A few days ago, I was rummaging around my mostly empty fridge, finally reaching way in the back to grab a bag of salad mix I had long forgotten. As you can imagine, I take home a lot of extra produce from the River Bluffs farm location. I didn’t remember bringing the bag of salad mix home though, and, upon further inspection I realized why. It was 25 days old. I smelled it. It smelled pretty good. There were a few small sprigs of frisee (chicory) that looked a little blanched out, but I detected no sogginess anywhere. I put it in a bowl, added a small amount of Italian dressing, and ate it – all of it. Frankly, it was much better than the average grocery store salad mix that’s well within it’s sell-by date. I was caught between surprise and pride, so, I took a picture of it.
I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised since we go to great lengths not only to sell our mixes fresh, but to handle them in such a way that they last a very long time in your fridge. Since our lettuces aren’t sprayed with anything, washing them is much easier. Multiple washings is really what degrades all lettuces and vegetables. This is why a lot of chefs ask for unwashed produce which they wash themselves during food prep. Another thing we do with our salad mix is dry the leaves immediately after spinning them. There’s an great video by Curtis Stone (The Urban Farmer) here that shows our method. We learned it from him.
Choosing good lettuce varieties is another way to deliver exceptional freshness. Like most small growers, we use the ubiquitous Salanova™ varieties, but we also use frisees, green and red oakleafs, green and red romaines, and we have a few tricks up our sleeve for the hotter months when we add amaranths, buckwheats, celosias, and malabar spinaches. If you discover little, tiny sprouts with powerful flavor in our mix, then Jessicca added some microgreens that week. During the hottest weeks in July and August, when it’s just too hot, muggy and buggy for growing salad, we rely on our Greens Production Unit at the River Bluffs farm location. We have found that leafy greens grown hydroponically don’t suffer from loss of “terrior-taste” like fruiting vegetables do. Check my rant on hydroponic/hothouse tomatoes in the bottom paragraph of a previous blogpost here. The abovementioned greens production unit has been recently upgraded since the addition of Randall Shapiro to our team. He is a lighting and hydroponic expert previously of the Sunlight Supply company and we are extremely fortunate to have him.
Now, my favorite mix is the one we have right now and will try to maintain year ’round: our Brassica mix. It consists of red and green pac chois, mizuna mustard, and broccoli leaves, plus, we often add microgreens to it for even more flavor and nutrition boost. In the field, it looks like this.
I wrote a decent article here in Porter’s Neck Plantation Life magazine describing the amazing flavor and health benefits in these Brassicas. I eat this mix with just a little bit of Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing to sweeten the mild zestiness of the mustards in the mix. You can also wilt it (very lightly!) with a quick saute in olive oil. I’ve been known to add it to sauteed spinach and even soups at the very last minute of simmering.
So, back to that salad mix stuck in the fridge for so long. Think about this. Our CSA Members get our mix in every box almost every single week of the year. And it’s harvested either the night befor or the morning of delivery right from our farm to their doorstep. Now that’s fresh!
P.S. As always. Sign up for the CSA here, and/or sign up for our newsletter here.