The cruelest season

Is anyone out there a member of a CSA, an arrangement with a local farmer that entitles you to a weekly delivery of organic produce? If you are, you know that spring is the cruelest season for us local produce-loving hippies. It’s that time of the year when your weekly box overfloweth with greens. And I’m not talking spinach. I’m talking bitter greens. Weird greens that only us CSA-types have even heard of: tatsoi, pak choy, kohlrabi. Greens that your kid won’t touch with a 10-foot-pole. Greens so big they won’t fit into bags, so big they fill up your fridge’s veggie drawer and demand a whole extra shelf for storage. Greens so sandy and gritty that they require five, six, seven rinses to become edible.

So, if you want to know where I am these days, I am in the kitchen rinsing greens, or chopping greens. Or maybe I am leafing through recipe books, planning 12 different ways to cook greens. Or else I am in bed, dreaming about greens. I’m only three weeks into this year’s produce deliveries, and I have already developed my annual greens-induced mental illness. I’m probably (OK, definitely) more obsessive than most. But a CSA requires that you pay a large sum upfront for your weekly deliveries. For me, that big check is only bearable as long as I use every last scrap of produce in my box. In this house, no leaf is left behind.

The task is not so hard in summer, when we’re getting boxes full of tomatoes, corn and watermelons. But in the season of greens, it’s like running a marathon. And the key to winning is to never fall behind. If you blithely leave a head of lettuce for next week, you will regret it when you are assaulted with a new box stuffed with three more heads of lettuce. At breakfast, lunch and dinner I’m plotting ways to incorporate greens. A side salad with my bagel? A few sliced turnips on that ice cream? People come over for dinner, and after they leave, all I can think of is how many veggies I pawned off on them. (Radish leaf pesto! Arugula salad! Collard slaw! I rock!) We go out for dinner and I am racked with guilt; I swear I can hear the greens calling piteously from my crisper.

This week, we finished the last of the Swiss chard on Monday, the night before our next box was due. We had used everything in the box (except for a few leaves of lettuce, which we will never mention again). I was still in the race. I was so proud, I was practically high-fiving myself. And then I remembered the pak choy. Lurking in the back of the fridge was one forgotten bag of pak choy. I had an urge to throw it away and pretend it had never existed. Instead, I had to accept reality. I am already behind — and to make things worse, we’re about to go out of town for a three-day weekend. Help! Does anyone know how to can lettuce?

4 thoughts on “The cruelest season

  1. Oh my gosh Kristin. You got your mojo back! I laughed, I cried. No seriously, I loved your latest post here. Of course it also reminded me that I hate swiss chard but love collards. And what in the heck is “pak choy”?

  2. Share the box! I’ve run into a similar problem in the fall when it’s turnip greens, collards and kohlrabi makes a comeback. But it became so much more bearable when a friend and I split the CSA, alternating every week.

  3. Re pak or bok choy, i was thinking, what if you could make a sort of pesto-ish sauce out of it by smashing it up with olive oil and garlic. then freeze and use with pasta at some point?
    then I gave up and googled it. here are some pretty good ideas, i thought, especially the pickling:

    Braise ’em.

    The basic preparation is to wash and cut the bok choy on the bias into bite-sized pieces. Toss a chunk of crushed fresh ginger and garlic toes into a HOT wok with a couple tablespoons of oil. When the aroma coming from the wok has your stomach juices flowing, throw the choy in and move it around constantly. Add about half a teaspoon of salt. After about two minutes, add some chicken stock (half a cup or so…not too much), and cover. Let cook for another couple of minutes, then remove the cover and pour in a cornstarch slurry until the sauce is the consistency you like. Serve either with rice or over rice.

    You can modify this easily by adding salted black beans (same time as the ginger & garlic), Chinese sausage, ground pork or salt pork (just after the ginger & garlic), some oyster sauce or mashed-up fermented soy bean cake (with the cornstarch slurry). Let your imagination run rampant.

    It’s easy to pickle bok choy, too. Roughly chop, liberally salt, and press with a big ol’ rock. Add garlic and/or red peppers if you want, before you press. After a couple of days, just cook up a batch of rice, crack open a beer, and enjoy your pickles.

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    By ricepad on Feb 10, 2004 12:47PM

  4. I didn’t know you could eat radish leaves! Kristin, I’m with you. I’m afraid some of my leaves end up in the compost pile.