The Week the Local Food Came in a Box – Tomato Mountain Winter CSA – Week 1
We Eat Local Year-round
In suburban Chicago
My wife, two daughters and I became a local family somewhere around 2006. Since we started at the peak of market season, I would address questions about the possibilities of eating local with the retort, don’t ask me now, ask me later. I mean we really could not say if we could stay local all year until we tried eating local all year. And then we tried and did a decent job, and then we went another year, and did a better job, and pretty much ever since, we’ve been managing. We manage, as I’ve always told people to always eat local in the winter, through a combination of stored food and trips to various winter markets. This year, however, is a bit different. This year we have a winter CSA.
I am really excited to belong to the inaugural winter CSA from Tomato Mountain Farm*. Tomato Mountain did a long CSA. Their 2012 Spring season start mid-April and their last box in 2012 came shortly before Christmas. Yet, unlike other CSA farms, Tomato Mountain is already back at it. As you can see above, they are able to pack a nice punch, even this time of year. The first winter box included mild Hakurei turnips, cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, and their namesake, in the form of canned whole roasted. In the coming weeks, they plan on the same mix of stored crops and high quality preserved products, but they also plan on adding items grown in their hoops, especially frost-kissed spinach It will certainly enable us to eat local this week and in the weeks to come.
When we first started eating local year-round, we actually had a quasi-winter CSA to help. Way back in the day, our friend Farmer Vicki, of Genesis Growers, did some serious winter production in her hoop-houses. She did not offer a winter CSA per se, but she made trips North, including to Oak Park, where she’d deliver an eclectic mix of stuff–I remember some big heads of celery. She only did that one winter, and I know of no farmer who tried something similar. Now, the supplies of cold weather local foods have not been non-existent. Almost always, Irv and Shelly will have something local in their inventory. Cassie works hard to get whatever she can for her Green Grocer, and the various winter markets might have something.
Something. We long ago learned (nay expected) that it was only something. For instance, the supply of winter produce might have sold out before we even made it to a market. Or the available produce ranged from burdock root to celery root, with nothing in between. We could hardly get by on one bag of Swiss chard. So, for many years, we have made good efforts to maintain a suburban root cellar in the sky. To have enough food up there to feed us weekly. We put away squash and potatoes, onions and beets, various other hardy items, for cold weather consumption. We have, and will always put away, but getting more than something, getting a winter CSA box is a really great thing. It really makes things easier. The onus on supplying now comes from a skilled farmer instead of a chilly attic. There’s a lot less excuse for you to not eat local this winter.
*My wife works for Tomato Mountain and Tomato Mountain is an advertiser on the Local Beet.