A share of the bounty.
IT'S ALMOST like getting a birthday present every week.
"Each time we open the box, I feel like a kid again," said Abby Gershenzon, a Eugene mother and literary magazine editor. "It's fun, because it's always a surprise."
"The box" is a plastic bin that contains a weekly "farm share" from Winter Green Community Farm in Noti.
Gershenzon, her husband, John Pearce, and their preschool daughters are among hundreds of local households now investing in local farms - and healthier meals - through Community Supported Agriculture.
At 10 area CSA farms, both farmers and consumers benefit from a direct relationship.
Farmers gain because CSA shareholders pay an up-front fee, helping cover the cost of planting and cultivation. They also share the farmer's risk if weather or other problems hamper a crop. Local fees range from $350 to $600 for a season of 19 to 26 weeks - about $17 to $25 weekly.
In return, shareholders get a box of fresh, organic produce each week from mid-June to November and share in the bounty when there's a bumper crop.
Gershenzon and Pearce actually "share a share" with another family on their street.
Each Tuesday afternoon, Craig and Leslie Leve pick up the produce from a south Eugene preschool that is both a Winter Green drop site and their young sons' day care center. The two families then gather to divvy up the week's fresh-from-the-farm spoils.
Often, wonderful smells betray the contents as soon as the lid is lifted.
"The basil!" Leslie Leve raved.
"The melons!" Gershenzon chimed in.
One recent Tuesday, their "share" also contained a lesson in sharing for Isaac Leve and Cady Pearce, both 5.
There was only one basket of strawberries inside the blue plastic bin.
"I had it first!" Isaac exclaimed when Cady reached for some of the small, sweet berries.
"It's not really about who had it first," Craig Leve intervened, lifting the berries into the neutral territory of parental hands.
"I want one more, for my sister," Cady said after Craig divided up the berries.
Her mother smiled skeptically.
"You notice they're not fighting over the radishes," Gershenzon said.
The radishes are the exception, though.
Generally, the intense flavor of just-picked produce is a dream come true for parents such as Craig Leve, who remembers when "Eat your vegetables!" was a nightmare.
"We grew up eating mostly boiled, frozen vegetables, the 'better living through technology' approach," he recalled. "You had no idea of the seasonality of vegetables, and what a difference that makes."
With a CSA membership, consumers tune into local harvest cycles and let what's ripe here drive their meal planning.
"The difference in what we get from Winter Green and even the organic produce I buy at the grocery store is just incredible," Gershenzon said. "There's so much taste! Even that silly tatsoi (a leafy green) has a really rich flavor. The different tastes sneak up and seduce you."
Her children happily eat meals based on fresh spinach and broccoli, and have become fond of even tatsoi and mizuna, another exotic green.
As proof, she cited Cady's first question to farmer Wali Via when the family visited Winter Green during a garlic-braiding festival last year.
"How do you get the vegetables to taste so good?" she asked him.
While most shareholders like being surprised by their share fare each week, most CSA farmers assist them in menu planning by providing recipes featuring items from the week's harvest.
Gershenzon has compiled a thick notebook of such recipes during three years as a CSA member.
After surveying the contents of a recent farm share - red leaf butter lettuce; green onions; garlic whistles (looping, flowering tops); radishes; spinach; mizuna; tatsoi; broccoli; and parsley - she planned an initial meal of spinach enchiladas and green salad.
The enchilada recipe, modified from a La Leche League cookbook, is a favorite because its "do-ahead" green chili sauce can be prepared while 19-month-old Jesse naps.
Later, when Pearce comes home from his job as a database administrator for the Oregon Employment Department, he tosses a green salad while she assembles the enchiladas.
Green Chili Sauce
Modified from a recipe by Erin Ely in LaLeche League of Oregon's "Recipes from the Heart."
1 medium sweet onion
5 to 6 green onions
2 garlic whistles (or 2 cloves garlic)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup powdered, low-sodium vegetable broth (available in bulk at Sundance Foods)
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Pinch of finely diced jalapeno peppers
In large saucepan, saute finely chopped onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onions turn translucent.
Stir in flour, cumin and pepper. Pour powdered vegetable broth in large measuring cup and add water to make 2 cups. Stir mixture into sauted vegetables and turn heat to high.
When sauce bubbles, add oregano and peppers, then turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat.
Several large bunches spinach (12 to 16 ounces)
1/2 pound Monterrey Jack cheese
Green chili sauce (see previous recipe)
1 package 6-inch yellow corn tortillas
2 to 3 ripe tomatoes
Preheat oven to 375. Steam spinach until tender; drain. Grate cheese. Pour half the green chili sauce in the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole dish.
Roll spinach and cheese inside each tortilla and place in dish, securing with a toothpick if necessary.
Pour rest of sauce over the dishful of enchiladas. Sprinkle coarsely chopped tomatoes on top. Bake 25 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce is bubbling.
Makes 4 adult servings.
LOCAL CSA FARMS
Creative Growers: 935-7952; email@example.com
Denison Farms: (541) 752-4156; firstname.lastname@example.org
Food for Lane County Youth Farm: 343-2822; email@example.com
Full Circle Community Farm: 461-3798
Hey Bayles! Farm: 942-2219; firstname.lastname@example.org
Horton Road Organics: 925-3019; email@example.com
Laughingstock Farm (meat, poultry): 345-2186
Muslin Creek Farm: 767-3759
NettleEdge Farm: (winter only) 689-3672
Winter Green Community Farm: 935-1920; firstname.lastname@example.org
Abby Gershenzon's Spinach Enchiladas are a family favorite. Many of the ingredients come from the family's Community Supported Agriculture box from Winter Green Community Farm in Noti. Dividing up produce are (from left) John Pearce, Leslie Leve holding son Alex, Craig Leve, Abby Gershenzon holding daughter Jesse, and Cady Pearce. NICOLE DeVITO / The Register-Guard John Pearce works up a salad while Abby Gershenzon puts the finishing touches on her enchiladas.
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|Title Annotation:||Farmers and consumers benefit from Community Supported Agriculture; Food|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jul 10, 2002|
|Previous Article:||Dinner for two offers a wealth of seasonal flavors.|
|Next Article:||Market Fresh.|