CSA: What’s the Big Deal?

DSC_0079

Kale (Toscano, Red Russian, Rainbow Lacinata), Spinach (Bordeaux, Tyee), Radishes (Easter Egg, Pink Beauty, Rudolf), Lemon Balm, Sheep Sorrel, Lamb’s Quarter, Fennel, Broccoli Rabe, Chives, Scallions

Well for one, just look at that basket of green goodness! Don’t tell me you’d rather join the crowds at the “super”market to get produce that’s been sitting in a refrigerated truck for a week and sprayed with who knows what to stay “fresh.”

Beyond the beauty of the bounty, there are plenty of other reasons for buying into a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture).

1) It benefits you: you’ll be eating fresh food, with amazing flavor and nutritional benefits not found in grocery store produce. You’ll also be exposed to new, seasonal vegetables and new ways of cooking.

2) It benefits your community: interact with other food-minded members of your neighborhood, and the people who are actually growing your food! At Sylvester Manor, our CSA members have the opportunity to work on the farm in exchange for a cost reduction. We also donate extra produce to schools and food banks in the area.

3) It benefits the farmer: each CSA share is someone in the community saying “I trust you!” You give the farmer a cash advance, so they can have up front capital to use the non-growing season to plan, buy seeds, prepare land, and not worry about the lack of cash flow.

So why doesn’t everyone do this?
It’s expensive: Consider the true cost of food. The locally, sustainably, seasonally grown produce from a farm is just that. It’s priced based on the cost of seeds, land and labor. Industrial scale organic or conventionally grown food is not usually priced as accurately. Not even counting their pesticide-laden, toxic nature, consumers pay for this food outside of the grocery checkout line through tax payments (subsidies), massive environmental damage and growing health problems. I could keep ranting, but feel free to read more.
It’s inconvenient: What is? Going to a one-stop shop to pick up your weekly produce? And not having to be surrounded by 40,000 products, sale signs, and fluorescent lights? You can probably find a CSA that will deliver to you, or that you can pick up at a farmer’s market near you.
It’s low quality: Sure, you might get some veggies with dirt or a few bugs, some cracks or irregular shapes – these are indications that your food was, ya know, grown for flavor, not just looks or yield or shelf life or packaging. Someone planted that seed, watered it, transplanted it into the ground, and that plant was subject to the elements of nature. I bet if you close your eyes and taste a radish out of the field, and then a radish from Whole Foods, you’ll understand what quality means.
It’s not food I want (no choice, dislike vegetables, can’t we have tomatoes in May?): What if you view it as a chance to try out new foods, new cooking styles? Learn to be ingredient-driven, eat produce that is in season and be creative to overcome psychological blocks you have toward certain foods.

And if you’re a part of the Sylvester Manor community (and I’m sure a lot of other CSAs), we love to talk about food, share recipes, and offer suggestions for how to use what we give you. Here’s what we gave our CSA members for their first share this week:

CSA 526

Food has such power to bring individuals and entire communities together. Of course, a CSA is not the only way to get involved, but it’s a nice start.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Advertisements

Wild Things

They make my heart sing…and detox my liver, cleanse my kidneys, boost my immune system, and more! Seriously, it’s pretty amazing what Mother Nature has provided for us – it seems to be just what the body & mind need for the season. Wild edibles are packed with nutrients and wonderful flavor, you’ve just gotta know when and what to pick! Hopefully my handy guide (specific to Shelter Island’s spring and summer, but I have faith a lot of these “weeds” are everywhere) will help with that.

Wild Edibles

The easiest way to eat wild foods is to wash the flowers, leaves, stems and roots, boil ’em, simmer ’em and drink ’em as a tea. That applies to things like clover, dandelion, dock, mugwort, nettles, and pineapple weed.

Some things are simply delicious raw, and can just be added to your salad – sweet clover, lamb’s quarters, purslane, sorrel.

And other foods require a bit more preparation, but don’t let that throw you off! For example, nettles are like a full body cleanse, you just have to take the simple extra step of steaming them before eating them! If you have enough of them, maybe you can become a green, enlightened being.

