As I sit in the sunshine drinking homemade iced tea (recipe below), I reflect on highlights of the year. The first bloom in spring, s’mores by a summer campfire, and the entire rainbow painted on fall leaves—I love Minnesota.

Last summer I signed my family signed up for a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) program through Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm, Inc. “Minnesota-grown, hand-harvested, locally and sustainably produced, and stewardly decision making all describe just what Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm tries to achieve in relationship to this good earth.” As a personal fitness trainer and inspirational speaker, my family is used to tagging along on my wellness quests.

We waited eagerly in June for our first crop share box to be delivered to inFIT in Albertville. When the plump-full cardboard box first appeared, we were amazed by all that was inside: romaine lettuce, radishes, zucchini, chub cucumbers, asparagus, homemade raspberry jam, honey, maple syrup, and, one of my favorite herbs, mint. I thought perhaps they just wanted to make a smashing first impression, but to my delight the second box was just as amazing!

How did the CSA change our lives?

Our family ate more vegetables this year than the last two years combined! Also, with the huge variety of vegetables (many that we have never tried or prepared before), we experimented with new textures and flavors as a family. The quality and quantity of the produce changed our palates. The fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs became the treat and our cravings for pizza and fast food melted away with the season. Because of the abundance of food received each week, we cooked more, spending time together in the kitchen as a family several nights per week. I used much of the produce in recipes from my own book, Living Wellness: the inFIT Approach to Proven Weight Loss and Dynamic Nutrition. We have enjoyed abundant health this year and the weekly box-o-veggies encouraged us to “use it or lose it,” and one thing that I struggle with is throwing away good food!

Local, naturally grown produce is the most nourishing, sustainable, and delicious. Think about it—food is the only substance we consume that becomes us, making up our cells and DNA! Consuming ample, quality (and local when available) produce really can be enjoyable and life changing.

You can improve your family’s health by joining a CSA program, shopping at local farmer’s markets, or just buying more fresh, whole fruits and vegetables. Challenge yourself to eat more fresh, whole foods this year and watch your family’s health flourish!

Tips to best utilize local Farmer’s Markets and CSA programs

  • Visit the farm (if possible) to find out where your food comes from and what methods are used to grow, cultivate, and fertilize
  • Try new foods! Your palate has changed since you were a child—you may find that you actually like beets (when prepared with extra virgin olive oil and goat cheese or good ol’ fashioned organic butter with sea salt and fresh ground pepper)
  • If you know what you are buying/getting ahead of time, plan out your recipes so the produce does not get wasted
  • Try your hand at canning to preserve the harvest
  • Get your kids involved with preparing/cooking new vegetables and encourage one “yes” bite of every new food to get their palate used to different flavors and textures
  • Share with friends if you receive more than you can use
  • Freeze, freeze, freeze anything that can be used later in the year (e.g., zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, cooked squash, etcetera)

Living Wellness Fresh Peppermint & Stevia Ice Tea

Makes 1-pint of concentrate; 2 quarts of tea

Check out my website www.AshleyDarkenwald.com for more fresh recipes!

Ingredients (using fresh CSA herbs):

  •  1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves
  •  1/4 cup packed fresh stevia leaves
  •  1 pint (2 cups) filtered water
  •  Lemon slices for garnish (optional)

After you rinse the herbs, pick the leaves off of the stems, measure, then wash them under running water in a colander. A salad or herb spinner works well to dry the leaves.

Next, bring the water to a boil in a small pot and add the mint and stevia. Remove from heat and steep for at least 6 hours (overnight works too). Strain off the leaves and pour the concentrate into a glass jar. You can either freeze this concentrate or store it in the fridge for a few days until ready to use.

When ready to serve, mix 1/2 pint (1 cup) tea concentrate with 1 1/2 pints (3 cups) water or mix it to your desired flavor. Serve ice cold and with a lemon slice if desired. Enjoy!

© 2015 www.AshleyDarkenwald.com

First published in MN Yoga Magazine April 2015

Ashley Darkenwald

Author Ashley Darkenwald

Ashley Darkenwald is an inspirational speaker and the author of Living Wellness, the book encompassing her 10+ years as a fitness professional, club owner, and nutrition fanatic. Ashley enjoys homeschooling her two children, leading worship at the WHY church in Elk River, and playing sand volleyball in the summer. Ashley’s favorite speaking topic is FREEDOM through the practice of exceptional health.

More posts by Ashley Darkenwald

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