So we’re doing yet another Thing this summer, and it’s the dorkiest Thing yet, and I have not been able to shut up about it in real life conversation. It’s a Farm Thing: a farm share community- sponsored-agriculture kind of thing, where you give a local farmer a big box of money and in exchange he gives you a big box of organic seasonal produce every week. Every week for like, five months. The idea is that you do this to support local agriculture and organic farming and to infuse yourself with the sort of crunchy wholesome goodness that makes the Amish so upsettingly attractive. (No, really, their skin, it is peachy and gorgeous.)You also do the Farm Thing because you are just a tiny bit insane and wish to stage your very own personal hippie-food edition of Iron Chef. You get one week! To figure out! How the fuck to cook all this bok choy!
But I think we’re up for the challenge. For the past year now we’ve been shopping less and less at the Jewel and the other supermarket chains, and more and more at the produce stores, which have better and cheaper veggies and decidedly fewer Bad Times. (Though it must be said that Stanley’s has way too many foodie douchebags crowding the aisles on weekends to ever truly be good times, but whatever.) Anyway, I hope I’ve learned a few things from all my pseudo-frontier-wife soup-making antics this fall and winter. Like I know that kaleâ€”aka the curly leafy stuff that hotel caterers use to decorate salad bars because it practically never wiltsâ€”is actually edible, once you steam out all its latent anger and sorrow and serve it with chickpea curry. I bet knowledge like this occupies the part of my brain that used to be devoted to POINTSâ„¢ and super fun POINTSâ„¢-related SAT math problems calculating how many light-hambuger-bun-and-fat-free-cheese-singles sandwiches I could afford to consume per day. But I would be stupid and useless on Weight Watchers now. I don’t know how many POINTSâ„¢ anything is anymore because that stuff isn’t printed on the bok choy. Which, yes, we somehow figured out how to cook this week.
We got our first box last Saturday and this Sunday, on our way home from a little weekend trip, we’re picking up our second box from the actual farm. I am so stupidly excited about this you have no idea. You know it’s only a matter of time before we freak out completely and sell all our crap and move into a soy-powered geodesic dome.
Liberation from POINTS? The hell you say? I can’t even imagine a world without POINTS. Sigh.
You know itâ€™s only a matter of time before we freak out completely and sell all our crap and move into a soy-powered geodesic dome.
No, dear, we’re NOT.
Oh, man, we joined a CSA this year, too, and I also can’t stop talking about it! Seriously, though, I find myself with a big old pile of kale as well… would you share your chickpea curry recipe???
I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a farm share for a couple of years, then just chicken out and shop at the Farmer’s Market (at which I buy a ton of produce that the Boy and I cannot consume before it goes bad, so I suppose I get a similar effect).
Friends of mine have done it and loved it too, even when one of their boxes had nettles in it. Yes, nettles. The box also came with a recipe for nettle soup, but that didn’t help the fact that nettles taste pretty crappy no matter what you do with them, so they said.
Please let us know what you think at the end of the season–I’d be interested in knowing how well it worked out for you.
NETTLES? Oh my God. We have a fancy cookbook from our CSA with recipes for every veggie/thing we’ll get, and I didn’t see any nettle recipes, so I think we’re safe!
As for the chickpea curryâ€”I cheat and use a jar of Curry Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe’s. I chop a medium onion, sautee it with a little garlic, then add a drained can of chickpeas and some chopped (or canned) tomatoes. Sometimes I’ll throw in some chopped zucchini or eggplant. Then I dump in the sauce and cover and simmer for a bit while I steam the kale. Then I serve the curry over the kale instead of rice.
If there’s no Trader Joe’s where you are, you can sometimes find jars of curry simmer sauce at Whole Foods or the fancy ethnic foods sections at Jewel. Or, really you could probably come up with something close by using undrained canned tomatoes, a little tomato paste, and some cumin and turmeric and stuff.
Had a CSA subscription for a couple years from a farm that seemed to specialize in mizune and a zillion other asian greens, as well as kale, chard, etc. Out of desperation (because you can only have sauteed greens and oyster sauce so many times a week before you implode), I experimented with the turkish spinach and lentil soup recipe in “Sundays at Moosewood” and discovered that it works well with any combination of greens, and with much larger quantities of greens than called for in the recipe.
The problem is, of course, that after a few weeks of this soup you will be tired of not only greens, but lentils as well.
Oh, I love me some Trader Joe’s, no worries on that front.
