The Official Bay Ridge CSA Blog

Extra mural

A cruel individual from this organization once told me that reading this weekly newsletter was as exciting as watching paint dry. I would have been offended if it wasn’t for the fact that it gave me an entirely spurious opening paragraph to another stultifyingly ungratifying edition.

You see, for the past few months, two kind and giving Bay Ridge CSA members  - Natasha Mottola and Andy Issermoyer – have been painting some special murals at our pickup location at the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn. After seeing decades-old graffiti on the walls around the garden of the church while volunteering at the CSA, high school art teacher Andy talked to David about creating some murals to dress up the walls. And this August, Andy and Natasha started to make it happen.

Two months later, the murals are finally ready for consumption. Inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch barns, the murals reflect the vegetables that we consume each week. Andy and Natasha did some incredible work to bring this mural to life, and we should all be very grateful for their work for the community. Thank you Andy & Natasha!

Remember that this weekend is the Fall Harvest Party at Hearty Roots Farm. This Sunday (October 5) from 2pm to dark, it’ll be time to celebrate another great season with cider pressing, pumpkin carving, music, hayrides, visits to the chicken and pigs, and more.

The farm is about a 2 hours drive from NYC.  It’s also possible to get there via Amtrak (Rhinecliff station) and a 20-minute cab ride.  You’ll be welcome to camp at the farm Saturday or Sunday nights.

Details are at http://www.heartyroots.com/2014/09/27/fall-harvest-party-2014/

Here’s what you can expect to receive in this week’s Bay Ridge CSA share:

Potatoes
Lettuce
Swiss Chard
Cauliflower
Spinach
Herbs
Garlic
Winter Squash
Baby Pumpkin

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 No Comments

Better together

All too often in this day and age, we seem to spend our time talking about things and people splitting up. Band members decide that ‘musical differences’ have driven a wedge between them and their former colleagues, couples decree that they can no longer be together because of one person’s refusal to put socks in the laundry basket, and companies jettison their leaders for indiscretions such as a frankly regrettable incident with a small mountain goat.

This week, we even faced the prospect of one ancient institution attempting to seek independence from another. No, I’m not talking about the time that David decided to shave his facial hair, before you ask. Thankfully for this Brit who still believes in the importance of a kingdom that is united, the Scottish decided in their wisdom to let the indiscretions of the old country pass for a few years longer. Sure, like Kim and Kanye, you know it’ll all end in tears eventually, but it’s nice to pretend that everything’s OK for a little while longer.

What’s all this got to do with the Bay Ridge CSA, I hear you cry for only the 23rd time this season? Well, fortunately I managed to get a last-minute delivery from the House of Spurious Connections Inc, enabling me to say that the Scottish rejection of independence, and our commitment to fresh vegetables as CSA members are both because we are Better Together. Sure, the Scots are fed up of some of their taxes being spent south of the border, and all of us would occasionally like an hour or so longer in bed on a Saturday. But in the end, we know we are better off for it. Who’s up for some vegetarian haggis to celebrate?

Oh, and another reminder that Sunday, October 5th sees Hearty Roots invite all members up to the farm to celebrate with pumpkin carving, cider pressing, farm tours, games and more. Details to come.

Here’s what you can expect to receive in this week’s Bay Ridge CSA share:

Bok Choy
Carrots/Beets
Mizuna
Spinach
Sweet Peppers
Lettuce
Basil
Cabbage
Winter Squash*

* This week’s winter squash is Acorn Squash, a classic winter squash that does great halved and roasted in the oven, also really good for making stuffed squash halves with rice, meat, etc.

Fruit share:

Gala Apples
Seckel Pears
Honeycrisp Apples

Friday, September 19th, 2014 3 Comments

A question of trust

Trust is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It’s hard to explain the feeling you get when you have been promised something, and then you realize it’s all been a pack of lies all along. Like the time I was told that England would win the World Cup. Or that Desperate Housewives of Secaucus would be a worthy and thought-provoking watch. And the less said about the butt-toning shoes I bought a few years ago, the better.

The problem is that we have to take the information that we get at face value. So when I tell my wife that hi-tech looking piece of geeky kit that she sees on the table was actually bought for a song on eBay, she naturally believes me. Only when she finds the receipts and the application for a new mortgage is that trust eroded. If she’s reading, this is a joke darling. But don’t look in the second drawer in my bedroom dresser anyway.

What’s this got to do with vegetables, I hear you cry? A very good point, I answer sheepishly. Actually trust is a huge thing when it comes to the food we feed our families. Only this week the Bavarian Health & Food Safety Authority and Wuerzburg University in Germany announced that they are developing a test that may be able to identify whether the organic produce we buy is really organic – rather than just relabelled to force consumers to pay a higher price for their fruit and vegetables. Organic fraud is an increasing problem, and technology may be one way to reduce the problem it would appear.

