Here we go, this is it, the beginning.
As the farmer I always get a little nervous and tense just before each CSA season begins. It’s partly because I’m out of practice after a long summer and also because I’m eager to impress my members. By the time week one rolls around I’ve put in so much work getting the field ready, starting seeds and making sure crops are growing strong and healthy; it feels like all that work culminates in this first harvest.
And like most difficult things that make us nervous, once we accomplish it we feel high on life. Looking out at the field of greens we’ll be harvesting on Friday evening, deep down inside I feel really good about finally starting the CSA. We’re going to start off slow, with a few items, mostly fresh young greens, some radishes and Roselle for a touch of holiday spirit.
Baby Pac Choi
Watermelon Radishes with tops
Make a *Yin Yang salad with Pei Tsai and Arugula. Pei Tsai is technically a cabbage, but a very mild open head cabbage with velvety soft leaves, much like a butterhead lettuce. The peppery bite of this Arugula contrasts nicely with the Pei Tsai, creating a perfect salad base, good enough to eat alone with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, lime, salt and pepper or accented with other ingredients such as avocado and tomato.
Try using our baby Pac Choi in this simple stirfry recipe on one of my favorite recipe blogs The Yellow House. They combine the greens with oyster mushrooms, which you might be lucky to find at the Urban Oasis Project booth after you pick up your shares Saturday morning.
Brace yourselves, we’ll be eating lots of radishes this season and I’ve got endless ideas of ways to prepare them. Watermelon radishes are particularly nice. They are large, with a very firm crunch. Always store your radishes (and any root veggies) with the tops cut off, but definitely save those tops. This variety is called watermelon because the colors resembles that fruit. If you cut it like a melon (first cut in half then little diagonal slices) you’ll end up with adorable tiny “watermelon slices”. Freshly cut and raw, this radish is a fun pre-dinner snack. Sliced in rounds and seared on a skillet with butter it makes a good side dish. Now, after you sear the rounds use that same skillet to braise the tops. I like to turn the heat off after taking the radishes out and then throw in the chopped up greens to wilt with the remaining heat. Toss them a bit until evenly wilted and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of course sea salt. Try it, you’ll see, it’s the closest thing to spinach I’ve ever had from my garden.
That long stalk full of beautiful red pods is Roselle, aka Jamaican Sorrel, which refers not only to the plant, but more specifically to a drink that is made with the pods, typically during the holidays (coincidentally when this tropical beauty is in season). It is edible, but also decorative. Keep it in a vase until you’re ready to use it (without water though!). And when you are ready to use it, follow the steps in one of our old blog posts about Jamaican Sorrel.
*The Yin Yang salad was Margie’s idea, of Bee Heaven Farm. When I was an intern on her farm we used to plant these two crops together and market them as the Ying Yang salad for her CSA and the farmers markets. It’s a great idea!