Farm School Week 14: Welcome, June, We Have Your CSA Veggies


A photo of Alison Spaude-FilipczakThe first week of June marks a transition here at the Greenbank Farm school. We have officially started our CSA. This is what we have been working toward for the past three months. Our members are the reason we have planted one hundred hundred-foot beds (to date) filled with annual vegetables. They are the reason we have the pleasure of growing so much good food. It’s week one of twenty, and our excitement is bursting so much that if we don’t let it out we will swell up and crack like the radishes. The time for harvest is now.

What has made it into this week’s box? Asian greens, salad turnips, radishes, spinach, head lettuce, kale, and arugula. Spring is the time of leafy greens — nutritionally dense, delicious, and somewhat overwhelming. Even as a self-proclaimed vegetable lover, I admit that our first box has lot of greens in it. However, that is eating with the seasons, and, for the sake of our CSA members, let’s hope they like salad.

Taryn proudly displays the contents of our first CSA share.Taryn proudly displays the contents of our first CSA share

Tuesday morning was the first harvest. My job was to pick Asian greens and salad turnips. Kelly and I used the salad knives that we had purchased from Johnny’s Seed catalogue to cut the greens right below the soil at the roots. We artfully bunched the home-mix of komatsuna, Tokyo bekana, and turnip tops, then twist-tied them together.  After picking and bunching the greens, we brought them to the washing station (a used sink with a hose attached to it) and hydro-cooled and washed the veggies in potable water before putting them in a box kept in the shade. I had never put too much thought into the need to keep vegetables cool and fresh until this experience, but man, fresh greens don’t look too good if they are left in the sun.

Then, it was off the pick the salad turnips. Until this summer, I had never had a salad turnip in my life. Unlike the turnips we are all used to, these are a spring treat and eaten fresh like a radish. These are delicious. The turnips are white and golf ball size, they are so sweet I almost think of them as a fruit rather than a root. The greens, although not as sweet as the root, are also edible. I enjoy the greens lightly pickled or sautéed with oil and garlic. For the past few weeks I had been sneaking undersized turnips from the field when others had their backs turned. They are so good that they have brought me to thievery.

I can only describe my feelings as heartbreaking when we began to harvest the turnips on Tuesday.  Each beautiful round globe we pulled from the earth had been munched on the bottom and destroyed to a point that we could no longer salvage them for our members. On average, five out of six turnips and been spoiled. The culprit was the cabbage-root maggot. Another terrible reality about farming hit me: Pests can destroy entire crops. Fortunately, we were able to find good enough turnips to give our members a (small) share of this delicious veggie. Fortunately, the cabbage-root maggot has only had the chance to destroy our first fully mature crop of turnips. We plant twenty feet of salad turnips every week, and, in hopes the cabbage-root maggot does not strike again, we will be covering our crop with row cover. Hopefully, our members understand. It’s a difficult crop to only get a teaser taste from.

S.M.R. Saia
6/11/2010 5:35:28 AM

I've never heard of a salad turnip. Is that the name that I would look for in a seed catalog? I really enjoy your posts. It's really interesting to see how a CSA works from the inside. Thanks!

Nebraska Dave
6/10/2010 7:21:37 PM

Alison, Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to write a post. Following your journey through the learning of CSA farming for success has been interesting to say the least. I’ve never seen such a scientific approach to the CSA process. I would expect success to be guarantied for sure. I can just imagine how excited you are after so many weeks of studying, planning, learning the business side of CSA growing, growing the seeds to plants, growing the plants, and finally coming to the first harvest and delivery. I hope that those maggots don’t migrate to the next turnip crop. Gardening and farming are a constant battle with nature and weather. Sometimes we win and sometimes the bugs and weather wins but each season is a different time of learning. That’s what keeps me coming back. Thanks again for taking time out of your schedule to write about all the successes and heart breaks of CSA growing.

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