Posts tagged CSA
Posts tagged CSA
We nearly ran out of garlic making the dilly beans, so now I get garlic whenever I pick up the farm share because “needing garlic” seems to have embedded itself in my brain (amazing feature of my farm share: you get a certain number of “picks” of the available produce, so you can decide that you need more garlic even though you already have like, four heads of it at home). It turns out that we probably only needed garlic that one time.
We got an email about our CSA pick-up:
The typical monthly rainfall in Maine is about 4 inches. We got 3 inches of rain between Sunday morning and Monday morning, which is a REALLY big rainstorm. This 3 inches of rain came immediately after the 7 inches of rain that fell between Saturday noon and Sunday morning. So we’re at 10 inches of rain (plus my tears), and it’s still raining. According to the Soil Conservation Service, here in Maine we can expect a rainfall of 6½ inches in a 24-hour period once every 100 years.
In short, they may not be able to do a harvest this week because the fields are too wet to walk on.
The gist of this post, in case you don’t want to read to the end and go through a whole decision-making process, is that I love Laughing Stock Farm and I think they still have spots available in their summer CSA.* You should join! It’s great and super flexible!
The other point is that there are many types of farms and CSAs**, and which (or if) one works best for you depends on a number of things. When I was first choosing a CSA, I made a spreadsheet. I am the kind of person who encounters a situation with many options and variables and makes a spreadsheet. You could make a list? Or mentally compare? I just don’t want you to lay down $500 and be unhappy.
Here are some things to consider:
Price: They’re not all $500. Many are quite a bit less, especially if you’re getting a half share. But you should feel like you’re getting a good value. Do the math and figure out the per-week cost; how does that compare to your grocery bill?
Convenience: Where are the pickups? Near you or your work? Who else might be picking up your share? Is it easy for them, too, or are they not going to be able to make it most of the time? How long is the pickup open? For me, there is a huge difference between a pickup that goes to 6:00 pm vs. 6:30 pm vs. 7:00 pm in terms of both the amount of stress in my life and the number of pickups that I simply have no shot of making. This is a time to consider honestly how often you work late. Know that there is a difference between being able to leave work at 5:15 pm and actually leaving work at 5:15 pm. You probably want a CSA that fits your life as you live it.
Share Size: I want to get the bulk of my vegetables from the farm share, but I don’t want things rotting in the fridge. That makes it seem so easy! It’s not. How many vegetables you want per week depends on how many people you’re feeding, but also how often you cook, whether you cook mostly vegetables or mostly meat with vegetables as sides, whether you’re going to be eating the vegetables for lunch, whether you can or freeze vegetables for later. Some farms will only offer whole shares, but you can split them with a friend. Quite a few farms offer whole and half shares, or even a range of share sizes. Talk to the farmer about how much food is included on a given week if you’re not sure. If you’re in the northeast, know also that you’re going to get less food in June than in August.
Crops: If you love bok choy with all your heart, make sure the farm grows bok choy.*** You can always talk to the farmer about whether they’d be willing to try growing your personal favorite crops, but this tends to be more effective if you’re a member of the farm already. Many farms that have websites list their crops on their site, take a gander. You should also think about how much flexibility you have in the crops on any given week.
Experience: Farming is hard. Things go wrong: too much rain, not enough rain, not enough rain followed by too much rain all at once, late Spring frosts, too much heat, not enough heat, late blight and all manner of plant diseases, all manner of bugs, deer, rabbits, staff that quit halfway through the season, tractors that break down, plastic mulch that blows away, it goes on. I personally think that an established farm is more likely to know how to handle all these crazy things that go wrong. You may want to support a farm that’s just starting out. That’s fine! Apparently I care more about having tomatoes than supporting the little guys.
Organic? Organic certified? Not organic? There are certified organic farms, farms that don’t go through the certification process but farm organically, farms that are mostly organic except with certain crops, farms that use integrated pest management to control bugs which means they sometimes use pesticides, etc. Figure out what matters to you. Know that there may be crops that are very hard to grow organically in your region (like apples here).
Nearness of Farm: If you’re picking up from a drop-off location and not the farm, do consider how far away the farm is. Many farms have pick-your-own crops (for example: herbs, peas, strawberries, asparagus, flowers) and it’s nice to be able to pick those if you want. I will say: I highly recommend visiting the farm at least once, and I really like being able to easily drive to the farm now.