Jill, I don’t know if you’re in Chicago – and I certainly don’t want to steer anyone away from Angelic Organics, which do great things – but one of the reasons I joined the Home Grown Wisconsin CSA is that I can get a half share, with every-other-week delivery, which lessens the commitment a little bit. I know there’s also supposed to be a Chicago-area CSA that lets you cancel occasional deliveries if necessary, but I’m not sure what it’s called.
Of course, if you’re not in Chicago, this is useless!…
Try stir frying your bok choi mixed with shredded carrots, snowpeas,chunks of browned extra firm tofu, fresh minced ginger and some soy sauce on peanut oil,and then mix it with cooked egg-free pasta previously tossed with some sesame seed oil(linguini is the best). Makes delicious vegan lo mein!
DISREGARD FIRST POSTING; SECOND ONE IS ACCURATE 🙂
Mrs. Harridan says
I’m a big fan of CSAs. We do one each winter and summer. I did compost a lot of rotten veggies last summer, though.
Mark Bittman has a really good bok choy recipe in his _How to Cook Everything_ book. Stir fried with garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Mmmmm.
we joined a CSA this year, too. We are loving it. We get a pretty good mix of things (this week was spinach, salad greens, beets, carrots, red onions, strawberries, fava beans, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes). And I usually only get one thing that stumps me. This week is fava beans, but I’m kind of geekily excited because it is something I would never find at a store.
I have friends who are doing a CSA, and I did one for a while with a roommate until we got three weeks worth of squash and then she pulled the plug on it (I couldn’t afford it on my own). I’m going to do it again soon, too, but not now since I’m moving – but which Farm are you doing it through?
Oh, and there’s that produce place on Lawrence I have become newly infatuated with thanks to their $1.89 lb. for a plum thing they’ve got going on…
In any case, I love bok choy sauteed with garlic. Best way to eat it, imo.
OMG! I JUST joined a local CSA (San Diego, CA) this week! I am completely and proudly, geekily excited for my first box of produce! All of the recipes in the ‘comments’ sound fabulous – I’ll be sure to refer back when I receive my first batch of kale and/or bok choy!!!
HAHAHAHA!! I laughed out loud at the bok choy part..I’ve got it coming out my freakin’ EARS! I’m splitting a share with a friend and we still have so much green stuff in the fridge it’s ridiculous..
I’d like to see that soy-powered geodesic dome..
Bok choy, eh? Hmmm! This sounds like a job for One Good Meal Woman!
And if you do the geo-dome thing, Andrew is not allowed to buy Chris’s record collection.
Wendy, you and Chris are becoming more and more like crunchy hippy types. You’re maybe one or two steps away from moving to a co-op house like I did. You’re starting to scare me.
Yeah we do the CSA thing here. Actually there are two related CSA phenomena I’d like to describe. The first is called “CS eh?” which is what you say when you open the box and try to figure out what to do with celeriac and Jerusalem artichoke. The second phenomenon I refer to as “CSA surprise” which is a stew-like dish where you basically throw the darn things into a pot and cook them because you don’t know what the heck else to do with and add, oh I dunno, maybe curry and coconut milk. Not always a pleasant experience…
That being said, kale is awesome. Try stir-frying it with some chopped garlic cloves. Mmmmmm!
I’ve always wanted to join a CSA! I’m so jealous. But I’m single, so I can’t eat all the stuff in a box, and the pick-ups never seem to jive with my work schedule. I suppose part of the trick is cooking and freezing some of it.
Ha! I read this post yesterday afternoon, and at dinnertime I finally “got” the funny in your title to this post. I started sniggering into my black-bean burger.
I think I saw some garlic scapes in there, and now I am quite jealous. We had them for the past three weeks and now they’re done. There’s nothing like garlic scape pesto spread on wholegrain toast in the morning. Lucky you!
If you’re looking for an alternative to Stanley’s, try Fresh Water Market (or some name like that) on the northeast corner of Devon and Talman. It blows my mind how cheap and fresh the produce is there.
Kale is awsome. You can rub it with a bit of olive oil and then roast it in a really hot oven. If you toss it with a bit of salt it’s a surprisingly tasty substitute for potato chips. No, really.
Another geek here! We’ve been doing this for about a year and I am really starting to want to become a farmer. I love that it forces you to eat what is in season.
This is our second year of doing a CSA (Boston area.) We absolutely love it! Last year we had a box share which we had to pick up in town, but this year we pick up at the farm, and get to pick a bunch of our own stuff each week (strawberries, tea, herbs, beans so far.) Everything is so fresh and delicious!
