I have to admit to feeling a tad apprehensive when I saw my CSA box this week. There seemed to be a lot of green. A cabbage the size of a basketball, a giant bundle of kale, another of Swiss chard, English shelling peas, lettuce, beets with greens, and small pale-orange carrots with green tops. Mutant carrots, in fact.
"This carrot has a penis!" exclaimed Potato Non Grata, holding it up for me. "Freaky!"
If so, it was an extremely well-endowed carrot, more like a tripod. There was also a female-version carrot, if you have that kind of imagination. (We do.) Fortunately, there were two baskets of sweet, perfectly ripe strawberries for us to dive into while I perused the Eatwell Farm newsletter wondering what on earth I was going to do with all these greens.
I started idly skimming an essay in the newsletter by Tom McElderry, Eatwell's CSA manager. "The first week it's new and fun, the second week you struggle to find the time to cook everything, and then the third box arrives," he wrote. "In it you find the cabbage you're sick of, the beets that are piling up in your crisper, and a crinkly new vegetable you can't identify. What gives? You start to doubt whether you're getting a very good deal."
It was like he was reading my mind.
McElderry then proceeeded to tell me what gives. He explained how the commodification of food causes waste, because consumers won't buy food with cosmetic flaws, and such vegetables are thrown away. (I eyed the freaky carrots guiltily.) Farmers then choose varieties that will look good, but often taste less so. He talked about biodiversity and strip-mining the soil: "If you've got to sell as cheaply as the next guy, you've got to copy his irresponsible farming practices." And lastly, he makes a great case for cooking: "We work to make money to buy food. Why not work for food?" That means cooking it, and learning to use or preserve abundance. Sure, it's work -- and it feels like it -- but I have to agree with him, it's work that feels good, because as he says, it "connects us to our basic human needs and to our communities."
You can read Tom's essay for yourself on Eatwell's site, on page 3 of the PDF, under the rather obscure title "Is CSA anti-consumer?"
So, I washed and ate the tripod carrot (it was sweet and tender, not like the hard-as-wood big carrots from the store). The rest went into an enormous vat of Spicy Cabbage Salad (recipe in next post). I still don't know what I'm going to do with all the other greens, but one thing is for sure: we're going to eat them, not let them languish in the fridge until I end up throwing them away, like I have done so many times after overly ambitious trips to the store.