Ever thought about a farm share? Fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to your door, new recipes and preparation techniques based on seasonal produce, the family gathered around the table sharing a meal full of color and vitamins… nice fantasy. But I have kids. And a full time job. And a general love of restaurants.
So when my husband’s colleague from nearby South Orange mentioned that his Highlands Harvest Club farm share would be going to waste during his upcoming two week vacation, we jumped at the chance to steal his bounty. It seemed a great way to test the waters before becoming official members of the local food movement.
photo by Jakub at foodiesfeed
Here’s what happened.
Each week the farm share sent a half-share sized box of seasonal selections from Alstede Farms in nearby Chester, New Jersey. While we didn’t pay for our share, my best approximation of the cost for an annual membership [31 weeks] is about $500, assuming there is a local chapter host which allows a group of local residents to share the [hefty] home delivery charge. In late summer, we received similar boxes both weeks, stocked mostly with veggies [eggplant, purple and orange carrots, sweet corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, collard greens, swiss chard, serrano and jalapeño peppers, green beans, green and yellow squash, pickling cucumbers, broccoli], a few alliums, and less varied but still plentiful fruit [musk melon and peaches]. The farm share also included a batch of fresh local eggs.
“eggs” by Jakub at foodiesfeed
I incorporated most of the farm share items into easy weeknight dinners or packed lunches — simple grilled eggplant and squash, roasted broccoli, salads with peppers, tomatoes, scallions and green beans, and sliced melon or whole peaches. Grilled sweet corn is a family favorite, thanks to a perfect kid-friendly technique that maximizes grill flavor but minimizes black charred kernels: rub the shucked corn with room temperature butter, sprinkle with coarse salt, and wrap in aluminum foil and grill for about 20 minutes.
A few of the farm share items inspired me to try out new recipes or make a batch of old favorites. I served the jalapeno pesto drizzled over lemon hummus [my favorite is Ithaca Lemon Hummus, available at Whole Foods] to add a little kick before dipping into pita chips.
- Mustard Garlic Vinaigrette from Ina Garten
- Jalapeno Pesto
- Oven-Baked Carrot Fries
- Scrambled Eggs with Seltzer from the kitchn
photo by jenn kosar
And hey, it was August, so a refreshing adult beverage was in order as well. While not directly made with farm share items, a recipe in the handy notes and recipes provided with the box inspired me.
Cucumber Lime Vodka Tonic
inspired by Rachel Ray’s Sparkling Cucumber Limeade
Combine simple syrup, lime zest, and lime juice. Add mint and basil and muddle gently with a wooden spoon. Add sparkling water and vodka. Pour over ice and add cucumbers for garnish.
photo by jenn kosar
Here’s my view.
- Even for a family, consider the personal farm share. The half share was large for a family of four where two of those family members aren’t exactly big veggie lovers and are generally suspicious of new foods. Even after hosting another family for dinner and sending a bunch of peaches to Gary’s office, we still lost a fair bit of food to spoilage.
- Embrace and enjoy the random element in your menu plan. We enjoyed getting creative with our eating. Meals were formed around what was delivered — which meant we were eating fresh and local and with a natural rotation of nutrients. While I enjoyed trying a few new recipes, in-season vegetables are lovely simply grilled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. And who knew how much we loved peaches?
photo by jenn kosar
- If you’re not ready to commit to a farm share, learn what’s local. It is a significant commitment to do a full season farm share, but you can mimic the effect in “regular” grocery shopping. Learn what’s local, when it’s in season, and make a point to work that ingredient — even if it’s something you haven’t tried — into your menu planning.
Interested in learning more about Community Supported Agriculture? Check out Maplewood is Green for additional details as well as three local options.
Interested in more of my local culinary adventures? Follow me on Pinterest to see what I’m checking out next.
Are you a fan of farm shares? What’s your experience? Would love to hear all about it!