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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Eating Locally, Cooking Creatively

Air Date: Week of June 22, 2007

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Now that it's in the kitchen, what are we going to do with it? (Photo: Amy Fish)

Less than one percent of Americans work or live on farms. But a movement called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, give people a chance to buy into a farm for a season and receive fresh fruits and vegetables every week. Food writer Kathy Gunst went with Living on Earth's Ian Gray to pick up his first CSA box of the year, and then took the ingredients to whip up a delectable dinner.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: Pesticides, E. coli, tainted imported foods it’s enough to make you sick. These health concerns and a desire for tastier foods have a growing number of people trying to eat local.

Farmers’ markets are booming and so are farms that are supported by direct subscription—that’s a movement known as Community Supported Agriculture. At CSAs, members pay a farmer in advance of the growing season and they receive a weekly box of whatever is fresh off the farm. For CSA members it’s sort of a surprise package and part of the fun is figuring out what to do with all the locally grown goodies.

Living on Earth’s Ian Gray is a member of a CSA near Boston called Red Fire Farm. He recently made his first pick-up of the season and food writer Kathy Gunst was there to give him some ideas on how to cook the contents.

[SOUND OF FARMER’S MARKET]

GUNST: You could take a head of lettuce, a bunch of turnips, what a bunch of kale.

GRAY: Half a bag of salad greens.

GUNST: Mix and match. A pound of spinach, a bunch of scallions, cilantro or radishes. I’d vote for cilantro.

GRAY: Ok.

GUNST: And then you get strawberries and peas?

GRAY: Yup. We’ll get both of those too.

[PAPER BAG SOUND]

GUNST: What kind of lettuce do you like?

GRAY: Ah, jeeze, I don’t know. We’ve got three kinds here: romaine, iceberg…

GUNST: This red leaf looks like sculpture. I would vote for that.

GRAY: Oh, it’s dying to be picked up. Let’s grab some of that.

GUNST: Let’s take a bunch of turnips that’s not like baseball sized, more medium size. I don’t know why, when I see a root vegetable that’s big I always think it’s going to be tough. But it’s probably great. A bunch of turnips.

GRAY: I see, all right, let’s go for some of that kale over there.

GUNST: The kale. Ok, scallions.

GRAY: Ok.

GUNST: These are so beautiful. They’re pencil thin. Let me just think about what I’m going to do, and then ask you what you have at home because this is a very odd collection of food. These are not things that like, you think, “Oh, kale and turnips yum! They’ll be terrific together.”

[MUSIC: Ry Cooder "Cherry Ball Blues" from 'Boomer's Story' (Reprise Records -1972)]

GUNST: I’m thinking of roasting the turnips and doing a salad with the greens and some of the cilantro, and the roasted turnips on top. And I’m thinking about making candied walnuts to go with it, because I think that would be really yummy with the turnips.

GRAY: That sounds delicious.

GRAY: So, we’re all the way up on the third floor.

[SOUND OF DOOR OPENING]

GUNST: Ok. First thing we’re going to do is roast the turnips because they’re going to take the longest. I’m just going to trim them.

[SOUND OF CHOPPING VEGETABLES]

And they’re a little big to quarter, so I think I’m going to cut them into six wedges. I think these are going to be very sweet. And you know we should even taste it raw because I suspect this fresh…


Now that it's in the kitchen, what are we going to do with it? (Photo: Amy Fish)

[CRUNCHING EATING SOUNDS]

GUNST: Taste that. That is really good.

GRAY: Let’s see, ok. Yeah, this is so sweet. It’s about the texture of an apple kind of.

GUNST: Yeah, it’s very crunchy and they’re this beautiful ivory-colored vegetable. So, I’m thinking to roast them and then we’ll put them on top of our salad so it will be this really nice contrast to all the greens.

[PEPPER GRINDER]

GUNST: Little grinding of fresh black pepper and I’m going to drizzle about a tablespoon and a half, two tablespoons, of olive oil. Just give them a toss so that all the turnips get coated with everything. Let’s pop these in the oven. The turnips were what, one step. So, let’s check on them in about 15 minutes.

[MUSIC: Ry Cooder "Cherry Ball Blues" from 'Boomer's Story' (Reprise Records -1972)]

GUNST: So, we have all these gorgeous greens. These are like babies. You know, this is like precious stuff. This is spring greens. So I’m just gently putting a little bit of water on it and tossing them, just to make sure there’s no grit or sand in there. And then I thought for another added crunch we bought some walnuts. And I wanted to make a honey glaze walnut topping which is a lot simpler than it sounds.

[PAN SIZZLING]

A cup and a half of walnuts, and I would say one tablespoon, two tablespoons, about a quarter of a cup of honey. And this looks like great honey. We just want to stir them around and get them all coated. I’m going to lower that a little so they don’t burn. And what happens is you get this really quick glaze. And that’s it, that’s the whole recipe.


Scrumptious walnuts after they've soaked up some butter and local honey. (Photo: Amy Fish)

GRAY: And the amazing thing is that it’s not that expensive to do what we’re doing with the CSA.

GUNST: I wanted to ask you about that. How much do you spend to be a CSA member?

GRAY: So, for the season for 20 weeks of food, and each week pretty much in the summer we pick up a box, it’s 450 dollars.

GUNST: So, let’s break that down: 450 dollars, if it were 10 weeks it would be 43 dollars, so it’s about 23 dollars a week.


Turnips and salad greens...just missing the walnuts and some last minute radish slices. (Photo: Amy Fish)

GRAY: So, if you think of a household, like we’ve got 4 people here splitting this. ’Cause you know we’re just out of college and there’s 4 of us living here, so I think we’re spending each about 125 dollars for a summer of produce.

GUNST: For beautiful food. And you’re staying healthy. And you’re helping a farm. And you’re probably stretching your imagination about what you would be eating. And you’re not getting take out. So, it’s a win-win. Ok, the turnips have been in for about 15 minutes. Lets’ check them.

GRAY: Ok.

[OVEN DOOR OPENS]

GRAY: Oh, wow.

GUNST: You smell that? They’re getting really sweet.


Bon Appetit! Kathy Gunst and Ian Gray dig in. (Photo: Amy Fish)

GRAY: You can smell the sugars coming out. It’s amazing.

[MUSIC: Ry Cooder "Cherry Ball Blues" from 'Boomer's Story' (Reprise Records -1972)]

GUNST: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what you’re smelling. All right, let’s set the table.

[WINE CORK]

GRAY: Ok, well bon appetite.

GUNST: Oh, my goodness. I think I’m a fan of the turnips. Mmm taste that.

GRAY: Oh, wow.

GUNST: Yum!

GELLERMAN: Living on Earth’s Ian Gray with food writer Kathy Gunst.

[MUSIC: Ry Cooder "Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Us All" from 'Into the Purple Valley' (Reprise Records - 1972)]

 

Links

Mixed Green, Roasted Turnip and Honey Roasted Walnut Salad Recipe

Spinach, Scallion and Feta Frittata Recipe

Find a Community Supported Agriculture program near you

USDA definition of Community Supported Agriculture

Challenge to Eat Locally

Kathy Gunst's Website

 

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