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.)



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.



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.



CSA Is Back!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by organicneedle in csa




Meet Romanesco Broccoli. Brassica Oleracea If You’re Nasty.

Posted by organicneedle in csa

broccoliI wish I could report how it tastes…but every time I get near it with a knife it hypnotizes me. Maybe it is right…veggies should rule the universe.



My Hidious Holiday Quilt: APLS Holiday Shopping Report

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, csa, CSA/ Local Food, family, handmade holidays

My approach to the holiday shopping cannot be described as a solid green effort…more of a veeeeeeery unattractive quilt…with a few green squares, but mostly what ever fits the space without me losing my fa la la la mind and kicking any man with a red suit and beard in the nards. Overall…I want to enjoy my holidays and the people I share them with. If in the process I can streamline things, produce a little less waste, perhaps stuff people with an organic pie or two that’s just peachy.(Not local peachy of course because we are a wee past season for that.)

Let’s start with the gifts. I try to do homemade, the most local workmanship known, whenever it will please the receiver. handmadeFor some branches of the family this has always been my practice…not so much a s a green thing…but as a way of showing people I care and think about them. My father’s side of the family are all artistic, crafty, and very into the do-it-yourself type of mentality. (One year my uncle even crotched everyone their own blanket!) Each year I have fun picking a new creation…usually sweet. One year it was Norwegian hazel nut cake with chocolate ganash, another it was homemade chocolate covered pretzels, truffels, assorted cookies, you get the picture. fatpantsThe planning and cooking/baking is what I enjoy most about the season. Now that I have assistants it is even more meaningful and festive. We get a chance to talk about everyone’s favorite foods…favorite colors…and actually spend some time thinking about what will make people smile…and gain 10 lbs. To make this practice even more local this year I am going to try to incorporate my CSA pumpkin puree, stashed in the freezer with love. I’m thinking pumpkin ginger truffles dipped in dark chocolate. Everyone grab your fat pants…you’re going to need them if you’re on the list.

But I would be a big fat liar if I claimed all my squares were green….read on.

As for the kids…not our own…and the adults not so into the homemade thing…if I know specifically what they want I simply get that item. I consider it waste prevention. Otherwise…I go services, more on that later in the week, or books & book gift cards. My one sister-in-law started the book practice a few years ago with my older son. He loved having his own book “credit card.” I in turn started doing this with my other nieces and nephews…and so forth and so forth. Now some people may not consider books a green gift but I do. One…I never consider encouraging reading a waste…ever. Mind expansion and spirit enrichment trump all else. Two…books are one of those things most people pass along when they are done with them. Here, we have a local church that collects unwanted books, has an annual book sale, and donates the profits to Habitat for Humanity. Three…when a book really hits the wall…most are completely recyclable. Now I could go local with purchasing, but I’m afraid my cheapness takes over here. Most local book stores can not even come close to Amazon’s or Barnes & Nobles’ prices. (And yes…both will ship books without plastic if you request it.) Plus, by using the bigger book stores you know people can easily return something if they already have a copy…preventing waste. Let’s call these squares plaid, shall we, with green highlights.

treeWith my own children I try to be “green” by limiting the amount we get & by being sure to get long term toys only. The boys get 1 gift from us, 1 from Santa, and 1 from each other. Stockings are filled with yummies, books, matching PJs and required art supplies. We try to avoid the toy frenzy as much as possible. With tons of aunts, uncles, great aunts & uncles…even a great great aunt & grandmother…they get a sleighful. I also try to head off some of the crap tide by having a few gift ideas for askers well in advance. I have found over the years saying…oh they don’t need anything…results in singing dancing x-mas trees headed for the trash. Again, as far as local…not so much. Now if only someone would start a homemade Lego shop….. Greenish-brown squares? …Like pondmud.

As for food. We don’t host most of the big days…so a take-along organic pie is no big whoop. As far as meals at home, we stick to our usual rules…just with added fat and gin. New Year’s is our one big hosting event. This is my first year of really focusing on the local thing…whole new perspective. For the party we’ve always done the bulk of the shopping from local specialty shops…but the ingredients themselves are far from local. I will certainly be adding some newly discovered local delicacies, and serving a CSA turkey, but I will also NOT be turning down my Norwegian smoked fishies, or super rich French, Spanish, and Italian cheeses. But this year I may try offering organic wines…depending on what my “research” unveils. Local with wines isn’t easy. We don’t have quite the variety that a CA or Europe dweller would have…but maybe a Finger Lake wine or two will find themselves nestled between the Frenchies…if they don’t make me gag. Again…I’ll go plaid with these squares.

