Posts Tagged ‘CSA’

Now’s the time to support local food

Hey local foodies,

While the plants are sleeping and snow covers much of the fields and pastures of our region; while we eat imported food and savor the remnants of last year’s harvest; while we wait in anticipation for that first leafy green…

Now is the time to support local food.

I know, it’s January! And that’s the point. Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA) programs are changing the way local farmers connect with people who eat. CSA’s (and their smaller-scale sister, NSA’s) allow us to pay our farmers directly for the delicious food they grow and raise.

But here’s the deal: for it to work, the farmer must pre-sell shares in the farm. This raises the capital needed to buy seeds, plant them in the spring and pay for the labor it requires to grow our awesome local food.

This puts the economic power into the hands of farmers and the people who love healthy food. Instead of a farmer taking out a bank loan to finance their farming, they raise the cash directly: costing them less and ensuring that more of our resources go into growing healthy food.

Breaking the debt cycle that currently burdens farmers is a vital step to building a resilient local food system. And all of us can participate.

Find a local CSA/NSA program near you at LocalHarvest.org. Here in Denver, I recommend Grant Family Farms and Urbiculture Farms…although there are dozens to choose from. Now’s the time to commit your food dollars to the farmers who grow your food. Don’t be intimidated by the up-front cost: do the math and see how much value you’re getting for your dollar.

Now’s the time to do our part. And here’s a fun little video that talks more about the important relationships between healthy food, the folks who grow it, and those of us who love to eat:

Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb!

This week’s boxes looked fairly similar to last week’s, except for the awesome additions of garlic scapes (the tops they snip off to help the bulbs grow), collard greens, and fresh basil.

In the last two weeks, we’ve gotten a few handfuls of rhubarb. My grandmother grew rhubarb and we planted some in our garden last year, but I’ve never quite tackled the problem of exactly what to do with rhubarb. Or collard greens, for that matter. So last night for dinner, we cooked up the collards first and then made a delicious strawberry rhubarb crumble for dessert.

But first, did you know that rhubarb is one of the earliest spring vegetables to be ready to eat? And that, although the leaves are toxic, the stems and roots have been eaten for thousands of years? Also, rhubarb stalks are pink, red, white and green, although red are the most commonly seen in grocery stores? Read more about rhubarb on wikipedia.

Here’s a very easy recipe I found for vegetarian collard greens. My housemate added bragg’s amino acids instead of salt, but between that and the miso, it was a tad on the too-salty side. But still, the collards were tender and flavorful.
Vegetarian Collard Greens

2 lbs collard greens
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1. Wash greens well, submerging in a sink full of cold water to remove any dirt and grit. Drain well. Cut off the stems right where the leaf starts. Stack about 5-8 leaves on top of each other, then roll lengthwise. Cut rolled up leaves into 1″ slices width-wise. Repeat until all the greens are done, and add to a large pot.  (note: I’m not sure how this was actually done at my house, but the strips were WAY too long. I recommend cutting them in half widthwise before chopping them in this way)

2. Add all other ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are extremely tender. Serve hot, using a slotted spoon to drain the liquid from the greens.

And, finally, Rhubarb! I found this recipe online, and slightly modified it; my altered recipe is below. It’s so exciting that we also used strawberries out of our own garden.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

For the topping:
1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/2 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 quart strawberries plus a few extras, hulled, quartered
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

2. Prepare filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

3. Remove topping from refrigerator and cover fruit thickly and evenly with topping. Place pie plate on a (foil-lined, if you really want to think ahead) baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbling beneath, about 40 to 50 minutes.

photo from smittenkitchen.com, visit their great site!

photo from smittenkitchen.com, visit their great site!

additional notes: Be prepared; the filling sticks to the pan. I’m not sure how to remedy this problem just yet, but it might include more butter. Also, I reduced the sugar from the original recipe because we wanted to retain the tartness of the rhubarb without being overly sweet.  Also, we live at 5,300 ft elevation, and I always adjust the oven temperature to -25 degrees from any baking recipe. I don’t make any other adjustments, and the temp shift seems to work great.

Today, we’re attempting to make lemon rhubarb ginger jam. I’ll let you all know how it went.

Enjoy your farm fresh veggies!

Abundance of a New Season

Yesterday’s first pick up went off without much trouble. We didn’t have enough eggs for the eggshare folk, and everyone’s still getting oriented to our location and how the different sized shares work. My housemate Art was in charge of the pick up, since I was hosting a networking event for local businesses. He set up a great little tent, with signs, instructions, and even a “community chest” for swapping out veggies that people didn’t want or like.

I wasn’t sure how the community chest would work, since last year we saw how quickly one unwanted cabbage can turn into ten. (bet you didn’t know cabbage breeds like rabbits) We actually had to hide heads of cabbage if someone left one behind, because just one unwanted veggie gives permission for others to leave them, even if you’ve explicitely stated that’s a no-no. So we decided to provide a way for people to ensure the food doesn’t go to waste, expecting some trading and hoping that everything works out in the end. Apparently it’s all going to work out swell; yesterday a four year old little girl squealed with joy about the radishes left in the community chest; they got to take home two bunches. (how many four year olds squeal over radishes?)

