First CSA of the Year – and why you should use a CSA

I haven’t posted in a while, but I just HAD to share with you all my little haul from the first CSA of the year.

FMH1

I went with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Eagle Creek Farms.

In case you have never heard of a CSA and do not know how it works, this is a basic description.

Prior to the start of the growing season, you sign up for the CSA – either a half share (which is what I did – designed to feed 2-3 people) or a full share, or any combination of these.  What you will need will depend very much on how many veggies you eat and how big your family is.

The farmers then start growing their crops based on the number of people who have signed up for a CSA.

Basically, you are providing the funds up front to enable the farmer to buy the necessary seeds and to pay for the labour needed to bring that crop to harvest.  Essentially you are buying shares in the crops that they will be harvesting in the future, and come time when they are ripe, you get a share of those crops, usually in a weekly or bi-weekly delivery, depending on the particular CSA you signed up for.

BTW did you know that there are CSA’s for everything from fresh veggies (the kind I signed up for) through to fruit ones.  There are even CSA’s for grass-fed meat, dairy produce (raw dairy included in areas where it is legal), eggs and grains (if you eat them)….  google CSA [your local area] to find ones local to you!   Obviously not all of these CSA’s may be seasonal, but many are.  There are also Winter CSA shares that you can buy that rely on stored root veggies and the few winter crops that can be grown (seasonality depends on location).

And some CSA’s include non-perishable items like fermented veggies or preserves.  The one I use includes the occasional bunch of flowers which is always nice to receive.  The bunch I collected today is in my bedroom where I can enjoy if without the cats destroying it!

So the downside of a CSA?

There is some risk with this – crops can and do fail.  But it is very unusual for a farmer who offers a CSA to only grow one crop.  And if one fails (for example the carrot harvest), others are likely to make up for it.  They also often carry out subsequent plantings of seeds, so that if one crop fails, a later one may succeed and provide a good harvest.

In addition, often you do not get much choice as you get what is ripe and ready to harvest when you go to the pick-up point.  (very few CSA’s deliver to your house, although some do.  The ones I have seen local to me all have pick-up/drop-off points at various farmers markets around the city).  Some do offer a limited choice – the one I use does.  It works on the simple method of “take one item from each bin”, and where there is a choice, the bin will contain one or more items that you can choose from.  If you are strict AIP, you will almost certainly receive some items you cannot eat yourself….  but then again, you may also be able to trade or gift them with someone (a neighbour, a friend or a family member)

Also, because this is a seasonal thing, you are only going to receive those veggies that are actually in season and ripe at the time.  This means in early summer you get a TON of greens, but in the fall/autumn you will get a TON of roots – plan accordingly!  We cannot cheat Mother Nature!

So if there are risks involved, why should you sign up for a CSA?

Well first of all, it is supporting local farmers.  Usually, the produce you will be receiving will be either organic, or grown in a sustainable fashion, but either way, it is locally grown, and you can bet that it is always in season.  And then there is the chance to go to the farmers market/collection point and actually MEET your farmer…

And these veggies are so fresh because they were picked if not that morning, probably the day before. Some of them may even be still “living” and have the roots intact or still planted in a pot! (Winter CSA’s are often different here, as they often involved stored veggies.)  And then when you add in the fact that you do not always know what you are going to be receiving, there is the element of surprise.

And it is FUN – you get to try veggies that you never knew would exist!  You can experiment!

As I said, today was the first CSA collection of the season (a week late because of the rain, hail and other bad weather we have been having in the Calgary region these last few weeks).  So I headed to Northland Mall to their Farmers Market to pick up my half-share.

For me, a half share works perfectly – for the most part I feed just myself due to my dietary issues,.  But I do like to share my bounty with my 2 wonderful housemates, so having a little bit extra works well.  I also eat far more veggies than the average person so a 2-3 person share probably means a 1-2 person share when it includes me!

