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Spring Greens

June 12, 2018

One year I celebrated the arrival of spring by restocking my bar with greenery. That became an annual tradition. There’s nothing quite like the herbal complexity of green Chartreuse, and if you’ve got the four ingredients on hand to make a Last Word cocktail, you can even go through a bottle of the stuff before summer ends.

Some people define the arrival of spring based on the opening of our seasonal soft serve and burger stands. But when it’s snowing at Snowman, that feels a bit early to celebrate.

And there’s a lot about spring which brings people down. There’s the rain for starters. There’s the arrival of ants, bees, mosquitos, and ticks. But for me the worst might be the first mow of the season. Or maybe the second, or the third. Because soon after the first mow, I realize I have a new weekly chore.

However, while I’m using my few square feet of earth to grow some horrible horrible grass, at farms all around the Capital Region rich soil is giving birth to delicious life.

Today is the day I have been patiently awaiting for months. It’s my very first pick up from the Roxbury Farm CSA, and I think I’ve screwed something up. Maybe a couple of things.

For starters, I don’t think I reminded anyone to sign up for a farm share this year.

Paying into a community supported agriculture program was one of the best decisions I made after moving to the Capital Region. Not only is it a great way to support a local farm in a meaningful way, but it also breaks me out of my culinary comfort zone, and gives me a deeper connection to the seasons.

Today I’m anticipating a bounty that includes salad mix, garlic scapes, new red fire head lettuce, parsley, hakurei turnips, easter egg radishes, black summer bok choi, scallions, basil, zucchini, summer squash, kohlrabi, and broccoli rabe.

Some of what happens to this produce will depend on the quantity we receive.

The salad mix will have to be eaten first, and these Roxbury spring greens turned me from a salad hater into a salad lover. Even a simple green salad with simply a little Maldon salt, a coating of the best olive oil we have in the house, and a dash of some delicious acid will ruin you for just about anything else that calls itself a green salad.

While the basil is the sexiest thing we’re getting, I’m actually most excited about the turnip and radish greens. Man, those bitter greens when sauteed with anchovies, red pepper flakes, and garlic, then braised in a bit of homemade chicken stock are some of my favorite things to eat. Thankfully, the kids don’t like them. They are a special treat for me and Mrs. Fussy.

The kids will enjoy the summer squash. I’ll also probably be able to get them to eat the rabe in some preparation of beans and greens with pasta. They might even get down some of the bok choi in the form of a stir fry.

But the radishes, garlic scapes, turnips, scallions, and kohlrabi are mine to turn into a pungent spring slaw. I make it by the bucket full with raw cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper, and a little bit of sugar. Mrs. Fussy doesn’t know how I can eat the stuff. But it’s my favorite way to eat my weight in vegetables.

The parsley gets turned into one of several possible raw parsley sauces. With my new found love of kippered herring and the presence of a few sardine cans in the pantry, perhaps it will turn into a lovely Italian salsa verde. That goes marvelously with fish.

Basil pesto, also known simply as pesto, is also a special treat. So special that every year I put some away in the deep freeze to break out during the winter months to give the family a taste of spring and summer sunshine.

Except this year, there is still one left. Egads!

Part of me feels like we should eat the frozen one before we can enjoy a fresh spring batch. So maybe the solution here is to freeze this first basil of the season in the form of pesto. Then we can eat the last of the frozen pesto next week. Moving forward, we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that more fresh basil will arrive in the weeks ahead. Because even though pesto holds up very well in the freezer, there’s nothing that quite beats a fresh batch made from just picked basil.

All of this is to say, now it’s really spring. Or maybe we should say that we’re in high spring. The oppressive heat of summer is coming. But right now, everything is just about perfect. So make sure to enjoy it.

And if you want to sign up for the CSA, amazingly there are still shares available. But I highly recommend going in on a share with a friend and pickup up a share every other week. Because as good as this produce is, the abundance is extraordinary, and it helps to have two weeks in between pickups.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2018 9:51 pm

    Prof – We can agree on so many things (like the value of a CSA share) but sometimes I just don’t get you. You made Mrs. Fussy feel guilty about eating pesto without you and were upset to only have one remaining save-me-from-winter pesto portion in your freezer. Now that pesto is still there, it’s 80 degrees outside and you feel like you should deprive yourself of a fresh batch.

    Make a fresh batch, enjoy spring’s bounty then eat the frozen portion when you need something in a hurry. And apologize to Mrs. Prof. before she reads this. She deserves at least that, a hug and a well made Manhattan for amends.

    • June 13, 2018 9:49 am

      I passed this along the the missus, along with an apology and an offer of a Manhattan. Today I’m taking her out to lunch.

      That said, there will be more fresh basil coming in the future. So the current best practices for rotating our bounty of pesto still stand. But I get where you are coming from, and appreciate the input.

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