To Market, To Market

Wednesday Market Day. I love this time of year.


100 mile diet

In March, I wrote about the adventure Jeff and I are embarking on this year in our support of a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) initiative. Our weekly vegetable box began while I was in Victoria for my 3-week term on campus, so Jeff was left to find creative uses for the mounds of green onions, green garlic, spring greens and mesculun mix that we received. The first week I was home, I dove into the veggies before taking a picture. Here’s how they looked last week and this week.

Our lovely farmer Kelly keeps apologizing for how small the boxes are right now, but it’s been a good transition for us into the CSA system. Both weeks, we received radishes, green onions, green garlic, herbs, beet greens and kale. Last week, we were pretty excited about the new potatoes and this week, the pint of strawberries was polished off in record time because they were out-of-this-world fantastic. This week’s box also had bunches of arugula and swiss chard.
I have to admit that until last summer, I had not cooked much with hearty greens. This week, I sautéed the beet greens, chard and kale with a bit of olive oil, garlic and mushrooms until just done, then splashed in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar (as adapted from a recipe on one of my favourite food blogs). It was DELISH.

My challenge seems to be with the green garlic (the larger onion-type things in the above photo on the right). I have been adding them into cooked things (sauces, a frittata, soup) because the greens are a little tough. Does anyone have any other ideas or advice to share?

CSA adventure

graphic courtesy of the Louis Bonduelle Foundation website

Since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have thought about food and the origin of what we eat in a whole new way. Some members of my family tease that three years of living on Vancouver Island has turned me into one of those “granola-types”… and that’s OK with me. The benefits of eating organic aside, the case for local food is strengthening as we watch soaring fuel costs and predictions of higher food prices in coming months.

Jeff and I both grew up with large gardens in our backyard. Last year, I had great intentions of turning our established flower jungle into a vegetable garden…. until I started my master’s program. We managed to convert one flower bed into an herb garden (convert might be a strong word as we battled the returning Bishop’s Weed all summer and expect to do the same this spring)  but that was it. Thankfully, we were able to purchase a lot of fresh produce from the Okanagan (delivered here on the Island every week) but it was not quite the same.

This year, we have bought shares in a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) cooperative through the Crazy Dog Farm down the road in Crofton. Essentially, this share divides into a flat-rate for 20 weeks; this flat-rate buys us a weekly box of whatever fruit and vegetables is ripe for picking that week. Not only do we get the freshest of local produce, we financially support local farmers and “share” in both the risks and benefits of farming. If the tomato crop is wiped out by blight, for example, we don’t get tomatoes. But if the tomato crop is a bumper one, we will be canning (and canning, and canning!) tomatoes. The box size varies each week (with the biggest boxes expected in August and September) but we are guaranteed to receive something from the first week in June until the middle of October. I admit- I am a little nervous about the feast or famine nature of this venture but am excited about the prospect of eating the very freshest of what is in season and learning to use items that I do not have a lot of experience with. I really have no idea what to do with fava beans or kohlrabi… but learning this, I think, will be part of the adventure. 

As a way to challenge my own learning and keep myself accountable to use everything we receive, I’m going to take a photo of the contents of each week’s box of fruit and veggies and share what we do with it. Suggestions, recipes and ideas are most welcome! Stay tuned for the first week in June for this adventure to begin.   

Good morning

Thanks to the gifts of dahlias, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber and organic greens from friends yesterday afternoon, this was the sight that greeted me this morning when I went into the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot. Is there anything that tastes better than the end of summer?

All in a day’s work

While my new life of “freedom” as a student, haus frau and woman of leisure is something that I am getting used to quite happily, I have struggled with change that comes with my significantly lower financial contribution to our household. Jeff regularly reminds me that not all contributions are financial ones (and that the value of a wife no longer suffering daily anxiety attacks at the thought of going to a job that makes her absolutely miserable is more than money could ever buy). It is amazing how our life has simplified since I’ve been off work and how much more cheaply we live, but I’m still aware of this change.

Today, I had an opportunity to make a very unique contribution. While Jeff was busy with his VT 150 and VT 300 robot babies (or “Crawler vehicles” as he corrects me), I was busy with our V-2840. My food vacuum packager might not be able to complete underground rescues, crawl through pipes or help with international security, but I love it just the same.
One of the guys in our care group has worked in the charter fishing business for over a decade and knows everything there is to know about salmon. When he invited us into a group purchase on some of this year’s sockeye run (apparently, the best on the West Coast in over a century), we were pretty excited. The ‘catch’ on this great deal? Each family buying fish needed to provide a helper to process it.

So today while Jeff did all the things that an engineer does on an average day, I joined 6 strong, outdoorsy-type men to process 700 pounds of salmon. It was caught yesterday and was so fresh, all you could smell was a little sea water (no fish smell at all). We barbequed some for lunch and let me tell you- it was the best salmon I’ve ever tasted.

The fish in this photo account for about a third of the total we cut, rinsed, dried and vacuum packed. I’m proud to report that my equipment and vaccum-packing talent wowed the boys and I think, I did well enough to earn an invitation back next year. Jeff and I bought 100 pounds and came home with 42 sides of salmon that we are splitting with Jeff’s parents. So for all of you prairie and Ontarian friends and family members- you’ll have to come out for a visit. We have lots of very yummy salmon to feed you.

Same old, same old

There has not been much to post over the past 4 weeks as life has continued in its busy routine. Jeff has been very busy with work and my highlights have been tackling the much needed “clean out the basement” project and completing a community cooking day with the women in our small group that left me with a freezer full of ready made meals (a very good thing). I chopped vegetables for about 6 hours but it is SO worth it.

Jeff’s dad had a birthday that required another creative cake…..

Jeff continued building a linen/shoe/mudroom closet

and we did this all fueled by caffeine.

And, I read a book that has had such a profound impact on me that I find myself recommending it to everyone I know.

One of my favourite authors, Barbara Kingsolver,chronicles her family’s year-long commitment to growing their own food and limiting almost all of their food purchases to locally grown items. Like me, you probably won’t rush out to join a crop share association or completely swear off CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) meats but you will be effected by what you learn. I certainly was.

My plan for 2010? Integrate vegetables into my flower garden (if you’ve seen my flower garden, you will know this is no small task) and hit the local farmers market each week. Small things, maybe, but increasingly important things to me. I guess I am a farm girl at heart, after all.