Thursday, February 16, 2012

Turnips! How could I forget you? (and why I love CSA's)

I'm a veggie addict. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes are what got me hooked. A weekly box of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits purchased directly from your farmer--decision free. Does it get any better than that?

You don't have to chart out a meal plan before going to the market to avoid farmers' market syndrome (farmers market syndrome: the tendency to either a. buy everything in sight until you're out of cash; or, b: be so overwhelmed you come home with a bag of dates and bunch of beets, requiring a follow up trip to the grocery store to make an actual meal).

You get pushed out of your ruts: what is that green cauliflower on an acid trip? Romanesco?  You try this fractalized cauliflower because how could ever let a CSA veggie go bad? (oh yeah, it happens, and you feel awful. CSA guilt runs deeper than your regular fridge cleaning guilt).

You get creative: two ways to cook cabbage? That's not going to cut it through a winter CSA. Turns out there are a ridiculous number of ways and types of cabbage that will keep you creative through those long winter nights.

You get connected. To a farm. Don't you love those newsletter stories and recipes that come with your box? And, if you're lucky, you get connected to your CSA community in the city. 

I was off the CSA sauce for a couple of years. I sowed my wild oats at the markets, going from farm to farm stand, finding my favorite carrots here and the best beets there. Meeting new farmers along the way. And it was good. But, I was getting back into some veggie buying ruts again. Sure, I'd throw in a kabocha squash or yellow cauliflower to mix things up, but really, who was I kidding, it was all greens, broccoli and sweet potatoes. And turnips? I totally forgot about you. Then, before you knew it, I was buying most of my produce at the local co-op. Luckily, this is a great option, I can buy a lot of local, but I can also buy a lot from Mexico and South America.

I decided it was time to give a CSA a go again--a trial 4 week box spread over 8 weeks, split with a friend. How much more non-committal could I get? Totally against my old, hard core (read: self righteous) credo of supporting a CSA for the full season, but CSA's take many forms and shapes these days. This path allows me to have it all--I can still make those frequent stops at the farmers market and get my CSA fix in despite of being a cook for (mostly) one.

Today, I dug in my veggie crisper newly filled with my CSA booty and found turnips. You'll be surprised to hear, I shuddered. I felt forced to cook something outside of my repertoire. Ugh! Turnips. What do I do with them?? I took a deep breath. I washed them, I cut them into large pieces. I put them into a baking dish, drizzled with olive oil, salted, peppered and thymed them and set them to roasting. What did I find just a short 20 minutes later? Caramelized, delicately sweet, golden goodness. They were so good, I forgot to take a photo.

I'm thankful for my CSA reprieve--it gave me the freedom relax a bit, explore and have fun--I may not be a devout CSA lifer--but it sure is a good to be back again for now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Food Donations Go Local

Local food feeding locals who need it most? It's possible.

After a day of feasting on local food--of being thankful for my favorite season at the market here in San Francisco (hello pears, persimmons and pomegranates! It's been too long. And aren't all those greens in rare form this time of year? )--I've been thinking about the food pantries throughout the Bay Area that are feeding people not just Thanksgiving meals, but every single day. With the cost of living skyrocketing, some people must choose between paying the rent or buying that next meal. I've spent some time serving meals in a local food pantry at Glide Memorial, and I'm always humbled by the diversity of people who gather in line to get free meal--yes you'll see those colorful souls of the street SF is known for, but they are sitting next to the office worker coming from downtown.

So often our movement for seasonal organic produce excludes so many, so often this movement is criticized for it's elitism -- but in San Francisco, fresh produce is not only on the shelves of Whole Foods, but it's making it to the food pantries too. Farm to Family is a statewide program that connects growers and food pantries throughout the state. It just makes sense. In good years growers always have a surplus. Or what about those veggies that aren't picture perfect for market but are perfectly good eating? And for anyone who has had a good season in the garden you know you've always got something to share at the peak of the season, or sometimes you have a desperate need to get rid of those squash! But can be incredibly hard to find ways of donating that food, Farm to Family fills the gap.

Another piece of the SF foodie movement that is growing strong is small vendors making everything from pickles to sausage--but they don't have many places to sell them. Enter the New Taste Marketplace-- once a month the site of the food pantry at a local church becomes a place where local vendors sell their wares for donations to the food pantry--foodies pay a donation to get in and then the vendors in turn also donate money to the food bank. The Food Pantry feeds more than 600 families each week at a farmers market style food pantry. The next New Taste Marketplace is coming up this Saturday, December 10th. This is the kind of holiday shopping I can get behind.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Urban Farming in SF: a tour begins

There's something I love about getting to know a garden, one garden, through the four seasons. You learn how the sun changes its arc in the garden throughout the year. You know how the finished compost feels, how the soil smells on your clothes after a long days work, you know the history of the place and you have a vision of its future.

But lately I've been inspired by farm touring, visiting and working on projects throughout the city. Workdays are where you really discover a place -- you put your hands in the soil, you discover where the weeds are hiding out, you turn the compost, you make a deal with a willow tree and prune it to shed much needed sunshine on the veggie plots. I get inspired by: garden design, new compost systems, problem solving, tool sheds, the people of the garden, the potlucks, and the bounty at every urban garden I visit.

School garden workdays are the best -- parents, kids, and garden teachers coming together to get the garden in shape for a new season. I recently made the trip to my friend Brooke's beautiful garden at the SF Community School. I came late in the day but I took on the big willow pruning project with Brooke's friends, met dedicated parents learning to help water for the summer, and got a tour of the garden.

a dad from the school MacGuyvered organization in the shed!

thanks for sharing your garden Brooke!!

stumbling upon urban farming interweb gems

I've spent the past few days of work delving into the world of social media. And I've stumbled upon so many good urban ag and food policy pieces along the's a couple worth sharing: check out this video of one of my inspirations: urban homesteader/author/comedian Novella Carpenter.

And Pollan hits the NY Times Book Review with an interesting perspective on the food movement -- yes, the first section is Pollan you've already heard, and yes, it is a survey of food mov't lit, but skim through to the second section and you'll start hitting new territory. (and I must admit, I'm enamored with the design of the NYT Book Review online, worth a visit unto itself...). What does the food movement look like? And where will it go? It's up to us to shape it...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm keeping up the calendar...

Hi all -- Yes, I've been a terrible blogger lately, my hope is to remedy that soon...BUT I am keeping up the calendar of events. Note I'll start to include a lot of biking adventures on the event list since I'm loving my bike right now--and it's such a natural extension of my evolution in living sustainably.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meals on Wheels -- is more than just a meal

If you're in the Bay, pick up the latest issue of Commonground and see my article on Meals on Wheels! It was a really fun one to write despite the quick turn-around, I learned a lot and got to talk to the amazingly humble and inspiring Boulevard chef Nancy Oakes.

Good to stretch those writing muscles a little bit more...what's next?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Progress report: May is Biking There

36 miles logged, 280 minutes biked. And yes, I can feel it and it feels good.

BUT I'm officially stumped by my bag dilemma. Riding with my dying bagpack is just not going to cut it -- it's not comfortable, sweaty back and all. Many considerations follow: To get panniers or to not? New messenger bag or two strapper? A fold-able side basket or front. I want to stay light and airy -- hard for my Virgo tendencies to bring EVERYTHING with me everywhere. I want to be flexible. I'd like to have the same stuff for commuting and for casual rides around to see friends.

The search bike.