Now is the time to sign up for CSAs

You might not be thinking about farm-fresh produce in January, but the Maryland Department of Agriculture says now is the right time to check into joining a community-supported agriculture program.

Members of a CSA pay an upfront subscription fee to farmers in return for a share of the season's harvest, which is usually provided weekly. Many CSAs deliver to central locations for pickup on a certain day of the week. Still others have special rates if the subscriber helps with the harvest on the farm.

There are two main incentives for signing up now. Some of the CSAs fill up early, and at least a few of them are offering discounts for signing up early.

You can find a list of CSAs in Maryland on the Department of Agriculture's Maryland's Best Agriculture website, You'll have to visit individual farms' websites to find out about CSA pricing and deadlines.

Meanwhile, there are a few year-round markets to tide you over. The popular 32nd Street Market draws crowds all winter long to Waverly on Saturday morning. Keep in mind that the 32nd Street Market operates as a local-produce market for only half the year. From Thanksgiving through the first week of June, farmers are allowed to supplement their supplies with produce not grown in Maryland. There won't be much beyond greens for a while, but the market still has plenty in the way of specialty and prepared foods, as well as baked goods.

There's also a winter market at Green Spring Station every Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. with 15 vendors selling prepared foods, baked goods and specialty foods.

And if you're missing those turkey burgers at the Baltimore Farmers' Market, Regi's (1002 Light St., 410-539-7344, in Federal Hill has Gary's Turkey Burgers on its menu.

Hollins revival There are signs of renewal around Hollins Market, the west-side neighborhood whose fortunes have flowed and ebbed over the past few decades.

The old Mencken's Cultured Pearl space on Hollins Street might be getting a new tenant soon. The Cultured Pearl flourished in the early 1990s, the neighborhood's heyday, and finally closed in 1998, after the demise of Gypsy's Cafe, the Market Cafe and the Tell Tale Hearth.

In 2008, a Hollins Market booster named Jim Collins opened a Vietnamese restaurant named Baltimore Pho in the Cultured Pearl space, in an effort, he said, to bring activity and interest back to the neighborhood. Baltimore Pho did just that, and after two years, Collins sold the business.

But the successor tenants flailed and foundered, and 1114 Hollins is empty again.

Now a new restaurateur is considering the property. David Thomas, the co-owner of Herb & Soul, a Parkville carryout specializing in natural foods, said he's hoping to expand his natural-foods concept to the Hollins Market area.

Thomas said he presented his plans at a neighborhood association meeting. "They seemed genuinely excited about our coming."

The Herb & Soul menu includes chicken and fish boxes, shrimp and grits, and buttermilk frog legs, all of which, Thomas said, he strives to prepare with wholesome, natural ingredients.

A new home My Thai (1300 Bank St., 410-327-0023,, originally in Mount Vernon's Park Plaza building, has reopened in the Tack Factory in Little Italy.

The new My Thai occupies the nearly 6,000-square-foot space formerly held by another Thai restaurant, Lemongrass, and features exposed brick, a 40-foot bar, dark wood, and a combination of high-top communal tables and traditional seating. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

The menu of traditional Thai dishes will be supplemented, co-owner Brad Wales says, with "culinary surprises," available as occasional specials, featuring liver, brain and silkworm.

The website is a work in progress, but you can see photos from Wednesday's grand opening and some pretty food shots on the My Thai Facebook page.

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