July 2, 2008
This is our fourth year as recipients of a share of the weekly distribution of organic produce grown, harvested, and packaged by the friendly folks at Spiral Path Farm in Loysville, Pennsylvania. When I wrote about our participation in 2005, I said of our first delivery:
There’s something about that box of stuff, about taking apart the components and washing the fresh earth of a local farm off the spinach and the radishes that made the salad more satisfying than it might have been had I gotten all of the ingredients from the supermarket.
I spent my childhood in a city neighborhood of double houses set close together with no real yard and my teen years in a suburban tract development. I have early memories of itinerant produce vendors who walked down Fifth Street on summer afternoons, calling out “Peaches! Tomatoes! Straw-bear!,” their wares packed in boxes that they carried on their shoulders. I also remember going with my mother to “The Orange Car,” a shack at a railroad siding downtown where we bought fresh oranges and grapefruit. We bought coffee and peanut butter at Zimmerman’s, across the street from the junior high school where my father taught, but most things came from the supermarket, an Acme about two blocks from where we lived that my grandmother called “the American store.”
On my own, I repeated the pattern, living first in city apartments and then a suburban tract development, where I’ve been since 1976. The first summer Ron lived here, 1984, he planted black seeded Simpson lettuce, the absolutely best lettuce I have ever eaten. Defending the patch against rabbits, groundhogs, and deer was an heroic effort, and the crop failed in 1985. Mostly I shop at the Giant, a supermarket about a mile from my house, because it’s handy, they have a wide variety, and I see my friends there.
I was initially uncertain about committing to these weekly deliveries. I can’t remember now what gave me pause. The risk of too much stuff I didn’t like or didn’t know how to work with? The concern that there would be too much, especially in the peak of the season?
The Spiral Path season begins in mid-May, and lasts this year until Thanksgiving. So far the only thing we’ve ever gotten too much of is garlic. We’re heavy garlic users, but the little bulbs pile up. I think we still have some from last year!
Today’s box has cucumber, lettuces, some yellow squash, some fresh cilantro, a few tomatoes, and a fresh garlic bulb. Tomorrow I’m making the season’s first batch of Thai cucumber salad, a concoction I first made last year from a recipe that came with the newsletter inside the box. Bring a cup of water, a cup of rice vinegar, a cup of sugar, and a half teaspoon of salt to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Pour over thinly-sliced cucumbers and sweet onion. “The rice vinegar does the taste trick in this recipe,” notes the newsletter.
I lift the vegetables out with a slotted spoon. This leaves a lot of the liquid behind. I make a double or triple batch of the brew and keep adding fresh cucumbers and onion until there’s not enough to impart any taste, and then make some more. Easy, refreshing, and low in Weight Watchers points!
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