This half share cost me $355, which I paid for back in March, and is designed to feed 2-3 people each week…  I figured that I would most likely spend more than $355 over the 16 weeks that this CSA will run – it only works out at around $22 a week.  I don’t know about you, but I normally spend FAR more than $22 a week on fresh produce!  And that is just for myself….  as the half-share I bought is designed to feed 2-3 people, I will have some leftover to share with my 2 housemates to earn myself a little bit of good-will (goodness knows I NEED it! – I OWE them a bundle for their boundless and freely given support)

And if all else fails, I will ferment, dry, freeze or otherwise preserve the veggies before they go bad.

So what did I get in my first CSA share (bear in mind, this is early in the season and only designed to feed 2-3 people for 1 week – this is a half-share, a full-share gets double this amount):

FMH1

 

Now this is a TON of nutrient dense greens!

At the back, we have a bunch of flowers (there was a choice of 2 different bunches – a welcome non-edible addition that made my heart sing!).  And also a small potted basil plant.

Then working from the far left-hand corner in a clockwise direction, I received:

  • a large bag of pea shoots
  • a small bag of lambs quarters greens
  • horseradish greens (with itty, bitty baby horseradish roots attached)
  • garlic scrapes
  • cilantro
  • purple kale (this was a HUGE bunch!)

Lots of greens as you can see, which is hardly surprising seeing that this is very early in the growing season in Calgary.  This is what I mean when I say that you have very little control or choice because you are getting what is ready and seasonal at the time of collection.  And at this point in the growing season, in Calgary, that means greens.

But I seriously LOVE greens, so all is good in my world!

For what it is worth, I could choose between the garlic scrapes and a single bulb of young garlic (I chose garlic scrapes simply because I have never eaten them and am always open to new fthings), and between the kale and collard greens (I went with the kale because it was a bigger bunch!)

There are some very new items here – some I have never eaten but am excited to try.  I have never had lambs quarters, horseradish greens or garlic scrapes.

I will need to test out the pea-shoots, but I suspect that they will be OK – I ate a few on the bus on the way home (they just looked so fresh, tasty and appetizing!) and I have had no reaction to them 5 hours later.

The flowers and the basil plant (small, but he will grow!) were a welcome surprise.

After collecting these, I went for a walk around the market and bought myself a few other bits:

FMH2

At the back – organic strawberries

Then clockwise from the far left:

  • organic arugula
  • the cutest, freshest radishes (I plan to use both the greens and the radishes)
  • some of the most flavourful blueberries I have ever tasted
  • a huge bag of wondefully ripe cherries

These last purchases cost me less than $20, so I am one happy bunny….

So that is my farmers market haul…

total costs:

  • CSA share (divided between 16 weeks) – $22
  • extra items – $17:50 (the stuff in the second picture)

Not bad as all of this will be shared beween 3 people!

So will anyone tell me that eating local is not affordable try visiting your local farmers

Wild And Raw – Calgary

I went down to Wild and Raw in Kensington (Calgary) today because I had to meet someone.

I had never been there before, but I knew that they at least served bone broth (because the person I was meeting was the person who supplies their grass-fed beef bones that they use in the broth (Rachel from Trail’s End Beef).

When I walked in to Wild and Raw, the first thing they did was ask how they could help me.  I asked for advice, explaining that I could not have anything with dairy, gluten, soy, seeds or nuts (I forgot to mention nightshades)…  and they came up with a few recommendations.

They have a pretty extensive menu – lots of juices, lots of smoothies (that they call shakes), their “Euphoric Elixirs” (this category includes Bulletproof Coffee, Bone Broth and Veggie Broth among others), and even Kombucha “on-tap”.

But by this time, I had already decided that I was going to try the bone broth despite the fact that it contained “spices” (which almost certainly included nightshades).  And as I have never reacted to nightshade spices in the past, I decided to heck with it…  even if I am supposed to be doing an AIP-exclusion “reset”, I was still having that broth!

And let me tell you that broth was delicious!  Gingery, spicy, and you could just tell that it was doing you good!

I would recommend it to anyone unless they really do react to nightshade spices…

Wild and Raw is quite a small place – only half a dozen tables or so (I did not count them), and it had only been open less than 30 minutes when I walked in, so it was empty…  but after about 5 minutes Rachel, her husband Tyler, her 2 children and a friend all came in….

It was a really friendly place and I will most definitely be going back!

