June 09, 2007

If You give a Mouse a Farm-fresh Veggie

We received our first Fresh Picks order a few weeks ago. Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks is like CSA for Dummies. With a true CSA, community sponsored agriculture program, a customer, or shareholder, purchases a season-long share from a local farm or co-op and receives a weekly supply of whatever’s being harvested. Recipients have a general sense of what’s coming in each week’s delivery, but for many, part of the excitement of the CSA experience is the thrill of the unknown.

My life has enough thrills. I am sure that as nice as it might feel to know we are developing a relationship with a local farmer, we’d wind up feeding a portion of our weekly bounty to our compost heap, that is, after watching it slowly rot in the fridge.

So that’s where Fresh Picks comes in. Fresh Picks is like Peapod meets Whole Foods. They deliver farm-fresh (often organic and local) food to your doorstep, but you choose what and how often to order. You can order a la carte (a dozen fresh cucumbers, two containers of goat cheese and some organic bison chili) or pick a produce box similar to what you’d get from a CSA. We tried it last month and loved it. (For the record, I paid full price-out of my own pocket.)

Here’s the run-down:

If you’re gonna order Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks, you’d better clean the house, otherwise, when Irv personally delivers your produce you will be forced to stand and chat awkwardly in the doorway as you attempt to block his view of your messy living room.

When you get your box of fresh produce, you are going to want to identify all the items. If you can’t figure out what some of them are, check your invoice. If you still can’t tell your leeks from the green onions from the garlic tops, you will want to consult a book like the Visual Food Encyclopedia.

Once everything is identified, you will want to put all this fresh goodness right in your fridge, but if you’ve got a small side-by-side, you will have to finish the leftovers in order to make room.

While you’re putting it away, you will notice that they’ve sent you the freshest asparagus you’ve seen since you parents grew it in their garden 30 years ago. You will taste it, raw, with no added seasoning, and you will be stunned.

Now that you’ve tasted it, you realize that you must make something fabulous for dinner, right now. Even though dinnertime is in less than 70 minutes and you’ve got to run a carpool soon and you don't even know what to make.

You’re not sure how to combine portabellas, asparagus, leeks (or are they garlic greens?) and the delicious, fresh goat cheese (from a farm in Champaign), so you crack open Farmer John’s Cookbook, ever grateful that even though you didn’t join his Angelic Organics CSA he sent you the book for review, because it's not only fascinating, it's also a wonderful guide for cooking fresh seasonal (Midwest) produce.

Farmer John will inspire you to create a pasta salad that is richer and more complex than your typical steamed carrots/celery/chickpeas/Wishbone Italian deal.

While you are simultaneously grilling, chopping veggies and cooking pasta your phone will ring approximately nine times. The lady whose car you recently scratched will call you to discuss the $500 estimate she received to repair the two scratches the size of a quarter, and then your mom will call you only to say she forgot why she called, then your dad will call you and go on about some new business deal, and then AmVets will call to see if you have anything to donate, next a pollster will call, and finally someone will call asking about tomorrow’s order because a popular caterer has phone number very similar to yours.

As you run, crazed, from the stove to the grill, setting the table with the phone cradled awkwardly between shoulder and ear, you will realize you have to leave for carpool in 10 minutes. But your husband is home and he will volunteer to drive lest he be put in charge of Your Project.

You will finish your project, adding some chopped walnuts and balsamic vinegar to your oh-so-fresh grilled veggies and goat cheese and you will enjoy the most fabulous pasta salad you’ve ever made, or possibly even eaten.

While you’re enjoy your amazing pasta salad, you will be thinking ahead to tomorrow night’s dinner, imagining what you will create with the next part of your order. And you will recall the jar of jelly that came with your order and realize farm-fresh jelly, you have to make fresh bread to go with it.

Phew! No wonder it’s taken me a month to gather up the courage to place another order. Still, the experience drove home the fact they we are just not a CSA family…not yet, anyway. (Did I mention the parsnips that never got cooked?)

If you belong to a CSA, I’d love to hear how you make the most of your weekly share!

1 comment:

Jen said...

We're in a CSA (out in Colorado, near Boulder...uber-crunchy). We've only been in it a few weeks, but the way we're surviving it is that we're sharing a share with a neighbor. Even sharing a share my family has more fresh organic produce than imaginable. The spinach from the last three weeks has been cooked down and is in the fridge ready to be made into spanikopita. The turnips will be roasted (on the grill) and its greens cooked down with bacon (mmm...). The plethora of lettuce...well, salad reigns here.
I love the CSA and the variety we've been getting, but your version of a CSA sounds irresistible.


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