Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Overwhelmed? Don’t Be!

Meet My Friend Carol….

Carol looks forward to the first taste
of strawberries each year!
This week’s newsletter article was written by longtime CSA member, Carol Wilson.  Carol was kind enough to share some of her strategies, resources and thoughts about how to find success and pleasure as CSA members “eating out of the box.”  Carol and her husband, Bob, have been CSA members in Madison, Wisconsin for over 20 years.  They raised two wonderful children on HVF CSA vegetables.  Their daughter, Jesse, lives and works in New York City where she now enjoys cooking with her own CSA shares.  Their son, David, resides in California where he enjoys his work as a wine maker.  Both Jesse and David have grown to develop an appreciation for good food and totally get what it means to eat seasonally.  When their children left home, the weekly CSA box became more of a challenge for only Bob and Carol, but they have done well with the challenge and continue to eat through a weekly vegetable share.  They have seen us through times of bounty when we had huge pepper crops and stuck with us through three difficult flood years.  They have listened to us when we needed their support and perspectives, offering us enlightenment and sometimes just a dose of comic relief.  Over the years they have become not only loyal, committed CSA members, but they have also become our good friends.  This past winter they visited us for a weekend, including their dog Iris.  Bob helped me reinstall a bathroom cabinet that had been removed for a plumbing repair while Carol coached Andrea through a basket weaving project!  Bob and Carol are an example of how important our CSA members are to our farm.  They help make the difficult days more manageable and meaningful.  This is what Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is really about!  ---Farmer Richard

Overwhelmed? Don’t Be!
By Carol Wilson, Madison HVF CSA Member

We have been members of Harmony Valley Farm (HVF) for over 20 years and initially experienced being overwhelmed as we learned to eat seasonally and to make use of our wonderful HVF produce. Learning to eat seasonally and to incorporate less familiar vegetables into your repertoire is so rewarding, but requires strategies and a little effort.   Below are some of the strategies we learned over the years and now, long after our children grew up and moved out, we continue to receive a weekly box and experience the pleasures of healthy eating.

When we come home with the box, 2 things are key for me: proper storage and inventory.  My daughter does not bag her greens and then they wilt.  Another friend leaves veggies sitting on the counter and they go soft quickly.  Properly stored veggies last longer and taste better.  However, once those veggies are stored away, it can be hard to remember what you have on hand.  I solve that dilemma by creating a list of our veggies and posting it on the fridge.  I have counted over 20 different veggies at one time in our fridge!

Before my husband retired and started preparing the week night meals, I spent time on the weekend creating a menu for the week that used the veggies.  At the same time, I created a shopping list for anything else we needed to make the meal plan work.  During the week it was so nice to know what the plan was and to just come home and start cooking.  I didn't have to think or dig through cookbooks - all that work had been done.

Over the years, we have invested in a few cookbooks that focus on veggies and/or seasonal eating.  With the help of those, the HVF newsletters, on-line recipes, magazines, friends, etc., we have a collection of recipes that we look forward to every year when it is that veggie or fruit's time of year - currant scones, strawberry shortbread pizza, Zucchini-Cumin Dip, rhubarb crumble, ramp and asparagus pizza, etc.  

When it’s been a busy week and you find yourself with lots of veggies at the end of the week just before your next pick up, we use one of our ‘clear out the fridge’ strategies.  Our primary go-to is pizza, but we also do warm veggie salads.  My husband also makes delicious soups.  My sister does burritos.  Whatever is left at the end of the week gets sautéed together and then put on a pizza with sausage or bacon.  Or, put on greens with a good dressing.  Or, made into a soup.  Or, put in a tortilla.

To preserve the bounty, we freeze.  Mostly peppers, but also strawberries and tomatoes.  We have started pickling and canning and have a wonderful recipe for both a zucchini and a fennel relish.  We also purchased a dehydrator several years ago and use that for drying herbs. 

Cook more veggies at a time than you think you will eat.  Two things happen: you will eat more veggies at meal time because they are there and ready and fresh and delicious, and, second, you will pack the leftovers for lunch the next day.  And, in the same vein, put in more veggies than the recipe calls for.  Lots of recipes are trying to please an audience that is practically terrified of veggies, so they call for limited amounts of things - a small zucchini, a half of a pepper, etc.   Go nuts! Use two small zucchini or go crazy and use the whole pepper!

Substitute, substitute.  If your recipe calls for a veggie you don't have, substitute one that you do have.  Think of veggies in categories - ramps, onions, green garlic, etc. are all onions.  Fennel, carrots, parsley root, celery, etc. are all aromatics.  This takes practice and learning about veggies, but will start to make sense over time and lead to lots of delicious creations.

Looking ahead at this week’s box, here’s what I’m thinking.  We will likely make Carrot Top Pesto (recipe available on the HVF website) which is fantastic!  The combination of fennel and zucchini is one of my favorites so a simple saute is in order using those.  The Amaranth Corn Saute recipe from the HVF website is a favorite, but many of the veggies that it calls for are not yet available so we will substitute or use things from our freezer, such as red pepper and edamame.  We don’t have corn, so we might substitute fennel, giving it a slightly different flavor.  I love a good Chinese ground pork (from HVF, of course!) stir fry that uses lots of veggies in whatever proportion you wish.  Of the veggies in this week’s box, the only ones I probably wouldn’t use in the stir-fry are cucumbers and beets, but that’s just me.  (I love beets and cucumbers, just not with this flavor combination.)  We love a fairly simple saute of greens as a bed for fish, so that’s a possibility for the beet or amaranth greens.   

Finally, don't be embarrassed to compost.  It happens to the best of us.  Whether they belong to a CSA, grow their own produce, or shop at a conventional grocery store, everyone occasionally has to throw something out.  Let it go and don't feel guilty.  {Note from Farmer Richard…Do be wary of composting sunchokes and horseradish.  If your compost is not hot enough to kill them they may take over your compost pile.  We dry them to death before adding to our compost.  I give you this warning because Bob and Carol are not the only CSA members who have been haunted by the seemingly endless battle of sunchokes growing in their compost/yard.} 

I would say that it took us several years to get comfortable with and confident about using a CSA box.  Don't give up after the first year - you are just getting going!  Our daughter (who now lives in New York City, and participates in CSAs there) adds, “At first it is overwhelming, so it's about managing being overwhelmed.  Don't let it get you down!”

Lastly, here are some of our go-to cookbooks:

From Asparagus to Zucchini – the MACSAC cookbook available for purchase online from Fairshare CSA Coalition

Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make by Melissa Clark, who lives in NYC and shops the various Farmers’ Markets.  She includes adaptations, modifications, and how to make dishes kid friendly.  She has the tendency to do what we do – go to the Farmers’ Market, buy lots of beautiful produce and then come home and figure out what to make with it all.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi – (our daughter loves this one!)

Roots by Diane Morgan

Farmer John’s Cookbook by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics

The Produce Bible by Leanne Kitchen

Dishing up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis

Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan (source of the Zucchini and Fennel relish recipes)

We also have many vegetarian cookbooks that provide us with inspiration and ideas.

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