Wednesdays at the CSA: Going Local & Seasonal for Good

August 19th, 2009

It used to be that I looked forward to the weekend. I still do, but it’s Wednesdays that I find most relaxing. That’s because Wednesdays are CSA Day, the day when I pick up my weekly share from the biodynamic  farmer’s coop I’ve bought into.


In addition to the wonderful food, it seems I always walk away with a pearl of wisdom. That’s probably because the CSA is located at an ashram, so there’s often a wise old yogi nearby speaking wise thoughts.

Today’s was: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Boy, was that ever what I needed to hear today!

But back to the food…the tomatoes have just been killing me this season. They’re so fresh, so flavorful, so delicious, that the other stuff they call “tomatoes” that we buy year round at the grocers? Fuhgeddabout it!

That’s right…we’ve been so taken with the freshness and bounty of eating in season, that we’ve decided to try it year-round.

No more wasting money on expensive, out-of-season organic tomatoes in the dead of winter. I’d rather save my money for expensive, in-season, delicious local tomatoes during the summer!

This winter? I’ll stick with purple potatoes, nuts, and other foods we can eat seasonally.  Of course, it’s a lot easier to make that type of commitment now in the heat of summer than in the cold of winter.  I just have to remember that even in winter CSAs are More than Just Kale.

What about you? Have you made the switch to eating all local, all the time? Have you tried it? Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

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Green and Organic Savings: Sampling a CSA

August 17th, 2008

Big purchases scare many people these days. So when it comes time to sign up for a CSA, worries may kick in.

Will I get more than just kale?,” you may wonder. “Is $900 for a season really worth it?”

The good news is you can sample a CSA’s bounty. Although few, if any, CSAs promote trial periods, the fact is that during the waning days of summer, many CSA members leave town for vacation and offer their weekly shares for sale.

For around $30, you should be able to pick up a week’s share, about two bags full of farm fresh produce, and depending on the CSA, you may also take home bread, grains, cheese, eggs, or even home-baked cookies.

For more information, check out the list of CSAs at Local Harvest. Then email or call the contact person and ask if anyone is trying to sell a week’s share while on vacation.

Good luck and leave a comment to let me know if you end up sampling a CSA!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings Friday: Look Up, Look Down & Strawberries All Around!

June 20th, 2008


Funny headline? Well, think about this: finding the signs that display pricing in an organic market can require as much flexibility as a yoga routine. You have to look up high above the veggies bins, then you have to squat to look at knee-height to read prices, then you have to bend over a veggie counter to read tiny price stickers. Yikes. But you know what? It can really be worth the extra effort.

Take just one example: organic romaine lettuce. This is a staple item for many. Most often, people just push the cart up, reach in and grab whatever it is they’ve been grabbing for years. I had been doing that too, picking up my 9 oz. box of EarthBound Farms pre-washed romaine lettuce, while trying to ignore the $4.99 price tag. But this week, I happened to overhear a woman asking the Whole Foods produce manager where to find the local organic romaine lettuce on sale for $1.49. That sounded good to me, so I followed her over to the other side of the produce aisle and craned my neck up to see the sign announcing the sale – $1.00 off the regular price. Then I put the romaine on the scale and saw that each bag contained 21 ounces, so this romaine was just 7 cents per ounce, as compared to 55 cents per ounce for the EarthBound Farms box!

And even more exciting this week was the most fantastic deal on organic strawberries! Less than conventional! Can you believe it? DC’s Tenleytown Whole Foods has 2 pound packages of Driscoll’s organic strawberries on sale for $5.99 each, as compared to conventional 1 pound boxes of Driscoll’s for $3.49 each. That means that each 2 pounds of organic strawberries are $1.50 cheaper than the conventional equivalent. Amazing! And really, really delicious. Baby Boo was digging his fingers into the air holes in the container to try to get into the strawberries. I had to run upstairs and wash a few off before we left the store!

Last week, we discussed the great deals available at Target on organic milk. Well, as if $3.44 per gallon wasn’t good enough, Target slashed the price even further and through Saturday, you can buy Archer Farms organic milk at $3 per half gallon (actually, 2 1/2s for $6).

And still more good deals on organic milk at Target! Those handy little Horizon organic milk packages, perfect for summer camp lunch? On sale at $5.48 from $5.98 for two packages of three 8 ounce containers. This sale is on through July 21st.

