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From the Field: A blooming farewell to the winter garden, CSA

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

May is always bittersweet for this winter gardener.

I’m a summer baby who can’t get enough time in the swimming pool, so the first really warm days of late spring/early summer bring great joy to my life, but they also means that my cool-weather garden is on its last legs. All the greens that I’ve been eating all winter long bolt toward the sky and burst white and yellow flowers signalling the end of their (very fruitful) lives.

In addition to a two-bed vegetable garden, I also subscribed to a community supported agriculture program with Johnson’s Backyard Garden just after Christmas. JBG is one of the only local farms that allows customers to skip weeks at random, so I was able to stretch that 10-week commitment to last more than four months.

(I should acknowledge — with more than a hint of guilt — that this flexibility benefits the customer more than the farmer, whose thin margins only get thinner with indecisiveness on the part of the consumers like me. In an effort to spread the From the Field love, the next CSA I subscribe to won’t be JBG, but I will miss the ability to skip weeks when the fridge is still overflowing from the CSA the week before or from a particularly abundant harvest from my own garden.)

I made everything from curried sweet potato soup and lime cilantro slaw to the very Spanish salad pictured at the top of this post and a beet and mixed greens grilled pizza whose recipe we’ll be running in next week’s food section.

In my last CSA box, I received carrots and kale, which have been plentiful all spring, beets, bags of lettuce and spicy mixed greens and spring onions. There’s still a little bit of harvestable cilantro and assorted herbs from my garden, but I’ve let the kale, spinach and mustard greens go to seed. They are falling over under the weight of those flowers and pods, but I can’t bear to pull them up. Yet.

I have a small bed of lettuce and what-the-heck-why-not banana pepper and heirloom squash plants, which I don’t have much hope for. Once temperatures start staying in the 90s, keeping a garden alive stops being fun and starts feeling like the least fun (and most environmentally destructive) chore in the house.

Until the fall (or I sign up for another CSA, whichever comes first), I’ll be hitting the local farmers markets to keep up this From the Field series, which will surely feature tomatoes, squash and cucumbers, my favorite summer vegetables. What seasonal produce have you always wanted to know more about cooking?