Saturday, June 19, 2010

Farm share week 3

Sorry for the delay in getting this week's list up... I always think summer is going to be relaxing and then it always ends up being way more busy than the rest of the year.  Too many projects...

In this week's share:
  • lettuce (Boston this week, not greenleaf): 1 lb
  • turnips: 1.25 lbs
  • bok choi: 0.75 lb
  • scallions: 0.5 lb
  • rainbow chard: 1 lb
  • grape tomatoes: 1 pint
  • blueberries: 1 pint
As soon as I picked up this week's box, I thought that it felt a lot lighter, and according to the tally above, it is short of the 10 pounds they estimate for each week's share of this size. This is one of the drawbacks of CSA membership -- like buying shares in a company, the "value" can go up or down depending on the relative success of the farm. They even include this information in the agreement you have to sign when you sign up for a share. So, I guess this week was a slower week on the farm.  (They didn't say as much in this week's newsletter, although they did acknowledge that there was a lot of rain.)

What we got does look really good:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beet L.A.!

Carl likes beets about as much as I like watching basketball ("Tastes like dirt!" pretty much sums it up for both of us).  So, I did a little jig tonight when he told me he was going over to his friend's place to watch the NBA finals, because, you know, no basketball background noise for me. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to cook all the beets and beet greens we got in our first two boxes.

I peeled and chopped up two large-ish beets and cooked them in water in the microwave for about 8 minutes -- so they were mostly cooked but still needed a little more.  I chopped up all the greens and blanched them in my cast iron skillet (they cook down like spinach to about a quarter of their original bulk), then added olive oil and chopped onion, and sauteed. Then I threw in the drained, mostly cooked beets and stirred them around to coat with oil. Since the skillet retains heat well, I turned the heat off and covered for ~5 minutes, then ate with some parmesan cheese on top. Delicious! 

(Sorry I forgot to take a picture!)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Farm share week 2

Here we are with a new box full of stuff... of course, we haven't finished with last week's box yet, but what's left seems to still be in pretty good condition.

In this week's share:
  • Lettuce: 7/8 lb. (At least it's a lot smaller than last week's lettuce.)
  • Beet greens: 1 lb. (Attached to runty beets)
  • Cabbage: 2 lbs. (This is actually half a cabbage, which is a little weird.)
  • Arugula: 0.5 lb.
  • Kale: 0.75 lb.
  • Cucumber: 1 lb.
  • Grape tomatoes: 1 pint
  • Blueberries: 1 pint
It's nice to get some variety -- I was afraid we'd be getting a lot more of the same. I added some of the grape tomatoes to a salad leftover from last night and it made a nice change from the tyranny of shredded carrots.

This week's box came with a fantastic sheet of suggestions on what to make with each item, prepared by the folks at Local in Season. The weekly newsletter from the farm usually contains one or two recipes that can be made using veggies in that week's share (here's this week's newsletter). But it's really cool to have just a few simple suggestions for each item. Example for the arugula: "Simple salad -- add goat cheese, pine nuts, and a light dressing. Add to the top of a pizza after it comes out of the oven--pairs well with the grape tomatoes in your share, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Bacon is a nice option as well." Um, sounds good to me!  The sheet also suggests local brands of other ingredients listed, all of which are available at City Feed and Supply, where I pick up my share each week. (Full disclosure: I am City Feed's website admin.) I hope Local in Season continues to produce this sheet each week, because I can see it's going to be hugely helpful to me in figuring out meals.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Salad days


I'm working my way up to salad three times a day. The good news is I've lost 2 pounds in the past week...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ever feel like someone's watching you?

I stored the Yukon Gold potatoes in the pantry, because that's where I always put potatoes (I read in How to Pick a Peach that refrigeration converts the starch in potatoes to sugar, so should be avoided). I usually have no problem with keeping potatoes in the pantry, but I noticed last night that these guys were regarding me beadily with newly formed eyes. They were also starting to get soft. It has been pretty hot here lately; perhaps the "cool, dry place" that the pantry is supposed to be isn't really happening. So, they got chopped up and fried last night in the cast iron skillet. (Along with a farm share carrot.)

In other meal prep news:
Sunday night: My neighbor, coworker, and fellow CSAer Amanda advised that when she gets a lot of salad greens, she makes a salad with grilled chicken and a couple of veggies on top. I decided to make an approximation of the Santa Fe Chicken Salad from our local burrito place -- lots of greens, grilled chicken, shredded carrot and beet (thank you, thrift-store Cuisinart), chopped tomato (from the market, not quite up to par yet), shredded cheese, and some leftover beans and quinoa from a meal earlier in the week. Served with corn on the cob.  It was REALLY good. Sorry, Purple Cactus.

