Roma Tomatoes and Yellow Finn Potatoes: Week of August 13th

Maybe it’s just that summer’s not my favorite season, produce-wise. Maybe my lifestyle has changed more than I can perceive, now that two cooking styles are comingling in one kitchen. Whatever the reason, Duck and I are talking about not renewing our box.

CSA montage created using Montage-a-google and the keywords “CSA box”

The past few months have been monotonous, and not in a good way. (Good monotony, of course, goes: kale. kale. kale.) I don’t like tomatoes all that much, unless they are truly stunning. The tomatoes from Eatwell have not been. I find the heirlooms watery and tasteless, and they rot within two days. (I know they are picked at the peak of ripeness, and if I liked them in general, I would be glad to do what I had to to not let them spoil – either eat them straight away or preserve them. But since they don’t taste like much, I generally don’t muster the energy until it’s too late.) The Shady Ladies have been tasty, and a few have been very good. The Romas we had in this week’s box are just awful, but then, Romas generally are. (Last night, on The Splendid Table, Lynne Rosetto Kasper called Romas “the eunuchs of the tomato world.”) The cherry tomatoes have been pretty good, and this week we got a huge batch, which is nice for snacking.

The other two things we’ve seen a lot of have been potatoes and zucchini. The potatoes have been wonderful – small, tender, and gorgeously pink, in the case of the Huckleberries, or creamy yellow, in this week’s Yellow Finns. The zucchini has been fine. It lasts a long time in the fridge, isn’t too watery when cooked. But you know, it’s zucchini. It doesn’t have a lot going on.

And now to the fruit. Earlier this summer we were getting apricots and cherries and then plums and pluots. The apricots were okay, the cherries were quite good. The plums and pluots were inedible. Tasteless, mealy – after one bite the whole batch would go in the compost. Now we’re getting peaches and nectarines. These have been good, but the peaches invariably arrive bruised, and the quantity is so small (maybe two nectarines and a peach, say) that we have to go to the farmer’s market right away anyways.

I love the concept that is community supported agriculture, the idea of giving reliable financial support to the necessary and extremely valued people who grow our food. I think Eatwell is a very good farm – their growing practices seem responsible, their manager-worker relationships seem respectful and fair. (Although I don’t think I want to eat eggs anymore that come from chickens who are killed after two years. I have found other, albeit less convenient, places to source eggs from chickens who live more natural lifespans.) And the whole point of CSA-style relationships between farmers and consumers is that farmers can experiment and learn and go through disasters and medfly quarantines, and still know they’ll have an income, even if the plums are mealy or the tomatoes are quarantined.

Because this is the bottom-line reality of our food system: If no one took the risks to grow the food, there would be nothing to eat. Organic and sustainable and ethical and biodynamic and all that may seem like a luxury (which they aren’t really, in the long run), but food itself is not. The burden of producing a necessary commodity under variable and uncertain circumstances (no widget factories to make our fruits and veggies) should not have to be entirely assumed by the producer. I really believe this. I am, in fact, quite passionate about it.

But I’m just not enjoying my box very much these days. For many months it was a special treat every time it arrived. I couldn’t wait to unpack it, photograph it, lovingly store away my food and start planning recipes and menus. Now I feel cranky at having to go pick it up, and tired at the idea of stuffing everything into a fridge already overflowing with radishes and turnips. When I go to cook, I reach for my farmer’s market vegetables, and I have to make an active effort to use box items.

Also, honestly, I’m sure part of this has to do with personality, which I wish were irrelevant, but is in fact highly influential. If I had had some super awesome interactions with the people of Eatwell farm, instead of a kind of awkward and off-putting one, I would probably feel much more personally invested and that would weigh in heavily on the side of continuing this relationship. On the Eatwell side of things, their CSA is completely full with a waiting list, and they just won “Best of the Bay” for CSAs, so my dropping out won’t change things for them. It’s just a question of whether or not I want to still have this in my life.

Enough musing for now. Let’s get to the purported point of this post. Here’s what came in our box this week:

Roma tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes
Onions
Summer squash
Strawberries
Yellow Finn potatoes
Basil
Nectarines
Radishes

(We were supposed to get plums according to the newsletter – I didn’t see any, but perhaps Duck tasted one and deposited them in the compost?)

12 comments on “Roma Tomatoes and Yellow Finn Potatoes: Week of August 13th

  1. ac says:

    I had been a long-time subscriber of Eatwell until about 6 weeks ago, when I realized, when getting a box with rotten fruit, that I hadn’t been happy for some time. Some things were great, some not, but overall, I was just not excited anymore.

    I tried to contact Eatwell to ask about the quality and fruit (it was while Molly was away), and Nigel wrote me a note saying he was going to call me, but never did.

    Anyway, I’m curious where you are getting eggs, because that is something I miss. I’m also curious about other CSAs you have researched.

    I have been a silent reader of your blog for some time, and appreciate your writing.

  2. scrumptious says:

    Hi there AC,

    A silent reader? How exciting! I hoped this post would reach some other Eatwellers and I could hear from them, but I’m never sure who is reading. Thanks for breaking the silence!

    It’s so good to hear your experience with Eatwell. When you say long-time subscriber, do you mean multiple years? Because I do wonder if I’m just having summer doldrums, but if you, too, have suddenly found things are exciting anymore, and you have weathered previous summers, I would be very interested to know what you think has caused this change.

    That’s uncool that Nigel said he would call and didn’t. One of the things I like about Eatwell is they state repeatedly, “If you have any problems with the produce, give us a call,” but it’s an empty invitation if they don’t follow up!

