In your own words...CSA members share thoughts!

September 27, 2010
By: Carla Fisher

About six years ago, my husband and I were part of a CSA in Washington, DC. Everyone had raved about it, so we decided to give it a go. It's not an exaggeration when I say that we spent more money trying to find ingredients to go with the assortment of odd vegetables than we did to join the CSA in the first place. While we expected to be challenged with ingredients from time to time, we didn't expect it to be a regular occurrence. Week after week, we received a few standard items, like zucchini or tomatoes, but we were also inundated with sorrel, daikon, and a host of other things we had no idea how to
fit into our regular diet.

We are by no means a meat and potatoes family. We love different cuisines, but we usually left the unusual ingredients up to the professionals. It was exhausting, expensive, and frustrating. And we came away from the experience disheartened.

Now, happily situated in NYC, and influenced once again by our friends raving about the various NYC CSAs, we decided to set aside our bad memories and give it another go, but only after checking and double-checking what vegetables had been delivered in previous years through the same CSA.

We've been happily surprised, though I'm now better prepared with cookbooks, a host of vegetarian blogs, and a CSA that actually provides what we consider more standard fare with a little bit of adventure thrown in. We've also grown into our own as home cooks, thanks in no small part to food allergies that make eating out a little more risky than it used to be. Between us, we avoid dairy, soy, egg, and gluten (those are at least the big ones), which makes
vegetables a star of any meal.

Some of my favorite sites include
* (especially love the Indian recipes)

July 26, 2010

By: Julie Penzner

"They have daddy's worms!," my three-year old exclaims with glee as we make our weekly excursion to claim our fruit, vegetables and eggs. She's referring to garlic scapes, the worm-shaped but surprisingly delicious garlic bulb shoots which arrived in the first two shares and were quickly consumed by us, either roasted or as pesto. These excursions are a new treat for us, since I am not working for the summer, and have the luxury of doing the pick-ups with my daughter, rather than in the rush of my commute home at the end of a busy work day. They're a treat for her too; since it's been too hot to bring her newborn brother along, this has become a new tradition for just the two of us.

A few weeks later, we talk about strangers on our way to pick up. My daughter has become quite curious about how you decide which ones are safe to talk to. We encounter an impromptu test at the CSA: "Mommy, is that lady a stranger?," she asks earnestly, and I realize I am not sure how to answer.  Several quick introductions later, and while I gather peaches and lettuce, my daughter plays on the steps with that family's little girl. Stranger?  Not exactly.

For our family, the CSA share is about vegetables, fruit and eggs, buying local, and preparing and eating healthy foods. It's about supporting farmers, and the fun surprise of learning what they've harvested each week. But it's also about community. It gives us a small piece of the Upper West Side which feels "ours" in an intimate and nourishing way. As my daughter and I walk home each week, and see others carrying their various bags which seem to be endlessly overflowing with cucumbers, we wonder about their stories too. We head home knowing that in some way, we're all leaving with some shared addition to our shared kohlrabi.

October 7, 2009

By: Phyllis Bieri

Phyllis is a neurologist and has lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for over 20 years. She is married to Marco Veissid and is the mother 3 daughters, ages 9, 7, 5. She grew up eating her mother’s organic garden vegetables.

“The vegetables are from our farm,” I announce to nearly all our dinner guests from June through October.  Sometimes I specify the salad greens are from our Columbia County farm, and the asparagus is from our north-fork-of-Long-Island farm.  But I always use the pronoun, “our.”  If I buy vegetables from the farmer’s market, I say, “these are from the 14th Street farmer’s market,” and I might even specify which farm, but I don’t say, “our farm.”  There is something about the CSA relationship that is more intimate.  I feel greater ownership and responsibility towards the farm and the farmers.  When the rains ruin their crops, we miss their greens, but even more, we feel their anguish.  Their farm is an extension of us.

We have a vegetable garden of our own, in addition.  Growing our own vegetables has made us revere our farmers even more.  Every time we’ve attempted to grow broccoli, cabbage worms have devoured them in front of our eyes.  Corn is nearly impossible and takes a ton of space.  Cherry tomatoes are easy, but heirlooms can be tricky.  Just keeping the lettuce planted on schedule requires compulsive planning.  When I pick up a gorgeous head of broccoli or cauliflower from my CSA bin, I want to bow down and kiss the farmer’s hand.  It’s hard, what they do. 

And we reap the benefits.  We look forward to the fresh edamame, the incredibly flavorful mesclun salad, the tat soi and bok choi, the beautiful carrots and potatoes.  Every time I serve their corn on the cob, I say, “It is very hard to grow organic corn.”  My city-born-and-raised husband had never tasted truly fresh vegetables in his life.  Our children know the difference between vegetables from “our farm” and those from “upstairs Fairway.”  Sometimes it is as if you can taste the vitamins.  There’s a sharpness, a brightness to the flavor.  Other times it’s the mouthfeel that’s drastically different.  There is more moisture in the bite.  The vegetables are more perishable, and more fleetingly delicious.

Since we cannot grow all our own vegetables, we are blessed to have relationships with farmers who grow them for us.  During the wonderful CSA months, we live from week to week in anticipation of what is coming next, grateful to our farmers, and savoring every bite.