With two days left until the next box of produce arrives, we still have left: a ton of carrots, a whole onion, two beets, a bag of beans, a zucchini, and about half the lettuce/mixed greens. eep.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We're going to need a bigger fridge.

Contents of the first box!

The farm says that a half-share is generally about 10 pounds of stuff per week. They send a newsletter each week that lists everything they're sending out; cautioning that because of different pickup sites and different share sizes, you might not get everything on the list. Here's this week's newsletter (PDF).

Here's what we actually got:
  • Potatoes: 1.25 lbs.
  • Zucchini: 0.5 lbs. (I never heard it called "summer squash" until I moved to New England)
  • Vidalia onion: 0.75 lbs.
  • Beets: 1.5 lbs.
  • Carrots: 2 lbs.
  • Romano beans: 1 lb.
  • Mixed salad greens: 0.5 lbs.
  • Lettuce: 1.75 lbs.
  • Blueberries: 6 oz. pkg.
We started eating the blueberries right away, and they were delicious. I set about putting away all the stuff, using the guidelines in The Joy of Cooking (my go-to vegetable reference; there might be better ones out there, but this is what I rely on) for proper storage of each veg.  I'm hoping that proper storage will lead to greater longevity/less wastage. It turns out I could use an entire refrigerator that's just crisper drawers... If this stuff doesn't get completely eaten each week, we're going to run out of storage space really fast.

Prepared tonight: Salad of lettuce, mixed greens, two carrots, one zucchini. (Tonight's main course used non-CSA ingredients.) We ate half the salad; I hope it'll get finished tomorrow.

My First Farm Share (tm)

In a couple of hours, I'll be picking up our first box of produce provided as part of our CSA farm share.*  I'm excited, but definitely a little nervous about whether the quantity will be too much for us. This is our first summer doing a CSA; one hesitation that kept me from joining sooner was, "Will we be able to eat all the stuff we get each week?"

Main concerns about joining a CSA:
  • Cost. This is a big stumbling block for a lot of people. Our CSA is $500 for a small share (2 people). At first all I could see was that this was quite a bit more than what some of the other farms were charging. Then I realized that the "season" (ie. the length of time you get stuff) is a lot longer than it is for those other farms.  This $500 gets us weekly veggies and fruits from June 1 through November 20 -- almost 6 months!  I think it works out to be about $20/week, which is still far more than I would spend on produce at the supermarket, but I'm happy to be at a point in life where it's possible for me to spend a little more in order to support something I believe in. (And it's my hope that the more this model of purchasing becomes sustainable, the cheaper it will get so more can afford it.) This CSA program also a) is mostly organic** and b) seems to be more varied because they work with other farms to provide more than just what they grow themselves.  So there are two other factors that, to me, are worth the higher cost.
  • Quantity vs. Consumption. I'm definitely the chief vegetable-eater in our household of 2 adults. Carl (my husband) has come a long way from being a strictly meat-and-potatoes man, but he's adamant that he'll be consuming less than 50% of what we get. That means more for me, yay and o noes!  We'll see how this goes. Will Carl end up eating more veggies than he thinks he will? I hope so! But even if he doesn't, I'm hoping I can pick up the slack.
Advantages of the CSA (both real and perceived):
  • Supporting local agriculture. If you've seen Food Inc. or know anything about mega-agribusiness, you're aware of the plight of family farms. Joining a CSA is like buying stock in a local farm -- they get your money up front so they can focus on growing good food instead of worrying about whether they'll find a market for that food.
  • Reducing carbon miles on your food.  True, our farm is about 90 miles away from us, and our share has to come to us by truck every week. But it's better than buying produce that comes from South America, or New Zealand. (Just take a look at the stickers on produce at the supermarket...)
  • Farm-fresh tastes better! Okay, this is a perceived benefit. Maybe it's the holier-than-thou feeling I get from eating something I bought at the farmer's market that makes it taste better (I kid, I kid). But I do think that growing in small quantities, in land that's treated gently, improves the flavor of food. How could it not?
  • I don't have to struggle with trying to grow vegetables in containers on our third-floor deck. I have a moderately green thumb when it comes to flowers, but veggies seem to be beyond me. (The runty beets I grew last year tasted great, but amounted to about one half-cup serving. The entire crop.)
Stay tuned for a photo of our first box of produce!

* CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Here's a good intro to the concept:

** I realize that "organic" is at least as much about getting certified as about the actual practice. I know a lot of farms just can't afford to get certified because they're small (both in staff and physical size), but adhere to the philosophy of organic farming as much as they can. So, being certified organic wasn't a huge selling point for me, but it doesn't hurt!