An al FreshCo Lay of the Land in 2020

It’s 2020 and we’ve evolved a bit since starting a full six years ago!

An Increasing Palette of Local Ingredients

Our mission remains the same of offering 100% locally and responsibly grown produce in the meal kits, and I’m happy to report that our local farming landscape has become even more vibrant than it had been in 2014, despite rising land values in the Boston area, which poses increasing pressure on farmers to compete with development for space to grow food. We are offering more value in the meals with beautiful fresh, cultivated mushrooms, wild-harvested sea vegetables from the crisp Maine oceans, more locally grown grains like pearled barley by Maine Grains and freshly- milled wheat from Alprilla Farm on the North Shore, and an abundance of vegetables from the farm where I work in Dover, in addition to Upswing Farm, Neighborhood Farm, Natick Community Organic Farm, Farmer Tim’s, among others.

Vegetables: We still only use vegetables that are grown in Eastern Mass from farmers we know and trust, and have quickly come to love! Many of the week-to-week vegetables we have in the kits are grown by us, the al FreshCo crew, in Dover at a CSA Farm. We are working on integrating more winter greens, which may make an appearance in late March in the kits, and we are experimenting with growing ginger this year! We have been learning what you all like to eat over the winter, and have gotten into a great routine of putting up thousands of pounds of tomatoes, peppers and spinach. We made a lot of harissa this year as well, with Farmer Tim’s beautiful carmine peppers, grown by Farmer Katie and her crew. We roasted the peppers and milled them into paste, and have been enjoying it in the harissa and on some polenta dishes.

Spices: Perhaps you’ve noticed all the new flavors in the meals! In line with our values of sourcing responsibly, we have been using meyer lemons we preserve ourselves from Fairview Orchards in Ojai, CA. It’s a beautiful way to take advantage of their excess harvest in March and April, and enjoy the bright and beautiful rays of sunshine that are their meyer lemons in our meals. We’ve been spending more time in the kitchen on our sauces and spice mixes overall, which includes getting more of our own fresh garlic into the mix: we hope you taste the difference! Plus any sugar we use in the kitchen is my own maple syrup that I make with 65 trees I tap with my family in New Hampshire. I love sharing this with you all, and think it’s such a beautiful way to connect with our land.

Fungi: We are working with two different mushroom growers: Fat Moon Farm in Chelmsford, MA and NH Mushroom Co. in Tamworth, NH, to bring you beautiful fungi in the kits. We’ve been using King Oyster mushrooms, a new strain called Black Pearl- similar to king oyster; Chestnut mushrooms and a variety of oyster mushrooms. We are also getting some of my own cultivated shiitake mushrooms into the meal kits. It’s a project I started four years ago, growing mushrooms on logs. 

Since I get large flushes of the shiitakes, I dehydrate them to preserve them, and they retain their beautiful earthy flavors. We have been using these dried shiitakes as the not-so-secret-ingredient to our kimchi that we sell as an add-on, and that we have in dishes like the Bibimbap and Kimchi Pancakes. That combined with Larch’s wild-harvested kelp makes a superior kimchi, better than it’s non-vegetarian (fish-sauced) version- at least in our opinion.

Grains: We have been working a lot more with the flint corn we grow in Dover. We tried making masa from scratch for tortillas that we had in the meal kits last week, and I deemed it a great success! There are so many cultural processes for grains we can grow locally, and it’s been so fun unlocking and experimenting with these processes to bring you a wider array of food that unlocks different nutrients and flavors. A blog post on corn is coming next, as the cultural and culinary history on this grain is immense, nevermind the current industrial-scale implications of the crop.

Updated Technology

Our website is in its form 3.2: we’ve been doing some updates on the site you’ve been used to using for the past few years. We have a new server, which hopefully makes the site faster to use, and some glitches have been fixed. If you notice anything amiss, we are still completing the update, so please email me with the specifics if the site seems to be doing something wonky. The purpose of the site is to be easy to order your food, so don’t hesitate to reach out to tell us if it’s not!

Compostable Packaging

We have ditched the plastic portion cups, and now have 100% compostable cups for our sauces! We made the switch at the end of the summer. Getting rid of the rigid plastic feels like a big victory. The cups are made from PLA (poly lactic acid from vegetables starches), and are compostable in high-heat conditions, which usually means they won’t break down within 6 months in a backyard compost system, but will in an industrial composting setting. We are testing this out in our compost at the farm; either way, it is not plastic, and our kids and their kids won’t be dealing with it in 100 years, so that is positive! With more education around plastic, and more money going into research and development on non-plastic alternatives, we expect to have a good alternative to the plastic bags we use for the produce soon.  Otherwise, as always, we will take back the twine to reuse (just leave it in your cooler on delivery day), and the paper and cups can be composted! We are so close to achieving packaging nirvana!

New Delivery Areas & New Pickups

We are still doing the majority of our deliveries by bike, because it turned out (despite some thoughts against), that it is way more fun, and way more efficient than driving in Boston! We have expanded our delivery radius to Lincoln, Natick, Needham, Newton and Wellesley. In Lincoln, we have now gotten enough density to start delivery by bike, which is great news! We are starting a pickup point at Natick Community Organic Farm in the spring, and will open up deliveries in South Natick and Wellesley, we hope to build enough support in those areas to start bike delivery there as well- so spread the word!

More people are reaching out to start new pickup points and to expand our home delivery service, please keep asking! We are remaining thoughtful about where we go to keep in mind the sustainability of our operation, as we are all farmers in addition to meal kit-makers. If we get enough density in certain areas, we are able to get a new bike delivery route going, to give a college kid, or a farmer, (or maybe me!) or whoever else a solid weekly gig that is a fun, reliable job, so if you want kits delivered to your neighborhood, gather up your neighbors, and get in touch!

The Value of Our Food

The value we are putting into the meal kits has been increasing, and accordingly, we are raising prices to a meager $21 (effective March 8, 2020), up from $19.50: that’s $10.50/serving. How are we still competitive with the big box institutions? We keep small! Our goal remains to bring the Boston area all the beautiful food grown in our region, and to stay connected to our farmers in a meaningful way. This means doing our job efficiently, and focusing on our community; we’re not planning on taking over the world. We hope to continue to cheer on other communities, businesses, farmers, and individuals who are doing similar outside of Boston, who can lead the local food movement with their specific community top of mind.

And Some Things Haven’t Changed

We remain a community-inspired, independent (from outside financial investment) company, having still taken no investment: yes, 100% bootstrapped! We continue to believe in proving that farming and local food is not a fable in Eastern Mass, and that it can be a way of life here! This is thanks to you for your unwavering support over the past six years; our farmers who are fans of building meaningful relationships; and to our crew who are committed to getting beautiful food (most of which they participate in growing!) into the world and to building community around local food. As things change in the ‘outside’ world, like Amazon taking over Whole Foods, and the food system continuing to become culture-less and uniform in the face of globalization, our mission is only strengthened.

We’re so grateful that you’re joining us in this mission, and for giving us the opportunity to make you an active part of our vibrant local food community!

