Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Heart my Local CSA

After stuffing my face with the most scrumptious rhubarb and strawberry cake, which looks like a plain white pound cake with a river of molten red running through it- I can't help but feel satiated. There is something else- besides my newly expanded gut and labored breathing- feeling the effects of my meal, it's as though my conscious feels full too.

We got our first delivery from our local Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) last Thursday, and boy were we excited. After months of abstaining from eating salads that belong on life support or mushy grainy tasteless tomatoes in the winter, the time time has come for fresh local produce. It's not like I have become puritanical about eating locally, but I do see benefits both from a foodie and an environmentalist perspective. First, they just taste better when they are grown locally. Why? Because they are usually picked when they're ripe, they're not stored for long periods of time and carted across the country, and because they don't need to be bread for hardiness, they can be bred for, gasp, taste. And of course local usually means less fuel needed to get those veggies to you.

A CSA works by purchasing a share before the growing season starts -thereby becoming a shareholder- and when the season begins, you get a weekly share of the bounty. You are asked to pay upfront because it allows the farmer to buy his/her supplies, pay for labor, or anything else needed to get going, thus negating the need for high interest loans. There is of course one little catch, if the whether sucks, or pests ravage the crops, there are no refunds. You are in for the good times or bad times. Either way, you usually come out ahead, and will always get something for your money.

Having said this, it is only our second time signing up with a CSA. The first time was in Quebec three years ago, which was a really great experience. At first we would get these vegetables I had never cooked or eaten before and it would be slightly intimidating. But, I just started browsing for recipes in books and on the web. I was making stuff with my kholarbhi and celeriac in no time. When we moved to New York two years ago we desperately wanted to get a plot in the community garden. That was pretty darn impossible to do since there was a wait list of a few years. We didn't know of any CSAs in the area so in the end with stuck with the Union Square Market and the local market on our island on Saturdays.

This year, we have signed up with Astoria CSA and from June until November we will receive a share of vegetables for only $550. After elaborate and fancy calculations with the help of my husbands brain, it turns out to be $20/week which is absolutely nothing (talking New York City here) for fresh, local, and organic produce.

It's only the first week of June and we received lettuce, beets, French breakfast radish, Japanese white salad turnip, rhubarb, strawberries and bok choi.

After I unpacked our goodies, I started searching for a way to use the rhubarb and found Rhubarb and Strawberry Pudding at Darien, my husband, usually does not like any dessert with fruit and don't even mention custard. The desert was more like a cake then a custard, and he could not resist helping me finish off a whole 8x8 pan of fruity goodness, in one night.

Tonight I made us some home made pita bread to go with a nice big salad made up of mescaline, arugula, butter lettuce, roasted beets and thinly sliced radish. For dessert, I just had to make the rhubarb and strawberry pudding.

Somewhere in North Fork, Long Island, a farmer is working hard to provide me with fresh quality produce, and I am working hard to enjoy every bit of it. His labor need not be in vain.

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