CSA's are great!

Let’s talk about CSAs.   While it may seem early to you, it is in fact a good time to be looking into the possibilities if you’re interested in joining a CSA this summer.  So first, let’s begin with an explanation.

What is a CSA?

Seeding continues in the greenhouse as spring is right around the corner.

Seeding continues in the greenhouse as spring is right around the corner.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  The basic concept is that you as a consumer make a commitment to a farm in the form of paying in advance (usually in the winter when a farmers working capital is low) for the right to a “share” of fresh produce every week for a prescribed number of weeks.  Many of the farmers you meet at farmers markets also have a CSA program. 

The concept was born in the 1960’s in Japan at a time when more of the food available was being imported to Japan rather than being grown locally, which corresponded with a loss of active farmland in the country. As this phenomenon was recognized, community members got together with farmers to address the situation in ways that were mutually beneficial.  Contracts were signed where farmers agreed to provide fresh local produce when the families made a commitment to support the farm. Together they took a risk (as agriculture always involves risk) in the hopes of gaining something they’d been missing: fresh food and financial support respectively.

It didn’t make it the US until the mid 80’s where it was renamed Community Supported Agriculture, and since then has continued to grow in popularity. It’s a wonderfully flexible concept that can be tailored to farmers needs, and with so many options available to the consumer, folks who are interested are very likely to find the CSA that best fits their needs as well. 

That’s my synopsis of the concept, but if you’re interested in some words from Robyn Van En, one of the founders of community supported agriculture here in the US, some 30 years ago, check out this website: http://www.context.org/iclib/ic42/vanen/

This site has some background on the concept as well: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Our CSA program

At the Lost Barn Farm our CSA runs for 20 weeks, or most of June thru October.  We offer 2 share sizes, plus the option of a “market share” for folks whose families are perhaps less flexible about their vegetable choices.  We include fruit in the shares when we have it, and offer a limited number of separate egg shares. 

Full share example shares from 2013:

  • week 2: 1 lb rhubarb, pint strawberries, 1/4 lb garlic scapes, 1 bunch salad turnips, 1 lb cauliflower, 1 1/2 lb fennel, 1 bunch kale, 1/2 lb pea shoots
  • week 10: 3 cloves duganski garlic, 1 1/2 lbs Augusta potatoes, 2 european cukes, 2 lbs summer squash, 1 bunch edamame, 1 bunch Swiss chard, 1 lb tomatoes, 1 bunch Walla Walla sweet onions, 6 ears sweet corn
  • week 20: 1 butternut squash, 1 stalk Brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 lbs parsnips, 1 bunch atlas carrots, 2 lbs sweet potatoes, 2 lbs red & yellow onions, 1 bunch celeriac, 2 lbs peppers, 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch broccoli rabe
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Most of our CSA members pick up on Wednesdays, either at our booth at the Brattleboro farmers market in front of the Bratt Co-op, or here at the farm in East Putney.  Members can also choose to pick up at the Saturday farmers market in West Brattleboro, or the Sunday farmers market in Putney across from the Co-op.  

For more specifics about our program, as well as our 2014 CSA agreement form, toggle on over to our CSA page, under the header "What we Do" at the top of the page.  You'll also find some of the reasons to join a CSA, and a list of the crops we plan to grow.

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Hello from East Putney

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Happy New Year!  And holy cannoli has it been a cold one so far.  Neither the chickens nor the guineas have been venturing far from their coops (though the weather hasn’t slowed the egg production in our hardy hens.)  For that matter, we humans haven’t been spending much time out of doors either.  Definitely indoor project weather, though we did have a snap of milder weather that allowed our friend to come prune our young orchard earlier this month.  (Thanks Gay!)  The poor peach trees in particular took a beating this past summer when they set so many fruit that branches were broken from the weight of the peaches.  They should all be happier this year now that they’ve had such excellent “haircuts.”  We should all be so lucky!

 

After much time spent comparing the offerings of the many seed catalogs we received (somehow the number grows every year), the seeds are ordered and mostly delivered. The seeding greenhouse is ready to start planting tomorrow.  Celery, celeriac, onions, shallots, and leeks, as well as a few herbs, the artichokes, and for the first time here at the Lost Barn Farm, cardoons will all be started anew this week.

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I get every bit as excited about seed catalogs as an adult as I used to get about the toy section of my grandmothers old department store catalogs as a child.  While I can’t get everything in them that looks good, I can at least get some of the wondrous things, which makes the seed catalogs much better than grandma’s “wishbooks” that never yielded any actual toys.  Seed catalogs are really books full of possibilities.  What new adventures will be realized in the fields this year because of them? Stay tuned to find out more updates on the comings and goings, and a few meanderings from here on the farm.

