Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Community Supported Agriculture



In case you haven't noticed, there's not a lot of room for kitchen gardens in NYC. Oh sure, you can grow tomatoes on rooftops and herbs in window boxes, not to mention lettuces in Brooklyn and maybe even a respectable spread of eggplants and zukes in Queens or Staten Island. But not many of us have enough room to grow all our own fruits and vegetables, which is why green markets and CSAs are essential to any New Yorker who wants fresh, local food.


You all know what greenmarkets are, but how about a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture is a coop arrangement between a group of local foodies and a farmer. The farmer sells shares to members who pay in advance for fruits and vegetables throughout the year. By paying ahead of time you share some risk with the farmer. Will the spinach be attacked by beetles? Will the butternut squash be drowned by late summer rains? Maybe. That's the chance you take for seasonal food grown by a farmer you actually know.

And did I mention, you never know exactly what you're going to get until the food arrives? The delivery includes whatever is in season, meaning you won't get tomatoes in June or cucumbers in October. My share this week included: garlic, beets, carrots, potatoes, acorn squash, celeriac, parsley, dry beans, kale, cauliflower, pears, and apples. A cornucopia of autumn goodness.

Now's the time to subscribe for 2009! My own CSA sells out fast, so I re-subscribe nice and early. To find a CSA in New York City, check the Just Food website. If you're living somewhere else in the U S of A, check out Local Harvest. Type in your zip code and get a list of the CSAs nearest you.

Most groups recommend a half share for couples and a full share for families, but Michael and I easily get through a full share with just the two of us. You can buy an extra fruit share and supplement with monthly meat, egg, and cheese deliveries. There's maple syrup, honey, yogurt, bread...even fresh flowers if you're in the mood.

The point is that just because you live in a single room with one window that faces a brick wall (no wait, that's me) it doesn't mean you can't have fresh fruit and vegetables in the middle of this big, bad, hungry city.



Photos 2, 3 & 4 were taken by Adam Mastoon for my book: Down & Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky First Time Projects & Activities to Get You Gardening. I'm allowed to use them in conjunction with promoting the book, so consider this a promo!






2 comments:

Joe Lamp'l said...

I subscribe to a CSA here in NC and I look forward to the Monday afternoon pickup every week. As you said, you never really know what's going to be in that box, but that's half the fun. It's almost like a weekly present you get to unwarp.
The other thing is that I love to cook and frankly, some of these things that show up in my box are items I'd likely never buy in the store. So now, rather than waste them, I fell compelled to learn to cook with them. And because of that, I'm now, I've increased by skills in the kitchen too and exposed my family to more variety. That certainly breaks up some of the routine dinners I put in front of them!
Lastly, I've had a chance to interview the CSA farmer that delivers my produce. You should see the joy on her face too. Unlike a commercial grower that never sees where his food is going, the CSA grower knows exactly who is getting their food. They have a face. And I'm sure that provides even a greater reward to their side of the equation too.
Thanks for a great post.
JL

Ellen Zachos said...

Hey Joe! I never knew you were a CSA person.

You're so right about how these unusual vegetables expand your cooking repertoire. I didn't have a clue what to do with Celeriac when I first joined but now it's one of the things I most look forward to all season. Our CSA gives each new member a copy of Recipes from America's Small Farms and it's a great way to get acquainted with some unfamiliar produce. PLus all the recipes in the book come from CSA farmers!

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