Posts Tagged ‘CSA’

Eat your Greens

July 12, 2009

If you’re used to getting your vegetables at the grocery store, then you’re used to getting only the most sought-after or unique parts.  Or that’s all that survives the journey from wherever-far-away to the produce isle.  When you get farm-direct vegetables, either from a CSA or at a farmers market, you get much more of the plant.  Including those unfamiliar parts.  Most often, those unfamiliar plants are the leaves or greens.

Which are edible?  And how do you eat them?

The short answer is you can (and should) eat greens sold with pretty much everything except carrots.

Okay, the longer answer:  Radish, kohlrabi, and broccoli leaves are not only edible but nutritious.  Beet and turnip greens are not only edible and nutritious, but sought-after.  While you’re selecting beets or turnips for the best roots, the person shopping next to you may be selecting for the greens, with the roots as an afterthought.  Fennel fronds get used as an herb, although the stems are completely discarded (possibly after being used to flavor broth).

I’m told that radish greens can be added to the same salad as the radishes themselves, as a flavorful lettuce.  Their texture seems wrong for that, so I’ve never done so.  I simply toss the radish, kohlrabi, or broccoli leaves in with any other greens I’m cooking.  Radish greens are very much like turnip greens, while kohlrabi greens and broccoli greens are very much like kale.  Discard stems that are too tough.

Many vegetables just aren’t sold with their leaves.  Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so the leaves are cut off before they’re sold.  Corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and the like are picked off of plants and won’t come with leaves.  Turning over the earth to dig potatoes seems to separate them from their leaves.

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Freezing Greens

June 24, 2009

This week’s CSA haul was 14 greens, and  carrots: 4 heads of lettuce (red leaf and romaine), 1 bunch of arugula, 1 head of bok choy, 1 head of broccoli, 1 bag of snap peas, 2 heads of chicory, 1 bunch of mustard greens, 1 bunch of red chard, 1 bunch of turnips with greens, 1 bunch of radishes with greens, and 1 bunch of carrots (with greens, but their greens are inedible).

Our refrigerator was still overflowing with greens from last week, so it was time to do a large batch of freezing.  We ended up freezing 2 bunches of kale from last week, both of the 2 heads of chicory from this week, the 1 bunch of mustard from this week, and this week’s turnip and radish greens together (because together they were roughly the quantity of one bunch of other greens).

I was initially leery of freezing anything that I wasn’t used to buying frozen at the grocery store.  I had it all backwards.  We rarely get peas, so we’ve never tried freezing them.  Green beans sometimes freeze well but sometimes end up stringy.  Broccoli that we freeze ourselves loses most of its texture and appeal.  Spinach doesn’t seem sturdy enough for home freezing.

On the other hand, we’ve had great success freezing kale, collards, mustard greens, eggplant, peppers, beets, corn, zucchini, and butternut squash.  We’ve had moderate success with tatsoi (leaves are good, stems get even more difficult to chew) and green beans (as I said before, sometimes they’re excellent, sometimes they’re stringy).  I gave general directions for freezing stuff last year, but I think it’s time to give directions more specific to greens.  If you really want to know what you’re doing, and in a form easy to have in the kitchen, invest in a copy of Putting Food By for which you can find bibliographical information on my References and Resources page.

Directions for Freezing Cooking Greens

  1. Wash the greens thoroughly.
  2. Cut them into whatever size you’ll want later.
  3. Immerse the greens in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes (except for collards, which get 3 minutes).
  4. Immerse the greens in ice water for 2 minutes or longer, to stop the cooking process.
  5. Drain the greens as well as possible.
  6. Freeze.  For easier defrosting, freeze one bunch in a gallon bag, spread flat, so the greens form one thin layer.

Tips:  A deep-fry basket or metal colander works well for holding the greens.  Metal tongs work well for moving the colander from boiling water to ice water.  Use the tongs to pick up the greens and put them into a bag for freezing, too.  It’s important to keep everything sterile, because anything that gets into the greens could cause them to go bad sooner.

