How a Season of Eating Local
Changed Our Diets and Our Attitudes
BY JACKIE LANTRY
PHOTOS BY STEVE SZYDLOWSKI
Prior to joining my first-ever community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, I envisioned pleasant weekly trips to the farmers’ market and lots of fresh veggies for my family of six. What I did not envision was a total shift in my atti
WEEK 1—JUNE 8
Red beets, salad mix, green leaf lettuce, strawberries, rhubarb, scal- lions, cherry tomatoes.
tude towards food. Experiencing food at or near its source rather than plucking items from the supermarket shelves shifted my per- spective and made me rethink my approach to the family table.
Picture the perfect pepper.
At the local supermarket the perfect pepper is large, shiny, cold and has little or no scent. After I get it home and the chill has worn off I realize it’s also flaccid and rubbery—so tough I need a very sharp knife to cut it. It’s dry and dull tasting. (And doused with enough vinaigrette, who knew?) I don’t know how or where it was grown.
The perfect pepper in my CSA share box is smaller. There’s no high shine to it and specks of dirt dot its curves. Bringing the sun-warmed specimen up to my nose, I smell its fresh scent (I swear I can smell the color green). Crisp and juicy, the skin has a “snappy” sound when I cut it. It was grown organically on a farm just miles from my home.
The perfect pepper became my bellwether. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning and I’ll take you through my diary—my season with a CSA:
Sophia ate all the strawberries.
Above: I’ll never eat out-of-season corn again!
I meet Marie and Richard Pray, owners of Oakdale Farm in Re- hoboth, Massachusetts—my pickup site. I’m a little lost in the whirl- wind of customers picking up pre-packed boxes full of fresh, organic produce. Uh oh, the greens, I think to myself—the kids’ll hate that. My daughter Sophia eats every single strawberry. Luke, my son, re- fuses to eat the salad.
WEEK 2—JUNE 15
Red beets, asparagus, green leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, dried oregano, scallions.
WEEK 6—JULY 20
Tomatoes, blueberries, zucchini, scallions, Romaine lettuce, eggplant, sweet corn, broccoli, cukes.
Part of our July share. Blueberry time.
After only six weeks of CSA pickups, I can no longer imagine buying produce at the supermarket. Before my CSA experience I visited farm stands for the tomatoes and sweet corn. Now I’m a farm stand junkie and a converted seasonal eater—I would no more eat an ear of corn
in December than I would put on a swimsuit and sit by the pool.
Rhubarb and other goodies in a June share.
I have beets and rhubarb leftover from last week; the salad stuff is welcome—even if the kids don’t eat the salad, the hubs and I do.
WEEK 5—JULY 6
Red beets, golden beets, wax beans, green beans, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, blueberries, red leaf lettuce, green peppers, cucumbers.
My pee is red. Not to worry, the doctor says—it’s all those beets. Whew! Swiss chard is tender and sweet—who knew? Luke ate salad! I do not tell the kids they ate Swiss chard—I’ll break it to them when they’re older.
Swiss Chard Quesadillas Chop Swiss chard into ribbons, toss in a hot frying pan with a few garlic cloves and olive oil. Let it sizzle. Eat a few spoonfuls when no one is looking. Chop leftover chicken; toss into the pan along with a cup of your favorite salsa. Move it to the back of the stove on a low flame. Place a whole-grain tortilla into a frying pan, sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese on one side. Put a few slurpy spoonfuls of the salsa/Swiss chard/chicken mixture on top of the cheesy side of the tortilla, sprinkle with some fresh chopped cilantro and fold in half. After a couple of minutes, flip it over (good luck with that!) and heat the other side. Slide the hot, cheesy, crunchy tortilla onto a plate. Watch your kids eat
Swiss chard and rave to your friends!
Favorite Summer Supper BLT Recipe When the sun is low and shad- ows long, put your biggest frying pan on the stove. Fill it with bacon and start the sizzle. When the bacon fills your house with salty, smoky perfume and kids come in to see what’s cooking, put a large pot of water on the stove, cover it and turn up the heat. Have the kids husk the corn on the back porch.
