I think I may have mentioned that we have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share at local farm. Once a week we go to the Montford Farmers Market behind the Asheville Visitor’s Center and pick up a box of fresh produce. Then we come home and ask, “What the heck is this stuff and what am I going to do with it?”.
I originally got talked into this by a friend of mine who wanted to share her box last year. Stacy would take the stuff I didn’t want so it wasn’t so much a challenge as a fun way to get some fresh vegetables in the house. It was kind of eye-opening. Think about it: how many different fruits and vegetables do you typically buy? One of the effects of global agriculture and franchised supermarkets has been to winnow down the number of available products, as they seek produce which travels well and ripens slowly. Did you know there are over 4000 types of potatoes in the world, approximately only 100 of which are available in the USA? And there are probably no more than three varieties of potatoes available at your market. To be fair, things have actually gotten better lately. When I was growing up iceberg lettuce was just about the only type of lettuce available. But a prepacked bag of “mixed greens” wasn’t going to go very far in terms of educating me in the wide range of green stuff out there! But in my CSA? A typical box might include kohlrabi, green garlic, Red Russian kale, baby beets, sugar snap peas, green oak lettuce and a pint of strawberries. Some of these things I know; some Sara, our Assistant Innkeeper, knows; and some are a mystery to us both.
Before getting started, I thought it might be fun to find out something about the farm my box comes from. Full Sun Farm is located in Big Sandy Mush, NC. I don’t know why it’s called Big Sandy Mush and no one else seems to either but it is one of the prettiest spots I have ever seen. Last week we took a drive out from our bed and breakfast in Asheville to see it. The farm is located about 45 minutes outside of town. It doesn’t take long to get through the outskirts of Asheville so after a pleasant drive you climb a winding road through the mountains, to where the land opens into a wide and lush valley. Vanessa Campbell who owns the farm along with her husband, Alex Brown, told me that when she first saw the farm she knew that if she didn’t buy it then she didn’t really want to be a farmer, it was that perfect.
The farm consists of 17 acres which is planted with an array of vegetables, fruit trees and flowers. There is a beautiful old ivy-covered barn which faces out over the mountains. Lucky interns who live and work there! The farm offers 60 CSA shares. You can pay full price or help with planting and harvesting for a discounted rate. There are also flower CSA shares which will provide you with one bouquet a week for 18-21 weeks. Every week I receive a newsletter telling me how the harvest has been going and what to expect in my box. They come to market twice a week spring through fall and we pick up our box on Wednesdays.
There are a number of Farmer’s Markets in Asheville, two of which are near us: one behind the Visitor’s Center(CVB) and one at the University of North Carolina campus. It is always interesting to me to see how different they are. The difference lies not so much in the farms which are represented as in the people who come and the atmosphere. The market behind the Visitor’s Center is on Wednesday afternoons from 2-6PM and it is all business. People come, get their shopping done and, beyond a few pleasantries with each other, they don’t really linger. Contrast this with the market at the University! This is held on Saturday from 8AM-12PM. There is a food truck selling coffee and breakfast crepes, and a bluegrass band plays in one corner of the lot. People bring their dogs and children and it feels like a large block party. So while I am happy to pick up my CSA box on Wednesday from the CVB because I can get in there and get out, it always puts a smile on my face when I happen to go to the University market even if it means strolling through the market , sidestepping babies and dogs, when my natural inclination is to rush!
And come Wednesday evening I can usually be found on my computer looking up some odd vegetable or other. I am not alone in this activity. I very quickly came across a Huffington Post column called “WTF CSA?”. This was a series they ran last summer and it has provided me with some great ideas. Here are a couple of the easier and more palatable recipes I have come up with:
Kale Chips are a popular and healthy snack. This somewhat bitter green loses its bite when roasted. It also absorbs some of the flavor of what you to roast it with. Typically recipes call for Olive Oil but I have also used melted butter. Our local Oil and Vinegar shop, Olive & Kickin’, has a blood orange infused oil which I pair with red Hawaiian sea salt. Sometimes I sprinkle a little crispy bacon on it before serving.
1 head of Kale, washed and thoroughly dried.
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or melted butter
Sea salt or spice mix to taste.
Preheat oven to 275^
Separate the leaves from the ribs of the Kale and chop into bite sized pieces. Toss together with oil and salt or spice mixture in a large bowl then spread on a baking tray. Bake 10-15 minutes then stir and turn over and bake for another 10 minutes or so until crispy.
Roasted Baby Beets pickled in Orange Vinegrette
Baby beets don’t need to be peeled and, as prepared in this recipe, can be eaten as a single “bite” , added to salads or even used to top a burger!
2 lbs baby beets
3/4 cup tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
the zest of one orange, split in two portions
1 small finely chopped shallot
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 400^. Trim the roots off the beets then cut beets in half or quarters depending on size. Toss in a little olive oil and salt and pepper, then spread in a shallow pan. Cover with foil and roast for approx. 25 minutes. Uncover and roast 10-15 minutes longer until tender. Be careful not to burn them.
Mix remaining ingredients together using one portion of the orange zest. Add roasted beets, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Drain beets and serve with a little orange zest and some chopped nuts.
I’ll be working with our CSA all summer and will keep you updated with ideas. And I would love it if you would share yours with me!