What do you do with escarole?

June 18, 2009

This week brought more greens from our CSA.  Amazingly, there were no repeats from last week, although many of the items were similar:  bibb lettuce instead of romaine and red leaf, Napa cabbage instead of bok choy, Swiss chard instead of spinach, escarole instead of chicory, and cilantro and collard greeens, both of which are not remotely replacements for the pea tendrils we got last week.

Escarole is related to chicory but the with big, broad leaves, more like bok choy.  It’s much less bitter than chicory, however.  Cookbooks suggested it as a salad green, but, while the stems are pleasantly crisp, the leaves are not.  They’re thicker, and have a sort of leathery quality, much like dandelion greens, although not nearly as bitter.  Escarole seems most often to be a soup green, but summer is the wrong time for soup.  If we freeze the other bunch, I’ll make soup with it in the winter.

I think of escarole as being an Italian food, or at least having an affinity for them.  I tried sauteeing it with garlic, olive oil, and  crushed red pepper flakes, then sprinkling with parmesan cheese, the way I would for chicory or broccoli rabe.  The escarole just tasted mild to the point of blandness.  The texture was lovely, though, with wilted greens and stems still a bit crunchy.  So I played around, adding some red wine vinegar, oregano, basil, and salt.  It works.  My seasonings were essentially an Italian vinaigrette:  olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and parmesan, so I can now say that escarole makes a lovely cooked salad.  To make a meal, add cannelini or mozzarella and serve over pasta or rice.

CSA starts and Apple Bread

June 10, 2009

Our CSA began this week with greens, greens, greens, greens, and some more greens.  Specifically, we got two bunches each of red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, pea tendrils, spinach, chicory, and bok choy.  The bunches were so big that they wouldn’t all fit in our refrigerator without difficulty.

That gave us the push we needed to start right away saving for winter.  My husband washed, chopped, blanched, shocked, and froze one of the heads of chicory.  It will be good over pasta with cheese and mushrooms.  Between the time they were first cultivated and the time air conditioning was introduced, mushrooms were a winter crop.

We also cooked the spinach, both bunches, because it takes up so much less space that way. It ended up in a pasta sauce that is basically bechamel sauce with chopped spinach and parmesan cheese.  It made a lot of sauce.  When we have the leftovers, I think we’ll puree the sauce so that it spreads over the pasta better.   I hope that pureeing it doesn’t take away its fresh, green, spinach-y flavor.

We can almost defrost our chest freezer for the summer.  Everything but a few tubs of soup fits easily into the freezer attached to our refrigerator.  I could probably make it all fit, with some time and effort.  We’re reducing what’s in the freezer, still.  The night before our first CSA drop-off, we enjoyed a stir-fry of tofu with tatsoi and Asian eggplant, both from the freezer.  I am pleased to report that both froze satisfactorily.  The tatsoi stems became even tougher and harder to chew than when they’re fresh, and the eggplant was on the softer side but it did still have texture.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well just about everything freezes.  Putting Food By seems to get it right, every time.

The apple bread I wrote about in my last post turned out pretty well, so here’s the recipe.  If you didn’t save a glut of apples this year, come back to this recipe in October when there are lots and they’re cheap.

Apple Quickbread or Muffins (vegan)

Most quantities are guesses.
2 1/2 cups flour, white or whole wheat (dark spices make it brown anyway)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cloves, nutmeg, ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
2 or 3 tsp salt
3 apples, diced small
1 cup water, or less
1 1/2 cup applesauce

Mix dry ingredients.
Mix apple pieces in to coat with flour mixture.
Add half of water and then applesauce, stirring to mix evenly. If dough is too dry, add the remaining water.
Oil and flour a 9×9 baking dish (or a dozen muffin tins).
Pour in batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

Weeks 44-45: March 25 to April 7

April 10, 2009

These weeks featured one fully local meal:  a breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes.  My husband has perfected the art of microwaving the cubes of potato for about 5 minutes so they cook inside, and he can then get the outsides crispy and spiced in a skillet.

