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Tag Archives: value of CSA

Fifty Shades of Greens

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Springtime. The drowning in the greens. Not a bad thing. One of those pleasures that we anticipate in the dead of winter.

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Today’s CSA pickup yielded lots of greens. Lettuces. Spinach. Kale and more.

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A large share. Formerly known as a full share. I forgot how large they can be. Still, as people who put many vegetables on our lunch and dinner plates, this is a good haul.

I have to comment about those squash.

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Zucchini and yellow squash are NOT in season in Lancaster County. It seems our CSA has decided that the consumer who wants more produce earlier than normal in the midAtlantic will be driving their selections.

We seem to have expanded into a few more Southern states. The purists may not be happy, but we are getting incredibly fresh organic food at less than retail cost, so I can forgive them for using other farms. Last year, we had a delayed opening because the crops were far behind here. The extreme cold winter hurt them.

This year, they opted to bring in vegetables from further south. That allowed them to open on time. We know this was another brutal winter. When it comes to decisions. Do they branch out and keep customers, or remain pure to the “local” tag and lose customers due to decreased yields and subpar product. I can understand them.

I have to admit. Those squash? Awesome.

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Two ended up in tonight’s dinner. A simple gratin. Squash. Hummingbird Farm tomatoes. Mozzarella from last week’s basket. Olive oil. Herbs de Provence. Baked at 350 degrees until browned.

Tonight’s dinner.

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Not bad for a Tuesday.

As for those other greens. They will be enjoyed.

And that rhubarb. Begging to become a crisp tomorrow.

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One Size Does Not Fit All

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When it comes to food choices, we have so many options in this area that it is sometimes overwhelming. Literally. CSAs. Farmer’s Markets. Organic food stores. Specialty stores. Fresh from the farm at farm stands.

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What is the best value? It has taken me years to figure out what works for me. It may not work for you. I do find it a great deal that we have moved the CSA market into one with maximum flexibility.

Community Supported Agriculture used to be “one farm” for the most part. If the farm did well, you ate well. If the season was awful, you didn’t get much. Then, they started banding together to make cooperative ventures. Buying fruit from orchards, or bread from local bakers, or cheeses and dairy.

Enter the flexibility of sizes. Small, medium, large. Half or whole shares.

Since our entrance to buying from CSAs, we have watched them adapt. Now, it is simpler to choose, but harder to manage (trust me, I think our site host is a saint to put up with all the headaches associated with dozens of options).

Enter also really innovative ideas like Friends and Farms. Where you can miss a week. Or change options at a moment’s notice.

Add our multiple farmer’s markets, like the return of Glenwood for us in west county. Where we can round out our shopping and avoid those long lines at the local Giant Food.

After four years of experimenting, I think I found my perfect match. Rotating the choices from Friends and Farms year round. Hitting farm stands like Breezy Willow in the winter. Jenny’s in the summer.

And my anchor. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. We held our breath to see if we met our minimum to keep our site going. We did that and more. Forty one shares. Mini custom. Small. Medium. Large. Fruit. Meat. Chicken. Cheese. Flowers. Herbs. They have made it a smorgasbord of options.

Our first pick up was last Tuesday.

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A large share. Most of which has already been consumed, or is planned for the next two days. Asparagus. Grilled. Spinach and chard. Frittata. Beets. Roasted. Onions. Grilled. The Jerusalem artichokes will be roasted tomorrow.

This year I tried a meat share. The heritage pork chops were awesome.

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As for cheese. They continue to make me happy. We like to have a smaller dinner, with some wine. I cut off a few slices of complimenting cheese to savor. Instead of dessert.

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That mozzarella. Perfect shaved over my Friends and Farms tomatoes from Hummingbird Farms.

This local source for tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, before the garden kicks in, is a welcome treat from Friends and Farms. This was my last “small” basket. We are moving to Protein and Dairy. Between the CSA and the garden, I will have enough produce.

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I will miss that great bread but the local farmer’s markets will fill that void.

