strawberries from Walmart or whatever the cheap grocery store is in your area; I’m talking about strawberries from Whole Foods and Trader Joes and Fresh Market and all the stores that charge a premium for their food.

Strawberries in their natural state are a delicate berry. So once the local growing season is over, grocery stores have to have them shipped in, usually from farther and farther away the longer it is after the growing season. In order for them to survive, farms pick them when they are unripe so that most of them will survive the journey. But strawberries that “ripen” after they have been picked don’t taste or feel like real strawberries. Plus, the carbon footprint of flying the berries in from California, or from South America during winter/Valentines Day (for example), is huge.

So I don’t buy them fresh except when I can buy them locally. We gorge on them during the season, but once the season has ended, there goes our fresh strawberry eating for the year. We miss them, but as they say, absence makes the heart grow stronger. Once they come back, it’s a real celebration.

Thus, strawberries are a big component of our eating this month.

For today’s post, I’m also throwing in a farro salad with roasted farmers market vegetables. Farro is such a lesser-known grain, but it is terrific. It is an ancient Mediterranean grain that was popular in the historic Egyptian and Roman empires. It looks similar to fat brown rice, but is chewier and has more taste (at least in my opinion). It also has more nutritional benefits than rice or pasta. Farro has more protein, more fiber, and more vitamins than brown rice or whole grain pasta, and runs rings around white rice or white pasta. Nutritionwise, it is similar to quinoa, but has twice as much calcium. Unfortunately for those who are gluten-free, it is an ancient variety of wheat, so while it is much lower in gluten than what is now traditional wheat, it does has a little.

Farro is easy to cook as well. For this salad, I put 2 cups of farro in 5 cups of water and cooked it for 10 minutes in the Instant Pot. While it was cooking, I roasted some tomatoes from Parker Farm (Cary Downtown Farmers Market) and some pak choy, which is similar to baby bok choy from Meadowhawk Farm (CDFM). Once both of those are done, I chop the vegetables and add them to the warm farro. I also chop up some scallions (not sure which of those farms I bought them from, because I buy them from them both because we eat lots of onions here) and crumble some feta cheese into the grains. Of course, vegans could easily leave out the feta, or perhaps substitute some tofu for added protein (although farro is a fairly protein-dense grain). I pour on a vinaigrette sauce while it’s warm; supposedly, grains absorb sauces better when they are warm.

It ends up looking something like this:

All in all, it is a pretty healthy, pretty easy, pretty quick, pretty inexpensive, and pretty DELISH salad, which we sometimes eat as the main course, sometimes as a side, sometimes warm, sometimes cold. I used to be a big pasta salad person, but this has replaced that dish entirely in my cooking repertoire.

So as the old commercial says, unless your ENTIRELY gluten-free…Try it. You’ll like it!

Note: I’m behind on my posts lately. I’m working on creating another website, which not only eats up my time, but apparently caused a technical difficulty that I only recently worked out. So don’t be surprised if you have another Meatless Monday post or two this week. I don’t want you to miss out on the eating possibilities of some of the produce that has short growing seasons around here.

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