Someone Else's Farm

June 04, 2011

To Renew, or Not to Renew?

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , — M @ 15:01 PM

Today, I got an e-mail from the CSA farm, letting us know that the signup deadline for this year’s CSA is next Wednesday. The e-mail specifically requested that those who were not renewing give their reasons. Below is what I sent them:

We will not be signing up for the CSA this year. This was not an easy decision for us. Every week, we got a collection of produce, mostly of very high quality. In particular, the radishes we got early in the season were superb. Nonetheless, we had issues.
One issue we faced was the inability to stop our share for a week or two when we went on vacation. Our family schedule revolves around the academic calendar: we take most of our vacations during the summer, when my husband is not teaching and we can find a week or two free of meetings and conferences. Thus, we travel during the CSA season. Because we could not put a hold on our share, we’d have to find a neighbor who wanted our share for the weeks we were gone. And more than once we had to hurry back from somewhere in order to make sure we got our produce before the drop point closed for the night. The ability to cancel our share ahead of time, for a week or two when we knew we’d be away, would have made a tremendous difference to our stress level.

Another issue we faced was that of quantity and timing. We are a family of two. The amount of produce we’d get each week was such that we had more vegetables than we were capable of eating before the next pickup. Unfortunately, some of what we’d get would not keep for more than a couple of days. This meant that we’d either have to wait to meal-plan for the week until we picked up our produce and made sure that what we got matched the list in the newsletter, or we’d have to make sure we blanched and froze, or otherwise preserved, the more fragile items each week so that they wouldn’t go bad before we got to them. About halfway into the summer, it seemed like we had a lifetime supply of kale in the freezer. Perhaps we would have been better off with a twice-weekly pickup, to ease the time factor, but I recognize this isn’t practical for the farm. Or maybe it would have been better if we could have split our share with another family, to only get half as much produce each week, or to only get our part of the share every other week.

We also felt somewhat guilty each week walking through our community’s farmer’s market after picking up our share, and realizing that we’d have to tell some of our other favorite farmers that we weren’t going to buy anything that week. This is our eighth summer here, and over the years we’ve gotten to know the vendors at the market, and figure out where we like to get corn, or who has the good tomatoes, or which stand has our favorite peaches. But with the produce from the share, we’d realize that because we had a lot of greens, we probably wouldn’t need any corn that week; the radishes we got in our share dictated a meal or two which precluded eating the fresh shelling beans which show up briefly early each summer, so we couldn’t buy any beans. I hated to have to walk on by, knowing that anything we bought would mean having more food in the house than we could possibly eat. I don’t think we bought a single peach last summer, because we had already paid for too much other stuff in the share. While we strongly believe in buying local food, we also believe in supporting as many farmers as we can, and the CSA made it difficult for us to do that last year.

Which brings up probably the biggest point: variety, or varieties. I understand that CSAs around the world like to include kale and other greens, probably because they are easy to grow and take up lots of space in a delivery box or tote so that each week’s share looks bountiful rather than skimpy. While I enjoy eating greens once in a while, and have many different preparations from many different cuisines around the world, after the first couple of months I felt like we had greens coming out our ears, and got to the point where I wouldn’t even bring the greens from our share home, but instead gave them away or donated them to the soup kitchen. And after a while, we even got sick of radishes. We are both very good and creative cooks, but over last summer, we both realized that we prefer to plan our meals around what we feel like cooking, not necessarily around what we got in the share this week and needs to be used in the next two days before it goes bad.

Thus, we cannot sign up for the CSA this year in good faith. While we appreciate that one is available, we tried it last year and discovered that it just doesn’t work for our family.

Wishing you a good growing season,

So, that’s it. We’re looking forward to this year’s market season, and being able to go back to our favorites. We may even buy the occasional bunch of kale from the CSA’s stand at the market. But in a way, the lack of commitment feels like a relief, to know that I won’t have to deal with a seemingly never-ending parade of greens unless I specifically want to.

October 03, 2010

Catching Up

In other words: Week 13, Week 14, and Week 15 List, Suggestions, Haul, and What We Did With Some Of Our Good Stuff.

