Real Life CSA: week 30

We’re winding down on this year’s 32-week Farmer’s Friend share from Penn’s Corner. The winter share starts the first week in December. You can find more details about it here. I highly encourage you to consider a winter share, especially if you’re new to the CSA model. It is slower, so you can get used to the deliveries. Plus, it’s great to have fresh vegetables in the winter. (Not to mention all the other pantry goodies you get. And the cheese.)

On to this week’s share!

real life csa week 30

Lots of standard stuff this week, which I’m happy for. I am gladly adding onions, garlic and potatoes to our stockpile. The onions, garlic and potatoes we get from the CSA store so well – just like the squash we get. Probably has something to do with the fact that they haven’t spent 4 weeks getting to me in the store. Either way, I am grateful.

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I’m really happy for the parsley this week, because I’m pretty sure I’ve been writing about wanting parsley potatoes for a long time. This week, I need to make it happen. It smells really good too. Fresh!

The apples will be lunch snacks, just like the last delicious bag we got of Jonathan’s. These ones are from a different orchard, so it will be interesting to compare if there are any differences.

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We start getting kale early in the year, and it doesn’t really blow my skirt up until it’s the fall. Ironic. This week I made lasagna soup and during the simmer stage, added a whole bag of kale. It ended up being a delicious addition to the soup. I don’t think I’ll ever make that soup again without some sort of green in it.

The bag of lettuce this week is huge! It could possibly feed our salad addiction all by itself. I love having fresh lettuce; it’s so nice to not have to pick the rotten pieces out of those giant salad mixes from the store.

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This squash gave me the “what in the world is going on here” face when I opened our share box. At first I thought it was a delicata squash on steroids, since the coloring is really similar and I didn’t go to school for squash identification. But then I realized it was a spaghetti squash (wearing a delicata squash Halloween costume?). Duh. I confess that I’ve never actually made anything with a spaghetti squash before. I’ve eaten it and liked it, but never cooked with it. Going to have to do some research on that. I might go with the simple method that Penn’s Corner suggests on their blog (Recipe from Steamy Kitchen).

I bet you can guess what I’ll be doing with those turnips (who also look like they are wearing a kohlrabi Halloween costume). ROAST ALL THE THINGS!

Is your CSA done for the season or still going? Picked a winter share yet?

the great green tomato experiment: wins and losses

Well, I wasn’t expecting to be able to write a follow-up on the great green tomato experiment already. But in my most recent spot-check of the progress, I realized it was not going as expected. As stupid as it sounds, I think I was envisioning an orderly process where the green tomatoes slowly ripened one by one and I had a daily tomato out of it all the way through March.

Yeah, I have no idea why I thought it would go that way, when gardens and plants never seem to follow rule books. But here’s the first thing I found when I opened one of the containers.

tomato experiment 1


Here we have perfectly green tomatoes next to some half-ripe and some fully ripe tomatoes. Okay, this is along the lines of what I expected.

So I grabbed the fully ripe ones and set them aside. But then we get to the next “layer” and I find this.

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Hmmm. Rotting. That’s not good. And it’s green. Weird.

And just below that one, we have this.

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It looks like a sick penicillin experiment, right next to a totally green tomato! And this was one of the mild looking layers. I had perfectly good layers with some great ripe tomatoes, and some that were mold city and caused me to have to chuck the whole layer. I spared you from the grossest specimens.

So it turns out that it does matter what stage your tomatoes are in when you do this. Because some of the rock hard green globes hadn’t moved even a shade closer to ripe, as the tomatoes next to it released ethylene and mold like it was their job. Which I guess, as tomatoes, it is.

So those were the losses. A whole lot of wasted, rotten tomatoes. But there were some wins.

I managed to get a box full of good, ripe tomatoes that weren’t exposed to mold city. Because I couldn’t handle all of them, I took them to work to share. I was most impressed with the heirloom ones. They ripened perfectly and I caught almost all of them before they went past the point of no return.

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But the biggest success is that the problems that plagued the containers of full size tomatoes, were completely absent from the cherry tomatoes. Here’s the top layer of the cherry ones.

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Each layer was like this – with ripe Beam’s Yellow Pear tomatoes, plus a handful of ripe “regular ones” (I can’t remember the varietal at the moment). So I harvested out the ripe ones, leaving some that were halfway ripe to continue to help the others. And I came out with two bursting quarts, but enough left behind to keep eating them into the winter.

