Locally Grown Bagged Lunches
by Vanessa Veltri
Make the most of this year’s harvest season by packing up a bagged lunch with locally grown goodies. Not only does autumn bless us with crisp air and glowing leaves, it also provides an abundance of nature’s bountiful produce and local delicacies. Take advantage of your neighborhood farmers’ market by stuffing your lunch sack with a variety of treats from the heart of the Hudson Valley.
Sandwiches Straight from the Stand
Not only do farmers’ markets and farm stands sell a plethora of produce, many of them offer a variety of hardy, local whole grain breads—the perfect ingredient for a delectable harvest sandwich. Try making free-range chicken salad or free-run egg salad sandwiches. Chop up some pears, apples, or grapes and toss them into these salads to give them a sweet and savory flavor explosion. Or keep it simple and put all those tomatoes to good use with a yummy tomato sandwich on local whole grain bread with just a smear of mayo and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. If you’re partial to deli meats visit applegatefarms.com, where you can order a variety of natural and organic deli slices such as organic herb turkey breast or natural hot soppressata.
If cheese is what you crave to bring your sandwich to a level of perfection, there are many cheese shops in the area offering a selection of locally made, organic cheeses. Visit Sprout Creek in Poughkeepsie, The Cheese Plate in New Paltz, The Cheese Barrel in Margaretville, or The Big Cheese in Rosendale. Slice up a wedge of organic brie and top it with crisp Granny Smith apples, and perhaps a layer of ham on a hardy bun, or grab some homemade goat cheese and pair it with a handful of spicy watercress and some vine-ripe tomato slices on fresh-baked pumpernickel. Visit a cheese shop near you and chat with a cheesemonger to learn more about the locally made organic cheeses available to you.
Add some extra nutrients and deliciousness to any sandwich by topping it with leafy greens such as arugula or baby spinach. You can even give your sandwich a little kick by adding some fresh herbs like basil or parsley. For an added treat, substitute the traditional mayo or mustard with a Sicilian spread called capuliata. This delicious condiment is simply a blend of sundried tomato, basil, hot pepper, and extra virgin olive oil; it gives any sandwich an added pop.
Don’t Forget the Sides
Need a little something to accompany your delectable sandwich? Think fresh fruits and veggies, which can be found in abundance this time of year. Slice up some carrots, celery, and peppers for a nutritious and satisfying supplement.
Plan ahead the night before and roast up any variety of squash, such as acorn or butternut squash. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and even a little maple syrup—a blessing of last year’s winter harvest. Then simply roast, and pack up in the morning. This is a side that tastes just as delicious at room temperature. Another favorite squash varietal is the spaghetti squash, which can also be served room temperature with a helping of homemade tomato sauce (don’t forget the basil).
What sandwich doesn’t go well with potato chips? Try making homemade potato chips or even better…sweet potato chips. Slice them up in thin rounds and fry them—or for a healthier choice, top with a bit of olive oil and bake until golden brown. Then add coarse salt to taste.
No lunch is truly complete without cucumber’s cousin, the pickle. These can also be found at many farmers’ markets in a wide array, including dill, garlic, and half-sour. For the greatest variety of everything and anything pickled, don’t miss this year’s Pickle Fest in Rosendale on November 20.
Dessert Doesn’t Hurt
With raspberries, apples, and pears being picked by the bushel this time of year, you can be sure pies are being filled up with these tasty morsels. Harvest your own and make an award-winning pie, or take the shortcut and pick up one or two at your local market or farm stand. Pumpkin pie is another favorite this time of year. With all its aromatic spices, you can practically taste autumn with every creamy mouthful. Grab yourself a slice and look forward to dessert the moment you open up your sack.
Many farmers’ markets will also present an assortment of organic baked goods, such as blueberry scones, currant muffins, and all types of buttery, crisp cookies. With all the mouth-watering fruits and berries harvested during the summer, there’s no end to the selection of homemade jams and jellies. Spread generously on your favorite baked good.
Local honey products can also be found this time of year. Locally-made yogurt topped with granola and a trickle of honey makes for a yummy encore. Or make use of the local maple syrup. Many farm stands will also offer nutrient-rich organic granola selections for that added boost of energy in your midday repast. Dessert is a treat that should not be neglected, especially when making local, healthful choices.
A Final Note
Whether you’re packing these wonderful local treats for yourself or your little darlings heading back to the schoolhouse, one thing is for sure—not only have you packed a lunch chock-full of nutrition and love, you’ve also supported your local farmers and Mother Earth.