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Talking SCHOP! A midyear start

Kysha Harris | 6/26/2014, 3:13 p.m.
Mid year start Photo by Kysha Harris

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Mid year season

Happy midyear! I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t write a weekly column and know that this is my 26th piece this year. Where does the time go?! This week also marked the first week of summer—though my air conditioning has been putting in some work for a while. I am ready for it!

I am so grateful for all of the local farmers this time of year with awesome produce, meats and products. It is the only time I think to go. However, there are other opportunities for city dwellers to get farm-fresh produce that always escapes my timing: community supported agriculture (CSA).

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Arctic char with kumquats finished with basil oil

CSA is an opportunity for customers to support local farms by buying shares of the farmers’ crops, helping to offset the cost and risk of farming. In exchange, customers receive a weekly share of what is harvested. Participants receive seasonal produce that ranges from root vegetables to tender herbs and aromatics.

Now, what to do with all of that wonderful produce? It can be a little overwhelming, and you don’t want anything to go to waste. I recently received a post on my SCHOP! Facebook page from a Harlemite who picked up his local CSA share and was looking for some ideas and recipes for his loot (bibb and romaine lettuces, broccoli, kale, squash, basil, scallions and a handful of garlic scapes).

Here is part of my response and my “SCHOP! Quick Guide to CSA”

  • Get greens washed and stored properly ASAP! Most leafy greens need a little symbiosis in their life, a little give and take. Wash and remove excess water (salad spinner or let drain), wrap them loosely in a paper towel and place them into a plastic storage bag. The greens will release moisture when they don’t need it and take from the damp paper towel when they do.
  • The best way to keep basil is in a glass with just enough water on the bottom for the stems, then loosely cover the whole thing with a plastic bag. Leave it on the counter, not the fridge. This will create a hothouse-like environment that basil loves.
  • Do not wait to use your loot! This produce has a culinary destiny that you must fulfill. You want to use it as close to its harvest as possible. It is farm-to-table, not farm-to-compost! Roast that squash, saute that broccoli! Get creative and inventive with these ingredients!
  • Making pesto is essential when you have fresh basil. However, instead of using cloves of garlic, use those garlic scapes instead. They are strong (blanche them quickly to remove some of the bite before using in your pesto), so start with one garlic scape and add more to your taste ... and why not a little scallion too?! 
  • When all else fails, make condiments! You can take this fresh produce further and expand on step No. 3 above. Basil oil (with really good fruity olive oil) is as simple as holding an immersion blender, strain (or not), store in the refrigerator. It’s great for salad dressings, as part of a marinade or as a finishing oil over steamed fish. Mix all of those washed greens for a salad with a garlic scape vinaigrette. Steep cut scallions and crushed red pepper in grapeseed oil over a low flame for a spicy oil for shrimp or fish. Cut it up and serve in bibb lettuce cups over leftover rice.

CSA opportunities are all over Harlem. You can find them online by searching “Harlem CSA.” Look for one with a pick-up location that is most convenient to you.

Only 52 weeks to go until the next midyear! Start celebrating now!

Happy eating and thanks for reading!


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Kysha Harris

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl and on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.