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CSA Tidbits

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It’s been a while since I talked about my farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh. Our spring/summer 26 week season is about to end next Tuesday, and then fall shares begin. We have already transitioned to fall vegetables, which I love, but the official “seasons” are off by a few weeks.

Some of the favorite things we get these days.

Radishes.

Exotic ones, like the watermelon radishes. I swapped this week to snare some of these. The medium shares got them, and we didn’t. Radishes come in spring and fall, and some of the hardiest ones, the daikon for example, come in the winter. These more delicate radishes can be enjoyed raw, with a sprinkling of salt. Those daikons, and the really heavy black radishes of winter, they have to be roasted to bring out their flavor.

Turnips.

Hakurei are my favorites. They can be eaten raw, and unpeeled, but I like to roast them or cook them with their greens, like Vivian Howard, of the Chef’s Life fame, has in her cookbook, Deep Run Roots. The “pot likker” alone is worth it. Yesterday I cooked up a mess of greens and added these roots to the pot. Nothing like intensely flavored greens, and buttered turnips. No pictures of those. They weren’t that photo worthy.

What is photo worthy? This.

Restaurant quality, if I say so myself. Greens from the CSA. A Cherry Glen Monocacy Ash cheese, picked up at Evermore Farm when I got my meat share. The blackberries? From Baugher’s in Westminster, right down the road from Evermore Farm. I love to stop there after getting my monthly allocation of meat and eggs. The blackberries were end of season, and a bit mushy, but still bursting with flavor. I ended up mixing some plain yogurt with lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and mint, for the dressing.

There are a few slivered almonds there, too.

Finally, the first soup of the season.

Lentil soup. Made using some fresh stuff, some frozen stuff and a bag of French lentils. Started with celery, a leek, carrots and onions, all from the CSA. Added a quart of turkey stock made in the spring and frozen, using Maple Lawn farm turkey drumsticks. The bag of lentils. A bay leaf from my plant. French thyme from Penzeys. Salt. Pepper. After it cooked about an hour, I blended part of it to make it creamy. Added a cup of milk at the end of cooking.

Enough for at least three dinners. One Tuesday night. One this weekend. One will be frozen for later this winter. It was the first time I made lentil soup and it won’t be the last time.

Before I sign off on this CSA update, I have to include the picture from Tuesday.

$33 a week. All organic. If I priced this out at Roots, I know it would be much higher, even if I could find all these items there. Watermelon radishes are hard to find. So are Hakurei turnips. French breakfast radishes.

I love getting the tops of the radishes and the turnips, too. They made that dinner last night. Rainbow chard, radish greens, turnip greens, all cooked down for a long time. The lettuces will be gone by the weekend. Salads at lunch and dinner. I will be roasting cauliflower this weekend. Tuscan kale. Destined for a salad on Sunday. The sweet peppers? Stuffed with goat cheese and Canadian bacon. Served with short ribs this Sunday night. With a little planning, a CSA share can give us a week of healthy eating.

 

The Grain Train

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Great name for a bread. Maybe even an interesting name for a rock band (psst Mickey, this is for you).

I haven’t been writing about the two new sources of bread that my Community Supported Agriculture share has been delivering.

This week we received a very dense lovely loaf of bread.

Green Lion Bakery in Phoenixville PA.

Our share alternates between this source, and one from Sherman Dale PA. They are Talking Breads.

Talking Breads also sells at two DC area markets. Silver Spring and DuPont Circle.

At the moment, Talking Breads is winning our home bread battle, over who provides the best bread for our morning toast, and for sopping up sauce from my dinners.

The winner.

Semolina Loaf, from Talking Breads.

I wish you could get the scent of this bread. I can’t even describe what the sesame seeds do when it comes to adding flavor that is far beyond what a simple wheat bread would contain.

What I love most about the breads we get. The lack of overly refined flours. The minimal, if even used, presence of sugars.

The vegan breads keep longer. No dairy to spoil. They have a rich nutty taste. I mean, who had heard of einkorn, for instance. And, redeemer wheat?

I am so impressed by these young bakers. Stepping up and giving us substantive choices. Every week we are surprised with the choices.

Like this pumpernickel.

Yes, there are coffee grounds in this bread. And, the taste is so complex, you can’t imagine it.

If you live in the DC area and can get to the markets in Silver Spring or DuPont, you must try their breads. If you live up here around me, you could buy a bread share from our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and pick up fresh bread every Tuesday. We have members who only do fruit, eggs, bread, herbs, and don’t do vegetables. You can pick what you want.

Bread is one of the highlights every week.

 

 

Too Many Vegetables?

