Under the Tuscan Kale

kale lettuce

This week, we’re sharing a post from member Andrew, who wrote an amusing yet useful piece on his personal blog about his experience with the CSA. This essay was original published on Andrewfoundland: A Place For Things. Photo by Core Group member Jen W from the farm trip.

I joined a CSA this summer, which may have been a foolhardy step for someone who a) doesn’t like to cook, b) has no one to feed but himself, and c) spends most mealtimes outside of the house. There is the added complication that my pickup date is Wednesdays no later than 7:30, which will be a problem when orchestra rehearsals start up again in September, but we’ll burn that viola when we come to it.

The main challenge is using all the food before it goes bad. People keep telling me to freeze stuff, which is a very practical suggestion, but I just know once it goes into the freezer it’ll never come out. There’s also the suggestion of drying things, like herbs (which I am in fact doing with the chamomile, because what the hell else am I supposed to do with it), but that seems to defeat the purpose of having fresh herbs. Still, I may take some of these recommendations, because storing it all in the fridge and blasting through it before nature reclaims it is not exactly working at 100%.

My main strategies are these:

  • Invite friends over for dinner. My friends are starting to realize that when I invite them over for dinner, I’m really inviting them over to cook for me (well us). It’s not your traditional dinner party, but it works well for my friends who like to cook, who have small kitchens, and who like free food, and it works especially well for me.
  • stilltasty.com is a website that will tell you not only how long you can expect your food to last, but also how to store it. From it I have learned not to put basil in the fridge.
  • Bring the fruit to work. Nothing makes a bunch of coworkers happier than a bunch of free fresh fruit. My first week I left two pints of strawberries in my fridge to die, but the second week I brought the cherries in to share (plus made this at home) and used almost all of them. Current challenge: plums. I just ate two of them while typing this bullet (and now my keyboard is a little sticky, but fortunately it’s my work computer).
  • Just give it away. Farm-fresh produce makes a great thank you gift. My neighbor who watched my cats availed herself of some broccoli, and my friend who picked up my CSA haul one week relieved me of the minzuna and epazote, and thank goodness.
My very limited cooking repertoire needed to be expanded, but it served me well the first few weeks when it was raining kale in here. I made my mainstay African pineapple peanut stew twice, which took care of some of the kale, onions, garlic, and cilantro. With the remaining kale I made this extremely basic massaged kale salad, which required only buying a lemon. Lately, the kale tide has been stemmed, and I’ve rediscovered a forgotten food processor and made pesto twice (once with garlic scapes, and then just with garlic).
Signing up for the CSA was a little bit like immersion therapy. With each week I get more and more comfortable with the mountain of agriculture I bring home. I even start to look forward to Wednesdays and finding out what Iron Chef-like ingredient they’ll saddle me with this time.

Between Pretend and Reality: A Trip to Mimomex Farm

Today’s post is so much more than a recap of our trip to Mimomex Farm. CSA member Lance’s essay, combined with Core Group member Jen W’s images come together for an inspired and thought-provoking read. Enjoy…

Lancelot Schaubert is a Brooklyn based author with work that appeared or is forthcoming in markets like McSweeney’s, The 2016 Poet’s Market, Poker Pro, Encounter, The Misty Review, Encounter, and many others. His favorite vegetable is vinebud. Keep in touch with him through http://lanceschaubert.org/

Between Pretend and Reality
:: A trip to the Sunset Park CSA Farm ::

The day my wife and I planned on visiting the upstate farm our local Sunset Park CSA supports, I was hauling around a twelve-hundred-page Brandon Sanderson novel. Hardback. My arms ached. I’ve built up their strength recently by carrying books across our city’s grid of crosswalks, but this behemoth outweighs books like The Sun Also Rises by a factor of four. I was suffering the aching forearms because this book remains the most engaging read I’ve encountered in the past three years. So I wanted (shamefully) a backup plan in case the trip was boring or pushed me too far out of my introverted bubble of pseudo-comfort.

