Monday, April 4, 2016

Catering to Differing Tastes

Many of the fine people in the Cedar Valley who know us probably don't know Rob in any other context other than as his role as a vegetable farmer.  In fact, if you are from the area and you haven't done much reading of this blog, you will probably make some erroneous assumptions.  For example, a vegetable farmer has to be someone who has ALWAYS loved vegetables.  Therefore, Rob has always loved all vegetables and must have no idea how hard it is for some of you to figure out how to enjoy/use vegetables in a CSA share.

I am sorry to burst your bubble - but my parents can assure you that the list of things I would eat when I was growing up could probably fit on a 3"x5" card.  When it came to veggies it had to be green beans, lima beans, peas, corn and potatoes.  Onions would work if cut very small and well cooked.  Tomatoes would be ok if it was a cooked sauce with very little evidence of skin or chunks of tomato. There were numerous incidents where shredded lettuce ruined a sandwich for me and my college friends encouraged me to get the mixed vegetables to watch me quickly and efficiently root out the carrot squares.  I could eat my mixed veggies as fast as anyone else and not eat a single one of those icky things.

So, what happened?
Touchstone Gold Beets

Is it true that I like each and every vegetable that we grow equally well?  No, of course not.  But, I very much like some of them, kind of like others and tolerate still others.  There are a few that I still haven't found a way to tolerate, but I sure do make less of a stink about it when they show up.

Perhaps I grew up a little bit.  Maybe the taste buds changed some.  But, both Tammy and I are pretty certain that a big part of it had to do with the fact that we started growing our own produce.  The quality and freshness have much to do with flavor and texture quality.  And, of course, if you put some of your own effort into growing it, you might be more willing to try it - even if you do find yourself still not liking it.

But there is more to it than that.

Can't Beet This

We have learned that different cultivars of a vegetable can have very different tastes and textures.  It is true that some people might not be able to detect a difference.  It is also true that some people who do not initially find a difference in different veggie varieties begin to develop an ability to tell the difference over time.  In my case, I can often detect a big difference in taste between different varieties right away.

I had always found the earthy taste and slippery texture of the standard red beet to be - shall we say - choke worthy.  Please, if you like red beets prepared in the traditional boiling water, do not take offense.  This is why we have red beets in our CSA as well - so you can enjoy them the way you enjoy them!

In this case, I am speaking to that large group of people who think of beets as an 'evil' veggie, just as I did.  We tried the striped beet (Chioggia) and a golden beet (Touchstone Gold) several years ago.  And, since I take my job seriously, I have to taste what we grow.  I don't have to like each thing, as long as others do.  But, I feel like I have to be able to say that I tried it.

In any event, we roasted some Chioggia's and found them to be less earthy and to have a pleasing texture when roasted.  The two keys here were vegetable variety AND preparation method.  I have learned not to give up on a vegetable until we have explored a range of cultivars and a series of ways to prepare it for eating.

The result?  Now I very much like Golden and Chioggia beets either steamed, grilled or roasted.  I will tolerate standard red beets presented the same ways.  I can even eat boiled red beets with only some complaints.  Who knew?
White Wing Onions
 Opinions About Onions

If I recall correctly, my father has always liked onions, but they don't always like him.  At least, that's how he put it.  I have not always liked onions and I think I inherited the part about raw onions not liking me so much either.

However, we've learned that the shorter season white onions tend to agree with me more.  They sautee up nicely and have a pleasant taste.  On the other hand, storage onions (such as Sedona or Copra) tend to have a bit more bite to them - and thus tend to disagree with me more.  Happily, if they are sauteed longer, they "sweeten up" and give me less troubles.

Onions are a bit of an oddity for me because I've always liked the smell of them (raw or cooked).  In this case, it was probably more of a texture thing.  But, again, it isn't so much that MY tastes have changed, but my willingness to figure out how to make things work for my preferences has improved. 
Goodman Cauliflower
It's Not CauliFLOUR

Tammy and I were given the impression when we first started gardening that cauliflower was a near impossible veggie to grow.  And, sadly, when we would try cauliflower from the store, my first impression was that it tasted a bit like 'flour.'  Yick.

Tammy got me to try more broccoli and cauliflower by adding cheese to the mix.  That was great, but probably not the best long-term solution if you want your spouse to eat healthier.

We still tend to prepare our cauliflower steamed or raw.  It will occasionally appear in soup as well.  Once again, we've explored different varieties and found some range of taste.  It is our belief that soil and growing conditions can change the taste of this vegetable since we can still appreciate a head of cauliflower from our farm and not really be impressed with the same variety from other sources.  But, this is one of those cases where perhaps my taste buds have been trained to taste the vegetable.  I tend to prefer cauliflower and romanesco to broccoli and I no longer have trouble with spelling the last syllable.

Chervena Chushka sweet peppers
Sometimes it has nothing to do with taste

Tammy likes to eat peppers raw in the field.  I like the smell of peppers in the field and I am quite happy to pick her a pepper and toss it to her if she wants to snack on one.  In fact, I will toss snack tomatoes or peppers to our workers if they indicate they might like one.  But, you will rarely, if ever, see me crunch into one of these during a work break.

This has nothing to do with liking or not liking how they taste and everything to do with how they sit in my stomach.  Remember, I do a good deal of stooping, getting up and down and moving around during the work day.  The last thing I want is to feel like I've got a rock in my stomach.  Sadly, that's what happens when I eat most raw peppers without something to accompany it.

I am not alone in this phenomenon.  Many people prefer red peppers because some of the things that cause this discomfort are less prevalent in the more mature fruits.  I also prefer peppers that are not bells as they also give me fewer issues.  And, of course, if they are cooked, they seem to be easier to deal with.  In the end, I'm just happy to have a couple of smaller slices on a sandwich and a nibble or two here or there.  But, since I won't eat too many peppers, I tend to be much pickier about the taste.  Dagnabbit!  If only get a little bit of a pepper, it had better be good!

Pride of Wisconsin melon
And - It needs to be ripe!

Then, there is the issue of ripeness.  I could tolerate certain kinds of melons, but I was never all that impressed with them.  In fact, this is something I have heard from many people.

I try to remind myself of how I USED to feel until we started growing our own melons and it has gotten harder and harder for me to do.  Why?  Well, it has been many years now since I have been forced to eat a melon that was NOT RIPE when it was harvested.  Most melon varieties will taste like a lot of nothing if they are harvested early so they won't split in transit to the grocery store.  And, sadly, that is how most people are introduced to melons.

So, we sympathize with your opinion about melons.  In fact, we understand why you feel the way you do.  Some of you may not like the texture - so that may rule out many melons regardless of ripeness.  We can respect that.  But, for those of you that thought: "Melons.... meh."   You need to try some of the heirloom varieties that we grow when they are truly ripe!  You might be so shocked by the taste initially that you might be tempted to decide you don't like it.  But, give yourself a second taste and you'll realize that your initial reaction was because your brain was telling your tastebuds that they shouldn't detect that much taste in a melon.  After all, they've never experienced it before!

Are You Ready to Discover Tastes You've Been Missing?
If you are, then consider joining us this year for our Summer CSA Farm Share program.  We grow a wide range of veggies and a number of varieties for each type.  We understand where you are coming from and we can help you get to where you want to be going.

Besides, I need someone to eat all of the carrots we're going to grow.... Tammy can't eat them all, and I still won't.  Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. Try roasting your cauliflower (and romanesco and broccoli). Our kids LOVE it!


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