Did you see any great deals this week? Leave a comment and share! Happy shopping!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Stinging Nettles Need a New Name!

May 14th, 2008

Belonging to a CSA is an incredible experience. You gain exposure to produce that you might normally never buy – and certainly would never find at your local market. I’ve posted here about CSA biodynamic and organic treasures such as Jerusalem artichokes, persimmons, celeriac, black radish, salsify, purple top turnips, passionfruit, kabocha squash and sweet white turnips.

But sometimes, trying to expose a kindergartner to nature’s bounty has its challenges.

Just imagine you were 5-years-old. Would you eat stinging nettles? You’d have to be brave, wouldn’t you? After all, “stinging nettles” sound like scary creatures from Harry Potter! They might sting your tongue, don’t you think? And in fact, they really do sting before they are cooked. You saw this warning sign with your own eyes.


But after nettles are sautéed in olive oil with leeks and onions, they are quite delicious, thank you very much. Try telling that to a skeptical boy, eyeing you and the stinging nettles warily!

Fortunately, this kid is well aware of Organic Kid Marketing. So Mom tried to explain that since the stinging nettles come directly from a farm to the CSA, they haven’t been marketed and packaged properly by Organic Kid Marketers. Perhaps he had some ideas?

Yes! Organic Cobra Stinging Nettles, packaged with free stickers of cobras and drawings of cobras all over the box.

Great idea! Cobras are way cool! We love cobras!

Just imagine these nettles came in that cool cobra box. Now eat your nettles!

Not a chance….


Check out some other cool CSA and farmers market fare recipes here at Beth Bader’s Farmers Market Fare and some make-your-own concoctions at Surely You Nest.

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Six Tips for Choosing a CSA that’s Right for You

February 18th, 2008

With the growing popularity of both the “eat local” and the organic movements, membership in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) cooperatives is on the upswing. Last week’s post discussed six reasons to love a CSA, and this week we’ll cover six tips for choosing a CSA that’s right for you. After all, each CSA has its own “personality” and you’ll need to find one that fits your convictions and lifestyle, or else you may be disappointed.

Following are six factors to consider when choosing your CSA:

1. Volunteer commitments – Traditionally, CSAs have required volunteer commitments from their members. The extent of volunteer hours and obligations will vary widely from CSA to CSA. Common volunteer chores include: working at the farm, driving a delivery truck, unloading the delivery truck, bagging produce, setting up the pick-up location, and working during share pick-up hours.

2. Veggie, Ovo-lacto-vegetarian, or Carnivore? – Some CSAs offer organic meat, whereas others are completely vegetarian or ovo-lacto-vegetarian, meaning you may be able to get milk, eggs, or cheese along with your vegetarian share.

3. Local / Organic Commitment – It used to be that organic implicitly meant local, but that’s no longer the case. Generally speaking, most CSAs will have a preference for local, organic food. But what happens in the dead of winter? Unless you live in a warm climate, you’ll likely face one of two scenarios: either your CSA will ship in organic produce from warmer climes, or you’ll be subsisting on a lot of root vegetables. Some members may welcome the addition of organic oranges, while others will decry the fossil fuels used to ship them to your local CSA.

4. Communications – Leveraging communications tools such as listservs and blogs can make all the difference in the community spirit of a CSA. Is there a way for members to connect to discuss issues such as switching volunteer hours, selling shares during vacation weeks, or recipes for the obscure veggies in your latest share?

5. Delivery and/or Pick-up Hours – If you’re habitually the last person to pick up your share, you may find the pickings are slim. What are your CSA’s pick-up hours and how do they regulate the food distribution?

6. Farm Visits – Can you visit the farms that grow your food? For some members, this is the essence of joining a CSA.

When choosing a CSA, consider what’s most important to you. Typically, you’ll be dealing with a CSA for about six months, so a little upfront research will go a long way toward ensuring a happy experience.

What’s been your experience with CSAs? Please leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Six Reasons to Love a CSA (They’re More than Just Kale!)

February 11th, 2008

Some Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups have a reputation for providing their members with little more than an overabundance of kale, chard, and root vegetables with a few sprigs of parsley thrown in. CSAs, as you may know, are collectives formed to purchase a farmer’s or a group of farmers’ crops. Members share in the bounty (or the loss) and the farmers are guaranteed a set price for their crops.