Without further adieu, I present a wildly delicious, easy to prepare, nutrient dense meal:

DSC_0066

Nettle Soup

2 spring onions
1 large bunch of nettles
1/2 cup millet
few sprigs of lemon balm
salt and pepper
*roasted chickpeas

In a large pot, saute your spring onions. Then fill the pot about halfway with water, and add in the nettles. Bring to a boil. If your nettles are young and tender, you can use the leaves and stems; if they’re a bit larger, just take the leaves off the stems and pop ’em back in.

Add in the millet, bring the broth back to a boil, then simmer until the millet is fluffy and tender.

Pour everything into your blender and give it a whizz. Pour it back into your soup pot, and flavor with lemon balm, salt and pepper.
DSC_0059
I happened to top my soup with roasted chickpeas, which is a great way to add a legume to your meal. Simply roast cooked chickpeas for 30 min. at about 350. Spice any way you’d like, these have salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne.

Serve with a salad of lamb’s quarter and a side of braised ramps, wild onions and garlic mustard.

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring Has Sprung!

You’ve probably given your house, car, and wardrobe a good once over – but how about yourself?? Maybe some of you have already been experiencing spring for awhile (the equinox was in March – but here on Long Island, its been slow to roll in. Spring is a great time to detoxify your body, refresh your energy and really explore agriculture as an outlet for health and healing!

Here I’ve made a risotto that’s just bursting with spring flavors and acts as a wonderful cleanse for the body. Removing toxins from the body means targeting three organs: the liver, kidney and colon. The onion family (spring onions, garlic, etc.) both inhibit enzymes that activate toxins, and promote the elimination of toxins from the body. Their cousin, asparagus, helps to cleanse the kidneys and purify the blood. The brassicas (radishes, turnips, kale, etc.) contain glucosinolates which help to metabolize and eliminate toxins. All these plants contain fiber, which helps clear out the colon.

Spring Risotto 
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
6-8 cups vegetable broth
2 c. pea shoots
1 bunch asparagus
1 bunch turnips
1 bunch radishes
squeeze of lemon juice
pinch of salt

Get your vegetable broth simmering on the stove. I almost always have a few containers in the fridge and freezer – instead of composting veggie scraps, I just throw them in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer. When it’s full, I boil everything, simmer it for an hour, strain the veggies, and I’ve got broth!
Heat a cast iron pan, and add your rice. You can use any kind of rice to make risotto – including brown, which I’d highly recommend, but I only had 30 minutes to make this dish, so I stuck with lame Arborio. Toast it for about a minute, stirring frequently.
Start adding in the broth a cup at a time. The heat on your cast iron should be fairly low. Keep stirring the rice after each addition of liquid, and continue adding liquid until the rice is creamy, fluffy and soft. Or whatever consistency you like your risotto.
Depending on how cooked you’d like your veggies, you can either throw them in halfway through the cooking time, or when you’ve only got about 5 minutes to go.
-I put the pea shoots in a blender with some water, and added that mix in with the 3rd cup of broth.
-The radishes and turnips were sliced in half, and thrown in with about 15 minutes of cooking to go.
-The asparagus was sliced on the diagonal and added with just a few minutes of cooking to go.
-The pink/red you see in the picture are some spinach stalks that were about to be discarded, and I figured, why not? They were tossed in.

Other great spring detox vegetables to consider:
-Bok Choy/Pak Choi: promotes digestion, great source of vitamin C & phytonutrients to strengthen the immune system
-Mustard Greens: high in glucosinolates, excellent source of vitamin C & beta carotene
-Leeks: high fiber content, mild diuretic properties, healthy dose of vitamin K
-Artichokes: stimulate bile production & fat digesting enzymes
-Fiddlehead Ferns: rich in antioxidants, vitamins A & C, magnesium, iron, potassium and phosphorous

Stay tuned for the wild edibles you can find popping up all over your yard, local parks or community gardens that are a great way to continue the detox!

A “Quickly Appearing” Meal

Did you know that you can grow a radish from seed in under a month? It’s true, and I’ve witnessed it. In fact, the Greek name for radish – Raphanus – means quickly appearing. And as fast as these little buggers have been appearing, they’ve been showing up on my plate (if they make it there from the field…) and then quickly disappearing. A great source of Vitamin C, some B vitamins, iron and potassium, and they’re just bursting with that Spring detox energy.

