Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Box of Good Stuff

My CSA box came yesterday--hooray! "CSA" stands for "community-supported agriculture." The concept pairs farmers and a group of consumers together and cuts out the middleman. Typically, participants (like me) pledge to pay--say, once a quarter--for a weekly or biweekly box of veggies and fruits. The farmer delivers what's fabulously fresh and in season to an agreed-upon location. It could be a community center, a place of worship, even an obliging coffee house. I split a box every other week with a friend. When we open the box up together, it's like a little party full of surprise gifts!

Typically the goods are organically grown (all ours are), and sometimes the farmer bands together with other organic farmers down the road or one field over to pool the best of their offerings. It's a win/win situation, with growers getting more support for pesticide-free farming and a greater variety of vegetables and fruit available for the consumers to enjoy.

I joined a CSA program a year ago. I love it. The produce comes from Tierra Miguel Foundations, located outside the Greater Los Angeles area. This is most of the haul from my most recent, biweekly box:

Look at those colors! The radishes are just shrieking to be snacked on during a ball game, with a side of hummus dip:
I never have to worry about having too many carrots in a house where all the people and dogs alike looooove carrots:

This box yielded scads of cherry tomatoes. There was enough to cut them in halves and cover two large pizzas with them and still have plenty left over for snacks and salad. I drizzled the little 'matoes in olive oil, sprinkled on sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and freshly chopped oregano, and quick-roasted them at 500 degrees for 10 minutes. Put them on home-made pizza dough and topped with various cheeses for dinner last night. Yum! I would've thought it was too late in the season for such abundant, tasty little tomatoes, but I guess in the drier, hotter inland valley where our produce comes from, it's still late summer:

And strawberries! I'm baffled; isn't strawberry season over, by many weeks? How were these so sweet and perfume-y? They didn't last the afternoon, as I devoured them, with a little side dish of brown sugar and a pot of hot tea:

Uhhh, okay...I had no blinkin' idea what this is. Some sort of Swiss Chard? I'll have to consult the Cook's Thesaurus for this one. It's a great visual reference book online that covers all sorts of stuff, from cooking utensils to every fruit and veggie you've ever heard of, and a lot you haven't:

But in the meantime, would you look at those beautiful purple stems?

Ummm, I'm thinking these are baby bok choy and baby spinach? It's Cook's Thesaurus for these boys, too. If I'm right, some will end up in a stir fry and some I'll add at the last minute to a big pot of home-made soup.

Uh-oh. These are seriously gnarly dudes. They look like you plant them and next spring you get pretty bulb flowers!

No, wait: I know! Jerusalem Artichokes! Also called Sunchokes. Okay, Daughter #1 emailed me a great recipe for a soup made with these, flavored with onions, saffron, and lemon.

Umm, look at the dude in the center of the pileup:

Doesn't he look like a pointy-nosed hedgehog? Cuuuute!

Yikes! Okra. I've met my match. This is Southern food, and I am so not a Southern cook. I'm going to have to Google up a recipe, maybe from Martha Stewart or Epicurious or maybe one of my favorite foodie bloggers.

Time to get researching. Wish me luck!

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