CSA Pick-up Point

While it’s true that through my recent CSA experience, I have learned I prefer chard to kale, the recent growth in the “buy local” movement and the growing popularity of CSAs means that if you join one, you’re likely to enjoy a far broader range of foods than in years past.

Following are six reasons to love a CSA (Part 1 of 2 Posts on CSAs)

1. Variety – It’s easy to fall into a rut at the market, picking the same familiar veggies and fruits every week. Through a CSA, you may be exposed to celeriac, black radish, salsify, purple top turnips, passionfruit, persimmon, kabocha squash, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet white turnips, and Big “Florida-type” avocados, in addition to those CSA stand-bys, chard and kale! Some CSAs also provide fantastic farm fresh cheese and wonderful varieties of home-baked bread.

2. Commitment – Since you are required to pre-pay for your CSA membership, you’ll likely make it a point to get your CSA share every week. C’mon, admit it. How many times have you resorted to processed or convenience food because you simply hadn’t made it to the market for something fresh?

3. Inspiration – With the abundance of new foods to experiment with, odds are you’ll have to dust off that old cookbook and take a look at some recipes for the unfamiliar produce in your share. Cooking and discovering new recipes are all part of the CSA adventure! (Check out this blog with recipes matched to shares from the Spiritual Food for the New Millenium CSA).

4. Family Learning – My kindergartner is learning about where food really comes from, how delicious fresh organic and biodynamic food tastes, and even how to carefully measure produce on the scales. As part of our volunteer commitment to our CSA, he’s also learned how to bag flax seeds and practiced counting and sorting more than 100 bags.

5. Health – Between the variety of food, the desire to cook more healthy meals at home, and the forcing function of receiving a pre-paid weekly CSA share, odds are your regular diet will become much healthier.

6. Fun – I love visiting the CSA with my children. It is a fun, relaxed escape from the surrounding urban area.

And of course, the most important reason to join a CSA is to help the environment by supporting local, organic and biodynamic farmers.

Please check out this post explaining what’s behind the biodynamic food in some CSAs, and come back next Monday for the second part in this series, which will discuss how to choose a CSA that’s right for you.

To find a CSA near you, visit

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Biodynamic: The New Organic

February 1st, 2008

There’s a secret I’ve been keeping. It’s my family’s recent devotion to biodynamic food. The reason I haven’t mentioned this before? I thought I didn’t understand biodynamics well enough to blog about it.

Yet after hearing someone ask if biodynamics were “bad for you,” I realized an introduction was needed to this amazing yet uncommon food. There is a sense of mystery about biodynamics because biodynamics is shrouded in spiritual mystique. In fact, the biodynamic food my family eats is called “Biodynamic: Spiritual Food for the New Millennium.”

So no, biodynamics is not bad for you. On the contrary. I wish everyone could benefit from biodynamic food, which raw and living food expert Sharon Greenspan of Wild Success™ has dubbed “The New Organic.” While biodynamics pre-dates the organic movement by two decades, to most people, the concept of biodynamics is new. Biodynamic food harkens back to an earlier era in the organic food industry, a time before it was an industry, before there was organic processed food and before organic was anything other than local food.

For six years, I sampled incredibly delicious biodynamic fruits when my yoga teacher would leave them out as snacks at her Shanti Yoga ashram. Biodynamic food is simply the freshest, best tasting food available. And its most ardent devotees claim it is also the most nutritious, “rich in vitamins, minerals and life-force or ‘prana,’ ” according to Victor Landa of the Spiritual Food for the New Millenium organic and biodynamic CSA.

I risk sounding strange by admitting this, but I swear that the first few times I ate biodynamic food, I felt a rush, like my blood vessels were opening up or something incredible was going on in my body as it received this incredibly pure, wholesome food. When I asked my yoga teacher about what made biodynamics so special and how it differed from the organic food I could pick up at the supermarket, she said, “This is better than organic. It has spiritual forces, the forces of life.”

The spiritual forces she mentioned are tied in with the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, father of the Waldorf movement and developer of the biodynamic method of farming.

