Editor's note: This is the first entry in a summer-long series of posts reflecting Catherine's adventures with her CSA. Enjoy!
My son, Jack, was the first to suggest I join a CSA. It was a couple of years ago, and he had just joined one while he was in college in upstate New York. I have to admit, I really didn't know what he was talking about, and so, in that way that young-adult children have of speaking to their parents the way we spoke to them when they were in first grade (think slow, deliberate, as if we are suffering from some sort of terrible midlife learning disability), he explained the concept of Community Supported Agriculture: You pay the farmer in advance for your share of the crop. The farmer gets, literally, seed money, and you get to pick up fresh produce during the growing season. A win-win, for sure.
But as the season approached, I began to get a little apprehensive. I knew there were would be plenty of produce, and I wondered if my husband and I could really keep up with consuming it all. I knew there would be a lot of unrecognizable produce, and I'd need to find recipes. And I knew that finding recipes -- and then cooking -- take time. Much more time than stopping by Wegmans for sushi to-go, which is one of the great luxuries of modern life.
My worries, of course, turned out to be completely founded. When I arrived at Moon Valley Farm, I was immediately confused.
Farmer Emma had tried to make this easy for me: On a white board, she'd listed the eight items in this week's pick-up. Inside the refrigerator next to the board and then on the table next to the refrigerator were lots of items, all individually bagged or cartoned. It seemed easy, and it would have been, had I known what those eight items actually looked like. I decided to start with things I was sure about, and so I gathered a carton of strawberries and a bunch of cilantro. And then I saw the radishes. So only five more things to go.
The problem was that all five of those things were green and leafy and kind of looked like each other. Hyper-aware that this was taking an inordinate amount of time, and Farmer Emma must be in the house wondering if I suffered from some sort of terrible midlife fine-motor-skills disability, I decided to just take five things that looked different from each other and then figure out what they were when I got home with the help of my friend Google.
At home, armed with my laptop and a glass of wine, I quickly sorted out the Swiss chard and the kale, which I realized, now that I was actually looking carefully, are very distinctive, the chard having lovely long reddish stems and the kale with its blue hue. The long onion-y looking things turned out to be garlic scapes. So then the bag of mixed lettuce was easy to ID, and what was left was the spinach, which didn't look anything like the spinach that comes in the bag at Giant -- bigger leaves, lighter color. But it must have been spinach, unless of course, I just grabbed a wrong bag.
Ideally, I thought, I could find recipes that used multiples of these ingredients, but that just seemed exhausting. I realized that I had already signed up to make a quinoa salad for a party the next day -- and it called for cilantro. So there -- one idea already! And then I Googled a New York Times recipe for a garlic scapes dip that sounded tasty, and decided I could make that for the party, too. I jotted down my grocery list and headed to the Happiest Place on Earth, which is not Disneyland where parents look beaten-down, but, of course, Wegmans.