**We also participate in the NYC Operation Letters to Santa program where the NYC P.O. collects letters to Santa from underprivileged kids and has volunteers make the kids x-mas wishes come true. They could ask for imported plutonium dipped clubbed baby seal rugs…are you gonna say no? You heartless bastard.** Black as coal…no way around it.

Well…I may have the world’s ugliest holiday quilt…with some green squares, some black ones, some from origins near, and some from tiny ice villages, but it’s mine…and it includes everyone I love…green or not. I sew them all in…nice and close.



Countering the Cucurbit Crisis: Sqaushing My Squash Squimishness and Other Fall Goodies

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

In the words of the great Moose A. Moose…I feel like I’m falling for fall. (If you can identify the song…you have little people infesting your home too.)moose

I have finally learned to appreciate the bounty of autumn. I have mastered the art of the world’s easiest butternut soup, narcoleptic cat easy. You simply steam them in the nuker in pyrex until they are soft, mix them with stock, salt, pepper, and buttermilk. Puree the whole shabang up with an immersion blender, the coolest kitchen gadget EVER, and you have some tasty creamy healthy fall soup. (You can actually use any cucurbit you have rolling around.)

Still tripping over squash…nuke ’em up like noted above and add them to your cheese sauce for a tasty quasi-nutritious mac & cheese. Create your reg. light roux…fat&flour browned for a minute. (I like butter and a little King Arthur’s white but any fat and flour will do.) Add a little mustard, either fresh or powdered. Add your milk and bring to a slight boil. Toss in shredded cheese. Then add your pureed steamed squash. (Puree the squash before adding because pureeing with the cheese makes for a weird texture.) Pour over whatever noodle you have on hand, or even rice and bake the bad boy until crispy on top.

A taste of summer…coleslaw made with fall cabbage, dicon radish, and apples. Shred it all up, add salt, and pepper,a little mayo, and a little white vinegar. Beyond tasty.

Leftover apples and pears…although they go pretty fast in the land of baby chimps. Cook them down into tasty apple/pear sauce to put with pancakes or even to bake with. (Applesauce can replace veggie oil in many quick bread recipes. Another way to localfy your ingredients.) Or use Green Bean’s fantastic rhubarb tart recipe and just replace the rhubarb with whatever fall fruits you have on hand.

Besides being nutritious, local, seasonal, and delicious…I am also finding these dishes are quite budget friendly. If you haven’t joined a CSA keep it in mind for the next season. Not only will you be supporting sustainable agriculture in your neighborhood, but you will be forcing yourself to learn about food and seasons and, perhaps, saving yourself a little green.

Isn’t it funny how watching one’s retirement plan go from escaping to a small remote tropical island to living in a small trailer on Long Island makes one appreciate a cheap meal? Maybe it’s just me.

Retirement Vision Before Stock Market Crash


Retirement Vision After Stock Market Crash



I’m Being Squashed by the Great Pumpkin

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

I currently posses a pumpkin, a giant butternut squash, 2 acorn squashes, a sunshine squash, and what appears to be a confused pumpkin. I do not posses, however, even one measly idea as to what to do with them all. This is a cucurbit crisis people!!!!! pumpkin(OK…I totally just wanted to show off my years of botany study. That 2 seconds of impressing the pants of you cost me tens of thousands of dollars. Fake your awe if you must.)



If You Use Some of My Garbage…I’ll Use Some of Yours

Posted by organicneedle in csa, plastic, recycling

A few weeks back I inquired within my CSA as to whether or not “our” farm would take back the containers that they use for berries and little tomatoes. Didn’t hear back from them or the farm so I assumed they could not for some sanitation reasons. Most of the containers were that green paper material which I could recycle in the paper bin but some were the plastic kind that can’t be recycled here in the city…so I was a little bummed. Fast forward a few weeks and guess what I saw at the CSA distribution? A little reuse rainbow…a sign saying the farmer will indeed take back the containers AND the farm that distributes eggs will take ANY egg cartons. How cool is that? I had been recycling the new paper Trader Joe egg cartons, but a reuse trumps a recycle, no?
This also inspired me to think about “garbage” I could reuse from other people. Like bread bags. I have run out of my old stash and was contemplating buying a box of zippies but realized that there must be a world of bread bags hitting the trash right in my very building. Most of my friends do not make their own bread. (Yes…they can still be my friends even though they don’t bake bread. Hard as it is…I find ways to love them anyway.)

What can you pick from your friend’s trash? (And no…that is not a euphemism. Get your mind out of the gutter and into the dumpster people!)