13 July 2011

Review: From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce

The Book:

Eating locally has become more and more popular, and farmer's markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) are becoming a staple for many families. What do you do with all of that produce? This book will help guide you through recipes and tips for all sorts of summer vegetables.


The Yarn:

I happened to discover this book while visiting Amherst one evening, set in a display about local cooking, farm produce, and farm-to-table books. When I decided to invest in a CSA for the first time, I found myself drowning in lettuce, squash, and other vegetables and herbs that half the time I didn't even recognize. Sadly, many weeks I could not get to all of them before both getting a new week's worth of vegetables and having to discard the first. So, I went without for a year. Last year I subsisted on both what my garden brought and what I acquired at the farmer's markets. I did realize that I was not really branching out of those chosen few loves and missed the variety the CSA gave.

This book is produced by the Madison (WI) Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, obviously a group that knows what they are talking about! They call it a "recipe-resource book," which I think is an apt description, as this is more than just a cookbook. Each vegetable is listed alphabetically and includes about 4-10 recipes contributed by members of the CSA, plus additional tips for cooking and storage. This is a definite boon when you get hints about storing your greens in a bag with a paper towel to lengthen storage time, or herbs that you can dry, freeze, or preserve in oil. A "Seasonal Combinations" chapter shows you how to use multiple vegetables and herbs that may be in season at the same time and has a separate section of kid-friendly recipes.

I found the resources in the back of the book to go far beyond what you expect in a cookbook, showing the true range of what CSAs will do. Contacts for finding farmer's markets, cookbooks, and other reference works for gardening and composting are included. While some of the organizations listed are located in the Midwest states, there are several from all over the United States and internationally. The only enhancement I could picture for this book would be color photographs to better show the less-familiar vegetables and replace the black and white illustrations. However, the illustrations remind me a lot of my older Moosewood Collective cookbooks and does not detract from the book at all.

This spring I discovered that my CSA, Many Hands Organic Farm, was not only going to offer a smaller share, but a variety of pickup dates and places, including one just a few blocks from where I live. Armed with this book, I feel prepared for the coming bounty.

The Ink:

Title: From Aparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce, 3rd Edition
Author: Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC)
Publisher: MACSAC
Date: 2004
Read: Purchased Trade Paperback