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Devouring diversity of produce: 7k students sample local, seasonal food in program’s fifth year

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union
Salad turnips, May’s featured taste, is closer to a radish than a traditional turnip. Also known as Japanese turnips, salad turnips are tender, sweet, white roots that can be eaten raw, or gently cooked.
Submitted photo |

May is winding down. After a long, brutal winter, the heat has returned and summer is just around the corner. This is the time of year when it’s hard to concentrate. We’re not yet used to the heat, and there’s still school and work to contend with.

While most of us are still adjusting to the new longer, hotter days, our local farmers have been in overdrive getting fields planted and catching up after a wet winter. To the relief of many, California is officially out of drought conditions. This means growers will have enough water this season to cultivate abundant crops — which is a win for all of us. Fruit trees are laden, reservoirs are full — the summer’s bounty is promising.

As we prepare for summer, let’s look back on all that this year’s harvest of the month had to offer.

This past school year, as part of Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School programming, 7,000 students at 24 schools tried over 8,000 pounds of local, seasonal, organic fruits and veggies. And we’re not just talking about apples! In this fifth year of school tastings, students munched their way through plums, lunchbox peppers, purple, orange and white cauliflower, romanesco, pomegranates, collard greens, blood and cara cara oranges, kiwis, kumquats, snap peas and salad turnips.

There are plenty of adults who have never tried many of these items. The last item on the list is the unassuming salad turnip — May’s featured taste. Closer to a radish than a traditional turnip, they’re easy to grow and even easier to eat. Also known as Japanese turnips, salad turnips are tender, sweet, white roots that can be eaten raw or gently cooked. A true farmer’s market treat, many local growers have salad turnips available throughout the growing season. Mountain Bounty Farm grew the turnips for May’s tastings.

If you’re new to this whole “local food movement,” do yourself a favor and check out Mountain Bounty Farm. This CSA farm is celebrating its 20th year in operation, and their experience shows. CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture,” a model in which eaters pay upfront for a weekly share of fresh food during the growing season. Starting with just 48 subscribers in 1997, the farm now packs a whopping 700 boxes of local, seasonal food each week, year round.

Mountain Bounty grows gorgeous produce that you can get through the CSA, or buy directly at the Nevada City Farmer’s Market. The farm has 20 pickup locations locally and as far afield as Truckee and Reno, as well as a new service to put your produce on a two-week “vacation hold.” Boxes contain a diversity of veggies as well as a newsletter detailing recipes to try.

So, when your kids come home asking for more of those turnips they tried at school, it just might be time to get a CSA subscription and do your own Harvest of the Month at home!

Amanda Thibodeau is director of the Farm to School program at Sierra Harvest.

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