1st CSA box Note

Here’s the email that previewed the 1st roof top CSA weekly box in the history of the universe (maybe):


Dear CSA Subscribers,


Welcome to the 2009 Growing Season!  I hope to share with you some top-quality, ultra-fresh produce this season, while learning a lot from your feedback and input.  As far as I can determine, you are part of our nation’s first roof-top CSA and hopefully at the forefront of a large movement.


The good news is that we have been growing greens and lettuce for two months now, and some of it is ready for harvest.  I’d like to have our first weekly food-box ready for the end of  this week.  I’d like to think of this box as an optional one (although they are all optional when it comes down to it) because we are starting slowly.  I think it will be worth your while to come pick it up, but I also want you to realize that we are just getting going, now.


But that’s what I like about growing my own vegetables and is what I have learned the most about: the obvious but obscured fact that food grows outside, in the weather.  Since a bite of food has traveled 1500 miles, on average, before it reaches the mouth of an American eater, it’s easy to forget this (within 1500 miles there is almost any kind of weather at any time of year).  But your food will travel only 12’ down a ladder before you are able to pick it up, so we are subject to the mercies and blessings of our own weather.


During the winter months, only a few things will grow (and they grow slowly) so a local harvest in early spring will have a limited selection (hopefully the freshness and taste will make up for that).   The problem isn’t just the temperature (though that is important), but also the amount of sunlight available during short days.  It was recently pointed out by a friend that when we eat vegetables and fruits, we are really eating energy from the sun that has been converted into edible bio-mass.  Foods high in calories need a lot of light over a relatively long period of time.  That’s why among the many shade-tolerant plants out there, very few of them are food-producing.  That’s also why vegetables high in sugars (like tomatoes and peppers) or in protein or starch (peanuts or potatoes) come later in the growing season.


So here’s what we have this week.  Enough lettuce, arugula, baby kale, and spinach for several good salads.  At our house at this time of the year, we sometimes mix them with “contraband” imported California tomatoes, cukes, and peppers; sometimes we eat them alone with a bit of oil and vinegar, savoring their freshness and strength of flavors.  Either way, the nutritional value is much higher than food that has spent a week or two in shipping.


One more “what to expect and when you’re expecting” sort of issue.  I select seeds and varieties based on their taste, their suitability for our climate, and their nutritional value.  Most commercially available food has been modified with a few particular goals in mind, including uniformity of size and shape, and ability to withstand shipping and storage.  An organic, locally grown vegetable won’t look like the stuff you see at the grocery store, or even like a lot of the stuff you see at farmer’s markets.  You may even see some evidence that someone has been nibbling at your lettuce (if an insect won’t eat your food, are you sure you want to?).   But it will look like “real food”!


Looking ahead, while it may be a couple more weeks of greens, just about everything else is either in the ground or on the window sill as a seedling.  The radishes are well on their way and a few green onions are almost ready.  We’ll start pulling some baby carrots as soon as they are ready and then we’ll be on to the peas, broccoli, beans, and beats—just about the time that conventional, terrestrial CSA farms are getting their first deliveries ready.


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