Friday, July 9, 2010

Maysies, Part Three

Ah, CSA day. I've posted Maysies in other years, and this one has some beautiful pictures of and August harvest. At Maysies most of the food is already picked and waiting inside the barn. There is a whiteboard listing what each share is worth - how many carrots, bunches of greens, heads of cabbage, etc. - to take. (We use one family share but if you are a larger family you can buy more shares.)

The big board on the left is detailing the week's food, and there's a sign-in sheet on the table. There are two pickups per week (you choose which day you want) and enough food is picked throughout the day to account for the number of shares expected.  

Below, the board on the left is listing which herbs are available to pick and where they are - in the Hoope House, between the barn doors, at the rock pile, or in a bed. The middle board is a map of the farm with numbered/named beds. The last board has notices of relevant events or workshops at the farm or in the area.
Up first, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, and beets.
We are also able to order from a variety of local producers for items like chickens, dairy, eggs, coffee, and bread. (Of course the coffee is not grown here but sourced responsibly and roasted here. I figured I'd qualify that before someone called me on it!) Keep in mind, the word dairy, for example covers ice cream and milk, and bread can mean amazing granola, whole grain bread, or cookies. Some items must be ordered a week ahead, and others are available for impulse purchasing.
CSA's are a good idea all the way around, from supporting local industry and protecting the land to providing all of us with just-picked healthy food for our families. Yes, my family has learned to eat, or at least try, some unfamiliar vegetables but let's face it, it's a vegetable. There are differences in each CSA, they have varying levels of involvement (read: working in the beds), may or may not be organic, may have an orchard, or may partner with other farms to offer even greater variety. 

A google search will result in lots of information, but Local Harvest is a good place to start. There's a CSA search by zip and a lot of good information. If you are local, you've probably seen the pretty Buy Fresh Buy Local logo on bumper stickers and store windows. Their website lists "1555 (and counting) places to find local food" and is a good source of restaurants, farmer's markets, grocery stores, csa's,etc. If you can get your hands on a bumper sticker they really are gorgeous.

Writing this post reminds me that I have added a few good vegetable books to my cookbook shelves, and I will review them soon. In the meantime, I'll share a greens suggestion. The "green leafy vegetables" referred to everywhere actually mean big leafy greens like kale or chard, and not a salad of Iceberg lettuce. (Sorry.) Having the greens in the fridge does not guarantee their consumption, but I have found that having a container of cooked greens does. 

For this you will need:

A large skillet with a lid
Onions, garlic, olive oil (or other, as you like)
A couple of bunches of greens
  • Wash and tear as many greens as you have on hand. I combine the longer cooking ones (collards, spinach, and kale, for example) or the more tender ones (Swiss chard and beet greens) into one batch. It is a good idea to fill a large bowl or the sink with cool water, soak and swish the greens, then let everything settle before lifting them gently from the water. There's no need to spin them or blot much before cooking, just shake them over the water and make a lovely pile on a clean towel.
  • Depending on your taste, either start an onion/garlic/olive oil saute, or soften an onion/garlic mixture in a half cup of water and a splash of olive oil by simmering for a few minutes. The saute will produce a stronger taste while the simmer will take the bite out of the garlic. Try both and you may find that one method suits a bitter green, and one a milder type. 
  • Add the damp greens, a handful or two at a time, and stir. They will quickly reduce in volume, allowing you to keep adding the rest of your pile. 
  • Cover the pan and simmer for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the greens. Your goal is a forkful of tender greens. Add water to the pan as needed, and be careful to keep them from burning. 
  • When they are finished add salt and a lot of freshly ground pepper. A splash of balsamic vinegar is nice if you want to serve them right away, otherwise, store them covered in the fridge.
 Over the next several days you can use them in sandwiches, add some to eggs, toss in with pasta, top a pile of mashed potatoes or vegetables...all you have to do is remember that they are in there, waiting to be used.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Maysies CSA, Middle

Colorful Swiss Chard; not something we pick ourselves. The folks at Maysies harvest enough of whatever is ready each week and place it in the barn for us to pick up. Most crops are picked for us, but usually there is something we can pick ourselves, in varying amounts - - beans, shelling peas, berries, flowers, herbs, and peppers come to mind, but there are many others. 

If you are picking, there had better be a  post like this one at the end of the row, or you are not picking the right vegetable!

I want to point out the pleasure, as someone who has vegetable-gardened a little bit and flower-gardened a whole lot, the guilty pleasure, actually, of harvesting something that you didn't plant, weed, or water. Nope. You didn't get out there and sweat in the sun or nurse those seedlings along, but you do get to just stroll out to the bed and harvest away. Nice.

This picture is of the row-end supports for the blackberries. Oh, the blackberries. The supports are spaced a few yards apart and the berries form tunnels, shady tunnels humming with bees. On berry days you enter with your basket or flat container and pick the ones that just jump into your hand. Yum.

 When I took the picture below I said aloud, "I'm waiting for you" and then realized what I'd done and looked to see if anyone was around. Really, if I noticed some lady crouching in the bushes with a camera and muttering vaguely creepy things, I would call 911.
When I entered the barn, compost was being sifted. I love compost. We compost at my house, and I look forward to the day when I dump the bins onto a screen and sift through what was once banana peels, eggshells, and the discarded root ends of vegetables or otherwise unusable parts. Coffee grounds, tea bags, apple cores, pistachio shells - all of it turns into a rich, moist, black, amazing addition to the soil. It's perfect. 
Next, and last, Maysies post: Actual food.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Maysies, Part One

I'm shocked to see that I haven't posted for so many weeks. I know I've been feeling a little too multi-directional but I didn't think it was enough to make time speed up. I'll fix that, dagnabit.

I've posted before about Maysies, my CSA. For a few years we "shared a share" and picked up produce every other week while our friend Keith picked up on the off weeks. This year Keith is sharing with someone else to give them a first step into the CSA, and we are using a full weekly share.

On last week's pickup day I was happy to find that my camera was in the car and it was a beautiful day. After gathering my share from the barn and picking a bag full of basil in one of the beds, I walked around for a while and took some pictures to share. 
These guys are the official greeters, and they take their work seriously. Here they are changing shifts, I guess, or comparing notes on the day's work. I usually open my car door to find a calm dog, standing a few feet away and not really making eye contact, who escorts me from the back of the barn to the front. I get the distinct impression that if I tried make a break for it and head for the house instead, the dog would have something to say about it. Once I get to close to the barn door he loses interest in me, unless I throw a tennis ball. 

 It's a beautiful farm, from the farmhouse to the barn to the fields separated by tree breaks. 

Sam Cantrell has taken this, his family's property, and in his words, chosen to "accept the challenge of establishing an agricultural operation based on sustainability, to have the farm become my career, to utilize this wonderful resource to fulfill my commitment to conservation and education."

Another dog, making sure I made it to the right place, above, and a glimpse of the house, below.
I feel lucky to be able to walk around the farm enjoying all there is - flowers, fields, woods, beds, buildings, equipment, dogs...this is so much better than the grocery store's produce section!
Next post: Green and Growing!