Have you ever bought food directly from the farmer, through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription? We opted in to one last week and picked up our first box of goodies today. Oh. My. Goodness.
This morning the three-year-old and I grabbed our lime-green, canvas-covered shopping cart and headed to the neighborhood drop-off site to pick up our first batch of groceries, fresh-picked and trucked in just this morningfrom Eatwell Farm, about 75 miles away.
Loads of goodies in our CSA box
The bounty nearly filled our cart! This is most of it, unloaded, washed and ready to put away. Just look at all those peppers and tomatoes–reds and yellows, cherry, grape, pear, salad and Roma. It’s like having a garden, without all the work. Don’t you think?
The diminutive lunch-box peppers are amazing–sweet and salty all at once, crunchy and full of flavor. The basil smells like it was just picked this morning. The parsley has a slightly bitter taste followed by a sweetness that leaves the mouth feeling refreshed.
In place of the planned zucchini this week, they had substituted what appeared to be, in the darkened tunnel that is the pick-up site, green tomatoes. No problem. We expect substitutions. They pick what’s ready that day.
Later, I wondered if those green tomatoes might have been lemon cucumbers, which we adore. Like I said, it was dark in that tunnel, rather damp, and I had a three-year old with me. “I don’t like this place, YayYay,” she said.
At the time, I knew I wouldn’t use green tomatoes so I took advantage of the option to trade. Someone else had already left their sack of ripe tomatoes in the trade bin, so I exchanged my sack of green for ripe. Win-win! Never enough summer tomatoes.
Our box also included three cucumbers, one for eating, two smaller pickling cukes. One of the pickling cucumbers, limp and shriveled, nearly folded in two in my hand. Right away, I immersed it in a bowl of water. Several hours later, it’s almost normal.
Stone fruit a challenge for Eatwell as it is for all shippers
One disappointment: In a brown paper sack, four small, green, rather dirty, hard-as-rocks peaches.
I’d give up chocolate for a month to eat tree-ripened peaches again. Incomparable delights for all five senses.
This isn’t our first produce delivery service, but it is the first true CSA we’ve joined. Without fail, the other services delivered unripe stone fruits. And, as you likely know, we almost never find ripe ones in the grocery stores. Is that true for you, too?
Fact is, I have difficulty finding tree-ripened fruit at the local farmer’s markets as well.
One young woman at the San Francisco Ferry Building market a few weeks ago proudly hawked her “sweet, juicy, ripe peaches.” Handing me a slice of peach she had to cut like an apple, and that crunched in my mouth like an apple, she waited to see my delight. Politely, I hope, I asked her if she knew that peaches weren’t supposed to be hard–like apples.
She said she’d never seen one that didn’t crunch.
A whole generation of children, perhaps two now, are growing up never experiencing a ripe peach that literally falls from the tree into your hand when you reach to pick it.
They’ve never smelled the sweet, perfumy scent, never brushed the thick fuzz away and bit into the slightly bitter skin, then deeper into the unimaginably sweet, flavorful fruit. Never felt the simultaneous hit of juice spurting into their eye, out the corners of their mouth and running down their chin and arm so they have to widen their stance and lean out, letting the drips fall on the ground.
They’ve never licked their arm afterwards, to get every last tidbit of juicy flavor and sweetness.
Not happening this week, either. I put those hard, green little things back in their bag. I’ve never had good luck ripening fruit with this method, but we’ll see how these turn out.
Update on those unripe peaches
(August 27, 2015)
The first two, ripest peaches softened up and got a bit juicy after just a couple of days in the brown bag.
The other two, which you see here, took eight days to “ripen.” They too developed juice and flavor. Sadly, like their sisters before them, eaten plain, they puckered our mouths something awful.
I added a full tablespoon of maple syrup and let them sit in it, stirring now and then, for an hour before they were sweetened enough to eat.
Eatwell Farm is user friendly
Not to worry. Eatwell Farm has a wonderful policy. If we get something sub-par in our box, all we have to do is mention it. They’ll make sure we get something next time to make up for it.
Located near Dixon, CA, in the northern end of the Great Valley, Eatwell Farm is family owned, organic, and increasingly permaculture in practice.
The kindly owners offer guided tours. We took advantage of one last spring and spent a delightful morning with the lovely Emily, who cheerily answered hundreds of questions as we traipsed through the fields pausing to photograph almost everything.
Touring at midday, under bright, white sun, we failed to capture usable photographs. The light wreaked havoc on our cell phone cameras. Still, I will share this one with you, of a few of the “girls,” the free-range, fully pastured chickens they raise.
That’s one of their mobile coops in the background, which keeps them safe from foxes and coyotes at night.
It’s evening as I add these last paragraphs. The little one and I stuffed ourselves with tomatoes and peppers today–perfect counterpoint to a pile of homemade biscuits I had on the counter when she arrived this morning. She loves those biscuits!
What’s in your garden or grocery cart this week? Anything you’re especially looking forward to eating raw, cooking up or baking?