It’s Sunday and today I was able to pick up my share of vegetables from the farm, the CSA I have signed up for this year. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture which is a relationship between me and a local, family farm. You connect directly with a farmer, and every week or every other week, your farmer delivers a variety of fresh, nutritious food to convenient locations in your neighborhood, for me I pick up my share directly from the farm. This particular CSA also sells eggs and meat but since I am converted to eating whole food plant-based only I leave those alone. The CSA also partners up with an organic mushroom farm, so that when you pick up your veggies you can also pick up the pre-ordered mix of mushrooms.
When you connect with a farm through CSA, you get to experience food in new ways - through seasonal eating, new and heirloom varieties, and new recipes and techniques provided by your farmer. You'll also get to know your farmer and become a part of the life of a farm through farm events, blogs, and newsletters. This year I also started my own vegetable garden, well, actually it was last year, but that was a disaster, the bugs got the best of it. This year I decided to ensure that I have fresh organic and locally grown vegetables while more seriously trying my hand at becoming a backyard farmer.
A little bit more about me. I grew up in the Netherlands and my grandmother had a small farm which she managed, she had three kids, my mother was one of them. They lost their father at a very young age. While being a young child I remember Sunday afternoon being spend at grandma’s house and during the growing season, we the kids had to help out in the vegetable garden. Helping out was usually during the harvesting of the raspberries, strawberries beans, cauliflower, beets, carrots, cabbage, kale etc. Three families with a total of seven kids plus my grandmother ate from that small plot of land. Being surrounded by farm land, apple, pear and plum orchards my mother was often found in the kitchen preserving many fruits and vegetables, making plum jam, apple sauce, preserving beans and more. Helping in the preparation was one of my after school duties.
However, standing over my three large raised planter boxes in the beginning of the season I was not very sure of myself and thinking what am I in for knowing that last year’s efforts were a total waste. My parents never taught me that there is more of a science to growing vegetables, I was just too young and more interested in eating the fruit instead. Anyway, I started asking questions about growing your own vegies, reading, looking at YouTube, and my brain became even more jumbled up and I was still thinking that I was not smart enough to do this. Just like everything else in life, learning something new is always a challenge. Once you start to learn more and get more comfortable with the subject or the idea everything starts to flow more smoothly. I decided that I was just going to go with the flow and that those three planters do not have to be full with beautiful vegies this summer and fall. And so, as I went along, one seed, one seedling, one plant let to another and my planters are full. I had some casualties on the way, but I am learning as I go.
Coming back to the CSA, today I was able to pick up a bounty of beautiful vegetables, I felt so rich and happy to see this wealth spread out on my kitchen island trying to decide what to eat first, what can stay in the fridge for a while, what can I preserve etc. I did come to the conclusion that I just had too much food for one person to eat before that particular vegetable spoiled. So my neighbors, a family of five were happy to accept a nice head of lettuce, kohlrabi and part of the bunch of fennel. Knowing that the food would not be wasted I was a lot happier.
On the way back from the CSA I stopped by one of the farm stands and picked up two boxes of strawberries.
I decided to make Hearty Chard Curry for dinner. I talked to my daughter earlier that day and discussed some recipes, she mentioned that many recipes created could use more spices than those listed in the recipe, a pinch here or there did not cut it in her book (she is a vegan chef in Brooklyn NY). I decided to follow her advice and doubled up the herbs and spices in the recipe as believed to be appropriate. I also substituted the yogurt for coconut cream to make the recipe vegan. I had placed the can of coconut milk in the fridge to make the white creamy part more solid. After I opened the can I poured off the liquid and I will use that tomorrow in a smoothie.
Hearty Chard Curry
(Enough for two to four people depending on how much rice or naan you take with your meal. I personally go easy on the naan and rice and enjoy the veggies since I have plenty anyway).
Bunch of Swiss or rainbow chard
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (I used avocado oil instead)
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Inch of of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 table spoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cardamom pods, bashed
3 or 4 medium potatoes, cubed (I used purple potatoes instead)
Can of coconut milk (put in the fridge and use about a 3/4 cup of the white coconut cream, the remaining white cream I will use for the desert)
3 tablespoons tomato purée
A small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
A small handful of almonds, cashews or pistachios, toasted and chopped
Separate the chard leaves from the stalks. Cut the stalks into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces and roughly chop the leaves. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and fry until just golden. Meanwhile, pound the garlic, chili and ginger together with a pinch of salt to a paste. Add to the onion and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Add in the rest of the spices and stir for a minute or two.
Add the potatoes and chopped chard stalks and fry, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, so that they are well coated with the spice mixture. Pour in about a cup of water or vegetable stock – enough to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10–12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.
Add the chard leaves, stir and cook until just wilted. In a bowl, whisk together the coconut cream, tomato puree and some of the hot liquid from the curry. Remove the curry from the heat, stir in the coconut cream mixture, return to the heat and warm through very gently. Stir in most of the coriander. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Scatter over the toasted nuts and remaining coriander, then serve with rice and/or naan bread.
One cup of strawberries cleaned and cut in half or smaller and put into a bowl. I took the remaining part of the coconut cream out of the fridge added about a table spoon of maple syrup for flavor and added a teaspoon of Monk-fruit sweetener. This sweetener is made from monk fruit and is virtually calorie-free. Monk fruit sweetener was discovered by Buddhist monks in Asia and was used in elixirs to increase the chi or life energy. I mixed the coconut cream, maple syrup and monk fruit sweetener together and added it to the strawberries and topped it off with some mint from the garden.
Learning a new skills, learning to prepare vegetables and researching new recipes, being physically active in the garden, all builds brain cells and reaping the benefits of healthy nutritious food is in all a win, win, win, win, win situation.
It’s a good day!