The farm delivered extra boxes to help ensure that everyone got the right amount. Art combined these shares and went around to neighbors delivering free food. I’m not entirely sure what our neighbors think of us giving them free organic veggies, but I think they may be used to it by now. We have enough extra today that I’ll be heading over to SAME Cafe in Denver with lots of lettuce, rhubarb and herbs.

I need to post photos of the amazing spinach in our boxes, but I wanted to share my favorite way to deal with an abundance of spinach: saag. This recipe is the easiest I’ve found thus far, and there are many variations. I recommend experimenting with the mixture of spices until you find what suits your palate. The recipe calls for a pound of chopped spinach, and I haven’t yet worked out how much fresh spinach that is. Enjoy!

CSA Starts Tomorrow & Keeping Greens Fresh

Our 26 week CSA season begins tomorrow. We’re hosting the CSA at our house this year, so today we cleaned up a little section of the driveway and put up a canopy for the fruit and veggie boxes that will grace our house each Monday.

I went to the grocery store today to pick up a few items, and realized that so very soon, we’ll have lots of lettuce and herbs from the farm that we’ll have to use. [Our refrigerator needs a serious cleaning out of old food items.] And since it’s lettuce season, I thought I’d share our most successful tips for keeping the lettuce fresh.

Paper Towels in Drawer
The easiest and cheapest option is to rinse off the lettuce with a bit of cold water, loosely wrap in a clean paper towel, and then put the whole thing in the cripser drawer. (Which, in our usually dry climate, is always set as humid as possible)

Green Veggie Bags
Last year, we invested about $20 in a box of the “as seen on TV” green veggie bags, that are supposed to keep veggies fresh longer. I don’t know why they work, but they seriously do. I’ve been able to keep our CSA lettuce and other greens fresh for weeks in these bags. We wash and reuse all our plastic bags, so we’ve only used about 5 or 6 of them out of the box of 15 or so. Whether it’s true to the product advertisement or not, I am asserting that they still work.

Reviving Limp Lettuce
I’ve been able to keep lettuce longer (and make it crisp again even when limp) just by placing the lettuce in a bowl of cold water and letting it soak for 10 minutes or so. And a tip for those of you that have never been a CSA member: greens and other farm-fresh veggies often have a bit of dirt left over, especially spinach. Unless you love crunching dirt with your salad, I highly recommend the 10 minute soak before using any of your farm fresh greens.

Looking forward to the start of our CSA and to meeting all our fellow local food supporters!

Cooking Away My CSA Challenge

Today, through the magic that is the Intarwebs, I was contacted via Twitter by Heather, a journalist and foodie in Chicago who recently joined a CSA program. Realizing that she’ll soon receive boxes of seasonal produce every week, Heather created the Cooking Away My CSA challenge, to connect other techy CSA members to share ideas, recipes and stories about CSA membership.

I like her idea for a few reasons: last year, our farm was devastated by hailstorms that ruined crops of tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and more. Week after week, we received bunches of kale, dill and beets, and then weeks and weeks of cabbage. This is the risk you take when you join a CSA. And sharing ideas about what to do with the dozens of beets still in your fridge is a lifesaver. (our salvation: Beet Cake) But more importantly, our desire to be more connected to our food is becoming very loud indeed.

Although I’ve had a (barely used) cooking blog for years, I realized that my love of food and all things local has expanded far beyond my own garden. There is a major movement in our communities to have more farmers, more markets, more ways to connect with our food. We are so disconnected from this primary source of health and well being, of our very existence, and I think we’re finally revolting.

This revolution is taking various forms. In India, farmers are committing suicide because of being overwhelmed by debt and crop failure. This year, Chinese soldiers forced Tibetan farmers to plant their crops at gunpoint, and some refused. In other places, the growth of farmers markets and seed purchases hail increasing interest in growing, cooking and preserving our own food. This spring I helped to start a project in Denver focused on connecting local food growers and establishing more food gardens. And my organization is in the midst of launching a food business incubator, to nurture the development of more food related businesses in our own community.

I believe that all of this is happening because we’re waking up to the pitfalls of a society that has valued profit above all else. What happens when mega corporations own all our sources of food? If we continue to treat one another and our resources as simply numbers on a spreadsheet, we will continue to suffer.

Our CSA starts in two days. Gerry has already called me, excited about her first year as a CSA member. She told me about how her family goes through jam faster than she can make it, and how she’ll use the fruit from her share to stock up on yummy preserves. When I shared my envy about her jam making skills, she proclaimed, “well, I’ll just come over some weekend and show you how to jam! It’s SO easy! Then you can teach all your friends how to jam, too.” What may seem to be a small statement, a casual offer to share a recipe, to me is so much more. In that one offer, Gerry shared the essence of what it means to be human. It is our nature to freely share what we know and have. Joining a CSA or shopping at a farmer’s market or teaching a stranger how to make jam is about so much more than food. It’s about remembering and relearning how to take care of ourselves and one another.

Local food can be our access to stronger, healthier communities – from the community of cells and organisms that make up our bodies,  to our neighborhoods, towns and cities. And beyond that, to our ecosystems and social systems and nation states. And it starts with people like Gerry, being intentional about how she eats and sharing her food knowledge with others.

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