All in all. I found my combination that works. If you live here, with seven farmer’s markets, a dozen farm stands, almost a dozen CSAs, and Friends and Farms, you certainly can eat well on fresher than store bought food.

Parsnip-ity

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As in parsnip overload. By my choosing.

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Today was my last week of the winter CSA. Three weeks until the spring/summer season begins. I decided to load up on parsnips from the swap box. Good thing our site host is a friend and lets me swap more than one item if I give her some stuff she likes. I swapped kale and cabbage today to get a triple share of parsnips. They keep well. I like them. I even have made colcannon with them.

These are destined to become roasted veggies. Colcannon. And, I am thinking parsnip and sweet potato fries. I have quite a bit of both left.

Enough to take samples to Greenfest this Saturday. Our site host and I are staffing a table to promote our CSA. We need to guarantee our pick up site by recruiting a few more members.

Our Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative CSA is one that provides us with so many great vegetables. Fruit. Meat. Cheese. Eggs. Bread. Herbs. Milk. Tofu. The list seems to be endless. They have grown by leaps and bounds. Now delivering to six states and the District.

The rest of this week’s final basket.

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Spinach. Chard. Mushrooms. Aeroponic butterhead lettuce.

Add ons.

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The pantry item was mint tea. The cheese was a raw milk farmer’s cheese. The meat share was 1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast.

In three weeks, we will begin the next season. Six months of food. I ordered a full vegetable share. Bread. Cheese. Fruit. Meat.

All I need with the exception of staples to keep us supplied with fresh organic non-GMO food.

Now, off to find new recipes for those sweet parsnips.

See you Saturday at Howard County Community College. Look for the Lancaster Farm Fresh table and stop to say HI to us.

‘Tis The Season

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It must be spring. The Woodstock Snowball Stand is open.

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They opened yesterday. Today, I almost stopped just to see if they had hot cider as the weather isn’t cooperating for a need to have an icy cup of goodness. I saw later on the Facebook feed that they were offering 40% off since it was snowing at the snowball stand. OK, so there were flurries.

They always seem to open when we are doing spring grounds clean up. Today, our two day massive clean up and mulch fest happens in our yard. Today clean up. Tomorrow mulch. If only the guys weren’t out there in three or four layers dealing with the wind and the cold.

Today I finally got motivated, after our community garden kick off meeting, to do some indoor seed starting. With the cold this winter, the garage wasn’t warm enough to sustain growth so I am starting now.

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Recycling egg cartons to start leeks, romas and Thelma Sanders squash. Putting some cilantro in the pots to transfer to the deck planters in a few weeks. If we can ever have a week that stays warm enough. I will cross my fingers and get the arugula under row cover out at my community plot right after Easter weekend.

Arugula is one of my absolute favorite greens. Spicy, peppery, full of flavor. Last week, three of my local sources provided me with a vision of warmer times to come.

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The baby arugula came in my weekly Lancaster Farm Fresh basket this week. It took the place of basil in my close-to-Caprese salad. The Hummingbird Farms hydroponic tomatoes were in my Friends and Farms basket. The mozzarella. Picked up at my last visit to Breezy Willow farm store on a Saturday morning when they are open.

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These tomatoes actually have taste. Not like my summer tomatoes, but much better than those weird cardboard tasting things in the stores. I used a drizzle of Secolari Olive Oil and some Wegmans balsamic. Salt and pepper to finish.

Makes me want to go out and plant something.

Catching Up

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One of the things I put together ever since I started my blog was my weekly catalogue of What is in the CSA basket. Somehow I have been shirking my “duty” the past two weeks. Maybe it’s that time of year when we get so tired of winter, and those boring stretches of root vegetables, stews, soups and crock pot meals.

We yearn for the weather to stay nice enough to grill, for a change. For many winters we did manage to grill a few times, but the brutal cold, and the snow covering our grill for weeks, made that impossible. Until, hopefully, this week, when we want to do something, ANYTHING, out there. I have a couple of petit filets I would love to make one evening, or my favorite, kofta.

