The first great thing about being part of a CSA is knowing exactly where your food is coming from, and actually being able to visit your future salad while it is still growing in the field. It’s been nearly four months since I embarked on this culinary journey, and it has been something of an adventure. On my end, I have learned to cook foods that were previously not part of my kitchen vocabulary, like kale, collard greens and turnips. For the farmer, the rainy weather made this a very challenging year for crops. The fall marks a new start, new produce to go in the ground and lovely fall veggies to devour.
To celebrate, my farmers at Paisley Farm in Tivoli held a Garlic Planting/Harvest Party for all their members (Paisley’s CSA has five pickup spots throughout NYC). The garlic planting got rained away, and we instead got to go salad picking in the fields. Different lettuces harvested using a simple clever cutting contraption like something I had never seen, bell peppers, onions, all made their way from field to table (accompanied by feta cheese and olive oil) within a matter of hours.
The second amazing thing of belonging to a CSA is meeting the people with whom you share your food every week. Conversations quickly turned to likes and dislikes, challenges and recipes, and every single person I talked to seem to have had a similarly positive experience. Most in attendance were CSA freshmen, like myself, which probably meant we all looked like caricatures of the wide-eyed cityfolk we were, sitting at the long dinner table out in the field.
Also on the menu was slow-roasted lamb, freshly killed and grilled over homemade charcoal, basted with lard and beer for optimal crispiness. If I ate meat, this would have probably been the highlight (it certainly was for my male CSA buddy, who spent the greater part of the day on a folding stool by the grill pit, hand turning the rotisserie, probably salivating heavily). The dinner was mostly a potluck, which is kind of a scary thing at a farm; it’s not like you can bring a bag or organic corn chips and guacamole and call it a day. Thought had to go into what would be made from scratch and offered up. I settled on an edamame and corn salad with olive oil, sea salt and mint — uncomplicated, unpretentious but very delicious.
For the children, there was pumpkin painting, and backyard trampoline always seems to be a major crowd-pleaser. For a kid growing up in the city, just being somewhere where they can run free must be an amazing feeling. (Parents also seemed enjoy the break from worry.)
Sitting out in the field as the sun was setting over the nearby pond, enjoying a delicious meal accompanied by good local beer and wine and followed by artisanal cheeses and homemade pies, life felt pretty darn good.
CSAs are a great way to reconnect with your food, get to know the people who grow it and meet the people who share your culinary experiences. Visit Localharvest to find a CSA near you. If you live in the northern parts of the country, there may be winter CSAs that are accepting new members, but otherwise you may have to wait until spring. In the sunnier parts of our land, some CSAs let you sign up at any time year-round.
See more photos here.