Of course, the fantastic part about being a member of a CSA is that you build up a personal relationship with your farm (in our case, that’s Hearty Roots Community Farm in upstate New York). We know the practices that BR, Lindsey and the team there use, because we’ve been working with them for seven years, and many of us have made trips to the farm over that time, So, we don’t need a new bit of technology to ensure that we really can trust that the produce is of the quality and provenance that we have come to expect. The fact that we get pounds and pounds of tomatoes every week is admittedly an extra bonus!

Anyway, trust me when I say that here is what you can expect to receive in this week’s farm share:

Arugula
Kale
Tomatoes
Peppers
Carrots
Delicata Winter Squash
Watermelon
Summer squash

Fruit:

Grapes
Pears
Apples

Friday, September 5th, 2014 No Comments

Feed Bay Ridge

According to recent reports, California is being forced to increase the amount of money it pumps into water recycling, as it faces its third serious drought in as many years. While some Californians have apparently been turning up their noses at the prospect of so-called ‘toilet-to-tap’ processing, most people recognize that it’s a necessary response to a fundamental lack of water in the area.

Of course, lack of water is not such a problem here in New York, despite heat that causes this poor forsaken Brit to patent a new way of walking that involves no movement of any limbs. The Bay Ridge Shuffle, as history will come to describe it, reduces body sweat by at least 39.1%, although it does attract marginally odd glances from passers-by. What do they know?

However, we at the Bay Ridge CSA are nonetheless suffering from a serious drought when it comes to recipes. Every year, eager members send their favorite recipes incorporating CSA vegetables for publication to the masses. Yet this year, the drought is so severe that humanitarians are considering throwing us a benefit concert. Please, reach deep into those recipe pockets and dig out your incredible version of Blueberry Eggplant with garlic scape sauce. No gift is too small, so email email hidden; JavaScript is required today.

In the meantime, here’s what you can expect to receive in the CSA share today:

Tomatoes
Watermelon
Cucumbers
Sweet Peppers
Carrots
Kale
Herbs
Eggplant
Sweet Corn

Friday, August 8th, 2014 No Comments

Don’t just bore us, get to the chorus

Everyone has their own Friday night routines. Some people watch a movie and order dubiously sourced chicken fingers to be delivered to their house. Some meet for Happy Hour after work, and wake up the next morning fully clothed and with a vague taste of tequila and teriyaki in their mouth. Others just head out on the highway, looking for adventure, and – you know – whatever comes their way.

For me, Friday night is dedicated to the writing of a hilariously offbeat blog post (according to judges at the CSA Bloggers Awards in 1977) informing Bay Ridge CSA members of what vegetables they will be receiving the next day. As a general rule, that involves drinking my own body weight in a cheeky white wine (some people get put off by the apple cider vinegar after taste, but not me), and letting the creative juices flow.

Tonight though, disaster has struck. With no wine anywhere to be found, I’m desperately relying on my own wit and repartee to get me through, and, as anyone who has ever met me will confirm, that’s going to be a struggle. With David no longer wearing his hat at the pickup, Rana away and unable to make her signs, and all the other big bosses at the Bay Ridge CSA just way too scary to make fun of, all my normal sources of creative inspiration have vanished.

And then I realized. Like Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’ (look it up, younger members), people only ever remember the chorus. So, let’s forget about the meaningless verse, and get to the ba duba dop ba duba dop. Here’s what you can expect to receive in this week’s CSA farm share:

Arugula
Eggplant
Basil
Cucumbers
Melon
Onions
Red Beets
Tomatoes

In the fruit share:
Blueberries
Plums
Apricots

Friday, July 25th, 2014 No Comments

Take me to the CSA ballgame

Ah, the balmy days of summer, when there is nothing more glorious to do of a Friday evening than to head to the ballgame, grab a beer, and put the world to rights. It’s a little known fact though that the stats that govern the baseball have long been used to govern the world of CSAs. Fortunately, the Big Bosses at the Bay Ridge CSA have given me special dispensation to share with you the secret shadowy statistics that form the backbone of our esteemed organization. Read them well and learn, my friends.