Yesterday we cleaned the grill, since the snow has finally melted all around it. Thankfully, no little critters took up residence in it this winter. Last winter a chipmunk decided the side burner was a perfect spot to store everything they could carry up there.

As for what has been coming from the CSA for two weeks, here it is.

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The highlights from Lancaster Farm Fresh were the pantry item, maple sugar and the new goat cheese. We also got some kielbasa sausages in our omnivore add on. The vegetables. Standard except for the green beans. They were a treat. I swapped radishes to get double the carrots. There has been cole slaw made more than once the past two weeks. I made root vegetables again, to take to a Slow Food dinner this week. They must have gone over well, as there was almost nothing left. I still have a bag with the collards in it. They have to get cooked soon.

A few days ago, the latest basket.

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I am calling this the year of the celery root. Never had it before a CSA share delivered it. Now, we get it two or three times a month, it seems. Yes, there are two of them. I swapped the rutabagas for the second one. I like the celery root in that roasted honey glazed medley. This week we got honey. We got chicken. We got a new cheese. Pecora. Smoky and tangy. Good with a glass of red wine.

As for the rest. Beets in a salad. Chard as a side dish last night. The shiitake mushrooms, with the other ones from Friends and Farms a week ago, became a very lovely mushroom soup for dinner.

Speaking of Friends and Farms, they were invited to present to the Slow Food Dinner group. They brought their latest basket and they talked about how they operate, and what made them the company they are today.

The basket from the 4th of March looked like this.

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The best part of this basket. The rainbow trout.

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Simply cooked. We enjoyed that dinner, for sure. The Individual Quick Frozen corn is also very good. Makes us yearn for summer.

The rib eyes would have been great to grill, but not to be, due to the weather.

As for Wednesday, the basket that I picked up hours before the slow food dinner.

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Yes, there’s chard in there. Yes, there’s a chicken. And kielbasa. And sauerkraut. And carrots. Notice those similarities.

YES, I am officially tired of winter vegetables. I want to plant that garden, and go to farmer’s markets for fresh greens.

We still are eating well, even if it is getting a bit boring these days.

Shared Risk

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In Community Supported Agriculture, known otherwise as CSAs, there was always this message given, that by buying into a CSA as a shareholder you were sharing the risk with the farmer who grew the crops. In good years, you got more. In lean years, you may suffer a bit, but you were always a part of the “family” that made it possible for the farmer to prosper.

Decades ago, the model was fairly simple. One farmer. Enough shareholders to buy most if not all of the produce and fruit that was planted and harvested from that farm. As CSAs grew, some of the farmers partnered with others who raised animals, adding dairy or meat into the packages.

These days, more and more regional and seasonal partnerships are available. Mitigating that risk. Making it easier to get the value, and reducing the risks on the suppliers and the customers.

This winter has been brutal around here. I am amazed that we are getting as much fresh produce from both of our sources. One, the winter CSA, has written in their newsletter that we may be seeing more regional produce as they have to reach farther from the cooperative to meet the needs of the very large community that Lancaster Farm Fresh serves.

Last week, we got this in our Omnivore share.

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Our meat item was boneless skinless chicken breasts. Cheese was a lovely smoked gouda. Pantry item, a jar of applesauce. We had six vegetables in the box. Lots of carrots. Sweet potatoes. Spinach, turnips, russet potatoes and cremini mushrooms.

I made mushroom soup. I made honey glazed roasted root vegetables. I made chicken salad. All in all, we dined well during our bout of bad weather, without having to stand in long lines at the grocery stores.

Friends and Farms, a “mutant” from the traditional CSA, partners with regional food suppliers to give us baskets year round. Lots of seasonal foods, but also, some Quick frozen vegetables that a farm in New York prepares and provides during the dead of winter.

Last week, our small share included these items.

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Pickles. Frozen green beans. Eggs. Bread. Cider was my substitute because we don’t get milk. I realized I had those “essential” pre-storm items here. You know. Bread and milk, if I had wanted the milk.