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I shared these too, but I’m looking forward to the rest of them slowly ripening in the makeshift root cellar. I’m not sure how well they will continue to ripen as the weather gets colder and the basement continues its temperature drop. And I don’t know if all the ones that are going to ripen are actually done. But it’s worth keeping an eye on – especially because there was no hint of mold city!

I don’t know if it was the containers that were an issue with the full size ones, or if I used tomatoes that were in too many varied states of ripeness. Either way though, even with all I lost to mold and rot, I saved a big box of tomatoes that I wouldn’t otherwise have had, and I am eating my garden’s tomatoes in November – something I never thought would be possible!




Real Life CSA Week 29

This week brings mostly staples, but things that will likely all get used up within the week (or even by the end of the day!).

real life csa week 29

I was surprised to still see tomatoes, though I probably shouldn’t be, since my green tomato experiment is working out pretty well at this point. (More on that later.) Not sure what we’ll use these for, but definitely on salads – that’s a given.

The beets will go to someone else who likes beets. We’ve discussed this before, I know.

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These radishes are so cool looking. They’re technically called French breakfast radishes, but they will likely end up on dinner salads. Though I keep meaning to do a quick pickle of them at some point and maybe this is the time to try.

The big head of cauliflower will likely be made into this Smitten Kitchen recipe for Cauliflower Cheese.

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These shallots will likely go in tonight’s dinner – venison stroganoff over spaetzel. (It’s our fourth wedding anniversary today. We’re going fancy.) Nothing like getting something in the CSA just in time to use it!

The lettuce will be salad greens, and the carrots will go on salads as well. But we’re starting to make more soups and stews, and I used up all our carrots this week, so these ones are just in time as well. I’ve also been thinking about glazed carrots as a side dish, because somehow they say holidays to me. And the weather and the approach of November is making me think holidays.

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The last time we had this feta, it was amazing. I always think pizza first, because I love the salty quality of feta cheese with the more creamy mozzarella/provolone mix. But there are about a million uses for feta cheese and I pretty much like all of them.

The cabbage might be a side dish, but the big floppy leaves might be perfect for stuffing, too.

What’s in your CSA right now? What fall dishes are you making?


Real Life CSA: weeks 27 & 28

I missed taking photos of the CSA for week 27 – the first time I’ve missed since I started this. It was just one of those weeks. So before we get back on track with week 28, here’s a brief recap of what we got in week 27 and what we’re doing with it.

Week 27

Leeks – These are hanging out with some previous leeks, waiting to hopefully go in a soup or stew. The crisp, fall-cold weather has me wanting soups and stews, and I’m thinking the leeks would make a good combo with potatoes we have lying around.

French breakfast radishes – We haven’t been eating these for breakfast, but rather as salad toppings.

Green carmen peppers – I’m thinking possibly venison fajitas for these. Mark makes these amazing venison fajitas and I’ve been wanting to eat them on a more regular basis. These peppers are giving me an excuse.

Bosc pears – The chickens got a few of these, since we were out of town, but they really dig fruit, so they were happy.

Collard greens – These are waiting for me to figure out how to cook them like we had them at the Back of the House BBQ.

Chevre (goat cheese) – Not sure what we’re going to do with this yet. I’m thinking pasta.

Sweet potatoes – I’m going to mash these as a side with venison loin this week.

Lettuce – Already gone, salad, obvs.

Delicata squash – I’m going to make these as a side dish with the venison loin too. Not sure if I’ll do a standard olive oil, or try this recipe I found today for Sweet & Sour Delicata Squash.

And now, we’re caught up. Here’s a look at week 28.

real life CSA week 28

The strawberry jam will go in the pantry for now, but since we can our own strawberry jam, I’m not sure if I’ll make something with this or gift it to someone who doesn’t have extra jam lying around the house. I like having these value added products, because their shelf life gives you a little respite from the ticking clock of fresh produce.

The potatoes and onions will be added to our basement storage until we’re ready for them. I would like to note that the potatoes look like russets in the photo, but that’s just because of the dirt on them. I love getting potatoes with dirt on them for some reason – it’s a reminder of where they came from and how fresh they are.

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These lovely, giant acorn squash are the perfect size to stuff, so that’s likely what we’ll do with them. Maybe wild rice or barley – some sort of grain. I need to look for some new recipes for that.

The kale might be a soup or stew ingredient – I still want to try my lasagna soup recipe with kale in it. But that also gives me an idea – kale in regular lasagna? Hmmmm.