Stay warm, Marisa

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Guest Post: September 18th Share

Greetings, folks! 

The mystery CSA blogger has returned at last. Apologies for my long absence: the summer was much more full than I had anticipated when I agreed to write for this blog. Is that normally the case these days? Life can become overrun with commitments if I'm not careful; something I fall prey to easily.  

Which is actually one reason I've been super thankful for my CSA share this season-- I've been busy! In a previous post, I started off the season with a sort of caveat emptor, reminding readers that share pickup day is a pretty big commitment (you've got to process fresh food quickly if you want to use it, rather than compost it!). While that has certainly proven true, I also have not had to worry about purchasing very much in the way of fresh veggies this summer (sorry co-op and farmers' market!). Even better, my paltry attempts at a garden didn't stress me out in the least. Each week we've had plenty of fresh veggies to eat, and by the time Wednesdays roll around, we've been ready to see what's new in the share and, as most of you know, the food has been just incredible.

So for my first post in over 2 months, I'd like to share with you my new favorite go-to ingredient: Miso Butter. This is more than a one-hit wonder, folks. Give it a try next time you find yourself cooking up another "boring" vegetable dish, and you'll soon find reason to use it again and again. By simply combining equal parts white miso and soft, unsalted butter, you create a substance that is as good spread on toast as it is tossed with pasta. Pair it up with some scallions and corn (and bacon, if you like) and you've got something truly divine on your plate (a la David Chang). 

I discovered this post on Food52.com last week, titled "1 Batch of Miso Butter, 6 Dinners,"  in which Kristi Mucci created six very different meals using this one, all-star ingredient. I realized then that I had come late to the game as far as Miso Butter goes, but I won't let that stop me from sharing it with you here. Because good news is always welcome.

The September 18th share, minus 3 gorgeous Russet potatoes.

The September 18th share, minus 3 gorgeous Russet potatoes.

Since Food52 does such a great job showing a variety of preparations for miso butter, I'll let you head over to Kristi's article for recipes. Tonight at our house, we'll be making homemade pasta noodles (already cooked and leftover from the weekend) with currant tomatoes from today's share and miso butter. On the side, a little salad with those wonderful, spicy salad greens, and some sliced radishes atop sourdough toasts with fresh goat cheese.  

Tomorrow night I plan to cook up those purple green beans with, you guessed it, miso butter, to go with poached eggs from the farm and another spicy salad with a sweet, peachy vinaigrette. 

Later in the week we'll pan fry those gorgeous russets (cheers to that new potato digger, Marisa!)  and maybe finish them with chopped garlic and miso butter. I'm also thinking that the salty-sweet condiment would be a good finishing butter for those radish greens, which are a favorite of mine.

How about those pears, though? Can you think of ways to slather miso butter on them? Let me know in the comments, and happy cooking all!

Guest Post: June 26th Share

When I got to the farm last Wednesday, the clouds had just parted after a major rainfall. A huge puddle, the size of a miniature pond, had formed in the driveway. Given the weather we've had since then I'll bet that pond's grown, and then some!

Not such great weather for strawberries, which were on their way out when I spoke to Marisa that day. Ah, the fleeting fruits of summer. I've read some pretty fun-sounding recipes for fancy jams and preserves this week (Pickled Strawberry Jam whaa?), but ultimately I prefer my berries one at a time, shared with someone I love.

Graceful Scallions

June 26th Share: 

Baby Bok Choy

Broccoli

Garlic scapes

Kohlrabi (with greens)

Mustard greens

Sugar Snap and Snow Peas (green and yellow!)

Scallions

Strawberries

So what did we do with our share?

The food coming out of our kitchen has been super simple as of late. Whether it's the weather, or just the freshness of the ingredients, I've been craving super-simple combinations. Easy on the budget, and the dishes too!

Have I mentioned how much I love greens? I do. I eat them daily, and my favorite might be greens and eggs for breakfast. I've done this with the mustard greens, kohlrabi tops and bok choy (mixed greens are extra yummy!). Simply wash and chop, then steam in a pan until any water clinging to the leaves has evaporated. Add some oil, salt, pepper, soy sauce, maybe a dash of vinegar, and once they're cooked just toss them on a plate, rinse the pan and cook your egg (scrambled or over-easy, depending on the day). I call it "superhero food." 