This is a field of the pick-your-own flowers at Laughing Stock Farm. No kidding.
Other Stuff: Is the farm financially viable and contributing to the health of the local economy? Do you care about that? Also, and maybe most importantly, do you like the farmers? That counts for a lot.
* “CSA” stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When I say CSA, I generally mean a program that lets you buy a “share” in a farm and receive a portion of what they grow each week during the season.
** One big caveat: In Portland, a number of farms offer what they call CSAs but seem to me more like a discount for pre-paying at the farmer’s market. You pay a chunk to the farm up front, and then can spend that money at the farmer’s market during the season with a small (10% seemed common) discount. If that works for you, great! It clearly works for a fair number of people. It wasn’t what I wanted, and you can read more about why here if you care.
*** With the obvious caveat that not all crops grow in all places.
The spinach* we got in our CSA last week was so tiny I wouldn’t even call if “baby spinach.” It was infant spinach. I had to pull apart the little leaf clumps because otherwise it was like a spider plant on my fork.
It was also delicious and not roasted.
In other exciting news, the appliance guy fixed our dishwasher (or rather, the dishwasher fixed itself once the appliance guy was lying on the floor next to it in our kitchen, which means maybe it was just lonely? Depressed? Feeling like a cuddle? I do not know)!
* It’s greenhouse spinach, because our CSA farmers are nothing if not realistic and understand that not even those of us who really do care about eating locally and seasonally want to subsist on turnips and carrots and cabbage for the winter.
Let’s talk honestly for a moment here.
I really do like to eat locally and seasonally and all of that. I am a member of a CSA, eat root vegetables, go to the farmer’s market, and am APPALLED at the very thought of purchasing out-of-season raspberries.*
So…great. I’m glad we got that out of the way, because it is March in Maine and we are very, very far away from the growing season here. I can count on one hand the number of times I wore real shoes and not snowboots in the past two weeks.** I had to buy extra long underwear because the three pairs I already had weren’t enough.
So today I noticed that thekitchn suggests, in one of its 7 Tasty Activities to Cheer Me Up [Because I Have the Winter Blues]
"Go off your seasonal-produce-only mandate (just this once!) and purchase something delicious that reminds you of spring. It probably won’t be as good as when its truly in season, but it may offer a comforting hint of the season to come. Note: Never do this with tomatoes."
Are you joking? I am so far off my seasonal/local produce mandate that I might as well be living in Chile. Shit got rough this year, and damn straight I bought bananas. I mean, cauliflower doesn’t grow in February. Neither does lettuce. Or kale. Nothing grows when the ground is frozen, unless it is grown in a greenhouse. You know what’s in season now? The things that were in season in October and have been sitting in sand in a basement since then. I appreciate root vegetables a lot, but holy shit, I do not want to subsist on carrots and turnips and parsnips and beets for six months of the year.
Do you have any idea how bleak my winter would be if frozen mango chunks in a smoothie were a special treat?
Perhaps you live in Southern California and things are actually growing. That’s great. You get an environmental gold star. You can tell me later how it’s going using only local water.
Meanwhile, I am going to eat my red bell peppers and wear my slippers and try to keep it together until the sidewalks are no longer caked in three inches of solid ice.
* Except when my mum buys them for me when I go visit her, because she knows I love raspberries and that they’re expensive and this is why my mum is the greatest and not eating them would be like suggesting that I don’t appreciate this very sweet gesture. In other words, why do you want to make my mum sad?
** If we’re talking about the last week, I can count on NO HANDS because I wore snowboots ALL OF THE TIMES. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
I came late to my love of brussels sprouts.*
They have a bit of a reputation problem, and I also had some not-so-positive early encounters with them. My dad had a habit of cooking vegetables with image problems in unappealing ways and declaring them delicious and wondering aloud why more people don’t enjoy them. And then forcing us to eat them. He means well, he’s just not much of a cook. And I’m not sure he ever met a power struggle that he didn’t partake in, which I think has decidedly mixed success when it comes to children and food.
We had a vegetable garden at my dad’s house, and even the allure of eating something that we grew ourselves couldn’t make me like brussels sprouts. So I generally avoided them until I was an adult and was in a fancy restaurant with my former boss who ordered a side of roasted brussels sprouts. They were a revelation: tender, sweet and complex, buttery with roasty brown edges,** everything that you could want in a vegetable.
