Seasonal Food for Spring Wellness in March

Local Foods Available in March in Maryland

March for a locavore is a month where creativity in the kitchen shines. Winter storage crops need to be eaten, fermented, or planted for this year’s harvest. Spring foods are just now ready or will be soon. Summer crops can be planted in protected places (like greenhouses) or are waiting their turn in the garden. Eggs and milk are plentiful right now though so partake as you like!

Fresh Seasonal Foods available in Maryland in March
Winter Storage Foods available in March in Maryland

Abundance vs Lack

One of the more challenging mental aspects of eating primarily local food relates to feelings of “lack” or “missing out on my favorites”. We understand on an intellectual level that we enjoy the abundance of options which is present right now, but we still want access to our favorite foods or our standard fare. This is most definitely a philosophical quandry that spills into all parts of life. It relates to the concept of detachment without the loss of love, caring, and feeling. It relates to us each feeling that we have “enough”.

In the context of being a locavore (someone who eats primarily local food), it means embracing that some foods are simply not available year round. Let’s take strawberries. These delectable bundles of red goodness are irresistible when picked fresh of the plant in May and June. They are less yummy a week later (potential travel time for food to get to your local grocery store). Strawberries grown on another continent, harvested early, ripened artificially, and shipped to you cost way more than they are worth for taste and nutrition. So, we delight as much as we want in fresh berries in season. We preserve strawberries whole in the freezer for winter smoothies, quick small batches of jam, and whatever else pleases your palate.

Did you know that chicken salad is a seasonal food? Winter Chicken Salad has kale, carrots, and apples all dressed in mayonnaise and mustard. In the summer, a local focussed recipe can’t possibly have those same ingredients without advance planning (frozen shredded kale and dried apples!). Summer Chicken Salad involves a light vinaigrette dressing, seasonal vegetables, and maybe a light grain addition. What about Spring you say? Check out the recipe below and you will see!


Trying New Local Fare might Spark some Questions by Next Step Produce

Next Step Produce is an 86-acre certified-organic farm located in Southern Maryland. We are a four-season farm cultivating diverse grains, dried beans, vegetables, and fruit. Since our inception in 2000, our specialties have evolved, and continue to do so. One thing remains the same – in our practices, we strive to make a viable, regenerative, and often adventurous contribution towards a local food system. When we were asked “Why grow rice?”, the answer was: “Because we eat rice.”

Next Step Produce logo

I once met someone, who upon discovering that I was an organic farmer, proclaimed her dislike that “organic food costs more for less”. I was initially silenced by my lack of understanding. “Is she inferring that organic food is less nutritious?” I thought. It turned out that her understanding was that conventional farmers use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and such, while organic farmers simply do not, and are therefore doing less work for more money. This was a new misconception to me.

Planting at Next Step Produce

I then proceeded to reply, but it was clear that she did not want an answer. After all, as I said, she did not ask a question, but rather made a proclamation. I find it unlikely that she came to this conclusion having had any discussions with farmers themselves, as was the opportunity at that moment.

I am always excited when I meet someone who works in a different field than others whom I know. And I like to ask those people when I meet them, say childcare workers or police officers, “what have your experiences taught you people need to know about your line of work?” I think everyone deserves to be asked that question.

So, please, feel free to ask questions! These times demand greater connection and communication, not less. We hope to offer a farm tour sometime throughout the season. This will be a good time to ask questions. And sometimes, when questions don’t even come to mind, it is because any form of connection has yet to be made. There is much validity to the saying: “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”. This makes a farm tour a good start! In the meantime, trying new local fare might spark some questions.

Sunchoke Fermentation Workshop

Increasing nutritional value and digestibility

Fermenting Sunchokes

March marks the beginning of spring in a very real way in Southern Maryland (as opposed to Quebec, where I am from).  The goal for us at Next Step Produce is to have spring wheat, oats, mustard seeds, sunchokes, carrots, and onions planted outside by March.  As the sunchoke’s eyes begin to bulge this time of year, it is time to plant them or ferment them.

Sunchokes are one of the few foods, cultivated on some scale, that are native to our continent, and because they are not widely cultivated, it is only those of us who seek out local fare who will even have access to these native tubers of the sunflower family.  These things I’ve always been eager to share about sunchokes.  One thing, though, that I have not ever been so eager to share is that they are also known as “fartichokes”… because they frequently cause gas.  We are finally going to address this here and now!  They do not ever cause gas when fermented! The issue is that the inulin cannot be broken down by the human digestive system, but is metabolized by bacteria in the colon, therefore causing flatulence.  Let the microbes do that before you eat them, and you will steer clear from any gassy effects.  Plus, fermenting is the only form of preservation that actually increases the nutritional value of food, including and particularly increasing zinc and vitamin C.  Preserving food is an important way to add variety to seasonal offerings.  I have found sunchoke fermentation to be an ideal gateway into the world of cultured foods: they are easy and always a success!

