This Evening’s Meal

This evening I came home to a beautiful meal. Wen-Ling prepared it from some food that she bought through a local CSA (community supported agriculture) chapter.

The CSA provides food on a subscription basis. They drop off once a week at Community Christian Church near us in Tempe. The food is locally grown.

I spoke to Andrew a couple of weeks ago. He was the CSA representative two weeks back manning the drop-off at the church. He told me Crooked Sky Farms sells their produce through a number of CSA drop-offs in the valley. They operate two farms, one in Glendale, and another in southern Arizona.

During the summer months the food comes from the farm in southern Arizona, where the higher altitude allows for cooler temperatures. Glendale, in the heart of greater Phoenix, is too hot for most produce during the summer months. But, Glendale is ideal for growing vegetables during fall, winter, and spring.

Wen-Ling had sent me to check out the CSA chapter two weeks ago. They bring food to the church once a week. Subscribers come in from 4 to 7 pm to pick up what Crooked Sky Farms has produced for that week. If my memory serves me correctly, each subscriber was entitled that week to something like three grape fruit, seven or eight potatos, a bunch of carrots, some dandelion greens, a fennel plant, some dried beans, some nuts. I might be forgetting some of what they had.

Andrew said they try to challenge people to eat at least one or two types of plants they normally wouldn’t find at a local grocery store. For instance, the dandelion greens and fennel were the unusual ingredients for that week.

They also brought locally baked bread and fair trade coffee from some local vendors. The coffee, of course, was not produced in Arizona. It was more likely from Mexico or Central America. But the bread was from a local producer. Those items were not part of the weekly subscription price. You purchase them separately.

Wen-Ling visited them today. They had eggs from another local producer, as well as goat cheese, which you see adorning our salad in the photo above. The goat cheese is from Black Mesa Ranch in Snowflake, Arizona. Snowflake is not what I would consider truly local to Phoenix. It is a couple of hours from here, above the Mogollon Rim. But, it is a hell of a lot closer than Europe or even Wisconsin.

The rest of the salad ingredients came from Sunflower Marketplace here in Tempe.

The salad had lettuce, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and the goat cheese. Wen-Ling also ground and sprinkled some home-grown rosemary. The only dressing was a tablespoon of olive oil. The combination of the kalamata olives with the goat cheese was tremendous. The goat cheese by itself was tasty but light. When combined with the olives it provided a very rich flavor. The artichoke played nicely into the flavor.

The dish of potatoes, leeks, and carrots was seasoned with some olive oil in which Wen-Ling has been steeping some chillis, rosemary, orange peel, and who knows what else. It added a spiciness that creeps up on you after you have had a bite or two. Delicious.

What was remarkable about this dish, too, was the flavor of the carrots and the texture and flavor of the potatoes. Because it was locally produced, the potatoes were very different from the type you get at your typical grocer. I guess the best way to describe them is they didn’t seem old. They weren’t the slightest bit shriveled and they had a meatier texture. The carrots were much more flavorful than the kind you get in an orange bag. They were slightly sweet, like home grown carrots. The leeks were very tender because they were young and smallish. Most grocery stores sell giant, mature leeks which are often on the tough side.

We intend to sample what they provide about once a month. We may eventually try out a subscription on a weekly basis. But, we weren’t sure about committing to that through the summer. Our schedules might conflict with the weekly pickup.

After this evening’s meal, though, I am intrigued with the possibility of subscribing on a weekly basis. It might provide a nice way to augment what we grow in our own garden with other fresh, locally-produced food.