root crops

Comfort food: Herby buckwheat with roots and 'shrooms, topped with a poached egg

There are some dishes you just crave. Mine: Buckwheat with sautéed roots and a poached egg. It's a go-to meal for any time of day, especially during the fall and winter months when root crops are abundant. It was my preferred breakfast of choice before a full day of working on the farm. It's satisfying, comforting, healthful and budget-friendly. All of these vegetables are in season and available at winter farmers' markets in your area (often for less money than at the grocery store!). If you're unfamiliar with buckwheat and have only had it in granola or mushy porridge form, you might dismiss this one but don't! In this recipe, buckwheat - a naturally gluten-free grain (actually, a fruit seed!) - is savory and enhances the flavor of the pan-steamed and -sautéed roots and 'shrooms. This recipe is adapted from Cythnia Lair's wonderful Feeding the Whole Family, and it's one to bookmark for sure. It calls for kasha, which is roasted or toasted buckwheat groats, but plain buckwheat groats work too!

Herby buckwheat with roots, 'shrooms and a poached egg


Breakfast of champions! (A.Gross, 2014)

Breakfast of champions! (A.Gross, 2014)

  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled chopped and diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, peeled, chopped and diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled (optional), chopped and cubed
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, cut and chopped
  • 1 cup buckwheat or kasha
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tbl of dried tarragon
  • 1 Tbl of dried rosemary
  1. In a large saute pan, heat the coconut oil. Add onions, celery, carrots, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes; saute until the onion is soft.
  2. Have your water boiled or ready to boil. Add potatoes, mushrooms, tarragon and rosemary to the pan; saute 2-3 minutes. Add buckwheat to the mixture and stir. Pour in boiling water. Turn heat to low. Cover pot and let steep 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed.
  3. Fluff up and season to taste.

Now, poached egg time. They sound intimidating, but they aren't. This recipe by Alton Brown is the easiest, least threatening that I can find...even though eggs are the least threatening ingredient possible! IF you can't wrap your brain around egg poaching, simply top the buckwheat mixture with a fried egg. Still delicious and satisfying!

Notes and tips:

  • Save your scraps! When you peel your veggies, save them to make stock. If you prepare your veggies in advance, make the stock and replace the 2 cups of water called for in the buckwheat recipe with your homemade stock. You can also save the stock for later use.
  • Switch up your roots! There are so, so many root crops that would be delicious in this recipe: parsnips, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, beets, turnips, salsify, celery root. Go to your local farmers' market or the produce department at the grocery store and experiment. Remember: Some roots take a little longer than others to cook, especially when you are preparing them on the stovetop. Take this into consideration when you are adapting the buckwheat recipe.
Glorious roots! (Photo taken at the Westport Farmers' Market, November 2013, A.Gross)

Glorious roots! (Photo taken at the Westport Farmers' Market, November 2013, A.Gross)

Winter, roots & the absence of greens: A lesson in patience

Winter, roots & the absence of greens: A lesson in patience

The moral of this winter: A commitment to locally grown food requires patience and understanding for both plants and the humans who grow them. Farmers: You're not doing anything wrong - it's just cold, so chill out. (That was a winter pun. Sorry. Ignore it.)

Winter work

Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.
— Sinclair Lewis

When people find out that I work on a farm during the winter in Connecticut, I do get a few odd looks and the usual set of questions like "There's stuff growing now?" "What do you do?" "Aren't you cold?" Farmers in New England no longer have the luxury of simply retiring for the colder months, and, as a farmworker, I don't really have the option or financial luxury of taking the winter "off." Demand for local food during the late fall to early spring is increasing among consumers, and many farmers are adapting - some begrudgingly - to fulfill this need.

If you watched the video, you should realize that there's nothing romantic or glamorous about winter growing. I've worked a few winter farm seasons now, and I'm still trying to make up my mind if I want to do season extension on my future farm...or if I should just pack up and move somewhere tropical. Some part of your body will always be cold, your nose runs, everything seems much heavier to lift and you seem to be even more beholden to the elements (i.e., loss of light, freezing temperatures that affect water use, the impending doom of snow, etc.) than usual. But, there is something sort of grounding (others may say "soul crushing") about experiencing a farm during these bleaker and starkly beautiful months of the year. Here's a glimpse into what's been going on in my world of early winter season farm work, including indoor farmers' markets, skinning greenhouses and harvesting roots and greens before the really cold temperatures set in.