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I am still trying to wrap my head around that statement.

My CSA site host went to a conference last week, to meet with CSA management and talk with the dozens of local site hosts in the DC metropolitan area. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, has thousands of members in seven states and the District. Using over a hundred local small farmers to offer us vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, herbs, bread, “farm”aceuticals. You name it. Mix and match. Customize the size. Everything but home delivery and choose your own, like you would at a market.

They brought back the small share. Four items. Because people thought 7-8 items for $23 a week was too much produce. Really? Are we still putting 8-12 ounces of meat on a plate and saying we only want a couple of ounces of vegetables on that plate? I thought we were getting away from meat-centric meals.

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Obviously, we aren’t. Many of my local farming friends are seeing a decline in membership, and in purchases at markets. Companies like Blue Apron are replacing CSA shares. According to the CSA management, briefing the site hosts, people want recipes. They don’t know what to do with the vegetables they get.

Never mind the fact that our CSA has a huge web site devoted to providing that information. We seem to have created a generation of people who want to be spoon fed. Tell me every week what to do with corn. With cauliflower. With fennel. With leeks. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I know. I am whining here. I just really don’t get it. We have so many choices around here, and yet, people aren’t staying on as members, with many of our local farm CSA options. Membership is declining. Friends and Farms folded. The Glenwood Market isn’t opening this year.

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I hope we have our CSA again this summer. We can’t seem to find 30 people in a town as big as Columbia who want inexpensive very fresh organic food. From people who care about what we eat.

Crossing my fingers and hoping our local sources remain.

A Winter CSA

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Community Supported Agriculture. In the dead of winter. Believe it or not, many farms here in the MidAtlantic have crops in high tunnels and greenhouses, all year long.

Recent comments on local blogs and Facebook lament the condition of produce in our grocery stores. Yes, even the higher end stores have slimy produce. We all miss that fresh from the ground delivered produce, ours is only one day from the field.

Here, where we live, there are two winter CSAs. Zahradka and Lancaster Farm Fresh. There are other delivery services, but not all their produce is local. And yes, Zahradka and LFFC bring in regional vegetables to augment the harvests. After all, who would complain about a chance for citrus, or maybe greens from the Carolinas.

Here is our first delivery from LFFC, yesterday.

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Looks good to me, for roughly $26 a share. All organic. About 10 pounds total. A couple of pounds of carrots. 12 ounces of tatsoi. Turnips. Chard. Red beets with their greens attached. Onions. Two absolutely lovely watermelon radishes.

I added many specialty items. Pantry item. Yogurt. Cheese. Bread. I could have added meat or chicken, eggs, milk, tofu, grain and flour, fermented beverages.

It is nice to have a source of fresh food when the farmer’s markets are closed. There are just a handful of us this winter. Thanks to our CSA for keeping us going, even when we didn’t meet the minimum. I suppose we should all be thankful for Roots and David’s and MOM’s, the local organic markets where our driver drops off produce on the same run as our CSA pick up. It’s really nice for us, since our cost is lower than buying the produce there.

I missed having fresh veggies on our four week break. So happy they are back.

Great Grains

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I have been slacking off. Forgetting to write about some of the really fantastic additives to my fall Community Supported Agriculture basket from the farmers’ cooperative at Lancaster Farm Fresh.

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My flour and grain share. Two pounds each. Every other week. This past week was the pastry flour and the spelt berries.

Two weeks ago.

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Bread flour and rye berries.

The first delivery last month.

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All purpose flour and cornmeal.

The flours are all from Daisy. They aren’t easy to find. I used to get mine at Atwaters in Catonsville. The Anson Mills which produce Daisy flour are located in Pennsylvania. Atwaters sold bags of their wonderful flour. I am loving the quality of the bread flour for those holiday breads like my chocolate zucchini bread or my pumpkin bread.

The grains, all come from Castle Valley Mill in Bucks County Pennsylvania. Other than wheat berries, which we got from Friends and Farms a few years back, I hadn’t been a big grain cooker. I purposely ordered this add on to my CSA share to remedy that lapse.

I am loving the berries. I found the perfect way to cook them, in my rice cooker. Simple. One cup berries. Three cups liquid. I have used all water. All veggie broth. A mix of chicken stock and water. Turkey stock and water. Add some seasonings. Set on the brown rice setting and let it do its thing. Makes absolutely perfectly cooked berries.

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Served here with a wilted arugula salad. Cranberries, pistachios, a drizzle of Secolari’s lime olive oil. A squirt of lemon juice.

I also downloaded an iBook, called Grain Mains. So many interesting ideas, including a take on a “gazpacho salad” using berries.