Roasted brussels sprouts are incredible. You can make them at home and they are nearly as good as the fancy restaurant ones. So I was super excited when we got brussels sprouts in our CSA last week.
Unfortunately, we only got about 1/2 a pound, which isn’t really enough to warrant turning on the oven for however long it takes them to cook. But it turns out people braise brussels sprouts! Who knew? I guess everyone, including Mark Bittman and Cook’s Illustrated (where I found this recipe).
Braised Brussels Sprouts
Bring the brussels sprouts and water to boil in a skillet. Cover and turn heat down. Simmer for 10 minutes or so, until brussels sprouts are tender when pierced with the tip of knife.
Remove brussels sprouts, toss any leftover water and either wipe skillet or put it back on the burner (on medium heat) for a few seconds to dry before adding the butter.
Add the butter to the skillet, then whisk in the mustard. Decide you are not going to whisk in the mustard, but instead stir it in well, and watch as it immediately curdles in the pan. Toss in the thyme or tarragon, and continue to cook for a minute, trying desperately to get the mustard to uncurdle itself, which it refuses to do.
Forge ahead and add the brussels sprouts back to the skillet, along with some salt and pepper. Continue to stir and try to hide the ugliness. Brown the brussels sprouts a touch and decide that the curdled mustard is not so noticeable.
Serve. Have your mind blown by the deliciousness (and easiness!).
Yay, again, for brassicas.
Photo by Chiot’s Run
* I think I’ve also been spelling brussels sprouts incorrectly my entire life. I guess there’s an s at the end of “brussels.” You learn something new every day.
** They may have been cooked in a pound of butter.
For those of you in Maine, there are still winter shares available from my CSA! The farm is Laughing Stock Farm, and they’re based in Freeport, ME, but they have pickups in Portland as well as at the farm. The mix of vegetables may not be for everyone, but I really like them. Here’s the deal:
The Winter Share is roughly twice a month, November through May, for a total of 14 pick ups. You get some fresh stuff from the greenhouses like mesclun, arugula, hakurei turnips, radishes, baby chard, and baby bok choi. There are also winter storage vegetables like potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, winter squash, and cabbage. In November there are still things fresh from the fields like leeks, Brussels sprouts, chard, and kale, and in May, depending on the spring, there’s the earliest lettuce from the fields. Pickups are Thursdays at the farm from 2 to 6:30 and in Portland at the Greenlight Studio, 49 Dartmouth St., Thursdays from 4 to 6:30. If you have a friend who wants to join they can do so at a cost of $400 with a non-refundable deposit of $200.
And from their website, their philosophy:
While we agree that using sustainable agricultural practices, maintaining our Organic certification, maintaining open spaces, and preserving the agricultural heritage of our community are all important to us, these things are not “why” we farm, they are “how” we farm. The simple truth is that the reason we farm is to provide the freshest, best tasting farm products to our customers, the people who live in our community, at reasonable prices.
I’m not going to comment on the election.
Instead, I am going to tell you about one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time.
We had some from the CSA kicking around, and I decided to roast it while I had the oven on for cauliflower cheese. So I sliced it into wedges, tossed it with some salt, pepper, olive oil, and chili powder (the mix, not straight up chili) and roasted it until it was almost blackened on one edge.
It reminded me a bit of roasted chestnuts, both in the nuttiness and in the richness. It’s denser and smoother than pumpkins and some other squashes, with a better, more buttery, sweeter flavor than butternut squash. Apparently, it’s also known as “sweet potato squash” and I guess it’s a little like sweet potatoes. But better.
And you know what else? I’m not sure if it was because my squashes were small, or if this is always the case, but you can totally eat the skin.
Which reminds me: always try eating the skin, because those precious moments you spent peeling could really go toward some more worthwhile activity, like sipping a nice glass of knob creek, or practicing your toe dexterity, or flipping through magazines, or watching your bestest friend’s art/cat video for the thirtieth time.
But back to the issue at hand. Buy your self some delicata squash right now. That stuff is magical.
photo courtesy of Dunbar Gardens
Apples are amazing.
