Tips on Eating Locally in Early Spring

Reader Contribution by Mary Lou Shaw
article image

Early spring triggers many projects on our Ohio homestead. The fruit trees have been pruned, and we’ve checked to make sure all bee hives have enough food until nature again provides springtime nectar and pollen. When the ground’s not too wet, I resume last autumn’s task of hauling compost to the garden rows. Baby chicks are under warming lights and eggs from our heritage birds have been mailed for others to incubate. We await the birth of our Dutch Belted calves when we will be back into the twice-a-day milking routine.

None of this current activity puts food on the table right now, and so we continue to eat from the root cellar, freezer or pantry shelf. Fortunately, eating locally doesn’t have to mean eating strictly “in season” if we have stored last year’s harvest. There are still potatoes, squash and garlic in the root cellar, dried beans on the shelf, and meat and cheese in the freezer.

I call the following recipe “calzones,” though the ingredients I use would make Italians roll their eyes. Calzones are a baked pizza crust enclosing traditional pizza ingredients. Because I want the stuffing to be from our farm, the result instead resembles the South American “empanadas.” Empanadas sometimes have a flakier crust and may be fried or baked. Empanadas also have a varied filling depending on where they’re made. At our house, this recipe’s ingredients depend on when they’re made. Here’s how I make “calzones” at this time of year:

Calzones (recipe makes five servings)

Begin by making basic pizza dough; then cook the ingredients for the filling while this dough is rising:


1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar

1 ¼ cup warm milk or water (not warmer than 115 degrees)

1 tablespoon or 1 envelope active dry yeast

Stir above three ingredients together and let stand in warm place for 10 minutes, then add,

1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Stir in these last four ingredients, and then knead by hand until dough becomes elastic. Place in well-oiled bowl, turn dough over so its top is covered with oil, cover bowl with light-weight, moist cloth and allow to rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.


One large onion, cut and fried until translucent

One or more clove garlic, chopped and sautéed.

½ cup chopped sweet peppers from freezer, heated through

One medium sweet potato, cut in small chunks and sautéed until tender

½ cup dried black beans which have been previously cooked for one hour until tender, or meat (beef, goat or chicken) cut in small cubes and sautéed until cooked through

One heaping cup grated feta or cheddar cheese, if desired (mix in with other ingredients after above ingredients are cooked and removed from stove)


Punch the dough down on floured board, knead to remove air and divide in five parts. Roll each part into approximately an 8″ circle. Put a large spoonful of topping in each circle, allowing about ¾ inches clear around the edges. I use the index finger of my left hand with my right thumb to fold both layers of the edge over to the top and pinch down tight. This method creates an attractive rope edge that seals in the juices. Prick the top with a fork or make small slits in it with a sharp knife. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.

I like to use a topping or dip with these calzones. My favorite topping is unflavored yogurt that has plenty of garlic salt in it, or pesto that I store frozen. Sour cream or a tomato sauce works well too.

Photo by Mary Lou Shaw 

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368