And I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are Paleo, AIP or whatever they eat.  This is a really nice place that has something for everyone.  (They even do a vegetarian broth for the non-meat-eaters…)

Next time, I want to try their Kombucha…

Charcut Resturant – Calgary

Way back in early December last year I mentioned that Hubby and I visited Charcut for our wedding anniversary.  And I promised to do a post about our meal.

I apologise, but I completely forgot about that until I found the receipt in my bag yesterday!

So here is the post I promised, just a month or so too late…..

The pictures are not of the best quality, partly because they were taken using a cellphone, and partly because it was so dark in there (mood lighting taken to the extreme!).  But what the pictures lack in quality was more than made up for by the food, which was excellent.

Our reservation was not until fairly late – 8pm at night, but that was OK with us as we like to make a night of it when we go out, and if we start eating earlier, we finish early and then start wondering what to do next, which usually means we end up in a bar.  At least this way, we finished eating, came home and cracked open a second bottle of wine to enjoy.

We decided to get the bus downtown because parking is expensive and we intended to have a bottle of wine.  Hubby does not like to drive if he has had even one drink, so this was a good solution.  We arrived a little early, so we visited a bar close by and had a glass of red wine, then we walked to the restaurant.

The staff are always wonderful – Hubby had told them it was our wedding anniversary when he made the reservation, so as soon as we told them our name they wished us a “Happy Anniversary”.  They took our coats and hung them up in a closet, and then we were shown to our table, which was a 2 person one tucked out of the way.  Almost as soon as we had sat down, a server showed up and asked us whether we would like still or sparkling water (both of us opted for sparkling), and they brought us an amuse of “Italian Bar Snacks” (pork jerky that I attempted to recreate here)

We had one bottle of red wine, a red called B de E:

charcut11

The appetizers that we ordered were a portion of bone marrow (with added snails) each (I chose the gluten-free toast, hubby went with the regular):

charcut1

and a portion of warm olives to share:

charcut2

Take my advice, if you ever visit Charcut and have the bone marrow order one each.  One between 2 is really NOT enough!  You will only get a few spoonfuls of marrow and your brain will be saying “Give me MOARRRRR!” and there will be none left.

In fact, forget the “if” you order bone marrow, if you visit Charcut you simply MUST order the bone marrow!  At least one each!  It is delicious. Rich, fatty, savory and oh so satisfying.  Don’t worry if you are on the squeamish side, it isn’t gross at all…  I just tastes a bit like a meaty, fatty spread.  I was tempted to lick the cavity out of mine just so that I could get every last bit out, but I didn’t (manners and all that!)  I actually commented that perhaps next time we visit we should order 2 bone marrow each!  Seriously, it is THAT good….

We went with 2 different main courses:

I ordered a Butchers Steak (as rare as they could make it), which came with a chimichurri sauce, arugula and matchstick potato fries:

charcut4

It was absolutely beautifully rare as you can see….

Hubby ordered pork belly which came with aged cheddar grits:

charcut6

And we also got a side of red cabbage to share, which came in the most adorable little pot:

charcut7

Of course we tasted each others main course (I didn’t try the grits as I am allergic to cows milk cheese – Hubby said that they were really good though), but Hubby’s pork was delicious, and he agreed that my steak was wonderful.

The red cabbage was a bit “Meh” – not bad, just not as wonderful as the meat, but hey, it was very good red cabbage….

Seeing as they had a sheep’s milk cheese (which I can eat) on the menu,

charcut8

we then decided that we would go for a cheese course:

charcut10

This was served with some Buzz Honey, a relish, some toast (which I avoided) and some seeds.  It was wonderful.

Then we went for a dessert.

charcut9

Hubby had a blueberry cheesecake:

charcut12

and I chose the chocolate parfait:

charcut13

which was so rich that I could not eat more than a spoonful or two of it.

And we rounded the meal out with a coffee each.

Then it was a gentle walk to the bus-stop and we got the bus home, where we shared a second bottle of wine while watching some TV.

It was a wonderful evening, but I think it really should have been seeing that it cost us a whopping $221.55….

Having said that, despite the high price, it is always worth eating at Charcut – the food is always excellent, the service is wonderful, and we always end up enjoying ourselves immensely.