Tennessee’s “Barefoot Farmer” explains on his website that Steiner believed “that the use of artificial fertilizers [would] have a detrimental effect on our soils and eventually our human spiritual development.” The Spiritual Food CSA’s website notes “spiritual food is about more than avoiding chemicals. Growers seek to improve the health and vitality of soil, plants and animals through working with the health-bearing forces of nature on the principle that if the soil is healthy, chemicals are not needed and seeds will bring forth plants that are true to their own unique nature and have more life-giving vitality to offer.” But biodynamics is about more than avoiding the use of chemicals – it’s about tapping into the cycles of the sun and moon to foster nature’s bounty. As the Spiritual Food website explains, “Steiner farmers avoid chemicals, hormones, and non-therapeutic antibiotics. Instead, they seek to understand how living things behave, how they interact, and the spirits that underlie them. They use the cycles of the moon and planets to guide their planting schedules, and treat their soil and seeds with preparations made from organic plant and animal elements, developed by Steiner and his compatriots.”

Despite skepticism about what my husband calls “these fruity nutty granola elements,” we took the plunge and joined the ashram’s biodynamic CSA, which provides us with a potluck assortment of biodynamic and regular organic food every week. As we’ve marveled at the incredible flavors of the persimmons, eggs, bread, squash, citrus, apples, and other wonderful grains, vegetables, and fruits, my husband has tried to figure out what it is that makes biodynamic food so special. Finally, he surmised that maybe it’s because the spiritual farmers pay so much attention to the growing process, it is nearly perfect. When I told my yoga teacher about his conclusion, she laughed in her quiet way, and said, “That’s right!”

Although one of the goals of the biodynamic movement is to make the food “available to as many people as possible” because “biodynamic food nourishes the body and the spirit,” unfortunately it’s simply not possible to feed everyone this way because there are so few biodynamic farms. Even in our CSA, which is a leader in the biodynamic movement, we can’t expect all of our CSA shares to be biodynamic. Instead, we enjoy healthy, local organic food as well.

If your family is unable to participate in a biodynamic CSA, you can still eat healthier this year by buying local and organic food. I’ve blogged about the prices and availability of organic food at places like Giant, Safeway, Target, WalMart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Balduccis, local organic markets and co-ops, and new regional organic chains like Roots. Now, thanks to the Parent Bloggers Network, I’ve learned that the Kroger chain offers organic foods as well. This means that no matter where you live in the US, you should have access to organic food. And that’s good news for Mother Earth and mothers everywhere.

Links to biodynamic farmers and resources:
San Diego County’s LaVigne Farms (wonderful persimmons and other fruit!)
Nebraska’s Massena Farm (amazing oats and flax seed and other grains!)
Pennsylvania’s Kimberton Hills (best bread and more!)
New York’s Threshold Farms (amazing apples and more!)
Indiana’s Fragrant Farms (fragrant flowers and more!)

Spiritual Food of the New Millenium CSA (Shares can be sent by US postal service nationwide!)

Local Harvest (List of CSAs, including biodynamic CSAs nationwide)

Bon appetit!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008, Organicmania

A New Organic Market: Roots

January 2nd, 2008

The latest buzz in the DC burbs? A new organic market in Olney, Maryland. Despite 20 years in DC and its close-in suburbs, I’ve never ventured out to Olney, but after hearing my waiter at Bethesda’s Black’s Restaurant rave about Roots Organic Market, I decided it was worth the trip.

Nowadays, it’s not unusual for a family shopping for a mix of organic and conventional food and cleaning supplies to visit two or even three grocery stores to satisfy their needs. Then there are “Organic Maniacs” who frequent specialty organics grocery stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joes and MOM’s Organic Market, conventional grocery stores with organic sections such as Safeway and Giant, neighborhood health food stores a la Yes! Natural Gourmet, Balduccis gourmet grocer, the local co-op, and then top it all off with a weekly trip to a CSA.

Add Roots to the list! I felt like a jaded New Yorker given my organic shopping habits – I was just not prepared to be impressed by a store a solid 40 minutes from Northwest DC. But impressed I was.

I had barely walked in the door when I spied the hot mulled cider, free for the taking. This was just the start of more food samples than I’ve ever encountered in any grocery store. I enjoyed noshing on organic samples including pizza, apples, pears, cookies, biscotti, brownies, crackers with cheese, and chips with guacamole. And to top it all off, organic champagne!