The photogenic Kohlrabi

The garlic scapes I diced and fried in a cast iron pan with Two-Potato Hash (russet and sweet potato). The remaining scapes I plan to cook two ways: half I'll use to gussy-up some leftover roast chicken and olives. And I've got a real hankering for Sweet Pea Risotto, one of my favorite dishes ever, which will only be enhanced by adding garlic scapes.

I don't have any formal "recipes" to share with you today, but never fear brave reader! There is an extensive library of recipes, tailored just for you CSA shareholders, right here on this website. So after you're done here, I hope you'll head on over to the CSA Recipe Library and find some inspiration. 

 Until next week! Ever faithfully,  The Mystery Blogger


 

Guest Post: June 19th Share

The first thing I thought when my hubby brought our share home this week: Strawberries! Those ruby-red jewels are the most welcome sign of summer I know. The weather has been perfect for strawberries, and the flavor of these really shows it; they're lovely and sweet. Perfect with a drizzle of honey and a dollop of yogurt for breakfast.

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Not that I got to have any for breakfast; between the three of us, my family quickly demolished our share. But if I were planning to share a recipe for the strawberries with you this week, it would be for a salad of Pea Shoots, Strawberries and Goat Cheese, using some of those fabulously tender pea shoots pictured above. (Side note: if you don't currently know a good supply of fresh, local goat cheese, Hollyhock Farm Chevre is sold at the Putney Farmers Market on Sundays, and it is so very good. Do try it sometime!)

What I'll share with you this week are two recipes that are simple, delicious, and easy to modify based on what's on hand in your kitchen. The first is using the garlic scapes which I was so very happy to see in this week's box from Marisa. You simply grill the scapes, chop them up, and combine them with other savory/salty/briny/acid/grilled ingredients to create a sort of condiment, which is wonderful enjoyed with other grilled things, like meat, veggies and bread. Best of all, though, it only gets better after a few days in the fridge.

Tying the scapes in knots helps them stay on the grill (rather than falling between the grates)

Tying the scapes in knots helps them stay on the grill (rather than falling between the grates)

Grilled Garlic Scape Relish 

Ingredients: 

A bundle of garlic scapes, tied in knots

Olive oil, for misting

Salt and pepper 

A fire and grill grate

Optional ingredients: Fresh or dried herbs like parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, chives; chopped olives; grated parmesan, crumbled feta, or soft chevre; other grilled things like red onions, bell peppers, zucchini and squash, or fresh corn, all chopped up; oil and vinegar; red pepper flakes

Instructions: 

Heat your grill grate over a hot fire. Brush or mist olive oil onto clean, dry garlic scape knots. Once the fire has died down to coals, grill the scapes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with some coarse sea salt, if you've got it. (Kosher works too.)

Chop your scapes into 1/8th-inch bits. Toss the scapes with any of the previously mentioned ingredients. Taste as you mix, and adjust the seasoning, adding olive oil and vinegar as needed. The longer you let it sit, the more the flavors will develop. Store any leftover in the fridge; keeps for about a week.

Grilled scapes in the bowl.

The second recipe I'd like to share was alluded to in my last blog post. It's a riff on April Bloomfield's Radish Salad, from her incredible book, A Girl and Her Pig. The basic idea is to use your hands, rather than a spatula or spoon, to squeeze and work the ingredients of the salad. What results is a well-dressed salad that is savory and satisfying. You can substitute this week's Haikurei Turnips for the thinly sliced radishes if you've already eaten the radishes from last week. Fresh herbs make a nice addition, and salad mix will work if you're not lucky enough to possess the pea shoots.

Radish and Pea Shoots Salad 

Ingredients: 

2 or 3 radishes, thinly (and I mean thinly) sliced

A few ounces feta cheese, crumbled

A large handful of pea shoots

A glug of good oil (I used untoasted Sesame Oil; olive is fine) 

Coarse sea salt

Cracked Pepper

A dash of Cider or White Wine (or Chive Blossom?) Vinegar

Instructions:  Toss the radishes in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add the feta and mix with your hands, squeezing and squishing to distribute the flavors. Add the pea shoots, pour on some oil and a dash of vinegar, and mix with your hands until the oil and cheese seem distributed. Taste, adjust seasoning, and pile high on a salad plate. Pour yourself a glass of wine, grab a fork, and dig in. Radishes (or salad turnips!) have never tasted this good. 

This simple salad is unconscionably delicious!

Guest Post: Chive Blossom Vinegar

Cooking with fresh herbs is certainly one of my favorite things about summer, and chives I love especially, since they are the first perennial to pop up in my garden each spring. For months I add them to omelets, soups, sauces; their versatility is unmatched. Chive blossoms are delicious too, but who could possibly keep up with their prolific nature?

