Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 CSA Week 13

I can't remember: Is thirteen an unlucky number, or is it lucky? The thirteenth week of this year's CSA has so far identified itself as neither one nor the other. No one has fallen in the well. We didn't find treasure while harvesting the beans. Nothing has been spooky. We have continued to work in fields that have been unable to fully dry between inputs of rain, and although at their wettest they are a slog to traverse, from amidst their patches of standing water and banks of weeds spread in green occlusion across soil too wet too cultivate we have continued to harvest a diversity of crops appropriate for the month of August. Our tasks have continued their seasonal progression: In the greenhouse we sowed the last seeds of the season nearly six months after sowing the first, and the rate at which we transplant seedlings to our fields has slowed to a near-trickle. We have enjoyed the mild temperatures, the clear air today has been a glimpse of autumn, and after a day of work I have sat down at the library with not a clue what to write in this space. A week so ordinary is indicative of the fact that our routines at this time of year have settled; the rhythm of our days is pleasant and knowable, and we practice active enjoyment of the unremarkable.

The share this week:

Summer Squash
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Purple Filet Beans
Sweet Corn

Notes about the food:

* We did not grow the corn that is offered in this week's share. This was true last year as well, and I'll basically reiterate what I wrote at that time: Because it uses a lot of space for a relatively scant yield, corn is a tricky crop for small-scale farmers. Each corn plant, planted at 1-foot intervals the length of a bed, will grow to be nearly eight feet tall and will produce only one ear of corn. The plant feeds heavily from the soil to attain its height, and it offers little in return. A single ear of corn does not sell for much money, which means that a full bed of corn will use far more of the farm's resources (soil fertility, human labor, etc.) than it is worth. For these reasons and for the space constraints to which we would subject ourselves if we grew enough corn for the CSA, we decided not to grow our own corn. That said, in the CSA model the value of a crop is more than its direct monetary worth: Each distinct crop that we grow adds diversity to the CSA as a whole, and enhances the experience of the subscribers. And because corn is something that we feel safe assuming people like to eat during the summer, we decided to buy corn from a local retailer and offer it in three weeks worth of CSA shares, beginning this week and continuing for the two weeks that follow. This year we are purchasing sweet corn in bulk from Russo's in Watertown. ( What you need to know about this corn is that unlike everything we grow ourselves (that is, everything else in the CSA shares) it has not been grown using organic methods. The difficulties I mentioned with corn are slightly abated by the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They skip some of the steps of soil building and weed management that require so much time on an organic farm, and therefore allow the farmer a slightly improved (again--only slightly) profit on the crop. Because of the quantity we are buying, it is easier for us to source corn grown using non-organic methods.

So: The corn is not organically grown, but we are happy to be supporting a local business, and we're proud to be able to offer corn this year from Russo's. If you are uncomfortable with the contradictory growing methods the corn represents, don't feel obliged to take it. Like I said, the corn is a bonus that we wanted to offer to any of our members who want it, and the monetary value of your share will not be affected if you decline. We're interested in any feedback you have about this issue. Please feel free to leave a comment on this blog or send an email to

* The presence of eggplant in this week's share represents a small triumph. From the beginning of their lives in our fields the the plants were beset upon by a variety of insect pests, and for a while their growth was so stunted and their leaves so ragged that we considered the possibility of having no eggplant to harvest this season. We intensified our focus on the health of these plants: We added fertility to the soil so that they might produce new growth and overcome their damage; we repeatedly cleared the planting beds of weeds that we suspected were creating habitat for harmful insects and using more than their share of resources; and we spent more time than we would have liked removing potato beetles by hand. As a result of these efforts, or as a result of an innate vegetable resiliency, the plants survived and have grown to an admirable size. And the eggplant itself is copious and lovely. We're relieved.

Two recipes to get you started, the first from allrecipes, the second from Gourmet:

Baba Ghanoush

1 eggplant
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Place eggplant on baking sheet, and make holes in the skin with a fork. Roast it for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally, or until soft. Remove from oven and place in a large bowl of cold water. Remove from water and peel skin.

Place eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, sesame seed and garlic in an electric blender, and puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer eggplant to medium-sized mixing bowl, and slowly mix in olive oil. Refrigerate for three hours before serving.

Eggplant Bruschette

1 baguette
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 garlic cloves, whole clove left unpeeled
1 small eggplant
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 375.

Cut off and discard one end of baguette, then cut 12 (1/4-inch-thick) crosswise slices from baguette. Lightly brush one side of each slice with oil (about 1 tablespoon total) and arrange, oiled sides up, on a baking sheet. Toast until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. While toasts are still warm, rub oiled sides with cut side of garlic clove half, then transfer to a rack to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

Halve eggplant lengthwise shallow 1/2-inch long incisions all over cut sides with tip of a paring knife. Arrange eggplant, cut sides up (without crowding), in a shallow baking dish and add unpeeled garlic clove. Sprinkle thyme, rosemary, oregano, sea salt, and pepper over eggplant, then drizzle eggplant and garlic with 2 tablespoons oil.

Bake until garlic is very tender, 30-35 minutes, then transfer garlic to a cutting board and continue to bake eggplant until very tender, 20-25 minutes more. When garlic is cool, squeeze flesh from peel on cutting board.

Transfer eggplant to cutting board and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Scrape out flesh with a spoon onto cutting board, discarding peel. Finely chop eggplant and garlic together and transfer to a bowl. Add parsley and remaining tablespoon oil, then stir until combined well. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Top toasts with eggplant mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

* I like the latter of those recipes because it includes a lot of herbs. Perhaps you saw the New York Times Magazine two Sundays ago in which the food column was devoted to herbs, with special attention paid to parsley. I read the article, and I felt less alone in the world. It included this recipe:

Lemony Parsley-and-Egg Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion chopped
4 cups parsley
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
salt and black pepper
4 eggs
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
Sour cream for garnish, optional

Put the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it melts, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, until it wilts, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in half the stock.

Puree the soup in the pan with an immersion blender, or cool slightly, pour into an upright blender, and puree carefully. Return to the pan with the remaining stock. Heat through over medium-low heat, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Beat together the eggs and lemon juice, then slowly add about 1 cup of the hot soup, whisking all the while. Gradually stir the egg mixture back into the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then stir in the cream if you're using it, or serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream, if you like.

1 comment:

  1. So the hurricane was your fault. I should have figured as much!