CSA Blues

Posted by organicneedle in csa, CSA/ Local Food

Normally I sing the praises of my CSA to anyone who  wants/has to listen.  I even convinced two of my friends to join this year. And wouldn’t ya know it…as soon as I convince people how spectacular it is…we get a bit of a dud season.

This year’s CSA crop has been less than satisfying. Not a lot of stuff….certainly not enough for my little fruit bats. What we are getting is good…but not the staples I rely on for feeding the boys. Almost no broccoli, green beans, salad greens, etc. Now granted, we eat more than the average share of produce. That was one of the motivating factors for joining the CSA. The shares aren’t cheap but in the past they have covered the bulk of the produce I need for the week. This year it didn’t cover even half of what I need to keep the family going. empty pot

Last season we were able to get by on the CSA produce, only buying our favorite traveled indulgences like avocados and bananas.  Honestly, this year, even what we have been getting in abundance isn’t  ideal. All the potatoes, beets and cilantro in the world aren’t going to create a decent primavera.  Nor do my kids want to snack on yams at the playground. ( If that ain’t begging for an atomic wedgie, I don’t know what is. )

But…I guess that is part of the lesson of being a part of a CSA. You experience the highs and lows…just like a real farmer…without having to touch horse poo. The difference for our organic farmer is that because we have all invested in him he won’t go under from one or two bad seasons like many small farmers would. But on the other hand….in terms of my own finances…because the crops have been so low, I am buying a lot more California goods than I would prefer for this season. We will have to seriously consider next year’s sign up. Perhaps we will just have to get more organized about going to the farmers markets around town and still try our best to support local guys. My worry with that is that crazy weekends will mean no market trip…and me buying all imported stuff at the local Stop & Rob. And that not supporting the local organic farm when things aren’t going great will mean not having a local organic farm at all.

So…should I stick it out one more year or pack it in and throw myself into the open market? We are committed for this year. I am even one of the official CSA annoyers. (My official duty is to call people after they do their shift to find out if they were called before their shift and to get them to confess any misdeeds during their shift. It annoys the ever loving f*&k out of people.) Hmmm…I wonder why they picked me for the job? Love to hear from any of you who have wrestled with the CSA question…but for now I need to make a few reeeeeeeeeally irritating calls.

(Book image from Overstock.com.)



My Very First Time in the Can & It Ain’t Gonna Be Sweet

Posted by organicneedle in canning, CSA/ Local Food

Paid a little visit to Ma Needle in the South over the weekend & she hooked me up with all my canning needs. Isn’t mooching a beautiful thing?   So…now I have no excuse not to get my CAN in gear.  And because berry season will quickly be coming to a close I think I shall make preserves my first attempt.  (OK…it may also have something to do with the fact that my mother said the easiest, narcoleptic cat simple thing to can are jams.  She just ASSUMES I will take the easiest path. Geeeeze.  Soooo judgmental.)  So jams it is.  I grew up eating my grandmother’s trip-an-old-nun-to-get-to-the-last-jar-raspberry preserves, so I know I can get my hands on some killer recipes.  The problem?  Sweet sassy malassy with the sugar,  Granny Needle!  How do we not all diabetes and shares in a moo-moo manufacturing company?  Save a little cane for the rest of the continent.nn

Since I would prefer my children not to need dentures by the second grade…I would like to find  some recipes with a wee bit less sugar. Like none.  I also don’t want any artificial sweeteners.  And since  everyone gave me such great canning advice last time…why bother to do my own research.  (I am actually doing research…but there is nothing better then a tried and true recipe in which someone else has suffered through all the trying and a truing.)

Oh…and can you all be quick about doing my your homework; berry season is almost over here and I you forgot to get started in time.



Eco Confessions: Green Moms Carnival

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, CSA/ Local Food

This month’s Green Moms Carnival topic of eco confessions wasn’t too much of a struggle for ol’ Needle. I could write enormous volumes on the ungreeness that lurks in my home & life in general.  Some things aren’t the greenest because I don’t know how to find a better solution but am working on them…like some cleaning projects.  Some things are due to the needs/wants of other members of the family…like my husband’s insistence on Total toothpaste.  Some are due to lack of resources…like a lawn to grow my own food.  The list goes on.

But some… I just gotta own.

