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Cultivating Culinary Curiosity: Exploring Unusual Produce from Your CSA

June 26, 2024

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Cultivating Culinary Curiosity: Exploring Unusual Produce from Your CSA

Discovering Delights in the Driftless

As I dove deep into the Driftless area of southwest Wisconsin, a remarkable curiosity emerged. Through my graduate research on food values in this region, I uncovered a community brimming with a passion for socially responsible and locally-sourced sustenance. The more I explored, the more I became captivated by the profound impact that meaningful experiences with food and farming can have on people’s inner initiatives and subsequent behaviors.

Wandering the vibrant farmers markets, I witnessed like-minded consumers gathering to support local growers, their conversations buzzing with excitement. Visiting nearby farms, I saw firsthand how the simple act of milking a goat or participating in a workshop could shift an individual’s perspective on where their food comes from. These social connections, I realized, were instrumental in nurturing a counterculture – a group of people who had cultivated a deep personal relationship with the land and the nourishment it provides.

As I delved further into my research, I became increasingly aware of the vital role that curiosity plays in driving this paradigm shift towards a reverence for the interconnectedness of food, farming, and our broader ecosystem. The pandemic, with its disruptions to our centralized food system, had only served to heighten this curiosity, as people sought out local farmers and attempted to grow their own produce in a bid for food security and self-sufficiency.

Nurturing Curiosity on the Farm

It was against this backdrop that my husband, Rufus, and I began to envision our farm, Keewaydin, as a hub for cultivating curiosity and deepening the connection between people and the land. We launched a non-profit organization, Driftless Curiosity Inc., with the mission of fostering this vital link through experiential education, farming, social justice, and the arts.

Our first year of programming has been a whirlwind of discovery, as we’ve invited the community to join us in exploring the wonders of the Driftless. From learning the art of maple syrup production to foraging for wild edibles, each workshop has been a testament to the power of hands-on learning and the thrill of satisfying one’s curiosity.

Maple Syrup: A Sweet Awakening

One chilly winter day, we gathered a group of eager participants in the sugar bush, guiding them through the process of tapping trees, boiling sap, and canning the golden elixir. As we worked, one participant turned to her husband and exclaimed, “Our jobs are LAME. We don’t DO anything!” I couldn’t help but chuckle, knowing that the simple act of connecting with the land had ignited a personal paradigm shift – a realization that there is more to life than the daily grind.

Foraging for Sustenance

When spring arrived, we led a workshop on foraging for wild edibles, taking our guests on a hike through the farm’s lush landscapes. As we identified vibrant greens, fragrant flowers, and earthy roots, the participants fired off questions faster than we could answer them. The discovery of these abundant, free-growing resources sparked a revelation: “These foods could literally save our lives if we were lost in the woods or facing empty grocery shelves.” In that moment, the deep-rooted dependence on our environment became undeniably clear.

Perennial Pathways

In May, we delved into the world of perennial agriculture, exploring the benefits of investing in permaculture and the importance of building resilient ecosystems. As we hiked through the farm’s diverse perennial crops, from asparagus and hazelnuts to berry patches and fruit trees, the participants couldn’t help but marvel at the abundance before them. One attendee shared, “I never realized how many edible things were growing all around us, just waiting to be discovered.”

Cultivating Community, Nourishing the Soul

At the end of each workshop, I witnessed the participants lingering, eager to connect with one another and share their newfound knowledge. They swapped contact information, made plans to visit each other’s gardens, and asked thoughtful questions, their curiosity still piqued. It was in these moments that I caught a glimpse of the supportive social circles we are working to cultivate – a community united in their reverence for the land and their desire to learn, grow, and nourish both body and soul.

As the team at Thornappple CSA can attest, these types of transformative experiences are at the heart of what it means to be a part of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. By diving into the rich diversity of produce from your local farm, you open yourself up to a world of culinary exploration and personal growth.

Unearthing the Unexpected

So, what kinds of unique and exciting produce might you stumble upon in your CSA box? Let’s take a journey of discovery, shall we?

Heirloom Carrots: A Rainbow of Flavors

One of my absolute favorite vegetables to grow are carrots – they’re like a little mystery until you pull them out of the ground to reveal their hidden treasures. Over the years, I’ve learned that fall carrots are particularly sweet, as the plant’s survival instinct leads it to convert starches into sugars to avoid freezing.

But the real delight lies in the rainbow of heirloom varieties available. From the vibrant lavender-pink Gniff to the rich, dark purple Black Nebula, each type offers a unique flavor profile and visual appeal. The Japanese Kyoto Reds boast a sweet, almost fruity taste, while the Amarillo yellows and the stunning two-tone Purple Dragons add endless possibilities to your culinary adventures.

Curious Beets and Beyond

Beets are another root vegetable that can surprise and delight. Paired with carrots, they make a vibrant and flavorful side dish, their earthy sweetness complemented by a touch of lemon, honey, and warming spices.

But the culinary curiosities don’t stop there. Your CSA box might also introduce you to lesser-known produce like kohlrabi, celeriac, or watermelon radishes – each with their own distinct textures and flavors waiting to be explored.

Embracing the Unfamiliar

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, reaching for the same familiar vegetables time and time again. But by embracing the unexpected bounty from your local farm, you open yourself up to a world of culinary adventure. From sauces and dips to sweet treats and refreshing drinks, the possibilities are endless when you step outside your comfort zone and let your curiosity lead the way.

Cultivating Connections, Nourishing the Soul

At the heart of this journey lies a deeper connection – not just to the food on your plate, but to the land that sustains us, the farmers who pour their hearts into their work, and the community that comes together to support it all. By joining a CSA program like Thornappple, you become an integral part of this vibrant ecosystem, nurturing relationships and feeding your soul as much as your body.

So, the next time you open your CSA box and discover something new and unexpected, embrace the curiosity and let it guide you on a culinary adventure. Who knows what delights you might uncover, what personal revelations you might experience, and what connections you might forge along the way? The possibilities are as boundless as the land itself.

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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