  1. GS – Grand Slam (or in CSA speak, “average number of Garlic Scapes served up to members over the first six weeks of the CSA season. Long-time members will remember the glorious summer of 1955, when GS reached an all-time high of 41.)
  2. LOB – Left On Base (in CSA-speak, Left Over Beets. The number of beets found rotting in the bottom of your fridge once you reach the end of the season. Just fyi, any LOB over eight can cause permanent discoloration of your vegetable drawer).
  3. OBP – On Base Percentage (in CSA-speak, Overwhelmed by Berries & Peaches. In high OBP weeks, CSA members can suffer from a particularly high OBP that can lead to a DP (distraught partner) when you return home having eaten all the BP on the way back).
  4. FC – Fielder’s Choice (in CSA-speak, Fetcher’s Choice. The person who carries back the heavy bags gets first option on any produce within that week’s harvest. Tomatoes and raspberries have a particularly high FC quotient.)
  5. RBI – Runs Batted In (in CSA-speak, Recipe Bafflement Inquiry. High RBI’s usually occur at the pickup site with vegetables not often seen commercially such as Japanese Turnips, but can occasionally be heard with more common produce such as kale (“that’s an unexpected RBI for leeks there, Dan.”)
  6. TB – Total Bases (in CSA-speak, Totally Bummed. The feeling you get when you have had a heavy night out on a Friday, and then don’t wake up until 15 minutes after the CSA pickup ended).
  7. SB – Stolen Bases (in CSA-speak, Stolen Broccoli. Generally, members who turn up at about 10.15am can suffer from high SB, when unscrupulous members have taken more than their fair share earlier that morning. Note that those people who take more than their dues can suffer from occasional OPS (Optimal Piqued Staring) from volunteers who notice what’s going on).
  8. ERA – Earned Run Average (in CSA-speak, Eggplant Recipe Alternative. There does seem a point in the season after you’ve grilled eighty three eggplants that you can’t even buy an ERA. Then you remember babaghanoush, and all is well with the world.)
  9. SO – Strikeout (in CSA-speak, Squash Optimization. There’s always a choice of squashes, and any member with a good SO average is able to size up the crate in a matter of seconds, and spot the bright yellow squash that will be the sweetest, and narrowly avoid the green zucchini that looks like it’s done ten rounds with Mike Tyson.)
  10. WHIP – Walks & Hits Per Innings Pitched (in CSA-speak, Well Hidden In Potatoes. It’s a little known fact that Farmer BR hides one glorious bonus vegetable in among one of the crates. Like the secret menu at Tanoreen (what, you didn’t know about that either??), the lucky member who forages through the crates to find the bonus unheralded vegetable must always hold it above his or her head, and shout ‘I am the WHIP, and I come to claim my vegetable fortune!’ in a falsetto at the top of their voice in order to claim it.

Here’s what you can expect to receive in this week’s CSA share:

Carrots

Sweet Corn

Onions

Lettuce

Cucumbers

Cabbage

Kale

Fennel

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 No Comments

Different strokes

Growing older is a strange thing. I’m not talking about the strange single long hairs that suddenly start to spurt out of your eyebrows (or worse still, your nostril) at a much greater rate than any other. Or the odd grunts that you find yourself emitting at particularly strenuous moments, such as – you know – standing up. Or even the fact that you start to wax lyrical about things that you never used to like, just because they were around when you were younger. Like ‘Kate & Allie’, or ‘Max Headroom’.

No, I’m just talking about how your attitude changes in general, the older we get. And in particular, our desire to be different seems to change with time.

When you’re a young child, the last thing in the world that you want to do is stand out from the crowd. After all, it was always the slightly different kid whose parent made him wear a cardigan rather than a coat that got picked on at school. Or the girl who had Rola Cola instead of Coke or Pepsi, obviously.

As you grow up though, the more you want to express yourself individually. Admittedly, that matching tie-dye bandana/underwear set that you made for yourself in your freshman year may have been a mistake in hindsight, but at least you were telling the world that you stood for something different. Even if that difference resulted in you spending Friday nights alone in your dorm room, watching ‘Falcon Crest’ and eating Baskin Robbins kahlua and cream flavored ice cream.

The fact is that different is good. And particularly when it comes to the food we eat. Most of us are members of a CSA because we want to see some kind of change in the way that produce is grown and distributed, and we’re not content with the status quo. Indeed, a study out of the UK published today suggests that organic food – as grown by farms such as our own Hearty Roots – has more of the antioxidant compounds linked to better health than regular (non-organic) food, as well as markedly lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides. Now THAT’S a difference that we can all go for.

Here’s what you can expect to receive in tomorrow’s CSA share:

Arugula
Fennel
Carrots
Onions
Eggplant
Cucumbers
Basil
Garlic Scapes
Tomatoes (These are the very very first of the tomatoes, just a few are ripe so
there are only two per share, but there will be more to come! Please make sure you only take your allotted share!)

