Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lincoln Box contents, 19 November

Ooooh, some goodies this time (I say that every time, don't I?). Swiss chard is the tall leafy green--treat the leaves like spinach, and the white stalks like celery, more or less. The fruits that aren't apples are fuyu persimmons--yes, you can figure out something to do with them. (Keeping it simple, they go great in fruit salad.) Yellow beans, mmm, nice to add a different color to a stirfry, or your favorite casserole. And who can't enjoy some fresh basil?

Here's what it all looked like together on my counter:
What you see: mixed greens, yellow beans, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, baby carrots, swiss chard, basil, apples, fuyu persimmons.

Friday, November 13, 2009

CSA Family Day

The next CSA Family day is December 6, 2009.  All Madison and Lincoln CSA families are invited to participate.  RSVP to your school coordinators, Grace (Madison) or Kelly (Lincoln) by Dec 1, 2009.

What is CSA Family Day at the farm?  Here's a recap from a CSA day in April of 2009.

Iris and I greatly enjoyed the CSA Family Day at Tanaka Farms.
Iris and I arrived an hour late for the 10:00 AM tour due to construction on interstate 405. While we were stuck on the freeway, I gave Iris my cell phone and asked her to dial her nanny. (Iris has decided that M will always be her one and only nanny; everyone else is just a babysitter.) Tanaka Farms is in Irvine. M currently lives on campus in Irvine. Let's meet for lunch!

Irvine is not a small town. I never expected that the farm and M's university shared a freeway exit. We drive this section of road regularly to visit my in-laws in San Diego. I never noticed this exit before. But, that's life in LA. Behind each freeway exit, is a community both distinct and integrated into the life of the larger metro area.

When M met us, she showed us how her college is visible from the Tanaka Farms parking lot. Once a week-on low carb, low carbon night-her dorm cafeteria serves produce from Tanaka Farms. Now that's local!

I couldn't believe the buccolic setting. Is this really only 1 minute away from the 405? The juxtaposition of banana trees and corn stalks tickled my fancy. The bananas we received in last week's box came from another farm. Irvine winter nights are too cold for these trees to bear fruit in large quantities.

Though they do bear some fruit. And who are those lazy guys all over the farm? Don't they ever move?

Iris tried unsuccessfully to befriend one.

The farm was also overrun with ladybugs.

The CSA tour is run separately from the strawberry and birthday party tours. We were given a map of the farm and sent to stations to pick radishes, carrots, cilantro, spinach and strawberries. It was a farm treasure hunt.

At each station, I embarrassed Iris by asking lots of questions. Can you imagine they run this entire farm, the CSA, the farm stand, educational tours and take care of the back office with just ~20 full-time employees and a few part-timers?

They minimize weeding by using drip irrigation and plastic row covers. Weeds only grow if they have water and sunlight. Under this system, they get very fewer weeds.

At first, I thought that was a whole lot of non-recyclable plastic. Then I thought about all the energy they save by not having to pump more water out here and not needing more workers, each commuting by car. We don't see the waste from that petroleum use, though we do see the plastic.

The ladybugs and scarecrows are part of the integrated pest management system, which includes interleaving crops.

Those are the healthiest tomatoes I have seen since I moved from Kansas.

Their Swiss chard has a few insect nibbles, just like mine. Note that not all the people in the background are capable of moving. ;-)

I lingered near the carrots because I enjoyed observing the wind rustle through the carrots with my senses. I could see, hear and smell the carroty goodness.

Then we headed up to the washing, chopping and grilling station at the top of a hill. They provided tofu, oil and spices to mix with our veggies. They also grilled sweet Maui-style onions. I noticed that the discarded onion tops resembled leeks. The young man told me I was welcome to take as many onion tops as I wanted.

After the food break, we headed over to the strawberry patch for dessert. They gave us one large plastic box per person and told us to fill them up. We were so sad that M had to leave the tour before dessert. She had an appointment with a study group for an upcoming exam. Luckily, we picked a small box of strawberries for her at the strawberry maze near the farm entrance before she met us that morning.

The onions are planted there to help repel insects from the strawberries.

They told us to eat as many strawberries as we wanted. So we did. All the parents were telling the kids to eat the darkest red ones, because they were the sweetest and wouldn't transport well. We picked bright red ones to take home. There is a certain joy in eating freshly picked and ripe strawberries, warmed by the sun. The kids had strawberry juice dribbling down their chins. Before long, I heard one child cry out, "My stomach hurts!"