We took our last winter CSA delivery.  We’ll get by for the next month and a half on what we have in storage.  We started April with 4 butternut squash and 1 pumpkin still stored on a kitchen shelf  from the November end of our summer CSA season!  We have bags and tubs of frozen summer vegetables,  a crisper drawer quite full of root vegetables, and lots of sweet potatoes in a cold cupboard.

One of the vegetables we got from our CSA was dandelion greens, which are sturdy enough to survive shipping from Florida.  Thank goodness for Greens, Glorious Greens (more info at References and Resources).  It said that the best way to deal with the bitter taste is in a tomato sauce, preferably with cheese.  I think of dandelion greens as being for raw salads, not cooking with, but it cooked into pasta sauce like spinach, only with more texture.

Weeks 40-41: February 25 – March 10

March 10, 2009

Our winter CSA has continued to bring us the lushness of Florida.  And it’s the same thing week after week after week.  I hadn’t realized how much I enjoy the way foods come into season, are abundant for a while, and then go out of season again.  I really, really do.  I’m looking forward to summer.  We will not be joining this same CSA next winter.  Our goal is to buy what we need over the summer when we can get it from local producers, supplementing our summer CSA with  local farmers markets.

It was very exciting to get some bok choy for variety this week!  The green vegetable I was most interested in, though was dino kale, I think because it goes happily into foods that feel seasonal.  I just can’t eat much salad in the winter, so lettuce and grape tomatoes week after week doesn’t work for me at all.  At least tomatoes cook into lots of things.  I’ve heard of cooked lettuce but it’s not my type of adventurous eating.

roots_dishes

We did manage a pair of very local meals last week.  The first, as seen in the photo above, was rather involved.  One of the dishes was colcannon.  Instead of my typical white potatoes and purple cabbage, it used green cabbage and got a bit of color from some red-skinned potatoes as well as the caraway seeds.  (Recipe in week 13.)  The color in the meal came from carrots and parsnips in a mustard-maple syrup glaze from a Vegetarian Times recipe.  (We “fleshed” out the meal, pun intended, with vegetarian bratwurst.)  All of those vegetables could be local.  Because our winter CSA produce has gotten intermingled with our local storage vegetables, I honestly don’t know how much of it was local.  But it could have been, and next winter it will be.

The steaming water from the carrots and parsnips along with the boiling water from the potatoes and cabbage became the broth for a wintry soup.  In went dried beans, seasonings, and a lot of  root vegetables cut to bite-sized:  carrots, celeriac, and rutabaga.  The vegetables could have been local.  I think the celeriac and some of the carrots were local, and the rutabagas and other carrots were not.  Dried beans are a winter storage food, but mine came from the supermarket.  I’d like to find a local source.  On the other hand, if I had a local source then I’d feel compelled to get all of my beans that way and we go through an awful lot of beans.

We finally made applesauce from a 10-pound bag of Northern Spy apples that had been sitting around since fall.  A half dozen of them were completely rotten and had to go straight to compost.  Another half dozen had siginificant bad spots that had to be cut out.  We still ended up with a whole lot of applesauce.

Since our winter CSA seems to know no seasons, I don’t know when the photo below is from.  I found it when I downloaded the colcannon and carrots-parsnips photos.  We’ve made this sweet potato salad a few times this winter.  It’s vegan (well, it would be totally vegan if you replaced the honey in the honey-mustard dressing with some other sweetner) and the recipe is in Moosewood Cooks at Home.  To make a version this colorful, first find a kitchen with orange counters.  Then mix cooked orange sweet potatoes, raw green bell peppers and parsley, and raw red bell peppers, and toss with dressing.

sweetpotatosalad

Articles Update

March 2, 2009

The Boston Globe has been writing more about local food this month than I have been.  I’ve added links to 6 articles on my page Articles in the Boston Globe.

