A few years ago, I tried out a share in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program to ensure a summer-long stream of local, farm-fresh vegetables and fruits. I thought it might challenge me to come up with creative ways to use foods I may not necessarily choose from the farmers’ market or grocery store. I registered for the smallest box and eagerly waited for gorgeous heads of lettuce, peaches and herbs to appear on my front porch.
The first CSA delivery was promising. I don’t remember exactly what was in the box, to be honest, but it was some assortment of spring produce – a few onions, some asparagus, a few strawberries, greens and maybe a stalk or two of rhubarb. But as the summer wore on, I became stressed out over using up all my CSA treasures and in a few cases, just plain stumped. What does one do with two pounds of tomatillos anyway? (My answer: make a whole helluva lot of salsa verde).
I also found the quantities to be either restrictive or overwhelming, with little in between. There were items I’d have loved more of, like the rhubarb. With more than two stalks, I could actually make something. I chopped them up and mixed them into a crisp with strawberries or maybe even apples, but they were merely a meek suggestion instead of the bold, pucker-inducing declaration that spring had at long last arrived. And of course, I found myself with items I didn’t need so many of. How many hulking heads of lettuce could this family take down? (Answer: not that many).
So I was hesitant when approached by From the Farmer, a local CSA-type service that delivers seasonal produce to your front door within 48 hours of harvest. It sounded good, but I remembered how excited I was about the CSA and calmed down pretty quickly. I was assured I could skip anything I didn’t want and that I could adjust quantities to more of the things I really liked and wanted and less of those I didn’t. I could also skip weeks when I’d be on vacation – no need to have my neighbors retrieve the boxes during those steamy August months. Hmm. Okay. I decided to give it a try. (Disclosure: From the Farmer sent the first few baskets to me free of charge. It’s what happens when you write about food and it’s generally a good thing. The very first basket, which I discovered happily on my way out for a morning run, is pictured at the top of this post. But if you are a PR person reading this now, please know that as much as I love handbags and athletic wear, I will not be writing about your client’s product if it’s not immediately related to what I write about, which is real, natural, close-to-the-ground food).
- One large head red butterhead lettuce
- Two large bok choy (I asked for a second bok choy in place of yellow onions, of which I already have too many)
- A small bag of cremini mushrooms
- Three voluptuous heirloom tomatoes
- Six broccoli crowns (again, I asked for double the broccoli in place of peppermint chard)
- Two of the fattest carrots I’ve ever seen in my life
- A small bunch fresh dill
Unlike my CSA experiment of several years ago, I looked forward to figuring out what to do with this assortment of seasonal treats. My cooking style has adapted since my early CSA experiment and is now much more freeform and flexible. Whereas I used to plan every meal and make sure I had every ingredient on hand, I am now more comfortable scanning the pantry, fridge and freezer and just making something up on the fly. It’s likely to be a vegetarian pasta, a spread of grilled vegetables with fish or some raw vegetable salad with a side of meat for my carnivorous boys.
Interspersed with these words are photos of just a few things I’ve made this week. From the top, 1) heirloom tomatoes with hand dipped ricotta and fresh basil 2) grilled bok choy 3) grilled salmon with garlic, lemon and fresh dill and 4) this pasta made with radiatore and cremini mushrooms with a salad of red buttercrunch lettuce, shaved carrots and tangy yogurt dill dressing.
P.S. If you live in the DC or Baltimore area and want to try home deliveries by From the Farmer, get 25 percent off your first three deliveries by using this code: WEEKLYGREENS14. Enjoy!