Very Sincerely, Laurel

Why Sharp Knives Matter



We, in the al FreshCo kitchen, thought we were professionals in the vegetable-cutting department until Cyrus showed up to our kitchen to sharpen our knives properly by hand. We’ll let Cyrus tell you about how important sharp blades are in keeping the integrity of the beautifully grown vegetables we chop in the al FreshCo kitchen and at home:

Why Sharp Knives Matter

Written by Cyrus Elias of Togu Knives

Using a sharp knife to cut ingredients has a huge affect on the finished dish. Cooking times, texture, and flavor are all dependent on how a given ingredient is cut.

Look at the carrots and beets in this slaw. Thin, even, and long. We cut this julienne using a freshly sharpened knife. The sharp blade makes a precise cut, separating the vegetable cleanly.  A dull blade—whether its a knife, or the coarse side of a box grater—makes a ragged cut, and on a cellular level does much more damage to the plant. What does this mean? It depends on what you’re cutting, but for carrots and beets, they will be limp and soggy. They will tend to lose more water, resulting in a pool of juice at the bottom of your slaw. A sharp knife will allow the vegetables to maintain their structural integrity, maintaining their fresh crunch all the way to the table.


The way we cut (or don’t cut) all kinds of ingredients can affect not just how our food looks, but also how it tastes. Smashed garlic will yield a drastically different flavor than minced (this is due to the formation of a chemical called allicin, you can read more about it here). This is also true for other alliums including onions and shallots. Since a dull knife does more mashing and tearing than a sharp one, even this difference can leave you with a  significant change of flavor.


Finally, foods of different sizes cook at different rates, and it’s almost impossible to get a uniform chop—or dice or mince—with a dull knife. Just as a small cookie (vegan of course) will burn to a crisp in the time it takes a large one to firm up in the center, a small piece of that minced garlic will be acrid and bitter while its large companion remains raw.


Our goal at Togu is to get sharp knives in the hands of every home cook. We offer a membership  that deliver sharp knives to your home every 8 weeks. With sharp knives your food will look better and more importantly, it will taste better too.

visit for more info


Composting = Low Impact

New compostable cups, and always low-impact packaging
New compostable cups, and always low-impact packaging

Our packaging just got more compostable! We are replacing our plastic sauce cups with PLA (polylactic acid) made from corn. The PLA is compostable: it breaks down in 6-8 weeks in a consistently high-heat compost pile. This means home composting systems won’t compost the cups, but industrial compost does!

Now using compostable sauce cups!
Now using compostable sauce cups! 

Composting in Eastern Mass.

Municipal Composting: Some towns and cities like Cambridge are now hauling compost to industrial compost systems. Other towns like Wellesley have composting available for drop-off at the town dump. Check with your town to see if either is available.

Hired Compost Hauling: Companies like Bootstrap Compost and Black Earth Compost, combined, serve all the al FreshCo delivery area! They come right to you and pickup your compost weekly or bi-weekly.


Earth Meat: Locally-Grown, Plant-Based Protein

Green Garlic Mushroom Flatbread
Oyster Mushroom Spinach and Garlic Scape Flatbread

In early spring, particularly with the winter weather we’ve been having even as we approach the middle of April, there are few options for super fresh locally-grown food outside those farmers who have some greenhouse production for spring greens. Mushrooms are a great way to have a very fresh, local treat that also happens to be packed with protein, Vitamin D and folate- all great stuff for the end of a long winter.

We are fortunate to have great access to mushrooms here in New England, with a growing number of mushroom farmers in our area who are growing food much more dense and nutrient-rich than the white or brown button mushrooms we’re used to seeing in sad styrofoam packages in the grocery store. Our growers use different substrates on which to grow their mushrooms- wood chips of different kinds, and wheat or soybean is used as the inoculant where the mushroom spores are introduced to spread their mycelia, mushrooms’ version of plant roots. The inoculant is mixed with wood chips, on which mushrooms are then stimulated to fruit as they breakdown the carbon of the wood fibers. The mushroom ‘fruit’ is the mechanism by which the mushrooms reproduce- the gills often found on the underside of the mushroom in the case of oyster mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms, is what produces spores by which the mushrooms are able to spread their seed and reproduce. Mycoterra sells grow kits so you can try this method on your own- a great way to grow mushrooms using only a little countertop space at home.

Thinking about growing your own?

Growing shiitake mushrooms on logs
Growing shiitake mushrooms on logs

At a commercial scale, this bag production method is popular, but you also may have heard of people growing mushrooms on logs. This method is great for lower-scale production, and if you are growing during the warmer months and have outdoor space in which to do so. To do this, you need freshly cut logs- maple or oak are favorites, as the mushroom taste can vary depending on the wood on which it grows. The idea with using fresh cut logs is that you are not using wood that has already been overrun with mycelium from other wild fungi ready to break down the wood. The logs can be drilled with 7/8inch holes to insert inoculant on wood plug or simply on sawdust into the holes along the logs 6″ apart from one another. Dab a little hot wax over the holes to keep in the moisture, and then let them sit in a cool, damp spot for 6 months to a year. This is when the mycelium grows. ‘Shocking’ the log makes the mushrooms fruit- giving them a quick dose of water, telling them it’s a good time to reproduce. After soaking for 24 hours, the logs are propped up in the open air and will fruit in about a week. If you’re thinking about growing shiitakes or oyster mushrooms, and have a small outdoor space, this is a great way to start.

Where to Find Local Mushrooms
Farmers’ Markets now usually have a mushroom grower or two in their line up of vendors, but you can always try going straight to the grower, too. Many of our growers are very passionate about what they do and are excited to connect with their customers, especially those who show an interest in their techniques, or even in growing mushrooms themselves!

Our Growers:
NH Mushroom Co., Tamworth, NH: Set in the picturesque White Mountains, Eric and Dennis started NH Mushroom Co. offering a consistent, flawless supply of mushrooms to surrounding restaurants, and farmers markets as far south as Dover, NH. They grow lion’s mane, chestnuts, king oysters, elms and blue oysters, among other varieties

-Mycoterra Farm, Deerfield, MA has a deep passion for growing mushrooms; they are excited about spreading the goodness that mushrooms have to offer, and even make body care products that feature the benefits of mushroom extracts.

-Fat Moon Farm, Chelmsford, MA. Farmer Elizabeth made a transition from vegetable-growing to mushroom growing only a few years ago, and has already moved to a bigger facility to accommodate her crop this year! She sells to CSA farmers who want to add a little variety to their shares, and local restaurants.

Learn More about Mushrooms from Our Local Growers
MycoTerra offers classes from time to time on how to grow mushrooms at commercial or homesteader scale. NH Mushrooms Co. offers a tour of their impressive facility every Sunday at noon in Tamworth, NH. This is a great tour, and will give you a full rundown of how they procure spores, inoculate substrate and fruit their array of beautiful mushrooms, from Lion’s Mane or Bear’s Head mushrooms to Chestnuts and Blue Oysters. If you’re making the road trip up to Tamworth, about an hour and a half from Boston, there are lots of great hiking opportunities as the facility borders the White Mountain National Forest and Hemminway Woods, a State Forest. Over the summer, NH Mushroom Co. offers educational mushroom walks through the woods so you can learn to identify mushrooms in the wild- a really fun way to get inside a mycologists head!

