I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned or not in previous posts, but we belong to a CSA here in town by the name of Stonebridge Farms. Jon and Kayan have been doing it for over 20 years, long before the CSA was the cool thing to do. It’s a beautiful lush property amidst the rocky mountains with established fields, beautiful outbuildings and miraculously, 3 ditches running through the property. While they only have water rights to one ditch, having three running through a single property, especially in Lyons, is beyond rare, it’s damn near impossible. The richness and fertility of the ground is evident everywhere. From the 100+ year old cottonwoods to the numerous old growth apple trees, this is very fertile land. Needless to say, it’s a beautiful property and a special CSA to be a part of.
One of the amazing and most challenging things about belonging to a CSA, especially with only two people, is the volume of vegetables you get each week. Most CSA’s have some sort of option between a full and a half share, however I’m not quite sure if Stonebridge has that option (Kate was the one who signed us up). In any event, the full share is just what it sounds like, a full size allocation of produce, typically suited for a family of four. I have seen a half share broken up one of two ways, either a full share portion every other week -or- a half size portion every week. Generally it’s the farmer’s prerogative as to how they want to do it, but that’s the gist. For the record, we have a full share.
With this amount of produce each week it becomes a challenge to eat it all in that period without wasting any of the farmer’s hard work. That is, unless you implement some sort of preserving plan, which is what we do. You can pretty much preserve anything, even leafy greens if you so choose. There are a range of methods one can use such as, Lacto Fermentation, traditional vinegar based pickle, pureeing and freezing or even just covering in oil. All are viable options to save the fresh veggies you may not get to during the week for later in the year when the gettin’ ain’t so good. This is really the only way to ensure that you have the same quality vegetables in the winter time as you do in the spring and summer. While the base recipe for the pickle brine remains pretty constant regardless of who you talk to, it’s the additional flavorings that you add where the creativity comes in. For instance:
- Cardamon, Coriander and Chili Flakes
- Bay, Anise, All Spice and Caraway
- Smoked Serrano, Fennel, Clove and Bay
- Fennel and Bay
- Aleppo Pepper, Fennel, Black Pepper Corns and Coriander
- 75% Vinegar
- 8% Salt
Even with that opt-ed of sorts about preservation, there is still no better use for great vegetables than when they are at their peak of freshness. When they’re this good it’s your job as a cook to just simply stay out of the way and let the vegetable be itself. In this particular instance we made a quick Kholrabi salad with some sunflower seeds, sesame oil and some spring garlic and onions. Kholrabi is a neat vegetable both in look and in taste. It’s this really neat looking “bulb” like vegetable, however it’s actually above the ground and the leaves grow off of the bulb. After peeling the outer layer, which can be either green or purple, the flesh is white with a sweet taste and apple like texture. I prefer it raw to cooked, which makes a great main ingredient of a crunchy salad. This combined with some grilled spring onions and spring garlic and we had a great spring vegetable salad to go with our awesome skirt steak from Natural Homestead Beef.
Spring garlic is another vegetable I want to touch on quickly, as it’s the same garlic you use when dried, however the bulbs have not fully matured yet, leaving it with a much sweeter and floral taste. Grilled, it becomes very sweet and is a great addition to just about any plate or dish. If you see these available in the market, be sure to grab some and play around. It’s well worth it.
There is no real “recipe” with this post as it’s all about playing with the bounty of spring. Find the best vegetables you can, play with them now and preserve them for more play time later in the year.