    I’ve been getting eggs sporadically at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. I’m not sure which stand, exactly, but they assure me every time that their chickens live out their natural lifespans. They may be lying or fudging the truth, but hopefully not. When I have a car again I’ll try to make a site visit to whatever farm I end up getting eggs from, if I can. Of course, without a car, I am rarely over in Berkeley, but at least eggs last a while and it’s not too bad to buy a couple dozen at a time.

    Are you planning on trying any other CSAs? Here’s an old thread from Chowhound about them: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/347183 that I used to help make my decision. Unfortunately, mine is the last update, back in Oct 07.

    Thanks so much for your comment and let’s keep each other posted on our CSA developments!

  3. Russ says:

    I also have been less than thrilled with eatwell the last few boxes. The nectarines and tomatoes have consistently been bruised and am I the only one who finds it ironic that they give you cherry tomatoes, radishes and turnips but no lettuce? My strategy for the tomatoes is to make tomato/mozzarella salad and the fruit gets made into an assorted fruit crisp, we have been getting enough fruit for about 5 one cup servings. But alas, I miss the spinach and swiss chard – I like tomatoes but I don’t think 30% of my box needs to be tomatoes.

    I also subscribe to Eat With The Seasons, they charge a bit more but deliver to your door and you can somewhat customize your box in case you don’t like something. Also, they use cardboard and plastic produce protectors so the fruit and veggies arrive in good condition – and their peaches are fabulous. No crisp for these peaches, they’re best eaten fresh!

  4. Russ says:

    correction, I subscribe to Farm Fresh To You…

  5. scrumptious says:

    Hi Russ,

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m sorry to hear that you have also been less than thrilled with Eatwell.

    I will definitely check out Farm Fresh to You. Do you know if they reuse those plastic protectors? I don’t know if my conscience could stand all that waste in exchange for unbruised fruit…

    I have also been annoyed at the lack of lettuce, since all winter and spring there was lettuce but nothing else to put in salad and now we have fixin’s but no base! But I guess it’s not lettuce season? I didn’t see much of it at all at the farmer’s market last weekend.

  6. Russ says:

    I do not think it is the season for greens, I believe they run from late fall to spring, with June-Oct bringing a dearth of greens. I’m sticking with eatwell at least until my current subscription is completed then I’ll reevaluate if I want to continue based on what I get during the fall months. I do want to commend them for continuing to give strawberries this late into summer.

    FFTY says they reuse their packing material if you give it back to them and they often ask for people to return things for reuse in order to help keep their costs down.

    Also, FFTY does not have a set time you have to subscribe for, they are open ended allowing you to cancel anytime if you don’t like them. You also don’t have to prepay for your food, they charge your cc once a month for whatever they delivered to you.

    If you are interested in them and want to give them a try I think I have a coupon for money off your first box, let me know if you are interested.

  7. miche says:

    This is tough…but you know what? My co-writer and I were just discussing this same topic today.😦 For me, I feel like the quantity has decreased ever since they became fully subscribed. I agree with you that the quality of the fruit is not up to par! I thought maybe it was because I was also getting a CSA from Frog Hollow – where every piece is picture-perfect!

  8. CSABCS says:

    I hear you. I feel very attached to the farm, but have been concerned about the contents of the box lately. I’ve also experienced issues with the office, which honestly surprised me.

  9. scrumptious says:

    Oh man, this is quite an epidemic, it seems. What a shame! At least I don’t feel so crazy, since I seem to be in considerable company. I wonder what’s going on. Maybe growing pains? Let’s keep each other posted on what we decide to do.

  10. […] and Chard: Week of August 20th My post last week about wondering why my box doesn’t have the allure it used to received more comments and […]

  11. bev says:

    I’m an Eatwellian too. I have to say that I am NOT a huge kale fan (at least I eat it, my hubbie will take a small amount and my 2 kids just ignore it). I DO like tomatoes and think that at some point in the past the farm was known especially for them. Have to say they haven’t awed me like they have in the past. I had a bunch sitting on the counter this afternoon, getting a bit moldy around the edges (yes, even I get tired w/ toms esp when I am the only one eating them) and I decided to try to “slow cook” them – or roast them. Didn’t really have enough time before dinner to truly slow cook them. They were also all sorts of diff sizes (and varieties). I cut them all down to roughly same size (the huge ones were cut into 6 or more pieces) and popped them in the oven with a scant amount of olive oil and some sea salt sprinkles at 375 for however long dinner took – closing on 2 hrs? They were by far the best part of dinner (it wasn’t a great dinner but the toms were great). Recommend it if you have extras. Have to say the fruit is pretty lame. Didn’t even much appreciate strawberries. The family has been enjoying Trader Joes CA organic fruits more. I completely understand why we never get fixings at same time as lettuce – that requires CSAs in 2 very diff zones – one coastal and one inland would work a treat. However it is a bummer. I love the Terra Firma carrots. Also some of the Eatwell spinach – a few years back I would toss it due to how difficult it was to get the grit out but now the grit just runs off (different soil???) and my son and I just eat it raw w/out even dressing it is that yummy (the one kind not the other – crocodile??). I miss going to the farmer’s market which we did regularly when we didn’t get the box. Would love to see some shelling peas or beans and personally enjoy fennel and cucumber and other such things. Would also like some flat leaf parsley instead of say lemon verbana – which I love the scent of but can’t really figure out how to really successfully use a whole bunch.

  12. scrumptious says:

    Hi Bev,

    Thanks for sharing your Eatwell thoughts and the roasting tip. I want to try a roasted tomato soup from Cook’s Illustrated with this week’s tomatoes.

    It’s interesting to hear the history of your box and how things have changed for better and worse. Are you going to keep subscribing?

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