Friday, February 19, 2010

Hey, Hey, CSA

How about these lovelies? On the left are turnips. On the right, a single rhutabaga about six inches in diameter. Tonight I'll be experimenting with a turnip gratin. If it turns out and looks nice enough, I'll post the recipes and a pic on here later. If it doesn't, well, silence is golden.

The popularity of community supported agriculture, or CSAs, is sweeping the nation. If you don't happen to be familiar with the concept, you simply buy a seasonal share in a local organic farm and reap a portion of the harvest. You also take on the same risks that the farmer does. If a hail storm wipes out the crops, you're out of luck. But they know what they're doing, and that doesn't happen often. It's worth the risks.

Participating in a CSA is a great way to support farmers in your area. You get to know them, and your money goes directly to them, not some corporate conglomerate. They get a fair price for their hard work, and your money stays in your local economy.

And did I mention the food? Lordy, there is nothing like fresh produce, organically grown someplace you can actually SEE.

I have yet to purchase a summer CSA share. There are only two of us, and we eat out of the kitchen garden all summer and fall, with plenty left to freeze and can for winter. For the things we don't grow yet, an occasional trip to the farmer's market rounds things out.

This is the second year we've had a winter share. Eating with the seasons feels right. However, there can be ... challenges associated with doing so. Neither of us had eaten much in the way of root vegetables other than carrots and radishes before I started hauling home bags from last year's weekly distribution. The prospect of figuring out what do with all the new goodies was exciting.

Well, at least it was to me.

When I proposed getting another share this year, there was silence from K. Then, "Will there be sugar hat lettuce again?"


Sigh. "Oh."

Sugar hat lettuce is really a large variety of endive. One of the only greens that does well in the winter, it's quite bitter. One taste last year elicited the dictum, "I don't think I'll be putting that in my mouth again," from my dear one.

So I ate a lot of it for lunches, with grated apple and cider vinegar viniagrette. I told myself the bitter greens were good for my digestion. Have I mentioned that I HATE to waste food?

This year,however, there was no sugar hat lettuce in our weekly share. We've had squash, pumpkin, tatsoi, daikon radish, parsnips, two kinds of potatoes, beets, onions, carrots, kohlrabi, turnips and rhutabagas. And cabbage. Man, oh man, the cabbage. Green, purple, Napa, chinese. Talk about having to get creative.

And then there's this strange gleaning: black radish.

Three to four inches in diameter, it's jet black on outside and creamy white inside. It requires extreme cold to bring out the sweetness, but that sweetness is lost on me. It's pungeant as all get out. Another thing to grate and put into slaws, I'm told, but also read that if you dry it and add a few pieces to beans as they cook the radish will eliminate the ... effervescent qualities associated with bean. I haven't tried it yet, but the bad boys in the picture are now desicated shadows of themselves in a bag in the freezer awaiting the next pot o' beans to hit the stove.

As for the rhutabaga above, I'm still ciphering on what the heck to do with that. Suggestions welcome.

I'll be posting recipes on Fridays in the future, at least for a while. Many of them will be from my books. Let me know if there's something Sophie Mae or her cohorts ate in any of the home crafting mysteries, and I'll move that recipe to the top of the list!

And finally, if you're interested in Why Characters Kill, I've blogged about it over on Inkspot today.

Happy weekend to everyone!


  1. Never cooked with turnips or rhutabaga. That would be a challenge. To my knowledge we don't have a CSA farm anywhere near us. Sounds like a wonderful idea. We do have a young gentleman about four miles from us that is beginning to raise organic beef, eggs and honey. I love the brown eggs and the honey is wonderful. Haven't tried the beef yet, he hasn't been raising it long enough yet. Look forward to your recipes.

  2. My CSA is in the back yard, but no rhutabagas. The old man gave up on them after the kids moved out.

    He mentions buying a rhutabaga once in awhile to make a pie (like a pastie without potatoes).

  3. I'm not sure I've ever eaten rhutabaga, but I do remember my grandmother cooking turnips -- she added them to soups, and even mashed turnips and served them as a side dish.

  4. I have not eaten a rhutabaga before. I do love gardening in the summer--I just wish I was better at preserving the food throughout the winter. I do ok with fruits, but not so much with veggies.

  5. Mason, the eggs and honey sound great! And local honey is supposed to enhance your immune system, especially if you're prone to allergies.

    Kay, maybe I'll try adding rhutabaga to a pot pie. And Patricia, I've been thinking about mashing the rest of the turnips -- plenty left after the gratin.

    Kerrie, I'm envious of your fruit preservation. I didn't even get apples last year.