May 10, 2011

Lancaster Farm Fresh: Week 1

Up until now, this blog has been sorely lacking in pictures, but fear not!  The tedium of my words is about to end, and entertainment in the form of images is here!  Unfortunately, I have a simple point-n-shoot so the pictures are only okay, but I'll still be providing my running commentary in order to give you the best possible comprehensive review.

So without further ado, allow me to present the share list.

Full Share

1 Bunch White Scallions from Friends Road Organics
1 Bunch French Breakfast Radishes from Outback Farm
1 Bunch Asparagus from Farmdale Organics
1 Bunch Chives from Noble Herbs
1 Bag Spinach from Autumn Blend Organics
1 Bunch Rhubarb from Country View Produce
1 Package Portabella Caps from Mother Earth Organics
1 Bunch Romaine Lettuce (farm unknown)

Note:  The e-mail originally listed 1 Head Radicchio from Autumn Blend Organics, but when we opened the box, there was a small (seriously small) head of what looked like romaine lettuce.  It was so tiny, it wouldn't have made a plate of side salad for one person.  It was actually a little perplexing.  Luckily, Lancanster provides a swap box, and you are allowed to pick out a different vegetable provided you put your rejected vegetable in for someone else to stare at how tiny it is.  Anyway, we swapped it for a nice large bag of watercress, so it worked out.

With our haul in hand, we hurried home to admire our vegetables, take pictures, and take nibbles of watercress.  However, embarrassingly, I didn't eat my veggies that day.  I didn't actually get to any of my CSA vegetables until 4 days later.  Since I had to travel out of town for the weekend, I caved into my bad food craving Wednesday evening and ate a bunch of buffalo chicken wings for dinner instead.  I'm hanging my head in shame.

However, 4 days later, as soon as I made it home, I took the vegetables to task, and I think they performed quite well.  Since the first boxes are typically a little more sparse, I ended up using about half of my share (half of the full share) to make a salad for two.  Spinach, watercress, and sliced French breakfast radishes were tossed with a lemon chive caper dressing, and finally topped with goat cheese crumbles.  It tasted great!  What surprised me the most was the flavor of the spinach.  What we received was more mature spinach, in between baby spinach and the large bunches of leafy, dark green spinach you can buy at the grocery, yet it was tender and sweet, and fully of spinach-y goodness.  It was perfect in salad.  In fact, all the vegetables in the salad had really great flavor.  The watercress was zesty without being bitter, and the radishes were slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and perfectly crisp .

Since we also received a gigantic bunch of chives, I made a chive pesto with the most of it, also adding one small bunch of spinach.  Whizzed it all together, using an immersion blender, with olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh mint leaves from a pot given to me by a friend.  The resulting flavor was pretty surprising, with a mild taste of chive and a upfront pepperiness.  The flavor of the mint wafting in the background was really pleasant and gave the whole thing a refreshing lift.  I will definitely be adding mint to my other pesto experiments.  I used the pesto in a pasta dish with the remaining asparagus and one (giant) portabello mushroom.  It made a light supper, and everything shone through quite well.  Two thumbs up for the CSA so far!

If I had a negative thing to say, it would be that the spring onions were not nearly up to par with the other vegetables.  They were a little wilted and sad on arrival, and didn't improve at all with time spent in the fridge.  I threw them into another dish I made, where their presence was perfectly fine, but not significantly different from spring onions from a grocery store.  I think this is a good time to remind ourselves that we are participating in a CSA for reasons other than the vegetables are better.  Most of the time, I suspect they will be, but some of the time, they won't be, and this is normal and to be expected.  Supporting a CSA means supporting better, healthier farming practices and attempting to reduce our carbon print by eating more locally.  Our standard for vegetables from CSA is that they should at least match what we can get from conventional stores and distribution systems, and thus far, they match and exceed.  If a straggler sneaks in once in a while, that's really part of caveat emptor.   So long as Lancaster manages to keep most of their produce up to the standard of the other vegetables I received in my share this week, I have no cause for complaints.

Next up, we skip one week, and regular delivery picks up the week after.  A bit odd, but it's not a big deal.  It's back to the grocery store for now.

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