News From the Farm | January 25, 2016

We know that CSA members have lots of choices when they decide where to get their fruits and vegetables. Not only are there lots of stores that carry organic produce, but there are lots of CSAs and CSA-type services to choose from: Companies that will do your shopping for you; web sites that offer home delivery of tasty local treats; and produce boxes that can be customized in every which way. 

Your Full Belly box is filled with produce that comes from our farm and nowhere else. We used to get winter oranges from a neighbor, but now we have our own orange orchard and for years, we have grown everything that we put in the box. So those of you that get a weekly box for a whole year may really have a special perspective on what it means to “eat local,” you have a sense of how the seasons affect the harvest, and you have a direct, visceral relationship with Full Belly.

At the end of each year, I like to review the previous year’s box contents, thinking back on how the seasons unfolded, and how the weather and markets and our management affected the diet of our members. For our long-time members, this is a bit of year-in-review. For the new members, it gives you a hint of what to expect.

We always try to change up the box contents from week-to-week as much as possible, at the same time as we try to include several items that we think of as dinner staples. This year I counted 25 different types of vegetables (not including greens), 9 different types of greens, 14 different types of fruit, and 9 different types of herbs that our hypothetical CSA member found in their box if they got all 48 of the CSA boxes that we offered in 2015. This way of looking at the box actually understates the diversity of the experience because, for example, I grouped those baskets of cherry tomatoes (remember them?) together with the big heirloom tomatoes, as one type of vegetable, or – another example – I counted all the different types of winter squash (acorn, buttercup, butternut, honeynut, kabocha, kuri, and sugar pie) as one type of vegetable. 

We had fun with the fruit last year. As some of you may remember, 2015 was not a good year for stone fruit like peaches because there weren’t enough chilling hours during the winter to produce a strong bloom and fruit set. But we have been planting all kinds of fun and more unusual fruits – so you should have tasted a few Asian pears, guavas, jujubes and even a week of quince. There was one week of figs, but figs are going to figure more strongly in future summer and fall boxes – so if you like figs, stick with us, we have more of them coming your way! We put pomegranates in for 6 weeks this year and learned that for some of our members 6 pomegranates a year was way too many, while others gave rave reviews to the pomegranates. The fruit staples as in every year, were oranges – 10 winter weeks – and melons/watermelons which we put in for 12 weeks of summer boxes last year.

Greens are a big part of the Full Belly CSA diet in winter, spring and fall. Chard, dino kale, arugula, collards, red Russian kale and the Asian vegetables like bok choi all made multiple appearances. As far as I’m concerned, any time is a good time for greens, with their immune-system boosters and antioxidants. Like the greens, many of the vegetables in the box are part of dinner for three seasons: Lettuce or salad mix are in the box pretty steadily for 5 months.

We also give you a lot of alliums, viewing them as a good beginning to so many different recipes – dry onions, spring onions, green garlic, dried garlic and leeks don’t really drop out except for a few weeks in the summer. And believe it or not, if you were a really consistent Full Belly CSA diner, you actually may have helped to consume 11 cabbages in 2015!!

Rounding out the fruit, herbs and greens are all the other seasonal vegetables. In the summer last year there was a steady diet of tomatoes, peppers, green beans and eggplants with a few cucumbers mixed in. The fall and winter brought lots of carrots and winter squash with beets, broccoli, and Tokyo turnips mixed in. There were only three weeks of rutabagas last year, despite those members to whom the rutabaga is such a memorably difficult character that even one or two weeks would have seemed like an eternity.

There are lot of veggies on the list (kohlrabi, fennel, radishes) that I haven’t mentioned, but nonetheless, you probably ate some last year and will be eating them again this year. There were a few vegetables that are usually more prominent, but for various reasons didn’t do well or we didn’t grow much in 2015 (asparagus, strawberries, corn). All in all, I think it was a good mix. We encourage our members to think it over and let us know (if you haven’t already) what you think about the overall mix. Figuring out how to use new vegetables may not always be easy, but many people have told us over the 23 years we have been doing this, that it is very rewarding to try!

— Judith Redmond