Sometime over the summer in 2018 we’ve been asked to team up with NH Mushroom Co. to offer a 3-course meal featuring Mushrooms! We’ll keep you all posted on when you can buy tickets for that.

Chestnut Mushroom
Chestnut Mushrooms grown on sawdust

Eating Mushrooms

There are so many ways to eat mushrooms, we’ve even heard or someone making mushroom jerky out of wild-harvested Chicken of the Woods. While we haven’t tried this, we have a number of amazing mushrooms recipes. Below is our favorite recipe that we adapted for our meal kits based on the recipe from NH Mushroom Co.

Vegan Mushroom 'Crab' Cakes

Vegan “crab” cakes

1- pound Bears head mushrooms chopped to the size of lump crab meat
1- cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 c cooked millet
3- green onions chopped finely
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp horseradish

White Bean Hummus with Preserved Lemon

Fry lion’s mane mushroom chunks in sunflower oil or butter until they release liquid. Remove and mix with all other ingredients. Form patties and pan fry on med high heat in butter or oil for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Top with white bean hummus and preserved lemon, or a vegan aioli

We Found a New (Interim) Kitchen Space!

Working in the Kitchen

Certified kitchen space is required to run a properly certified, food-safe food business.

In the spring of 2016 we left our beloved kitchen space in Jamaica Plain at Crop Circle Kitchen, now Commonwealth Kitchen, to move closer to our farmers just West of Boston. To Powisset Farm we went, a Trustees of the Reservation property, which had recently finished outfitting an old barn with a beautiful certified kitchen space, originally designed to be a Food Hub-  a place where locally grown food from Powisset Farm and surrounding farms could be safely processed and preserved, thus increasing access to such food. The project with a vision to build this food hub was generously funded through a grant by The Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund.

The Gap in the Local Food System

After a change in management in 2017, the Trustees, and Powisset Staff decided that despite intentions of the grant, the kitchen shall no longer be used as a commercial kitchen, but rather for private events and cooking classes ranging in price from $30-$75 per head, featuring pie and cookie making, and classes such as “Hidden Vegetables” aimed at children. The kitchen was henceforth deemed not suitable for processing the thousands of pounds of locally grown food each week that otherwise heads to the compost pile without food entrepreneurs who can process, preserve and market this excess. Even new businesses centered around processing Powisset Farm produce were turned away from this space! The decision was made to leverage this space in a way that minimizes, and arguably reverses growth of the local food system.

The hunt for a new kitchen space began.

Finding a Reliable, Affordable Commercial Kitchen

Commercial kitchens are everywhere, right?? Yes, but… we came across two general scenarios: use a space in an institution, but carry-in/carry-out all materials, i.e. no storage; or lease a space and build out a dedicated kitchen. Having a small kitchen space with no storage means inefficiency in production, and labor intensively moving equipment and food back and forth (also not conducive to bulk-buying from farmers who sell dried beans, grains, etc., or freezing and preserving local produce for later use. Having a dedicated kitchen space means increasing production to support such a cost. Either of these scenarios can distract from putting more time into more important tasks, like tracking down disparate locally grown food from busy farmers who don’t have the time to bring it to you.

We talked to churches, schools and organizations who have certified kitchens. The over-arching theme was lack of storage space. It takes work to get into a new routine, and share a space. Conclusion: while there are many under-utilized kitchen spaces in the Boston area, there aren’t many people willing to go the extra mile to make local food happen, and give up precious storage real-estate to do so.

Having affordable, reliable kitchen space means more affordable food, and lower barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, particularly those who focus on making locally grown food more accessible. When kitchen space is secure for a business, paying a little more for locally grown produce is easier, without passing a prohibitive cost on to customers. We feel it’s our duty to you to make our food as affordable as possible, while paying our farmers a fair wage; we wouldn’t be growing a resilient food system otherwise.

Come September, we didn’t find a permanent solution to kitchen space, but were relieved to have found a lovely and welcoming interim space in Natick, MA at a family farm and orchard; it is just around the corner from the farm at which we source much of our vegetables.

While a short term solution was found, our search, experience at Powisset Farm, and speaking with other entrepreneurs struggling to find secure kitchen space, sheds light on the glaring gap of affordable, reliable kitchen space for entrepreneurs who function at a scale that can easily work with similarly-scaled local farms.

What’s the Long-Term Solution? 

Shared Commercial Kitchen in a Shipping Container

We need affordable, reliable, certified kitchen spaces managed by people dedicated to growing a healthy, resilient food system. These spaces must have cold storage, dry storage, and equipment that make it efficient for entrepreneurs to do their jobs, while still being able to have a focus on buying micro-seasonally available produce from local farmers.

Imagine a kitchen in a shipping container: it’s a relatively cheap building, can be outfitted with equipment suitable for 4-5 different food businesses, and a separate container can house refrigerator, freezer and dry storage space for these businesses. Given proper permitting, it can be located on a farm, or nearby, where access to farmers and updates on their produce can be easily accessible. If the landlord or manager decided the kitchen no longer works in that space, a truck can carry it to a new location. This means entrepreneurs will never have to worry that they won’t have a space to produce their food.

We’re have proposed such a project, and will be updating you soon on the steps we’re taking to move forward.

Stay Updated on Our Progress!


Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

So much green! We have luscious spinach, pac choi, red russian kale, plus white turnips! Despite this cold and wet weather, our skillful farmers are finding a way to keep their crops warm and protected from pests- a feat to be marveled upon, and appreciated as you eat all this wonderful food!
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
The model started a few decades ago for the purpose of raising funds early in the season when farmers are buying seeds, repairing and purchasing equipment, and are putting in time for all the produce to come in the coming months. Getting a financial commitment from customers before the season starts not only means farmers have the funds to purchase the goods they need, but they also know that they have a committed market for the produce they are growing. A win win!
We’re doing something a little different. Instead of getting your commitment before the season begins, we’re giving our farmers a market for some of the excess produce they are growing. It’s common to grow 10-15% more than anticipated need, as insurance against adverse weather or pests. If all goes well, our farmers end up with more produce than they can sell- which is where you come in! Give our farmers a little extra support, and get amazingly fresh veggies for six weeks!
Our salad share share starts next week! It’s 6 weeks of $20 worth of amazingly fresh veggies that are great eaten raw and in salads. You’ll get whatever our farmers harvested that day! Signup in the add-on section on the website. It’ll be delivered along wth your meal kits. If you need to skip a week consider gifting it to a neighbor, or let us know, and we will donate your box that week to the Needham Food Bank.
Also: Bootstrap Compost Pickup Promo! Last week to take advantage of this awesome deal from Bootstrap- select “Bootstrap Buddy” in the Heard About section of their checkout for 2 free compost pickups!

Greens have Arrived on the Farm!

Green Garlic Mushroom Flatbread

Spinach, green garlic, over-wintered kale are all coming up in full force at the farm. We made it over the hump of late winter/early spring! Farmer Zannah is harvesting scallions at Powisset for us next week, and Farmer Chris has cilantro, green garlic, kale and spinach for us- what a welcomed color! Kate and Jude at the Neighborhood Farm are harvesting Red Russian Kale for us- all going into the meal kits next week!

