Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The CSA: Carrots and Parsnips and Squash, Oh My!

I've mentioned a few times that we get the vast majority of our produce (up to 90%, maybe even more) through a CSA based in Belmont, two towns out of Boston. CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." The basic idea is, that we pay the farm in advance for produce throughout the winter (our "share"), and the farm has a guaranteed profit for its harvest. It helps the farm, it makes our lives easier, and it helps us be more "green" by eating and supporting local, sustainable produce. I've also noticed that, since we've started relying on the CSA for our produce, that I put much more thought into what we're cooking and eating. It's tough to justify running off to the grocery store for bright red tomatoes in November when you live in Massachusetts and have a box full of potatoes at your feet, basically. And, I know this might sound trite, but I feel a lot more in tune with the seasons here, and I think I notice what the plants around the neighborhood are doing more.

We're splitting a winter share with another couple. The entire share cost $225 for three installments (every month or so from October through December) of 50 lbs of veggies. In other words, it cost us $112.50 for three installments of 25 lbs of veggies. Even just half the share is a lot of food, and I'm glad we're splitting it. I think we'll try to sign up for a summer share for next season (they go fast though, and may be more expensive). I love getting vegetables from the CSA, so I think cost may be the only real barrier to us continuing (I like being green, but I also like, you know, having a little green in my bank account).

We went to the CSA to pick up our October share. Belmont's right outside Boston, so it's much more of a suburb (a very nice suburb) than a typical rural farming community. But we followed the handwritten map and directions that the CSA manager had sent us, and lo - the farm was faithfully in front of us all of a sudden, in between rows of typical New England colonial suburban houses. We drove up to the barn, as directed, and met some of the workers. They gave us cider, showed us which boxes and bags of produce were ours to take, and invited us to take our time and look around. It was a neat experience - I was very impressed. It was a small farm, but I thought the fact that these dirty veggies we were watching the farmwomen (there were no men) pull out of the ground in front of us, were going to end up on our dinner plates that very night, was pretty cool.

We met up with our other half, split the share pretty fairly (we got the bok choy, she got extra potatoes), and then spent the next hour or so trying to store all the vegetables properly in the fridge and in a plastic box I have in the foyer (the cool, dark place for onions, potatoes, squash - apartment dwellers don't have basements!). Most of what we got was root vegetables and squash. We live in New England, so the pickings are pretty slim in the winter. But, the share's had some interesting things in it that I wouldn't normally try. For example:

- Fennel (roasted with red bell peppers and onions, and topped with feta cheese);
- Celery root (roast chicken, a few posts ago)
- Parsnips (roast chicken)
- Sugar Pumpkin (I roasted this along with some yams that we also got, and then pureed them to make a pie with. I used the recent Cook's Illustrated recipe, and the end result was worth the extra hassle).
- Beets (I plan on roasting these and making a salad with walnuts and cheese)
- Kohlrabi (I need to use this up - anybody have any suggestions?)
- Swiss Chard (I copped out and used this in fried rice - I'm sure there's better things to do with it).

Not to mention, all the onions, potatoes and carrots you could ever eat.

We're already three quarters through our November share. We have a butternut squash and some sage, and I'm planning on roasting them together with some garlic. We have to find a way to use up some potatoes and some acorn squash - they won't go bad for a while, but I want to make sure to use them up before they do. Can anyone recommend a simple recipe beyond mashed/baked potatoes and roasted squash?


Anonymous said...

acorn squash soup

roast halved + seeded acorn squash in oven w/ olive oil sprinkled w/ salt, pepper, brown sugar and clove

when done scoop squash from skin and set aside

simmer garlic in a pot with some olive oil

add chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil

add squash and let simmer

in batches, puree in blender until smooth

add back to pot and season with more s&p, brown sugar and clove as needed, then add light cream to taste. serve with some sort of gruyere crouton.

Rebecca said...

That sounds amazing - thanks, anonymous poster!