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Community Supported Agriculture: Our First Delivery

This year, my lovely wife and I joined a local CSA – the fancy acronym for community supported agriculture. Joining a CSA is one of the ways we’ve considered going green while saving green [3] and this was the first year we’ve done it. We went with One Straw Farm [4], a CSA located in Maryland with a drop point just a few miles from our house. Our goal in doing this is to eat better, both in the quality/diversity of our food and in lowering the impact we have on our environment, and learn how to cook more. It’s a bonus that we can support a local business.

Today, I picked up our first delivery which consisted of:

Phytonutrients & Antioxidants

Part of the fun of picking up stuff I’ve never cooked before (either chards, never even heard of garlic sprouts) is in doing the research. It turns out that a lot of these vegetables are rich in phytonutrients [5] and polyphenol antioxidants [6]. The leaves of chard, broccoli, kale, and strawberries are all rich in the polyphenol antioxidants – especially kaempferol [7]. When they talk about eating a lot of different colors, they’re usually talking about these antioxidants (beets and chard have a lot of betalains, which is found in reddish-purple and yellow betacyanin pigments).

How to Cook It All

Enough with the biochemistry, how do you prepare this? I’m going to cheat and skip a few of these. With broccoli and kale, I already have a favorite way to prepare those (fry up some garlic in olive oil, toss in along with some chicken stock to steam until soft; salt to taste). As for beets, my wife just boils them and loves it that way. Strawberries and lettuce are popular enough that you probably know what to do with them… but the chards?

It turns out that the basic idea behind the chards is to boil them in water to cook out some of the oxalic acid, which gives it the sharp taste (also found in spinach, rhubarb, and beets greens). Oxalic acid is broken down in cooking (it can also interfere with your calcium absorption) so you should cook it for a few minutes before eating it. The recipe I’m hoping to try will be this one [8], since it is reminiscent of how I like my other greens. We’ll see how it goes!

As for the garlic sprouts (sometimes called garlic stems), they have a similar flavor to garlic and are used when you want to add a garlicy flavor to your dish without actually using garlic (which sounds odd, right?). I’m going to try something simple, chopping them and frying it up in a little oil. I figure it’ll truly let us enjoy it’s natural flavor without muddying it up.

Incidentally, we once talked about eating vegetarian once a week… we may very well have forced ourselves to do so given all the produce we’re getting! 🙂