Wash a head of lettuce and tear it into pieces. Slice some red, juicy tomatoes. When the back door slams, take the lid off the pot and (carefully!) drop in the corn. Put sizzling bacon on paper towels to drain. Have hubby and the kids slather whole-grain bread with mayo, pile on bacon, add lettuce and tomatoes. While they lick their fingers and wipe their chins, drain the corn. Put a stick of cold butter on a plate. Let them spin the corn on top, then sprinkle with sea salt. Have napkins ready.
WEEK 8—AUGUST 3
Eggplant, sweet corn, green peppers, raspberries, tomatoes, cucum- bers, zucchini, kohlrabi, carrots, tatsoi.
wtf, CSA? Produce is piling up, on the counters, in the crisper; on every shelf of the fridge … my love of green peppers is starting to fade. Botulism scares me. I decide to buy a book on freezing produce.
WEEK 11—AUGUST 31
Orange and red peppers, carrots, sweet corn, lettuce, kale, onions, eggplant, squash.
EdibleRhody.com EDIBLE RHODY | SPRING 2013 11
I can now see my kitchen counters again; the freezer is chock full. It’s going to be a delicious winter. I’ve frozen peppers, carrots, broccoli, onions, scallions, strawberries, blueberries, corn cut from the cob, turnips, green beans, wax beans, kale, beets and pesto.
WEEK 13—SEPTEMBER 14
Acorn squash, delicata squash, carnival squash, butternut squash, onions, peppers, carrots with tops, an overabundance of basil, potatoes.
I thank the food gods for winter squash and potatoes. All they need is a dark, cool cellar.
I place the root veggies in the cellar and savor the last of the spinach. Sadly, our CSA is nearing the end. It’s been an educational and deli- cious season.
Apples and squash are part of a late September share.
Presto Pesto! Gently wash basil, have kids pick off the leaves and breathe in the fresh, pungent scent. Toss stems in the compost pile. Crush too much garlic (too much is just enough) and pack it, along with the basil leaves, into a food processor. Anoint with olive oil—actually, don’t anoint—baptize, bathe, douse or flood the basil and the garlic! Pitch in a small handful of pine nuts, toss in grated Parm cheese. Start your engines and pulverize.
It’s a holy mess, this oily masterpiece, but oh so worth it! Slide the bowl off the processor and put your pesto into containers. Ice cube trays are great—freeze little pesto cubes and stock them in a freezer bag. Pluck out a few as needed, all winter long.
My kitchen smells heavenly, my breath is heavy with garlic … all feels right with the world.
WEEK 17—OCTOBER 12
Butternut squash, baby spinach, white potatoes, cabbage, parsnips, delicata squash, onions, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts.
THE REAL TAKEAWAY FROM MY CSA:
In the end my attitude shift was not limited to the edibles filling my freezer. During the CSA season I also came to realize I was doing some measure of good by supporting my local farm. Since shares in a CSA program are purchased prior to the start of the season, they help the farmer with needed cash flow early on. I was no longer making multiple trips to the store—instead I planned a weekly menu around the items I received and went to the supermarket only once per week. I know our family’s carbon footprint shrank, even if just a bit.
The family (happily!) ate more veggies over the summer (and will eat more over the winter) than they ever had previously.
I supported my local economy and, even better, I got to know the nice folks at Oakdale Farm. The farm carries on seven days a week, up at dawn regardless of weather—with no guarantee of a paycheck at the end of the week. Theirs is relentless hard work.
From the sense of awe at the workload that has creased and weath- ered Richard Pray’s hands, or the smile from Marie that came with my weekly share, the CSA season tightened my place in my commu- nity. No small thing. eR
Writer and blogger Jackie Lantry lives with her husband, photogra- pher Steve Szydlowski, and their four voracious kids in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.
and see page 51 for a full list of local CSAs.