We’re growing a few varieties on the farm: Rudolf, Watermelon, Pink Beauty & Easter Egg. Mild, sweet or peppery, I like ’em all. Most of the time I just rub the dirt off and pop a few as a midday snack, but sometimes I get a bit fancier. Fancy doesn’t mean it takes a long time to prepare though – I whipped up this dish in about 5 minutes!

Pea Shoots with Radish, Apple, Apricot & Walnut
Generous handful of pea shoots
4 medium radishes, julienned
1 crisp, tart apple (I used a Mutsu), julienned
1/4 c. dried apricots, sliced thin
1/4 c. toasted walnuts

Mix the radishes, apple and apricots together and dress it with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Let that marinade for as long as you can stand (anywhere from 5 minutes to a few hours), then mix it with some toasted walnuts and serve it atop some spring greens.

If you’ve had enough raw radishes, try them steamed or roasted! Oh man, they get this sweet, mellow flavor that goes great on a salad, with other root veggies, in a soup or on its own. And don’t just throw away those greens! Put them in your smoothie, steam them up as a side or use them to make pesto!

DSC_0008

The Most Wonderful Meal of the Day

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Okay, okay, I admit it: I’m obsessed with breakfast! But can you blame me? It’s an opportunity to achieve the perfect combination of whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and just pure deliciousness. And you haven’t eaten for what, 10-12 hours? It sets the tone for your whole day, why not make it as amazing as possible?

Three Grain Porridge with Berries, Bananas & Almonds*
*Should have used Brazil Nuts or something to keep the alliteration going, apologies

1/2 c. quinoa
1/4 c. amaranth
1/4 c. millet
2 c. almond milk
1 cinnamon stick
handful blueberries & mulberries
handful toasted almonds
1/2 banana

Mix your grains together, and bring them to a boil in 1 1/2 c. almond milk (or water or other “milk” of your choice). Pop your cinnamon stick in, too. After they boil, turn them down to a simmer, let them bubble away for 15 min, then stir, and add in more almond milk as needed. They’ll take about 25-30 min to get cooked and creamy.
Pop your blueberries (if frozen) and mulberries, or other dried fruits into the pot and let them cook for a bit with the grains.
Add in some toasted nuts and fresh fruit, and top with any other of your favorite spices or sweeteners!

DSC_0049

Delicious, and nutritious, too!

“Grains” – these seeds & grains are rich in protein, iron, calcium & fiber
Mulberries – excellent source of Vitamin C and iron; great for the eyes
Blueberries – high antioxidant levels; chlorogenic acid lowers blood glucose
Almonds – vitamin E and B complex; rich in protein & mono-unsaturated fatty acids
Banana – good source of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C

The Endless Possibilities of Pesto

Most people probably associate pesto with the flavors of summer – what else are you going to do with all that basil? But for me, it can really be enjoyed year round. Anything you can pound together with a mortar & pestle (or a food processor…) is a pesto in my book.

My first spring pesto is made with a wild superfood I’d never tried before: Stinging Nettles. Have you heard of them? They’re an amazing source of vitamins A & C, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium. They’re also great for women who are feeling PMS symptoms, and can be used to soften hair, relieve acne, and treat arthritis. Crazy.

To get the benefits of this aptly named plant (it will literally sting you when you touch it with bare hands), you just have to harvest it with some leather gloves, and then steam it or blanch it for a few minutes before eating.

Above, I’m eating Stinging Nettle Pesto on a homemade seed cracker. Here’s my “recipe”:

Stinging Nettle Pesto
1 c. steamed Stinging Nettle leaves
1/4 c. garlic mustard leaves (or 2 cloves minced garlic)
1/4 c. toasted pumpkin seeds
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Slowly add the water you used to steam or blanch your nettle leaves into the mix until it reaches your desired consistency.

Vary this recipe in any way you’d like! Here’s some ideas of what you could use to substitute

For nettles: pea shoots, spinach, kale, garlic scapes, sheep sorrel, dandelion leaves, really any green leafy thing!
For pumpkin seeds: almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds

Of course you’re free to use oil in place of water, add some cheese, or serve it on some pasta or something. While seed crackers are delicious, a much heartier lunch is some Stinging Nettle pesto served over millet. Ya, B vitamins!

DSC_0041