There’s a pair of articles about joining summer CSAs – thoughtfully published at the right time of year to do so (although many are already filled, especially by happy returning shareholders).  There’s an article about what goes on at CSAs and other farms over the winter.  At the intersection of those, there’s an article about winter CSAs, and another about locavores in winter.

The piece I found oddest (and which gave me the most sense of locavore-ness having become mainstream) was  in their “Dinner with Cupid” series.  Each week, the Globe sets two willing participants up on a blind date, doing the match-making and paying for their dinner in exchange for getting to publish the his-view, her-view dish on it all.  They seemed to think that both being locavores or at least slow-food people might be enough of a foundation for a relationship.  You’ll just have to click through to see if it worked.

Week 35: January 20 – 26

January 27, 2009

In our CSA share this week we all got the usual carrots (MA), red potatoes (VT), white potatoes (NC), sweet potatoes (NC), apples (MA), and oranges (FL).  Less usual, we all got parsnips (origin unspecified) and green beans (FL).  It was the other couple’s turn for chard (FL) while we got collard greens (origin unspecified).  We got the green leaf lettuce (FL) while they took the dandelion greens (origin unspecified), because their bunnies love them and we humans aren’t so impressed.  We got the avocado (FL) and celeriac (MA) while they got the cherry tomatoes (FL) and jar of pickles (MA).

From Massachusetts:  only the apples, carrots, and celeriac.  Maybe the parsnips.  It’s a good thing I didn’t sign up to do the Dark Days Challenge.  Next year we’ll have done better storing our own.  I noticed my copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle lying around, and I opened it up to the January chapter.  In it, she takes stock of how much food her family put by.  Granted, we don’t have kids, but we’ve still been operating on entirely the wrong order of magnitude.  I’m estimating that we need to store 150 to 200 units of vegetables to get us from November through May.  (This is comparable, in seven months, to what we consume in the five months from June through October.)  One unit could be one bunch of kale, or one large eggplant, or a pound of green beans.  Usually one unit gets one freezer bag but sometimes we put two units of the same thing into a bag together.  This year we seem to have frozen only about 25 units of vegetables, not counting tomato and tomatillo sauces, too.  Our storage vegetables (squashes, root vegetables, cabbage) were another 55 units of vegetables going into winter, bringing the total to about 80 units, or halfway there at best.  So… maybe not the wrong order of magnitude, just not nearly enough.

A CSA that draws so much from Florida is not our answer.  It’s fun while it lasts, though.  I can’t remember when we’ve eaten this much raw food mid-winter.  In addition to the oranges, one of the apples was good enough to eat raw.  I think it was a Fuji.  The avocado was, of course, also raw.  We cut it in half, one half for each of us, then put a little lemon juice and salt into the cavity, and eat it with a spoon.  The lettuce has been good raw, too.  Some of it was in sandwiches, some of it was on a plate with dressing.  The celeriac will be good raw, too, especially if I get to it while it’s still fresh.  I might do matchsticks in a dressing of some sort, or I might do bigger sticks (think carrot sticks) served with a dip made from plain yogurt and spices.

The collards we cooked with black beans as usual, with olive oil, garlic, salt, and dried basil, cumin, and cayenne.  I know people do other things with collards, but I like this preparation too much to forgo it when we have just one bunch of greens.

Week 30: December 15 – 21

December 22, 2008

We’ve gotten a lot of snow over the past few days.  Shoveling has been a pain – sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.  The snow has interfered with school and with holiday celebrations.   I like weather, though.  Especially in the city, it’s a reminder that we are subject to the vagaries of nature.  Before I became a locavore, weather was how I understood the seasons.  Now I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of how many changes come with every season.