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These carrots will be salad toppings, but I had to take a photo of the bunch of them because I love how they look. (*cough* dork *cough*) There’s something about carrots in a bunch, with their thin little ends still attached that I just love. Maybe it’s because carrots in a bag at the grocery store look so sanitized, and these ones remind you that they come from the ground. Seems to be a recurring theme for me.

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Along those same lines, these Jonathan apples are clearly from a tree! They are pretty fragrant and a really nice deep red color. We might eat these plain, or maybe as part of the stuffed squash. I don’t recall having a Jonathan apple before, even though I’ve had many different varietals.

The green peppers will be salad toppings, and potentially pizza toppings as well. Bell peppers are a staple in our fridge because we eat a lot of them throughout the course of a week.

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Earlier in the day on Wednesday, I told Mark that I wanted to eat gnocci with sage butter, and I couldn’t pinpoint the reason. But I wanted to make it happen this week. I hadn’t paid much attention to the CSA emails this week since I was busy with the marathon and chaos of last week, so I didn’t even notice we were getting sage until I pulled it out of the box. So this week’s “squeeeee” belongs to the sage, which will help make a good drizzle for some gnocci.

What’s going on in your shares for the fall?

the great green tomato experiment

2014 has been the year of the tomato at Next Gen House. We’ve had so many that we were able to freeze 25 pounds, can them whole and make salsa, donate at least 40 pounds to our local food bank, and give away about a million to anyone who would take them.

In my last garden update, I mentioned that it was coming time to finish up with the garden, since the temperatures have been low at night and the first frost feels imminent. The remaining tomatoes are all green and they aren’t changing color outside anymore. Plus, it’s mid-October and I’m over the tomatoes.

So rather than just attack the gardens and take out all the plants or just let them die as-is, I went out this weekend and harvested all the rest of the tomatoes. We still had, well, rather a lot.

Two Target bags and a box worth of regular tomatoes, of different varieties.

green tomatoes

On top of that, a mountain of cherry tomatoes.

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And these are just the fully green ones. I also had another large Target bag of ripe and semi-ripe ones, plus almost two quarts of ripe cherry tomatoes. I really wish I had kept track this year of how much our garden produced, because I’d imagine we made our money back 100 times over in the monetary value of what we grew.

Anyway. I brought the green tomatoes inside and decided to make use of the containers I had on hand for root cellaring and try an experiment that Mark’s aunt once mentioned to us. She told us that his grandfather used to pick green tomatoes at the end of the season, layer them between newspaper, and store them in the cool basement where they’d ripen slowly and he could enjoy fresh tomatoes beyond the warm days of summer. That’s about all the instruction she could give on it, so I went to the internet.

Which, as is often the case, was a mistake. I found a ton of conflicting advice – wrap large tomatoes individually or layer them? Let them touch others or no? Remove green tops or no? Ideal temperatures and humidity? Light or lack of light? There was much debate on how shiny was too shiny and how green was too green. I don’t even remotely have enough time in my life to be sitting and determining the shine on individual tomatoes for storage.

So instead of following a tutorial, I just decided to wing it and do my own thing. After all, that’s pretty much how we garden at Next Gen House anyway. Doesn’t work? I won’t repeat the mistakes next year.

I took one of those large cardboard produce trays that we brought home from Costco once and lined it with newspaper.

empty costco tray

I then removed the little stems from the cherry tomatoes and started layering them in the box.

costco tomatoes tray

Then I repeated the process for a few more layers.

For the larger tomatoes, I used those styrofoam coolers you can get at the grocery store. I did two small ones for all of the green tomatoes.

full green tomatoes

Layer after layer, I filled up the two styrofoam containers and added them in my makeshift root cellar: our basement shower.

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This is the first thing I’ve been able to store down there, and it’s all that will fit now, unless we put up shelves. But that’s probably good for a first time root cellar/green tomato experiment.

I did put some half ripe tomatoes in an extra large styrofoam container, to watch them more closely and see how they do, since they should ripen first. I’ll probably check those ones every other day or so, and check the root cellar ones each week until I start to see some changes.

Have you ever tried to store green tomatoes? Heard of anyone doing it?

Real Life CSA: week 26

We’re solidly into  October with the share this week – with the heavy hitters of fall. Apple cider and squash in the same share? Yes, please.

Real Life CSA week 26
I love seeing onions and garlic, too, because even though they are year-round staples for us, I think the local stuff just tastes so hearty and flavorful. I swear I taste a difference in local onions. Not that I’m eating a ton of them raw, but they even smell better.