Each week after meal kit production, the al FreshCo Crew sits down to lunch with our farmers and their farmhands to indulge in the vegetables they grew for us. This week, we whipped up a green garlic and spinach pizza topped with NH Mushroom Co. oyster mushrooms, and served with a cilantro/spinach pesto. It was divine, and raved about by the whole crew, so we’re getting it on the menu next week!

You’ll also notice, we only have 4 menu options; we are simplifying a little, and we are going to be offering the salad CSA again soon, along with other awesome add-on items. Stay tuned for the salad CSA to come!

Preserving Lemons

Why are people so obsessed with preserving lemons? Well, it’s really easy to find out for yourself. We preserve lemons for al FreshCo to add a really special flavor to dishes, with little fuss. They last all year, and take advantage of the very brief meyer lemon season.

At al FreshCo, we are very strict about sourcing locally year round, from farmers who we know and trust are managing their land in the most responsible ways. Eating what we have around us makes a lot of sense- why would be get lettuce from Oregon when we can grow it right in our backyard? Well, we can’t say the same for lemons. The little beauties are particular about their climate, and add spectacular flavor to dishes, particularly when preserved. So we indulged ourselves, and hope you will too.

Sourcing Lemons:

Lemons are traditionally a Mediterranean crop,so lemon trees are commonly found in similar climates, like California. We found a family owned, organic orchard in Ojai, who is willing to pick per order, and ship. We got Meyer Lemons from Fairview Orchards and couldn’t be more pleased. We’ve been eating the lemons like oranges; they are that sweet. The season is in April, and doesn’t last very long.

When sourcing, I find it’s important, particularly for something in which we’re focusing on the rind, to get organic. You don’t want pesticides and other toxic chemicals lingering in the preserves you’ll have around for the next year.

Sharp Knife, meyer lemons, tablespoon, clean jars, salt
Sharp Knife, meyer lemons, tablespoon, clean jars, salt

-Jars: 1qt jar generally takes 5-6 lemons
-Lids: Nice to have new lids, but you’re not canning, so it’s not important to have a good seal. Keep in mind the screw tops will likely corrode a little from the copious volumes of salt we use to preserve the lemons
-Lemons: 5-6 per quart jar
-Salt: Any iodine-free salt is great. I use fine sea salt
-Sharp knife

Make a center cut on the navel side of the lemon within 1/4″ of the bottom

Make another cut perpendicular to the last cut, down to 1/4″ from the bottom

Now it looks like this!

Take 1 tbsp of salt, and place it inside the cut

Retaining the salt, tip it into the jar


Keep packing, pressing down as you go

Press the lemons to the bottom, with the goal of getting out any air bubbles, and submerging the lemons in their own liquid.

See that air bubble right in the middle of the jar? That’s no bueno

You can use something like a chopstick to gently run along the inside of the jar to release all the air bubbles. The air pockets can create a good space for bad bacteria to grow, so you want to minimize air in the jar

Be sure the lemons are completely submerged in liquid. It’s the salt that prevents bad bacteria growing in this now fermenting environment, so you want to be sure all the flesh is covered by that brine.


Every few days for the first week or so, be sure the lemons are still submerged, and tip them upside down once or twice to redistribute the salt brine. Store them in a cool, dry place for at least three months until you start using them, they’ll stay for at least a year.

Hooray, Preserved Lemons!

Try our Moroccan Tagine this week, inspired by this activity

Tomato Ciopinno- Vegan Style- and Bengali Dal

King Oyster Mushrooms
King Oyster Mushrooms grown by NH Mushroom Co. in Tamworth, NH
Great news! White Barn Farm is harvesting some over-wintered spinach for us (!) to go in next week’s Bengali Dal! An aromatic dish with healing spices and White Barn’s gilfeather turnip!
 The cold snap has made for an unexpected return to keeping greenhouses buttoned up and heated, but warmer weather is around the corner, and before you know it, our farmers will be planting those seedlings in-ground!
We have an awesome new item on the menu- Tomato Ciopinno, traditionally made with scallops or shell fish, we’re using omega-3 and 6- rich mushrooms grown by NH Mushroom Co., and using some sea kelp for even more umami. It’s tomato based- yes we still have tomato frozen from the summer (!), and served with crisped parsnips.

Killdeer in the Fields, Maple Marinated Veggies, and Knit with Us!

Robins have begun to appear in the fields, and we even spotted a pair of killdeer searching for a nesting site: a sure sign of spring!

The kohl rabi and carrots continue to hold their sweet crisp, and we’re getting more promise of fresh greens to come! It’ll be entirely dependent on the weather, but we may surprise you with things like spinach in the kits in the coming weeks if our farmers can get into the fields and snag it before the cold does!

We’re marinating some vegetables this week using Laurel’s freshly boiled maple syrup, and serving it over blue corn polenta- grown by Kate & Jude at Neighborhood Farm. We’re also taking advantage of the last of the squash with some sunny fritters, and we’re trying a new recipe of Vietnamese Pho (pronounced ‘fah’), which will have scrumptious NH-grown mushrooms in it.

Gather Here
Attention Cambridge dwellers: We’re having a tasting and knitting gathering at Gather Here next Thursday March 16th. Bring a knitting project, eat some al FreshCo, and hang out! 6-8pm.

Fresh Spinach and Maple Syrup

Fresh Spinach!

The bad news: climate change is real; the good news: fresh spinach! Farmer Chris found that his spinach is already growing in the field that we planted last fall- no greenhouse, hoop-house, or anything!

We’re trying a new recipe this week: Kofta Curry: it’s an Indian Veggie-Ball smothered in awesome curry sauce and served over rice. We are also concocting an amazing miso sauce made with Maple Syrup Laurel makes in NH (sugaring season is already half way through!), and with a special treat- grapefruit!

Sugaring season has been off to a roaring start- the temperature needs to be freezing at night and above freezing, and usually sunny during the day. The difference in temperature causes the sugary phloem to rise up from the roots during the day to feed the start of the buds of the trees, and will retreat to the roots when it is freezing to prevent from freezing itself, and causing damage to the tree. The sap needs to feed the bud growth before the tree is able to make its own energy through photosynthesis when the leaves come out.

Tapping a tree means cutting into that flow of sap from the roots to the limbs. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup! We’re so excited to bring you a bit of it in your meal kits this week!

And peep into any fields you may pass- there may be spinach out there! Spring has sprung indeed!

Into the Wilds of the Allagash, a meditation on the seasons

August 15th, 2016

Floating northwards on the Allagash in the North Maine Woods, the gluttony of late summer is everywhere. A moose cow perked her ears up as we trickled past, and then lazily dunked her head in the eddy in which she stood shoulder-deep, coming back up with aquatic plants spilling down her chin. Bald eagles, deliciously abundant along the river, played in the shifting winds, or just watched from a broken tree top, looking fed-up*. The brookies (brook trout) have their pick of succulent insects, as do the dragon flies who zip across the water gulping their fill. The beech trees reach gloriously towards the sun-splashed river, their chlorophyll greedily soaking in the sun. It’s hardly a tough time to be alive.

Soon though the shorter days will be felt, the nights will take on a chill, and the pre-winter scramble begins. Squirrels will scurry with nut-filled cheeks from hole to hole, storing, storing. The beavers will make last minute patches on their homes in preparation for the ice flows. Bears continue to pluck calories from the abundance of their surroundings, knowing that there will not be more until spring.

