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CSA Scout: The wind-down begins


This week's bounty from, clockwise from top left: Good Fortune Farm, Bull Run Mountain Farm, Spiral Path Farm, Great Country Farms. (Betsy Bajwa, Sharyn Fitzgerald, Michelle Forman, Sarah Hamaker)

The season is coming to a close – more so for some of us than others. My Karl’s Farm CSA (community-supported agriculture) subscription ran out last week, and I have to say, I’ve been a bit relieved to not have to listen for that Tuesday phone call from Karl as he’s nearing my building for delivery and I buzz him in remotely, from my office. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy so much of the produce I got from the farm. But given all the other shopping I want to do (exploring different farms and farmers markets, for instance), I’d rather not be locked into this Tuesday night delivery.

Perhaps it’s a matter of timing; if the deliveries were coming on Saturdays, for instance, I’d probably make better use of them, given that I do so much cooking on the weekends. Nonetheless, I’m glad I was able to support Karl’s by subscribing this season, and who know? Maybe when February rolls around and things are looking pretty bleak, produce-wise, I’ll get the bug again and sign up.

As this CSA Scout project winds down, subscribers whose shares are ending will no doubt feel similar moved to share end-of-season evaluations, which will give all those considering subscribing an idea of what the experience is like.

Here’s what the other Scouts are reporting:

Betsy Bajwa, Bethesda
Whole share from Good Fortune Farm, Brandywine.
$23/week

In the box: 1 dozen certified organic eggs, 1 head of bok choy, 1 bunch of beautiful long red radishes, 3 heads of baby lettuce, 3/4 pound of dragon tongue beans (these are beautiful raw but the purple fades when they cook), 3 pounds of Beauregard sweet potato (one large potato!! I think these are my favorite type), 3 purple top turnips, 1 pound chervena peppers, 8 tam jalapeno peppers (a milder varietal)
Meals and cooking plans: Thus far we’ve had the beans as a side for a lunch, sweet potato soup (a version of vichyssoise made with leeks), lettuce in a salad, turnip soup, radishes in salad and the peppers in a salad and vegetarian chili (hot just in this). In the future we’ll have the rest of the sweet potato in a Southwest-style shepherd’s pie along with a jalapeno, the bok choy as a small side and in a stir fry, the rest of the radishes in salad and the peppers in salad and stir fry. Depending on what it looks like we’ll get next week, some of the jalapenos may go into the freezer. Used up last week’s eggs in baking and so now need to think of baking for this week’s -- or maybe egg salad sandwiches or eggs for breakfast.
From last week, everything’s gone except for a few eggs -- guess it wasn’t a big baking week!
Other thoughts: Farmer Mike’s notes this week are helpful as usual: info on the type of beans, radishes, turnips, peppers (because I would never be able to identify a chervena pepper if asked!) and info on some basic cooking ideas.

Sharyn Fitzgerald, South Arlington
"Bushel" (large four-person share) from Bull Run Mountain Farm, The Plains.
$1,075

In the box: 16 tomatillos, 8 ears of corn, 8 sweet peppers
8 sweet potatoes, 4 bulbs of garlic, 8 poblano peppers, bunch of mustard greens, bunch of arugula, small bunch shiso leaves, small bunch of peppermint
Meals and cooking plans: This was our final week last week and the haul was quite large! Lots of beautiful greens, and the potatoes are so flavorful—it really makes a difference in taste to have potatoes that are fresher than what the stores provide. With our 16 tomatillos, one neighbor Caroline made a group favorite, tomatillo-avocado salsa, which she shared with us all. What a great way to end the season!
Other thoughts: I polled my neighbors with whom I shared the CSA, and the consensus seemed to be that most are on the fence about joining again next year. The pros and cons were typical: while most enjoyed experiencing new tastes and the ebb and flow of what is in season on any particular Wednesday, we felt that what we received was not conducive to providing the foundation of an everyday meal plan for busy people who like to cook but don’t have a lot of time to experiment. Some were hoping for greater quantities of the standards of summer: tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, etc. Others felt too stressed to come up with uses for some of the more exotic vegetables provided. Overall, though, we are all grateful for the bounty of our region, both in terms of our CSA and the prevalence of farmer’s markets. We also enjoyed our weekly get togethers at which we’d pick up our “share of the share,” ooh-and-aah over what the week brought us, and share ideas about what to do with the out-of-the-ordinary treats!

