Editor's Note: This post was originally scheduled for late June publication, and I apologize for the delay!
by Elizabeth Doyle
What a difference a day makes. This aphorism sums up my swift-moving first month as an intern at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. These warm June nights and regular, welcome rains are inciting the plants to fill out markedly more each day at a rate that continues to astound.
The winter squash (and most other cucurbits, a family that includes melons, cukes, and zucchini) that we planted in early June had to be covered with Reemay, the white fabric that you see stretched over hoops in many of the fields, to protect the young plants from a booming population of cucumber beetles. Any day now, the flower buds developing on the plants will bloom, requiring us to uncover the beds to welcome in pollinators.
Accordingly, how quickly the offerings in the distribution tent have expanded (as I'm sure you all have noticed)! The first week featured an array of greens and a few petite Hakurei turnips and radishes. Now with the ushering in of zucchini and cucumbers (two crops that demand harvesting three days a week in this time of rapid growth), as well as cabbages, it seems the tent can hardly contain the bounty. Another thing worth mentioning here is my amazement and gratitude at the abundance of eager help in the fields from members, without whom the harvesting days would be a true challenge. With all these extra hands, the amount we are able to clear out of the fields before noon is truly remarkable. These hours are also a fantastic opportunity to connect with community members in conversation. As a newcomer to the Hudson Valley, I am pleased to get acquainted with this crew of farm-invested New Yorkers and hear all about places to see and hike in the area.
Speaking of members, one thing that I love about this method of CSA distribution (I come from a land where boxes are the norm, which does not require members to go directly to the farm nor allow the ability to choose which vegetables go home with you) is the opportunity for conversation and the exchange of ideas. I've often overheard members eagerly sharing recipes for things like beet greens, kohlrabi, and escarole in the tent. If you are at all like me, it is easy to get into cooking ruts and run out of creative steam when eating the same foods for many weeks, hence the boon of this face-to-face exchange, stimulating our interest and allowing us to branch out in the ways we can enjoy preparing these delicious yields.
You may have noticed the abundance of radishes in many varieties in the tent. A well-kept secret about this crunchy little root is that it is positively divine in cooked form! My favorite way to eat these gems is braised in chicken or vegetable stock, a pat of butter, chopped shallots, and a little honey, with fresh parsley for good measure tossed on at the end. This recipe can be found in Jack Bishop's book Vegetables Every Day, a invaluable resource I discovered in my own CSA rut many years ago, but you can find this and another delectable radish idea for free here: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/lifestyle/rocflavors/recipes/2014/05/07/braised-roasted-radishes/8829169/
As a wise permaculturist friend of mine famously says, "Point of view is a limit, community a remedy." (Bruce Bacon, Garden Farme) These are fine words to live by, and to serve as a reminder that it never hurts to reach out and inquire around us. If you see something unfamiliar in the tent and have questions about how to eat it, please feel welcomed to ask the farm staff or pose your curiosity to your fellow members!