Monday, January 31, 2011

Warm Thoughts on a Winter CSA

A winter CSA requires a bit of imagination on the part of the member. You can’t go to a place. You can’t see the vegetables sprouting, you can’t pick them, and you can’t feel the sun on your back. The experience of picking up the share is unremarkable. It is a cold winter night, and I park my car just outside a gourmet food store in a neighboring town. Inside, I put my signature on a list of roughly 30 names – people who have committed to support New York agriculture through the winter months. I am quickly handed a bundle of frozen vegetables that includes broccoli florets, pureed butternut squash, winter greens and raspberries.

There’s no actual farm experience and the food is frozen. It’s not sexy, or evocative, but it infuses my winter cooking with the best of New York produce. The simply labeled packaging gets you to think about greens and bright colors and the farmers who tilled the soil at a time when one might rather be hibernating. Each package includes the name - the personal brand - of a specific farm. The broccoli florets come from Hepworth Farm in Milton, New York. Hepworth Farms grows certified organic produce, is a seventh generation family farm, and is a business owned and operated by women.

Winter Sun Farms has organized nearly 30 winter CSA shares in the Hudson Valley and New York City regions now through April. There’s a little bonus with every share – tender, sweet, pea sprouts – an infusion of fresh greens that I gobble up on a dark, winter night. It’s a harbinger of spring in January.

All these ideas and images move through my mind as I work in the kitchen. I’m able to think about the origin of the food and the farmer. Chef Rozanne Gold, author of the new book “Radically Simple” has some thought-provoking ideas on her blog about cooking in silence, and considering the people who brought you the food and those who will eat it. She says it makes the whole cooking experience more fulfilling.
Indeed, if I am to be more thoughtful about my ingredients, a healthy, wholesome recipe for brown rice with chicken and broccoli makes a delicious showcase for the produce from Hepworth Farm. I tinker with the recipe and add a little seasoning, and some organic chick peas. The frozen florets steam in the rice liquid until they are bright green and crisp-tender. The vivid flavor of the broccoli is evident.

All the discussion of eating local makes me smile. Does it work? Is it worth it? Will it last? The membership in Winter Sun Farms makes me a more thoughtful, conscious chef and eater - and that works for me.

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Your brown rice and broccoli dish looks so good this morning. Don't you just love brown rice? I'm so impressed with the eating local movement and so glad it's catching on. We all should care where our food comes from.

I didn't realize Rozanne Gold had a blog, so I'm off to check it out. Stay warm T.W. Hopefully spring is on the way.

Mary Bergfeld said...

T.J. I think the movement will last. The only thing that might do it in is a bad economy. Those who are committed and have the deniro will return. I love your chicken and rice casserole. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Deana Sidney said...

TJ, my whole attitude about food did a 360º once I started growing food. My second attitude adjustment came when I got to know farmers at the green market. Knowing the people who work so hard to bring me the things I love... well it makes the food that much more valuable. Now I get invites to visit my favorite meat guy!

I waste much less now and in fact get a good deal of satisfaction coming up with ways to use bits of leftovers. It saves money and honors the work that went into it. Then I take my compost to Union Square every Saturday! I really must look into this Winter CSA.

Barbara said...

Having had many vegetable and herb gardens in my past, I am so appreciative of fresh food, farmer's markets and the like. I think what those farms are doing in the winter is most commendable. We are fortunate in South Florida to have so much available to us year round.

Brown rice has such a lovely nutty flavor; I use it often. I'm happy with just a big bowl of it. Your dish looks lovely and healthy, T. W.

Going to check out cooking in silence....

Gloria Baker said...

Look wonderful! gloria,

~~louise~~ said...

Living in Pennsylvania this past year has honed my appreciation for locally grown food.

I have recently befriended an Amish family and I can tell you from hands on experience, I never knew such a rewarding gardening experience.

I hope to be doing a post in the coming months. You'll be impressed T.W. I guarantee it!

Thanks for sharing your fruitful meal with us, T.W. Stay warm:)

tasteofbeirut said...

People who will get used to the quality of their produce will demand to have it again and again.
Love that salad you made. I am going to look for these little pea greens, so cute!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I'm impressed with the variety that is available with the winter CSA. It's is indeed a big bonus to have tender pea shoots be offered. Those add a wonderful sweet green flavor.

Quay Po Cooks said...

Looks great!

Velva said...

Reading your post, it reminds me that so many people are disconnected from their food. Participating in a CSA is a wonderful way to connect.

As always, I love reading your posts and living vicariously through your CSA, farm experiences and all of your other local food experiences.

Stay warm.

I Wilkerson said...

Interesting idea--picking up frozen CSA food in the winter. SInce I have one bag of brocolli left (frozen myself from last fall's CSA harvest), I will have to check out your recipe!