I arrive about 10 minutes early, cloth bags in hand, walk through the big wooden doors to the old mill that was once used for manufacturing and greeted by the volunteers who are there to help anyone. I slowly walk down the hall to look all of the vibrant beautiful colors of fresh produce, carrots, beets, kales, collards greens, potatoes, squashes, onions, apples, herbs and so much more. I watch all the farms unpacking their goods to set up on stands and say good morning to other customers who also are there early. Then, at 9 o’clock there is a bell that rings indicating the farmers market is now open. There are no automatic doors to let you in when it is open, no big shopping carts, no fancy cash registers with scanners, no conveyer belts to put you food on, no orderly lines formed, no cashier with a uniformed smock on, no baggers at the end, no isles with many shelves with processed foods in boxes and cans lined up in a precise fashion, No numbered signs hanging from above in each isle, and the produce is not stacked in neat perfect rows and pyramids that are uniform in shape , size and gleaming so much you can see your reflection in an apple. No, this is a place where food is paid for in cash or coins given to the farmers that have small cash boxes tucked in a corner, most of the produce still have a bit of dirt on them from the farm, apples can be found in crate boxes, greens are stacked neatly on top of folding tables with decorative table cloths, potatoes are not uniform in size and are often still dirty, carrots come in all shapes and many different colors, workers are usually family members or the farmers themselves dressed in casual clothing who is happy to serve you and chat up a quick conversation. Finally, after about an hour of walking around buying my produce and talking to the farmers, I leave with both my bags full and heavy with foods.
Every Saturday morning I go to the farmers market here in RI to purchase my produce for the week. There are about 50 vendors and farmers selling all sorts of local foods from an array of colorful vegetable, fruits and herbs, to homemade sauces and jellies, granolas, bakeries selling pies and breads, teas and coffees that line the hallways of the mill during the winter months and during the summer months each farm are lined up in rows with their white covered tents to protect them from the hot sun on green grass in an open field. There is always live music playing, free samples, and food trucks are busy serving customers. This is one of my favorite things to do every week and I have gotten to know all of the farmers. It’s a great feeling to know that I am supporting them who are there to provide us with good healthy local food and the atmosphere is always warm and friendly.
Now, each month newsletters arrive in my email from Farm fresh the organization who puts all of this together every week http://www.farmfreshri.org/ giving me updates on what going on with farms, what to expect for the next market, any events and lots of recipes. This particular one I noticed the CSA program they offer so I decided to look into it sense I buy so much produce from the farms every week I thought this would be good for my husband and I. A CSA (community supported agriculture) program is where people purchase a “share” of fruits and vegetables from farms and is available throughout the country. Usually it is a monthly or yearly payment in advance and every week or every other week during the winter months, you can go pick up a veggie box at specific locations, there are usually several throughout the area. The money paid for boxes goes to farms where it is used towards, more seeds, equipment and general maintenance for the farm. Food that are included in these boxes range from 7-10 different items of what is in season and depending on the CSA program produce can come from one single farm or from multiple farmers and is typically enough for 2-3 people. The program here is organized by Farm Fresh. It is called Veggie box and consists of in season fresh produce from all the RI farmers who participate and is a monthly payment program that comes with 7-10 different foods. Although the produce is different each week, the organizers e-mail out a newsletter the day before indicating what’s in that week’s box along with great recipe ideas for each item and any other news going on. After looking into it further we decided we would give this a try, although, I will still visit the market on Saturdays for anything that we didn’t get in the box.
So, today I finally get to pick up my first veggie box from a location only a few minutes from my home. I walk into the location, give the gentleman my name and he hands me a cardboard box with all my fresh produce that consisted of carrots, parsnips, cabbage, red potatoes, celeriac root, pea greens, apples, and butternut squash, I am so excited like a kid on Christmas morning, I thanked him and carried it off to my truck. I get it home, place it on my counter and look inside for a moment at this beautiful food and think, ok what am I going to make with all of this?
Then, I made a hot tea and stand there holding it with both hands to warm them up a bit, then it hits me, with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees outside, just thinking of it gives me a quick shiver, there is snow piled high from the 24 inches that was dumped on us from a recent blizzard, a warm hearty soup comes to mind. So I decided to make a butternut squash, lentil and apples soup with spinach and carrots. This is perfect on a cold winter’s night to warm the bones. Below is what I came up with for my soup. This makes enough soup to last the week, it’s quite big. This is delicious with some homemade flat bread on the side for dunking.
Butternut squash lentil soup
· 1 small to medium butternut squash peeled and diced
· 2 medium apples skin on and diced
· 2 large carrots peel on and diced
· 1 cup of dried lentils
· 2 parsnips peel on and diced
· 3 small red bliss potatoes
· 1 yellow onion diced
· 4 cloves of garlic chopped
· 2 tsp of fresh ginger chopped
· 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (organic)
· 4 cups vegetable stock (make your own if you can)
· 1 package fresh spinach
· 1 tbsp. ground turmeric
· 1 tbsp. curry powder
· 1 tbsp. dried rosemary
· 1 bay leave
· 2 tbsp. Provence seasoning
· 1 tsp or more cayenne pepper
· 2 tbsp. coconut oil
· Salt and pepper to taste
· Water if needed
· In a large pot heat the oil to medium and then add the onions and Sautee for about 5 minutes until the onions become soft. Then add ginger, garlic, curry powder, salt, pepper, and stir for about 2 minutes.
· Add the broth, tomatoes, let this cook down for about 10 minutes then add the rest of the ingredients except the fresh spinach and mix well.
· Cook at a low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the squash, carrots and potatoes are fork tender. The lentils will expand a bit as they cook so more water may need to be added to broth.
· Add the spinach last, it will wilt and cook very quickly.
· Serve and enjoy!!!