CSA in hindsight

Peas.

Peas.

Reflecting on our first CSA (community-supported agriculture) season, I think I can call the venture a success. Even my husband, who was lukewarm to the idea, looks forward to the weekly boxes and has praised the quality of the produce.
I’ve also been impressed by the variety.

Heirloom tomato.

Heirloom tomato.

Fruit has included rhubarb, strawberries, elderberries (!), raspberries watermelon, cantaloupe and more varieties of tomatoes than I can name.
I’ve managed to tuck some away for cooler months—as elderberry syrup, stewed (and frozen) rhubarb, frozen strawberries, piquante sauce and yellow plum tomato basil preserve.

And we’ve had nearly every manner of vegetable:

  • mixed baby greens, head lettuce, swiss chard, parsley, purslane
  • green, yellow, white and red onions, garlic scapes and garlic bulbs
  • white, yellow, purple, red and sweet potatoes
  • green, purple and yellow beans, pod peas
  • radishes, daikon, carrots, beets, rutabaga, turnip
  • broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco kale and cabbage
  • sweet peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash
  • spaghetti squash, butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkins

We ate as much as we could while it was fresh. The last of the sturdier crops are in the fridge (kale, daikon, beets, Jerusalem artichoke) or cupboard (potatoes, winter squash garlic). And the rest has been picked and jarred (beans, beets, daikon) or blanched and frozen (chard, kale, peas, beans).

Sweet mini-peppers.

Mini sweet peppers.

There were also a few surprises:
Corn on the cob: It’s a staple in southern Ontario, but I was surprised to see the first of several dozens in the CSA box. It’s been boiled and barbecued, eaten with plenty of salt and pepper, frozen for winter and made into corn relish.
Shell beans: Cooked and added to soup or packed into my lunches, on salads and leftover tomato-braised chicken.
Mini sweet peppers: I sliced these into pretty rings for a tossed salad.
Purslane: An edible weed with a slight peppery taste, it’s an interesting addition to a salad.
Purple-black heirloom tomato: Made into colourful Caprese salad along with early girl and a lovely orange tomato mistakenly identified as lemon boy (both from my garden).

Lemon cucumbers.

Lemon cucumbers.

Lemon cucumber: The mild-flavoured cukes were added to a Greek salad.
Watermelon radish: A pale green skin, white inner layer and bright red centre make these radishes as pleasing to look at as to eat. I served some in a Vietnamese meal of fresh spring rolls and lettuce wraps.
Pie pumpkin: I baked, pureed and baked it again into whole grain muffins.

Watermelon radish.

Watermelon radish.

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CSA solution: Frittata

Incorporating the Monday CSA pick-up into our routine has required a willingness to be more flexible with meal planning.

For years, I have planned Thursday and shopped Friday for the week. But, with the majority of our produce arriving Monday (and being able to only make an educated guess at what our box will contain), a rigid meal plan has gone out the window. Instead, I am keeping our pantry and refrigerator stocked with ingredients that I can combine with vegetables and herbs from the garden to create fresh and flavourful meals.
Since most weeks, I also buy a dozen of the most beautiful (inside and out) free-range eggs from the CSA, frittatas have become a regular weeknight dinner.

Here’s my method:
In a cast iron pan at medium-high heat, sauté sliced or diced onions in a little oil.
Add whatever vegetables are available (chopped new potatoes, sliced zucchinis, broccoli florets, asparagus spears, halved cherry tomatoes).
While vegetables are cooking, whisk together four large eggs.
Add salt, pepper and a flavour booster or two – chopped spinach, diced roasted red peppers, a couple spoonfuls of pesto or herbs such as parsley, chives or basil.
Turn heat down, arrange vegetables evenly in pan and add egg mixture.
When frittata starts to firm around edges, top with grated or crumbled cheese (old cheddar, feta, Parmesan, etc.).
Bake in 350 Fahrenheit oven until top is set.
Let cool slightly before slicing.
Serve with a side of CSA vegetables, such as salad greens, steamed green beans, sliced tomatoes or kale chips.

Last week, I started with young red onions and new red potatoes (which I par-cooked in the microwave) from the CSA, added roasted red peppers from a jar in the fridge and topped with crumbled feta.

 

CSA report: Week 2

CSA, Week 2

What a difference one week can make on the farm.
In addition to asparagus, radishes, spring onions and mixed greens, which we received last week, this week’s CSA bounty included butterhead and romaine lettuces, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, grape tomatoes and strawberries.
I also bought another dozen eggs and a jar of honey.
Because the box is packed and waiting for pick-up, you don’t know what you’re getting until you get home and open it up. As I drove home last night, smiling and looking forward to the big reveal, I thought, “I’m never this excited/happy when I leave the grocery store.”

Here’s a breakdown of how we used last week’s box:
Asparagus: roasted with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper for dinner side
Beets: raw, sliced in slaw with fennel, apples, mint, canola oil, balsamic vinegar
Beet greens: chiffonade in soup with sausage, carrots, celery, red pepper, spring onion (whites and greens), marjoram, tomatoes, chicken stock
Eggs: lemon pound cake (five); Caesar dressing (one); corn cakes (three)
Jerusalem artichokes: not yet used; roasted?
Maple syrup: not yet used
Radishes: snacks
Rhubarb: stewed with strawberries, eaten mixed with plain yogurt; more in the freezer
Salad greens: five small salads (lunch and dinner)
Spring onions: greens in salad, bok choy and pork stirfry, corn cakes, soup; whites in soup and alfredo vegetable sauce

Our first foray into CSA

We picked up our first CSA (community supported agriculture) box today.
CSAs are a way for consumers to buy directly from farmers. They pay a lump sum in the spring and are supplied with produce (and sometimes other goods) on a weekly basis throughout the growing season. Consumers support small local farmers and are rewarded with great local produce.
Golden Harvest Family Farms, located in western Kawartha Lakes, runs the Triple Cord fresh produce program and offers a pick-up in Sharon, just a few kilometres east of our home in Holland Landing.

Contents of our first CSA box.

Our first box included: mixed salad greens, radishes, green onions, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and rhubarb. Because the produce pickings were a little slim, we also received a dozen eggs and a 250 mL jar of maple syrup. We made arrangements to buy a dozen eggs each week when we go to pick up our box.

I plan to dedicate some time every Monday evening to prepping and cooking the fresh produce.
Tonight, I trimmed and washed the radishes and stuck them in a container of water in the fridge – ready for snacking through out the week. The salad greens made a quick side for dinner.  I used a few chopped green onions to garnish the wild rice and vidalia onion soup I made yesterday, reheated and then broiled with a few rye bread croutons and gruyere cheese.

The rhubarb was stewed with sugar and frozen strawberries.

The long and lovely rhubarb stalks were washed, chopped and stewed with sugar and strawberries from the freezer.
I separated the beets from the greens, storing both in the refrigerator, along with rest of the produce, to use later in the week.