The food was wonderful as was the service.

If you are Paleo and want a good night out, this is the place to visit.  And even if you are not Paleo, but just enjoy eating good food (and don’t mind lots of meat), I would also recommend it.  The only people I would not recommend visiting this restaurant are vegetarians and vegans – seriously, there was only 1 thing on the menu a vegan could eat – the olives!

OK so our meal was not perfectly Paleo – Hubby had toast, we both had some sheep’s cheese, I had potatoes as a side with my main, and Hubby had those cheesy grits.  And the deserts we chose were not really Paleo either… but if you really wanted to make your meal strict Paleo I am sure you could talk to them and they would help you out.

I think if I had to give them a rating out of 10, I would probably say a good 8-9/10.

Hiking Up Baldy Pass

Yesterday, I mentioned in a post that we had gone hiking…..We decided to go to Kananaskis Country, the place where we do most of our hiking.  A didn’t want to come with us this time, she stayed at home with the dog and cooked dinner (a ham from the pastured half pig that we picked up at the farmers market yesterday).

In the car park, waiting to go hiking

In the car park, waiting to go hiking

The hike that we decided to do this time was Baldy Pass, a fairly easy, 8km hike, with about 570m elevation gain,  that usually takes no more than 4 hours.

Baldy_Map

After leaving the car-park, which is on the east side of Highway 40, aprox 1km beyond the southern end of Barrier Lakes, you cross the road to find the trail head.

Baldy pass viewed from the car park

Baldy pass viewed from the car park

Initially, you are walking along a fairly good path through a wooded area.

baldypass28

There were quite a few flowers in this area despite the lateness of the season, although some of the leaves on the bushes were starting to change colour (the trees were mostly conifers):

baldypassflower1

Baldypassflower2

baldypassflower3

Eventually, you come to a junction in the path, and you turn left, passing a signpost:

Baldypass2

This path is not as good the first, it is rutted and has a surprising number of sinkholes – the result of the dramatic flooding that Southern Alberta suffered in July of this year…  Kananaskis was badly hit, and there are still some roads and campsites that are closed.

baldypass31

Eventually, this path gives way to what was a scree/dried up river bed – lots of gravel, lots of stones and rocks.  It is pretty hard going at this point – good footwear is needed (although Hubby and I were wearing our Vibram five fingers and they stood up to this terrain very well!)\

baldypass5

Here too were signs of the recent flooding.  The following picture shows what it looked like before the flooding:

Image from hikingwithbarry.com

Image from hikingwithbarry.com

And this is what it looked like after the flooding:

Baldypass4

You can clearly see where the flood waters gouged out a new river bed, creating deep gulleys.

baldypass27

baldypass24

The following picture shows the remains of the path that has been destroyed by the floods:

baldypass19

Despite the damage, it is still passable.  My recommendation is that you stick to the left hand side as much as possible on the ascent in this section (and stick to the right hand side on the descent) as for most of the way there is a fairly usable path.  But despite this, this section is the worst part of the entire trip.

Eventually, you come to a small inuksuk that forms a marker where the trail leaves this section and heads back into the woods.

baldypass20

Hubby stopped at this point and took the following panoramic view looking back down the valley:

i_baldypass7

In this wooded area, the trail is very much steeper than the first section, with lots of tree roots and rocks in the path.  It became quite hard going at times.

baldypass17

baldypass15

This wooded area is much damper than the one down below and it is far more shady.  There were very few flowers and even a few mushrooms/toadstools growing by the path:

baldypassmush2

baldypassmush1

And eventually, you come to the top of the pass, where there is a small cairn:

i_baldypass6

The view from the top looking back the way we had come:

baldypass7

The gaps in the trees you can see in that photograph are the ski runs for the Nakiska ski resort.

This is the view looking the other way:

i_baldypass2

Hubby took a picture of me at the top – the problem with being the one behind the camera is that there are never any photographs of you!

i_baldypass5

But I did manage to get pics of Hubby and the girls:

baldypass9

baldypass8

 

baldypass10

Thee return trip was pretty much retracing your steps – it was much easier and faster going down however…

And by the time we got to the car, we were more than grateful for the homemade energy bars that I had brought along!