Tag Archives: CSA

Why Have I Been So Busy Lately?? ~ Mercato Edition

Yesterday morning I got up and walked to the Farmers’ Market.  I do this every Saturday morning, most Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons.  I do this for lots of reasons.  The main reason I shop at the Market is that I like to know where my food is coming from.  I know which farmers use pesticides and which don’t or try not to.   

I also like to support the farmers, beekeepers and artisans of my community.  Shopping locally keeps money in the pockets of my neighbors and keeps it out of the pockets of multi-national corporations and agribusinesses like Tyson.  By buying local goods I’m using my dollars to vote for the little guy. 

Another reason I shop at the Farmers’ Market is that it is better for the environment.  Growing and transporting our food uses millions of gallons of oil every year.  According to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, our food system uses 20% of the fossil fuels we consume. 

When I shop at the Farmers’ Market I help protect my family from the tainted food that frequently plagues grocery shoppers around the country.  Spinach, lettucemeat and most recently, eggs, have been recalled due to contaminations by Salmonella or E. Coli bacteria.  The farmers that grow my food feed that same food to their families; they’re not going to do anything that will risk their loved ones.

Even though I love the Farmers’ Market, I don’t go there just to shop.  Don’t get me wrong, I bought a lot yesterday and I even remembered my wagon so I could get it all home but when I go to the Market each Saturday morning, I go to work.   All summer I have been working for Nic and Jen at 9 Bean Rows in exchange for my CSA share.  I love working at the Market.  I have met and formed great relationships with a lot of really cool people.  Most of them are farmers, but some are fishermen, beekeepers, vintners or soapmakers.  I support them and they take care of me.  Many of them I now consider my friends.

Silvertree Deli

The Silvertree Deli in The Mercato

In July, I picked up a part-time job.  Don’t ask me why, but I did.  I started working lunches in the Silvertree Deli.  The deli is a great place;  the architecture of both the deli and the entire Mercato is gorgeous, the sandwiches are delicious and everyone that works there is a lot of fun.  Despite all the wonderful things about the deli, I started having regrets the first day. 

“What have I done?” I wondered.  “How will I take my kids to the beach?  When will I make cheese?  Or jam?”  All these thoughts swirling in my head started keeping me up at night.  “I’ll quit in the morning.” I told myself day after day.  And then I’d get to work and I’d feel bad and not quit.  I lasted a whole month before I finally decided that my time was more important to me than my summer job. 

I’m still busy, but now I have more time for canning, cooking, knitting, sewing and the beach.

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Random Drivel

If you are a regular reader, you have by now realized that I’ve been on a little hiatus.  Things are getting a little crazy around here and I haven’t had much time to devote to a “real” post. 

The craziness began with an amazing trip to Detroit (yes, I said “amazing” and “Detroit” in the same sentence) for the 5th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.  I was too cheap to spring for an internet connection while I was there so blogging was out.  Not to mention the fact that I was busy for three days and spent every spare moment with my family.  I have an amazing opportunity to write about the conference for one of my favorite local publications, but I’ll save that for its own post once an article has been written, approved (hopefully) and gone to print. 

When I returned from the conference I went straight back to work.  It was/is end-of-the-year-assessment time and I had missed three prime days.  Add to that the half day I missed last week to have a lost filling drilled out and temporarily replaced and now I’m knee-deep in paperwork and running out of days to finish it all.

In all my spare time, I’ve been working in the garden a ton; helping with Girls on the Run; finding and starting a summer job at the Mercato in exchange for my summer CSA share from 9 Bean Rows and trying to finish up the final details for the Coop Loop.   There are lots of exciting developments and eventually I’ll tell you more, but I’m still working on sifting my compost heap.  I love you all, but a girl has to prioritize. 

 I’ve had lots of thoughts and ideas, but  I haven’t had the time and energy to sit down and compose something meaningful to share.  I’ll be back to a more manageable schedule soon.  Until then you’ll have to make do with this collection of random drivel.

