Monday, September 22, 2008

The Seasons of a CSA Season

This is my favorite time of year at the Farm. The weather is cooler, so spending time in the fields starts to look very appealing again. You still have the bounty of summer crops – eggplant, tomatoes, squash, basil, peppers (hey, ratatouille, anyone?) – and we’re starting to see the fall crops like my favorite winter squash and pumpkins appear around the produce shed.

Which brings to mind something that I’ve gained from being a CSA sharer besides access to the freshest produce anywhere. I’m a little less clueless about what’s in season when. Truly, I was not hip as to why asparagus was such a good Easter side dish. Did I mention that I grew up in the ‘burbs where the only thing in our “garden” was tomatoes – I guess I knew that much. How Dad’s tomatoes in July just blew the store-bought ones right out of the water. Okay, and corn from the farm stand. That corn-on-the-cob and sliced, salted tomato combo on my plate sort of defined summer for me.

It took me a season as a CSA sharer to realize that we wouldn’t be getting those sugar snap peas all summer long. That I should enjoy each crop as it appeared, because that particular vegetable wasn’t going to show up again until next May, or June, or September. So now I have recipes that I pull out once a year, create a dish that tastes so much more delicious because it’s the right time for it, and then put that recipe back in my overstuffed binder until next time. One of these recipes is Pasta with Fava Beans and Pancetta, a recipe I found on It’s pretty yummy, but I wouldn’t dream of buying frozen fava beans to make it in October. (Assuming you can buy frozen fava beans? I’ve never looked.) Another is my favorite okra dish, Okra and Tomato Stew, courtesy of my vegetable bible, The Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash. I‘ve found a LOT of my recipes from this book over the years. We have okra and tomato stew weekly during okra season. Though my kids aren’t necessarily thrilled by this, I am. I love this dish – it’s especially good with a little diced ham over rice.

This seasonality is also what drives me to make the most of what’s in my share each week. I’m kind of neurotic about trying to use everything – it seems almost criminal to throw something from my share in the garbage because I didn’t get around to using it. When something so vitally nutritious and ripe gets rotten on my watch, well, I take it personally. I don’t get nearly as emotional if the expired veggie in question came in a cellophane wrapper. So, this afternoon when I surveyed the contents of my refrigerator after our power finally came back on, I had to pull myself together when I realized that the ½ lb of basil from last week’s share was no longer fit for the pesto I had planned for it. Of course, it would have thawed in my freezer anyway, I guess.

I’m often forced to get creative in the pursuit of using up my weekly share. Another post, another day, perhaps? Anyway, I sincerely hope your power is back on and your food loss was minimal.

Okra and Tomato Stew (The Victory Garden Cookbook, Marion Morash)
1 lb okra
1 lb tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 small hot pepper 2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
salt and pepper

Clean and trim okra; cut into ½ inch pieces. Peel and chop tomatoes. Mince garlic and hot pepper. Heat butter and oil in sauté pan. Stir in okra, onion, and celery; sauté until lightly colored. Add garlic, tomatoes, and pepper; sauté for 5 minutes longer. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, or until okra is tender. Season to taste and serve. (Note: you can alter the amounts or the ingredients for this recipe to fit what you have. Omit celery, include bell or banana peppers. Add carrots, corn, or cut up green beans. Add diced ham. Or fry up bacon, and use some of the bacon fat in place of the butter and oil, then top with the crumbled bacon. Yum! Great over rice!)


audrey said...

Hi Chard, enjoyed the post. Great tip on fava beans and bacon with pasta. We grew favas for the first time this year and they were wonderful. It's typically an early summer crop here in Seattle but I planted more for fall in hopes of getting late favas too. If not, they'll overwinter and we'll have a longer season next year -- with more recipes. Thanks.

valereee said...

Oh, I LOVE the Victory Garden Cookbook! I've about worn my copy out!

chardlover said...

Audrey, Thanks! Those favas can be a lot of work, removing pods and skin, but they're worth it! We have them for 2-3 weeks in early June - my farm's never tried fall favas! Like to hear how that turns out!

Val, glad you're back on the power grid! I love the suggested variations on the recipes and storage tips in Victory Garden,too. Yummy AND practical.

vudutu said...

I liked your comment " I’m a little less clueless about what’s in season when." I used to do a share at Graileville years ago and grew so tired of kale and armloads of so much stuff I could not use it all, I hate to waste anything so I ended up quitting in favor of a more controlled flow of food.

valereee said...

vudutu, you do get a lot of greens in a CSA share! I need to find more greens-heavy recipes.