Eating My CSA

Using the vegetables from my CSA share

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So it begins . . .

strawberry jam

Aren''t these jars cute?

Yes, I know, it’s early. But nothing says “spring is coming” like seeing Plant City, FL strawberries in the store.

When I was growing up, we never, I mean NEVER bought Florida strawberries. By the time they got to us in Greenfield, WI, they had absolutely no flavor. After I finished college, I moved to Florida to live with my mom. It was then that I discovered the Plant City Strawberry Festival, and the Florida version of the wonderful fruit for which it is named. Today, when we see Plant City strawberries at the Greenbelt Co-op Grocery store, we buy up three pounds of them and I try out a recipe or two.

I have been experimenting with recipes from two books mentioned in my last post. The first, Canning for a New Generation, has many wonderful strawberry jam and preserve recipes. Among those I have tried are:

  • Strawberry Lemon Preserves
  • Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs
  • Chamomile Strawberry Syrup
  • Spiced Strawberry Butter
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Of course, all of them have turned out well, but Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs is a favorite. I made a batch of this today with the Plant City strawberries my darling husband got yesterday. And a bonus, he also found these really cute, wide-mouth half-pint jars in which to can my strawberry creations.

On the savory front, I received my dry mustard and mustard seeds from Penzey’s Spices and have made Dijon Mustard and Old-Style Whole Seed Mustard using recipes from the Small-Batch Preserving book, also mentioned in my last post.  Both turned out well, although the Whole Seed Mustard probably needed to steep in the wine vinegar another day before I finished it off.

So I’m off to a good start. I even made sourdough English muffins on which to put the jam. We have also been putting the preserves on ice cream. Yes, it truly is pure ambrosia in a jar.

Preparing for the Season

I have resolved that this year, I will be much better at planning for the vegetables and fruits that I get from my CSA. To that end, I purchased two new (to me) canning books this week.

The first one is Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff. She says, “When I was growing up, canning was for old folks, spinsters, and separatists.” Since that doesn’t happen to be the case anymore, she presents recipes organized by season, along with water-bath canning instructions. It’s superb. The photos are making me long for the season to start.

The next book, Small Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard, has a lot of intriguing recipes, specifically for condiments. I made my first batch of homemade mustard in the fall, and we just ate the last of it, so I plan to take advantage of the mustard recipes. I found a great resource for mustard seeds and other spices – Penzey’s spices. Very reasonable and they do web orders! I was also intrigued by the small-ness of the batches – perfect for CSAs!

I plan on testing some of the recipes in each of the books so I don’t make a whole batch of something that tastes nasty. Today, I made a small amount of Chamommile Strawberry Syrup and Spiced Strawberry Butter (from Krissof’s book) with a pound of Plant City, FL strawberries. Both taste very good, but I’m sure they will be even better with locally grown strawberries in season.

Also, I found this chart for Maryland harvests. The plan is to test recipes that I want to try, and if I like them, I can put a reminder on my calendar to start looking for specific veggies and fruits contained in the recipes in my CSA and at the farmer’s markets. If it’s something I absolutely love (strawberries), I may find a U-pick place close to here and get enough to make several different things.

We’re going to need more space to put all of the canned goodness – I can tell already!

Beans and Tomatoes, Fresh from the Garden

Well, not my garden. But somebody’s garden within 100 miles of where I live. I wrote this on September 11, but didn’t post it. My bad!

The last three weeks, I have received beans from my local CSA share from Calvert Farm, both green beans and wax beans. We had about three pints worth of beans, and I wanted to can them. It seemed rather silly to can only three pints, so, off to the Greenbelt Farmer’s Market we went today, in search of more beans and some roma tomatoes.

And we found both. Thanks to the people at Thanksgiving Farm, I was able to add a whole bunch more beans. They also had roma tomatoes . . I have been searching for them all summer and yet they were there all along. Although it’s been a long day, I am satisfied with the results.

Today’s canning yield?

* 8 pints green beans
* 2 pints roasted tomato sauce (Thanks to Kathy Barrow (aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow) for the inspiration)
* 6 pints of tomatoes

Come January, when there’s snow on the ground and I am longing for time in the warm sun, I’ll be breaking out beans and tomatoes. The taste of summer in a jar.

First Share – A Red Letter Day!

This is the day I wait for every spring. The day we receive our first CSA share! And I am happy to say, I am not disappointed in the least!

Here is a list of what we received today.

  • Mushrooms
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Red romaine lettuce
  • Baby greens
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Rhubarb
  • Mint

Of course, we’ve already used a couple of things. We used half of the mushrooms in Cavatappi with Wild Mushrooms, It’s a recipe from The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliana Hazan that’s one of our favorites. Before dinner we had a mint julep with farm fresh mint, and of course a big salad with radishes, onions and lettuce.

