As we move into the much-needed Fall weather, I am gearing up for cold weather crops. Already the shift is apparent at the farmers market. Apples are in full swing and peaches are almost done. I am scrambling to get my fill of both. Likewise, greens and squash are showing up. The local farmers who set up here each week are offering a winter CSA this year, to run from mid-October until the beginning of March. Traditional cold weather produce will be available, but they also will supplement their local-grown fare with other small-farm produce in the later part of the season. This is an interesting take on the CSA. While I am used to seeing the local small farms offer summer shares and early fall shares, with their locally-grown produce and often eggs, honey, flowers, and mushrooms, I like the idea of buying into a winter CSA that not only supports the local farm community, but also brings in other, small (but not necessarily local) produce that will benefit other farms from the expanded market. This, to me, maintains the local feel and small-farm community connection.
One thing that I am looking forward to with the change in seasons is the chance to try new recipes. While I love to cook and try new recipes, I admit that I often get stuck in food jags, mainly due to a hectic work and home schedule. I will make the same handful of dinners because I have the routine down perfectly and I know my family likes them. Experimenting with new items really only occurs on the weekends, and not as often as I would like if there are a lot of other things going on. One reason I am excited about the winter CSA is the change in produce choices from what I might normally shop for. What I have come to realize is this: you only really need one good recipe to introduce a new item into your repertoire. Spicy greens, root vegetables, winter squashes – lots of new things to try at home. For example, while I love spinach, I have never really cooked with other dark leafy greens, not because I did not like eating them, but because I hadn’t come across a recipe that really caught my eye. Then, this past winter I found a simple recipe that combined Chard (and easily substituted with kale or collards) with sausage and cannellini or great northern beans, and now I am totally hooked. I cook this particular dish a couple times a month and it’s now a family favorite. I think I will have a lot of fun experimenting with winter squash recipes. I love summer squash, and steamed yellow crookneck squash and zucchini are always a hit in my house, but the winter squashes definitely get less exposure. I enjoy making a simple dish of spaghetti squash topped with a simple mix of tomatoes, peppers, and vegan sausage. But there is such a variety out there to try. I just need to search for recipes that my family will enjoy.