Wednesday, November 25, 2009

what i learned from my csa

i had my last pickup from my csa last week and i was sad to see the season end. i've traveled the vegetable road from delicate spring greens to summer squash and, most recently, thanks to the cool and rainy weather here in the northeast, mounds and mounds of potatoes.

i'll admit that the mass of vegetables i received each week was initially overwhelming and i felt guilty each time i pulled a wilted veggie from the depths of my fridge. however, as the season progressed, i learned to take charge and control my csa share.

here's a quick list of what my first csa share taught me:

1. food is beautiful.

the variety of colors and shapes ready to be made into sustenance for my body was an amazing sight. my favorites were the rainbow swiss chard and the turnips (yes, turnips - their white and purple bodies topped with bright green are just gorgeous).

2. food is dirty.

most of us get our produce from a grocery aisle where the veggies line up like soldiers and are misted every 1.2 minutes for that perfect camera-ready sheen. the carrots are straight and unblemished (or bagged and smooth if you like those "baby" carrots) and the lettuce is bagged and triple washed.

my first csa pick-up was, to my surprise, dirty. there was actual, honest-to-goodness, d.i.r.t. on this food. it was a reality check for me and then it became a source of pride. i was happy to wash the dirt off of my veggies each week. my farmer had worked hard to coax these veggies to life in the dirt, and i was happy to wash it off.

3. food is not perfect.

yes, fresh produce is beautiful, but its not perfect. heads of lettuce had blemishes on them, my carrots weren't ruler straight, and my eggplant were sometimes misshapen. i realized, as i cleaned, cooked and ate through my share, perfection at the grocery store is only skin deep. my csa veggies had more depth and flavor than any grocery veggie could ever have.

4. the freezer is your friend.

i learned that i would not be able to eat each week's share within the week i received it. i blanched and froze greens, peppers and carrots. i made and froze pestos and soups. and, now, i'm looking forward to a winter of enjoying the remains of my csa.

5. it really does feel good to know where your food comes from.

hands down, i had a great csa. our farmer from stoneledge farm sent a update from the farm to csa members each week. i loved hearing about the preparations, the work and the hurdles. when our farmer told us that "late blight" had come to the farm and that there would be no tomatoes for the season, i was disappointed. however, my disappointment was tempered by the sadness you could sense in the farm's message. they had started seedlings in march, transplanted in may and staked the plants in june. until then, i had never truly appreciated the hard work that goes into caring for the food sources that come to my plate everyday.

if you live in nyc and want to join a csa, take a look at just food. if you're outside of nyc, wilson college has a searchable database of csa's.

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