Luckily herb vinegars are a great way to preserve large quantities of flavor, without having to break out the solar or electric dehydrator. They also take up relatively little space in the cupboard (as opposed to bags and bags of dried herbs), and vinegar is something that most of us use at least once a day.

Here is my simple recipe for Chive Blossom Vinegar. (You can use this method for other fresh herbs as well, even creating your own blends!)

Step 1: Wash Chive Blossoms

Step 2: Spin them dry (or allow to air dry on towels) 

Which vinegar you choose to use might just depend on what you've got on hand...

Which vinegar you choose to use might just depend on what you've got on hand...

The trusty salad spinner is your friend. 

The trusty salad spinner is your friend. 

Step 3: Pack blossoms into a mason jar (the June 12th CSA share provided enough for one pint) 

Step 4: Fill with vinegar-- any old kind will do. Heck, even go for a mixture of vinegars, if you're feeling frisky. (For this batch, I used a mixture of white wine and cider vinegar.)

Step 5: Cover with a tight lid and label with the date. 

It's really that easy. 

If you use metal lids and rings, put a piece of parchment paper on the jar before tightening the lid (the acid will corrode the metal). If you're using plastic lids, no parchment necessary.

Two weeks really isn't that long to wait.... 

Two weeks really isn't that long to wait.... 

Once you've finished this very complicated procedure, store your work in a cool, dark cupboard. After only a few hours, you'll notice the vinegar turns a lovely violet color. After a few days, it deeps into an almost magenta. After two or three weeks, this garnet-colored liquid is ready for you to strain and enjoy. Store it in a clean bottle at room temperature, basically until....

If you're not experienced with using herb vinegar, I would suggest that you start with a simple vinaigrette; tossed with some of Marisa's Outstanding Salad Mix, you'll be able to appreciate the not-too-subtle nuance of this peppery concoction. 

I hope you're enjoying these blog posts so far. And I hope to see all of you faithful Lost Barn CSA subscribers this Saturday, at the first Farm Potluck of the season! And if you'll bring a dish using ingredients from this week's veggie share, I'd love to swap recipes and share yours on the blog!

 

Guest Post: The First Week's Share

It's me again, your Friendly Neighborhood Mystery Blogger, here to tell you what we got in our first CSA box of the summer(!), and what we plan to make with it. 

But first, I'll show you what greeted my hubby and me when we picked up our share at the farm: 

As you can see, these are some really nice looking veggies. I've been a market customer of Marisa's for long enough to know that she takes great pride in the appearance of her produce which, as a cook, I appreciate so much. For me, it isn't enough that something is local; there are other considerations when assessing quality, and these vegetables are harvested with obvious care. They come clean, well-handled, and were clearly picked just hours before. 

As I went through the box with Marisa, she introduced me to some unfamiliar-looking greenery. Sorrel? Never cooked with it. But I know my classic French cuisine, so Sorrel Soup will definitely be on the menu this week. And the Radicchio, with its outer leaves still intact; that's something you'd never see in the grocery store. These are the pleasures of buying direct from the farm.

We drove home, hubby and veggies and I, and chatted excitedly about what we'd cook with our CSA share this week. While we don't yet have plans for the kohlrabi ("Can you eat the leaves?" he asked. As of now I still don't know, but I'll present my findings here when I do!), we have nailed down the following ideas for this week's produce:

Not bad for a start, anyway! 

So today I am excited to share with you my recipe (original recipe, I might add) for Coconut-Rhubarb Curry. I came up with this a few weeks ago, and have continued to return to this sauce for its rich, mellow flavor and easy (i.e., weeknight-friendly) preparation. Originally it was a Thai-style curry, which substituted the sourness of Tamarind with our locally-sourced Rhubarb. But for my latest attempt, I spiced it with fenugreek and Vindaloo curry powder, as well as freshly grated ginger and turmeric, which gave it a more North-Indian culinary flair.

The results, when served with Butter Chicken and Brown Rice, were frankly amazing. I hope you try this recipe, and that you check back later this week for more recipes from this week's share.