Friday, July 11th, 2014 1 Comment

Happy sausage on a stick day!

Ah, the 4th of July. It’s always been a difficult one for me to be honest. After all, when I was a kid growing up in the UK, we just used to call it Friday. If, you know, it was a Friday. Apart from when we spoke to Americans, when we used to have to pretend that we were in mourning for the loss of our colony south of Canada.

Fast forward a few years, and I suddenly found myself living in the self-styled Greatest Country On Earth (TM), and suddenly July 4th had a great deal more meaning. By which I mean that it was now a Friday that we didn’t have to go to work. If, you know, it was a Friday. Suddenly July 4th was the greatest thing on earth, and a fitting commemoration of my homeland’s graceful and fully amicable return of this country to its rightful owners.

Move on to the present day, and I’m now an American marking my second Independence Day in the United States. And, as is fitting for such a celebration of what it means to be an American , I today found myself walking the aisles of a major grocery store chain that can’t quite break into the New York City market despite their better efforts. And frankly, it’s pretty astonishing what you can find in there. From 800 types of grated cheese to breakfast cereal with more sugar in it than can be conceivably lifted by the average four year old, it’s a temple to food-gone-bad.

But one thing stands out more than any other.

Step forward the Jimmy Dean’s Blueberry Pancakes and Sausage. On A Stick. After all, let’s not imagine the chaos that would ensue if somebody actually had to pick up a fork to eat this (use of knives to eat food having apparently been outlawed by the founding fathers in the US following the British retreat). The tragedy is that somebody in the Jimmy Dean organization came out of a brainstorm for new products one day thinking, ‘I’ve done it! I’ve invented the next big thing – fast cars and big bonuses here I come!’ He likely had a coronary after one too many Blueberry Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick, but those three minutes of dreaming were pretty damn glorious.

All of this got me to thinking about food in America, and the perils of getting what you wish for. After all, Britain may (wrongly) not be renowned for its food culture, but we don’t have sausage pancakes on a stick, last time I looked. You’ve got the founding fathers to thank for this, you know.

For those of you with kids, there’s a book by Toni Morrison called ‘The Big Box’ which philosophizes about the process of kids growing up and becoming independent. When you think about blueberry pancakes and sausages on a stick, you can’t help but wonder whether the words were maybe written about the United States after all?

“I know you are smart and I know that you think
You are doing what is best for me
But if freedom is handled just your way
Then it’s not my freedom or free.”

Ah, you kids can’t handle your freedom. Luckily we’ve got fresh fruit and vegetables, picked only a few hours ago, coming our way tomorrow morning. Oh, and by the way, I still spent almost a hundred dollars in that unnamed store. I’m an American these days, after all.

Here’s what you can expect to receive in tomorrow’s CSA share. And Happy Independence Day to all our members!

Baby Lettuce
Tatsoi
Cucumbers
Cauliflower or Broccoli
Summer Squash
Garlic Scapes
Carrots
Cabbage

This is also the first week of the fruit share!

Note from the farm:

When we collect eggs every day, it’s always striking how different ours look than what you see at the grocery store. Buy a dozen commercial eggs and they all look identical; but ours are different colors, shapes and sizes, depending on the breed of the hen, the time of year, the age of the hen. etc. You might notice that our eggs are on average quite big; I think it’s because our hens have free-choice feed available, whereas caged hens are given limited rations. But right now, you will probably notice some smaller eggs in the mix. That’s because we have a big group of young hens who are just beginning to lay. These first eggs are called “pullet” eggs, and they are a nice reminder that chickens aren’t just a uniform commodity, but living creatures that change over the seasons.

Friday, July 4th, 2014 2 Comments

Sleeping on the job

The great thing about the Bay Ridge CSA is that the community is so eclectic. Whether you’re Democratic or Republican, rich or poor, a food lover or just a food eater, there’s room for everybody within the confines of the group. And the fact is that from the toddler who helps pick her mother or father select the vegetables at the pick-up, through to the more elderly member who joined the CSA because the vegetables taste more like they did when he was a kid, the CSA is open to everybody of all ages.

All of this got me to wondering about the average Friday night of the CSA member who waits eagerly under their inbox waiting patiently – nay, desperately – for this email to fall into their loving arms from on high. I’ve always wondered what you’re getting up to as I’m sitting here, desperately coming up with enough words to persuade the big bosses at the Bay Ridge CSA to keep me on the books.