My nearly-all-local meal of the week (in the spirit of the Dark Days challenge) was very much a seasonal meal.  We made latkes tonight for the first night of Hanukkah from potatoes that we dug ourselves, and ate them with homemade applesauce.  If the weather hadn’t been so bad, we would have had local eggs to make the latkes with.  Instead we used my mother’s generic grocery store eggs.  They might be local, I suppose.  We drank local apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind) with our meal, and my brother gave me a pack of Harpoon hard apple cider because he found out that they use local apples, and he knew I would like that!

It was a good week for cooking with kale.  At the beginning of the week, we cooked wide-leaf Dinosaur kale (Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 29) in a style we learned from Green Cafe in Bethlehem, PA.  They use it for collards and that’s our favorite green to do it with, but it works well for pretty much every kind of strong-flavored leafy green, including the ones nobody writes recipes for, like radish greens.    At Green Cafe, they cook the beans separately, but we like to make a one pot meal.  As we have adapted it, here’s the recipe:

  1. In a large skillet, heat lots of minced or pressed garlic in a generous amount of olive oil.
  2. Add black beans (either dried beans that have been soaked/simmered until soft or canned beans).
  3. While the beans heat through, add dried dried basil, cumin, and a bit of cayenne.  If the beans were dried, add a generous amount of salt, too.
  4. Add chopped greens to the skillet. 
  5. Sprinkle the greens with more basil, cumin, cayenne, and salt.  Drizzle them with more olive oil.
  6. Mix the beans and greens together.  Keep cooking until the greens wilt to the texture you like.
  7. Serve over rice.

Later in the week, we used older curly leaf kale (also Massachusetts grown, from our winter CSA in week 28) to make soup.  Wilted vegetables make good soup.  Particularly wilted vegetables make good pureed soups.

To make lentil-kale soup, I simmer about a cup of lentils (preferably organic French green, from bulk bins at a natural foods store) in about two quarts of water.  When they start to break down, I add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic (pressed or minced) one or two teaspoons of garam masala (an Indian sweet-and-savory spice mix), salt to taste, and about half a cup of lemon juice.  Shortly before serving, I add one bunch of kale, chopped.  The exact quantities vary every time I make the soup.   We ate it with baked circles of sweet potatoes, sort of oven fries in a different shape.  I mixed honey (local) and brown mustard (not) to make a dipping sauce.

Soup is especially easy to adjust seasonings in while cooking.  One of the joys of being vegetarian is that you can taste as you go.  No salmonella to worry about, especially with foods coming from local farms.

It was also a week for cooking pumpkin. One of them we cooked to freeze.  My husband baked it, because that doesn’t require peeling, so it’s relatively minimal labor.  After he scooped out the flesh, I whirred it in a miniprep.  It didn’t actually puree, because it’s a bit too stringy, but it’s all tiny bits and will be good for baking.  We seasoned and baked the seeds, as we always do.  Those were for eating right away.  We’ve baked enough squash seeds this season that we finally know how much salt and how much spice to put on (usually garlic, maybe cumin and a bit of cayenne). 

The other pumpkin had to be eaten right away.  The reason we cooked it was that it had spots of rot.  It looked like a cartoon of Swiss cheese when my husband was done peeling it and cutting out the bad spots.  That one got boiled.  It got very soft, not at all stringy, but quite waterlogged.  I drained it as well as I could, and mashed it with a potato masher.  I learned the hard way that pumpkins should only get sweet seasonings, not savory.  Butternut squash is good with maple syrup (with or without butter and salt); with butter and sage (better with chunks, not mashed); or with cumin, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt.  Pumpkin is decidedly not.  We usually finish what we make.  We were not able to finish the Tex-Mex spiced pumpkin. 

On a completely different note, our CSA share this week included:  apples, cranberries, onions, acorn squash, carrots, celeriac, thyme, and lettuce from Massachusetts; red potatoes that might be from Massachusetts or might be from Vermont; garlic, kale, and pecans from North Carolina; collard greens that are probably from North Carolina but they didn’t actually tell us; and peppers and oranges from Florida.

