Making sense of the world by making more of it
Category Archives: CSA
I sometimes get all food-snobby and romantical-headed and think that maybe we should buy a (small) charcoal grill — nothing huge or space-hoggy, but something small that would let us get that smokey, char flavour when we’re cooking out. Something like this, maybe.
Then we get a month-long stretch of 40C weather and I purge all of those thoughts, giving way instead to a wave of gratitude for a BBQ that starts up in seconds — or minutes at the most; The Boy is very good about making sure we have a backup propane tank At All Times — and gets up to temperature in something like 4 minutes. (Just enough time to head back inside, try to juggle all my plates and bowls of grillables along with the tongs, and get out again.) Oh, in those times, I nearly weep with relief at having our faithful summer cooking companion on our back deck.
Yes I know, charcoal grills aren’t difficult, especially if you use a chimney (which we own) but frankly in this heat — and especially in front of a blazing BBQ — I’m so sweaty I barely like having to hold the tongs. Having to wrestle with a bag of lump charcoal, to wait 20 minutes for the chimney to get everything alight, to then have to scatter the coals (without burning myself!) and then wait for the whole thing to heat up? I don’t think so.
As un-glamorous as propane may be, it got dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat tonight. And I don’t mean just the meat and the potatoes: I grilled our whole dinner, and if this heat keeps up it won’t be the last time.
I love you Old Faithful.
I feel a little nerdy that I am so excited about today… but I am. Today is the first day of this year’s CSA boxes — and it’s especially highly-anticipated because Farmer Dave wrote everyone last week (which was supposed to be the first week) to let them know that he was delaying the start in order to provide better yield. (The season will also run one week longer in the fall to make it up.)
So stoked was I to go pick up our first share of the season that in spite of the heat (another blazing hot day — I can’t even express how grateful I am that my work (generally) does not involve me being outside during the hottest hours), I packed up The Smelly into the truck and headed over, arriving pretty much just as they were setting up for pick-ups.
I also brought my camera. (Did I mention I was excited?)
Despite the blazing temperatures, the sky was a gorgeous, almost cartoon-y. And I got to see (closer-up) the greenhouse frame that the farm raised the money for and bought last fall. I can’t tell what they’re growing in there, but I suspect that when I’ll really be appreciative of it is in the fall.
As always, there were many a critter about: the geese, with their fluffy goslings pecking near the laneway, some hens taking dust baths behind them, and a whole bunch of other chickens trying to keep cool in the shade of the barn.
One chicken (it was really hard for me not to write “one little red hen” there) was feeling quite brave as I walked out with my spoils. She clucked a bit but stood her ground.
I also saw the two farm dogs lolling about — as did The Smelly. I felt bad that he was in the truck, whining (only a little) out the window to play with Thuja and Bruno. Even if they hadn’t been inside the electrified paddock, however, I really couldn’t risk letting him run around with all that poultry also loose. Still, he did enjoy the ride.
Okay, have I talked enough about the farm yet? So I can move on to the vegetables? I think so. The veggie goods!
Our share included glorious spring onions, garlic scapes, a bag of mesclun greens, quite-big radishes, and little bundles of (flowering!) thyme and oregano. The last bucket was an option bucket: there were more of everything except the herbs*, and you could choose any one. I chose onions. Partly because we’re running low on them at the moment, a lot because I love spring onions, and their squeaky, non-papery heads, and mostly because of all the options in the bucket, I felt certain that the onions had the most universal flexibility: what meal doesn’t have room for onions in it?
* Also, the scapes. Not sure if the couple members ahead of me snagged the last of them, or if there just weren’t any extras, but scapes were not an option. Had they been, I might have had to think about my choice. And yes, alliums are pretty much always on high rotation around here. If that’s wrong, then frankly I don’t want to be right.
So that was our haul! I’m excited to bust out my new “mandoline” to shave up some of the radishes (and onions!) and some carrots or whatever into a salad, but I’m also surprisingly excited about the radish because — at last! — I have found a way of serving them that I enjoy, that isn’t just hiding them in a salad: quick pickles. Better still, I’m slowly getting over my “but pickles are cold, and dinners are hot” thing. I just plonk it all down on the table, and somehow, magically, deliciously!, it gets eaten. Done!
I said at the end of last year that I would likely not be documenting every week’s share this year. This is still true in case you were wondering. (Although I’ll probably still take a picture of it… I like the end of year collage too much to give that up.) I just couldn’t resist sharing the very first one!