 

I was not disappointed.

farm trip

For starters those fresh tamales outside St. Michael’s satisfied a breakfast need that may have overwhelmed the lot of us halfway to the farm if left unaddressed. We divided up into our respective vans and headed north. The cool kids in the green van had to fiddle with the AC for a bit, but we got it going. En route, I was in the back seat beside a young boy named Samuel. Samuel speaks French. I do not. So he and I spent a good chunk of the journey by me reading a French translation of I Am Malala aloud and by him critiquing my pathetic American accent.

 

Somewhere in there, he and I each got lost in our respective novels and then we were there, surrounded by Appalachian hill country and the relative silence of farmland and the toddler who had just finished his morning snack. For the infant, it doesn’t get much more organic. And perhaps that’s our quest as well as we all set out to live off the land in spite of our current choice to live somewhere other than on the land.

farm trip 5

Martin was the first to introduce himself to us and, having come forward, to introduce us all to one another: “Family? These are my friends Friends this is my family,” and so on. Samuel was on the swing at this part which naturally encouraged me to begin pushing him, which also led to us switching places and the head rush of my inner parts spinning closer and closer to my outer parts reminded me of my inner kid and his petition to come out more often. I was caught up, mid-spin, in that place somewhere between pretend and reality, somewhere between a kid dependent on others and an adult in denial about his dependency. Perhaps that’s the point of a CSA — to remind us that we are not as strong as we think we are. We are frail, fearfully and wonderfully made creatures with fully derivative lives that come from the soil.

farm trip 2

He rounded us up and took us to the fields, explaining the cultivation cycles of garlic and pumpkins to the accompaniment of shoe soles sinking into deeply-tilled earth that was once the floor of a lake. Walking the fields to this Southern Illinois native felt less like field walking and more like cloud walking, like a romp through a ball pit in some fast food play place, like bare feet on the tumble track of an acrobatics center.

farm trip 6

“These are Toscana,” Martin said, pointing to the Tuscan kale.

 

Many of you know Martin as the generous and jolly soul he is, but this was news to Tara and I — at the slightest whisper of curiosity surrounding the radishes, Martin reached down and yanked up large clusters, one of which was big enough for another baby to use as a rather tart and unorthodox chew toy. Then again, maybe teething and radishes were meant for one another…

farm trip 3

We crossed over to the corn, husking up rocks from the ground along the way, tossing them to the side and talking about how more government funds need diverted from major corporate interest towards local farmers like Martin. He educated on the necessary community component — half of his struggle is networking. That’s why we’re here, in part.

farm trip 4

Back at the ranch, we learned recipes for salads and pesto and guacamole and pico de gallo. We learned further that pico de gallo means “The Beak of the Cock” and none of us could patch together the etymology of such a name, so we ate more chips instead, commenting on the cookery. (As it turns out, a restaurant owner in Acuna Mexico told one person that handlers calm fighting cocks by putting the rooster’s entire head into their mouths – darkness causes birds to begin REM sleep — so some handlers get bit on the tongue, just like the kick in pico).

farm trip 7

Well we washed our fresh-picked selections and I got a little carried away and accidentally washed Jen as well. The family had made a massive batch of tamales for us like an echo to the breakfast supplemented by the tasty treats everyone had brought along.

 

I left burnt. My arms were scorched, but they’ve since peeled. I’m reminded that sometimes it takes some intiative to put ourselves out there, to go on unintended adventures, to give space for the kid and the adult within us to come together in “good tilled earth” as Bilbo called it, the place where pretend and reality meet. I know where my food comes from and that place between pretend and reality, between childlike growth and its source, seems to be the kind of thing we desperately need. We’re a disconnected bunch, modern Americans, and it’ll take coming together like this and getting burned as we stumble to find our way back to simpler forms of living from which modern life is derived. Yeah, it’s hard work. Sure, we’ll get burned trying to get healthy.

 

But we peel.

farm trip 8

2015 Season is Full

We are officially at membership capacity for the 2015 season — if you’re interested in signing up for next year, please check back in March for 2016 season information.

