By Chef Mark Cleveland of Avanti Cafe
Do you CSA? If you haven’t been asked that question yet, you soon will; especially if you’re moving in the direction of a clean and green lifestyle. Let’s start from the very beginning. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it’s a win-win situation for both local farmers & fresh flavored foodies.
Eating a salad made of heirloom head lettuces picked just yesterday can be a revelation for taste buds as they are reminded just how delectable newly harvested, green leaves can be. Likewise, the simple earthy sweetness derived from the freshest baby beets (simmered in sake) along with their tender, beet greens and garnet red, crisp stems bring joy to our palette. Early spring’s jade green, loose-headed radicchio has a texture and exquisitely bitter flavor reminiscent of the last days of winter cold; while plump and crisp baseball-sized, snow white fennel bulbs sing with anise scented high notes when shaved into a salad with blood orange and grapefruit. Sounds a bit like a romance novel. In fact, this is a healthy relationship with both fresh food and local farmers. All of these above goodies and so much more arrived in our local South Coast Farms CSA baskets this month (soo much more romantic than a bouquet of flowers if you ask me).
What is a CSA? A CSA program consists of a group of people who pledge to support a local farm with produce purchases over a set period of time. In some cases, supporters also donate time at the farm to help cultivate and harvest crops throughout the growing season. It’s a clever support system for the local farmer, who must shell out all the initial money to get planting at the beginning of each season then must wait until harvest to recoup the investment. In exchange for paying up front, members receive a terrific deal on typically organic or sustainably grown produce at the peak of seasonal freshness.
Find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands, and the mouth. ~Gandhi.
The CSA concept got a late start here in the US when brought over from European models in the mid 1980’s. Before that, a form of CSA called Teikei (提携) originated in Japan in the mid 1960’s. These ‘co-ops’ were created by Japanese women concerned over the quality of produce and diary products distributed through the conventional food system as well as a decrease in small and local farming activity in that highly agrarian society. For more information about one man’s amazing life long relationship w/ the land around him, check out the story of Masanobu Fukuoka and his One Straw Revolution.
Around the same time in Europe, organic and biodynamic farming pioneers began similar programs in Switzerland and Holland with the belief that all living organisms – including plants, animals as well as the soil teaming with essential microorganisms – are intertwined and mutually dependent. These days fortunately, there are CSA’s around the country from coast to coast. They deserve our patronage as all communities should have active small farms nearby to nourish our bodies and support local environments. All you need to do to find one in your area is ask your favorite local chefs or vendors at your nearby farmers’ market.
At Avanti Café, we have partnered with South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano for well over a decade to create tantalizing vegetarian dishes from farm field to plate. Their organic CSA program is unique in several ways:
1.) Members can choose to get a basket once a week – or – every other week at several pick up locations throughout Orange County CA.
2.) There are two sizes: regular and large.
3.) Each week, there is a swap out box so members can leave behind what they may not want and choose a replacement item that is more appealing to them.
4.) The creative forces behind the South Coast Farms CSA email each member a list of produce contained in the baskets and include a slew of fun and interesting recipes to get everyone thinking about what to create from their colorful gems each week.
More info about South Coast Farms and their CSA program can be found on their website and their facebook page.
WATCH a charming video featuring the journey of a Thirsty Strawberry as it travels from South Coast Farms to Avanti Café and enjoy the Farm to Table movement in action now:
For locals, pick up is on Thursdays at Avanti Café and, WOW…the baskets create a visual enticement lined up on our patio waiting to be collected by the enthusiastic CSA supporters! Come see for yourself and enjoy a meal prepared in our kitchen using these bountiful jewels grown all year long by our favorite local, organic farm. Enjoy the photos above including the current special we’ve created to showcase the South Coast Farm fresh flavors.
Eating healthy & delicious is a win-win-win situation! As we say, dine with us several times a week or shop our online store and it’s likely you’ll become healthier than you already are! And, your taste buds will love every minute of it, too. How many restaurants can legitimately make that claim?!
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1. CSABasketDetail: The joys of the freshest organic lettuces, cilantro, kale, chard, turnips, radish & beets. Crazy deliciousness.
2. HOTNuggetSpecial: Organic South Coast farms turnips, broccoli & cauliflower w/ San Marzano red sauce and radicchio & roasted red pepper ricotta brown rice balls with HOT hatcho miso habanero cream sauce.
3. Strawbabies: South Coast Farms peak season organic strawberries.
4. CSABaskets: Beautiful cornucopias of organic produce baskets in front of Avanti Café ready for member pick up.
bhanu pratap says
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