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Spring CSA Update

So, you’ve signed up for a CSA.  You’re excited because you know the local produce you’re going to pull out of the box is the freshest produce you can get.  You also know that you’re saving money because even though you’re paying $20-$30 a week for your share, you’re actually getting a lot of veggies for your money.  But then, you get the box home and open it up and think, “What have I gotten myself into?? I don’t even know what half this stuff is let alone how to cook with it.”  I felt that way a lot last year.  I ended up making lots of salads.  So far this spring I’m still getting a lot of “salad greens” but there have been plenty of other goodies as well.  

Let’s start with week two:   

Week 2 Spring Cream of the Crop Share

Week 2 of my 9 Bean Rows Cream of the Crop Share.

This is the whole share.  Stephanie gets half of it, but a half  has worked out really well so far.  This box had collards, Red Russian Kale, blue kale, Easter Egg Radishes, Mizuna, Kaleini, chives, oregano, Ruby Red Chard, Arugula and two loaves of bread.   

So, as I mentioned before, it’s a really “salad-y” share.  Mizuna and Arugula are both peppery lettuce varieties, and radishes are primarily a salad vegetable.  However, a quick Internet search revealed 10 Tasty Radish Recipes including one for radish chips.  I think I’ll have to try that one out.  My husband, once a chef, has always been perplexed by radishes.  Cooking them generally turns them to mush and blanches most of the flavor out.  Chips might work.   

Once the salad vegetables have been eliminated, we’re left with herbs, cooking greens and Kaleini.  Kaleini is an invention of Nic’s.  I’m pretty sure it’s not a hybrid but the young flowers from kale plants, but I couldn’t guarantee that.  Sautéed with butter and garlic, it was delicious and reminiscent of Broccoli Raab or broccolini.  

I gave all the herbs to Stephanie because I grow both chives and Oregano.  It seems silly for me to split them when I have a whole yard full of herbs including so much Oregano that I generally pull it out like weeds and compost it.   

Chard can be sautéed like spinach or used in most cooked spinach recipes.  I ate some sauteed in roast pork tenderloin drippings for dinner tonight.  I haven’t tried it yet because I am not a huge fan of eggs, but Barbara Kingsolver has a recipe on her Animal Vegetable Miracle website for Eggs in a Nest.  

Although I like it, kale is something I still haven’t figured out.  I can never seem to eat it all even though we are splitting a share.  Fortunately it lasts a while. Unfortunately as soon as I think I’ve eaten it all, I get a fresh supply.  So I will admit that I have fed kale to my chicken.  But, there really are lots of things you can do with kale.  You can find (literally) millions of recipes for kale chips on the Internet.  You can add kale to smoothies.  You can chop kale and add it to soups or stews.  I’ve even steamed it, ground it up and added it to chocolate cakes without being discovered by my family.  Those cakes were the most moist, delicious cakes you could imagine.  To my daughter’s great disgust I added chopped kale to curried garbanzo beans.  First she whined.  Then she begged to pick the kale out.  Then, she came back for seconds.  

 Collard greens are delicious, but so far I’m the only one in my house that will eat them.  I thought for sure Mr. Hippie would like them cooked in bacon, but he wanted them to be saltier.  Next time I think I would add garlic to the end sauté.

Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas 

Medium-sized bunch of collards
2-3 slices bacon
1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, soaked overnight 

  • Boil black-eyed peas in seasoned water 60 -90 minutes.  (I added salt, pepper and minced garlic.)   
  • While peas are cooking, cut stems out of collard greens and feed to your chickens (or compost if you don’t have any chickens yet).  Once the stems have been removed, chop the collards into 1/2″ strips and add to boiling salted water.  Cook for about  30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook bacon in a very large skillet and let cool on a paper towel.  Reserve 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon fat but pour most of it into your fat jar to make soap with later.  Or, if you want to make your dog really happy, drizzle it over his kibble or add it to homemade dog food or biscuits
  • Once the bacon has cooled, chop it into bits and return it to the pan with the bacon fat you saved.
  • Drain the collards and the black-eyed peas and add them to the skillet with the bacon bits and fat.  Sauté until heated through and season to taste. 