Well, at the close of 5 glorious months of local veggies, I’m sad to report that this was our last week (for this year!) with our farm. I had completely forgotten, but apparently in the spring they offered fall extensions to interested members. Despite not being a fan of winter squashes, I would definitely be up for it next year for the (seeming) steady supply of potatoes, carrots and onions, as well as any surprises they care to throw in!
Still, for this year, this was the last of our non-extended produce:
Our season was finished off by a final delivery of leeks, potatoes, onions, rutabega, more daikon radish (!), chard, scallions and some lovely golden beets (yay!) and what I’m hoping is a pie pumpkin. A lovely way to wrap up the season!
Thus far, I’ve grated the daikon into stir-fried noodles (it is every bit as smelly as I remembered; still tasty though) and have plans to try a sort of bastardized lo bak goa (unless I can swing by the Asian grocery to pick up Chinese sausage). I’m a little ashamed to admit that as much as I like eating seasonally, after last week’s roasted rutabega-beet-carrot medley, I found myself actually getting a little sick of root vegetables. Already! It’s not even November yet! Still, I was very happy to see this week’s golden beets, and am looking forward to them (maybe on the bbq? maybe?).
As stated, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to make a pie out of the pumpkin (Boj kept the rutabega this week) and many of the other veggies have been finding themselves in soups because… it’s frosty out, and frost means soup weather! That at least I don’t regret about winter eating. (Our curry consumption has also ramped up a bit in the past month, which I am in no way sorry about.)
So… that’s about it for the final week. Let’s look at the season as a whole, shall we? (Indulge me. I find collages of veggies very cheering in these grey days.)
It’s a pretty good-looking season, right? There are definitely some identifiable stables (carrots and potatoes!) but overall, I thought there was a fair variety going on. Here’s the numbers:
|Too Little||Just Right||Too Much||Comments|
|Staples — there for half the season!|
|Carrots||10||At some points, we couldn’t finish them, which is saying something for our household.|
|“Regulars” — reliably delicious|
|Beans||5||2x Green, 2x Wax, and 1x Purple|
|Bok Choi||2||:/||To be honest though, I’d prefer the baby kind to these jumbo ones.|
|Cabbage (Napa)||4||So good.|
|Celery||2||Should I consider this a herb?|
|Chard||6||A quarter of the deliveries is very reasonable; I like that they didn’t rely overmuch on the chard.|
|Cukes||5||Personally I’d like more, but this was pretty good. One of the deliveries included pickling cucumbers|
|Garlic Scapes||3||Possibly I overindulge at the farmers’ markets, but this was plenty for me.|
|Kale||4||I wouldn’t complain if there was more!|
|Lettuce||7||:/||With the mesclun as a staple, this was too much for me!|
|Onion||5||Really liked the slightly smaller size too.|
|Onion, green||2||Are these the same as scallions?|
|Peas||2||Once snap, and once snow. I wish we could have more, but realize that’s probably not reasonable.|
|Peppers, hot||2||I realize that peppers are difficult crops, but maybe just a few more?|
|Peppers, sweet||4||Honestly, I get that peppers are hard to grow. I’d be fine eschewing these in favour of hot peppers.|
|Radishes||6||:/||Was it only six weeks?! Maybe I’d feel better if there’d been more spicy round top radishes. Those French breakfast ones were horrible.|
|Radishes, Daikon||2||Nice for a change!|
|Scallions||4||Again… same as green onions? No?|
|Spinach||1||Boo to the lack of spinach love. I would love baby spinach in the spring greens mix.|
|Squash (crookneck)||2||Together with the zucchini, this was a really nice balance of summer squash.|
|Squash (winter)||4||Nice variety! One each of buttercup, butternut, delicata and spaghetti.|
|Tomatoes||6||Could do with more (no cherry/grape?) but this was good too.|
|Turnip||1||We also got a week with just the greens. Turnips should be a more than once-per-season veggie!|
|Zucchini||4||Three weeks of green and one of yellow. Very nice.|
|Herbs — offered for nearly three quarters of the season!|
|Basil||3||Pretty sure I can never have too much basil.|
|Chives||1||Chives grow like weeds! Bring on more chives!|
|Oregano||3||One of these was “choose your herb”|
|Parsley||3||This definitely increased our tabouleh consumption over the summer!|
|Sage||1||A “choose your herb” selection|
|Lemon Thyme||3||Once flowering! Twice I chose this.|
|I have to say that I loved the “choose your own [herb] adventure” thing — what a great way of offering variety!|
|Fun surprises — almost one every other week!|
|Broccoli||1||I wouldn’t complain if we got more, but I know how much work these are.|
|(Lemon) Cucumber||1||A lovely surprise!|
|Dried Turtle Beans||1||I would love to see a bigger variety of beans, but love MORE to get enough beans to make a decent-sized portion|
|Fennel||1||Totally made my week!|
|Garlic Bulbs||2||Nice, but not necessary.|
|Green onion bulb||1||Very educational.|
|Pumpkin||1||A lovely end to the season.|
|Watermelon||1||Yeah!! If anything, I’d love to see more melons in our shares.|
Keep in mind that this is just what was included in the share. It is immeasurably convenient to pick up your share in the Farm Store where, for example, if you want to buy cheap tomatoes by the quart for canning at the height of tomato season… you can! Better still, the store, aside from carrying mostly the same veggies we got in the shares, also carries local honey, fair trade coffee *, as well as their own eggs and poultry!
