…..And I’m back.
Hey Guys! After a few months of spending way too much of my life working overtime and stressing about the daily grind, I’m back on the horse and ready to breathe some energy into this slumbering blog. And boy do I have a lot of pent up vegetable obsession to get out of my system.
First order of business: I want to shout from the rooftops just how excited I am about the CSA share T and I purchased this year. (If you’re not familiar with the concept, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and basically involves buying into a local farm in order to receive deliveries of fresh produce. See here for more info.) It was an impulse decision, made on a whim in bed on a Sunday night, but it has somehow ended up feeling like a Meaningful Life Decision on par with going plant-based.
Like most folks, T and I have always done all of our shopping at chain grocery stores, with an occasional splurge at Whole Foods or the like. I have to confess that we never even gave a thought to eating locally or seasonally. If I wanted fresh tomatoes or papaya or asparagus in the dead of winter in NYC, so be it.
What I hadn’t let myself recognize, though, is the toll that products like this take on the environment, my health, and small local farms. I was buying vegetables produced across the country (or world) on enormous corporate farms, bred or engineered to grow unnaturally large and durable, doused daily with chemicals, picked (by robotic arms or underpaid laborers) while still immature and ripened with toxic gases, coated with wax, then lugged for days along the interstate in gas guzzling trucks. All while better tasting, healthier, more nutritious vegetables were being planted and harvested lovingly by hand the way they had been for centuries just a short ride upstate from my apartment. In retrospect, it seems like a no brainer.
In no particular order, here are some of the reasons joining the CSA has been rewarding and fulfilling in unexpected ways:
–Believe it or not, it’s really cheap. The cost of a share can seem pretty high at first glance (ours was about $600), but when divided across the 6 months our membership lasts, it comes to less than $25 a week for at least 7 days’ worth of beautiful veggies that are grown on a family farm, using sustainable practices without harmful pesticides. That’s less than we were paying for chemical soaked produce flown in from South America at our local grocery store. And our farm allowed us to pay in installments as we were able. (They also offer vouchers and discounts if you make under $40,000 a year.)
–It forced me to embrace veggies I never would have picked up at the store. I had scarcely touched an onion since I was about 4 years old, but the fresh scallions I received a couple weeks ago were such a vibrant green that I couldn’t bring myself to let them go to waste, or to hide them under a heavy sauce. They went right on the grill pan. With a brushing of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon, they were so delicious I ate them with my fingers right off the platter. I never would have known. Every week there’s a new treasure: Kholrabi, scapes, hakurei turnips, tatsoi, practically a different green for every day of the week. For a kitchen adventurer like me, there is nothing like the challenge that comes with having a new treat to experiment with. Don’t worry, though, there’s also a steady stream of perennial favorites like head lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, and corn.
–It allows me to experience time and place in a powerful, unique way. Factory farm tomatoes are dependably mediocre commodities mass-produced through artificial manipulation year round. (Don’t believe me? See here.) They are bred and engineered to taste the same in January or July, in Mexico or Florida. When you consume local, seasonal produce, on the other hand, you are essentially eating a crystallized moment in time. Tomatoes from a small community farm are ephemeral pieces of summer that appear with the first fireflies and vanish as the leaves start to brown. Their size, shape, flavor, and color reflect the local conditions of that season. From one year to the next, they will never be the same.