In addition to the veggies and greens there was, of course, freshly-baked bread.  Yum.  Mostly we just slice it and eat it with butter, but sometimes I toast it or make French Toast.  French Toast is really delicious with Jen’s bread. 

Week three looked very similar, but included some new items.  

Week Three Cream of the Crop Share
My week three Cream of the Crop share from 9 Bean Rows.

Homemade bread is a given although the loaves were oblong rather than the roundish loaves we got the second week.  More kale, more collard greens, more radishes and Arugula.  Mixed salad greens made a comeback this week which is great; I’ve been eating salad for lunch most days.  This week’s  herbs were chives, Oregano,  tarragon and parsley.  I kept some of the parsley because I don’t have any growing, but gave the rest of the herbs to Stephanie again.  I’ve never grown parsley because I’ve never been a fan of it.  That all changed last year when I started getting it in my CSA box from Providence Farm.  I started making tabbouleh and now I’m addicted to the stuff so I’ll definitely be planting some parsley this year.

New this week were ramps or wild leeks.  When I got these ramps, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them.  I usually harvest some from the woods when I’m foraging for morels, but never this many at a time.  Then I found this post about wild leeks and thought hmm. . . pickling them would be fun.  I think maybe I’ll use my jerked onion recipe from last month’s Can Jam challenge.  But then, Stephanie said that she was using her leeks in fajitas.  What a great idea!!  I cleaned up the leeks, cut the bulbuous white part off and saved them for canning and cut up some of the leafy parts to use in my fajitas.  You can chop the leeks up into salads with the rest of your early spring salad greens.  I just had an inspiration!  My grandma makes “ham roll-ups” at Christmas time.  I think a leek would work in lieu of a scallion:  Lay a thinly sliced piece of ham on a plate.  Spread the ham with cream cheese.  Place the leek along one edge of the ham slice and roll it up.  Cut the ham cylinder into one inch spirals.  I never eat them except at parties, but even if I pickle the bulbs of my leeks I’ll have a lot of greens leftover.  I think even my son would eat the leeks in roll-ups.
This week I couldn’t pick up the share because I was at the Family Wisdom Conference ALL DAY on Saturday.  It was great, but exhausting.  So, since I couldn’t make it to the market, Stephanie picked up the box and split it for me.  Since Stephanie already split the produce, this is only my half of the share. 

9 Bean Rows CSA Share Week 4
My half of the 9 Bean Rows CSA Share from week 4.

First, let me say that Jen’s Brioche was so delicious that I started eating it before I remembered to take a picture.  My husband loved it so much that I’m afraid he’ll never eat regular bread again.  I’ve already researched brioche recipes.  As soon as I figure out which one is the best, I’ll do a post so you can share in the bliss.  (Or, head on over to the Mercato next week and buy a loaf or six.)

In addition to the brioche I found more chard, more leaf lettuce, more salad greens, more kale, more ramps, sage and oregano.  However, I also got the first turnips of the season.  I’ve never cooked mine, but they can be cooked like potatoes and added to soups.  I add turnips to salads with the rest of my salad-y vegetables.  I also found the first spinach of the season (yay!), baby potatoes and peas shoots. 
I don’t eat spinach raw.  I almost always saute it or throw it in the pan when I’ve finished cooking the meat until it wilts in all the delicious drippings.  I like the taste of raw spinach, but there is something about the way it feels on my teeth that I just can’t handle.  Potatoes are pretty easy.  I still have 20ish pounds of Russets in storage, but my Yukons and Redskins are on their way out (in both quantity and quality).  I like new potatoes like these boiled then tossed in yogurt with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh chives or dill (or, minced ramp leaves if that’s what you have around). 
Pea shoots can be chopped into salads, but I’m thinking of adding them to a stir fry at the very end instead of pea pods.
What do you do with your CSA Share?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Down with Dark Days

Spring has officially been here for twelve days now, but the Dark Days Challenge didn’t culminate until yesterday.  It seems as if Michigan wanted to end the Dark Days Challenge with an exclamation point rather than a period.   Seventy degrees and sunny the last day of March?  This isn’t spring, it’s summer but I’m not complaining. 