Recipes and Ideas for Using CSA Greens

Oh. My. Is anyone else simultaneously thrilled and overwhelmed by these generous shares of GREEN we’re getting? I thought about taking a photo of the first couple shares and wimped out because I couldn’t figure out how to style so much green. (Although, a number of you totally rocked shots of the haul on Instagram! If you share a CSA-related image, don’t forget to tag it #sunsetparkcsa so other members can find it; we’ll be sharing some member photos in the main feed as well.)

By the end of the first week, I found myself a little behind in consuming the produce. One date night out, a couple meals put together too hastily, and we hadn’t finished our first share to make room for the next. I felt a little panicked that beautiful produce might go to waste. That first week was a great reminder of the lessons I’ve learned over my years participating in CSAs. Below, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips for managing your bounty so you get to enjoy the superior flavor and nutrition of this farm fresh produce.

kale chips

 

Tips to Keep Up

Some weeks we find it so easy to keep up with the abundance; other weeks we get to Tuesday and aren’t nearly through. Here are some of the ways we’ve learned we can best manage the haul – and by “manage” I mean make sure we’re enjoying the taste and nourishment of these fresh vegetables.

  • Prep ahead of time. The more you can wash and chop produce in advance, the more likely you’ll be able to quickly incorporate it into your next meal.
  • Make a commitment to eating in. For us, the most common culprit for getting behind is dining out. You can’t use your produce if you’re not cooking at home.
  • If you order takeout, add your own vegetable side. A lot of restaurant delivery is lacking in produce anyway, so save yourself some time by ordering most of your meal, but throw in a homemade side salad or some quickly sauteed vegetables to round out the meal.
  • Add vegetables every meal. Don’t limit your vegetable consumption to dinner. Try throwing some greens into your scrambled eggs. Pack a salad for lunch or layer some vegetables onto your next sandwich. Slice up radishes or roast kale chips for a snack.
  • Embrace unconventional combinations. Sometimes, I find myself challenged with what to make for dinner because the vegetables I have left either don’t go together or don’t go with whatever protein or starch we have on hand. I just have to let go and decide even if the meal isn’t cohesive that each component is enjoyable on its own. See above: scrambled egg tacos with a side of kale chips.
  • Smoothies! During the CSA season, I find myself drinking more smoothies and fresh juices made from these sweet local veggies.

And When You Don’t Keep Up?

When Wednesday is fast-approaching and you’ve barely made a dent in your share, these ideas will keep your produce from snowballing and make room for the next round. For the beginning of the season, let’s focus on greens.

  • Freeze it. Blanch or saute your washed greens and then throw them in the freezer to deal with later (as additions to casseroles, soups, and pastas). Alternately, you can freeze the greens raw (a huge time saver) to throw into smoothies.
  • Pesto it. Greens + garlic + olive oil and blend.  A pinch of salt or handful Parmigiano-Reggiano is nice too. I’ve included some pesto recipes below for your inspiration. Pesto can also be frozen.
  • Invite over some friends! Anytime I feel overwhelmed by my fridge, I try to take a step back and realize how very lucky I am to be burdened with the “problem” of excess food. What makes that feeling of gratitude even better is to share the abundance with my neighbors. Invite over some friends to share a meal brimming with wholesome, vibrant vegetables.

Recipes for Greens

A few recipe ideas for the mustard greens, beet greens, mizuna, and kale that are so plentiful this time of year. Remember that, in most cases, different dark leafy greens can be swapped for one another.

Turnip Greens Tart (works with any dark, leafy green!)

Grilled Kale Caesar

Indian Style Creamed Spinach (shared by member Rosa)

Swiss Chard and Rice Casserole (shared by member Rosa)

Pesto It:

Chard and Roasted Garlic Pesto

Pistachio Kale Pesto with Zucchini Noodles and Cherries

Kale Pesto Shells and Cheese

Oven Risotto with Tuscan Kale Pesto

Yam Gnocchi with Spinach-Chive Pesto

Fritter It:

Millet Cakes with Carrots and Spinach

Spinach Quinoa Patties

Swiss Chard and Quinoa Cakes with Garlic Yogurt

What did I miss? I’d love to hear your tips and best recipes for enjoying CSA produce. Feel free to reach out on Instagram or comment on the Facebook page with your suggestions.

Sarah