Expect to Be Surprised: Notes from a First CSA Season

Mike TrueseArticlesLeave a Comment

I’m Dore Nash, your average lower Manhattanite used to eating out or on the run. I joined the CSA onan impulse last year after finding a notice in the Chelsea Piers newsletter. I had no idea what impact that once-a-week full share of vegetables would make on my life.

The Chelsea CSA is volunteer-run cooperative, so I arranged my schedule to meet the shareholder obligation to work a minimum of three two-hour shifts over the five-month season. Not a lot of time, considering the benefits of belonging to a mixed-income program which supports access to farm-fresh foods for low-income and elderly as well as more affluent community residents.

Tuesday is pick-up day, which came very quickly each week. I raced from work to the Hudson Guild distribution site on West 26th Street to get there by the 7pm deadline. I was rewarded with three or four very full (sometimes heavy) bags of fresh, organic veggies. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to actually use each week’s allotment rather than having it bury my typically tiny NYC kitchen under an organic landslide as the season progressed.

The season began mid-June with lettuce, lots and lots of lettuce in all sorts of varieties including spicy cress. The butter crunch was so tender and sweet you could eat it without dressing. We were introduced to garlic scapes (a tasty sprouted seed pod) and mizune, a Japanese mustard green that reminds me of arugula. July gave us green/wax beans and the beginnings of ?bright lights? swiss chard, which we ate alot of last season. We found that heirloom seeds yield varieties including teardrop-shaped early Jersey Wakefield cabbage (sweet) and long narrow light green Biscayne peppers (mild).August arrived with lilac peppers, roma beans, sunburst patty pan squash and neon eggplant. Tomatoes ripened in the heat but lettuce was gone, since it grows better in cooler weather. There was gala melon and new red potatoes, along with edemame (edible soybeans) for shelling and toasting. September brought tomatillos along with oriental express/black bell eggplant, keuka gold potatoes, delicata winter squash and – our household favorite – leeks.

October continued with small fordhook and bright lights chard, as well as beets (edible green tops), mint, celery and celeriac. There was also black radish (similar to horseradish), cabbage, carnival winter squash, leeks, and pie pumpkins along with Indian corn and gourds for display. November proved surprisingly ?green? with broccoli, parsley, swiss chard and sage (a treat with butter-tossed pasta). We wrapped up the season just before Thanksgiving with brussel sprouts (on the stalk), turnips, potatoes, onions and Jacob’s Cattle beans (a red and white heirloom variety).

All in all, it was a great harvest. The CSA program is, among other things, a wonderful introduction to the pleasures and surprises of local as well as seasonal eating. I highly recommend you take a share and enjoy yourself while making a real contribution to our Chelsea neighborhood.

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