I’ll report on what we do with the rest of our share later in the week.

First Day of the Farmers Market

Today, aside from being Mother’s day, is the first day of the Greenbelt Farmer’s Market. Since our CSA doesn’t start until Thursday, May 19, I bought some greens and onions to get us by until then.

In addition, I was treated by my honey to a lovely Mother’s day brunch in Bethesda at my favorite eatery, the Mussel Bar. Wouldn’t you know,  there was a farmers market – the Central Bethesda Farmers Market – on Elm Street, just adjacent to the the Mussel Bar. We walked down the row of booths and found some good local cheese (Stonyman Gourmet Farmer) and some salami that was cured locally. The cheese will go good with my husband’s charcuterie efforts, so we are all set.

I am so looking forward to having a big salad tonight with greens that don’t taste like chemicals. And only 11 days until our share deliveries start. Always a red letter day!

A Spring Recipe to Get Me Started

This spring-like weather has got me hungry for lettuce and greens . . my system definitely needs some spring cleaning!

Today was the debut of a new cooking show called The Minimalist with Mark Bittman on the Cooking Channel. Bittman is the author of How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. His show today focused on pasta, and one of his recipes included butter lettuce and peas. It also includes pancetta, which we have in abundance these days since my husband is practicing charcuterie (the process of curing meats). So, I am including the recipe in the Links section of this page.

I am looking forward to May when we will receive our first CSA share. I can’t wait!

A new (to me) resource

I found a new resource over the weekend that I really love. Actually my husband found it at the library. It’s a book called Vegetables by James Peterson.

Now there are a lot of books about vegetables. Some are good, others, eh, so-so. This one is organized differently than any other book on veggies that I’ve run across. He starts with a chapter on Techniques for Cooking Vegetables. Like, what does it really mean to cook them over high heat. He then describes 64 different vegetables, including odd ones like parsnips and radicchio. There is a section of glossy photos that show you how to do things like dicing an onion, or chopping Swiss Chard.

So if you are new to CSAs, i would highly recommend Vegetables by James Peterson.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so this will be a recap of what we did in 2010 for our CSA.

In December of 2009, we moved to Greenbelt, MD. Greenbelt is just outside Washington DC., so when we started to look for a CSA, we had numerous options.

We bought a summer share from Calvert Farms. Calvert Farms has been growing CSA vegetables for 16 years using sustainable growing methods. They also partner with other farmers in the area to provide produce for their CSA subscribers. They deliver all over the Metro DC area, including the New Deal Café in the Greenbelt Town Center, which is in walking distance from our GHI townhouse. So, every Thursday for 20 weeks, I would walk down to the Greenbelt Town Center to pick up my share.

Wow. Every week was like Christmas in July. We were extremely pleased with the variety of fruits and vegetables we received. Anything from blueberries, sweet  corn, swiss chard, kale, you name it. To get an idea of what kinds of veggies we received, check out this slide show with photos taken in 2007 by a Calvert farm subscriber.  We were so excited about our share, we signed up for the eight-week Fall session, including farm fresh eggs. I plan to sign up for Calvert Farm’s CSA this week as they are offering a discount for early subscribers.

So today, as we start 2011, we are using CSA kale (frozen from last summer’s share) to make traditional greens to be eaten with Hoppin’ John. We are using a recipe from the Lee brothers’ book The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.

Happy new year, and look for more posts as the growing season begins!

Attack of the killer tomato plants

Attack of the killer tomato plants

Attack of the killer tomato plants

This year, in addition to our CSA, I planted five tomato plants along side our brick patio. Four of them (two romas, one beefsteak and one golden cherry) survived. The four that remain are thriving with lots of green tomatoes.

With the cooler weather this year, tomatoes have been very slow to ripen. However. last night we were able to glean enough cherry tomatoes to use in Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Angel Hair Pasta. We roasted them in our smoker (a Big Green Egg) and it was scrumptious!

So now, every hot day is cherished. I no longer complain, because I want my tomatoes to ripen. There is nothing like a dish made from tomatoes you pick on the same day!

Sunchokes

These are what sunchokes look like

These are what sunchokes look like

Yes, today Adam offered a few extras for us, and one of the choices was sunchokes. Sunchokes are a tuber vegetable that is good cooked with potatoes. It has a sweet, kind of nutty taste. My husband has bought them at the farmer’s market in DC, and we’ve made a sunchoke potato gratin out of it. (click on the link for a recipe.) If you all come up with another way of using sunchokes, post them here so we might share the wealth of knowledge!

Here is the rest of today’s bounty.

  • Corn
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Onion
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers

Happy eating!