All winter we look forward to the fruits and vegetables of spring and summer. All too often the quality available to us leaves much to be desired in the taste and texture departments. Where do you go for garden-fresh produce?
It can be worth waiting (and wading) through all of winter just to have a garden-fresh tomato in the summer.
But how disappointing to bite into a radiant, firm — dare I saw seductive — tomato and get a mouthful of … nothing. The local grocer has tricked you again, and the mirage fades to reveal a semi-dry, pulpy, flavorless let-down.
The best stuff comes right out of the ground. Industrious city folk can grow tomatoes and peppers and herbs in pots perched on windowsills or scattered across fire escapes and back patios. Community-owned urban gardens offer another option for people willing to leave their home every day to tend a plot. Some are lucky enough to have a proper back yard with room for a vegetable patch. Suburbanites and those further out have still more room to work with. But not everyone has time to be a farmer.
Luckily, there are options. The grocery stores that stock a higher-than-average quality of produce tend to be expensive. There are urban farmer’s markets, but not everything they sell is locally sourced — and how much fuel is used to get it here? Food co-ops are another possibility, but they are not always conveniently located.
One option growing in popularity is community supported agriculture (CSA). Consumers buy in to a local farming operation by purchasing a yearly or seasonal share, or part of a share. In return, they get a periodic bundle of fresh in-season fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season. Philadelphia Magazine has a good list of CSA programs.
It can be a pricey up-front proposition, but the cost per week works out to be pretty low, and the wares are seasonal, fresh, ripe, and from a local farmer. And everything tastes the way it is supposed to.
Have you ever bought into a CSA? How was the experience?
Is there a local farmer’s market you swear by? Do you tend a vegetable garden? Do you prefer the old stand-by grocery store? Share your secrets for sourcing spring and summer sustenance below.