By Suzanne Taylor, member of Linda's CSA, guest blogger, and nosy foodie.
*A muzhik is a Russian peasant.
So, I’ve been reading Anna Karenina lately. I’m not on a classics kick or anything like that, I just have a fondness for things that are both long and Russian (Dr. Zhivago, Eugene Onegin, you name it) and figured that this fit the bill.
Anyway, I’m finding the book slow going but enjoyable, and I particularly like the scene where Levin, the landowner, works in the field with the peasants in the springtime, mowing with his scythe. He enjoys the feeling of the sun shining on his aching muscles and his sweat-soaked shirt, and the satisfaction of hard work on his farm, drinking vodka with the peasants and generally being apple-cheeked and kitschy as all-get-out.
And it is with this image in mind that I decided to volunteer to give Linda a hand at the farm this weekend, I must confess. Foolishly idealistic little wannabe stevedore that I am.
Of course, this was silly of me. There is nothing Russian-peasant picturesque about yanking out armloads of pigweed from the mud with the tail of an enormous cat named Pickle two inches below your nose, and that’s that.
But this is the reality of working on Linda’s farm; it’s just plain hard work and a lot of underfoot pets, and it’s no less satisfying for this. It’s also sobering to learn first hand exactly how hard Linda works for the contents of our CSA baskets each week. I think as CSA members we all have a better appreciation than average people do of what hard work farming is, and yet nothing prepared me for the simple reality of fighting with crab grass for a few hours better than pitching in myself and enduring the mosquito bites. What I won’t do for heirloom tomatoes, right?
It also let me discover exactly what is growing on the farm and what is ready and what is not; Linda is having rather a wet year of it and things are growing more slowly than last year. Fret not if you feel like things are missing from your basket this year; they are all on their way, it’s just been a heavy rainfall year and the soil is very wet and mucky, as my muddy feet can attest to, and thus everything is a bit late this year.
All the kale/cabbage/collard green type of plants really seem to enjoy the rain; the ‘headless cabbage’ she grows has leaves so big I’m pretty sure I could wrap Pickle the cat in them and cook him for supper if I were so inclined, which of course I am not as I am rather fond of old Pickle, who is bigger than my two pugs put together and thus a little intimidating in his own right.
In this vein, I leave you with my favourite recipe for collard greens:
White Bean and Collard Green Soup (adapted from “The Broccoli Forest”)
1 tbsp olive oil; up to 2
2 c chopped onions
1 bay leaf
2 stalks celery; minced
2 medium-sized carrots; diced
2 tsp salt; (or more, to taste)
6 c stock or water
3 c cooked white beans
3 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 lb collard greens; stemmed and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly chopped parsley (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the oil in a kettle or Dutch oven, add the onion, bay leaf, celery,
carrots, and salt. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, then add
stock or water. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.
Cook quietly for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
2. Add the beans, garlic, and as much of the collard greens as you can fit,
cover and wait a few minutes for the greens to cook down. Keep adding
greens in batches, waiting between additions for them to cook down, which
they ultimately will.
3. Add black pepper to taste, and adjust the salt. Serve hot, topped with
a grating or two of fresh nutmeg, a little parsley, and a generous
spoonful of parmesan cheese.
Note: Don’t tell Joey the pig, but this soup is made particularly tasty with a dollop of bacon drippings in it.
If you are so inclined to volunteer some of your time on the farm in exchange for tomatoes, give Linda a call; she can use all the help she can get!
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