We invested in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year with a local farm in Toledo: Sitka Springs Farm. The way it works (for those who do not know) is that you pay the farmer up front, usually in early Spring, for a share in the produce they grow during a specified time-period, usually Summer and Fall. The farmer uses the funding they receive to plant the produce the shareholder will receive; it’s like having your own personal farmer! Once the season begins, the shareholder receives a container full of fresh produce every week. The upside is that you get freshly picked produce every week and the downside is that you get freshly picked produce every week. A typical selection might be onions, garlic, shallots, kale, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, zucchini, peppers, potatoes, radishes, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli and various other items. One week we got artichokes; another, chanterelle mushrooms; and another, a beautiful blue squash called an Oregon Sweet.
Our challenge has been to keep up with what we get. Onions, shallots and garlic keep well, so there is no problem there. Hardy greens can sit in the fridge for a few days or a week or so with no harm, but others have a short shelf life. Zucchini is always a prolific vegetable and this year I got very creative with it. I made chocolate zucchini muffins, Korean zucchini pancakes, zucchini tarts, stuffed zucchini, grilled zucchini and the ubiquitous zucchini bread (but with pistachios—yum). Peppers were also bountiful, and are not on readily eaten here as Bruce doesn’t like them—especially green bells. I had to process the peppers in ways that they were hidden from both sight and flavor. I made pepper jam, pepper salsa, pepper enchilada sauce, roasted pepper tarts and added them to the Korean zucchini pancakes.
I’ve made the traditional kind of sauerkraut and a Mexican variation called Cortido with cabbage; I’ve preserved sour cherries; I’ve fermented carrots and beets, and yesterday, a rutabaga that was the size of a small child!
What I love about my produce challenge every week is that I am learning new ways to prepare various vegetables as well as how to preserve them for later use through fermentation, pickling, or other techniques. We all get into cooking ruts, and even though I do my best to challenge myself with new techniques as often as I can, it’s easy to just whip up a vegetable dish I’ve been making for years. For example, I love roasted greens, any greens, be they spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna or others. I have a tendency to want to roast every bunch of greens I receive because it’s easy to do and they taste really good. However, I have challenged myself to do different things with the greens this year. I simmered some kale and chard in coconut milk and Indian spices a few weeks ago. I made an Asian noodle soup with chopped greens, tofu, and fish sauce that was delicious; I grilled chard and kale one beautiful afternoon and ate them with olive oil, lemon juice and anchovies. I have chard, kale, and collards waiting for me tonight; I’m making grilled duck breast, so am thinking I’ll treat them like cabbage and make a warm salad with vinegar and onions.
In the picture above, I roasted the greens and topped them with sliced Spanish olives. The red sauce on the steak is Romesco and was delicious with everything on that plate!
I’m going to miss my CSA when it ends on October 22nd. I will have to go back to scrounging for nice produce from our local coop and the various grocery stores here, but I’ll be first in line come next year when our local farms begin offering shares for purchase. I’ll be ready for those zucchini, peppers and that huge rutabaga—bring it on!
For more information on CSA’s and how you can get involved with a local farm, click here