Sweet potatoes here, too. A different variety than those from Lancaster. I really enjoy the sweet potatoes because they are so easy to use in many ways. In soups. Stews. Chili. Like you can make using the jalapenos we got.

We had cabbage and pork butt. Perfect partners. Red onions. Hydroponic lettuce from Baywater Greens in Salisbury MD. Getting fresh greens in the winter is such a surprise, and really appreciated. Bacon this week. Chicken thighs, too. And, apples.

I did not need to buy much of anything at the store. I picked up a few yogurts from the refrigerated case at the warehouse. I get my butter there, too. You could have picked up beans or rice while there. The pantry shelves help us round out our baskets and make meal planning easier.

There are still traditional one farm CSAs out there, but the newer models really start to look like a full farmer’s market has shown up and given you your groceries.

Tomorrow is my next pick up. We did pretty well getting through our two baskets. We have also been lucky with the weather. It may be raining like crazy tomorrow. Between our ice events, and now predicting snow again Thursday, I am happy to use what we will get this week. Again, without having to brave the crowds in the stores.

Just hope we don’t get too much snow.

Menu Planning

Sunchokes. For the third time this winter.

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It seems this seasonal vegetable is best after a hard frost. Heaven knows we have had enough of those around here. The sunchokes are a Northeastern US native plant. They are the tubers from a type of sunflower. A perennial and if not carefully corralled they can become invasive.

They are a great probiotic for most people. They contain inulin, are good at promoting the healthy “gut bacteria” we need, and keep your blood sugar under control. If you aren’t one of those people sensitive to them, and then they cause discomfort. We do OK with them, but this is the third week out of five that they are showing up in our food baskets.

This week, they were in my CSA basket.

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Our winter vegetable share. Week Five. Cabbage, sunchokes, portabellas, onions and garnet sweet potatoes. You will notice two cabbages, as I traded the black radishes. I am currently radished out, and we are in one of those food ruts, where we enjoy steamed cabbage as a side dish. Well, and making lots of cole slaw since we are drowning in carrots this winter. All this cold weather is good for certain vegetables. We seem to be getting quite a few of the hardy varieties that do well when the weather gets cold enough.

The omnivore share gave us these for a pantry item, a cheese and meat.

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Daisy flour. Linden Dale raw goat milk cheese. Ground beef. I love, love, love Linden Dale cheeses. We used to buy them all the time up at the Lancaster Market. I am so glad they became a supplier to the cooperative, and that we get these lovely goat cheeses brought to us. Daisy flour is also a treat. I first bought their flour at the Catonsville Atwaters Bakery, and they really are different than what you may be used to baking with.

Friends and Farms this week.

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This is the small basket, suitable for two people who eat at home four or five nights a week. The carrots, and those two turnips came to Friends and Farms via the same truck that delivers our Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. More and more, they are using the cooperative to supply fresh organic seasonal vegetables. Cremini mushrooms (there will be mushroom soup this weekend). Hydroponic lettuce. Eggs. Apples. Kale, another hardy vegetable that gets sweeter after a hard frost. I love to sauté kale with garlic and bacon to serve as a side dish.

There is also a quart of Atwaters chicken stock this week. A new supplier. From one of our favorite lunch places in Catonsville. We got short ribs this week. And ground beef for me, as the substitute for dairy. Oh, and shrimp. Which only survived two hours in the house, as it was dinner tonight.

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Shrimp over polenta. The last of the polenta from a very long time ago. Found it in the back of the little fridge, where I store flours and nuts, to keep them fresh. One cup left. Enough for two meals. Did you know polenta easily melts again when reheated. Tonight, I added some corn from an earlier basket. I store it in a container in the freezer, and pour out what I need.

What else will I do with this week’s stuff? Crock pot short ribs. Crab stuffed portabellas. Egg salad. Mushroom soup. Cole slaw. Spicy sunchoke dip. I will let you know if this dip is worth making. I wanted to try something new with the sunchokes.

Fresh vegetables all winter. Comfort foods. Who cares if we get negative temperatures the next few nights. We can be warm and have satisfying meals here at home.

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