Who knows what will come in my final biweekly basket on the 13th of December. I do know that I am loving this addition and will be adding it to my winter subscription.

Bitter Sweet

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Bitter like the greens. Sweet as the beets.

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It may be a slow improvement, but still. The change to my lifestyle and my eating habits since retiring has been paying off. My annual physical was yesterday. Saw much improvement by moving away from commercially prepared highly processed foods and by cooking from scratch as much as possible.

I considered naming this post “A1C is the new LDL” since decades of eating low fat, or no fat, and not cooking with basic ingredients has impacted our health. Face it, we had significantly more sugar in our diets while we worked and commuted. Too many frozen dinners, carry out meals and high carb restaurant choices like pasta, or pizza.

Now, my generation fights the battle against Type 2 Diabetes. All those low fat meals contained hidden sugars.

I am glad I made the switch. Even though it is time consuming to cook this way. I also know that my CSA is the real reason I don’t give up.

That salad up there. I made the dressing. The greens and beets and berries are from my CSA. So is the cheese.

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The creamy dressing. Yogurt without added sugar. A very tiny bit of preserves. White balsamic and good olive oil. A pinch of salt and pepper.

It’s not the only thing we have added to our vegetable share. We get cheese, fruit, meat, yogurt, and bread. I have added a grain and flour share for fall.

This is the bread we now eat.

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A different one each week. No dairy. No sugar. The miche is awesome with soups and stews. Comes with our CSA delivery. Made in a bakery in Brooklyn NY. This one and the polenta are my favorites.

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Today I threw a whole bunch of things in the crockpot. Minimizing sodium, sugar and preservatives. Yeah, I didn’t skip the fat. Mostly the healthy fats, like olive oil. A layer of greens. A layer of beans. Some lovely beef short ribs from Boarman’s.

I admit it. If I didn’t have a year round CSA delivery, I probably wouldn’t have stuck to the “real food” diet. I would have been lazier and bought some ready made items. Having those vegetables hanging out in the fridge and on the counter reminds me daily that I need to continue this path. I don’t want my golden years to be consumed by health issues. I don’t want to take all sorts of prescriptions to combat something that I can prevent with a little effort.

Here’s to my feeling good about the progress. Here’s to getting better, while not feeling old. Here’s to that heart healthy red wine. Can’t forget that.

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Rainy Days

Finally, we get a good soaking rain. Good enough to give the sod a fighting chance to survive.

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Although it also kept the carpenters from working on the deck.

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I will be happy when they get done with the work and we can finish seeding the sodding the yard. The mud runs are getting a wee bit eroded.

The good news also, the tomatoes in my garden got much needed relief from the heat and drought conditions.

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I am running low on ripe tomatoes, and there are many green ones on the plants up at my garden.

Today though was cooler, dreary, just the type of weather that screams “SOUP!” and has me reaching for the pans and the crock pot.

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I dug into the freezer and took out a package of my Maple Lawn turkey drumsticks. The last ones from my visit at Thanksgiving. I freeze them with two to a pack. Just the right amount to make turkey stock, and crock pot soup.

Don’t make the mistake that I made and put frozen turkey into the crockpot. It could crack your ceramic from the thermal shock. I started my stock this morning on the stove.

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The turkey will defrost, and you should take it out and let it cool down enough to shred. What you see above is the bones, skin and tough pieces, used to make a hearty stock. Those shredded pieces?

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Went here. In the crock pot. This is a two step process, but yields at least four meals.

In that stove top pot, I placed the legs with carrots, onions and celery. Tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. I forgot that I didn’t have carrots in the freezer, so Jenny’s came to the rescue here. I will miss the market when it closes in five weeks.

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When she opened this morning, I bought enough carrots to use today and to cut, blanch and freeze some for when I need them in the winter. The freezer is getting back to being ready for the end of the markets.

In the crock pot, I put water, the better parts of the carrots, celery and onion (I use the ugly stuff in the stock, and then discard them). After I got the turkey ready, I shredded it to remove all those pesky little bones that turkey drumsticks have. Seasoned and left to slow cook all day. I just added the egg noodles at 4 pm, so they will be perfect when we are ready for dinner at 6.

A nice bowl of soup. Some of our awesome CSA bread.

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Last Tuesday we got a loaf of miche.

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One of my favorites from She Wolf Bakery. I definitely will be getting bread in my fall CSA share, as I love the vegan breads we get. They stay fresh all week. No mold. Don’t get hard and stale. Bread and butter, with soup. A perfect meal to herald the change of seasons.

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The flowers? Just a bit of sunshine on a rainy day.