Monday, July 07, 2008

First Visit to Sophia Garden and Spinning with Salads

The summer sun beats down on my neck as I walk across the field towards the pickup area for newly harvested vegetables at Sophia Garden. There is a tented area to shade the vegetables and two volunteers are nearby to give direction.

I ask how the system works, mentioning that my parents picked up my share the first time. “You’re that guy?” asked a volunteer.

I do a double take. Is she talking to me?

She continues. “Your father said YOU should have been here picking up the vegetables last time. He said it was YOUR job.”

She then signals to another volunteer. “Chris, this is the guy whose parents picked up his vegetables last time.”

It’s like someone is shining a spotlight on me. I’m already overly sensitive, since I haven’t logged a single hour of volunteer time at the garden, and the summer seems like it’s slipping away. I’ve never been publicly ridiculed by a volunteer at an organic garden, and somehow I suspect this may be my outspoken father’s method for getting me to nominate someone else to stand in for me the next time I am unable to make a pickup.

I choose, instead to focus on my vegetables, and while I had hoped for some new options in this week’s harvest, I see that the bumper crop of lettuce continues. There’s quite a bit of butter lettuce and red and green romaine and more snap peas and shell peas. There’s also a head of bok choy, which I’ve never cooked, a stalk called tat choy and even two small but perfectly shaped beets. You take what you get in community agriculture.

I take a quick stroll through the garden, enticed by what is to come. It’s still early in the season, but there looks like there will be more beets, more lettuce, and tomatoes on the way. As I’m leaving I pass the tool shed where the sign up sheet for volunteer work hours is hanging. I pause, and then continue on my merry way, narrowly avoiding the bolt of lightening from heaven that I’m sure has just crashed down behind me. As you may recall, Sophia Garden is the community mission of a group of Dominican nuns, so while I’m doing something good for the Earth with my support, I am slightly concerned about the theological implications of my neglect of duties.

Back home, I wash some of the produce and begin to plan my menus based on the yield. I can still feel the summer heat emanating off the new produce as I place it in the vegetable crisper. It looks like it will be another week of spinning salads, but there are some interesting new twists. As the days progress, I will serve up a composed salad on a bed of butter lettuce with chicken and pickled asparagus from rick’s picks, garnished with the yellow flowers from the tat choy, that taste like broccoli:

I will get snappy with snap peas, including a snap pea saffron risotto, and a salad of snap peas, yellow zucchini and whole wheat orzo:

I will read up on bok choy and finally settle on Mark Bittman’s preparation of Bok Choy, Mediterranean Style, where the greens are sautéed with olive oil, capers and brine-cured olives.

And, when I’m completely bereft of ideas, I will pile the leftovers on a massive platter of romaine lettuce:

Wake me from my salad stupor when the zucchini crop comes in!

©2008 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

First of all, your parents are tough (on you!) -- but I'll bet they had a great time at the farm, which looks really beautiful. One thing that's great about CSAs is that they often grow a great variety of greens, especially Asian greens, that are hard to find in most markets and farm stands.

Anonymous said...

You better stop getting snappy with your snap peas and "snap to" on that volunteer work!

Kalyn Denny said...

All those dishes look so delicious! If I didn't have a garden, I'd definitely want to get a CSA delivery!

Kathy said...

Guess this means your dad isn't going to sub for you in your volunteer duties. I'm really enjoying seeing the different salads that you come up with.

Rochelle R. said...

I have never heard of tat choy. In fact I couldn't even find it on the internet. It looks interesting. I would have never thought to cook bok choy in an mediterranean style, it looks very tasty.