Community supported agriculture programs are experiencing a boom across the country. CSA's enable individuals to buy a share of a local farm's weekly harvest. Food writer Kathy Gunst prepares a meal with fresh produce from a CSA in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
GELLERMAN: Most of us are omnivores. We eat plants and animals. Then, there are vegetarians who eat mostly veggies. And vegans who are stricter and don’t even eat honey or eggs. And then there are “locavores.” That is, people who try to cook and eat food that is grown less than 100 miles from where they live. Today we continue our coverage of eating locally with another audio postcard about community supported agriculture. CSA’s enable people to buy into a weekly share of a local farm’s produce.
Living on Earth’s Ian Gray has a share in Red Fire Farm’s CSA. Food writer Kathy Gunst recently accompanied Ian when he went to pick up his share. The challenge to Kathy: to whip up a dish from what they got. They were there as Jarrett Man, assistant manager of Red Fire Farm CSA, unloaded a truck of fresh produce in Cambridge, MA.
GUNST: So, how many families do you guess you might be feeding this summer?
MAN: We have somewhere in the like 450 member range shares.
GRAY: That’s huge.
MAN: Yeah, most of it goes into Boston. I think 330 every week into Boston. I mean we turned down probably 70 or 80 people from this site.
GUNST: Why would someone in Cambridge care weather their spinach came from your organic farm or they bought it at a co-op or they bought it at a Whole Foods? Why bother with this?
Kathy Gunst and Ian Gray speak with Jarrett Man, assistant manager of Red Fire Farm, in Granby, Massachusetts. (Photo: Amy Fish)
MAN: Well, some people are just in it because it’s the freshest thing you can get. You know some of this stuff we harvested literally this morning. They also are engaging in a community to a certain sense. Their language even is quite telling. They’ll say, “oh this is our farm, this is my farm.” It’s not their farm but they feel like they’re a part of it. I think it’s part of this connection to the land increasingly, you go into this grocery store and everything is wrapped in plastic and who knows where the hell it’s from. And when people don’t feel connected to their food there’s something lost, whether or not they realize it. And so people hungering for this connection can find it through CSAs.
GUNST: Thank you so much that was awesome.
GRAY: Ok, wow. Now we have to gather up all of our grub and then we’re going to go back and cook it.
[MUSIC: Michel Camilo “Just Now” from ‘Spirit of the Moment’ (Telarc International Corp. – 2007)]
GRAY: Ok, so we’re in the kitchen now and we’re going to start pulling stuff out. Do you have an idea of what you’re going to make?
GUNST: I have so many ideas. This is so different from last time where we had greens and we had vegetables that like not A-list stuff, right. We had kale and turnips last time. This is A-list vegetables. We have gorgeous zucchini and yellow squash. We have the first tomatoes of the season. Parsley that is so crunchy and full of flavor. String beans, scallions, cucumbers, but what really got me were these beautiful little beets. They’re the size of not even a baseball, they’re smaller than that.
GRAY: The size of a mouse.
GUNST: Eww! (laughs)
GRAY: Sorry they look like mice from the long root tails there.
GUNST: But they’re so fresh and beautiful. I have this really cool dish called beets Napoleon. So, I’m just going to start by rinsing the beets and then wrapping them in foil and popping them in a hot oven. We’re going to roast them until they’re tender. And then I’m going to slice them and then we’re going to reassemble them with a thin layer of herbed goat cheese in between.
So these beats already have the tops removed so I’m just going to rinse them and you could just put them in a roasting pan, but if you wrap them in some foil it tends to keep the juices in in a really nice way. They’re going to take about 45 minutes to an hour really at about 425 degrees. Ok, we’re just going to pop them in and forget about that. But we’re going to make the goat cheese filling and take a look at the rest of the produce.
Ok, so I’m just using the back of a spoon to soften the goat cheese and it crumbles right up. And you can see it’s a little bit dry when you try to crumble it so we add just about a table spoon or two of milk. And add some pepper and salt to the goat cheese.
It’s just mixed with a little bit of milk. Alright, so we’ll add about a tablespoon of fresh dill chopped but this could be any herb. You could use basil, you could use thyme, lemon verbena, what ever you have. That’s it. If you wanted to get fancy you could make a really simple green sauce by putting some scallions, and parsley and a little bit of olive oil and maybe a clove of garlic into a food processor and whirl it up, and you’d have a beautiful green sauce to put around your beet Napoleons. So, we have the goat cheese filling done and we’ll just wait for the beets and then we’ll assemble the Napoleons.
All right, let’s check the beets. It’s been, it’s been almost an hour. Look how juicy they are. These are perfect. So, the best way to deal with the beets once they’ve cooled is keep them in the tin foil and put them in your sink. Because, beet juice tends to stain. Like I have beautiful maroon fingers right now but that will come off. So, I’m just trimming of the ends. And I’m using my hands they still are quite hot. You see that? The peel just comes right off.
Ok, and you want to cut each beet into, what is that a quarter of an inch? And this part is really fun. This is the kind of thing you could even do with a kid. It’s almost like decorating a cake you get to layer these beautiful beet slices with this pure white herbed goat cheese. And you can make these two layers or you can tower them up and do three. I’ll look for a little guy on top. And that’s your beet Napoleon. Very arty and fun and you get to play with your food.
GELLERMAN: Kathy Gunst is author of “Stonewall Kitchen Favorites.” You can find the recipe for Kathy’s beet Napoleons and other dishes she whipped up with Ian at loe dot org. Later this fall, Kathy and Ian pick up another box from the Red Fire Farm CSA and we’ll be there to see what she comes up with.
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