Being a member of a CSA makes you appreciate the stuff that’s already growing in your yard.
It comes in the box, all beautifully bunched together, cleaned up and arranged. And you think — hey I think I saw that weed in my yard! Chives, rhubarb … is that stick over there edible? Well, I don’t know, but hey, maybe it is.
I’ve started looking forward to chive flowers each year. It’s a little embarrassing how enamored I am of them. Are they flowers? Are they onions? Holy crap, they’re both! It’s the best thing ever. And it’s hard, because once the chives flower, the stem (chive, proper) becomes tough, and you wouldn’t want to chop it and stir it into cream cheese for your bagel anymore. So you have to cut half, leave half to bloom. Everything in moderation is a difficult thing for me. It’s the story of my life.
So here’s what I do with the weird CSA stuff that you maybe wouldn’t automatically think of as “ingredients.”
Rhubarb is a garden staple here in Minnesota. Usually it’s combined with strawberries and cooked into a delicious, sweet-tart pie. So why not use that flavor combo for a non-pie taste sensation?
Combine 1 bunch of chopped rhubarb with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Boil until the rhubarb totally falls apart and gets stringy and mushy. Those are the most desirable terms I can come up with to describe the texture of the mixture. It will eventually be yummy. Keep the faith.
Stir in a 10 ounce jar of strawberry jam.
Whisk until combined and allow to cool.
I tossed romaine and red leaf lettuce in balsamic vinaigrette. Then I spread crostini with the rhubarb and strawberry sauce and topped with blue cheese.
We get a lot of pea vine in the crop share. It tastes like peas but it’s not the easiest thing to deal with. Do you remove all the leaves? If you saute it whole the leaves wilt and the vines stay sturdy and unchanged, like undelicious pea ropes. What to do?
Pesto, of course! Combine 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan in the food processor. Add 1 bunch of pea vine and process. Then stream in 1/2 cup olive oil. Add a tablespoon of Worcestershire and 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar plus some salt and pepper. Done.
Toss the pesto in a pound of cooked (still warm) orzo, stir in 1 cup of chopped ham, then top with more grated Parm and some of those beautiful chive flowers. You can pull them apart if you’d like. They’re pretty that way too.
Just because an ingredient doesn’t seem like the star of the show doesn’t mean it can’t be. Weeds and plants are like noise and music. It’s all about perspective. If you love pea vine or burdock root or nettles or whatever other “weed” grows in your yard, you’ve turned it into a plant. It’s no longer the noise in the garden. It’s the music. And I’m all about enjoying the music.