Putting Oklahoma foods in your pantry and refrigerator and on your table has many advantages. One of those benefits I've come to appreciate is how truly fresh Oklahoma produce is and how long it lasts. My most recent experience with a bag of fresh Progressive Farms salad greens is enough to keep me shopping for them again and even making an extra stop to get them.
Recently, I put a half bag of Progressive Farms greens in the fridge before heading to California for a week. I returned eight days later just figuring the greens would be ready for the compost bin. To my surprise they were pristine and still just as fresh as they were when I opened the bag. I immediately made myself a big salad. Dressed with some good olive oil and a little vinegar, it was well on its way to helping me recover from jet lag.
I tracked down Joe Tierney of Progressive Farms in Bixby to let him know how impressed I was with their salad greens. Tierney has been growing seasonal summer vegetables and herbs for 22 years, but a few years ago completely reorganized the way they grow vegetables, adding more crops for the spring and fall with greenhouses. This year, they have been able to have Oklahoma-grown organic produce for the entire year.
They are replanting often to keep production up and customers supplied. The company sells to a number of restaurants and grocers including Reasor's, Whole Foods and community-supported agriculture programs. You can find Progressive Farms produce in the Oklahoma City area at Uptown Grocery in Edmond and the Urban Agrarian in the Farmers Public Market district. After enjoying that fresh salad, I couldn't wait to try some of Progressive Farms' certified organic spinach and braising greens.
I asked Joe Tierney how he prepares his braising greens. He does a simple saute in an iron skillet with a little olive oil. He puts little strips of onion and/or garlic in first, then adds the braising greens or spinach, covering the skillet with a baking sheet to let it steam for just a very few minutes. He said their spinach doesn't seem to have as much moisture content as other spinach, so he has to add an ice cube to get a little extra moisture so the spinach steams.
I tried his method for braising greens with delicious and healthy results. I added just a tiny sprinkle of kosher salt before chowing on them. The spinach was wonderful and great raw or cooked. My favorite is mixed green salad with some sweet-seasoned pecans from Valley View Pecan Co. and a white balsamic vinaigrette.
I love a little side or two of toast with fresh broiled goat cheese. Waving Wheat Bakery's whole-wheat bread is sliced, toasted and cut in triangles and topped with fresh Canyon Ridge Farms Goat Cheese. Both the bread and the cheese are made right here in Oklahoma. I found the hearty loaf of bread at the Urban Agrarian as well as the goat cheese. Lovera's Grocery in Krebs also is making goat cheese and has one embedded with cranberries. Canyon Ridge Farms operates out of Welling.
If you want to meet some Oklahoma producers, head out to your local farmers market. I have had the pleasure of getting acquainted with a number of them at the OSU-OKC Farmers Market over the years. Several of them offer Community Supported Agriculture arrangements to their growing customer base, making farm-fresh Oklahoma produce even more available.
A recent article spoke about Oklahoma in the future. I see Oklahoma's food future growing with even more farmers markets across the state. I see more Oklahoma consumers searching out locally grown and produced foods. I see more events like the coming Earth Day Spring Fest in the Farmers Market District set for Sunday — bringing food, farming and families together. The event is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with games and crafts, farmers market, vendor booths, local bands and a friendship plant and seed exchange.
Oklahoma food can be a community builder, and like the folks at Made in Oklahoma say, Oklahoma food is good for Oklahoma, and it's good for you.