Thinking inside the farmbox: Bracing for summer’s end

Do you think Labor Day marks the end of summer? In my opinion, there still are plenty of days later in September and into October that are suitable for summerlike activities, such as picnics and playing outside. I often think of the end of regular-season baseball as the end of summer, but maybe that’s because my team (I’m a White Sox fan) hasn’t played deep into October in some time.

Fall is my favorite season. I wish it would hang around a little longer in Chicago. I like to get up on Sundays and see a clear blue sky, feel the crisp air, and smell the burgers and brats from the Bears tailgaters that descend upon my neighborhood on game days. Fall also brings Halloween, apple picking, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes.

The farmers at Nichols Farm are taking advantage of the nice fall weather to plan for winter. They’re planting and working fields and harvesting storage crops. According to their weekly email, their harvest lasts for 8 months and the planting season lasts for 10 months.  

In two recent shares, I’ve received acorn squash, rutabaga, beets, and potatoes. Often when I receive a bounty of root vegetables, I choose to make stew. It’s a great way to use up CSA vegetables—especially root vegetables, which are easily substituted for each other.

I also received kohlrabi, which is available in the spring and fall. The fall plants are hardened by gradual exposure to cool weather, giving them the ability to tolerate light frost, which actually enhances their flavor.

After several years of CSA shares, I’ve discovered my favorite way to eat kohlrabi is in a slaw. I have tried roasting it, but personally, I prefer it raw. An apple and kohlrabi slaw was a perfect counterpart to roasted chicken, potatoes, and leeks—its vinegary crunchiness balanced the richer flavors of the chicken and potatoes.

And there was homemade pizza night, which is always a favorite. I’ve been making pizzas with my family since I was little, and I plan to keep the tradition going for many years to come. One of the pizzas had pepperoni, olives, and mini sweet peppers from the CSA. The other was an experiment. Sometimes I make up recipes and they work out. And sometimes they need work. I empathize with the contestants on shows like Top Chef who only have one chance to try a new concept or recipe and get it right.

I like pizzas that come with arugula or other greens on top. So I decided to try to take the flavors of a beet salad and make pizza. On top of the crust I spread pesto and then scattered roasted beets and goat cheese. Once it was baked, I put arugula that I had tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar. It was fine but nothing special.

My husband waits patiently for the share to contain spaghetti squash so I can make one of his favorite dinners—spaghetti squash with sausage. I was lucky this week, too. There also was broccoli, so I made one of my favorites—orecchiette with broccoli and sausage. Both were delicious.

There are going to be Japanese sweet potatoes in the next box. I’m excited. I liked them the last time I had them, and I have a recipe that I’ve been wanting to try.