After selling sunchokes throughout the winter months, and planting them this past week, we have about 30 lb of sunchokes left over. We would be happy to share these with you, but as I said, at this point they best be planted or fermented.  We will therefore be making a workshop out of them!   We will wash them together, and then we will set them up for fermentation.  You will leave with a quart of fermenting sunchokes, and if you want to take some home to plant, this will be an opportunity to do that as well.  Springtime, like fall, is a great time to learn the art of fermentation since the technique used for sunchokes would be the same as one would use for fermenting spring beets and carrots, or summer cucumbers and okra. 

Sunchoke Fermentation Workshop Details

When: 1-3 pm Sunday, March 28th, 2021
Where: Outdoor prep area, Next Step Produce, 10615 Benton Road, Newburg, MD 20664
RSVP: To register email farmers@nextstepproduce.com with RSVP in the subject line. Deadline to register is Friday, March 26th.
Cost: $10
What to bring: A vegetable brush and a glass quart jar with a lid. I will supply the rest. Optionally, though, you might want to bring some of your favorite herbs or spices. The following would pair well: dill seed/weed, coriander, peppercorns, anise seed, and fennel seed. Also, Lemon rind adds a really nice touch if you have that.
What I will supply:  Sunchokes, salt, bay leaves, mustard seeds, garlic.
What you will leave with: A quart of fermented sunchokes ready to eat in 10 days and knowledge to carry you forward on your journey of cultured foods!


Ode to Ham by Longview Farm

At Longview Farm, we raise our cows, chickens and pigs humanely and do not feed them hormones, antibiotics, growth stimulants nor animal-by-products. We follow natural practices – no pesticides, no herbicides, no chemicals – growing heirloom tomatoes, salad greens and flowers. We take seriously our mission to protect open space and to raise delicious and healthy food the natural sustainable way.

Longview Farm Logo

Keats never wrote an ode to a smoked ham from a Berkshire pig finished on acorns, raised in the woods, fed a custom mixed locally grown barley/wheat feed ground fresh at a local Amish feed mill. Sadly, he limited himself to “beauty,” ignoring “delicious.” That’s what our hams and pork are.

There are so many reasons to buy locally grown food. Berkshires are a slow growing, great tasting breed of pig. Instead of living on concrete, they ambled around under tall oak, poplar, beech trees that have been growing here in Accokeek for over a hundred years. They root around in the dirt for grubs and bugs and roots, spending the day being a pig. They sleep, and wallow, and root. They hangout with other pigs and are waited on by me. Twice a day, I bring them a custom mix of locally grown barley and wheat feed freshly ground at a St Mary’s county Amish feed mill. This feed mix is a slow growing feed. Their fresh drinking water is from a well on the farm. Then come winter, after an autumn of eating acorns and other mast from the trees, they are sure to be delicious.

Pigs Rooting Around at Longview Farm

You may know about huge factory pig farms where pigs are born and raised on concrete, fed a quick growing mix of corn and soy, and never get to be pigs rooting around in the dirt for grubs and roots. Out of state and out of sight may be out of mind, and it’s certainly out of any taste. You may think that pork is meant to taste like cardboard, whether it’s a store bought pre cooked spiral cut ham, or a chop or even a smoked ham from legendary Chinese owned Smithfield. But pork doesn’t have to taste like nothing. It can taste exceptional, but how would you know if it’s not locally grown slowly.

Cacciatore salami from Prince Georges County…
Smoked hams like your great grandmother raised, slaughtered and cooked.
oh my…


The Manna Sent to Me by Chef Terrance Murphy

Chef Terrance: Intra-Extraverted appreciator of the complex & simple things alike. Baker of breads. Maker of live juices. Lover of all things nature provides.

Chef Terrance Murphy

After reaching a benchmark in my culinary career as Executive Chef for the Virginia Theological Seminary, I suffered a career stifling injury. What I didn’t know … couldn’t know … at the time of this calamity was how physically and emotionally unprepared I was for this ride.

My nerves were severely damaged in my dominant hand, wrist, elbow, & upper arm. My injury levels were depleted from persistent throbbing shooting pains & spasms in my extremity, yet I couldn’t get a consistent restful nights sleep from the pain. As a result I dreaded doing just about everything, including the activity that brought me the most joy for the past two decades; Creating new culinary delectables.

I AGONIZED.

