As an avid gardener, I’ve never done a CSA share (community supported agriculture – basically you get a box of whatever’s in season on the farm, usually weekly). However, this fall, I decided to give Tantre Farm’s fall CSA a try. It was four weeks in October, right when I was pulling out the last of my garden crops. It also leans heavily to squash, potatoes, and other “good keepers,” so I thought this would be a good way to try a CSA – less pressure to eat everything within one week.
Gardening has played a huge part in keeping me sane through this incomprehensible year, and I’m missing more than just the vegetables. This share delivers on that, too. Each Saturday, I am giddy with anticipation to “play the vegetable lottery” and see what’s in store this week. It’s 2020. ANYTHING pleasant to look forward to is great for my soul.
So on Saturdays, I sleep as long as I’d like, get up and stretch, grab my mask, and head to the market. I grab my box o’veg, and usually one or two other things, too. The fall produce is astonishing. Not sure if it’s just a particularly good year, or if I’ve just never bothered with the market this late in the year but WOW. It’s like piles of edible jewels. I really have to restrain myself because once I grab that Tantre box, I have plenty of vegetables. I do often stop off at Agricole on the way home, though, and pick up some local meat to support the “soup” part of the week’s ritual.
Once I get home, the kitchen dance begins. First, all the cool storage veg (squash, potatoes, onions, garlic) get put away. I have a root cellar for cold storage and a cool basement for the squash and onions, so that’s easy to do. Then I kinda spread everything out all over the kitchen. Trim the carrots off their tops, wash, and put in the fridge. Rinse and fridge the peppers. Cut the radishes and salad turnips off their tops, wash the roots, and put the tops in to soak (they’re pretty sandy). Chop up a bunch of veg for raw eating through the week: radishes, carrots, peppers.
Then the cooking begins. I cook the bunch of kale, radish or turnip tops, and other cooking greens in a couple cups of water for about 5 minutes. This yields about 3-4 cups of cooked greens and a cup or two of mineral-rich “pot likker”. This stuff has changed my diet drastically. I’ve been eating cooked greens every day, and either adding the broth to soup, or just drinking it cold out of the greens container. I’d say I knock back about 1/4c at a time, and I can feel the minerals going straight to my bloodstream. Have you ever eaten something so nutritious that your cells sing? This stuff feels like magic. So, greens enough for the week.
The last two weeks, I’ve then started making stock. Last week was poultry, this week is mixed red meat. I keep a bag in the freezer with bones for stock (separated into “birds” and “not-birds”), and also leek tops and other misc veggie discards. I’ve made bone broth for a long time, but my experience with the kale cooking liquid has me convinced my broths need more vegetables. The hard thing is that brassicas (e.g., kale stems) and sweet veg like carrots and beets make broths that don’t taste right in most of my soups. So I’m still experimenting. Any alliums are great; small amounts of beets and carrots are OK; some carrot tops are OK, too. I make 6-7 quarts at a time, then can it, so now there are many meals’ worth of super-nutritious stock ready for soupmaking.
As that’s simmering, I have some lunch and flip through the Joy of Pickling, because each week, something pretty much begs to be pickled. This week is Middle Eastern Pink Turnip Pickles – like you get in your falafel sandwich. Last week was soy/ginger pickled radishes (mixed reviews), and the week before, a lactofermented kohlrabi curtido that I’m definitely doing again.
This week, I also baked a squash (and its seeds, separately) that I…ahem…found in the parking lot next to my car. I mean…if the market gods offer, who am I to decline? It was a little bruised, so I knew it wouldn’t keep, so into the toaster oven it went. And I think I’ve finally figured out how to roast pumpkin/squash seeds in a way that’s manageable and tasty. 1) Don’t wash off the goop – just scoop the seeds out with as little goop as possible, and spread on the pan. The strings that remain will cook to a crisp. 2) Salt well and bake them until they are threatening to burn. I did actually burn about half a batch, and that’s when I discovered I’d rather eat them burned than undercooked. And given that my sweetie loves them, and they serve the same snacking purpose as almonds ($10+/lb), it’s totally worth it to fuss with the seeds. Also means the only parts of the share we haven’t eaten in the four weeks is one totally unripe watermelon and 3.5 bunches of carrot tops.
Now I’ll take a couple hours off while the stock cooks, and then bottle that up. Minus actually canning, this has taken about three hours from pickup to dishes-washed. I don’t think I could do this in “normal” times, but right now, weekends are sort of daunting stretches of unplanned time. And when there’s nothing to do, I start doomscrolling, which isn’t good for anybody. I’m sure if I had plans (are we ever going to have those again?), this would just be way too much work – but right now, it’s one of my favorite things to do.