By: Mac Stone, Farmer & Owner, Elmwood Stock Farm
Folks new to local and seasonal eating often speak of all the “new” vegetables they have been learning to enjoy. I would contest there are no “new” vegetables, only new, or revived, varieties of the same ones I have been growing for six decades now—yes, I started when I was a mere child, even though I didn’t like most of them—and others have been growing for centuries. Over the years I have matured into liking most all of them and have expanded the repertoire of how to consume them. Mom and Dad would be so proud of me. Good nutrition starts with breakfast, so that’s the best place to square up your diet.
I’m good for two or three eggs a day, most every day, since I started raising laying hens. Eggs remain the focal point of my morning meal. For one reason, protein in the morning sticks with me through a busy workday on the farm.
Even with eggs as a staple, my vegetable servings are vital. When I held a leadership position with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, I was surprised to discover there were no vegetables offered at the State Fair opening day kick-off Commodity Breakfast. The next year—and every year since, I presume—watermelon, cantaloupe and sliced homegrown tomatoes were Kentucky proudly offered to the guests. The eggs, cheese, lamb sausages, country ham, ribeye and fried catfish were still the center of the plate, but the horticulture industry had arrived and was welcomed by most.
Being in the throes of heirloom-tomato season, a couple of times a week I cut a thick slab of Cherokee Purple, bigger than the slice of grainy, seedy bread dressed with mustard and mayo., I fold a fried egg(s) on top, layer on a grilled-the-day-before grass-fed beef-sausage patty, and cap it all off with six or eight lettuce leaves and the other slice of bread, only for convenience of eating. One must prepare to undertake a sandwich marvel like this, so grab a couple of napkins and wade in. Neither half of this sandwich can be put down once the first bite disrupts the architecture, so I’m all in until it’s down the hatch. What an awesome start to getting in my first two servings of vegetables for the day.
Most days I don’t have time for such egg-sandwich indulgences and simply put some purposely saved-back sautéed greens or a bed of arugula in a bowl or jar, smother with two or three fried eggs, some days an avocado on top, and head out the door. That’s still two vegetable servings.
Since we eat salads most evenings, we tend to keep salad fixins in the fridge. To change up breakfast a bit, I might brown some onions in a small skillet, throw in leftover roasted root veggies, shredded kale or spinach from the salad stash, plus diced tomatoes for a few seconds before dousing the whole to do with two or three beaten eggs for an omelet extraordinaire. Not sure how many vegetable servings that counts for, but it sure is good, especially with a heavy hand of salsa on top.
We tend to use steamed greens for the bed of our taco salads, rather than chips, and the same setup works for huevos rancheros. The mornings after a hearty taco bowl, I rob from the leftovers for a Southwest-inspired breakfast of two fried eggs over taco fixins with salsa and plenty of shredded lettuce. I sit down to eat these breakfasts, as well.
The real action comes in with our “green drinks”—smoothies to some. While veggie juicing is popular and good for you, we went the Ninja Bullet route to capture all the fiber and whatever is not juice. In goes the heavy greens—kale or collard, or broccoli or swiss chard—the darker the better, though lettuce or arugula will do in a pinch; then an apple, carrots or beets, depending on what’s on hand; and a banana, which makes it creamier. I add just the right amount of water, give it 10 or 15 seconds of whirring, and add three or more veggie servings, deliciously prepared, to start my day. I usually chug my half of the smoothie on my way out the door, whereas Ann savors hers over the course of the morning. If you are of the smoothie ilk but not ready for fluorescent-green drinks in the morning, you could try adding veggie powders or carrots or most anything as a way to get more veggies into your diet. Your microbiome benefits from raw veggies, since cooking takes some of the goodies out.
Breakfast for supper is a fairly common family tradition for many, but don’t leave supper food out of your breakfast. The vegetables are not new, but be creative in new ways of eating them. Your health will reward you for it, and with fresh, local ingredients, the flavors compound one another.
—Mac Stone, Elmwood Stock Farm