You’ve already seen the list and suggestions for Week 13. Here’s what we got, in the rain:

Broccoli, carrots, tomatillos, apples, tomatoes

Lemon basil, tomatoes, grape tomatoes

  • Macintosh Apples: half a dozen.
  • Lemon Basil: a big bunch.
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley: a bunch.
  • Baby Carrots: a baggie, the real thing, little tiny carrots that are that size and not cut down from big ones!
  • Cherry Belle and Easter Egg Radish: nope, although we weren’t sure at first.
  • Early Hakurei Turnips: a bunch. They look like little white radishes, which is why we were so confused.
  • Patty Pan, Zucchini, or Yellow Crook Neck Squash: two zucchini.
  • Tomatillos: a bagful.
  • Heirloom Tomatoes: four biggish ones.
  • Sungold Cherry Tomatoes: Not sungolds, but a pint of red grape tomatoes.

This came just as work started to get crazy for me. Probably the most notable thing we did with the produce from this week was a pasta dish that Casey concocted, with a sauce of tomatoes, zucchini, and parsley and lemon basil.

Week 14’s list, and what I picked up on 23 September:

Peppers, turnips, tomatoes, apples, greens, squash

apples, turnips, greens

  • Macintosh Apples: four apples.
  • Green Italian Basil: I wish, but no.
  • Green Kale: a big bunch. Of course.
  • Red Potatoes: a net bag full of spuds a little larger than salt-size.
  • Acorn Squash: three of the tiniest I’ve ever seen.
  • Patty Pan Summer Squash: no.
  • Heirloom Tomatoes: a bunch of smallish plum-shaped tomatoes, two large red bashed-up tomatoes that were unsalvageable, and a green zebra or something similar.

And also a bunch of peppers, some jalapenos and some sweet orange and pale yellow varieties. And for good measure, two batches of leeks from another farmer’s market vendor. Leeks grow in dirt, in case you wondered.

The newsletter suggested this week that we make kale with apples and mustard, sauteed baby patty pan squash with basil and feta, and linguini with basil, kale, and tomatoes. We did none of these. Casey concocted another fresh tomato sauce for pasta, which did not have kale in it but did contain peppers and (shhh!) an anchovy, which worked very well.

The Macs from these last two weeks, I made into apple butter. I’m not a fan of mushy apples, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do with these but they were taking up more fridge space than I could afford to give them. So I rinsed and stemmed them all, cut them into quarters, tossed them into a pot with a splash of water and the juice from a leftover lemon half, and let them cook until they were mush. (It didn’t take long.) I then ran the cooked apples through the food mill to get rid of the skins and seeds. If I’d wanted applesauce, I would have stopped here, but then I would have had to put it into jars and process them right then and there, and I probably wouldn’t have finished that until way too late at night. So instead, I put the applesauce in the slow cooker (there was about 3 quarts, based on the markings of the bowl I ran the food mil into), added sugar (both brown and white), cinnamon, nutmeg, and a couple of whole cloves until it tasted defiantly sweet and spicy, cocked the lid of the slow cooker just slightly ajar, and let it cook on low overnight, stirring whenever I thought of it. By morning, the applesauce had cooked down quite a bit and turned brown, and there was a rather thick skin on top. I stirred the skin back in, and let it cook another couple of hours. (The skin broke down and cooked in until I couldn’t detect any pieces of it. The cloves must’ve broken down, because I couldn’t find them.) During the last bit of cooking time, I sterilized four half-pint jars and simmered the lids to match. I had enough apple butter to fill the four jars plus a little more to eat on waffles right then and there. I processed the apple butter-filled jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. All four jars sealed, so we’ll have apple butter for the winter.

