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?