I wanted my Dark Days to go out with a bang too.  The grill had its inaugural run Tuesday but it seemed fitting on such a lovely day to stay mostly out of the kitchen.  This menu screams, “summer” and practically wrote itself:  Buffalo, corn on the cob, redskin potatoes, tossed salad, grilled bread and strawberry shortcake with homemade ice cream.

The buffalo steak came from Oleson’s farm and grocery.  Corn on the cob came from the Farmers’ Market.  I froze a bushel of it last summer for days like these.  My potato supply is dwindling, sprouting and starting to get mushy but I picked through the redskins, cut off the roots sprouting from the eyes, and sliced them into an aluminum pan with some olive oil, garlic from last year’s CSA share, salt and rosemary.  I have never successfully wintered a rosemary plant.  I always manage to keep it until February or March before it dies but mine is thriving and enjoying a day out in the sunshine.  My tossed salad greens and “easter egg” radishes came from my brand new 9 Bean Rows share.  I made a new dressing.  I know, what a shock, right?  Instead of the usual feta-garlic-yogurt dressing I tried a “Greek” vinaigrette.  I didn’t actually measure anything, but here’s the ingredient list:

rice wine and Balsamic vinegar (because I didn’t have any red wine vinegar)
olive oil
fresh minced oregano (several sprigs)
2 cloves chopped garlic
about an ounce of crumbled homemade feta
some honey
Shake well (Keep the lid on if you don’t want it exploded all over the counter like I did.)

The vinegar and oil weren’t local, but everything else was.

The grilled bread is something I make almost every day all summer long.  Dylan wanted me to make it Tuesday but it is a leavened bread and couldn’t be made on short notice.   The original recipe comes from “The Barbecue! Bible” but I modified it.

2 1/2 tsp. yeast
5 T. honey
1 C. warm water
1 egg, beaten (fresh from the coop if you’re lucky 🙂 )
3 T. milk
2 tsp. salt
5 ish cups spelt flour
1 T. olive oil

Combine yeast, 1 T. honey and 1/4 C. warm water in mixing bowl.  Let stand ten minutes until foamy.  Stir in the remaining honey, remaining water, the egg, milk and salt.  Add 4 cups of flour and mix until dough is soft but not sticky.  Knead in the mixer 4-5 minutes adding flour as necessary.

Use half the oil to grease a large bowl.  Put dough in greased bowl, drizzle with remaining oil and cover with a damp cloth. 

Soon to be flatbread

The dough ready to rise.

 Let rise in a warm place until double.  Punch down the dough and pinch off two-inch pieces.  Roll the pieces into balls and place on a floured sheet or plate.  Recover with a damp towel and let rise until puffy: about 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill on high.  Use a rolling-pin to roll each ball on a floured board.  I oil and salt the rolled balls before placing them directly on the grill.  Flip them when they start to bubble.  They are done when browned on both sides.

Grand Finale

The Grand Finale of my Dark Days Challenge.

These flatbreads go great with everything.  They also make excellent crusts for grilled pizzas, or platforms for sandwiches (I love grilled veggies and cheese.  Homemade feta or raclette are lovely.)

Dessert was a true tribute to summer.  Spelt shortcake with berries from the freezer and homemade vanilla ice cream with Shetler’s milk and cream.  Yum! 

Maybe this should have been the entree.

Spelt shortcake, local berries and homemade vanilla ice cream.

It was so yummy that I let the kids eat leftover shortcake and berries for breakfast today.  Sans ice cream of course.

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To CSA or Not to CSA?

When I first started “blogging”, I wasn’t actually blogging.  I was using the ‘Notes’ tab on Facebook to journal.  I started out with weekly updates of my CSA share from Providence Farms and included recipes and anecdotes.  Partly it was a way for me to share with friends what I was doing, but in the back of my mind I was writing a book and I needed a place to keep notes that could be eventually incorporated into my book.  My book dream hasn’t died, but the Master Plan has evolved along the way.  So have the notes. 