Sharing a share means sometimes we get lucky and what we like better they like less, and vice versa.  We split the oranges, cranberries, pecans, carrots, garlic, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes half-and-half.  We each got one pepper.  We split the one head of lettuce half-and-half with a knife.  Both couples ate lettuce-and-pepper salads that night, and it was delicious.  We have so many apples that the other couple took all the ones in good enough shape to eat straight, and I took the few that were good only for making applesauce.  We have so much squash from our summer CSA that we took the tiny acorn squash and the other couple took the large one.  One of them doesn’t like celeriac but both of us do, and there was only the one root, so we scored that.  We still haven’t cooked with any of the thyme we got before, so when we got more thyme, the other couple got it.  They got all the onions, too, because I can’t eat them.  I was excited by collard greens and un-excited by yet more kale, and the other couple felt exactly the opposite, so it was easy to decide who got which greens.  The collard greens were a much bigger bunch than the kale, so that helped to balance out quantities, too.

I feel like we need a winter CSA for January through April rather than December through March.  We still have so many storage vegetables from our summer CSA and from careful shopping at the end of the farmers market season.  When the squash has all been eaten or gone rotten, and the potatoes have all been eaten or turned green and sprung shoots, and the cabbage has been eaten or grown mold, then it will be time for fresh vegetables from elsewhere.  We have a long way to go.

Week 28: December 1 – 7

December 6, 2008

This was the first week of our winter CSA.  We’ve done a summer CSA for years with the same farm, so we know pretty much what to expect for that.  The winter CSA is new to us.  What we got was kind of what I was expecting.  Amazingly, there was no squash this week! 

We’re splitting a large share with another couple who did a different summer CSA.  Some of their end-of-season surplus is different from ours, and that helped to determine who got what this week.  For example, they still have lots of sweet potatoes left, but our summer CSA doesn’t grow them at all.  So, we got all of the sweet potatoes in this week’s winter share.  Conversely, we still have lots of carrots, so the other couple got all of the carrots in this week’s share.  I can’t eat onions, so the other couple got all the onions, which I guess is why we got the one large turnip, because both couples still have turnips from our summer CSAs.  We also got the only cabbage.     Other things were split more obviously:  there were two kinds of kale so we got one and they got one.  They got the arugula and we got the mustard greens.  We split the apples and oranges, and also the thyme

Yes, we got oranges because they have some relationship with organic growers in Florida.  Some of them had stickers on them, which felt very odd coming from a CSA.  It’s less farm-direct than I’m accustomed to.  Also odd, the thyme was in a plastic box. 

Some of the produce is from their own farm (the greens), and, aside from the oranges, everything else was from farms in our region.  I wonder if they’d tell us where?  Maybe they’re getting odds and ends from lots of farms that are done for the season, and amassing enough to give some to all CSA members. 

What does one do with thyme?  It’s an herb I almost never cook with.  I’ve certainly never used it fresh.  Even splitting it with another couple, there’s an awful lot of it. 

Of the new CSA items, all we’ve eaten so far was some of the fruit and the mustard greens.  As usual, the mustard greens became curried mustard greens and chickpeas from Joy of Cooking.  We used a two-cup-lump of stewed tomatoes from our freezer.  We also added carrots because we have lots.  They worked well, adding a nice bit of color and a sweet flavor.  The key was to not over-cook them.

I noticed that some moisture was accumulating in the crisper drawer that has all the root vegetables we saved from summer.  That meant it was time to sort through and cull the ones that were soft, damp, or a bit moldy.  They got cleaned up (well trimmed), cut up, and oven roasted.  Before roasting I cut them into bite-sized pieces of varying shapes – wedges of beets and turnips, rounds of carrots and parsnips, and halves of radishes.  I tossed them with oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a blend of herbs de provence from the Herb Lyceum in Groton, MA.  The result was a colorful and tasty accompaniment to Thanksgiving leftovers.