 

Recipe: Coconut-Rhubarb Curry 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 large stalk rhubarb, sliced into 1/8" pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced 
  • 15-oz can regular Coconut Milk 
  • 1/2" piece of fresh ginger and 1/2" piece of fresh turmeric, peeled
  • Spice mixture (feel free to substitute from what you have): 1/4 tsp White Pepper, 1/4 tsp Cumin, 1/2 tsp Fenugreek Powder, 1/2 tsp Vindaloo Curry Powder (available in the bulk section at your favorite food co-op) 
  • Whole spices: small Cinnamon Stick, one Star Anise
  • 2 Tbl Butter and/or Sesame Oil
  • a few ounces of fresh, cold water
  • Salt, to taste

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Rhubarb on the Chopping Block

Rhubarb on the Chopping Block

Instructions: 

  1. Heat a large saucepan on medium-high. Pour in sesame oil, add some butter, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in onions and saute for 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add a pinch of salt. Allow onions to cook until soft and translucent. 
  2. Add the ground spice mixture, and stir. Cook for one minute, so the flavors start to develop, then toss in the rhubarb. Continue to stir and saute, modulating the heat as needed. Add a splash (a small splash!) of water, then stir and cover; let the mixture steam for 2 minutes. Remove the lid, toss in whole spices, give another stir. Finely grate the ginger and turmeric directly into the pot.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk. Bring back up to a fast simmer, then put on the lid and reduce heat to low. Allow to slowly simmer until ready to serve. Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from sticking.
  4. Before serving, remove whole spices and taste for salt. Adjust seasoning as necessary.  

We served this delicious curry sauce over brown rice, with butter chicken (pictured in the wok above; I'll be happy to share the recipe if you like)  and wilted Swiss chard from our garden. In the past I've even added wilted spinach leaves directly to the sauce, which gives a lovely green color.

No matter how you choose to serve it, I know you will love this simple, tasty recipe. If you need tips on serving suggestions, spice substitutions, or anything else at all, leave your questions in the comments. I will be happy to reply, and hope you will share your recipes for turning your own CSA shares into culinary works of art.

Bon Appetit! 

 

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Guest Post: The Pre-CSA Mindset

Allow me to introduce myself: I am a loyal localvore and new Lost Barn Farm CSA subscriber who has been invited to share my experience with the weekly CSA share boxes--what we got, and what I cooked with it. (I'll choose to remain anonymous for now, but perhaps one day my identity will be revealed!)

When Marisa offered me this space on her blog, I realized that I actually have more than recipes to share with readers-- I have the unique perspective of a long-time CSA supporter, who has had some pretty disappointing experiences. (Note: this is my first year as a Lost Barn CSA member.) Let me explain.

A bundle of Turnip Greens in your CSA box-- source of joy, or source of stress? Now is the time to decide!

A bundle of Turnip Greens in your CSA box-- source of joy, or source of stress? Now is the time to decide!

CSAs represent more than just a financial commitment-- they are a promise to eat a large amount of fresh, local produce on a weekly basis. That may sound wonderful on paper, but the reality is that you, as a cook, have to change the way that you shop and plan for meals, before you even pick up your box for the week. 

Old habits being hard to break, here are some tips on how to avoid "CSA guilt," or the act of composting a large percentage of your weekly box of veggies:

  1. Share day is processing day: When choosing which day of the week to pick up your box, just know that you'll need to put all that fresh food into storage as soon as you get home. And that means more than simply unloading your box straight into the fridge! All vegetables have their preferred methods of storage, and in order to prolong their shelf life, you'll want to learn them all. (This website is a great resource for that!) 
  2. Invest in a salad spinner: Let's face it, folks,CSAs in Vermont come with a lot of greens. Which is great news for your health-- leafy greens contain lots of vitamins and fiber, and you'll probably live longer if you eat bushels of them.  But if you're going to get the most out of your share, you've got to wash those tender lettuces and spicy greens before you put them in the crisper. And if you store them wet, you're asking for a soggy mess within days. So if you don't already own one, invest in a good salad spinner. It should cost about 25 bucks, and it will last for years. The best part, though? Your greens will be washed and ready to use, right out of the fridge!
  3. Learn the art of the substitution: Trying out new foods doesn't mean that every meal will send you out into uncharted territory. So for example, rather than ask, "How do you cook kohlrabi?" try thinking, "How can I add kohlrabi to something that I already like?" This will make it much easier for you to incorporate new veggies into your diet. And if you need inspiration for using your share of veggies, Marisa has started a library of CSA recipes to help you out. (My recommendation for kohlrabi, by the way, is to shred some into your coleslaw!)

Stinging Nettles are one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet! Here is a link to some great recipes using this wild spring edible.

Stinging Nettles are one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet! Here is a link to some great recipes using this wild spring edible.

Share pickup starts this week! I hope you continue to check back here on the blog, to see what I've cooked up with our weekly share of Lost Barn Farm bounty. And always feel free to leave your great recipe ideas in the comments. Bon Appetit!