When I first saw Scott Smith, the first organic farmer at North Carolina Farmers' Market in Raleigh, he was telling a French family about Southern greens. Some people find collards bitter, he said. But many kids like to eat the stems raw.
Scott broke off a piece of raw collard stem and offered it to Dylan (right) and his mother. "Try it," Scott urged. "It's sweet."
Dylan hesitated, bit, and broke into a big smile. "It's good!"
Scott offered me a piece of raw collard stem, too. They were right: it is sweet! Collard stems are crisp and stringy like celery, but with a sweet, spring-green flavor like Sugar Snap Peas.
Now this is flat-out amazing. You may know about my mission to get people to cook collard stems instead of throwing them away. I never dreamed of enjoying them (enjoying them!) raw. If this doesn't work for you or your kids, you may be supertasters, having a pair of genes that causes you to taste a bitter component in collards, turnips, and some vegetables no matter what.
And unlike Sugar Snap Peas, collard stems are available all winter. They are full of calcium, antioxidants, vitamins, and even protein. Cheap, long-lasting, and good for you—now that's sweet!
I'm so excited to see Heaven on Earth Organics at the State Farmers' Market in Raleigh. Although this big market has the best variety of conventionally grown produce, very few vendors offer any organic or even "spray free" produce. Even though the State Farmers' Market is less than five miles from my house, I've often drive to Durham or to the newer Western Wake Farmers' Market for organic or sustainably grown produce. Heaven on Earth Organics sells most of its produce to grocery stores, which makes local, organic produce available all day, every day throughout the region.
Scott is a passionate grower, saying that God told him that it was his mission to grow wholesome food for people. Whether the fabulous produce is due to miracles or mulch, he's my kind of food evangelist. Scott told me about offering people who say they can't afford to go organic a free tomato or sweet potato. He hopes that if people taste his vegetables, they will understand the value of well-grown food and come back for more.
Even in mid-December, the selection was heaven on earth. The variety will keep us in vegetables: bell peppers, sweet potatoes, radishes, dark Tuscan kale, mustard, red cabbage, salad mix, arugula, and of course collards. Scott even offered me a slice of a red tomato grown outside ("in the dirt" not hydroponic), protected from early frosts with plastic sheeting. It was so good I took three tomatoes home, to the surprise of my Taster who wasn't expecting fresh tomatoes until late June.
The next day, one of my friends was complaining about the lack of organic produce at the State Farmers' Market. "I bring you tidings of great joy," I said with smile, and told her about Heaven on Earth Organics.