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Ah, kuri squash. Until I had delicata squash a few weeks ago, these babies were my favorite fall squash. All I usually hear about are acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash – but these are just so delicious roasted and mashed. Going to see if kuri squash can still hold its own against delicata. It’s like squash wars in our house or something.

Kale will likely go in a stew or soup of some kind. For me, kale is best served really warm and soft, with a lot of the bitterness leeched out. Perhaps I’ll follow up on last week’s kale idea and make lasagna soup with the addition of kale. That or a potato soup with kale.

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I confess I was excited when my box had cauliflower instead of broccoli, because I LOVE roasted or mashed cauliflower. We’ll probably eat it as a side dish prepared one of those ways. And look at its awesome color – it practically vibrates!

The turnips will also probably get roasted, too. Whole lot of roasting going on in the fall at Next Gen House, that’s for sure. What vegetable is NOT better roasted, though?

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Blue potatoes are just awesome because of their color. I’m sure these ones from Clarion River are also delicious as well, but I just love how they look. Hmm, what should we do with those? ROAST THEM?!

Snap peas might go in a stir fry – I have been craving Mark’s homemade cashew chicken or teryaki anyway. If not, we could just eat them like a snack. I haven’t eaten much in the way of fresh peas this year, so this is a fun surprise.

Speaking of fun, we’ve come to this.

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The first apple cider of the year. Last year we had to freeze some to keep up with it, but I’m going to give it my best effort this year to keep up. I often use cider to make my homemade granola when it’s available.

But for this particular jug? Let’s be honest. Going to probably warm it up and spike it. Wouldn’t you?




garden update: october

October is the time when the garden of the summer fades. And if your garden looked like a mess in the spring or summer, it doesn’t get any better once things start to wilt. Because then it doesn’t look so much like a garden, but a bunch of overgrown hobo weeds.

So instead of our garden looking like this right now:

Photo from

Photo from

We have this!

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This is our large tomato patch jungle, complete with collapsing fence posts and a chicken to the right, who just wants the fallen tomato that’s hanging out in the front. Not that she couldn’t pick off the ones hanging over the sides of the fence, too.

And here’s the cherry tomatoes.

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We’ve reached our maximum saturation with the garden, picking the last of the tomatoes (both a blessing and a sadness). Even though the tomato plants are still hanging in (at least some of them), they aren’t ripening anymore on the vine with the change in weather. I’m thinking it’s time to go collect the green ones and try out Mark’s grandfather’s way of ripening tomatoes over winter. Rumor has it he took a box and layered green tomatoes in it with newspaper like lasagna, and then let it hang out in their cold basement. The release of ethylene over time helps them to ripen slowly. Might be a fun experiment at the least.

Some beds we have already ripped out, like this empty bed we used for green beans this year. They did really well, but eventually we pulled them when they stopped producing, so we can make way for some fall greens if we choose to plant some. (Though stay tuned on that one, because we’re a little behind on the fall planting.) As you can see by the big weed that sprouted in the empty bed.

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The corn was prolific this year, but we made a rookie corn mistake and left it on the plant too long. It basically became starch nuggets, and we had to just share it with the chickens because it did NOT taste good. But the dried stalks are going to make good porch decoration for me, at least!

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And last but not least, we have the peppers and chard. The peppers are still there, but like the tomatoes, have stagnated in their growth. I think we’ll let some of them go, though, since we already have an abundance of preserved hot peppers. The chard is still coming, but I’m letting it hang out while we eat up some CSA items.

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Again, note that there’s nothing picturesque about these gardens. They are overgrown and wild at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t get a ton of amazing food from them this year. Which perhaps illustrates one of the coolest things about gardening – you don’t have to be perfect at it to do it. You just do the best you can with what you have and nature surprises you with its resilience and abundance.

Have you finished off your garden for the year or are you still going strong?



Real Life CSA: week 25

Mostly staples this week, but also a brand new type of SQUASH. It’s faaAAAALLLLL! *Oprah voice*

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Notice the Star Trek comic hanging out in the background. I do love other things besides vegetables.

I’ve got a busy few weeks coming up, so I was happy to have a lot of staples this week. Not a lot of scheming to figure out how to eat this stuff!

Carrots and potatoes are like pantry staples for us – we always like to have them on hand to use in recipes or as quick sides. We also stick carrots on salad weekly.

The green peppers this week are large enough to stuff, though we will likely eat them with venison fajitas. (Which are actually more tasty than the chicken and steak ones I’ve had in the past. Seriously.)

