Friday, May 18, 2007

produce problems

I read the other day that over 25% of purchased produce is tossed out due to spoilage. I was thinking of this problem as I pitched my wilted half bunch of parsley and some bruised, sad onions. While I try to stay on top of the vegetables in my fridge, inevitably I keep making promises to that lone eggplant that "Yes, I will roast you. Tomorrow."But then tomorrow comes and I crave sushi or a shrimp po-boy and I put off cooking the eggplant (or zucchini or cabbage or whatever) until it's only fit for the compost pile I keep meaning to start.

And I remembered how the last time I was really diligent about cooking all the produce in my refrigerator was summer 2005, when I belonged to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and prepurchased 8 months of produce to be delivered once a week to my door (well, the bike shop down the street, but close enough.) That summer I became well aquainted with the problem many succesful gardeners face: What else can I do with squash? But no matter how many weeks in a row I faced a box full of pattypan, crook neck and butternut (butternut in the summer? in New Orleans, yes) I managed to cook and eat (or at least serve) them all. Why? Because every week I received an email, updating me on how the farm was doing. How the watermelon failed but the corn showed promise. And, yes, even how to cook all that squash. I was reminded weekly, that someone grew that squash, cared about it, and it deserved to be eaten, not disregarded and eventually thrown out.

The supply of squash came to an abrupt end, but not because its season was over. Unfortunately Hurricane Katrina did terrible damage to this fledgling CSA and Pastime Farms has not yet recovered and reopened, though they are exploring that possibility now. And my regular cooking of produce was replaced with lots of gas station food and other purchased products during my hurrication. Even though I returned home over a year and a half ago, I never got back in that groove of cooking well for myself. And even the vegetables I've purchased from local growers at the farmers market have, I am ashamed to confess, often been left to rot. But I have decided to correct this situation. I am a big believer in resolutions, whether they are made at New Years or Lent or whenever. I am making a summer resolution: No more wasted produce. As the summer presents its bounty to me, the least I can do is eat it with relish, not hide from the silent castigation of my wilting lettuce in the produce drawer.