Photo courtesy of The Daily Green.
"Hello!" a frantically waving be-aproned man calls to me from across the piles of tomatoes in Aisle 6.
"Hello." I wave back, smiling in embarrassment as old women turn to look at me with disdain.
"There you are, my pretty friend." Alfredo says, tenderly scooping the bunch of bananas from my shopping basket. "We were wondering when you'd come. He was missing you." he gestures to Marcus, his fellow produce man, who winks at me.
"No, he was the one." Marcus points at Alfredo. "He was asking about you all day. And here you are! How is your boyfriend today?" he asks.
"Oh, just fine." I reply, not sure how to slip into the conversation that F is, in fact, my husband. F hates the produce guys.
"Where is your boyfriend?" Alfredo asks.
"He's at home."
"Sleeping?" Alfredo asks hopefully. He always asks if F is sleeping, or watching television, or playing video games, while I am diligently shopping for our dinner.
"No," I reply, "He's working."
"Oh, working." Alfredo is disappointed. "That's OK, then." He perks up, having thought of a new challenge, "He should make you dinner tonight."
"I agree! I'll tell him you said so." I reply, retrieving my forgotten bananas from the scale.
"I would cook for you." Marcus says, his eyes twinkling.
"You can't cook." Alfredo says.
"Neither can you."
"But I'd learn... for you." Alfredo gazes into my eyes.
"The produce guys were asking about you again." I tell F when I get home.
"Grrr... I hate the produce guys." F shouts, glaring at the grocery bags.
To save my marriage, I realized I must find a new way to obtain my produce. So I started looking into CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). In my research, I discovered that most CSAs send a box of produce once a week at a fixed seasonal rate of approximately $500. If you'd like meat, you can sign up for a weekly meat box for an additional $400. If you're hankering for fruit, you can buy a fruit box. You get the idea. It's great for families who can use up all of the veggies, steaks, and apples, but not so convenient for young couples who don't eat for four, and haven't yet figured out a good system for canning and freezing leftovers.
Most of the friends I asked about their CSAs said that they found it difficult to use up their shipments. My friend M also warned that the contents of the boxes are limited to the crops grown on each farm. While this is a good thing because you are getting the freshest seasonal vegetables while helping to sustain local agriculture, there were times when M received a box full of potatoes and little else.
She eventually switched to Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks which is different than most CSAs because it supplies products from a range of local farms, giving you a wider variety to choose from. And the payment system is flexible, so you can order shipments from week to week, instead of paying the fixed rate. That way, if you go on vacation for a week, you won't have a box of spoiled veggies waiting on your doorstep.
But what really appeals to me about Irv and Shelly's is that you can purchase a small produce box stuffed with seasonal surprises, and then supplement your box 'o' greens with other things, like baked goods, meat, and any other seasonal fruits or vegetables. You can, for instance, include a single apple, instead of purchasing a whole box of fruit.
So what did we get in our first "Fresh Picks" crate yesterday?
Our fridge is now stocked with eggs, asparagus, ramps, dandelion greens, broccoli, and grape tomatoes. I supplemented with strawberries, 2 navel oranges, and some tempeh, which I've never had but have been wanting to try. We grilled the asparagus last night to accompany some cornmeal-crusted catfish, and the broccoli and grape tomatoes will be easy enough to use up. But dandelion greens and ramps!? I didn't even know what these leafy wonders were until I looked at the list included in the box.
I'm delighted by this challenge. Even F is thrilled.
"This is the best thing we've done in a long time!" he exclaimed last night, holding aloft a fluffy bunch of dandelion leaves. "And you didn't get any of this from the produce guys. We need to do this every week." he smiled wickedly.
While eating one of my CSA navel oranges for breakfast, I have devised this evening's menu around ramps and dandelions.
Behold The Thursday Night Menu:
Parmesan Chicken Paillards with Cherry Tomato Sauce
Sauteed Dandelion Greens
Ramp and Buttermilk Biscuits with Cracked Coriander
Check back later for photos!