Radishes are one of the coolest looking vegetables ever. These ones are so bright. We’ll probably put them on salads, though I keep telling myself I’m going to quick pickle them one of these days in a slaw or something. Hmm, kombucha vinegar?

daily radish sized

The tomatillos will probably make it with the other ones we have into a simmer sauce for chicken and rice. Need to enjoy those while they last too. (Though I’m sure the winter share will bring us some tomatillo salsa!)

Not sure about the tomatoes, to be honest. We’re still overrun with them, even though it’s October. Maybe one more batch of fresh sauce. Maybe.

I think the kale might be good in a soup this week. I have this recipe for lasagna soup that I love, with Italian sausage and tomatoes and pasta that you serve over some ricotta cheese in the bottom of the bowl. I bet it would be delicious with kale added…

And last but not least, another kind of squash! These sweet dumpling squash will hang out until I can figure out what preparation I want to do with them. Not gonna lie. I also kind of want to fill my porch with them.

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What’s in your CSA this week?




Real Life CSA: week 24

Two little delicata squash showed up in the share this week, which means it’s definitely fall.

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Every time we get beets, I think I might find a way to like them. And then I realize I know people who like beets and would rather share the bounty with them. So out the door those will go.

Onions and garlic will go in our stash. There’s something that’s actually comforting to me about always having onions and garlic on hand. They’re like the building blocks of a good recipe, and it’s nice that they have staying power – so there’s always there when I need them.

Something that has staying power but won’t last long in the house? Delicata squash. Going to roast these babies for dinner tonight. No messing around.

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I’ve been craving greens for some reason lately, so I might even just make the chard tonight as well. A perfect example of how CSA items lend themselves to super simple preparations, as well as more complicated ones.

I’m thinking potatoes with parmesan for the parsley this week. This weather makes me want to eat a bunch of warm side dishes. Which seems like a really weird observation to make, but it’s true.

These pears are interesting. Tiny, and a variety I’ve never had before. Going to taste them and see if I want to eat them straight up or make something with them. I feel like they’d make a good pear tart.

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Not sure what we’ll do with the eggplant yet.  I made a good eggplant risotto once, so if I can dig out that recipe, that’d be an option.

These tomatoes are so gorgeous – they almost look like plums. It’s hard for me to even want to look at a tomato right now, considering how overrun our house has been with them. But they still taste great and I’m doing my best to appreciate beautiful, ripe tomatoes while we still have them.

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What’s in your share this week? Doing anything interesting with your veggies?

Real Life CSA: week 23

The endless variety continues in our share this week with one item we haven’t seen yet. Mandrakes! I mean, celeriac. But we’ll get to that.

Also, I’m having photo problems with the new website. (Go figure!) So let’s just note how lovely this stuff is up close in addition to far away, on my kitchen island.

Real Life CSA week 23

A lot of good basics this week, including four tomatoes. Which is great, because I haven’t eaten a single tomato this season!  Can you sense the dripping sarcasm there? We’ll still eat these, since we’ve been able to drastically reduce our tomato infestation by donations to Community Harvest.

Green beans will maybe be a side, or perhaps a main dish combined with the tomatoes. We haven’t had lubieh in awhile, and it’s a good, simple comfort food.

I love the colors of the carmen peppers. I think they’d make great fajitas. Tex-Mex food is one of those things I could eat several times a week, though it would be more fun if I could replicate that whole restaurant sizzling fajita plate thing at home.

The potatoes will go in the potato stockpile at home, though these gold ones are particularly good for homemade french fries, so that’s an idea.

Nectarines will be just plain snacks. I’ve eaten way more nectarines this year than peaches, and I’m developing a fondness for them. Especially that we even got them at all this season, considering the winter we had that killed the area’s supply.

Kale will likely go in some zuppa toscana again, since the weather is turning colder and I actually like soup even better in the fall than winter.

Last, but not least, the mandrakes. Or celeriac.

Seriously, doesn’t the celeriac look like a mandrake? You can see it better in the photo I took that won’t upload, but this is pretty much the scene when I picked it out of the CSA box. (Are you out there, Harry Potter fans?)

Celeriac looks hairy and scraggly, but it’s pretty good mashed up like potatoes or roasted with other root vegetables. It will likely be a side dish. Thankfully, we don’t have to wear earmuffs to deal with its screeching, like the students at Hogwarts have to do with mandrakes.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully the photos will work by next week. In the meantime, check out some winter CSA options!