Until one day while convalescing-channel surfing, I stumbled upon the Netflix series, “Chefs Table”. A particular episode covering the art & history of baking doughs completely arrested my attention. However these weren’t done with the commercial yeasts I used to make focaccia, pizza dough-balls, and the occasional dinner roll. This was something else. This dough appeared to be constructed using some form of liquid blob. This flour-water mixture was leavened with some type of air yeast?!?…I was mesmerized by this story of civilizations spanning continents and epochs, who alchemized these humble ingredients. It was a unifier. What’s extremely important to state about our ancient practice of making sourdough breads from various grains is the fact that; there’s a very real possibility without them we may not have evolved into the current modern society we know & sometimes love.

Seeded Sourdough Bread

Proceeding forward. I began meandering down my path of constructing a mother culture (sourdough starter), then on to baking loafs. It was pitiful, but encouraging. As I knew that no matter how mediocre these loafs were, I could only level up from here. This new niche addition to my culinary repertoire was also proving to be beneficial for rehabbing my hand & wrist. Kneading doughs are laborious for sure. Five years, hundreds of YouTube videos & 1000’s of recipes later I’m more excited than ever about all of the unique goodies I have yet to create with my Sourdough mother. What’s even more exciting is, the character & specific flavor expression using locally grown whole grains has brought to my breads. Next Step Produce‘s amazing flour has made the very humble loaf an elevated Dish unto its own….Let us remember the MANNA FROM HEAVEN, and treat it with the respect it deserves.


Vitamin C: Going Beyond Immune Support by Tracy Pritchard

Tracy Pritchard, CNS, LDN / Board-certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) and member of the Maryland State Board of Dietetic Practice (LDN), Tracy Pritchard works as a nutritionist at the Henry Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Lexington Park. Before discovering her passion for nutrition, she served 10 years in the US Marine Corps as a Logistics Officer. Wife and mother to three children, Tracy enjoys cooking, running, and blogging about nutrition.

Tracy Pritchard, Holistic Nutritionist

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. Since humans are unable to synthesize it, Vitamin C must be obtained from the diet. It is widely known to enhance immune system functions, such as shortening the duration of the common cold. Vitamin C also has many other functional roles in the body and is required in reactions related to collagen synthesis (an essential component of connective tissue involved in wound healing), carnitine synthesis, tyrosine synthesis and catabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis, and microsomal metabolism (i.e. inactivation and removal of toxic oxidants such as environmental pollutants).

Vitamin C serves as a reducing agent or electron donor thereby providing antioxidant activity and being able to reverse oxidation. It also works to regenerate other antioxidants such as Vitamin E and glutathione. Increased Vitamin C concentrations have also been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease by lowering risk factors including high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, improving endothelial function improvements, and reducing blood pressure. Studies have found those with a history of smoking, prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and/or obesity, have an increased requirement for Vitamin C.

The benefits of Vitamin C cannot be overlooked as we age. Since our skin is exposed to a plethora of challenges that can influence structure, function, and appearance, consumption of vegetables, fruits, and/or supplements may provide protection against changes commonly associated with aging skin for better maintenance and even prevention of damage. In addition to the benefits above, Vitamin C may also diminish the risks of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts which are major causes of blindness in older people.

Food sources of Vitamin C include primarily fruits and vegetables. Since Vitamin C is destroyed by heat, light, and oxidation, cooking and storage methods should be considered. In addition to citrus fruits, foods such as bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach along with other vegetables should be consumed to increase intake of this powerhouse vitamin. Vitamin C also increases the absorption of non-heme iron, increasing the bioavailability of iron from foods. High doses of vitamin C should be avoided in those with disorders involving iron metabolism and those predisposed to calcium oxalate kidney stones.

How will you get your Vitamin C today?


Organic Food Pickup in La Plata, Maryland


March Recipes with Seasonal Ingredients

Chicken Soup

Rich brothy chicken soup with aromatic vegetables
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Course: Main Course, Soup
Keyword: Immunity, March, Protein

Ingredients

  • 3 whole Free Range chicken breasts
  • 1 White onion, diced 
  • 3 Carrots (if using freshly harvested carrots, remove the tops and use the whole bunch)
  • 4 stalks Celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 eggs (duck eggs make a richer broth)
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 Tbsp dill weed, dried
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, dried or 3 Tbsp fresh
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth (homemade or store bought)
  • salt/dulse flakes and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In a pot, sauté all your veggies and garlic in olive oil for about five mins
  • Add in chopped chicken breasts and let sear if raw
  • Add in chicken broth, spices and rice
  • Bring to boil, turn heat to low and simmer for 45 mins
  • Once the chicken is cooked (if raw), scoop out one to two ladles of broth. Slowly add broth to egg yolk and lemon mixture so it doesn’t scramble.
  • Once combined, slowly add to soup. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Notes

