Can't Beat It: Roasted beets drizzled with a touch of vinaigrette welcome fall.
By Stett Holbrook
The University of Vermont has some interesting data about the growth of the organic market. The organic foods industry alone grew by a whopping 17 percent in 2005 to reach $14.6 billion; nonfood products that are organic—including household cleaners, skin-care products and pet food—leapt forward 32 percent to $744 million in sales. That's starting to sound like real money.
True, many organic companies are owned by large, less-than-righteous corporations, and some argue organic standards are being watered down by agribusiness, but it's hard to dispute the benefits of an industry that uses no pesticides, herbicides and other nasty stuff that's better left off your food.
To make shopping for organic and sustainably produced products easier, the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE), a New York–based environmental advocacy group, has relaunched its excellent Eat Well Guide at www.eatwellguide.org. The concept behind the website is to link consumers looking to buy meat, poultry, dairy and eggs with local farmers and markets.
"Often, families who want to eat sustainably feel locked into buying mass-produced meat from factory farms because they don't know where to find healthier alternatives," says GRACE president Alice Slater. "As families prepare for the upcoming holiday season, the Eat Well Guide provides an easy way for them to exercise more choice in what they feed their families for the holidays."
To use the site, you simply enter your ZIP code, and up pop several producers in your area. Another great, map-based site for locating sustainably produced products is at www.localharvest.org.
As the summer produce begins to wane, you needn't turn to canned vegetables or out-of-season produce from Chile. Winter vegetables will soon abound, and they complement the slow-cooked, heartier foods that are so satisfying when it's cold outside.
Brussels sprouts These golf-ball-sized members of the cabbage family have suffered more abuse than civil rights under John Ashcroft. Treated properly, they're delicious and high in Vitamin C. The main crime against them is overcooking, which makes them bitter. The best method is to blanch them and then sauté in butter or olive oil. Sautéing with chopped bacon and Dijon mustard is especially good.
Butternut squash The great thing about this peanut-shaped squash is that it's so easy to prepare. Split in half, clean out the seeds, dab with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg, and bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. Eat and enjoy.
Beets Unlike the purple slabs that come in cans, fresh beets come in a variety of colors like gold, pink, candy-striped and red. Chiogga beets are some of the best. Steamed and served hot with just salt and pepper or cold in vinaigrette, beets are a star vegetable.
Broccoli raab Also called rapini, broccoli raab has vaulted from its status as Italian peasant fare to a trendy vegetable. Sautéed with garlic and olive oil, it's great coupled with Italian sausage for pasta.
Parsnips Parsnips are carrots' more interesting cousin. Their subtly, spicy-sweet flavor makes them a great winter vegetable. Roast to a golden brown or steam and purée and add to mashed potatoes.
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