Hi.  My name is Needle and I am a French wine & cheese whore.   Now don’t get me wrong…I am not quite a lush…yet.  (A few more rainy days trapped in the house with my brood and we will see what happens.)  But if I am going to drink wine…it needs to not taste like Kool-Aid. And if I’m going to indulge in the fat and calories of cheese, it damn well ain’t gonna be for Velveeta.  I can’t really put a green spin on any of it.    Many resources are involved in its creation, packaging and travel.  I could find similar products more locally; Americans make wine & cheese too…but…well…it just isn’t the same. And no one has yet to die from brie or Sancerre withdrawal…that we know of.   So…no excuse…just pure selfishness…delicious…. delicious selfishness.

Perhaps being a vegan, tea-totaling, locovore would, in fact, be much greener…but so would being dead.   And perhaps there is some sort of Dante’s  Infernoesq punitive afterlife for lack of greenness.   I’ll take my chances… fully accepting that my personal hell will be filled with nothing but cans of Cheez Whiz and Fetzer chardoney.



Pesto Magic!

Posted by organicneedle in csa, CSA/ Local Food, recipes

Don’t you hate when every recipe on TV is all about every single ingredient needing to be the freshest thing in the world? Well…that is great on CSA/farm market day #1 or#2…..but how about day #8?  Sometimes life happens and we don’t all eat our green leafies in a timely fashion.  So what to do with that somewhat soggy bag of spinach?  That gamey garlic?  That half a pack of wrinkly almonds?

PESTO MAGIC!!!!!!!!!!!

ANY dark green that you would eat raw makes a good base for pesto.  3 that I use regularly are: basil, spinach, and my favorite…arugula.

ANY nut you have on hand can work. I have used traditional pine nuts, walnuts, and almonds.

ANY hard nutty cheese: traditional parm, asiago, or go for a local hard cheese.

ANY  type of garlic…even the scapes.

Salt…I prefer sea or kosher…but whatever you have will do the trick

GOOD Olive Oil…I always use extra virgin because that is what I like and buy in bulk, but if the price bothers you I’m sure no one would explode if you used the cheaper stuff.

As far as measurements…I don’t really use them.  I start by pureeing my greens with just enough olive oil to make them liquefy with my immersion blender.  [If you do not have an immersion blender stop whatever you are doing and go get one.  Yes…you will have to buy new because no one in his/her right mind would ever give it up unless it was broken and/or possessed.  Do not trust a person who says she/he simple didn’t need it anymore.  They are insane…and probably dangerous.] Then I toss in whatever cheese I am using…a handful or whatever nubs I have left.  If it starts to get too pasty I drizzle in a little more oil.  Then I toss in the nuts.  Then the garlic- one clove/scape at a time-tasting as I go.  LAST I add the salt.  You want to wait on the salt to see how much intensity the cheese and garlic are bringing to the pesto party. And trust me…it is a party.

PESTO is MAGIC because it will keep many a forgotten green from your trash.  It can be frozen in cubes in your freezer for a tatse of sping in the winter.  Your unsuspecting kids will wolf down lbs of spinach will enjoying alien brains-ziti with pesto sauce.  Oh…and guess what…no matter how you do it…it will taste really amazing.



Taming Evil Celery: Rhubarb Cake

Posted by organicneedle in CSA/ Local Food

In general I way prefer cooking to baking.  Why?  Because I am fairly sloppy about measurements…and lazy about doing things just so.  I like to just go with my instincts and toss stuff together that seems like it would be good.  Great for cooking…but a real disaster for baking.  Every once in a while I come across what I call a cook’s baking recipe… meaning it is fairly fool proof and has many opportunities for tinkering.  This particular recipe for rhubarb cake came off of my CSA farm’s website and I thought I would pass it along to  those out there who are trying to figure out what to do with their own evil celery.rhubarb cake

Now…here comes the fun part…the tinkering.  Next time I make this I am going to reduce the amount of butter by at least 3 tbs for both health and flavor reasons.  The butter/fat in the cake felt like it coated my tongue…dulling the natural thrill of rhubarb’s tartness.  Also…the cake batter had no sweetener in it and I felt it could use it.  I am thinking a little local honey action.  My third tinker would be to reduce the amount of sugar added to the rhubarb and add a naturally sweet fruit…like berries…if I can ever manage to wrangle a few away from the fruit bats I am raising.  I had considered the whole wheat option to increase the nutrition but honestly think it would make it too heavy.

You might be saying…wait a minute Needley…why are you saying this is a good recipe if you pretty much have decided to revamp the whole thing?  It is a good recipe because it CAN be revamped and still come out looking like a rhubarb cake.  You pretty much CAN”T screw it up…unless you add arsnic in it or something.  Heck…it would still look good- just wouldn’t be a big hit at the school bake sale.



