poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Strawberry Day @ Eatwell Farm

One perk of a Eatwell CSA membership is that they hold special events at the farm throughout the year. Last Saturday, TC and I joined a few friends for Strawberry Days at Eatwell Farm in Dixon, CA. The deal was that we could eat as many strawberries as we wanted for free on-site, and for the berries that we took home, we’d be charged a mere $1 per pound. It actually ended up costing less than that, since they were rounding down. Not only was it really fun to pick our own berries, but we got to meet some of the workers and got a tour of the farm too.

I learned a lot on Saturday. For example, we learned that the strawberries were grown without pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer. Nigel Walker, the owner of Eatwell, spent some time talking to us about the chicken rotation they have on the farm. Essentially, the chickens get moved from field to field throughout the year. In the process, they eat all of the bugs as well as fertilizing the soil. Win-win. I also got to see where some of the vegetables were grown, and was impressed by the diversity of produce. No monoculture here! And unlike most farm fields, there were plenty of weeds growing among the produce, but they didn’t seem to be hurting them too much. Finally, it always amazes me when I see a vegetable in its natural form (i.e. not isolated in the grocery store) and realize that I have never ever seen (or ever thought about) the vegetable as a plant. Example: Saturday was the first time I’ve ever seen an entire potato plant. Then I thought about how easy it is to think of veggies in isolation without thinking about the whole plant. I think it speaks to the disconnect in our relationship with the food we consume.

Mostly, I felt extremely grateful to be a tiny part of this farm that is doing the right thing. With food production, that’s hard to come by these days.

Enjoy the photos! (Unfortunately, I forgot my “real” camera, so you’ll have to settle for iPhone pictures.)

Walking out to the strawberry field with TC, MC, and LTH.

Strawberry pickers for a day. There was a plastic sheet laid down under the plants, which made the strawberries easier to pick and cleaner as well.

I’m hard at work, while TC is just standing around. Typical.

Strawberry fight! Or maybe I’m trying to throw it into TC’s mouth.

TC and I picked this flat of strawberries, setting us back a whopping $9. We shared 4 pints with friends, ate 2, and froze the rest for smoothies. Our friends MC, LTH, and IP made delicious jam with their berries.

Farm tour! Name those veggies…

This is what a potato plant looks like.

Jose, the farm foreman, digging up potatoes. Ah, those roots look familiar!

Admiring the pretty cabbage plants.

Onions that bolted overnight, rendering them unedible. But they sure are interesting looking, huh?



So there are these things called watermelon daikon radishes…

So, one of the really cool (and occasionally frustrating) things about getting a CSA box is you never know what you’re gonna get. This week, we got 2 watermelon daikon radishes. What are they, you ask? According to our CSA newsletter:

This large round root veggie with a beautiful burst of magenta color in the center is related to the turnip and horseradish. It has a crispy texture and a mildly sweet and peppery flavor. This interesting radish can be cooked like a turnip, sautéed, braised, added to a lovely stir-fry or stew. It can also be eaten raw as a lovely accompaniment to salad or sandwich.

Oh, so THAT'S why they call it a watermelon daikon radish!

Since we had already defrosted some Marin Sun Farms ground pork for a misnamed “stir-fry mix” (more on that in the next post), we decided to make a stir-fry with the watermelon daikon radishes, broccoli, and pork.  We also made sautéed  collard greens with garlic, salt, and pepper. Yum yum!

Makes a beautiful stir fry, dontcha think?

As promised, the watermelon daikon was indeed crispy, mildly sweet, and peppery. It’s less watery than regular daikon, and crispier than broccoli stems. I liked them! They’re pretty unusual though, so I’m not sure where to get more if I wanted them, but they were definitely a fun treat. Highly recommended!


CSA Update 01/30/12

A quick update on how the CSA project is going. We managed to cook/eat most of our first box, though I’m sad to report that certain things did go to waste (RIP turnips, half a bag of spinach). Here’s what we made:

  • White beans and cabbage — The recipe was included on the CSA newsletter that came with the box. It looked quite promising, but ended up being very boring. (Hence, no pictures here.)
  • Bacon and broccoli (and romanesco!) pasta — I thought for sure this would be a winner, but we bought lackluster bacon from Whole Foods, which didn’t help matters.
  • Bok choy and mushrooms — Finally, a winner! We used criminis, since Whole Foods was out of shiitakes (or perhaps they’re out of season). Turned out great though!
  • “Kimchi” using the cabbage and daikon — I used a recipe from this cookbook. It turned out OK, but not what I was expecting. I don’t really recommend it.
  • sautéed collards and arugula — we used these greens to rescue our bacon and broccoli pasta, and they worked wonders. All I did was a simple saute with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.

We got our second CSA box last Wednesday. Since it was nearly identical to the first one, I didn’t take a photo. Here’s the list:

Mandarin Oranges
Butternut Squash (x2)
Pink Lady Apples
1/2 dozen pasture-raised eggs

We were supposed to get one head of green cabbage, but I saw an extra butternut squash in the “trade” box, so I swapped the cabbage for the squash. This is what we made with Box #2:

  • Butternut squash risotto — The recipe is from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. It is so yummy and rich, despite “only” having a 1/2 stick of butter and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.
  • White bean and butternut squash soup — Another Alice Waters recipe, only this time we got it from the CSA newsletter. This turned out very odd — the flavor was alright, if a bit bland, but the texture was too watery. We tried to rescue it with some spinach, which helped a little.
  • Roasted turnips and carrots — A generic vegetable roast (olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper). It turned out pretty good. I found the carrots to be better than the turnips, which I found to be a bit watery.
  • Turnip greens — same saute as above. Really good; better than spinach but not as good as collards.
  • Roasted broccoli, romanesco, and carrots — Again, pretty much a vegetable roast, but at a higher temp (425F). I got the idea from Post Punk Kitchen, but I wimped out, thinking it was about to burn, and took out the veggies before they “toasted” properly. Still good though!

Butternut squash risotto. Delicious and nutritious!

Roasted veggies, part I: turnips and carrots.

Roasted veggies, part 2: broccoli, romanesco, and carrots, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and red chili flakes.

In summary, I think we’re doing a decent job so far with the CSA box, and I’m learning a lot about preparing different vegetables. There’s a Chinese adage: “Failure is the mother of success.” This is what I keep in mind when we’ve “failed” to make something tasty; hopefully, there’s yummy success right around the corner.