It’s a flow not shunned, it’s just a flow, one to be embraced, not outsmarted- too much. We should be thankful for the advances our large brains have afforded us: canning, drying, hybrid seeds, electric fencing, but not take advantage, for where does that leave the other creatures who continue to abide by the laws of nature? In the middle weeks of August, it’s easy to want for the life of these creatures, as they thrive off of what nature has created, doze in the sun and move in the breezes of the evening. Don’t be too envious though; winter is coming. Let this rediscovered connection let us relish in the comfort of our shelters and easy supply of shelf-stable foods when the winds are whipping through sub zero weather on the Allagash, and the soft green moss that easily grows on the river’s edge will not be in sight for months to come.

As the winter wares on, the layers of bear fat dwindle, the black fly larva hunker down and wait it out, and our fires continue to burn, perhaps we don’t have to join them, but keep them in mind as we grow our hybrid seeds and eat our stored food in sync with the natural flow of what’s beyond in the North Maine Woods.

*                                                *                                                *


Planning a trip on the Allagash? 

For more information about canoeing the Allagash, I recommend Gil Gilpatrick’s Guide to the Allagash. It has all the necessary information to go on a self-guided trip.

If you’re looking for a guided trip with good local food and really friendly knowledgable staff, we recommend Allagash Canoe Trips.

Food for a week long canoe trip on the Allagash

The benefit of canoe-camping is being rather gluttonous in your food packing. I brought a full-sized cooler with lots of fresh food. We used 15lbs of dry ice with a layer of regular ice over it. This kept our fresh food cold for 5 days. We brought al FreshCo Meal Kits for dinners, which was great for easy packing and portioning, but if they’re out of your geographical accessibility range, I recommend putting together kits like them, even pre-chopping vegetables to save of space and cooking time at the campsite. All the campsites on the Allagash are outfitted with a cooking fire, we used a combination of camp-stove cooking and camp fire-cooking.

Here’s what we had:


Pad Thai: Zucchini, corn, carrots and onion sauteed and served over buckwheat noodles with a maple/balsamic/soy sauce dressing. Cooking time 10 minutes

Grilled Zucchini, Eggplant, Peppers served with Harcha, a Moroccoan skillet bread. We made the dough in advance with corn meal, semolina, olive oil and some salt.

Kale Pancakes with Pickled Beets and Lentil SaladWe made the lentil salad in advance, and cooked the kale on the first night, as this is quick to spoil. Pickled vegetables are a great thing to take- they last a long time under no refrigeration

Dragon Bowl with Brown Rice and Black Beans. We cooked and pickled the black beans beforehand, and had zucchini, carrots, and peppers. Cook the rice after soaking it for the day in a bag while paddling, and it only takes 10 minutes to cook. The vegetables saute quickly, and you can have the curry sauce pre-made.

Mac & Cheese with Zucchini and Peppers. This was for the last night, we got a box of mac and cheese, knowing our refrigeration wouldn’t last until then, and brought whole peppers and zucchini. Add some hot sauce, and even some river fish if you catch any. 


Hard-boiled eggs. I like to do this in advance of the trip. Put all the eggs in a pan with cold water about 1/2″ above the biggest egg. Bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12 minutes, then cool under running cold water. Refrigerate. These will last for the week.

Trail Mix: Candied ginger, chocolate covered almonds, corn nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. Ration some for each day.

Hummus and Cucumber



Cheese, Avocado and tomato sandwiches


Oatmeal: sweet or savory. Sweet: maple syrup, banana, jam. Savory: Nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, paprika, olive oil, herbs

*Fed up is a term originating from the sport of falconry, a hunting technique in which humans use falcons to hunt for small game. The birds are fed according to a carefully measured weight: if they are fed too little, they will not have any incentive to come back to their humans, and will go in search of their own food; fed too much, and they cannot fly and will sit in a tree refusing to budge until they have digested their food, feeling “fed up”.

Why Should I Buy ‘Local Food’?

First, what is Local Food?

We hear the word “local” a lot. The term was first used to limit the geographical proximity between you, who eats the food, and where the food was grown, although there are differences in the mileage range in which you may still call your food local. The New Oxford American dictionary defines a locavore as someone who eats only food grown within 100 miles of the place of consumption; while other agencies and institutions have a larger radius.

Strictly speaking, geography is the only defining characteristic of ‘local food’, but we, along with many other consider local food to be associated with other major benefits and values:

  1. Local Economics: Why every dollar you spend shapes the local food system

30% of New England farmers will age out of farming in the next ten years, leaving 1.4 million acres of farmland in transition. Create more demand in the local food market by buying local:

Voting with your dollar is one way to keep farmers, both young and old engaged in growing good food.

You get a voice with your dollars; by buying from a local grower, that grower can keep doing what they are doing because they are getting financial support from you and their community. The more we support positive agricultural endeavors with our dollars, the less we support negative farming activities like foods being shipped hundreds of miles and being grown in monocultures or with non-organic principles.

So put your money where your mouth is! Give your local growers the financial incentive to keep up the good work, which may in turn give the nod to new growers who may seek to fulfill the growing need for well-grown food, for which you have just created higher demand.

2. Freshness: The closer you are to your farmers, the faster you get it post-harvest

Fruits and vegetables are filled with water-soluble vitamins and minerals that not only give them flavor, but that make them more nutritious to us- it’s what we define as freshness.

Let’s think a moment about conventional food. Bananas are picked green, loaded on a sea-faring vessel, and weeks later at their destination are ripened using a synthetic chemical in the shipping containers in which they arrive, just before they are distributed to the grocery store where you can pick up your maybe not-so-fresh fruit. Salad mixes are picked, washed, dried and packed in rigid plastic containers to make their way across the county from California in refrigerated trucks, unloaded, repacked, and eventually end up in the grocery store.  But it’s organic! No matter, there are no stipulations in organic certification which describe the number of days between harvesting and availability to the consumer.

The faster you are able to consumer food post-harvest, the more nutrients there are available to you.

3. Taste: Get greater diversity of vegetables when farmers are growing for you, not the industrial food system

The fruits and vegetables we see in the grocery are bred to have the characteristics to travel across the county and the world; such traits do not necessarily coincide with good taste. There are plenty of delicious foods we just don’t see anymore because of the norm of year-round availability in total disregard of the seasons of your region. Take the Paw-Paw, for example: it is a fruit native to the Northeast U.S. and rarely seen anymore. It disappeared from the food scene upon the advent of refrigerated shipping- it was too delicate to last the journey, and was replaced with more physically resilient fruits such as apples and oranges.

What we see in the stores are fresh foods that can last weeks after harvesting and still look appealing to you once they reach the grocery store, not those that necessarily taste the best.

If you buy a carrot in the grocery store, or happen upon one in a can of soup, it is almost always going to be a Chantenay red- cored carrot- a carrot that has a 97% chance of being grown in one of seven states in the U.S. across vast monocultures.