Garbage Soup Is The Tops

Posted by organicneedle in csa, CSA/ Local Food, recipes

Last night I looked in the fridge and saw a shelf of tops: turnip tops, beet tops, radish tops.  This is definitely one of the challenges of being in a CSA. Off season, most of us buy our root veggies post haircut and never have to deal with their less popular parts. Last year we had the worms to deal with any veggie tops that didn’t quite make it onto the weekly menu…but this year we are on our own. Since reckless food wasting just plain makes me feel dirty…we will be trying to eat everythingpot this year.

So…what did I do with nature’s fuzzy little hairdos? I also happened to have the pitiful remains of a chicken devoured by my offspring… which usually means soup night. (Especially as we defend ourselves against the evil and ever present piggie flu.) So I boiled down the chicken bits in some leftover veggie stock, added all the root tops cut up, tossed in a little tamari and tofu and turned what I would have previously viewed as a pile of garbage into a very tasty and nutritiously kick-ass soup.  (This could easily be made vegan by totally skipping the fowl.) In fact, I made a giant stock pot full and by time my crew got done with it there was hardly enough left for a lunch today.  Not bad for a pot of garbage, hey?



Better Late Than Never: NYC CSA

Posted by organicneedle in csa, CSA/ Local Food

As I stuffed my radish hole with the first week’s bounty I realized I completely dropped the ball about reminding you guys to check out Just Food to find a CSA of your very own. (Because I ain’t sharing, folks.  Not one tiny turnip.) Fortunately, it seems some CSAs still actually have openings for you latecomers.

Why join a CSA? Well, rabbit, I’m glad you asked. Joining a CSA is a FANTASTIC way to support local food and to support the kind of agriculture that meets your standards. We chose one that we can walk to the pickup location, except when the big melons come in (yes…I said big melons…get over it) and whose mattproduce comes from an organic farm, Golden Earthworm. By supporting this organic farm we are ensuring that farmer Matt, seen holding his turnips, can actually be a full time farmer and spend his time and energy making sure things are done right, which means a whole lot less chemical gets dumped into our area. Win-win, no? Plus, you will be getting to know your local crops and that crazy and forgotten concept of seasons. Oh…did I mention the food? Sweet sassy molassy…it is good stuff. Seriously…the difference between something plucked from the field the same day and the vegetable shaped stuff you find petrified under the plastic at your local Stop&Rob is unbelievable. It is like comparing a perfect bottle of Sancerre to a moldy box of Boones.

So, if you haven’t taken the plunge…see what you can find. If the one you want is full, make sure you get your name on the contact list for next season. Ours closes out almost immediately with very few openings for new members so you need to be ready to pounce to get hands on the goods. If you are worried it will be too much produce…think about splitting with a friend for the first season. Pretty mush guarantee you will want your own share the next season. Heck…I have my own full share and I still think about stealing other people’s radishes while their backs are turned. But that would be very wrong. Very tasty…but very wrong.



Tell Me About Your Cans

Posted by organicneedle in CSA/ Local Food

can Ok…so last week I told you about my adventures in pantry stocking and my concern over the complete lack of local options. Now that I have whined about it I guess I should actually attempt to DO something about it. I can get my hands on plenty of local produce from about June-November. Last year I even tried my hand at preserving a few items from the CSA through freezing. The results were mixed. The zucchini held up well and I still have a few bags left for zucchini bread. The tomato based sauces like ratatouille I tried to cook and freeze came out not so great…in fact freezer burnt, watery, with a lingering gym sock sort of quality. Everything else ended up down our greedy little gullets within seconds of coming home. I still plan on freezing a few things this year, like zucchini and maybe fresh berries, but in a power outage all the freezer goods in the world aren’t going to feed my ravenous brood.

So…that leaves me with the obvious…yet painful…and labor intensive choice of canning. My grandparents canned, and my parents canned and as a youngster I canned. All I remember of the process was it being a huge pain in the rump and it requiring the boiling of enough equipment to create a shuttle to the moon…which I would have gladly boarded free of charge on any given canning day. So my big question for all of you out there with some canning knowledge is how does one can on a very small, very urban, very lazy scale? Do you need all of that equipment? What is the easiest to can? I would definitely like to can tomatoes considering I, in my CSA season opener enthusiasm, ordered an extra 20lb share of the beauties without a whole lot of thought as to how I am going to preserve them. I also would like to do some fruit…but without all the sugar. What fruits can be done without sugar?  And how? Maybe corn? Rhubarb? Beets? Peaches?