And finally, Week 15, the most recent pickup, again in a drenching rain:

garlic, greens, squashes galore, apples, peppers, turnips, radishes

greens, greens, garlic, peppers, squashes, apples

  • Cortland Apples: four.
  • Arugula: a bunch.
  • Collard Greens or Brussel Sprout Greens: a bunch of collards, I think.
  • Garlic: four heads.
  • Green Peppers: three.
  • Hot Hungarian Wax Peppers: three, that didn’t taste very hot.
  • Jalapeno Peppers: a handful of tiny ones. I hope that means they have some heat in them.
  • Cherry Belle Radish: a bunch.
  • Hakurei Turnips: a bunch.
  • Delicata Squash or Spaghetti Squash: we got three pale green pattypan squashes and another of what looks like the carnival squash from Week 12. Nothing looked like either delicata or spaghetti squash.

The newsletter noted that they grow lots of greens because “we need them and most folks love them.” As I’ve said before, we enjoy greens, but not in the quantities we’ve been getting them. Maybe it would be better if we had a bigger household. But they did give us a suggestion for traditional southern-style collard greens with a ham hock or smoked turkey leg, or cooked in soup, and an idea for using collards (and sweet peppers and cabbage and a few other things) raw as a wrapper with julienne-cut vegetables and a nut pesto inside. And the turnips can go into miso soup. I could go for that, and it’s definitely turning into soup season.

We have a baguette and both Brie and Vermont Butter & Cheese Company Cultured Butter, to go with the radishes. For the turnips, I’m thinking a Korean-style pickle, to eat with dol sot bi bim bop this winter. All the tomatillos and many of the jalapenos will probably become mole verde, which will go in the freezer for later.

September 03, 2010

Week 11 Haul

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , — M @ 16:17 PM

Here’s what we got this week, compared to the list:

Our haul

  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale: I think what we got looks more like ordinary green kale.
  • 1 bunch mizuna: This is the spiky-leafed green at the back, I think.
  • 1 bunch mustard greens: Rounding out the green selection….
  • 3 lb gold potato: Nice little ones, although three of them had gigantic bad spots and needed to be tossed as soon as we got them home.
  • 1 lb spaghetti squash: It’s not a spaghetti squash, but we did get another winter squash of some kind.
  • 0.5 lb tomatillo: In one of the bags. Hope these are as good as last week’s.
  • 2 lb heirloom tomato: Lots and lots of tomatoes. Some are slicing varieties, and one of those feels very much like a water balloon, it’s so ripe. But we also got a boatload of plum tomatoes, many of which are rock-hard and have pale or green shoulders.
  • 1 pint sungold cherry tomato: Nope. But we did get two zucchini that are not baseball bats.

In addition, at the market, we picked up some peaches (a mixture of white and gold varieties), which are ripening in a brown lunchbag on the counter. The farmer who grew them said that all his fruit trees are ahead of their normal schedule. We also got some poblano peppers, which are easily our favorite fresh green chile. (We also like them very much when they dry into anchos.) We also got a bunch of carrots, since we don’t have many carrots left in the house and I enjoy snacking on carrot sticks. And a big red onion, to go along with all the cute little bunching onions from the last few weeks’ hauls.

The squash, I’m guessing, we’ll probably roast later this weekend when it cools down, and scoop out of the shell and eat as a side vegetable. The potatoes, well, who knows? If they’re like most gold varieties, they’re good for just about anything, and we could parboil them and grill them or smash and oven-crisp them, make them as salt potatoes, turn them into a potato salad of some kind, eat hash browns for breakfast…the possibilities are endless. The zucchini could get julienned into “noodles” and eaten as such (spaghetti squash, anyone? ;-)), or baked into yet another batch of cake (without the glaze, so it’ll freeze well). As far as the greens, I’m thinking of taking at least some of them Asian, thanks to recipes from my friend Sharon. (Or maybe it’ll be soup weather this weekend?) The tomatillos are likely to become some sort of salsa verde, especially since we got both poblanos and red onion. Maybe we’ll keep this salsa raw, or maybe we’ll break out the pumpkin seeds from the freezer again for another batch of pipián, or maybe even a mole verde.