Iris says she knows how a flower becomes a strawberry. You can see the whole process right here.

Iris managed to spill her container. She picked up what she could, and asked me to pick some more to fill it up. She carried mine. It was a windy day and our hats tried to fly away. She put the strawberries on her head to hold the hat on and to carry the strawberries. Container #2 hit the ground and burst open. I bit my tongue and watched her pick them up, slightly worse for the tumble.

After we put our pickings away, we went to the farm stand near the entrance. I bought some onions, garlic and potatoes. Iris bought a box of 6 enormous chocolate-covered strawberries. She gave Mark one, but tried to charge me $2 per strawberry! I asked her why he got a free sample. She said it was because he wasn't there. I had the option to buy them and I refused.

Bye-bye. We will be back next year for CSA day. Actually, Iris says we will be back in the summer for the watermelon tour. We went home to cook potato-leek soup with cilantro. What a great way to cap off the day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Madison CSA Program FAQ

An FAQ with just the answers.  Is it a Frequently Answered Questions?  Or answers I am tired of repeating?

Change History:
  • This post was originally written in 2009. 
  • Effective January 2010, the price for the original large boxes changed from $25 to $30.
  • Effective June 2010, smaller $20 boxes were introduced.   Large boxes continue to be $30.
  • July and August 2010, Lincoln subscribers will also pick up their produce at Neighborhood Grinds.
  • Effective Oct 2010, the boxes remain $30/$20, but the PTA will earn only $3/$2 per box. 
  • Effective Nov 2010, orders will be accepted monthly (not weekly)
CSA means community supported agriculture.  Tanaka Farms has written an introductory pdf about their CSA program.  The Madison and Lincoln schools'  PTAs partner with Tanaka Farms (TF) to locally administer the program.

Each box contains produce grown using organic methods at local farms around southern California-mainly from Tanaka Farms of Irvine.  All produce is farmed using organic methods, but may not necessarily be certified organic.  Small farms often forgo the expensive certification process.  A few times a year, TF invites subscribers to visit the farm so they can see for themselves how their food is grown.

Orders are due monthly.  You must turn in the order form and payment on or before 8:00 AM of the last Friday of every month.

The retail value of produce in each box will be $30/$20 (Large/Small box). Subscribers select the dates and sizes that they would like boxes and pay in advance.

Email the Madison coordinator for the most current sign up form.  Sign up forms can also be downloaded by following the link on the left hand column of Madison's Tanaka Farms Produce Orders page.

Make the checks payable to "Madison PTA".

Drop off the completed forms and payment at the Madison school office or at Neighborhood Grinds aka NG (2315 Artesia Boulevard, cross-street Mackay)
    Email us to let us know you placed an order (and where we should pick it up). We will email back a confirmation upon receipt of the hard copy form and payment.

    The PTA sends $27/$18 to Tanaka Farms and keeps $3/$2 to help support programs at Madison Elementary school.

    Tanaka Farms delivers to Redondo Beach and Santa Monica each Thursday.  They deliver elsewhere within the South Bay on Tuesdays.  If Thursday falls on a holiday (e.g. Thanksgiving), our backup delivery day is the prior Tuesday.

    Madison CSA boxes can be picked up at Neighborhood Grinds (NG) coffee shop, conveniently located at 2315 Artesia Boulevard (cross-street Mackay).  Just sign the subscriber sheet at the counter to confirm pick-up, and a NG staffer will hand you a box of produce. (If you think you have a box that week, and your name does not appear on the weekly list, call Aisha immediately.  Do NOT take a box.)

    Delivery times vary, but are generally in the late morning.  Subscriber boxes can be picked up anytime between 2:00 until 10:00 PM on delivery days (currently Thursdays).  Sometimes*, we send out email when the boxes are ready for pickup.  

    Tanaka Farms' sturdy waxed cardboard boxes must be returned. Please bring your own box, bag or bin to carry your produce home. NG staff will fold up the TF box and return it for you.

    Make sure you pick up the correct size box!

    Subscribers do not get a choice of produce. The boxes contain produce in season in our local area. Basically, they consist of whatever is ready to be harvested at the farm on the morning of the delivery, supplemented with specialty produce (e.g. stone fruit from the central valley, apples from Julian).

    The produce will contain varieties not commonly found at supermarkets. That's the whole point.

    Pictures of representative boxes can be found here and the posts tagged Inventory.  Pictures and inventory lists of a sample week can be found in small and large box comparison.

