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Why we should eat local

Did you know that when you buy locally grown produce, you’re making a choice to do something that’s better for you and your family, but that also benefits your community and the environment? Well it’s true. Not only do you prevent the negative consequences that come from shipping, trucking and flying produce long distances, but you also boost the health and economic and cultural vitality of your community in ways you might not have thought about. Here are ten ways, both direct and indirect, that buying locally grown produce like Plenty’s benefits everyone.

Local means more genetic diversity. 
Modern large-scale farming favors plant varieties that produce high yields, can withstand packing, shipping and storage, and ripen uniformly for efficient harvesting. Over time, this has narrowed the options available to both consumers and farmers, which is why you see the same type of broccoli, the same three varieties of lettuce, and the same two varieties of nectarines (“white” and “yellow”) wherever you go. Local farmers do just the opposite; they seek out heirloom and other specialty varieties in a rainbow of hues and distinct flavors, extending their growing season with varying times to harvest.

Local is supporting your community.

Local leads to less waste.

Local is more nutritious.

Local contributes to cleaner air.

Local is safer.

The longer food is stored, the greater the risk it will rot or become contaminated. That’s why so many fruits and vegetables are treated with fungicides, disinfectants, gas, fumigants, coatings, and other chemicals. Buy local and you won’t have to worry about what’s been done to your food in the name of preservation.

Local brings people together.

Red Russian Kale

Kale

Its sweet flavor is particularly pronounced as a baby leaf, but that sweetness remains even at full maturity. Its long stems are reddish-purple with flat, toothed, dark green leaves, and is surprisingly tender.

RED RUSSIAN KALE WITH GARLIC AND LEMON 

PREP TIME 10 mins – COOK TIME 15 mins – TOTAL TIME 25 mins 

Serves: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large bunch of red Russian kale, washed, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup water
  • Juice of half a lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute or until it turns just golden.
  2. Add kale and stir until kale is fully coated with oil. Add salt, pepper and water. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until kale is soft and tender. Adjust seasonings and drizzle with lemon juice.
  3. Serve with your favorite meat.

You can order Red Russian Kale at the Arkansas Local Food Network from Arkansas Natural Produce.

Edible Flowers are the New Rage

After falling out of favor for many years, cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in vogue once again.  Flower cookery has been traced back to Roman times, and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures.  Edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era during Queen Victoria’s reign.

You can find edible flowers right here in Arkansas!!!

Arkansas Natural Produce: Malvern, AR

We have a year-round greenhouse facility that specializes in salad greens, with other vegetables in season. We use natural farming practices and have been in business since 1988. No synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or preservatives are used in the growing or packaging of our products.


This is our blend of edible flowers. They will include nasturtiums (which actually taste good) and other flowers to garnish your salads, entrees and desserts for those special occasions when an extra splash of color would be perfect for your dinner party.


Arkansas Dessert: Peaches, Pecans, & Honey

0EDB4F20-5A1A-43B6-B345-AD055F0D38EFWhat’s better than Arkansas peaches, spiced Arkansas pecans, and Arkansas honey? Well…nothing really! Grab them from our online market before they’re gone, and try out this delicious recipe from Woman & Home:

Ingredients:
4 peaches, halves and stones removed
4 TBS butter
2 TBS honey
A handful of spiced pecans

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the peaches cut side up on a baking sheet, and place half a tablespoon of better in the center of each peach
  • Drizzle honey over peaches
  • Crush pecans and scatter over peaches
  • Roast for 10-15 minutes. Try serving with creme fraiche or ice cream!

Deciphering Labels: Certified Naturally Grown vs. Certified Organic

In today’s world, figuring out what a food label actually means is no easy task. Marketers are savvy to our desire to be as healthy and environmentally conscious as possible, and their packaging has a way to skirting around the truth in order to sell that message.

Shopping at a Farmers Markets can reduce the mental aerobics that happen at the supermarket. Growers from the farm are right there to answer your questions, and their labeling isn’t crowded with hyperbole and a grab-bag of health claims. Two common labels that you will see at a farmers market are the USDA’s “Certified Naturally Grown” and “Certified Organic”. What exactly do these labels mean?