It’s this latent curiosity that led me to invent the Bay Ridgualizer™, a groundbreaking machine made from bits of scrap metal and a couple of tons of garlic scapes. I keep it in my mother-in-law’s garage, if you must know. Each week this glorious machine enables me to see right into the murky and hitherto private world of the members of this saintly parish. And frankly, it’s not a pretty sight

Powered only by cooking oil derived from deep frying falafel, the Bay Ridgualizer™ has already shown me exactly why there’s a cucumber shortage on 79th Street (you don’t want to know), and why one of our members is always the last person through the gates for the pickup (let’s just say that the tumble dryer at the laundry is ridiculously slow). It’s given me a fascinating insight into one man’s peculiar obsession with Betty White, and the less said about the 101 uses that one member has found for beets, the better.

Of course, the irony would be that if you could turn the Bay Ridgualizer™ on my good self this evening, you’d find a poor beaten soul who – already overwhelmingly conquered by jetlag – was unwittingly given a drowsy anti-histamine by his loving wife only moments before settling down to write this esteemed journal. Still, it’ll take more than a few pharmaceutical drugs to bring down this wri….zzzzzzzzzz.

Apologies, I just fell asleep on my computer and now I have a QWERTY imprint on my forehead. Probably best I head off before somebody complains.

Here’s what you can expect to receive in this week’s share:

Lettuce
Cabbage
Scallions
Red Beets
Arugula
Garlic Scapes
Cucumbers
Summer Squash
Radicchio

Message from the farm:
We are not always so diligent about sending newsletters during the busy season, but this summer we have tasked some of our farm crew members with updating farm images on Instagram. Head over to our page to see what’s happening at Hearty Roots! http://instagram.com/heartyroots

Fruit shares
Fruit shares will begin next week!

Eggs
We are in an egg lull right now, as our new hens haven’t started laying much yet, so some of this week’s eggs come from our wonderful neighbors at Sparrowbush Farm, where they use the same GMO-free feed and pasture-raised practices that we do.

Thanks so much for your membership in the farm!

–Ben + Lindsey + family, and the Hearty Roots Crew

Friday, June 27th, 2014 No Comments

The best things come to those who wait

They say that the best things come to those who wait. To be brutally honest, I have no idea who ‘they’ are (though my money’s on the big bosses from the Bay Ridge CSA), or indeed why ‘they’ always have to speak in such alarmingly clichéd ways. But say it they do.

Personally I am not sure they are even right. After all, I waited for four years for Veronica Dribblethwaite from third grade, and then moments after she told me that I could share her PB&J, I watched her run off to play tag with some kid with a minor hygiene problem and a penchant for eating mud.

I’ve been waiting 40 years now for England to survive past the semi-final of a major football tournament, and while the World Cup has now kicked off, I fear I’ll be waiting a few more years yet. For those of you reading this on Sunday morning, I hope you all saw the team’s glorious 7-1 mauling of Italy, and that you’re looking forward to watching the Three Lions inevitably grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in the games to come.

But to be fair, ‘they’ may still have a point. After all, it’s now just before midnight, and you’re only now getting news of what’s in tomorrow’s second CSA share of the year. You can’t rush perfection. Or even mediocrity, in the case of this email. Anyway, enjoy your vegetables, and if you see Veronica Dribblethwaite, can you ask her to give me my marbles back?

Here’s what’s in tomorrow’s CSA share:

Spinach
Lettuce
Japanese Sweet Turnips
Summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow squash)
Tatsoi
Swiss Chard
Arugula
Garlic Scapes*

* Garlic Scapes are the immature flower of the garlic plant. These curly-cues show up in June and we snap them off of the plants as a spring treat. Nice garlic flavor, when substituted for garlic in recipes the strength is a bit milder.

News from the farm:

Although the share is always greens-heavy in early June, we are excited that the summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash) are ripening up quickly and we have a good amount to send in this week’s share. As we near the longest days of sunlight of the year, the plants are growing so quickly, and of course so are the weeds! We couldn’t be busier at the farm, but we are having a great time, and enjoying a week of mild temperatures and some rain showers.

Thanks for your membership this season! Our number one priority on this farm is providing good, affordable food to all of you, the CSA members who make it possible for our farm to flourish. We will be working hard all season to ensure that your family has the best quality, freshest, healthiest food possible on your tables.

With gratitude,

Ben, Lindsey, Piper + Eleanor, along with Jeff, Wes, Jordan, Tim, Christopher, Kate, Brian, Lia and Audrey

Friday, June 13th, 2014 No Comments

Veggies
Lettuce
Kale
Spinach
Radish/Turnip
Carrots/Beets
Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Fennel/Kohlrabi

Fruit
Apples
Asian Pears

Order Pickup: Oct 23rd
Deadline to Order: Oct 20th

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