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Nov. 4 - Vicki's Final 2011 Vegetable Venture

Posted 11/4/2011 6:14pm by Josie Hart Genter.

The path of food

PBS recently aired the riveting documentary The Buddha. Most fascinating to me was that as a young aesthetic monk, Buddha starved himself to near death in an effort to attain Enlightenment … before ultimately realizing that one requires food to find insight, wisdom and contentment. This must be one of those tenets so obvious it’s downright profound.

In fact, food itself is a kind of a path, as it ties us to the fabric of what is real, what we value, what we love. When I began this project of documenting my CSA experience, I had mentally returned to my roots in the Bluegrass State and memories of my father’s splendid garden. Over the course of the growing season, I had many opportunities to share our bounty with friends in Denver and with family members visiting from out of town. Ray and I had countless discussions over dinners of fresh local produce that led us to explore topics related to our heritage, our past, our parents, our children.

“Did you have squash in Hampshire?” I’d ask Ray, who grew up in post-war England where “victory gardens” were a sign of patriotism. He’d talk about his mother, who generally didn’t excel at cooking but shined when it came to homemade apple pie. Or I’d reflect on how many jars of tomatoes my mother canned, or “put up,” to last the winter and beyond. Once, after Ray mentioned his father’s runner beans, I said that in Kentucky we called them half-runners, or tobacco worm beans, prompting a big investigation into the definition of a “runner bean” as opposed to the varieties my own father grew.

Picks and lessons

It came as no surprise that the beets ranked high on our list of favorites, for Ray and I are both ardent beet lovers. Even better, I cooked and froze whatever we couldn’t eat, so there’s more to look forward to. What did surprise us was how much we cherished the fresh lettuces, spinach, greens and salad mix. Another revelation was the carrots, which we taste-tested with store-bought baby carrots and couldn’t believe the difference. Also noteworthy were the eggplant, cauliflower, purple potatoes and fresh herbs.

I learned many things over the season, mostly related to new recipes. But out of necessity I also learned a few things about storage. First, label everything before freezing. Don’t expect to be able to identify in November a random, one-off dish you prepared back in June. Second, wash and dry the produce as soon as you bring it home (admittedly, not always doable), then store in green bags to keep it fresh longer.

Finally, be patient with basil as it proliferates. As advised, I did take the time to chop the basil in olive oil in the food processor, freeze it in ice cube containers and wrap the chunks individually. But I must confess I was annoyed with the whole time-consuming process. Yesterday, though, I took out a couple of my frozen basil balls, heated them to thaw, added chopped nuts and garlic salt (too lazy to chop garlic), tossed with spaghetti and sprinkled pecorino romano on top for a quick, satisfying lunch.

Enlightenment attained

Folks who’ve tried a CSA but didn’t like it frequently cite “vegetable anxiety,” complaining of receiving too many items to use up. Did I get overwhelmed? I did at times, especially when we were going out of town and I had to arrange to give the produce to someone else. Or at other times when I just didn’t know what to do with an item I had too much of, like peppers. And sometimes I had to spend more time planning, cooking and freezing than I might have liked. Still, I think the rewards outweighed the hassles.

I had three goals when I embarked on the CSA experience: avoid throwing anything away (I threw away two turnips – does that count?); eat more vegetables and less meat (done!); and enjoy a summer full of fresh produce. The latter was accomplished in spades — one might even say to the point of attaining Enlightenment.


Rob. said,
11/5/2011 @ 10:53 am
You threw away turnips? For next year, here's a tasty turnip recipe I got from MY CSA:

Pan-roasting gives these paper-thin slices of turnip a slight sweetness.

1 bunch fresh thyme
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup half and half
1⁄2 cup water
2 1⁄2 pounds turnips, peeled
3 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, add the thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt, half and half and water. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes.
In an oven proof 12-inch skillet melt 3 tablespoons butter. Set aside.
Slice turnips paper-thin, then arrange in the skillet, overlapping as necessary, sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Cook over medium heat until bottom is slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add cream, cover skillet with foil and bake in oven 15 20 minutes or until tender.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese and bake uncovered in 5-10 minutes or until top is golden. Remove from oven and let it set 5 minutes before serving.
Vicki Witt Phillips said,
11/5/2011 @ 11:14 am
Looks great -- I shall try these!
Nicki said,
11/6/2011 @ 5:27 am
What a food journey! I've enjoyed following along and gained inspiration for trying new produce as summer approaches in Melbourne. Looking forward to next year's blog!
Nicki said,
11/6/2011 @ 5:28 am
What a food journey! I've enjoyed following along and gained inspiration for trying new produce as summer approaches in Melbourne. Looking forward to next year's blog!
Vicki Witt Phillips said,
11/7/2011 @ 9:38 am
Thank you so much Nicki! Yes it has been quite a journey. Would love to hear what produce is sprouting up south of the equator!
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