It’s a carrot that has been bred for size, flavor, sturdiness in shipping and peal-ability. But think about what you’re missing out on in the carrot world if you limit yourself to only the Chantenay! There are Nelsons, Rainbows, Mokum, Yayas and Atlas, to name a few. Organic growers have the weather conditions, soil conditions and seasons in mind when choosing to plant these different varieties- wouldn’t you rather eat a carrot with the natural cycles in mind, and picked at peak-ripeness for taste, and with regard to crop diversity rather than the alternative?

With the rise of locally grown foods, and places to access such food, think of all the delicacies we can enjoy due simply to the fact that growers can get food to you with hours or days of harvesting their goods! It brings a whole lot more diversity, freshness, and flavors to your plate.



How to eat locally in New England in Winter

In America, we have a list of the ten most eaten vegetables by volume, among them, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, etc., but only three of the ten top vegetables are storage crops available during the New England winter: potatoes, carrots and (to a lesser extent) cabbage.

Eating a diversity of vegetables throughout the year is important not only for personal health, as each vegetable contains a unique combination of minerals and vitamins, but it is also important for soil health for the same reasons- creating a balance in soil nutrient profiles as different crops are rotated through. Sampling a diversity of vegetables means giving a market for a wide variety of vegetables for farmers, and this diversity vastly improves the health of the soil in which the vegetables grow, plus, it’s a tastier way to get through the winter.

There are more options than you think over the winter for locally grown vegetables. Some farmers are extending the season with hoop houses (a moveable, passive greenhouse), and can grow hearty greens like spinach and bitter greens throughout the colder months. Kale contains a kind of natural anti-freeze, allowing it to continue to be harvested well into the winter- this may be the last standing crop you see poking through the snow come January. There’s celeriac, rutabaga, a whole range of squashes, you will likely continue to see leeks, cabbages, endive, carrots, all sorts of potatoes, and my personal favorite, watermelon radish.

You’ll get to sample all the winter has to offer in New England with our meal kits, but we have a few ideas to get your daily dose of winter vegetables, and make the best use of what farmers are selling that match the season and your likely desire for starchy, warming vegetables this winter.

Rutabaga & Oats for Breakfast

Rutabaga is a sweet, starchy vegetable, and given the warm fall and winter we’ve had, most farmers have a LOT of rutabaga, and they’re big! This recipe is a great way to use them, and a good way to start the day.


  • 1/2 c grated Rutabaga (from a farmer you know!)
  • 1 c oats (I like rolled oats, and suggest NOT using quick oats)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil, coconut oil, or sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg (from a farmer you know uses compost for feed- you can taste the difference)

Overnight Oats:

Submerging any grain or legume in water and letting wild yeasts in the grains and the air go to work is the beginnings of fermentation. Oatmeal is a filling, healthy, and very cheap way to fill up for breakfast, and overnight oats reduce cooking time and aid in digestion. Fermentation essentially starts the digestion process for you, starting to break down some of the cells in the oats. Leave them overnight, or for a couple days depending on your taste (it gets a little more dank as the days roll on), boil for 5-10 minutes, and they’re fully cooked and not mushy like “quick oats” would be. Saute rutabaga, fry or poach and egg, add the spices, and you have a cheap, healthy breakfast!

1. The night before, submerge oats in water in a bowl, set on the counter, and cover with a cloth or something that allows air to flow through

2. In the morning, drain the water, put the oats in a pot, and add ~3/4c water and bring to a gentle boil. Stir to be sure the oats do not stick to the bottom, and cook until desired thickness.

3. Grate or julienne rutabaga, and saute in a cast iron pan for 5-10 minutes or until softened

4. Fry or poach your egg

5. Meanwhile, add nutritional yeast, paprika, salt, red pepper and 1tsp oil to the oats and mix in the rutabaga.

Serve the oats with the egg over it. Breakfast!

New England Kimchi

Adapting this traditional Korean recipe to New England winter

This is an easy ferment of cabbage and daikon radish, to which you add a spicy and flavorful paste. Fermented for a week in a jar, and then stuck in the fridge, this treat will preserve the harvest for about a month, and kimchi can be used as a condiment alongside many dishes, or just be a treat on its own. Fermented foods are great for replenishing gut flora and aiding in digestion.

Try it!


  • 1 cup finely chopped Napa Cabbage
  • 1 cup julienned Daikon Radish
  • 2 tsp thinly sliced Scallion or Leek
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper or Thai Chili
  • Salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh Ginger

1. Mix the daikon and napa cabbage and salt heavily (about 1/8- 1/4c), mixing to ensure the salt has reached all surfaces. Pack down and leave for a few hours until you see liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Pack it down again, ensuring the vegetables are submerged in their own liquid, and cover with a cloth.

2. Spice Paste: Blend or finely grind all other ingredients, until you have formed a fine paste.

3. After 6 hours- day, mix the paste in with the cabbage mix, transfer to jar, and pack down so everything is submerged in liquid. Be sure to leave 1 inch of space at the top (otherwise it will overflow during fermentation). Lightly cover the jar and allow to sit in a cool, dark place for up to a week, tasting the kimchi each day until it’s fermented to your liking.

4. Cover with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate for up to a month, enjoying throughout!

On Bikes, Food and Community

It’s been a year and half since I started al FreshCo – impassioned by the chance to make the world a little bit better by improving our food system, and through it, our connection with community and our environment. Starting with this goal; my bike; and some wonderful farmers, I have delivered 3,842 locally grown, healthy meals to our Boston community using my trusty bicycle.

Through rain, shine, tens of inches of snow through the long Boston winter, the old MetroFive got me from JP to Cambridge, Somerville, Southie, Dorchester, Roslindale, and on and on. As I started delivering more meal kits, I added on a homemade trailer, added things like a sturdier back rack for panniers, fenders to protect the kits in the rain. My bike is like a limb- I couldn’t get around without it, nor could al FreshCo run as efficiently as it does.

Last week, my bike, was plucked from my porch, taking with it my whole setup- trailer hitch, lights, rack, fenders, a wonderfully broken-in saddle, even my lock, and of course, the old MetroFive itself, one and all. My bike is my livelihood, it’s my only form of transportation, and it’s the human-powered engine that keeps al FreshCo running. What nerve, I say!

Helping me fight this momentary feeling of defeat, I started a campaign to raise money from family, friends, supporters, and the community, hoping to get back on the road.

In an extraordinary show of support from the community, we raised $1,660 in just 24 hours- $660 more than requested.

Building a business is a challenge that I have loved taking on; there are ups and downs, sure, but thinking of the community we have built around bikes and food is astonishing. Biking makes sense, eating food grown by great farmers makes sense, and getting a community of people to whom all these things makes sense, well, it makes sense!

Back to the bike; the story doesn’t end here!

In a very unexpected turn of events- I stumbled upon my bike, and it didn’t go far! Walking the dog, I was flabbergasted to find a dude casually ride by sitting on my bike. A double and triple-take later, I weighed my options- daylight, people around, the dog, a pretty relaxed looking guy on the bike, and yes, it was most definitely my bike. Call the cops? He’s on a bike! Follow him? He’s riding away! Determined-woman-walk towards him, I placed my hand on the handlebars, and said, “Hi, that’s my bike”. He told me his friend gave it to him, I told him that his friend, then, stole my bike. He started to call his friend and I politely told him it could be easier if I call the police. With the help of a friendly, bilingual, long-term resident of the neighborhood, we told him to scram, and I walked away with the old MetroFive!

