Living in Nashville, it was easy to know where our food came from. On top of my urban farming job growing organic veggies and raising chickens, my husband and I were members of a CSA. Standing for Community Supported Agriculture, a CSA is just that: a community coming together to support a local farmer. Each year in May, we paid a set price for our particular farm share for the rest of the year. Then, each week we met at a central location and picked up the week’s harvest.
Having a share of a farm means that you share in your farmer’s losses — Nashville’s flood of May 2010 meant the loss of peas and carrots on our table. But it also means that you share in your farmer’s gains. All the extra rainfall of that year led to a larger harvest of sweet corn, and I spent the good part of a summer night husking, blanching, and freezing 54 ears of corn. Sadly, it seemed as though our CSA days were over when we moved to South Korea two years ago. Imagine my happiness when, a few weeks ago, I learned of the launch of WWOOF CSA in Korea! They kindly sent me a sample box to review on this blog, which arrived at my door on Tuesday. After opening the box, it took my husband and I all of one minute to decide to sign up for the full season (26 weeks) share.
Expertly packaged, all food arrived safe and sound, no small feat for a box that included a carton of ten eggs, two loaves of fresh-baked bread, and strawberries. We also received a bag of spinach, a bag of bok choy, a whole cabbage, a package of stonecrops, a bag of scallions, perilla leaves, a bag of chard, lemon bakery snacks, a bit of apple jam, and a prepared stir-fry side dish of shiitakes and leeks.
I appreciated my vegetables arriving unwashed (pre-washing greatly diminishes storage life), and was excited to receive stonecrops and perilla leaves, vegetables that I had never before used. The bread was lovely, the greens fresh, and the strawberries sweet. Best of all, I knew where all of the food came from, and that it was free of pesticides and herbicides.
If you are a first-timer to the CSA concept, I encourage you to consider giving it a try. Though your family’s lifestyle should be taken into account (your family should be at home most nights to actually eat the food each week), culinary skills should not keep you from joining a CSA. In fact, many people become more knowledgeable in the kitchen from encountering new produce each week — I became acquainted with kohlrabi after getting it in a CSA basket over three years ago. Creativity is something that also comes with receiving a large box of food the same time each week. After just a few weeks into our first farm share, my husband and I began to see each week’s harvest as a fun challenge to use up the produce in new and exciting ways. We also learned a lot in the realms of storing and preserving that first year, and are still learning.
CSA Tip: Carve out an hour or so each week on CSA delivery day and take a short assessment of all of your fresh produce as well as the dry ingredients in your pantry. Use this to create a loose menu for the week, leaving one day free in the case of unexpected dinner plans with friends. After planning your menu, visit the store once for any needed ingredients for the week. In doing this, you will utilize your produce for the week, and cut down on time spent shopping and deciding what to make each day.
A Few Facts About WWOOF CSA:
- This is the first CSA begun by WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), an organization that links volunteers with farmers all over the world. Volunteers get farming experience and room and board from the farmer, and farmers get free labor, creating a win-win situation. Because WWOOF works with several organic farmers, the CSA’s harvest comes from a few different farmers, rather than one.
- Though there are other CSAs in Korea, this is the first one that is completely expat-friendly. All information on their website and brochures is in Korean and English. Their staff is also fluent in English, making ordering and asking questions a breeze.
- WWOOF CSA offers a bread option (made with Korean wheat!) and a non-bread option to suit your family’s needs, both of which come with a vegan option. All options are available in couple size (1-2 persons) and family size (2-4 persons).
- If the idea of shipping food makes you uneasy, there are conversations about possible pick-up locations in the works.
- Not sure if you want to commit for six months? You also have the option of signing up for a taster basket, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or order on week to week basis.
Garlicky-Spinach Buckwheat Crepes (serves 3-4)
Fortunate enough to discover buckwheat flour in my neighborhood E-Mart, I decided to make crepes to showcase the fresh CSA greens. A rather “approximate” cook myself, the conflicting measurements and ratios for crepes on the internet was enough to make me dizzy. Forgetting them, I dove in, adding different amounts of ingredients until I got the batter that looked appropriate to me. They turned out well, making a delicate wrap for the spinach. Faced with a few leftover crepes, my husband and I had them for breakfast the next morning, stuffed with our CSA strawberries.
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 and 1/2 cup milk
Ghee or butter for cooking
1 bag of WWOOF CSA spinach (chard can be used in its stead, or as an addition)
1 head of garlic, minced
20 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
Chunk of Gouda
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
To make the crepes:
Combine the flour, milk, and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Brush a large pan with just enough ghee or butter to coat. Over medium heat, add 1/3 cup of the batter to the pan and tilt the pan around to spread out the batter. Turn the heat to low, and let it cook for 30-40 seconds, or when the edges of the crepe begin to curl. Flip the crepe over and cook on the other side for 20-30 seconds. Remove from the pan, and repeat this step for each crepe, brushing the pan with butter or ghee before each one. Stack the crepes as you work to keep them warm. The crepes can be made first or last, just make sure the spinach is warmed enough to soften the cheese before serving.
To caramelize the onions:
In a large pan, gently melt a tablespoon of ghee or butter over medium heat. Add the onions and stir for a moment before setting the heat to low. Caramelizing onions takes a bit of patience and about 45 minutes. They need to be stirred every 2-3 minutes, so prepare the rest of the ingredients while tending to them. The onions are ready when they have reduced to just over a half cup and are nicely browned.
To prepare the spinach:
Spinach can harbor a large amount of grit, so they need a thorough washing. Fill your kitchen sink with cold water and plunge them in, letting the grit sink to the bottom. Repeat this step one or two more times. Remove the stem from each spinach leaf (they can be reserved for a later stock) by gently folding the leaf in half and pulling on the stem like a zipper. When you come to the heart of each spinach bunch, give it another rinsing to remove any grit hiding in the tight leaves.
Without drying the spinach, put them in a dry pan. Cook the spinach, stirring continuously, over low-medium heat until they begin to wilt, about one minute. Place them in a colander and press them with the back of a spoon to remove excess liquid (this liquid can also be reserved for a stock or sauce). Roughly chop the spinach.
Heat the garlic with a tablespoon of ghee or olive oil over medium heat until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the chopped spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan, season with the salt and pepper and set aside.
Add two more tablespoons of ghee or oil to the pan and cook the mushrooms, working in batches, until tender and just browned.
Stuff each crepe with the cooked spinach and mushrooms, tucking bits of the Gouda here and there. Fold the crepe and top with the caramelized onions.