The past couple of summers, I participated in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) or farm share. The way CSAs work (usually) is that participants pay the farmer up front for a season’s worth of fruits and/or vegetables. Then, each week during the growing season, the participant picks up their share or it is delivered to them. Usually, the participant doesn’t know what they will get in each week’s share until they receive it. The contents of the share vary depending on what’s in season and what the farmer has most recently harvested.
It’s a great model for supporting local agriculture — the participants help assume the risks of the farm and in return receive a good variety of fresh, local produce every week. There are pros and cons. If the farm is having a great season, the participants may receive more than their usual allotment from a given harvest (I cannot even look at another pattypan squash after my farmshare last season — they grew SO many). The reverse is true too. A storm or pests might knock out an entire crop of an item — that particular fruit or vegetable will therefore not be in the share.
Unfortunately, I found that I missed nearly half of last year’s farmshare pickups due to my travel schedule. I tried to get friends to pick up my share when I wasn’t there, so at least they could enjoy the produce. On the weeks where no one picked up the share, the food was donated to a local food bank.
I feared that I might be in the same boat this summer and so I have decided not to participate in a CSA this year. I still wanted to do my part to support local farms and so needed a new strategy. Here’s what I came up with:
In any given week during the growing season, there’s bound to be at least one or two items in particular that are in abundance or over-abundance. My plan is to buy whatever that item is in bulk, prep, cook (if necessary) and freeze it into allotments that I can then thaw for cooking later in the year. This is what I was already doing with many of the items from the CSAs the past two years.
Now, instead of having to prep corn, tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers and who knows what else all in the same weekend, I’ll pick one (maybe two) of those items each week to concentrate on.
This is the first week of my new plan and I have started with strawberries. I bought three quarts from a farm stand advertising local strawberries.
I separated the berries that were over-ripe, mushy or about to be from the firmer ones. The over-ripe ones (a little over a quart’s worth) I cleaned, cored, halved and threw into a big pot. The rest I’ll save to eat fresh over the next few days.
I turned up the heat and stirred occasionally. In about 10 minutes, the mushiest had absolutely melted and most of the rest had burst, releasing their juices.
The result: a sweet, syrupy, bubbly concoction that can be poured over pancakes, dropped into oatmeal or stirred into muffin batter. You could add a bit a sugar to the berries at the beginning if you want them to be super sweet by the end.
I doled the mixture out into plastic containers I’ve saved and they’re cooling on the counter now before I pop them into the freezer.
By the way, the whole process, from picking out the mushy berries to ladling them into the containers, took about 15 minutes.