(Burnsville, Minnesota)
Valley Natural Foods
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What's FRESH & LOCAL in December?

Nature and local producers collaborate to bring us fresh succulent green and red gifts this month. Even after we have been gifted with a moisturizing blanket of pure white snow, local producers still deliver FRESH & LOCAL at Valley Natural Foods (Burnsville, Minnesota) including lush deep green upland cress, crisp bright green and white bok choy, crinkly red bib lettuce and juicy rich red vine-on tomatoes.

Look closer at the bunches of upland cress (the hydroponic version of native watercress and also called winter cress) in the produce department and you’ll notice long white roots have grown in water rather than soil.
Hydroponics is the official name and it’s a splendid way for us to be gifted with fresh local produce through our winter. Michele Keller, owner of LaBore Farms of Faribault, Minnesota, has been growing chemical-free hydroponic greens since 2004. Her co-op and restaurant customers are amazed and satisfied, proclaiming these water-loving winter veggies, including her upland cress and red bib lettuce, to be crisper, fresher, tender and sweeter.

A dark green member of nutrient-dense Brassica family along with broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard and turnip greens, upland cress offers a spicy bold flavor. A bouquet of this winter cress will cheer up your kitchen counter for about a week, if the roots are supplied with fresh water. Upland cress will give a healthy peppery punch to your sandwiches or wraps, mixes well with other salad or smoothie greens, can be chopped or pureed into soups and offer a lively raw, steamed or sautéed compliment to fish or meat.  A holiday salad idea from a local chef who uses LaBore Farms upland cress is to toss it with red Craisins, chopped walnuts or pecans and light balsamic vinaigrette. Sprinkle goat or other favorite crumbly cheese on top, as desired. The red bib lettuce delivered from LaBore Farms also offers an excellent FRESH & LOCAL accompaniment to healthy holiday salads and sandwiches.

Throughout December, Harmony Valley Farm gifts us with fresh organic bok choy, grown in an isolated southwestern Wisconsin valley near Viroqua. Bright green bok choy has a mild crunchy taste with thick juicy sweet white stalks and an even-sweeter “choy sum” heart. A Chinese member of the Brassica family and the healthiest type of cabbage, one cup of bok choy has roughly the same amount of calcium as ½ cup of milk, as well as rich in fiber, Vitamins A and C and potassium, with only about 20 calories. Great eaten raw, lightly steamed or stir fried, be sure to slice off and discard about ¼ inch at the base and thoroughly rinse off any collected dirt within the stem. Harmony Valley is a family-owned farm that has been growing high quality vegetables and berries while nourishing their family, soil, nature and customers for over 30 years.  

Don’t forget to consider the healthy holiday possibilities for the fresh and cheery red vine-on tomatoes, delivered from the hydroponic greenhouses of Living Water Gardens, 100 miles southwest on the outskirts of Wells, Minnesota. With each juicy bite, envision an acre of greenhouses “full of life, full of water and full of healthy nutrients” tended through Minnesota winters by producer Steve Klingbeil, his wife Miriam and their daughters.  The Klingbeils have grown nearly 7,000 hydroponic tomato plants for the past 17 years, from seed to maturity, without pesticides or containments. Now that’s FRESH & LOCAL!

Want more inspiration for eating FRESH & LOCAL?

1) Stop by my FRESH & LOCAL demo at Valley Natural Foods on the second Tuesday of each month from 11 to 2, including December 13 and January 10. Enjoy tasty samples and recipes, receive free coaching to create a FRESH & LOCAL healthy kitchen, and pick up a colorful catalog of all our healthy classes and educational opportunities.

2) Sign up at least one week ahead for my FRESH & LOCAL class on the third Tuesday of each month, including December 20 and January 17. Call Customer Service at 952.891.1212, Ext. 221. Only $15 for members and $18 for non-members per class (ask about a discount coupon).

3) Keep reading my FRESH & LOCAL blog each month here at Local Harvest and at

FRESH & LOCAL health coach Loris Sofia Gregory is based in Apple Valley. Explore more at Contact her directly at 952.431.5586 or Loris would love to hear your ideas and needs for eating FRESH & LOCAL, and request her monthly healthy recipes if you miss her demos or classes.

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