This weekend at the farmer's market the CSA that I belonged to last year (Cub Creek Farms) had their inaugural CSA installment. For 2008 they have switched to a pay-as-you-go plan where you pay a deposit up front and then as you pick up a bag on Saturday morning. I like the flexibility of this new system and the owners like the fact that they're not preparing boxes ahead of time each week and only pack the goodies as the bags are picked up. This way they're not wasting precious time packing foods into boxes that never get picked up; this way they can also sell the produce (better for the farm) that goes unclaimed.
I've been shopping at farmers markets for years, but it wasn't until I joined a CSA last year that I realized how boring I'd been in my food choices. I would walk around the tables at the Del Ray, Alexandria (where I lived until April 2007) farmers market on Saturdays and pretty much just pick up the normal, comfortable foods that I knew how to prepare. I remember going 'wild and crazy' one weekend and buying green tomatoes since I knew I liked fried green tomatoes - a.k.a. I already knew what to do with them even though they were not my normal fare.
Now I'm given my weekly allotment of fresh vegetables and fruits and really have no say - my bag is full of whatever is ready in the farm fields this week and I love eating foods in conjunction with the season and region. Along with a dozen eggs, herbed goat cheese, and fresh lavender, my latest bag was full of salad greens (check - know what to do with those), small onions (got it), beets (yup), yellow baby squash (yum), rhubarb (well, I know I can make pie), artichokes (real whole prickly ones, not just the hearts or leaves...hmm...will need to look this up), and scapes (what the...?). Needless to say I have some new adventures awaiting me - I'll definitely report back with the results.
Tonight, I did prepare some of the salad greens with a little balsamic vinegar dressing and sprinkled with some of the herbed cheese. It was delicious. I just love it when you have to wash dirt off your vegetables (and a bug or two doesn't hurt either). When did I (we) stop really realizing that our food comes from a field? I remember reading an article (I believe in Southern Living) that talked about educating children about nature and growing things. If I remember the article correctly, educators at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia once asked students where fries come from and one student answered McDonalds. Kinda makes me sad - I grew up in a relatively rural area and had my own garden (a butterfly one!) by middle school. So many people (adults and children) don't have the opportunity to dig in the dirt and really connect with nature. I would just go crazy if I didn't have the opportunity to get some dirt under my nails every once in a while. This train of thought is actually inspiring me to reexamine my love of Alice Waters and her commitment to cooking with the seasons and respecting nature's bounty. I feel a new book order on the horizon...