    We will provide recipe support at this blog.  Peruse the entries tagged Recipes.

    *Travel schedules permitting, an email reminder is sent out Wednesday to everyone who ordered a box for that week.  When the boxes arrive on Thursday, NG sends out a 'reply to all' message.  Keep your own records.  Don't count on the reminder because I can't do it every week.  If you are super curious and can't wait to tear into your strawberries, you can call NG at (310) 371-0900.

    Tanaka Farms provides free CSA family days down at the farm.  The last one was in June.  Pictures and a description of a family day from April 2008 can be found here.

    The Adams Middle School CSA program also picks up at NG.   Email the Adams CSA coordinator for the current monthly sign-up form or download the November 2010 form on Google Docs.  Fill out the form and drop it off with payment at Neighborhood Grinds (NG).  Make checks out to “Adams PTA”.  If you can’t make it over to NG in person, just drop it in the mail.
    Neighborhood Grinds
    2315 Artesia Blvd., Unit 1
    Redondo Beach, CA 90278
    Attn: Adams CSA

    Lincoln Elementary School families may sign up through the Lincoln PTA.  Proceeds from those orders benefit the Lincoln PTA. Email Kelly Wolschon to sign-up for the Lincoln School PTA program.

    Jefferson Elementary School has also joined the Tanaka Farms CSA program. However, Jefferson boxes must be picked up at the school between 2:15 and 3:00 PM.  Email Leslie Typrin to sign-up for the Jefferson School PTA program.

    Thanksgiving Week Delivery 24 November, 2009

    Our normal delivery day is Thursday.  We don't expect anyone at the farm to work on Thanksgiving Thursday, so we arranged for our delivery to be moved FROM 26 Nov TO 24 Nov. That gives subscribers time to check out the contents of the box, select their recipes for the Thanksgiving meal, and shop on Wednesday for any extra ingredients not included in the box.

    Order your Thanksgiving box today by downloading the form at the left hand column of Madison's Tanaka Farms Produce Orders page.  Lincoln subscribers can email their coordinator, Kelly W.

    Lettuce; not just for salads

    Each winter box usually includes heads of two types of lettuces. Here are a few recipe suggestions beyond salads.

    Make soup! This is not as strange as it sounds. Have you ever had watercress soup?  Romaine lettuce imparts a refreshing flavor to soup, without the spiciness of watercress.  Moreover, Chinese clay pot dishes are often lined with the tougher outer leaves of Romaine lettuce. They lend flavor and help reduce cleanup.

    You may not be the type of mom that serves ramen after a long day at work.  But I have been known to serve ramen with cubes of tofu, slices of fish cake and whatever veggies I can scrounge in the fridge.  My mother used spinach, watercress and Romaine interchangeably in ramen soup; I do the same.

    The softer types of lettuce leaves are perfect for low-carb wraps.  Boston or Bibb lettuce also works well for Korean-style lettuce cups.

    Feel free to add your lettuce ideas in the comments!

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Can't Beet Cookies!

    Or maybe you can.... Faced with the beets in our CSA box this week, I used a recipe that works for carrots and made beet cookies. The batter was very vivid:
    But the cookies themselves weren't more than a hint of pink:
    I like them. My friend likes them. And most impressively, my very picky nine-year-old likes them. Success! The same recipe works for squash, carrots, applesauce, bananas, etc. Here's my basic recipe:

    1/2 c. butter
    1 c. brown sugar
    1 c. mashed-up (whatever)
    1/2 t. vanilla
    2 c. flour (I use a mix of white and cornmeal, with some whole wheat if I have it)
    1 t. baking powder
    1 t. baking soda
    whatever cookie spices you like (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom)
    a cup of raisins (or sultanas, or currants, or chopped dried apricots, or craisins, or dates)
    a cup of chopped walnuts (or chopped almonds)
    citrus zest (if you have it around and you like the idea)

    Mix together in the order shown. The batter will be thick enough to roll into balls. So roll it into balls, about ping-pong size. Bake well-spaced on a greased cookie sheet, 350F, for about 12-15 minutes, till they look dry. Remove from sheet promptly.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    The November 5 Boxes at Lincoln

    Can't "beet" this week's box... groan. It's really a beautiful array this week:

    green beans
    mixed greens
    lettuce and more lettuce

    Check it out!

    Not a beet-friendly household? I understand, really, I do. I was hoping to use the beets to dye fabric, but it turns out to be less effective than you'd think. So I'm still in search of the right beet recipe or application for me....