Capay Valley To Kitchen

One of the commonly touted benefits of purchasing locally-grown food is the extraordinary diversity of vegetables and fruits available, including many heirloom varieties that are simply not bred for shipping long distances. Case in point: Capay Valley farms are currently harvesting 6 varieties of eggplants, 15 varieties of melons and 11 varieties of peppers, many of which make it into our weekly FarmShares deliveries.

Understandably, this can sometimes be intimidating to individuals with established shopping habits, who purchase and prepare the same fruits and vegetables each week – and even more so to those who are new to scratch cooking or more comfortable buying packaged or prepared foods. In fact, the response “I didn’t know what to do with the veggies and ended up throwing them out” is one of the most frequently cited reasons when people leave Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs like ours.

To help alleviate this obstacle and to encourage California’s state employees to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables, this summer Capay Valley Farm Shop teamed up with Sacramento non-profit Food Literacy Center (FLC) to offer a series of three cooking classes at the California Departments of Public Health and Health Care Services. The classes were entitled “From Capay Valley to Kitchen” and were sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and its collaborative Healthier U worksite wellness pilot program. Food Literacy Center’s founding Executive Director Amber Stott believes that “cooking is critical to building a healthy lifestyle. Scratch cooking is the only way to control the amount of salt, sugar and fat in your food.”

Stott crafted tailored recipes for each class highlighting Farm Shop’s seasonal and local produce featured in the FarmShare that week. “We love cooking from a CSA box because we can show students the wide variety of dishes that can be made from one box: side dishes, entrees, even desserts,” Stott noted. Her goal was to make the recipes simple to follow, accessible for adults cooking alone or to bring home and engage help from children, requiring very few ingredients, steps, or special equipment and easy to complete within 20 minutes.

Food literacy advocates trained by FLC began each class with a demonstration of important knife skills, as well as specific storage tips and nutritional “fun facts” about the featured fruits and vegetables. For example, did you know that zucchini has more potassium than bananas? That cooked potatoes are actually more nutrient rich when reheated? Or that removing the green tops from root vegetables like carrots, beets, and radishes before storing increases their firmness and longevity in your fridge?

After demonstrating the basics, the filled-to-capacity classes of 60 employees each broke out into 8 groups to create a specific dish using their newfound skills and Farm Shop ingredients. The recipes sampled over the summer included a Fennel Beet & Mint Salad, Strawberry Kale Green Smoothie, and Deconstructed Pesto over Cabbage and Zucchini Salad. As Stott shared with the class, cooking with local food tastes better. “When you’ve got the freshest peach or a tomato at the peak of ripeness you’re getting the best flavor — and you have to do less cooking to make them taste great.”

Over lunch, as class participants had the opportunity to sample all four dishes, they shared reactions and take-home lessons. Overall there was resounding appreciation and support for this experience in the worksite during the lunch hour. The classes were also successful in expanding individuals’ palates: In a survey after the first class Farm Shop asked respondents to indicate if they had ever prepared each ingredient in a home recipe before. The answers were “never” for red beets (48%), fennel (79%), mustard greens (52%), curly kale (41%) and green garlic (52%). Many of these individuals however said they would now be more likely to prepare these ingredients at home based on what they learned in class. The cooking class series was a creative and delicious way to showcase the many benefits of subscribing to FarmShares, and plans are under way to offer additional classes in the fall focused on healthy eating around the holidays.

Capay Valley Farm Shop has delivered FarmShares to these two state departments since April 2013 and supports the increasing efforts at businesses and workplaces to provide employees with convenient access to fresh healthy food. Check out our Pick-Up Locations to see if there is a FarmShares site near you and contact info@capayvalleyfarmshop to bring FarmShares to your worksite. You can write to info@foodliteracycenter.org for more information on scheduling cooking classes in the Sacramento area.

You can see photos of our summer cooking series by “Liking” us on facebook and then check back often for news and recipes. To learn more about the Food Literacy Center, including how to get involved as a volunteer, please visit their website: http://foodliteracycenter.org/

By Ronit Ridberg

WHO WE ARE

We are a network of over 40 small, family farms that offers 100% local, seasonal food.

WHERE WE ARE

Our pick-up locations.
We currently serve the San Francisco Bay Area through public and private pick-up sites. Our public sites include: San Francisco Avedano's and Cheese Plus, Palo Alto Calafia Cafe, Redwood City The Grind.