It is a fun challenge to come up with ways to use everything – last year there were loads and loads of radishes, and we came up with a few new (to us) ways of preparing them. So far this year it’s a pretty good mixture. Garlic scapes are some of my favorites, which I probably wouldn’t even know about if we hadn’t joined the CSA! I definitely eat healthier during the CSA months.
Have fun with it!
Here in Chicago, I’ve done Angelic Organics and King’s Hill Farm. AO had great stuff, but as a single woman, I couldn’t keep up with the supply. KHF was much more flexible. Half share and can opt out of any week -or- order specific stuff. Maybe that’s the CSA mcm was referring to?
Lori W. says
You know, if my math teachers had merely used WW points to get my attention, I might have understood algebra a bit better.
The CSAs around here sell out really fast and I’m just a single so it would be really overwhelming to deal with, say, a lot of kale. It sounds like a lot of fun and you are enjoying it. And, I love the title of your post too.
These Things You Do inspire the rest of us…in fact, your post-ride Flickr picture sent me to the park for a three-mile walk/run with my odd-looking dog.
Hearty book recommendation: The _New York Times_ named Michael Pollan’s _The Omnivore’s Dilemma_ one of the ten best books of 2006. Anyone who is interested in what they eat and how it’s grown will love it!
(In a stroke of really unfortunate timing, I read part of his fast food chapter while sitting in a McDonald’s in Breckenridge, Texas sipping a hot coffee and eating an increasingly-loathsome bacon biscuit.)
Yes! I read the Michael Pollan book this spring and I could NOT SHUT UP about it.
Sherry Sly says
I went through an organic box obsession as well, here’s a tip: you can wrap a lot of stuff up in lettuce and cabbage leaves and/or use them as utensils.
Once I got over any need for my meals to make sense, I started using the box up. No one needs to know that dinner was two artichokes and an ear of corn.
Here’s another book: Real Food by Nina Planck. She also has a very interesting web site.
I’ve been reading thru your old entries. I have to say, I really loved Jemima J. Maybe it was because I was going through a fanatical dieting phase myself at the time, and the book really captured the obsession. But also it’s the only chick lit I’ve come across whose heroine is smarter than she is pretty. It’s the only chick lit I’ve ever read that spoke to me — I’ve always been a lot smarter than I have ever been pretty, even when I was young & trim & fashion conscious.
The part of Jemima J (and also, another fat-girl novel I just read, “She’s Come Undone”) that I couldn’t relate to was the theme of anti-fat bigotry. Both books harp on and on about how fat girls get no respect and have no friends and are basically isolated losers who comfort themselves with food in the absence of a social life. I’ve always had plenty of friends and have never felt that I was treated differently when I was fat than when I was thin. Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, maybe I have been on the receiving end of all sorts of mockery that I just didn’t notice.
My roommate and I had that “how to use up big pile of bok choy” problem too. I’m not sure what kind of bok choy you have, but if it’s the sweeter kind (looks similar to the stuff they sell in the supermarkets) then you can actually wash it really well, chop it up and munch on it raw as a snack, or with a bit of dressing. Seriously, it’s not bad! (Just make sure you soak the leaves in a sink of water for a bit or the *crunch* factor will be dirt and not veg.)
I was just telling my boyfriend the other day how I think I’d like to do one of those Farm Share things one day. For one, I love produce, and for two, I like feeling like a morally superior hippie. Yay!
I did the CSA thing a couple of years ago. I really liked it, though I found early spring, I could feed a nation of goats on the produce, and late summer, it was a wizened radish and not much else. But nothing tastes better than really fresh veggies. I would grill a bunch of them and keep them in the fridge and use them in sandwiches, pasta, omelettes or whatever.
This is so cool! You’ll have to give us an update on how this is going.
That sounds really cool. Any idea how I can find out about a similar program in my area? I’m in suburban Detroit.
Ha! I know I’m really late to this party, but I also could not shut up about my Brooklyn CSA share for the first couple months of summer. Everyone was probably sick of hearing about my kohlrabi, but now it has dwindled to the point of not really being worth mentioning. Our low point was a weasel attack that reduced our dozen-eggs-a-week to only 6 or 7. I guess we got a share of the farmer’s risk as well as output. I also burned out my juicer in one desperate attempt to finish up a backlog of veggies before the next one arrived.
We have a similar thing here with market co ops where neighbours will get together and buy there fresh produce in bulk at the markets.
There is also an organic co op shop run by volunteers which slightly more convenient as you only purchase what you need.