* Although Chris picked some up for us, The Boy has yet to try his. I’d report back but not being a coffee drinker, you probably want to wait on The Boy for the verdict here. I will say that the package has a dude on it who bears a great resemblance to Chris though…
Okay, maybe Joel looks a little more mellow in that particular comparison.
Overall, I have to say I am ridiculously happy with this farm. Surprisingly, The Boy also thought it worked out really well and, as we’ve noted, we’re already signed up for next year. Chances are good that we’ll sign up for the fall extension too. What is it about this farm specifically that fills my little heart with glee?
1 – Weekly emails.
I’ve said it before, and I can’t stress it enough. Communication matters. Aside from the (timely!) weekly emails detailing what work the farm is focusing on that week, and what’s included in the weekly box, I have to say that Farmer David is super-prompt in replying to email, and even sent me a note to thank me for signing up again. I appreciate that this farm wants to organize group events (like the pot-luck) and next year, I will totally try to organize a “drive in” movie night with them.
2 – Excellent balance.
I know that you can’t please everyone. I tried to keep that in mind when putting my faces up in the table above. With that said, however, I have very few complaints about the balance of vegetables over these past 5 months — and that’s pretty impressive!
If my world were perfect, I’d have one or two weeks that included small tomatoes (so good for roasting!) and maybe two more weeks with peas. Also, more turnips. Definitely less of the French breakfast radishes and maybe only four or five weeks with lettuce. I’d do without sweet peppers if I had to to get the above, for sure.
3 – Truly local
I love the fact that because we go to the farm every week to pick stuff up, we get to see the chickens growing up (until they are, a little creepily, announced to be “ready for eating!” by the emails; I know that’s how it works but it’s still a little unsettling). Once, one of the farm co-ops actually motioned me to the back of the barn where she was about to hose down Zorro for being in an area he apparently knew he wasn’t meant to be in. As an added bonus, the farm offers eggs and both chicken and geese at a reduced rate to CSA members. If we weren’t already well-stocked from Stacey’s farm, I’d be really happy for the convenience!
Also, although this is a little petty, I love that this farm is in the city. It made the weekly pickups a kind of relaxing break — 15 or 20 minutes where you can just zone out and watch the geese run around for a bit, or ogle the jars of honey.
4 – Good organization.
Part of this comes back to communication, but I appreciate that all of the information I was looking for when considering this farm was on their website. At the open house, aside from answering any other questions we had, the team also explained very clearly the mechanics of a weekly pick-up at the farm. Throughout the season, that was detailed in the emails, and the Farm Store itself is set up to make it very clear and easy for members to show up and grab their stuff without a lot of puttering and confusion.
5 – Quality of produce
I feel unfair comparing across seasons because, as I said way back in the early weeks, last spring was so very cold and rainy compared to this year. I can’t deny, however, that it is nice getting big, lush shipments every week, and knowing they’re organic to boot! I never expect my CSA veggies to look like supermarket ones (for one thing, the carrots are almost never that boring), but this farm managed to impress me pretty much every week. They’ve set the bar pretty high for themselves for next year!
So there you have it. I’m pretty sure I’ve found my veggie Happily Ever After — I’ll report back on how it’s going next spring! Also, unless something goes horribly amiss, this is probably the last uber-detailed end of season summary I’ll do. It’s been educational while I’ve been getting used to the CSA process, but now that I feel like I’ve got it down, I will mostly likely relax with my record-keeping…although I’ll probably still take weekly pictures. After all, what would be a summer of CSA veggies without a collage to commemorate it?