1. I just made another crisp, this time being really careful about using apples that my little CSA apple handout says are good for baking. It was completely different from the first crisp (I suspect I used apples rated for baking AND sauce in that one). It was delicious, but instead of disintegrating almost completely,* the apples retained their shape** and even, sort of, texture really well in the crisp. I used some Priscilla apples and some Wolf River apples. The Wolf Rivers are dry, and I think actually the crisp was a tiny bit too dry, so next time I’ll mix in more of another variety.
But then I started thinking about how two varieties of the same fruit behave COMPLETELY differently when cooked and it blew my mind a little bit. Genetic variation in apples is amazing.
2. The apple CSA last week also included a bag of Gray Pearmains, which are crazy and delicious. They look really weird, kind of grayish (imagine that) and taste like a more flavorful asian pear. Here’s the blurb from the handout:
"Late Fall. Unknown origin. If you had your eyes closed, you’d think you were eating a crisp, delicious pear. Reminiscent of a Bosc. The best of both worlds, it is a juicy and mildly tart dessert apple. Dense sweetness. Firm white flesh. Also produces good juice. We eat a lot of them every year. The skin is a soft opaque greenish-yellow with a rosy pink blush, a bit of a russet veil, and a grayish bloom. Will store reasonably well although it may shrivel like a Golden Russet. One of the most popular of the many unusual varieties Steve and Marilyn Meyerhans grow at the Apple Farm in Fairfield, Maine. There were five or six of the trees in the orchard when they purchased it over thirty years ago from Royal Wentworth. Those trees were already very old. Unfortunately they never thought to ask the soft-spoken Wentworth about the origin of the apple. Recently we found a brief mention of it in a 19th century Maine Ag report growing in Skowhegan (very near the Meyerhans) but with no further details. Its origin may forever remain a mystery. Grown using IPM (integrated pest management), from The Apple Farm."
They’re delicious and not at ALL what you expect from an apple from Maine.
* The disintegrating apple crisp was a little disappointing hot, but once it was cold it was actually really satisfying because it solidified a bit.
** Credit where credit is due: I left the skins on based on the advice of my little brother, and he was totally right. They may have helped the apples stay together, and at the very least, they were tasty and unobtrusive. I have decided that all crisps from now on will have apple skins. In addition, if I wanted to be fussy about cooking apples, I would be making tarte tartin. And I’m not.
Photo from the LIFE Photo Archive on Google. Taken in Portsmouth, NH in 1963 by Leonard Mccombe.
I wish this photo wasn’t blurry.
These are the apples I’ve been enjoying from the Out on a Limb CSA. When you last heard from me on the apple CSA topic, I was feeling moderately to extremely irate about how they signed up my husband instead of me. They since wrote me a really nice email apologizing, and explaining how it happened, and when I went to pick up my last share, my name was on the list, and it was all very nicely handled and I get to go back to feeling awesome and happy about the apples.
The apples are great! They have a one-page little fact sheet, with information about the apples and their origins, and the apples are all packaged and labeled so you don’t get confused re: which is which, and I love it.
In addition to the applesauce extravaganza, I also recently made apple crisp with the CSA apples when my little brother was staying over. My little brother and I are weirdly similar on a number of fronts (except for some obvious age/gender related differences), and particularly when it comes to our feelings about dessert. For instance:
Pie > Cake
Ice Cream > Most Things
Apple Crisp = Dessert AND Apple Crisp = Breakfast
Unfortunately, the apple crisp was not as awesomely good as I wanted it to be. The apples sort of disintegrated when I was cooking. My brother suggested that if I had left the peels on, that might have helped things stay together, and he’s probably right, but I think I also used a disintegrating apple variety rather than a not-disintegrating apple variety.* It was still fine though, because even a not-great crisp is better than no crisp.
The next morning I packed my brother off to school without having the crisp for breakfast, because it seemed like giving your brother crisp for breakfast and nothing else and then sending him to school is not the kind of thing a responsible adult does. I mean, he has a long wait between breakfast and lunch, and I wanted to make sure he had a decent meal. However, when I had crisp for lunch, the fridge had made it amazing, and I regretted that my brother didn’t get to enjoy the less-disappointing version of the crisp. During its cold overnight sojourn, the bottom layer had solidified a bit, and also blended more fully with the bottom edge of the crisp topping into a lovely buttery topping/apple mix. It was super good.
Crisp is pretty straightforward. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe (the link is from his Minimalist column in the New York Times, but it’s the same as the one in his How To Cook Everything cookbook):
Mark Bittman’s Apple Crisp Recipe