June 5, 2008

What's a CSA?

I am so excited about produce! We joined a CSA (Commuity Supported Agriculture) for the first time and this is our first week.

It means that every week we get to pick up a basket full of organic produce straight from the farm, and not just any farm. Jeff Poppen, a.k.a, the Barefoot Farmer, has been doing biodynamic farming on his Long Hungry Creek Farm, one of the oldest organic farms in Tennessee, for 3 decades and is considered a leader in the field (literally). (You really have to see him to believe him so click on the link).

It means he doesn't use fertilizers or pesticides and talks about his humus-rich soil and "friendly bugs" and what he can learn from them.

It means he gets to farm all year--in the most sustainable and beneficial way possible while operating an independent and economically viable farm because every CSA member pays a monthly fee from June to Dec. to receive his high-quality, organic veggies.

It means that we get to learn about what's in season in this part of the country when and experiment with all of the many ways to cook greens and beets, and anything else we get in our basket. (For a list of what we got, see side bar at right; I'll keep updating as we go along).

It means the idea "from farm to table" can be a reality: striaght out of the ground, bring it home, clean off the dirt and go to work preparing a fresh meal whose provenance is less than 100 miles from your door. No trucking, no freezing, no supermarket hassle. And so much cheaper!

And, most of all, it means we get to make things we've never made before: like garlic scape-cilantro pesto.

Garlic scapes are the curly green things that come up just before the garlic bulbs. They have a very intense flavor, very spicy and most farmer's just discard them. But they are really very cool. I just don't know of that many ways to prepare them. So a search led me to this recipe for a non-basil garlic pesto.

It was very tasty and not quite as strong as a typical pesto, but with a different sort of pepper finish. I used olive oil, about 3 garlic scapes, cut in 1/2-in. pieces, 1/4 c of cilantro, chopped, and 1/4 c of pine nuts (processed in the F.P.) and then stirred the freshly grated parm in by hand. It was a bit thick, so I added some lemon juice and a bit of the pasta cooking water to thin it out, salt and pepper to taste. Served with a salad of fresh mixed greens and ricotta salata, it was a very satisfying way to cook a meal.

PS: If anyone has any other ideas for garlic scapes, I'd love to hear them!


  1. i just used some yesterday. i use them in stir frying. i am a big fan.... love em.

  2. We used them to finish a shiitake tofu stir-fry.

    Hey it's me flufernutter from Tupperware Avalanche. We should have an autumn end-of-season review of our CSA experiences. This was my third year and my second different CSA.