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Now, what do I do with THIS?

This CSA season we've had so much abundance. And you have been using up all that delicious produce like a pro!

Well, mostly. We have been getting some question about what to do with that abundance of summer squash, tomatillos, and that confounding okra!

Getting to know OKRA

Let's talk about Okra first. When most of us are asked about okra, we remember what we've heard from seemingly everyone who's ever told us about it: it's "slimy". But then why is it a popular food for so many cultures? Clearly there are ways to enjoy okra, or so many people wouldn't choose to grow it and cook it, right?

So where did it come from? Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians by the 12th century B.C. Its cultivation spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The seed pods were eaten cooked, and the seeds were toasted and ground, used as a coffee substitute (and still is). Okra was introduced to the Caribbean and southern US in the 1700's. It became a popular part of creole gumbo dishes. To this day okra is quite popular in Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, India, the Caribbean, South America and the Southern U.S.

Why should we eat okra? Okra is low in calories but packed full of nutrients. The vitamin C in okra helps support healthy immune function. Okra is also rich in vitamin K, which helps your body clot blood.

So let's talk about the "slime" factor. Okra can release a mucilage when cooked, so there are two ways to best enjoy okra - either fast/dry cooked as in a quick fry, or cooked longer and slower, as in soups and stews, like gumbo, where this effect acts as an essential thickener to the recipe.

The flavor of okra pairs nicely with eggplant, curries, onions, lamb, beef, rice, peppers, tomatoes, dried apricots, coriander, oregano, lemon, salt, garlic and vinegar.

So don't fear the okra, embrace it! if you only have a few, toss them into that gumbo recipe! If you have a bit more, serve up some delicious garlic roasted okra that everyone is sure to gobble down, or try this lovely indian masala stir fry!

Summer Squash Squall

Just when we thought we had a handle on all that squash and zuchinni, it keeps on coming. Grateful for the abundance but lacking on motivation to cook the same old stuff, we think it's time to share a few more summer squash superstar recipes!

How about these Cheesy zucchini chicken meatballs shared with us from our very own Marianne? Thanks Mare, these look fabulous!

Here's the recipe!

Not feeling like chicken or cheese? I absolutely LOVE these vegan zucchini corn fritters! the batter keeps well and you can serve a family dinner or keep these for breakfast lunch or dinner throughout the week! Sooo delicious. And it uses our corn from the CSA too!

Use up that veggie bounty

Got an extra eggplant, squash, a tomato or two, bell pepper, etc., hanging around? This Morrocan chickpea tagine will make use of all of it, in one delicious dish. I served it over left over cooked quinoa and it was a huge hit!

While you're at it, use up what you've got in this delicious pineapple veggie stir fry. the veggies you put in are up to you! I put in some string beans and snap peas and carrot and bell pepper, plus a little broccoli I had. That's the beauty, you can use up what you have, including the cooked rice from a day or two earlier. Easy peezy! Add some tofu, or chicken, or whatever protein you like on top!

Summer Sweetness

We have been fortunate to have quite a few watermelons come our way already. I have been using them in savory salads as well as just watermelon cubes for snacks and desserts, I decided to step it up a little bit and make a super yummy watermelon sorbet. My mom is a huge italian ice fan, so i tried this one on her, and she LOVES it.

If you want it a little sweeter, i just added a couple tablespoons of maple syrup and it was great.

What to do with all those Herbs?

Sometimes we get a choice of savory herbs from Farmer John, and some people don't take them. I understand- I mean, what do you DO with a bunch of fresh thyme, for example? Well, here's a few ideas:

Fresh thyme goes great with roasted veggies and casseroles, and is an important part of italian seasoning. Here's a link to so, so many wonderful and simple ideas to use that delectable bunch of thyme.

One more thing to do with these fresh herbs, is to just hang them and dry them! That's exactly what I did with my bunches of thyme. Then i took the little leaves off the stems, and blended into powder, in my VitaMix (or other high speed blender).

That doesn't seem so amazing, but in these times (no pun intended), you can save the money on buying an expensive little jar, and you will be amazed at the difference in freshness. For example, I blended mine up this morning, and threw into an empty spice jar i kept around for just such an occassion. (Pardon the messy labeling, I was in a rush!).

I was so amazed by the color intensity, that I took a picture of an organic thyme jar I bought in the store earlier this year, on the right, versus the freshly ground thyme I made this morning. Just by looking, there is no question which is more fresh!

Store bought earlier this year on the left, and fresh ground this morning on the right. Both are organic. Look at this color difference. (Pardon my sloppy labeling.) But, my goodness, look at that!

I hope this inspires you to use the herbs that are here for you at the CSA! Waste not, want not!

That's about all for this time, friends! I hope you try new ways of enjoying your plentiful bounty this CSA season!

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