Save for some missing parts (not surprised the trailer hitch was tossed or sold); it is still intact. With such generous support from you all, I was on my way to moving on to bigger and better delivery options to carry me through all seasons, but karma struck back.

Being part of a mission-oriented community gives us purpose. Continuing to build our community of those striving to outweigh all the bad in the food system with the good, is where we are heading. Thanks for tuning in!

Meal Kit Hacks: Spice it up!

Some of us are good at following directions: we like order, clear instruction, and consistent results. Others (like me) tend to wander off track rather quickly, drawing outside the lines and ignoring the finer points of instructions after we’ve got the general gist of things. If you count yourself like me, chances are you’ve already altered your al FreshCo meal kit to your personal taste and style, but here are a few ideas to shake up your meal kit to better fit you:

Local veggies… for breakfast!

Have leftovers of a stir-fry or a Buddha Bowl in your fridge? Toss some in a frying pan with eggs or tofu for a delicious breakfast scramble! This mixture also makes a great filling for a breakfast burrito, with a dash of hot sauce or ketchup. Not only are you getting complete plant-based proteins, but lots of fiber from the veggies to slow the release of energy and keep you going strong until lunch!

Fight fire with fire

As the temperature rises, try kicking your food up a notch as well: mix in a little hot sauce or hot paprika with your peanut satay sauce, or sprinkle your flatbread with chili flakes. There’s a reason hotter climates tend to have spicier cuisines. The heat from the spices can actually help cool you down by increasing blood flow to the surface of your skin and making you sweat. It also encourages you to drink more water with your meal, which is always important, no matter the weather!

Stay tuned for more al FreshCo Meal Hacks, or share your own with us! Email [email protected], maybe you’ll inspire our next recipe!

Let’s Keep it Local and Seasonal- even in Winter!

Ah, here we are in the New Year, a time traditionally reserved for fresh starts and resolutions. You may be feeling a bit heavy and sluggish after the season of overindulgence. Many of us get out of healthy habits in the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and we may find ourselves eating more sugar, more heavy foods, or just more in general. No wonder by now our bodies are ready for a break! You may be looking around and seeing lots of people picking at salads, trying to atone for the past couple of months. We’ve come to equate “healthy eating ” and “diet ” with a lot of light, raw foods. But there’s a reason why you feel miserable when you start eating lots of salads and raw veggies in the winter. Look outside, and there’s snow on the ground. Look at the farmer’s markets and you won’t see many lettuces, tomatoes, or cucumbers. That’s because those foods are seasonally available at the time of year when they are most appropriate and nourishing for your body: late spring and summer. What the land is providing right now is far more appropriate for what our bodies need in this cold weather. Think warm, moist, slightly sweet tastes found in root vegetables, grains, and legumes.

So how can these foods compete with salads for cleansing? When you eat seasonally, your body gets what it really needs and your digestive system is able to reset. This in turn calms your nervous system, helping you feel more grounded and better able to deal with stress. And the less stressed your body is, the more efficiently it acts to burn fat and find its healthiest state. Plus, you get to eat food that makes you feel warm and cozy and tastes delicious, all while knowing how great it is for you!

This week we’re excited to be offering our kitchari again. I’ve discussed the benefits of doing a kitchari cleanse at the change of the seasons in other posts, and the start of a new year is a perfect time to rebalance yourself. Try cutting down on or eliminating sugar, caffeine, and processed foods and focusing on warm, lightly cooked vegetables and grains as well as healthy oils. We’ve loaded the kitchari (and all our other kits) up with delicious seasonal, local veggies to help you get a happy, healthy start to your year.

If you want to try the cleanse, and have everything prepped and delivered to you- jump on the al FreshCo train! You can order the Ayurvedic kit here.

If you’re looking for more ways to find balance in your body this year, or if you want more personalized advice, feel free to contact me to schedule a personal Ayurvedic consultation. You can do so at [email protected]. Wishing you all a wonderful and healthful start to the new year!

Tips for Supporting Yourself During a Cleanse

Many of you have decided to enjoy the kitchari kits as a way of gently cleansing and nourishing yourselves during the transition from summer to fall. Whether you’re trying just one meal a day of kitchari or going for a full-on cleanse, the kitchari is a wonderful way to support yourself as the seasons shift. As you clear out your body with this warm, light food, you may be wondering what else you can do to gain the greatest benefit from a cleanse. In Ayurveda, the shift in weather offers a great opportunity to adjust diet and lifestyle in accordance with the seasons to bring greater balance. Here are a few ideas for ways to love yourself as the weather turns cooler!

1. Eat mindfully. Food is obviously essential to our health, to the health of our communities, and to the health of our land. That’s why we go to such great lengths at Al FreshCo to honor each of those components in the kits we make. Too often we rush through our meals, distracting ourselves with music, TV, or reading. While you’re eating the kitchari (or other meals), try tuning in completely to the food in front of you. Notice its textures, tastes, smell. Amazingly enough, how you eat is just as important for your digestion as what you eat. So take the time to enjoy and pause with your meals.

2. Make the cleanse about more than just food. With the kitchari, you’re making a commitment to honoring yourself by simplifying your diet for a short time. Why not carry that spirit into other areas of your life? Try to carve out some quiet space at the beginning and end of each day to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Perhaps you’d even like to carry the cleanse idea through the rest of the day, stepping back from the busy rush of some of your normal activities. You might limit your use of media or be more intentional about getting outside for some fresh air each day.

3. Give yourself some (oily) love. In Ayurveda, one of the most highly regarded practices is that of oil massage. You can do this yourself each day, taking time to massage some organic oil into your skin and sit quietly for a few minutes while it absorbs. Choose pure oils with no additives, and you can warm them gently in a saucepan before using to make the experience extra nourishing (Just be very careful, as oil heats quickly and can burn severely if it is too hot. Always test before using!) If you tend to be cold and have dry skin, try organic sesame oil (not the toasted variety). If you tend to be warm, try coconut oil. You can also treat yourself to a professional Ayurvedic massage treatment, each of which is carefully tailored for your constitution and particular imbalances. Our friend Stephanie at Samsaraa Massage Therapy offers amazing Ayurvedic treatments should you wish to deepen the beneficial effects of the cleanse!

Why Eating Seasonally is Important for Our Health

In a time when we can have pretty much any food at any time of year, eating seasonally might seem like it limits our choices. Particularly in the dark, cold days of January, the bright pink raspberries in the supermarket look incredibly enticing, even if we know they’ve flown thousands of miles to make it to the shelf. Aside from the ecological impact of transporting food across vast distances, eating food not seasonal to our locale disrupts the deep wisdom of nature and our bodies and the ways in which these entities have co-evolved for optimal health.

Our bodies and our digestive systems actually follow a seasonal cycle, which is intimately tied to the cycles of nature (not surprising, when you consider that we are part of nature). The beginning of the calendar year, in the deep cold of winter, marks the time when our digestive fire is strongest. Our bodies crave the heavier, sweeter foods, which are most nutrient dense and therefore more able to sustain us through the most barren time of year. Foods such as heavier grains (rices, oats, wheat), root vegetables, and nuts tend to store well and are available to us even in the snowiest months. Because of their heavier qualities, these foods require a greater amount of energy to digest, and our bodies respond with an increased digestive fire.