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Let’s begin with what came first: Certified Organic. The National Organic Program is the federal agency that administers the USDA organic certification, and was created in 2000.  To become Certified Organic, a farmer cannot grow using anything from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (mandated by the Secretary of Agriculture). Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and when a synthetic substance is used for a specific purpose, it must be approved on criteria that examines its effect on human health and the environment. Getting a Certified Organic seal can take several years of advance preparation – standards state that organic crops must be grown on land that has been free from prohibited pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers for three years proceeding growth. After a farm has completed the requirements and a National Organic Program agent has made a site visit and filed a favorable report, maintaining the certification is an ongoing process that requires daily record keeping and data collection. The cost to becoming certified organic varies substantially by which certifying agent you choose (dependent on location), and can be as much as $1,500 per farm.

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For many small farmers, the cost and paperwork required to received a certified organic label is prohibitive and cost-ineffective. That’s why a group of farmers created the the Certified Naturally Grown certification organization, the “grassroots alternative to certified organic”. The CNG label is no less strict in it’s requirements than Certified organic – all produce must still be grown without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified organisms. Certified Naturally Grown farmers are required to submit to an annual inspection and pay an annual fee. In contrast with the NOP, where inspections are conducted by a USDA-accredited certifying agency and third-party inspectors, CNG farms may be inspected by other CNG farmers, non-CNG farmers, extension agents, master gardeners and customers, with CNG farmers being ideal.

So next time you’re shopping for produce online or at the farmers market and see a lack of “certified organic” growers, don’t be discouraged! Ask instead if a vendor is certified naturally grown. These practices still produce food that is safe and delicious to eat. Stay tuned for the launch of our new website – you will be able to sort vendors by their certification!

 

3 Ridiculously Delicious Cheeses and How to Cook With Them

So you decided to venture out of the Kraft section of the cheese aisle and delight your tastebuds with some real cheesy goodness. The cheese case can be a disorienting place for someone who isn’t familiar with the vast variety available. With the wide the range of flavor profiles, you very well may end up spending money on a cheese that you absolutely hate!

We’re giving you the rundown on 3 simple artisan cheeses and how to easily incorporate them into your next meal or snack.

Halloumi

The Big Easy.

If you’re cheese-shy and err on the side of less intense flavors, halloumi will quickly become your new favorite cheese. Its mild flavor profile and semi-soft quality make it incredibly easy to incorporate into different dishes. Our recommendation – grill it!

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Want it as a snack? Try this recipe for grilled halloumi with basil cannellini hummus (and if you don’t want to bother with making your own hummus, pair it with a flavorful Geek Eats variety). If you need something heartier, try this Moroccan Lamb Burger with grilled halloumi and pistachio salad (we’re salivating just thinking about it!). White River Creamery carries an amazing array of halloumi, including plain, triple pepper, and garlic and chive.

Goat Gouda

The sweet smooth talker. 

Not everyone is a fan of goat cheese, true. But I challenge anyone with that sentiment to try goat gouda. This cheese has a sweet, cooked-milk taste to it, and adds a salty caramel quality to food.

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For a decadent snack, try this butternut squash goat cheese dip. If you’re in need of a 45-minute dinner, make this apple gouda stuffed chicken breast. Again, even if goat cheese isn’t normally your thing, don’t knock goat gouda until you’ve given it a try!

Feta

Salty and tangy

Feta may not seem like an edgy cheese choice, but swapping out normal feta for a marinated variety can kick up the flavor profile of any dish. Crumbly, tangy, and salty, greek marinated feta appeals to most people when used in combination with savory and sweet meat dishes (think Greek food!).

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For your next lunch or easy dinner, try this Greek olive pesto and fried zucchini grilled pitas!Greek olive pesto and fried zucchini grilled pitas! This recipe includes instructions on how to marinate the feta yourself, but you can cut yourself the time and buy this delicious Greek Marinated Feta from White River Creamery.

Community Cookbook: Broccoli Soup

Today we’re sharing a delicious, simple soup recipe featuring something that is currently abundant in Arkansas…broccoli!

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Broccoli Soup

Recipe by Tifany Hamlin

1 large head broccoli, rough chop
1 large onion, diced
1 cup carrots, rough chop
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
4-6 cups vegetable broth or water
Sea salt & pepper, to taste
2-3 tbsps olive or coconut oil

  1. In a large soup pot, heat oil to a shimmer and sauté onions and carrots with a little salt until translucent and light golden brown.
  2. Add broccoli and potato. Cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add broth, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover slightly and cook for another 30-40 minutes or until potato and broccoli are fork tender.
  4. Remove from heat and blend soup (using a stick blender or a stand blender in small batches) until all veggies are not longer visible. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with a drizzle of crème fraîche or good olive oil.