Stacy Cowley is CNNMoney's tech editor. She's in a complicated relationship with her CSA and explores the odd vegetables that show up in her haul in CSI: CSA. This is the first installment
It’s CSA season. That means that like thousands of other community supported agriculture subscribers, I’m locked in a five-month death battle with my fridge’s veggie drawer.
It’s week three of my CSA, and right now, the fridge is winning. I’ve got the inevitable kohlrabi lurking in the crisper, plotting a coup with the half-dozen turnips I’ve had lingering in there since April. The leafy greens are forming factions. I’ve been adding “spring salad mix” to every meal I possibly can, since it turns to sludge after a week, but that means neglecting the kale, arugula and mizuna. I’m pretty sure they’re spawning. Every time I open the drawer, the mizuna supply has tripled.
It’s not all grim, of course. I actually love CSA season and look forward to our first mid-June delivery the way six-year-old me anticipated Christmas morning: Finally, after months and months of waiting, the goodies arrive!
This is my third season in my local CSA. I’d been intrigued by the community supported agriculture concept, in which subscribers pay in advance for a share of a farmer’s harvest, but I held off because I wasn’t sure I’d have the time and motivation to make enough home-cooked meals. I finally took the plunge when a friend offered to team up with me on “small share” allotments from our neighborhood farm, Added Value in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Even within the CSA movement, Added Value is a bit unusual because it grows all the crops for its program on a 2-acre urban farm right in Brooklyn. More precisely, right in the shadow of an Ikea. The farm is a really cool nonprofit that offers job training and educational opportunities for hundreds of New York City students. It also has to deal with all the challenges of growing crops in a small, demanding microclimate in the middle of an industrial neighborhood.
Our early shipments tend to be heavy on leafy greens, since not much else is thriving yet. Our farmer also likes to experiment and grow things many of us have never encountered before. In our season’s first week, I confronted amaranth greens - which I had to ask the pick-up coordinator to identify for me, since I had no idea what they looked like.
At home, I stared down my amaranth greens and my semi-random collection of other edibles. Then I asked Google what on Earth I should do with these things.
"Stir-fry the suckers" was a common suggestion. It turns out that amaranth greens are popular in Asia and Africa; they're kind of like a rugged, high-protein spinach. I tore off the stems, popped the cleaned leaves in my salad spinner, and declared my prep work done.
I also had a bag of fish to use up, thanks to one of my CSA's optional add-on subscriptions: a weekly delivery from the just-launched Mermaid’s Garden “community supported fishery.” My current fish-of-the-week was porgy from Montauk, Long Island - and like with the greens, it was something I'd never cooked before.
After combing through a dozen different menu options, I decided to hit them both with the same flavors: a sesame oil and ginger marinade for the fish and a similar sesame and soy sauce treatment for the amaranth greens. Bonus: the whole dinner took less than half an hour to prep and cook.
One veggie down! Now on to figuring out that kohlrabi...