Specialty Produce's YouTube video shows customers what's in their weekly Farmers Market Bag.
The whole farm-to-table, organic-produce thing has been growing in popularity for a few years now, but, like any trend, one never fully understands the allure until one experiences it.
Every other week, Jocelyn Duke, an artist whose studio's in the same building as the CityBeat office, gets a box of produce from Suzie's Farm, located in the Tijuana River Valley. If Duke's going out of town for the weekend, she'll bring us the box. It's a blessing and curse: The produce is, indeed, some of the best I've tasted—so amazing that I filled out the form to become a member of Suzie's CSA. But, I never faxed it over. Why? Well, I just keep thinking, What am I gonna do with all that chard?
(First a bit of background: CSA stands for “community-supported agriculture.” A CSA is basically a small farm, and members pay a small, one-time membership fee plus a regular subscription fee in exchange for a weekly, biweekly or monthly—depending on the options available—box of produce grown by the CSA.)
Lucila De Alejandro, who owns and operates Suzie's Farm (www.suziesfarm.com) with her husband, Robin Taylor, gets my dilemma. “The No. 1 reason people drop the program is because they don't know what to do with all that food,” she said.
Most of us grew up on traditional vegetables, served as side dishes to some main entrée. We ate carrots, potatoes and broccoli that were usually boiled or steamed. A multi-vegetable dish was vegetable soup. I'll admit that, not too long ago, I couldn't tell chard from collard greens from kale, let alone know what to do with them.
Lucila pointed out that Suzie's includes a newsletter in the first two boxes each month, which contains a few recipes incorporating whatever's in the box.
“Then, the rest of the month, I include a short letter, and that will have one or two loose recipes or suggestions for what to do with some of the item in that box,” she said.
She tries to make sure the recipes incorporate at least three items in each box. CSA members send in recipes, too. In a recent blog entry on the Suzie's Farm website, Lucila included a member's recipe for “30 Second Spring Rolls” and a “5 Minute Miso Soup,” both incorporating multiple box items.
Suzie's Facebook page is another spot where members can share ideas about how to use their box items, Lucila said.
While not a traditional CSA, Specialty Produce, located in Bay Park, uses its Facebook page as well as YouTube to assist customers. Each week, a new video's posted to the Specialty Produce website (www.special
typroduce.com) with a brief point-and-explain about each item in the Farmers Market Bag, the contents of which come from small farms throughout California. On Specialty's Facebook page, customers have formed a cyber community, offering tips on things like storing fresh herbs—always a dilemma because farm boxes usually include a decent-sized bunch.
As for all that chard (or kale), below are a couple of simple recipes to get you started:
(Can be adjusted / amended with spices and herbs.)
1 head of Tuscan kale1 tbl. olive oil1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or chile powderSalt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Remove the center rib and any tough stems from kale leaves. Mix leaves with oil, salt, pepper and chile powder or herb of choice. Arrange in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until crisp like potato chips.
Chard for dummies
1 bunch of chard (any kind will do)2 tbl. olive oil2 cloves garlic, choppedCrushed red pepper to tasteSalt and pepper1/2 c. golden raisins1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
Wash the chard, then cut off the stalks and slice the leaves, widthwise, into 3-inch segments. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan (you may need to add more so that the chard doesn't stick to the pan) on medium-low. Add the garlic, then add the chard. After a few minutes, add salt to taste and as much crushed red pepper as you can tolerate. Cook until the rib of the chard is tender. Before serving, sprinkle with raisins and toasted pine nuts.