Midway through last summer, I discovered that some lucky people get boxes of produce delivered to them every week. These Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes include a variety of whatever is at the peak of freshness. And buying a “share” at the beginning of the season helps the farmers by ensuring they’ll have enough income to work throughout the year.
It really sounded like a win-win situation. Supporting local farmers, buying locally AND getting the freshest veggies? Sign me up! I’ve always made frequent stops at farmers’ markets, from Chicago’s Daley Plaza, Elgin’s Downtown Harvest Market, or my own local Klein’s Farm Stand. But the during-the-week markets can be tough to get to. (In the case of Daley Plaza, it’s a truly fantastic market – the mind reels with possibility – but it’s tricky transporting delicate produce home via train.)
Over the winter, I discovered Trogg’s Hollow, a very, very local farm. Their field is barely a mile from my house, in the midst of an older neighborhood like mine. They were sold out of shares by the time I found them, but then a neighbor got in from the waiting list. The shares are designed for four people, so she offered to share her share with me. Serendipity!
After a cool spring, I finally got my first batch of produce: lots of lettuce, spinach, a radish and beet greens.
So how to use those veggies?
Part of the reason I signed up was I wanted to branch out beyond what I usually buy and cook. It’s easy to get in the trap of buying the same things every week. For me, it’s usually a bunch of spinach, a couple of bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and whatever a recipe requires. (On the fruit side, it tends to vary more, based on what’s on sale and in season.)
The lettuce and spinach are easy. As soon as I got home with my bag of veggies, I made a giant salad, and I’ll have several more over the coming days. I also add spinach to scrambled eggs.
I had just found a recipe for spicy stir-fried eggplant and beef that called for radish greens, something I had never considered existing. But suddenly, I had some in my fridge, so I made the recipe last Thursday. (And wow, was it fantastic!) I ate the radish itself while I made dinner. (For some reason, radishes always make me think of Fraggle Rock.)
The beet greens posed a bit more challenge. My cooking guru, Jenn, suggested sauteeing them with garlic and onions, and the Trogg’s Hollow newsletter suggested a similar treatment. Easy-peasy. But tonight’s dinner was a clean-out-the-fridge type meal, so I managed to work the greens into a skillet of Italian sausage, new potatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic. I added some fresh parmesan – divine.
And just in time, as I’ll get my second share tomorrow.