July 6th, 2011
I realize now that I’ve not been clear with you. I’ve written about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in a way that, perhaps, led you to think that I’ve been a loyal CSA subscriber. In fact, I’m just four weeks into my very first farm share. And—here goes—I’m feeling ambivalent.
I worked that last sentence several times before deciding that I had to say it plainly. It’s not an easy thing to admit given how important CSA’s are. They bond us with local farmers, provide those farmers critical financial support, and supply families with farm-fresh produce. CSA’s also force you to get creative with what’s available. While I love that in theory—and would probably love it in practice, too, if I was cooking for just me and the Hungry Papa—it’s more of a challenge than I anticipated.
Most of the veggies in my share so far have been bitter greens. While I love dark, leafy greens and cook with them regularly—probably more than most with little eaters—they can be challenging for young families. The Hungry Boys will only eat hearty leaves prepared in certain ways (like chopped fine into a veg lasagna or in savory bread pudding). Though you know I don’t limit my cooking to preparations sanctioned by the boys, I’m also not prepared to serve dark, leafy greens as a primary vegetable 5 nights a week when I know they are unlikely to eat them.
Serving up greens in different (kid accepted and unaccepted) ways, maintaining vegetable variety and limiting food waste has turned out to be a difficult balancing act which is why I’ve been LOVING snap peas. Tender and sweet, they have saved the day. The Hungry Boys gobble them up each week and I have happily faced (and risen to!) the CSA challenge of making do with whatever’s fresh.
My latest snap pea creation is a quick sauté that pairs the mellow-flavored pods with bright mint and salty ricotta salata (can be shared with kids 6+ mos). When I call this dish quick, I’m not selling you on something. You just want to introduce heat to the peas; they should not get too acquainted or the peas will lose their pop. There’s no recipe here, just quick and easy instructions:
The resulting side dish is a glistening pile of goodness, from the farm to your house via a Roman trattoria (where you are sitting in oversized sunglasses with a glass of rosé without children… oh, sorry… I’m back).
So, yes, while the snap peas have saved the day, I’m feeling a little torn about my CSA. I love how it brings me closer to a farm that I can visit and farmers with whom I can connect. I also love how it brings me closer to my community. But, with such great farmer’s markets nearby, I can’t help but crave more control over my week’s produce. Not because I’m too lazy to meet the weekly challenge, but because I’m not sure how family-friendly it is to expect a home cook to make meals for everyone 6+ months and up with turnips, pak choi, kale, lettuce and garlic.
If CSA’s are challenging for me, I can’t imagine what it’s like for most family cooks with less time and inclination to be inventive night after night. So what do you guys think? Are CSA’s family-friendly?
Have you had success with CSAs and, if so, any tips to share? Or do you prefer to stick to your local farmer’s market (or supermarket)?
PS: I’d run out of ricotta salata the night that I made these last. The picture shows grated parmesan, which will do nicely. If you can, though, grab ricotta salata for the real-deal.