Unpaid Field Hand: Food Fear Part 1

Posted by James Eisenstein on 07/12, 2011 at 09:10 AM

Unpaid Field Hand: Food Fear Part 1

Kohlrabi. Photo Courtesy LiveGreenTwinCities.

Big hairy spiders, slithering snakes, white-faced hornets and yellow jackets—these are common fears among many people. They know they have them, and they are typically not shy about sharing them with others. I have recently realized, however, that there is one fear many people have that they do not admit to having. Indeed, they might not even know they have it. 

I’m talking about food fear, specifically the fear of tasting or cooking something new.

I discovered the existence of this unacknowledged fear of food while selling vegetables at my son’s stand at the Boalsburg Farmers Market. I recall one time late last fall when we were selling tat-soi, a round Asian leafy vegetable with small shiny dark green rosette-shaped leaves. It is so beautiful that it can’t help but attract attention. In this particular instance, after I explained what it was to a customer, she backed away and said, “But how do you cook it?” It was as if she thought, “If I cook this wrong, it might explode” or “It must be as complicated as a soufflé to cook.”

People are afraid to try new foods. We are now selling beautiful purple kohlrabi, but many people back away. And most customers choose kale over collard greens, although they are quite similar.

Most astonishing to me, though, is that we only sold two of the five pints of gooseberries we managed to scavenge this year. Folks, these are gooseberries! There should have been a mini-riot at the market as folks elbowed each other aside to secure a box. Europeans adore this delicious fruit; Americans ignore them. 

We also bring red currants and black currants, and they move slowly, despite being absolutely delicious and incredibly healthy. I found a source that claimed black currants have more than twice the vitamin C as an equal weight of oranges. Black and red currants also happen to be beautiful. Here’s a picture of a red currant bush with a single remaining translucent, glistening berry on it.

One perfect red currant, sadly unharvested. Photo Credit James Eisenstein.

It seems to take two or three years of putting new vegetables on our stand before people begin to buy them. We have just begun to sell more kohlrabi, and once people try a tat-soi, they come back for more. Collards, gooseberries, and currants still have a way to go, however. Someone needs to figure out how to speed of this process. People don’t know what they’re missing!

Tags: fieldhand |

{name} Author: James Eisenstein

Bio: Unpaid Field Hand at Jade Family Farm | Former Penn State Professor


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
07/14 at 07:44 AM

Wow, gooseberries!  We used to have some plants growing on an old farm we rented outside of Port Matilda years ago.  I had no idea what they were and had to look them up, but they were indeed delicious.

Ditto for red currants, a fruit I haven’t seen since childhood.  Great article!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
07/14 at 04:46 PM
Saint Marys, PA

I love trying new food… but when I go to a farmer’s market and they show me something I have never seen or heard of, I hope they can tell me how to cook it.  What I am afraid of is not the taste… but of waste.  I don’t want to buy something just to let it rot.  It sounds crazy, but I bet people would buy if you had a recipe laying there beside the produce for folks to carry along.

James Eisenstein Posted by James Eisenstein
07/18 at 06:00 PM

Yes Michelle, I can see your point.  As a matter of fact, we do provide a few short descriptions with some of the more exotic things we sell, along with some hints for cooking.  I’ve had good luck just looking for recipes on the web when I have a question.  We could do a better job in producing these handouts, though it is a fine line between having enough and cluttering our stand with little pieces of paper.

When I am selling and someone is willing to try something new, I either give them a sample or tell them that they have a money back guarantee—if they don’t like it they can get their money back in the form of a credit toward other produce.

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