Here are a few snippets of comments from neighbors:
“I found the vegetable section odd and inconsistent with what my Iowa farmer roots have taught me. When one has a garden, one expects, at some point during the summer, to be buried in cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, radishes, peppers, cabbage, etc. I never felt buried in anything but corn and potatoes. And garlic. And little stuff. It never quite made sense to me. But I did enjoy the experience, and my favorite dish came early in the season when I did a stir-fry with the bok choy .... I'd seen that vegetable at the store for years but had never tried to cook it myself.”
“It was certainly a challenge and I'm glad I tried some new things, but I would have preferred a more traditional assortment of veggies. I didn't realize how hard it is to change one's way of cooking until we were about half way through and I was getting a bit overwhelmed. It's just much easier to work with the veggies we have at the Sunday farmer's market and we don't have to drive to get it.”
“I enjoyed the experience but am not sure I'd do it again unless our lifestyle and cooking habits changed significantly. I remember back in the beginning reading somewhere -- either in the general CSA information or on "our" farm's site -- that CSAs tend to work better for people who are willing and able to adjust eating to what happens to be in season and plentiful. I think that was the challenge for our family. We try to eat local veggies and take advantage of what's in season, but we have our standard dishes and staples. It's enough to try to get something healthy, quick, and inexpensive on the table every night that we didn't really have the time (or willpower?) to get creative with each week's harvest. Unfortunately, things went to waste sometimes. When my mother-in-law was here and cooking, she found ways to use everything, so I know it can be done. Alas, just not by us! Still, I'm going to miss the weekly veggie gatherings. Does anyone know of a local wine sharing cooperative?”
“I enjoyed the experience, kind of liked hanging out with the other CSA groupies in the parking lot, and thought it was fun looking forward to a mini-vegetable harvest each week. Doing the membership with neighbors was a big part of the pleasure. It also added a healthy component to the summer -- knowing that fresh vegetables were always coming.”

Michelle Forman, Silver Spring
Two adults
Medium share from Spiral Path Farm, Perry County, Pa.
$413 (27 weeks)

In the box: lettuce, chard, 3 plum tomatoes, 2 big tomatoes, 2 heads of broccoli, 7 or so little peppers, garlic, the cutest little butternut squash you’ve ever seen.
Meals and cooking plans: My husband ate two of the plum tomatoes and one of the larger tomatoes. And the lettuce was used for salads and sandwiches. The garlic hasn’t been used yet. The broccoli was chopped and used in a stir-fry with some tofu and rice noodles. The butternut squash hasn’t been used yet, but I plan to use it in a wonderful recipe that I have for pumpkin bread … but it will be butternut squash bread. My favorite dish this week (and I made it last week too) was a roasted tomato and pepper sauce that went over some delicious handmade pasta that I picked up from Whole Foods. Last week it went over rigatoni; this week it went over sweet potato gnocchi. (More on this is here). I used the chard in a stew that was ruined by a bad beer that I used for the broth. I was very sad about that.
Other thoughts: I thought my membership was for 25 weeks, but it is for 27!

Sarah Hamaker, Fairfax
Two adults, four children
Half-share from Great Country Farms, Bluemont.
$475 (20 weeks)

In the box: 1 bunch of Swiss chard, 5 apples, tiny eggplant (almost too cute to eat), 2 banana peppers, 7 potatoes, about a dozen sweet potatoes, pie pumpkin, small bag of green beans.
Meals and cooking plans: We are very excited to see sweet potatoes in this week’s bag, which will be baked and consumed with great delight by everyone but me (never acquired a taste for them). The youngest child, a toddler, has been having great fun with the mound of potatoes we now have residing underneath our sink: taking them out and carrying them around the house. We had rosemary potatoes for dinner, but still have a ways to go before the rest will be eaten. Good thing potatoes keep for a while. The green beans and eggplant are not enough to feed our family, so will be supplemental side dishes at some point. The Swiss chard will go into a pesto with Asiago cheese, a repeat of an earlier recipe that everyone enjoys. The pie pumpkin will go into a pie, which will get us all in the mood for Thanksgiving.
Other thoughts: Frankly, I can’t believe this is the last week of our CSA. Once again, we enjoyed having the fresh produce, which we have eaten for the most part, wasting only a little bit. We will now be counting the weeks until next year’s season begins.

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  October 23, 2009; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  CSA Scout  | Tags: CSA, Joe Yonan  
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