I am so sad — this week is our penultimate veggie week! Still, it is a glorious week in terms of content. Behold:
Once again, The Boy and I were slackards on the organizational and/or picking-up fronts, so we’re very grateful to Chris and Boj for picking up our veggies. (And, uh, our slack. As it were.). We picked up our tidily pre-divvied bag of veggies and got…
Daikon radishes!! I am so excited about these, I actually can’t decide what I want to make. (And yes, crazily, I am considering kimchi, but I’m pretty sure the dim sum turnip cakes will win out. Yes, I also realize daikon are not turnips.). Speaking of which, we also got rutabaga! Also not a turnip! Kale, and gloriously leafy celery, and leeks! At this point, I might actually do something with the leeks other than put them in a soup with potatoes — which we also got! (So… Anyone have any good non-potato-soup leek recipes?)
The Boy is still impressed by the size of our weekly hauls, so I’m feeling very happy about our having signed up for next year already. This weekend, I have determined that I will not forget our chequebook as I have for the past month, so we can buy a sampler box of beef from the farmer we regularly buy dog bones from at the farmer’s market. Given the rate at which we eat beef, I figure we should work our way through it by about February, which should put the timing right for a spring order, if we decide to buy a chunk of cow. Given The Boy’s extremely tasty success with smoking his own bacon (What’s that? You’ll have to wait and see!), I’m also hopeful that we’ll order half a pig over the next year too. Hurray! My goal to farm-source our foodstuffs* is (ever so very slowly) happening!
* Well, within reason. I’m not about to give myself an ulcer trying to find local wheat, canola oil or salt. I’m also not going to stop cooking with lemons, limes or olive oil any time soon, and the likelihood of those growing around here is pretty scant. Still, for stuff like eggs and honey, it isn’t that much more work for me to get them from a farmer so… why not? My next biggest challenge will probably be milk. But that can wait till next year.
My energy in preserving the harvest season’s bounty has definitely waned, although whether that’s been due to the diminishing light and grey skies, or to the mounting stress at work, I’m not sure. Maybe a little of both. In either case, cake snacks with Ovaltine are becoming more commonplace, and I’m making much better progress on my knitting these days. Come on in Autumn! I’m ready for the time of woodsmoke and trick or treaters!
Check me out with my “actually posted the week of the share” promptness! I’d get all proud of myself but that would be ridiculous since there is definitely no guarantee that I’ll keep it up. Still, we should celebrate while we can!
This week’s veggies were wonderfully unexpected: a bag of tender spinach leaves (which we kept), alongside a more seasonal butternut (which Boj and the boys kept), glorious napa cabbage (hurray!) as well as a bag of dried turtle beans, huge, leafy white chard next to staples like carrots, red onions and lovely, oblong beets. I am so happy to see the return of the spinach, napa and beets — this week will be a celebration in veggies!
I’ve actually found the past month or so to be that way. I’ve always been happy to see the autumn crops in our shares, but the farm throws in enough “springtime” surprises to make me appreciate them just that extra little bit. This week, they also threw in another bonus: a new-to-me ingredient, in the form of the turtle beans! (Known to most of the world as black beans.)
Now from the picture above, they might not look like much, but I took a little time this afternoon to shell them (which, let me tell you is much more fun than shelling peas) and discovered this:
So cute! These beans, which I have only previously encountered in canned form, are smallish, and so smooth, the colour of midnight with teensy white eyes. I literally spent a minute when I was done running my fingers through the bowl of beans — they’re that smooth. We’re I making a mancala set, I’d use these for the counters.
Anyhow. When we’d picked up our half of the share, I’d kind of shrugged them off, like Oh, dried beans; guess I’ll make minestrone. Having now seen them andy fallen in love, however, some more careful research is in order. I’m thinking some rich, spicy, slow-cooker action to make a truly great rice and beans dish, yes? I’ll keep y’all posted.
Having officially signed ourselves up for next year’s share, I’m starting to mourn the long stretch of months ahead when we won’t be getting these veggies anymore. Woefully, the farmer’s markets around here also tend to close down around Hallowe’en, so it’ll be back to distant grocery store produce for me! Once again, a weird fall transition that’s kind of fun to incorporate into our routines.