Being part of a CSA means you are going to receive veggies that you don’t normally eat; you are stretched a bit to fit your meal plans with what you receive in your farm share each week. Not much of a fan of cabbage? Well too bad, this spring was the perfect weather for cabbage to grow, so we hope you had fun trying to think of ways to eat them for a few weeks. Never really a fan of beets or swiss chard? (That’s me, I’ll admit) Well this just might be the perfect time to acquaint yourself with them and try to find ways to make yourself like them.
Before working on the farm I did not like tomatoes, to me raw tomatoes were decidedly inedible. I remember watching my dad slice up a tomato then just eat it straight with salt and pepper, I remember thinking that I would never be able to do that, I would never be a person who eats raw tomatoes. When I started at 5 Loaves Farm I decided that I couldn’t work on a farm and not like fresh tomatoes, so every day as we were harvesting the cherry tomatoes I would eat one, slowly working myself up to trying a greenhouse tomato. And now here I am, fresh tomatoes with mozzarella and basil is possibly my all-time favorite summer snack.
I would encourage us though, as my wife has taught me, that broadening our palate can go beyond exploring the tastes and textures of these common garden vegetables. Want to be really adventurous? Try cooking with those turnip greens in the fall!
A couple of the oddballs of the farm we have experimented with are sweet potato greens curry, fried purslane, elderflower cordial, raspberry leaf tea, bolted kale stem stir fry, broccoli leaf chips, pickled radish seed pods, spiced watermelon rind, and beach plum jelly. Soon to come is basil seed pudding!
With most of these things we typically expect the plants to be useless; those are the inedible parts of the plant. After you harvest the broccoli head, the plant is just leaves and is now taking up space. After the radish bolts it means we missed the harvest window and now the radish is ruined. Yet, potential is still there!
Normally we would take a look at a carrot and in our minds measure its worth in the amount of cuttable carrot we see. We chop off the end where the roots are coming out and cut off the top with the greens, throwing out or composting those parts. Yet, there is so much more potential for that carrot. You can take those carrot ends and, with a combination of other vegetable scraps, make a veggie stock (or add them to a meat stock) and you can take the greens and make a carrot top salsa out of them.
This is the lesson that we have learned: there is so much more potential when you learn to pay attention and are willing to be creative. That one carrot has so much more worth than first thought of. When we look at the resources we have, what else are we missing? What else is “edible” but we keep missing the opportunity to taste it? What else are we not utilizing simply because it isn’t typically used or it takes a little more work and creativity to create something out of?
Now I’m not saying you have to get as crazy as we have (we’ve eaten some pretty odd parts of the plant!) but I would encourage you, when you have the opportunity to choose beets, hot peppers, okra, or elderberry, don’t just brush past them, deeming them inedible to you, try them out! It requires a bit of adventurousness, but when you force yourself to try something new, you might be surprised by what can be created!