Minnesota does get some ribbing for the abundance of gelatin-based salads that may appear at the typical neighborhood potluck or picnic here in this state. A colleague of mine has used the term fluffy salad to refer to some of those suspicious concoctions, which often seem a whole lot more like dessert than salad to me. Though they usually have some fruit in them, they also often have a box of fruit-flavored gelatin or instant pudding mix – or both – plus any number of other ingredients that have very little if anything to do with salad, like marshmallows, pieces of chocolate-covered shortbread cookies or even chunks of cut up candy bars. (Snicker’s salad, anyone?)
It’s time to reclaim the term salad once and for all. Let’s return to associating it with whole foods, fresh from the garden if possible. Now that is it the height of summer, we need not look beyond our state borders for delicious and nutritious salad ingredients. Indeed, summer may be the easiest time of the year to increase the amount of locally grown food we eat. A quick stroll through your local farmer’s market proves that seasonal fruits and vegetables are beautiful and plentiful by mid-summer.
Choosing locally grown is something you can feel good about, for the benefits to both your family and your community. First of all, fresh, unprocessed foods that have only made a short journey to your home tend to be tasty and nutrient-rich. And by supporting growers who live close to you, you are strengthening your local community and reducing the amount of energy spent on transporting, processing and packaging food before it reaches the consumer.
Where do you find locally grown food? If you don’t have fresh fruits and vegetables growing in your own garden, then local produce is as close as the farmer’s market. Visit any St. Paul farmer’s market and you’ll be buying directly from producers who pledge to sell food grown within 50 miles. The Minneapolis market does have local growers as well, but you may have to ask a few questions of your seller because resellers are also permitted in Minneapolis markets. You can also look for the Minnesota Grown logo at your supermarket, or check the Minnesota Grown website to find farms and markets in your area who sell directly to consumers.
In mid-July, look for green and wax beans, kohlrabi, beets, peppers, cucumbers, and summer squash among the locally grown items for sale. Take home whatever strikes your fancy and turn it into a chopped salad. Some of my favorites include a beet salad made from cooked shredded beets and raw apple and a kohlrabi salad made a lot like coleslaw.
Locally grown fresh tomatoes are wonderful all by themselves, but also a welcome addition to any number of salads. Mixing them with a cucumber and a pepper, as in the recipe below, gives you a salad that’s the epitome of summer itself.
Marie’s Fresh Garden Relish
One of my mom’s specialties, this simple salad is a great addition to any summer meal.
2 large tomatoes
1 green pepper (sweet or hot – your choice)
6 – 8 green onions or a handful of chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of ground cayenne pepper (optional)
Chop all vegetables to a medium dice. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne, if desired.
By Anita Dualeh