As the seasons shift from the cold, dry winter to cool, damp spring, our bodies also shift. The foods we enjoyed in winter start to feel a bit too heavy for our digestive systems as the dampness in the air can lead to an accumulation of moisture in the body in the form of mucous. This is one of the reasons why congestion and allergies are so prevalent in the spring. Happily, the earth provides the perfect antidote to this accumulated heaviness in the form of detoxifying vegetables and fruits. The dark, bitter greens of spring (think kale, dandelion greens) combined with lighter, crisper textures (pea shoots, radishes), work to detoxify the body from the accumulated heaviness of winter. As the season progresses, beets and cherries join nature’s arsenal against illness.

The summer brings with intense heat and a consequent diminishing of our digestive capacity. You can think of this as the sun doing some of the work for us, as it offers us foods which require less digestive energy due to their lighter textures and high moisture content. Summer in New England is truly the time of abundance, as we see bounties of tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, summer squash, corn, lettuces, and stone fruits. These foods work to replenish the moisture lost in the long daylight hours and to cool the heat which builds in our bodies.

When autumn comes again, we have the fall harvest in anticipation of the dearth of winter. Apples, squashes, and other richly-colored foods indicate the turn toward colder weather and the need for more grounding, heavier nourishment once again. Our bodies are intricately tuned to take advantage of the particular foods which nature offers at any given time. This is why eating seasonally can be so beneficial for the body. Instead of trying to figure out what foods are healthiest or when to eat what, we can simply look to our particular corner of the world and see what the earth is providing.

One of our foundational tenets at al FreshCo is to work with local farmers to source the most local, ethical food we can for our meal kits. We do this because our conception of health encompasses our customers, our land, and the farmers who tend it. If you want to know what is in season locally, you can simply look at our meal kits each week for a simple, delicious way to incorporate more seasonal produce into your diet. We think you’ll notice just how wonderfully eating locally can taste and feel.

Eating Seasonally for Your Immune System

With spring finally bursting forth after a long, hard New England winter, it’s unlikely that many of us are thinking much about the autumn and winter to come. We’re reveling in the bounty that is beginning to show up from farmers’ greenhouse crops and looking forward to the start of farmers’ markets in the coming weeks. Yet even as we anticipate warmer weather, our bodies are already preparing themselves for seasons ahead. As I spoke about in my last article, at this time of year we are provided with foods, which support our bodies’ natural inclination to detox during spring and early summer. Bright, spicy, bitter flavors found in dark leafy greens, radishes, and spring onions help us to decongest our bodies after the cold seasons of accumulation.

Yet the benefits of eating seasonally extend far beyond just feeling better now. Through eating a seasonal diet now, we work to correct any physical and mental imbalances present and to scrub our digestive systems of accumulated congestion, leaving us cleaner and lighter and increasing our immunity when cold and flue season rolls around again. Since it has been shown that 80 percent of our immunity lies within our digestive system, keeping the gut clean and healthy is imperative for good health. And one of the best ways to do so is, of course, to eat in accordance with the seasons!

Spring is a wonderful time to experience the immediate benefits of eating local, in-season produce as well as to prepare our bodies for the challenges of colder weather. It’s also a great opportunity to give your digestive system a rest in order to insure a strong immune system come winter. As such, try loading up on fresh vegetables, especially those with predominantly bitter or slightly spicy flavors (think kale, arugula, radish, onion, sprouts). Reduce your consumption of heavier foods, which are harder to digest, such as dairy, wheat, animal products, and nuts. Lighter grains and seeds—quinoa, millet, sesame and sunflower seeds—are wonderful choices this time of year. If reducing dairy or wheat seems difficult, just remember that everything has a season, and come fall and winter you’ll be able to enjoy the nourishing qualities of those foods in a way which will serve your body’s health.

The more you can focus on eating seasonally, the more you will build your body’s health, both long-term and immediate. If you’re uncertain about what produce is in season, check out what’s available at your local farmers’ market. You can also always check out our meal kits, since we source fresh, ethically-produced veggies from a network of local farmers. The veggies that are ready for harvest in a particular week are the veggies we put in our kits! Eating seasonally is one of the best (and tastiest!) ways of supporting your own health and the health of the earth, two of the things about which we are most passionate.

The Benefits of Seasonal Cleansing the Ayurvedic Way

After a few more days of intense heat and humidity, the change in the air is palpable here in New England. Fall is arriving, and with it come changes in our schedules and lifestyles. Children head back to school, and many of us find our to-do lists getting longer as we move into a busier time of year. Autumn weather brings cooler, drier air and shorter days. These changes are reflected in our bodies as well. In Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of health, fall is said to be ruled by the energy of air and ether, and these qualities in our environments are reflected in our bodies. As the season changes, you may experience dry skin and joints, earaches, increased anxiety, or digestive issues such as constipation, gas, or bloating. Happily, antidotes to many of these issues can be found through eating a seasonal, local diet consisting of fresh vegetables and grains. You may notice that as fall progresses the produce available becomes heavy, moist, and more grounding (think all those beautiful fall squash, as well as apples and root vegetables). These qualities in food help to ground and nourish our bodies as they prepare for the cold weather ahead.

Ayurveda also encourages cleansing at the turn of the seasons as a way of clearing out accumulated toxins and allowing the body and mind to reset before the new season takes hold. Doing a gentle cleanse which does not stress the body is a wonderful way to re-energize and to boost immunity, especially as we head into cold and flu season. If you find yourself feeling sluggish or not your best, it is the perfect time to offer your body a re-set. While there are thousands of cleanses available, Ayurveda offers a unique and simple way of supporting the body with kitchari, a traditional stew made of mung beans, basmati rice, and spices. This combination is light and very easily digested but also very nourishing. The specific combination of spices has been used over the centuries to offer the greatest support to the digestive system, which plays a vital role in the immunity of the body. Eating kitchari helps give your digestive system the chance to scrub out toxins which can prevent the immune system from functioning optimally. Kitchari is easy to prepare and can be made even more delicious through the addition of seasonal produce. In the coming weeks, we are offering a special kitchari kit (a KIT-chari if you will) to help you start the fall season in your best health!

There are a number of ways to do a kitchari cleanse. Traditionally, one would eat kitchari for every meal for three to seven days to allow the body to clean and reset. This is a wonderful choice if you are willing to commit to a few days or a week of a mono-diet. However, you can still reap the benefits of kitchari even if you only eat it for one meal each day for three to seven days (or longer…kitchari is my breakfast of choice throughout the fall and winter). In this case, it’s best to choose fresh, in-season vegetables and grains for your other meals and to eliminate sugar, dairy, caffeine and animal products for the time of your cleanse. The other kits available through Al FreshCo would be ideal for complimenting the kitchari cleanse!

As we offer the kitchari, I’ll be offering more suggestions on how to support yourself through a cleanse via this blog. If you are interested in more personalized attention or in learning more about Ayurveda and how it can help you to live a more vibrant, healthful life, I offer individual consultations and would be happy to work with you! I can be reached at [email protected]