This week, my mother, whose writing you may remember from her guest post last fall, tells us a little about her share in a Community Supported Agriculture program with Bishop's Orchards in Guilford, CT.
How long has it been since you’ve really looked at a cabbage? Carved a rose from a radish? Cooked a spinach quesadilla? These are just a hint of the pleasures to be found in CSA membership. The obvious ones, of course, come from the taste and nutritional value of vegetables and fruits that are so fresh that they all but jump into your collection bag. These bags, (or bins,) full of anticipated goodies and surprises, are like weekly Christmas stockings. Most CSA farmers email a preview list three or four days before pick-up so that we don’t duplicate at the supermarket. Nonetheless, the collection of a personal order still has that wonderful open-a-package thrill about it that is definitely a day booster.
CSA membership gives a window into knowing, literally, what’s up, (in the garden, that is.) Here in New England, hardy snow peas, radishes, and greens like lettuce, spinach, and mustard come first. Since most CSA providers operate on a 20-week early summer to fall calendar, it makes for slim, or repetitious, pickin’s early on. At first, be prepared for showers of snow peas and greens, beefed up with whatever else might be available…honey, homemade bread, or maybe a glossy food magazine to weigh down the container. Before you know it, though, fruit ripens, cabbage matures, and the bag gets heavier.
Speaking of cabbage, last week’s “special feature” was the Napa variety, a type of Chinese cabbage that looks shorter, fatter, and curlier that what is offered in the grocery store. It was puzzling to see many people removing it from their own bags and tossing it into the “unwanted” bin. Napa cabbage, if nothing else, is beautiful! It also makes a terrific stir fry. If cooked cabbage isn’t your favorite, Napa is great fun in a salad. Don’t like the taste? Stick it in a bowl of water and use it as a centerpiece!
Even though I’ve never met a fresh vegetable that I would actually kick off my plate, I have to admit that last week’s English peas came close. They were much too chubby for my taste; definitely not to be eaten raw; ‘way too floury (gag.) Happily, a quick boil with a clove of garlic brought them to edible life…a little butter, and they were delightful!
Next week's "menu," just posted, lists first-of-the-season green and yellow squash, more English peas, cabbage, and lettuce, plus chard, hot house tomatoes, (minus the corn- and soy-based wax coating they might get in the supermarket,) and bread. My half (or 2/3) share, costing $400 for 20 weeks, provides adequate vegetables for one or two people, but I do round it out here and there with my own garden produce when the chipmunks, raccoons, and deer leave something uneaten. A full share is $600 for roughly twice the quantity. Cost wise, CSA doesn't exactly save, but since the full amount is paid up front, every week seems like a gift. Aw, shucks, aren't fresh vegetable and fruits always a gift?