The notes are now this blog and it is so much more than a diary of my CSA share.  In fact, because I didn’t sign up for a winter CSA share I haven’t blogged about a CSA much at all.  Why didn’t I sign up?  First of all, Providence didn’t offer a winter share.  Second, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to do a CSA share because I would be growing more of my own veggies this year.  I still plan to grow more veggies, but in the past I haven’t had a lot of luck in my garden.  I’m hoping that I can remedy that this year, but I’m nervous about doing it all on my own.  Plus, at the moment I don’t have a greenhouse, or a hoophouse, or even a cold frame.  I have a plastic seed-starting tray.  This limits the winter and spring growing I can do.

I started seeds two weeks ago, but so far only the onions and cauliflower have sprouted; old seeds will do that to you.  I’ll purchase some fresh seeds and try again, but crop failure is always a risk when you are a farmer or a gardener or even an urban homesteader which I think is what I’m aiming to be at the moment. 

When a friend asked if I wanted to split a CSA share, I hesitated.  Then I did a little research and decided to go for it.  We started a share with 9 Bean Rows Saturday morning.  We decided on 9 Bean Rows for a few reasons. 

First, their timing was perfect.  Instead of offering “summer” shares starting in June and running through October ike most the CSAs around here do, they offer four sessions that start and end with the changing of the seasons.  Since we just celebrated the Vernal Equinox, Stephanie and I were just in time for a spring share. 

Beacuase the sessions are shorter than most CSA shares, the initial expense is less too.  Most CSA shares run $450-$500 for the season.  At $350 for 12 weeks, the weekly cost works out to be about the same as the longer shares only in a smaller dose.  Plus, they let us pay in four installments; I’m paying two, Stephanie’s paying two.  It hurts less that way. 🙂 

Another nice thing about 9 Bean Rows is that they offer three different tiers of shares.  The Herbivore share is for salad lovers.  Each week you receive a variety of greens, herbs and edible flowers to make interesting salads year-round.  Tastes of the Garden is the basic share.  It is probably the best value and if I do a summer share, I might downgrade to this share. It has whatever is in season picked fresh each week.  The Cream of the Crop share that I’m splitting with Stephanie is the “premium” share.  Each week you get the basic share plus a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and frequent “value added” products.  These could be wine from Blackstar Farms, jams and jellies in their season, morel mushrooms, syrup or herb butters like the chive butter tucked into my share this week.  My logic on springing for this share may be twisted, but here it is:  It’s spring.  Not a lot of things are growing yet.  As they start to come into season, the Cream of the Crop shareholders will get the first of those newly emerging products.  That means that as rhubarb, asparagus, wild leeks and even morels start poking their heads up from the cold earth, (Stephanie &) I’ll be the first to enjoy them.  We’ll also get more of these goodies than the standard shareholders and as the season runs out on these goodies, we’ll get the end of the run too.  When pickin’s are slim it seems worth the extra investment.

You’re probably wondering why I’d pay extra for a share that offers eggs when I’m harvesting my own now.  Well, I’m not.  Stephanie and I both have chickens and didn’t want the eggs, so the folks at 9 Bean Rows swapped out the eggs for an extra loaf of bread each week.  This is perfect for us because now we each get a loaf every week instead of splitting a loaf.  It’s actually a better value for us too, because even when I was buying eggs, I was paying less for a dozen local eggs than they charge for a loaf of their delicious bread.  I bake a lot of my own bread, but it’s nice to change things up once in awhile. 

And, the last reason I decided to go with 9 Bean Rows this season?  Well, you may remember that I’m on the Family Wisdom planning comittee this year.  Jen from 9 Bean Rows is speaking at the conference this year.  She’s agreed to do a session on how to cook from your CSA share or from what’s in season at the Farmers’ Market.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  You know, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” 

Our share was short a couple things this week because I signed up at the very last minute and they had already harvested and sorted everything, but Jen said she’d catch us up next week.  So, if you need one more reason to try a CSA, here it is:

9 Bean Rows Cream of the Crop

My Cream of the Crop share: Spring Week 1

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