Thursday, June 26, 2008
Tonight I had dinner with my friend Robin for which we cooked from some of her CSA vegetables. That was the intention anyway but a CSA provides you with whatever's in season and this time of year that pretty much amounts to greens greens greens. Robin claims there were strawberries too but I didn't see any of them.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you buy a share in a local farmer's crops and receive a basket of produce weekly or bi-weekly. Some CSAs include fruit, eggs, herbs, flowers, even milk. These ones are generally pricier. One of the benefits to this arrangement is lots of healthy produce that's grown organically from someplace nearby. What you eat isn't giving a brutal beating to the face of the planet with the fist of fossil fuel. No refrigerated trucks covering thousands of miles so you can eat pre-washed salad!
In fact if you want something pre-washed you're not going to get it at a CSA. Root vegetables seem to be strait up ripped from the ground. I once stir-fried a caterpillar in a bunch of fresh kale. Yeah, I ate the kale anyway. Caterpillars are probably protein.
Another benefit to this arrangement is you can usually visit the farm where your food comes from and meet the people who grow it. They have things like garlic harvesting parties and cider drinking festivals. Some CSAs even require their members to come work on the farm for an afternoon during the growing season. Wait, is that a benefit? Guess I must think so, what with the wanting to farm crap, but it may be a turn-off for people flirting with the idea of joining their first CSA. Don't be scared! It would be totally cool to shake the hand of the person responsible for your caloric intake and not in a creepy weighing-your-slice-of-cheesecake nutritionist kind of way.
The next benefit didn't really occur to me until my CSA began (this was last summer, this year we didn't sign up due to logistics) which is that whatever they give you, you have to find a way to eat it.
Crazy! I've alway been a picky eater and have pretty much rejected salad from birth. Guys, it's eating leaves. WTF? Why not eat a delicious, meaty squash or zucchini or tomato or anything else at all that isn't poisonous.
The answer is because those things do not grow in April or May or June, at least not in this part of the world. If you're eating one right now, a big mouthful of butternut squash falling from your lips to your lap as you scream, "WHAAaaaat??" it ain't from around these parts.
It wasn't that I ever read the from Mexico/California/Chile labels and thought they meant Mexico, NY. But seeing what rolled in every week from our CSA was kind of a wake-up call about what my immediate environment (the definition of which has to encompass about 300 mi these days) could sustain through out the growing season. It also forced me to eat a lot of things I would never pick up in the grocery isle, because dammit I was getting my money's worth! (On that note, the CSA we signed up for came to about $10-$15 a person a week, and we had enough food in each load to feed 3 people all week long. For the quality and quantity I'd say it was totally worth it)
My cooking has improved in both the scope of its ingredients and general flavor. Kale is pretty bitter whether there are bugs in it or not, you need to be inventive. Inventiveness is a good word to describe what taking part in a CSA makes you do. Most of us are not comfortable with eating so many fresh vegetables. We've been repelled by them as children, by their boring preparation and purported health benefits. Gross! The CSA made my taste buds grow up a little and that was awesome.
So tonight what Robin had was lettuce and mustard greens. I still don't reach for the lettuce first so she sautéed me up some mustard greens and I made an omelette. The omelette could be considered organic if not local though really by that point I was too hungry to care. Afterwards we tried to include one more of Robin's CSA finds into a recipe-lavender. She'd gotten a "Secret Lavender Chocolate Chip Cookies" recipe. We tried it out and the secret is they taste like ass. Sorry to spoil it for you.
For more info on CSAs near you check out: