Wednesday, May 12, 2010

bountiful, bounteous bounty

So this year, we decided to try Akaogi Farm’s CSA instead of South Valley Farm. Let me back up, since a certain blogger’s mother expressed curiosity about what a CSA is. CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”. It’s a way for a farm to connect more directly with its customers by offering shares in the growing season. The customer pays up front, and then gets a weekly haul of whatever is ready to be picked that week. Usually, you go to the farm directly to pick up your box. I used to belong to a CSA in Idaho (this is when I lived in Jackson Hole) where they trucked everything over Teton Pass to Jackson, and part of the fun was weighing out your individual allotment of each kind of veggie. Around here, they do that ahead of time and make you up a box, and you just have to remember to keep track of the box and bring it back the next time. And not, for example, accidentally let the cats nest in it.

CSA’s are awesome, particularly around here, where there are so many small-scaled farms that offer this as an option.  Last year, we tried South Valley Farm. Chris had a great set-up and tasty stuff, but it was a rainy, crappy summer and for some reason, in his case, that translated to more yellow squash than I ever want to see again. And that factors in the fact that I love me a good ratatouille.

At our local swim hole late last summer, we heard that Akaogi focuses on greens in their offerings, so we thought we’d give that a shot this year. I still think fondly of South Valley, particularly since I go by it on my longer runs, and he’s got two black lab puppies who take a keen interest in my route. Akaogi’s is just a few more miles down the road. Apparently, they do some crazy stuff down there, like, grow rice. In Vermont. But I digress.

We’re paying $18 a week for a growing season that started last week, and will go through the third week of November. Unlike other places, Akaogi’s does not offer the famed “half share” option, and Linda Akaogi kinda warned me to be prepared for a Lot of Food. I’m not one to be intimidated by a lot of greens – sign me up, I said.

I may have gotten myself into trouble, though. I mean, WOW. Here is today’s box, unpacked.


Five enormous cabbagey things. Probably related to bok choy. Mutant bok choy, let’s say.


Two decent-sized heads of green leaf lettuce.


A truckload of this mystery green. This is maybe 8 or 10 plants – each with a handful of leaves. It sorta looks like romaine, but it isn’t. I don’t think it’s a lettuce – it’s a little too tough, and not really as sweet as you’d hope a lettuce would be. Last week, willing to risk making “lettuce soup”, I sauted this up with garlic, ginger, scallions, and shredded carrot, added some sesame oil, say sauce, rice wine vinegar, and chicken stock, and announced that it was soup. Kevin doesn’t really like soup, so he just filtered the chewy stuff out. “Soup on a plate,” he said. Yum yum.

OK, now pay attention, there will be a quiz.


Next up, we have, an enormous quantity of red leaf lettuce. Far more than can fit, packed tight, into a salad spinner – it’s spilling over onto the counter. Right next to it, we have a fistful of scallions about a foot and a half long.


A vat’s worth of spinach.


And this picture hardly just justice to this, but there are four different bundles here of what might be baby chard, baby collards, and two completely-foreign to me dark leafy greens. Each bundle is well over a foot long, and maybe four or five inches in diameter.

Plus – a HUGE pile of radishes, complete with their prickly (and I’m thinking, not edible-by-me) associated green bits.

(Last week, incidentally, was similar. Less mutant bok choy, more baby bok choy; some … maybe that was broccoli rabe greens? and a generous couple of handfuls of fat asparagus – bliss!)

It took me two hours to wash all this stuff, and locate and remove the various slugs, snails, and bugs. I removed all the stems and put them into the compost pile. (Later, I’ll get more ambitious and start making soup stock out of it.) And then I dried everything and put it into baggies with paper towels. It completely filled both veggie bins, as well as part of the big shelf.


And that was my afternoon.

As for the evening, the tomato and lettuce containers are enjoying another slumber party indoors. I told Charlie not to nibble on anything. We need to get a good night’s rest, because Kevin…drum roll…is having his knee surgery tomorrow morning.

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