Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Supporting Local Growers...

"Today, the average food item travels more than a thousand miles before it lands on our tables. We have become distant from our food, and not just in terms of geography. Who grows our food? What are their lives like? How is the soil tilled, cultivated, and prepared for the next year? ...What are the growing conditions of the fruits, vegetables, and grains we eat? How does their production affect the land and the people who raise them? Does any of this really matter if we have plenty of food on our table? It matters a great deal." ~from the preface to Simply In Season

Here we are in the middle of June, and it was 22 degrees this morning, the ground white with frost. Yikes. But that's the way it is in the high desert-- we occasionally have these extra cold nights, even in June, July, or August, but there are some summers with no below-freezing nights at all. You never know.

Today's extra cold, frosty morning makes me thankful that this year, for the first time in 13 years, I have been a slacker and have not yet planted a single new flower or herb in my beds. Because that would mean that last night, after checking the weather forecast, I would have had to cover every single bed snugly with large sheets of plastic to protect the new plants from frost (carefully wielding those plastic covers is not all that easy). Actually, I would have done this every single day for the past week or two because that's how many below-freezing nights we've had this early summer.

Gardening in our region can be trying. Snow can fall any time into June (or July), or it can be 98 degrees. The last frost of winter comes late, and the first frost of fall comes early around here. That's why I'm thankful for my CSA farmer!

Yesterday was the first
CSA pickup of the year. I like knowing I'm helping a local small farming couple establish themselves so that they can do what they love doing most. I like eating seasonally. It's wonderful knowing my produce was harvested, fully ripe, the day I picked it up. I appreciate very much that it was farmed organically. I'm willing to invest in this and take the risk that the crop will fail. Chances are, though, we'll get plenty for our money. We always have.

I carried my market bags into the CSA pickup place yesterday to fill them with a small, but nice, amount of produce. We'd gotten an email earlier in the day telling us what to expect-- salad mix (2 bags), spinach (2 bags), arugula (1 bag), dill, radishes, and rhubarb. Considering the long winter and the recent cold nights that have made growing difficult this year, I was quite pleased with this. And in the email, we were given hope for more abundant weeks with a report of what we can expect soon, over the course of the summer, and into fall-- lots of good stuff! Strawberries are almost here. Can't wait for corn and tomatoes! I've ordered an extra share of greens this year. And I bought a share of flowers, too, so when everything is in bloom, I'll pick up a nice bouquet every week along with my produce.

As soon as I knew what I'd be picking up yesterday, I started planning what to do with it. I don't want to waste a thing, and I intend to put everything to very good use. If I'm going to have rhubarb, I'm going to make something really wonderful with it. So I pulled out the great Lindsey Shere's
Chez Panisse Desserts book and found a nice rhubarb crisp recipe to make (I may as well use a recipe by one of the best). And what to do with the arugula? Beet salad with blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, of course. And the spinach? Crunchy white beans with garlic and greens. Heavenly, especially with greens as nice as this. With the rest of those greens? Delicious salads every day. Green lemonade. We eat a lot of greens around here. I have a big collection of great cookbooks, and I'm already happily flipping through them (especially the vegetable-oriented ones), making notes of which old favorites I want to make and what new things I want to try.

I realize that the little bit of produce I picked up yesterday could make you scratch your head and wonder what's the big deal. Maybe you have your own garden and are currently harvesting all of this and much more. Lucky you! Maybe you prefer to run down to the local farmers' market where there is a larger abundance of produce, and it's fun to walk around amongst a crowd of locals on a sunny Saturday morning anyway. I'll be doing this, too. Or maybe you just don't get it at all and prefer to shop in your local supermarket! :-)

However you put food on the table, growing your own produce, visiting local farmers' markets, or joining a CSA are all ways to eat deliciously, healthfully, seasonally, and locally.
And it's fun!

Is this something that matters to you, too?