I need help…idiot proof canning instructions. Botulism prevention would be a plus.

I also need equipment.    Any thoughts?  There is the simple or the fancy.  The black is about $25 and is …just a pot with a rack.  The silver number goes for about $90 and is also a pressure cooker.  Both do about 7 quarts at a time.  canner


Any recommendations for jars?  I thought about Craig’s list…but might not get exactly what I need.  Any good source recommendations?

Oh…one more thing…can one of you actually fly here…do the canning for me…clean up afterward…and then spoon feed my the preserves.  Thanks.  Oh…and watching you can may make feet sore…so maybe a little foot rub to top it off.  If its not too much trouble.



Stocking the Food Pantry:Longevity Vs Sustainability

Posted by organicneedle in CSA/ Local Food, family, projects

pig The past few weeks I have been pretty busy waiting for the piggie flu to infect my world, watching way too much news coverage, and hoping ol’ Bloomy will just decide to shut down all schools so that my brood and I could take off to the Keys pre 100 degree weather.  It has all been very time consuming. Now I will admit that most of my news watching has only aided in increasing my already slightly neurotic germaphobia, but there has been a tiny kernel of enlightenment.

So…here it is.  Living in one of the world’s biggest cities that literally never shuts down, I haven’t done too much planning in terms of stocking a pantry in case of a food shortage. After 9/11 my husband went through a period of evacuation prep. but this didn’t really extend to the scenario of being shut in without incoming supplies. Watching Mexico City shut most of its doors in quarantine made me think of whether I would be well stocked if such an event happened here. Fortunately for Mexico City, it didn’t last long and things never seemed to get to the point of food shortage, but it isn’t difficult to imagine what would have happened had the virus taken a different turn for a longer period.

After my husband got fairly ill last week and was in bed for 3 days with what turned out to not be the flu, I realized that our supplies were foolishly low. Thankfully, due to urban communal living and having amazing friends and neighbors whom I can rely on for the basics, a short term personal quarantine is livable. But what if we all got sick, or the city simply didn’t have incoming supplies for anyone? Would I, would you, be prepared for a large scale city shutdown or a long term personal quarantine?

So then I had to consider what constitutes a well-stocked pantry. (Keep in mind that space is always an issue.) I decided to approach the question by thinking of the basic nutritional needs met in non-perishables….grains, produce, protein, and fat. (I also had to think about what we would actually want to eat…a choice between Ebola and canned Lima beans would be a really, really, really tough call.)

So…here is what I’ve started with….

Produce : canned peaches and pineapple, apple sauce, fruit preserves, raisins, canned tomatoes, apple juice, Fruitabu (All organic except the peaches, pineapple, and tomatoes.)

Grains : organic brown rice, whole grain packaged pasta, dry cereals, organic oats, packaged granolas, granola bars, whole wheat and white flour and other bread making staples, canned corn, falafel mix

Protein : Dried and canned beans in case cooking isn’t an option, dried lentils, peanut butter, peanuts, almonds, canned tuna, canned salmon, anchovies, turkey jerky, tahini

Fat : sealed olive oil, peanuts, almonds and peanut butter count here too

Convenience Items : salt, pepper, mustard, soy sauce, red curry, various spices, coffee, tea, etc.

head soup Now there are a few things that didn’t thrill my inner greenie about this adventure. One…not everything I wanted could be found readily in organic….like no sugar canned peaches and pineapple. (There are organic tomatoes but in my haste to get the job done I bought what was in stock at the store.) Also…obviously part of the preservation of the products is that they are well and heavily packaged in plastic…meaning bulk and paper is pretty much out. And the whole local thing…not so much. (I plan to try to rectify this a little with the upcoming CSA season…more on my cluelessness in that area later in the week.)

So…what have I missed? What other fruits and veggies can survive the can?   Any tips? What do you consider pantry must-haves? How do you reconcile longevity with sustainability? Or when they shut down your city do you just plan on eating the neighbors?



I Snapped

Posted by organicneedle in CSA/ Local Food

Couldn’t take it any longer. Walked out of the market with $25 in organic berries. Straight from Mexico. They were so pretty and shiny they made my knees weak.  Soooooooo tasty.
Mexico is local to my continent, no? Now if you’ll excuse me I have some ill-gotten gains on which to glut myself.