As summer sets in, the compulsion to get outside and move and see the sun unfiltered by windows grows. After a long winter of finishing up classes – college in general – and spending too many hours in the depth of a basement with no windows but plenty of computer screens and too much body odor, all I want to do is spend as many hours as possible outside. Maybe going for a hike, or a run, or a bike ride, or a picnic, or maybe just sitting outside. Anyway I can, I get out.
Now, this urge, desire, lust, for the open air and blazing sun crests over from my leisure activities into my eating too. In the summer, my body and appetite crave fresh foods that are normally raw. Unfettered with. Touched only by the hands that farmed them. I’m talking about greens and peppers and berries. I’m talking about raw honey straight out of the apiary. I’m talking the good stuff. Luckily enough for me, my family recently invested in a C.S.A. Not C.I.A, not C.S.M.A.
What I’m talking about is Community Supported Agriculture. I’m talking a direct connection from farm to kitchen. No middle people. No packaging.
How this all works is a farm decides to be a part of a CSA, and then people buy shares (I guess kind of like stocks? I don’t know) and then have weekly allotments of seasonal goods from the farm. In practice it works like this:
Why, though, would you do this? Well come on, it’s like going to the absolute best produce section of your best grocery store and picking up the best seasonal produce. Ever. It’s fresh. It’s picked that day. It’s from a farm within 20 miles of you. It’s so guilt free. I mean I could throw out the word “green” but I think the irony of it all is just too much. You get green greens from your green farm in Greenville, New York. To hell with calling it green, just call it good.
So there’s one reason to have a C.S.A. Another? It’s not that expensive. You might think that the up front cost of it all is crazy, but if you break that up over time, then it works out to be cheap. And normally, the only other things you have to buy from a grocery store are breads (either the ingredients if you make your own bread, or the baked good itself) and condiments. Who can resist condiments?
With this particular C.S.A. that my family has, we are invited to come to the farm any time. Walk around, breathe fresh air, and see that our food is doing well. And in especially prime times, we have access to pick our own produce. Which brings me to my third reason that you should get a C.S.A (stay with me here, we have it’s good for you, it’s good for the environment, it’s freaking delicious, it’s not that expensive, it’s guilt free, you can pick your own produce, you can see where your food is coming from and another one): You can see what a strawberry is supposed to look like.
I’m not talking the uniform pink-red berry that comes from all over the world to your refrigerator and tastes a little tart, is a little firm, and goes great with sugar because it doesn’t have its own sugars. I’m talking about red berries that are irregularly shaped with deep hues of red and seeds that you can see. That’s what I was most surprised at were the seeds.
Last week I decided to go up to the farm and pick strawberries and sugar snap peas. If you’ve never picked your own fruit and vegetables, then you’re missing out. It’s a direct connection to sustenance. You are working for your food and it makes it that much more enjoyable. Also, you get to pop a few strawberries in your mouth as you go. Just a few taste tests, I say.
After picking about 5 quarts of strawberries – rooting through the leaves to find the perfect berry 50 times over – I made my way over to the sugar snap peas. Now, these are delicious. Crisp, sweet, roughage full, I like to say that these are the perfect snack during the early summer. Also, these little pea plants were over-run with pea pods, so I just went crazy and ended up eating them in my salad for the next week with a ginger-sesame-soy dressing. I mean, how can you beat that?
You may or may not be convinced by this point to get a C.S.A. but I hope it’s the former. What else do I have to say? Cheap produce? Local? Seasonal? No-hassle? Summer. Delicious. Fresh. If you think it’s too hard since you live in a city, well folks, there are even C.S.A.s in the biggest city of them all, New York. Excuses are dwindling, right?
If nothing else, just go to a farm with a C.S.A. this summer and take a tour. You’ll probably end up eating something that you never realized had so much flavor.
Now I know that this entry doesn’t have a meal built into its body, per se, but how about a delicious salad with some home-made dressing?
I call it, the CSA (community salad appetizer)
1 bunch of mixed greens (bib lettuce, spinach, radicchio, anything that’s sprouting now)
Halved Sugar Snap Peas (cut them or just snap them in half)
Broccoli (steamed, fresh, sautéed, whatever you have the time for)
Chilled Grilled Eggplant (eggplant is a delicious veggie to grill and if you have some left over from another meal – maybe the night before – slice it up and throw it in)
Anything else your heart desires at that moment
Soy Sauce (about 1/4 cup)
Freshly Grated Ginger (about 1-2 tablespoons)
Sesame Oil (1-2 tablespoons)
Brown Sugar (1-2 tablespoons)
Mix all of this up with a fork, tasting every now and then to see if the flavors are mellowing together correctly. Note: this dressing is really intense just to sip, so don’t fear! Just put a little on your salad – it’ll go a long way.