Which brings us to those tomatoes. I have no problem using fresh ripe slicing tomatoes. I love them for lunch, sliced, with some kind of cheese and a sprinkle of fresh herbs if I have any on hand, and topped with a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar that’s been reduced to a syrup and maybe a bit of extra-virgin olive oil if I’m in an extravagant mood. But that treatment doesn’t work on tomatoes that are not perfectly ripe, such as the 2.5+ pounds of plum tomatoes. They’re getting a couple of days out on the counter, to see if that improves their condition at all. But I’m also leaning towards embracing their firmness and finding something to do that takes advantage of it. One possibility is a tomato gratin, with cheese and breadcrumbs and seasoning. These tomatoes may also work well for stuffing and baking, if there’s enough of a cavity inside to make it worth the bother. In any case, I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on all the tomatoes, and hoping I don’t start to see fruit flies invading the kitchen.

August 30, 2010

Week 10, with a rant

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , , , — M @ 13:20 PM

What I picked up on Thursday (in the car, which did get home in time after all):

  • Green beans: a small bagful, about the same amount as the yellow beans from the last couple of weeks.
  • Cucumbers: one.
  • Purple eggplant: nope. Nor any other color of eggplant, either. Too bad, because I like eggplant.
  • Red kale: yes. Sigh. It’s already been washed, wilted, and frozen so we don’t have to think about it for a while. The same thing happened to last week’s kale.
  • Red leaf lettuce: a head.
  • Bunching onions: a lunchbagful. They weren’t very bunched.
  • Antohi and jalapeno peppers: nope. Neither. No peppers whatsoever.
  • Zucchini squash: a dinged-up baseball bat. Maybe it was used to bash up the tomatoes?
  • Heirloom tomatoes: three, none of which were in great shape. All the tomatoes we got looked rather bruised, as though they’d been bounced on the ground, or the container had been shaken. And one of them had a weird whitish top half that was much firmer than the rest of the tomato. By Friday morning, one was starting to turn black in the scar left behind where the stem had been. By Sunday, two of them had areas of rot and were attracting fruit flies, so I tossed them. The remaining one seems to be doing OK for now.
  • And, to make up for the stuff we didn’t get but were supposed to, maybe: some other greens that appear to be arugula-like.

The incident with the tomatoes reminds me of the last time I shopped at a market in Paris, several years ago. When you buy produce in a French market, the vendor will typically ask you when you plan to eat it. And then, the vendor will choose the items for you, based on your answer. If you plan to eat the tomatoes that very day, you’ll get tomatoes that will be extraordinarily juicy and ripe…and that are over the hill after 24 hours. If, however, you don’t think you’ll get to the tomatoes until the next day, you’ll get tomatoes that are a little bit more firm, but will be ready when you’re ready for them. Which gets to my point: it seems like some (nay, most!) of the produce we’ve been getting is all teetering on the edge of almost overripe when it gets to us on Thursday evening. Which is great if we’re going to eat it all that very night, but that never happens. In fact, most of the time, Thursday night we’ve already got other plans for dinner, and those plans don’t necessarily involve anything we pick up that day. The tomatoes we’ve been getting of late are definitely of the “must eat immediately” variety. Any chard wilts by Saturday morning at the latest, no matter how carefully we treat it. (The two consistent exceptions to the “must eat now” seem to be onions and green/yellow beans, which hold well in the refrigerator.)

The problem, of course, is twofold. First, we get lots of produce that needs to be dealt with immediately. And second, if we do in fact deal with all that produce immediately, we don’t have much produce left for later in the week, but we hate to buy more, knowing that within a few days we’ll be flooded again.

What I wish: more of each week’s haul was specifically things that will keep reasonably well, so each week’s share actually lasts through a whole week.

August 26, 2010

Week 09 Haul

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — M @ 09:19 AM

Here’s what Casey picked up a week ago, when I was in Boston:

Watermelon, beans, greens, tomatoes....