Organic Ingredient Sourcing:
The Market: chicken breasts – cooked to save time!, duck eggs, Matiz Paella rice for extra flavor (but reduce recipe to 1/2 cup), Aneto chicken broth
Eat Well Natural Farm: carrots
Next Step Produce: garlic, many varieties of Newburg, MD grown rice
Recipe provided by The Market
 

How to Bake a Half Smoked Ham

Course: Main Course
Keyword: March, Protein

Ingredients

  • 1 Half Ham, Smoked, Bone in
  • 15 whole Clove buds
  • 1/4 cup Dijon style mustard
  • 1/2-3/4 cup Brown sugar, packed or Sucanat
  • 1 cup Apple Cider
  • 2 whole Onions, unpeeled, halved

Instructions

  • Preheat oven 350°
  • Peel skin from ham using a sharp knife score the fat in a diamond pattern about 1 1/2”
  • Line a shallow pan with aluminum foil & place ham in the pan on top of 4 onion halves. Insert a whole clove in each intersection. of the diamonds. Pour apple cider into the pan.
  • Bake 2 hour, basting frequently. It should be 135° when removed from the oven & 140° after resting for 15 minutes.

Notes

Organic Ingredient Sourcing
Longview Farm: bone in ham
Recipe contributed by Longview Farm

Any Herb Pesto

Any-herb pesto goes to show the power and flexibility of working with the seasons.  Don't limit yourself to basil pesto, and take recipes with a grain of salt.  Use them, not as a handicap, but as inspiration.  Rather than make a shopping list based on a recipe, let the seasonal offerings determine the recipe.  In March, any-herb pesto works deliciously with Cilantro!
Course: Appetizer
Keyword: Herbs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sunflower/pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2-5 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups herb leaves (see notes for suggestions)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower/olive/favorite oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sweet white miso optional, although highly recommended
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Grind nuts and garlic in a food processor until fine
  • Add the remainder of ingredients and grind again
  • Enjoy alongside roasted root vegetables, atop rice, spread on bread, or as pasta sauce!

Notes

Notes:
Possible herbs one could work with, individually or in combination:
Basil, celery leaves, cilantro, garden cress, mint, parsley
 
Organic Ingredient Sourcing:
Your Kitchen Counter or Next Step Produce: herbs
Susquehanna Mills: sunflower, hemp, and other oils
 
Recipe Contributed by Next Step Produce

Bread Loaf Recipe

Course: Side Dish
Keyword: Fermented, March

Ingredients

  • 440 grams Flour
  • 147 grams Water
  • 147 grams Milk
  • 75 grams Butter, softened
  • 50 grams Honey
  • 110 grams Sourdough starter
  • 8 grams Salt

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients and hand or using a dough attachment knead all ingredients until they are fully formed into a smooth dough ball. By hand this should take between 15-20 minutes by machine roughly 10-15.
  • Let rest for 10-15 minutes then shape into a taught ball. Lightly lube a bread loaf pan (preferably one with a lid) with butter. Place dough in loaf pan & allow to proof at room temp until it rises to the top of the loaf pan.
  • Either refrigerate until ready to bake or preheat oven to 425 degrees. Insert a bowl of water into the oven when ready to bake.
  • Cover loaf pan & bake for 10 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to 350 degrees & continue to bake for 15 minutes more.
  • Rotate loaf pan 180 degrees & bake 15 minutes more.
  • Remove lid & bake another 10 minutes until internal temp reaches 205 degrees.
  • Allow bread to rest outside of loaf pan for at least 1 hr before serving.

Notes

Organic Ingredient Sourcing:
Next Step Produce: whole grains and fresh milled flour
Recipe Contributed by Chef Terrence Murphy

Spring Chicken Salad

Light, filling all in one meal
Course: Main Course, Salad
Keyword: March, Protein

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
  • 2-3 cups roasted sweet potato cubes (great for leftovers)
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 orange or grapefruit, sectioned and chopped
  • 2-4 Tbs pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbs dried cranberries

Instructions

  • Chop everything to the size you like to eat
  • Throw it in a bowl (don't miss!)
  • Dress with our favorite or a mix of olive oil and ume plum vinegar

Notes

Notes:
This is best done using leftovers. Roast or crock pot cook a chicken, and use the little meat pieces for this salad. Cut up twice as many sweet potatoes into little cubes for roasting as you need and salve the extra for this salad. 
Organically Sourced Ingredients:
Next Step Produce: sweet potatoes and spinach
Longview Farm: Whole chicken
Recipe contributed by Zoa Conner

1 thought on “Seasonal Food for Spring Wellness in March

  1. Thanks for all the great information!

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