Eating meat in general is a very controversial subject in some circles, and one that arouses passionate voices from both side of the spectrum amongst vegetarians and carnivores alike.  Here at the Small Family CSA farm, we eat meat.  We’re quite picky, if you will, about what sorts of meat we eat; and to cover the subject of to-eat or not-to-eat meat is not one that I wish to cover.  Most of you are grown adults and perfectly capable of making that educated decision for yourself.  But what kind of meat, rather, is more important to us, and because I’m discussing this subject, is defiantly not to say that you should live and eat meat like we do.  It’s just that I wish to point out that not all meat is  ‘created’ equally, and just only that .

If you take me to a restaurant or a pot luck, I become a vegetarian immediately.  If I don’t know the name of the farmer who raised the meat, I’ll probably politely pass the dish on, or simply not order it with no other words spoken on why or why not.  There was once, a few winters ago, when I was traveling in India and was staying with a Kashmiri family who served me mutton stew in efforts to help nurse me back to health;  (I was fighting off a terrible case of some kind of bacterial infection that I’ll probably never know what it was. ) I gracefully accepted the stew with a bow.   Although I had made it clear to this family that I did eat meat at home, but was not eating meat in India, they could not understand and would not accept this strange explanation.  I do believe, in some instances, it’s more important to show your gratitude, respect and appreciation than to refuse and cause grave disappointment, especially when a dish is prepared in your honor. 

It’s very comforting to know where your food comes from, and obviously, this is something you can all relate with. Haven’t there been enough scares lately about contamination from large, corporate food producers out west?   It helps me sleep better at night and feel better in my gut to know the who and how my food was raised.  Meat especially.  We raise our own pork and chicken here on the farm and trade for turkey, lamb and beef from our grass-fed, pasture based farmer-neighbors.

Pastured animals are healthier by nature than animals raised in confinement or on cement, or compacted ground, or muddy pens.  ‘Pasture raised’ animals also means that the farmer is raising smaller, more sustainable and manageable amounts of animals at one time.  Pastured is everything you can imagine in your mind when you think of cows out there on lush, green grass with hillsides for miles, all open for grazing.  That’s a little more realistic health-wise when you buy pastured. I believe it was Barbara Kingsolver who said, “You are what you eat, but more so what your animals eat.”  (Why do 14-year-old kids today look like they’re in college?  Hmm, how many extra growth hormones have the past generations been ingesting through meat and milk?)  It’s  what you buy everywhere else that you simply cannot imagine what it’s like.  Unless you’ve educated yourself on this subject and read a handful of informational books, or been to the farm, you probably don’t have any idea what sort of conditions your grocery store meat was raised in, and you probably don’t want to know; (check out Fast Food Nation).  But I can guarantee you it’s not hillsides upon hillsides of fresh green grass, organic or no organic.  Certified Organic meats guarantee you nothing other than no hormones, antibiotics or conventional feed.  Organic meats, however much better than conventional,  do not have the same nutritional benefits of grass based animals. 

I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic,  but I am educated on the subject of farm animals and how they are raised.  I have an understanding of what is sustainable and what is not.  I also happen to be a farmer, with lots of farmer-neighbors and have seen the beginning of it first hand.  Animals raised on pasture eat what they were naturally inclined to eat in the wild, continually moving to new and fresh grass, never staying within the same spot for longer than one to four days, depending on what kind of animal is grazing and how large the animal is. 

The environmental benefits follow when sustainable practices are used.  Pastured animals will often manage areas of ground that cannot otherwise be used for crops because that land may be in the flood plane, on a steep hillside or prone to erosion.  The manure from the animals is spread around the pastures and the waste management problem is eliminated, except for winter time, which improves soil fertility.  Greenhouse gasses are even reduced in pastures where healthy grasses and legumes grow that actually draw excess carbon dioxide from the air and return it to the soil as carbon.

Without boring you further and getting scientific about some of the health benefits of pastured based animals and the difference between the “good fats” and “bad fats”, and beta-caratenoids and CLA’s ( conjugated linoleic acid, a “good fat”) found in pastured animals, I’ll try and wrap this up.  It’s enough for me to know that I’m supporting a farmer whose practices I endorse, sanction and agree with.  I like having pastured-based farmers in my neighborhood because it means that there is greater wildlife diversity, more bird life and happier farm animals.  One more farm kept in grass is one less farm turned into more houses, paved parking lots or even worse, more corn.

So….WHAT’S in the BOX???

Garlic–  The real thing, freshly plucked out of the ground after nine months of growth and slumber.  The garlic will not have the papery skins around the cloves that you’re used to seeing because this garlic is freshly harvested like a new born!  The bulbs will have several cloves inside.  Around each clove is a thick membrane that is still alive, after curing, that membrane is what turns into the papery skins that you’re used to peeling away from the clove.  Fresh garlic is not quite as hot as cured garlic.   Do not refrigerate.  Store out of direct sunlight, hanging in a well ventilated area.

Shell Peas or Snow Peas-  Shell peas are my new favorite vegetables.  Shell peas are fatter and rounder and need to be broken open to extract the round, sweet peas.  The snow peas are flatter and the whole pod can be eaten raw.

Lettuce– The lettuce just keeps on reeling in!  The hotter weather is making the lettuce a bit more bitter.  But I’m thankful that we still have it!

Cilantro– One of my favorite summer herbs.  Taco salad anyone?

Broccoli or Cauliflower-  A little more coming on now.

Green Onions-  Green onions to help hold you over until the real deal is ready for plucking.

Kohlrabi-  Either a white or purple kohlrabi.  Kohlrabi is in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower.  The leaves are edible.  Peel kohlrabi and use for cooking or eating raw.

Kale-We thought we would squeeze this in one more time before it gets too hot for it for a little while.  Kale usually takes a nose dive for the summer and then comes back around in the fall when the insect pressure lets off a little and the cooler temps resume.

Radicchio-  This is a small, redish cabbage looking thing.   Radicchio’s are usually all shaped a little different since these seeds were heirlooms.  They’re not very uniform.  But for the most part, they’re round-ish, and sometimes taller and more football shaped.  Sometimes they have a nice firmly dense head, and sometimes they’re more loose and opened up a little.  This is a bitter green meant to be shaved into slivers and added into salads and stir fries.

Next week!  A short list of items that we may have next week, but will not promise to have.  Due to the unexpectedness of the season, anything could pop up or go down hill in no time.

Lettuce, broccoli, kohlrabi, parsley, cauliflower, green onions, garlic, beets