Outer Space Veggies

June is a welcome month – oh summer! and also a welcoming month, on a CSA farm. 

In June, we farmers welcome back returning CSA members, and we also introduce new members to the garden, the fields, the workhorses, the greenhouses.  We slip in a little warning about our scratchy bitey kitty, on our way to the last stop on the farm tour: the distribution shed.

The shed is where it all comes together, from soil to compost to seed to food: the fresh from the spring garden vegetables are ready!  Returning members, and many new ones, look eagerly for favorite spring treats, knowing that the season is relatively short for many of the crisp, crunchy spring offerings. 

There are always a few new folks, however, who are a little more hesitant.

First up in the shed are the fresh herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, garlic greens. 

“Wow, they smell great,” says the new member.  “but I don’t really know how to use fresh herbs.”

“Just like dried herbs,” we answer.  “Just use three times as much in your recipe as dried.  You’ll be amazed at what a difference fresh herbs make.”

“Well . . . I’ll take a little.”  The member takes a smidgen of each kind of herb.  Then she/he thinks better of it, and puts half of each smidgen back in the basket.     

“There’s plenty more,” we encourage.

“Oh, that’s all right.  Whoa! what’s that thing?  It looks like a space ship! Are you supposed to eat it?” 

“Oh, yes,” we answer, holding up a purple spiky fist-sized vegetable.  “This is kohlrabi!  It’s in the broccoli family.  You can eat it raw with dip or in a salad, or you can cook it.  But first you have to peel off the purple skin.  You eat the pale green part inside.”

“Okayyyy . . .”  the member places two kohlrabi gingerly in his/her bag.   “Now what’s this?  A radish?”

“That’s a spring turnip.”

The member wrinkles her/his nose.  “I don’t like turnips.  My grandmother always tried to get me to eat turnips.  I do not like turnips.”

“This is not you r grandparents’ turnip!” we reassure.  “This is a spring turnip, mild, crisp, tasty.  You don’t even have to peel it; and you can eat it raw or cooked.   You could even eat it out of hand, like an apple.” 

One farmer gleefully eats a turnip, to demonstrate the spring turnip’s non-poisonous, non-icky, decidedly delicious nature.  The other farmer points and nods encouragingly at the happy turnip-eating farmer.

“Okayyyy . . .”  The bunch of turnips goes slowly into the bag, next to the space craft.  “Now what’s this?”

“That’s pac choi, or bok choy, it’s also called.  You might know it from Asian food?  You can stir-fry it, or you can slice it up for your salad.  It’s crisp, and tender, both.”

“Okayyy . . . I guess I could try it.”  The member peers in his/her bag, as if the addition of yet another strange item might cause a sudden blast-off of the space ship kohlrabi.   Then she/he turns to the next tray.  “What about this?  Is this some kind of lettuce? Or what?”

“Very close.  It’s great in a salad: a mix of salad greens, mustard greens, arugula, tatsoi, tiny kale.  It adds a little spice to your salad.  Here, try a leaf!”

The member takes a tiny bite of a tiny leaf.  “Whoaa,” he/she says,  “That’s really spicy, really spicy.”

“Good, isn’t it?  It mixes in beautifully with the lettuce.”

The new member’s eyes light up, with excitement or relief, we’re not sure which, when she/he sees the next tray of produce: heads of lettuce. 

Lettuce.  Now that is a proper vegetable.

And right next to the lettuce is spinach.  The member is positively beaming.  Lettuce!  And spinach! 

“This looks really good,” he/she says.  “All this lettuce and spinach.  And I can just chop up all this other stuff and stick it in my salad?”

“Yes!  But don’t forget to peel the kohlrabi.”

“The kohlrabi . . . which one is that again?”

“The purple space ship.”  The space ship that will take to you to new heights of local sustainable gastronomic delight! we want to add. 

But we don’t want to scare our nice new member too much.

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Jun 12– Jun 18, 2013