Sunday, 25 September 2011

Aside #5: Community Supported Agriculture: Update

SmartCooks here.

September 27, 2011 Update:

1st first basket arrived, as promised.  It was delivered to the back deck and, yes, I remembered to put out the cooler, with an ice pack in it. 

Here's the picture of all the loot.  It feels like Christmas.  14 different types of vegetables, from last of the season corn, peppers, heirloom carrots, Japanese radish, golden beets, tomatoes, micro greens, arugula, bok choy, fingerling potatoes, and a few things I have yet to identify by name.  

The corn, tomatoes, and lettuce have already been sampled and were delicious.  Tonight is heirloom carrots and bok choy.  Meat seems like an afterthought. The only thing I did wrong was buy a bit too much on the weekend ... like mushrooms .. so the fridge is full! I also added an extra lot of heirloom carrots which I definitely didn't need. 

So, neighbours, friends, colleagues may end up with food.  I'm also interested in seeing what holds up for more than a week. It still might make more sense to split a basket, even on a two-week schedule. Hmmm. 

Note to IW:  Watch out.  Zucchini bread being made tonight with Raz el Hanout.  You are getting a loaf! (if it turns out of course).  Thank you thank you.



September 25, 2011 

(((First, a Note from the SmartCooks Publisher....  as I've said... this is still a trial. I'm having issues with posting pictures from a mac, hitting publish, but they don't show on a PC.  I then have to republish via a PC.  Will have to noodle through that one.  So, for you watchers, if no pix, hung in till Monday.))) 

SmartCooks here.  

Update on all the research I did on Community Supported Agriculture.  In the end, I decided on number 2 in the original blog.  Bryson's Farms .  For now anyway.

My reasoning went like this:

---------- Service:  Bryson's has a year-round service, something many of the CSA's do not.  I wanted to get into the habit of using only local vegetables during the winter months.

---------- Flexibility:  Their service is flexible -- you can start and stop at any time.  This doesn't appear to be an option with many of the CSAs.  You order for a season, with some optional start/stop dates.

---------- Flexibility Again:  It's also flexible in terms of weekly or biweekly.  I chose biweekly as I doubt very much that one person aka me will go through the vegetables in a basket in one week's time.  It's not quantity, I'm after.... it's local, different, more interesting vegetables. 

----------- Baskets:  Contents are variable but within a defined set so I know what I'm getting.  For September-October they expect the list below:

  • Peruvian Purple Fingerlings
  • Mixed Baby Leaf Salad Greens and/or Baby Spinach 
  • Red and/or Purple Carrots
  • Sweet Corn
  • Mixed Chioggia (hard to find!) or White Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Japanese Pumpkin
  • Cauliflower
  • Baby Parsnips
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Baby Bak Choy (a personal favourite, with garlic)
  • Oriental Cooking Greens
  • Red Turnips with fresh tops
  • Melons 

This Week's Basket (September 27, 2011)

------------ Delivery is Tuesdays to this whole area.  It's all done by e-mail (hurrah! so on my time) and I received detailed instructions about putting the picnic baskets (hard, not soft-covered etc) on back deck and it will go in there.)  

------------ A standard basket will consist of:

-------------------- Potatoes:  they don't predict which type.. depends on what's ripe on the farm.  They have dozens of varieties but I'm betting fingerling.

-------------------- Heirloom Tomatoes:  get 'em while we can (yellow, purple, striped green (personal favourite in a salad).  The tomatoes keep longer than the standard bland stuff in the supermarkets and the tomato sauces .... have I mentioned these ... well, they're superb.  I plan to post on that one soon so I don't forget what I did as keeping track of good recipes is one of the main reasons I'm doing this. 

-------------------- Greens:  From their pix, looks to be a combo of about a dozen types of spinach, salad greens, mache, kale, beet tops etc.  Their chef has posted a recipe for Beet Tops that looks intriguing.   (And, yes, I picked a red 'Green' to show).  Red beet tops.  

-------------------- Micro Greens:  purple radish, cabbage tops, arugula.... all the salad toppings. This one is white Kohlrabi, which tastes a bit like cabbage and has a slight crunch.  It is refreshing in a salad.  

-------------------- Squash:  variety. I tried the itty bitty Sweet Dumpling striped squash this week with chicken and found it a bit seedy. Website says supposed to be able to eat it skin and all... I didn't.  But, hey... I'm betting the box has a slightly bigger acorn or butternut.  Squash season is upon us.  

I added in a $5 bunch of heirloom carrots.  I julienne them, eat them raw, cook them in EVOO and thyme ... all yumm... 


--------- Added goodies:  Bryson's also has a few added features that I like -- frozen local tomato sauce that I can add to my weekly order.  I've been making my own exclusively the past few months (postings to follow) and doubt I will ever again use a jar from a store.  The taste is incomparable.  No salt, no preservatives... yummy heirloom tomato sauce.  Hubby and I both agree on this one!  Makes a Pasta Perfect dinner.  

---------- Future goodies:  Plus, they've recently added breads that are available at the Fieldhouse (Parkdale Market) and offer Bryson organic beef from time to time (will watch for their newsletter.  I do NOT want half a cow... bleech).

--------- Technology:  They do it all by email (think I already said yeah but, if not, YEAH!).  Changes go in automatically.  Can start/stop same way.  They send a confirmation on Sundays so can make changes by 6 p.m. for Tuesday deliveries.  I like that.  I can access from whenever/wherever.  Fits my lifestyle.  They reply promptly, even with computer generated acknowledgements.  I like that.  I emailed a couple of the smaller CSAs Qs about what's in a standard basket etc. and no replies from the smallies in over a two-week period.  Their websites say patience... they are out in the fields but you have to balance that with being left out standing in the field by the competition too.  Anyway, haven't written anyone off for next summer.  

---------- Price:  $50 biweekly, comes off credit card.  Comparable with other services I checked out.  I easily spend $25 a week on vegetables at Herb and Spice or Parkdale so no issue there.... It's an added bargain when I take into consideration what I am NOT spending.  I take my lunch every day (salad made night before) and I spend nothing at lunches anymore.  Bonus.  I only have to figure out meat for dinner ... I tend to take out the cornucopia of vegey choices, spread them on the island and decide the night's selection, if I haven't decided in advance.  In theory, I should be saving on overall grocery bills too.  

------------ Research:  For clients, they have a web page (with pix) devoted to each type of vegetable and the varieties grown in their fields.  I find it all fascinating and appreciate their efforts to share their research and information with us, the consumer.  You don't find that in a supermarket.  

------------ Options R Me:  This does not prevent me from supporting a CSA.  In fact, I'm betting I do Bryson's in the winter, then stop in the spring and do one of the upstart CSAs for the summer months, like Rainbow Heritage, whose heirloom vegetables have been in my salad lunches every day the past two weeks.  


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