Everyone can turn a deeper shade of green

This blog is dedicated to all those looking to deepen their green--whether you are making a commitment to a greener lifestyle and need help taking the first steps or whether you're already a practicing tree hugger who is looking for practical advice on what steps to take next. Over the years, I've heard all the good intentions and all the excuses. I've also seen my fellow environmentalists sabotage the good intentions of others. I am making a commitment to you, dear reader, wherever you fall on the spectrum, to help you take the next steps to fulfilling your commitment to the earth, to your health, and to your well-being. Stay tuned for articles and interviews.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Adapting my garden to my CSA

malabar spinach: a perennial vine
that I love to use as a substitute for
spinach. It does not get bitter like spinach
or lettuce do in the hot Carolina temps.
I was optimistic when I left my job that entailed gardening and farming 10 months out of the year, that I would have more time for my own garden and for writing this blog. Since my last post (nearly a year ago--yikes!) I've been working on the report for State of the Plate that I talked about in that post. You can find that report here. I've also been traveling (a LOT) and writing for one of my clients. And when I'm home, I'm cooking--playing with the fruits of the garden. I'm also in the yard almost daily, but I'm not vegetable gardening like I used to.

Mostly, I'm adding elements of permaculture (fruits and berries, native perennials, as well as medicinals) and trying to create more inviting outdoor spaces, so that one day, I might actually relax outdoors in August in the Carolinas....

At some point a number of years ago, I had an idea that I wanted to become more self-sufficient through expanding my garden, but one of the greatest joys of having my Satudays back has been Farmers Market. Even though I could grow everything myself, I take great pleasure in browsing the varieties of greens, tomatoes, squash and talking to farmers. I still eat stuff that I grow, but I'm much more excited about the community-supported side of things this summer.

elderberry bush (elder flowers and the
first, young berries): already playing with
infusions in honey and in vodka (will end up
like a homemade St.Germain, I hope). Will
make elderberry syrup for the winter.
Since convincing a friend to share a CSA (two households with different travel schedules makes it easier to make the ebbs and flows of your life fit the relative consistency of your CSA box), I've been picking up our share at the NoDa Farmers Market right after my morning yoga class. This past week, I actually sat down with the produce and wrote out menu plans for each night of the week and made a grocery list. Then I had the great fortune to go to the grand opening of the Rosa Parks Farmers Market on the west side of town mid-week to get all the other produce I needed for meals.

Ribbon cutting at Rosa Parks Farmers Market, Charlotte

Me with a couple other CMFPC board members and Rosa Parks' niece at the grand opening

Katie, our Food Corps service member, and Erin, director of  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council holding down the Friendship Gardens tent with produce from Garinger High School

Over the past few weeks, it's become quite a game for me to see how local I can make my meals. A few years ago, I participated in a local foods challenge where we tracked every ingredient in every dish and earned points for each farm, backyard, or artisan represented in our meals. I've made vegan borsch, quiche, and all kinds of salads with the bounty from my CSA, backyard, and other farmers.

Salad Nicoise with Dover Vinyard's Villard Blanc
When I got the first of the green beans in my CSA box, I knew what I wanted to make--salad Nicoise. With the trip to the second farmer's market this week, I was able to grab fingerling potatoes from the Urban Farm at Garinger High School. I prefer them roasted on the salad, instead of boiled, but in a recent article, our local food writer reminded us to used canned tuna in this classic recipe, so, other than the oil and mustard in the dressing, it's the only non-local ingredient. Lettuce & green beans from my CSA (Street Fare Farm), tomato from Allee Bubba Farm, eggs from Two Moons Family Farms, fingerling potatoes from Garinger Urban Farm, thyme (in the dressing) from my yard, and white wine from Dover Vinyards. That's 7 points!

To be honest, I don't really keep track, but there is a kind of adventure in sourcing as locally as possible and stepping out and meeting new farmers and trying new foods. And figuring out how to use the surprises that show up in my CSA has been really rewarding so far. I tell people this all the time, so it's been really refreshing to experience it again, for myself. It's what drew me to the gardening/urban farm job in the first place.

As I plan my fall garden, I'll be looking at more unusual heirloom varieties to supplement what I can find in local markets to keep fueling my culinary adventures. Wishing you bon appetit on your own adventures this summer.