In Season

The CSA Chronicles: Week 6

Peppers, corn and tomatoes are part of this week's haul.
Peppers, corn and tomatoes are part of this week's haul. (Stephanie Witt Sedgwick)
By Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This summer and fall, In Season columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick is sharing her experiences as a member of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. CSA members pay in advance for a weekly delivery or pickup of produce and other fresh items from a local farm.

Here is her quick take for the week. Check out her accompanying recipe for Summer Corn and Pepper Chowder, which uses ingredients from her CSA bag, and watch for her column, which appears the first Wednesday of every month.

Back from vacation, I was happy to pick up my share this week. I'd had nine days without fresh local tomatoes, and I was wanting. The box delivered: beautiful, flavorful yellow and red tomatoes and a box of cherry tomatoes. With everything else, too, it was quite a haul. I had heard that mid- to late August is when the CSA starts paying off, and I can see how. The sweet corn was far superior to the local corn I had picked up at the supermarket the day before. At this point, I've grown used to the vibrant taste of the farm's celery, I'm a huge fan of the fresh garlic, and I'm spoiled rotten by the endless stream of onions and the delicious, small oval potatoes.

In a small bag this week was another surprise: ingredients for fresh salsa. I followed the directions in our newsletter, cutting and blending. The instructions were vague -- add vinegar and salt and pepper -- and I made a rookie mistake. I overdid the vinegar, making a salsa that tasted more like gazpacho than a dip. Next time, I'll know better.

Looking at the peppers, I had an idea. I would combine them with the corn and potatoes and make a chowder. It's a soup I can make only now, when all those items are available locally and fresh. Like my share this week, the chowder was a resounding success.

Amid all this produce happiness, though, I'm a little worried. The CSA newsletter hinted that the tomatoes hadn't really come in yet in abundance. The nine in my bag this week plus the cherry tomatoes were about the limit of what I can use in seven days. If I get even more than that next week, it might be time to start sharing with the neighbors.

In this week's bag: nine medium red and yellow tomatoes, one pint of cherry tomatoes, one Italian or "frying" pepper, one green bell pepper, two purple bell peppers, one small head of garlic, one head of lettuce, one bunch of celery, five ears of corn, one pound of potatoes, five onions, one bunch of basil and a bag of salsa mix (two tomatillos, a few small peppers, an onion, tomatoes and garlic).

© 2008 The Washington Post Company