Last evening, I picked up my first CSA share of the season. You would have thought it was my birthday, I was so excited! (I admit that I like vegetables probably more than the average person.) Opening that box was like opening a giant gift; not only did I receive plenty of familiar favorites (radishes, spinach, spring onions), I also received a few vegetables and herbs I'd never tried before, like French sorrel--which tastes like a cross between a lemon and a kiwi! So good!
For those who don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it's a great way to get fresh, local, and seasonal produce throughout the growing season. By purchasing a share, I receive a weekly box of just-picked-this-morning veggies (and fruits, starting in June!), and my money goes to support the local economy and the nearby famers who grow the delicious contents of my share box. I receive a weekly email with the projected harvest, plus vegetable storage tips and recipes, which are particularly handy for those less-common items. (As it turns out, sorrel makes a great pesto!) While purchasing a share can seem costly up-front, I averaged the price out over the number of weeks I'd receive a box of produce, and it worked out--surprisingly--to be slightly less than I usually spend. I'm in vegetable heaven!
My passion for local food--both growing my own and supporting area farmers through markets and my CSA share--began, as so many things in my life do, with reading. Here's my list of recommended books for those interested in learning more:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver - Part memoir of a year in the author's life when she and her family decided to grow all of their own produce (and raise chickens), part examination of the agriculture business and the struggles of local farmers, part recipe collection, this book is all together quite wonderful! Kingsolver's fluid, descriptive prose makes it a joy to read. Click here to listen to Kingsolver's podcast!
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan - Many would deem this to be the book that raised popular awareness of the issues inherent in corporate agriculture--from CAFOs to seed copyright to food security and more. He follows the story of a meal produced by four food "systems"--agribusiness, large-scale organic, local, and hunter-gatherer--discussing the nuances of each and raising more questions than finding answers. A must read. Click here to listen to Pollan's podcast!
Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty by Mark Winne - When discussing local and sustainable agriculture, often the voices of those living in inner-city "food deserts"--where the only food options are fast food or the corner store--get lost. Winne discusses issues of food politics as they relate to city dwellers and examines the success of community gardens, urban farms, and other non-traditional alternatives to your average corner store.
Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry - Really, I could recommend anything that Wendell Berry has ever written. This is a great collection of his essays on farming, food, and mindful consumption. "Eating is an agricultural act," says Berry, and this thoughtful book helps to clarify the many choices that the modern farmer and the modern eater face.
What books have I missed? Share your recommendations in the comments below!