  • Watermelon, Sugar Baby, 1 melon: I’m glad the “baby” in the name is accurate, and it fits in the fridge.
  • 0.5 lb Green Beans: What we got were yellow, not green. Half a pound doesn’t look so big.
  • 1 bunch Chard, Rainbow: you didn’t think they’d skimp on greens, didja?
  • 1 lb Cucumbers: This turned out to be one cucumber.
  • 1 Bunch Kale, Green: For the record, this particular batch of kale is not wilting quickly in the refrigerator.
  • 1 Head Lettuce, Red Leaf: Yup.
  • 1 Bunch Onions, Bunching: This week’s onions are larger than previous onions.
  • 0.5 lb Peppers, Green: One green pepper.
  • 0.5 lb Tomatillo: 8 good-size, still in their husks.
  • 1 lb Tomatoes, Mixed Varieties: a pint of orange cherry plus three baseball-sized slicing tomatoes, one with a good-sized crack in it.

I guess a pound of tomatoes weighs more than a pound of cucumbers or a pound of green peppers?

August 13, 2010

Week 08

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — M @ 21:28 PM

…or Greens Relief Week.

This week’s comparison:

  • Blueberries: a pint.
  • Green or yellow beans: yellow, a smallish bag.
  • Rainbow chard: a bunch.
  • Cucumbers: two ordinary.
  • Garlic: a few heads.
  • Dino kale: a bunch
  • Green leaf lettuce: a head
  • Bunching onions: a bunch, of course.
  • Zucchini: Three. They’re getting bigger over the weeks, but nowhere even close to baseball bats. Thank heavens. I might be able to make a zucchini cake this week.
  • Sungold cherry tomatoes: Nope. We bought tomatoes this week at the market, both yellow pears and full-size red ones.

We actually didn’t bring the chard or kale home with us. When we picked up the share this week, we chatted a little bit with the woman who works at the armory, and who brings our box out. She loves greens, and commented that these looked nice. They did look nice. They looked so nice that we asked her, “Want ’em?” So everyone went home happy!

Is the corn over for the season already? No peaches, which are in proliferation at the market?

While I was at a band rehearsal last night, Casey blanched, chopped, and froze last week’s kale and chicory greens. We’ll use them in soup when it’s actually soup weather. Casey also washed the lettuce, as it was particularly obvious that this week’s head grew in the ground. We’re having salad tomorrow, with the lettuce and tomatoes and the basil from last week, along with maybe some onion, and some red and yellow peppers and mozzarella. I’ll probably dress mine with boiled-down cheapo “balsamic” vinegar. And then we won’t have any more leafy green stuff in the refrigerator until next Thursday. We welcome the respite.

August 06, 2010

Week 07 haul

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — M @ 17:38 PM

Greens, greens, greens

We picked up our share yesterday. Here’s what we got, compared to the list:

  • Blueberries: 1 pint
  • Green Basil: 1 smallish bunch; if I wanted to make a decent amount of pesto, I’d need at least 3 or 4 more bunches this size
  • Rainbow Chard: a bunch
  • Chicory Greens: a bunch, with lots of pinholes in the leaves
  • Sweet Corn: 4 ears
  • Cucumbers: 1 normal-looking but shortish cuke
  • Red Kale: a bunch
  • Green Leaf Lettuce: 1 head
  • Bunching Onions: a bunch (duh!) of 5 smallish
  • Zucchini Squash: 2 squashes

It’s finally not too hot to cook, for once. We’re lighting the grill for dinner.

July 16, 2010

Week 05

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , — M @ 18:45 PM

Kale, squashes, cabbage

lettuce, cuke, blueberries

Here’s this week’s take, compared to the list.

  • Blueberries: a pint basket
  • Red cabbage: do I hear green cabbage instead?
  • Cucumbers: one, of the normal large variety
  • Fresh garlic: where there were scapes, there are garlic heads. We got three, complete with dirt.
  • Green kale: a bunch. It looks like the dinosaur kale to Casey, but I think it’s just plain old ordinary green kale.
  • Green leaf lettuce: a head
  • Red leaf lettuce: a head
  • Snow peas: not this week
  • Yellow squash: of course, three
  • Zucchini: you have to ask? Just one this time.

I was disappointed not to get the snow peas, and surprised to get as much lettuce as we’ve been getting if it’s all bolted in the hot weather. And I’m grateful the zucchini is not a baseball bat. Too bad we didn’t get any tomatoes this week.

