Taking the CSA plunge

We finally signed up for a weekly delivery from a farm. I just can’t believe it’s taken this long.

I first heard about Community Shared Agriculture a few years ago. I loved the concept immediately. After all, it’s a great way to get fresh veggies AND support a local farm. But the thought of getting kale every week was a big turnoff. I filed the whole CSA thing under “great ideas for another day.”

Well, that day finally came. I checked a few websites, read a few flyers and finally signed on with Taproot Farms for veggies and Noggins for fruit. It felt like committing to a date every week for 20 weeks with someone I hadn’t even met.

But so far so good. The 20-week deal cost about $500. That seems reasonable for two boxes of fresh food per week. Here’s a sample of what you get:

  • Beet greens
  • Mixed greens
  • Green garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Swiss chard
  • Cilantro
  • Carrots
  • Turnip
  • Strawberries
  • Red Delicious apples
  • Dried apples

And yes, you do get kale. But it’s delicious roasted with a little garlic. Who knew?!

I was pretty proud of one salad in particular. Everything in it was from Taproot (See middle photo). It had mixed greens, shredded carrot, beet greens and stems, and cilantro. The dressing was a strawberry vinaigrette from Cape Breton. OK, maybe it wasn’t completely from Taproot. But it was delicious and healthy.

Three weeks in, I still get excited for the boxes of fresh food. Patricia at Taproot keeps a blog so I get a little insight into life at the farm. She’s already warning us that the rain is taking its toll on the garden. I guess I’ll have to dig up some recipes for swiss chard, kale and garlic — the three things that seem to be doing OK.


SixTop in Italy – The Villa Rosa dei Venti connection

Looking back now, one of the best things about our trip to Italy was our lack of planning. Sure there were short to-do lists, but we all agreed early on that running around like the Griswalds was not what any of us wanted. Aside of a manic day and a half of sight-seeing in Rome, I think we pulled it off. Personally, I only had a few must-dos, most of which were food related. I wanted to sample a variety of local dishes, attempt to maintain a wine buzz the whole trip and most importantly, take a cooking class while in food heaven.

After some searching online I found a class at Villa Rosa dei Venti, owned and operated by the Micheli family in Creti di Cortona. They’ve been there for over three generations and it shows. They grow apples, vegetables and sunflowers, raise chickens, rabbits and ducks and make their own family branded olive oil. As you would expect, they also have superb family red and white wines. There is pride, love and hard work in everything on their property. Villa Rosa dei Venti is sublime.

Class started at 10 am at their brand new facility for cooking courses where I was joined by a very sweet family from Calgary. Our instructors were daughter Barbara and mother Ornella who were so incredibly welcoming and friendly. They both made the course move along while still being fun. After introductions we all got right to work cutting, chopping and mixing ingredients for our eventual meal.

And what a menu! It followed the classic Italian food form of serving an antipasto, a pasta, then roast meat and veg followed by dessert. We started making the three antipastos we would eventually pile on bread. First was a Cannelloni bean and onion mix marinated in olive oil, then a bruschetta of tomato, finely chopped onion and basil. Third was chicken breast sautéed in butter, which after being cooled down, was processed with pickled vegetables and mixed with mayonnaise. Fantastic! The second course was a Tagliatelli pasta with a three meat sauce.

Homemade Tagliatelle (our first video recipe!)

While this happened we prepared the main course; roast rabbit, roast duck stuffed with olives and a huge tray of roasted vegetables. Dessert was a gorgeous lemon/olive oil cake. I asked Barbara when the 27 people other were showing up to eat all this, which she translated for her mom and got a big laugh. But I kind of wasn’t kidding, this was an insane amount of food!

After a break and a wonderful tour of the property with Barbara’s brother Stefano, the rest of the family showed up to join our gigantic Italian feast. We ate and drank, talked, translated, shared stories and connected. Surprisingly there were leftovers!

Villa Rosa die Venti epitomizes what I loved so much about Tuscany. There’s a real sense of connection between the land, food and people who live there. Much like the connection made during that meal with the generous Micheli family. It’s an afternoon I won’t forget.