Where did the last month go? Oh right…
“Of course, some of us are happy with the outcome of the presidential election, while others are surviving on cupcakes and bourbon.”
– Stephen Colbert on the Late Show 11/23/2016
If, like me, you find yourself in the latter category then I highly recommend that you go back to my blog post on bourbon-chocolate-pecan cupcakes! I’m sure that this is what Stephen was actually referencing when he made that comment…
On to my actual topic for this blog post: this year’s CSA (Community Shared/Supported Agriculture) season has come to a close. It actually ended a couple of weeks ago but we still have a mountain of winter squash to get through. Somewhere in that last month I was so overwhelmed by a combination of schoolwork and the overflowing abundance of vegetables. I just kind of shut down and stopped using the produce altogether, hoarding winter squash at the weekly pickup because I knew that they could last for months.
Inspired by my French host-family, we started Thanksgiving dinner this year with a soup-course: butternut squash soup garnished with pomegranate seeds.
It was vegan until I poured cream on top of it. My mom’s recipe for a vegan chicken broth is the following:
- 4 cups of water
- 3 tbs. nutritional yeast*
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
*Nutritional yeast is the key ingredient here, and an acquired taste, so maybe don’t commit to a 5-pound bag of the stuff before you’ve tried it in recipes.
They come on a weird stalk-thingy and look like they come from another planet, but they are still one of my favorite vegetables! Sauté up these babies with pecans and cranberries or just roast them in the oven with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder.
Radishes: My hands-down favorite recipe to come out of this CSA season has been braised radishes & bacon. I added portabella mushrooms to the last batch, to great effect, and typically pair this dish with quinoa.
Parsnips: This root vegetable (on the far left in the pictures below) played a supporting role in a wonderful dinner featuring chicken thighs braised in white wine.
Rutabaga: Although I have yet to actually cook this one, a blog post from The Kitchn provides a compelling argument for the integration of rutabaga into your diet. I am planning to make their Creamy, Smoky Whipped Rutabaga recipe.
I fell in love with this tender, dark green and picked up a bag every week that it was available at the CSA! It’s just like baby spinach, except it doesn’t leave the strange bitter coating in my mouth that cooked spinach does.
Cheers… to another year?
After several weeks of debate among ourselves, my husband and I agreed to sign up for another year of the CSA with Provider Farm. Surprisingly, he was actually the one advocating for the renewal of our CSA share throughout our discussions! Here is a list of the pros and cons that lead us to this decision:
Vegetable Volume and Freshness
Con: We often felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of vegetables and our fridge space was cramped. (the fix: we signed up for a smaller share for next year)
Pro: We consistently ate a high volume of vegetables. I also did not feel as guilty if produce sat in the fridge for over a week since it was coming to us fresh; conventional groceries often make cross-country trips and sit on grocery store shelves for an undisclosed period of time before a consumer finally purchases them.
Con: TONS of lettuce. Very little scallions (scallions were available for only like 2-3 weeks, if I remember correctly). Personally, I would want to have this ratio flipped, but I recognize that the other shareholders probably love this arrangement.
Pro 1: We were allowed to make substitutions for lettuce the few times that we asked.
Pro 2: Coming into the CSA I expected a pre-prescribed list of the specific vegetables that I had to take each week; instead, Provider Farm allowed us to fill a specified volume in whatever way we chose. This flexibility was wonderful, especially when planning around summer travels: for the weeks that I knew we would be out of town I would stock up on things like cucumbers for pickling and peppers for freezer storage.
Pro 3: There are jewels, such as the Hakurei turnip, that seem to be rare and expensive to source from conventional grocery stores. My husband was ecstatic to receive a yellow watermelon, something neither of us had seen outside of Taiwan and Japan.
Con: It is a bit more than we would typically be spending on groceries (approximately $100 a month to cover produce for two people with the small CSA share)… but some of this stems from the fact that we weren’t eating enough fresh veggies to begin with!
Pro: Everything in the share is fresh, local, seasonal, and organic. I would expect to be paying nearly twice this amount if I tried to source the same produce from farmers markets or Whole Foods.
Con: It’s a bit of a hike to get out to the farm once a week (about 45 minutes round-trip).
Pro: There’s a 10-hour window split between two different weekdays (Tuesday and Friday) during which we can drop in to pickup our produce for the week. The flexibility was great for our summer travels as well as for my new schedule as a graduate student.
While I’m glad to have a break from the onslaught of fresh veggies, I am excited to do this again next year! If you are local to the eastern CT area then I would definitely encourage you to check out the Provider Farm CSA yourself. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about the experience.