July 12, 2010

Catching Up

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , , — M @ 12:15 PM

We used more of our CSA produce over the weekend, but didn’t take pictures.

Saturday night for dinner, we had another version of the Sandwiches That Failed, this time courtesy of Casey. The bread was from a seven-grain batard purchased at Wegman’s, and toasted in a bit of olive oil. The sausage was turkey kielbasa, cut into lengths to match the bread. The greens were the kale from last week’s box, cooked in some cider and cider vinegar. (Note to self: Harpoon cider has very little flavor, especially compared to cider from the UK and Ireland, or that’s been hardened at home. Don’t bother spending money on it in the future.) No cheese this time, and I missed it, both for the flavor and because the gooeyness helps to hold the whole sandwich together.

The sandwich, as a whole, was more successful than my version, in large part because the sausage didn’t have the musty flavor I disliked. But similar to the stir-fry from the other night, the kale suffered from the problem of Not Enough Knife. Whether it was more due to the lack of cheese-glue or because the kale wasn’t chopped as finely as it could have been, I had problems where I took a bite and the kale came out en masse. We’re getting there, I think, but the concept still needs work.

And then last night, we fired up the grill for dinner because we found a beautiful steak at Bosco and Geers. Casey seasoned it simply, with olive oil and Borsari brand seasoned salt, original flavor. (Our grill has enameled cast-iron grates. The directions specify that the food, not the grates, should be oiled. So Casey out a little olive oil and salt on one side of the steak, rubbed it in with his hand, flipped the steak, and rubbed his salty oily hand on that side too. That was it.) When Casey went out to check the grill, it was cold because we’d drained the propane tank. Luckily, we had another one, so we swapped it in and fired up the grill again. Alongside the steak, Casey put some foil, and grilled the asparagus from last week. (I just checked, and this week’s asparagus is still in the fridge, so we can do it again.) When it was cooked, it got a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

It was a really really good dinner.

Hot again today. I foresee salad for dinner. The last of the seven-grain bread should be just about perfect to turn into croutons.

July 02, 2010

Week 03

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , , , — M @ 21:02 PM

Tomatoes, cukes, rhubarb, greens

garlic scapes, kale, bok choy

We got a few pleasant surprises this week in our box, which we picked up yesterday. Here’s the comparison of the list and the actual:

  • Asparagus: a bunch. I wasn’t expecting to see this since we hadn’t gotten any in a while, but I’m happy to get it.
  • Bok choy: a head, but it looks different than what we got last week (last week’s stems were white, but this week’s are greener), so it must be a different variety?
  • Rainbow chard: no. We’ve been eating what feels like a ton of chard for the last few weeks, so I’m OK with this.
  • Garlic scapes: a nice big bunch.
  • Green kale: the bunch looks bigger than last week’s bunch of dinosaur kale. Guess I’ll have an opportunity to try making another sandwich, if I want.
  • Red kale: no, but the bunch of green kale is big enough to make up for the lack of red kale, at least a little.
  • Rhubarb: another bunch, larger than last week’s bunch. I suspect both are destined for a gingery-topped crumble.
  • Either pak choi, an extra bok choy, or tatsoi in lieu of broccoli: Maybe what I thought was bok choy is actually pak choi? In any case, we actually got some broccoli, so maybe we didn’t need anything in lieu of broccoli.

And in addition to these, not on the original list, we got a handful of pickling-style cucumbers and a basket of multicolored grape-shaped tomatoes. I love a good tomato, and I hope these taste like tomatoes.  If we’re getting cucumbers and tomatoes, and we’re about to celebrate a holiday weekend, it must be summer!

I wanted fruit. I know we have more sour cherries in the freezer that I really need to use (more pie!) so I restrained myself at the market. But I couldn’t resist the berries: got two pints of rasp and one pint of blue. We moved away from our previous house just as the raspberry bushes we’d put in were productive enough that you could actually bring some inside, rather than just stuffing your face at the vines. The yard we have here has too much shade, so I’ll make do with berries that someone else grows.

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