The store is quite upscale – from its design to its product selection, which ranges from raw foodist to vegan to meat eater and seemingly everything in between. Non-food items include books, household cleaning items, make-up, and clothing. In fact, I saw products that I’ve not seen at the other (gulp) nine organic and conventional grocers I frequent. The service is as attentive as Nordstrom’s – three employees asked if they could be of assistance during my twenty minute stay in the store.

Prices are similar to Whole Foods. To help save a bit of money, take advantage of the fact that Roots heavily promotes coupon savings where products are displayed. You simply request the coupons at check-out. They also offer monthly sales circulars, which you can peruse on their website or in the store.

This store so intrigued me that I’ll be writing more about it in a future post. Let me know if you visit!

— Lynn

The Best Store-Bought Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

November 16th, 2007

I’ve found the best store bought chocolate chip cookies ever – Newman’s Own® Organics Espresso Chocolate Chip Champion Chip Cookies. At first I was going to keep quiet about eating chocolate chip cookies because I tell everyone that I’m working really hard on getting the remaining baby weight off. But since I started this blog in part to report on great organic products, I would be remiss in not telling you that these cookies are really, really good. In fact, purely in the name of research, I have been eating my way through a bag I bought for DH just so that I can accurately report on what makes these cookies so delicious. It’s the chocolate chips that are melt-in-your-mouth soft. They’re not hard like they often are in store-bought cookies. The organic chocolate is scrumptious, with just a hint of fine espresso. And they taste fantastic with a good cup of coffee! What’s more, they’re on sale for $2.19 per 10 ounce bag at MOM’s Organic Market. Enjoy!

Quick Interview: Organics vs. Conventional Foods – Mothers & Menus Founder, Author of The Well Rounded Pregnancy Cookbook, Karen Gurwitz

November 9th, 2007

Karen Gurwitz of Mothers & Menus with her children

New and expectant Moms in Manhattan enjoy fresh, organic, home-delivered meals, thanks to Mothers & Menus founder Karen Gurwitz. Fresh from her recent launch of The Well Rounded Pregnancy cookbook, Karen sat down to talk with Organicmania about the organics vs. conventional food debate.

Organicmania: I recall when Mothers & Menus first launched, you positioned your service as a “healthy” meal delivery service. Now some of your promotional materials describe Mothers & Menus as an “organic” meal delivery service. Why did you make the switch to organic?

Karen Gurwitz: Actually, that evolved over time when I was able to find a more complete range of organic products. But to me, the emphasis really should be on “healthy” versus “organics.” Sometimes fresh conventional produce makes more sense than organic food.

Organicmania: So you don’t think mothers should make a point of buying only organic foods?

Karen Gurwitz: You know, it’s not all or nothing. I think mothers, especially new mothers, need to do what works for them. Moms have to do what makes sense for them and for their families. And organics can be expensive. If a Mom can afford organics, great. If not, there are good conventional alternatives available. Eating real, whole foods is what is really important for good health.

Organicmania: What exactly do you mean by “whole foods?”

Karen Gurwitz: Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and as close to their original form as possible. Whole foods are especially helpful during and right after pregnancy as they contain fiber, water, complex-carbohydrates and minerals. Whole foods are easier to process, alleviating you of the fatigue associated with digestion, and supporting optimum energy and health.

Organicmania: What do you think is the most important aspect of organic food?

Karen Gurwitz: First and foremost, the health benefits. To me, it makes more sense to eat food that hasn’t been tampered with in terms of chemicals and pesticides. I also love the gentle effects of organic farming on the earth. And, in the final taste test, I find that food tastes better with organic ingredients.

Organicmania: Karen, you’re a busy Mom with your own business, three kids, and a new book. How do you do it all?

Karen Gurwitz: I have a wonderful husband who supports me. And sometimes — I don’t do it all! I think that as moms we put too many expectations on ourselves. Some days are more productive than others. But in the end, I love what I do, and I hope to inspire my children, especially my daughters, to be all that they want to be.

Organicmania: What’s next for you, Karen? When can we get Mothers & Menus outside of the Big Apple?

Karen Gurwitz: Stay tuned. Mothers & Menus has already tested in Florida and Boston and gotten great results. It’s critical for me to maintain the food quality and a high level of customer service. I plan to make some announcements about that in the second quarter of 2008 – sign up for my newsletter for more information.

— By Lynn / Copyright Organicmania 2007