In fall of 2010. my roommate suggested we sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and in our first box of goodies from the farmers market, we got beets. I had never had a beet – not pickled, not cold on a salad bar, not roasted. I had no idea what it would even taste like. And an idea occurred to me: what if I wasn’t alone? What if people all over my region (or dare I say, the world!) received produce from time to time that was entirely unfamiliar to them?
I was craving a way to write regularly, so I pitched the idea to a friend who edits a local magazine. He said yes, and with that, My CSAcation was born, a weekly column at AltDaily.
CSAcation is a hybrid of vacation and education: it’s an adventure, a way to try something new, to take myself and my readers on a trip, traversing the wide wonderful world of cooking local, fresh, seasonal produce; it’s also an education, a way for me to learn about what’s in season, how to prepare it, what it tastes like.
I wrote my CSAcation for almost a year at AltDaily, and continued it from time to time here on my blog. My CSAcation posts have gotten fewer and further between because in the past two and a half years, I have learned, I have tested and tried. Vegetables and fruits that used to be foreign to me are now as familiar as old friends so that when a celery root or an acorn squash shows up in my kitchen, I don’t have to think twice about what to do with them.
That feels good, like my CSAcation was a success. It also helps me end my Virginia CSAcation. You see, I move to California next week. I know I have more to learn, new recipes to try, but I’ll be doing them in a new place, with a new seasonal calendar to keep in mind. This is the end of my CSAcation in Virginia.
With that in mind, I’m happy that on my final CSAcation here, I was given something wholly unfamiliar to work with: Ugli fruit.
Ugli fruit is large, roughly the size of a grapefruit, but instead of an orangey-red peel that hints at ruby red flesh inside, the Ugli fruit is often green and orange, and is, quite frankly, sort of ugly. It could be easy to walk past it in the market and think, “U-G-L-Y, you’re just too ugly to buy,” but you would be wrong. Underneath that ugly duckling exterior is something that offers redemption to every bad, bitter grapefruit experience you’ve ever had: this thing has the size and shape and utility of grapefruit, but it has the sweet-tart taste of a tangerine.
What I’m saying is that Ugli fruit is the Colonel Brandon to grapefruit’s Willoughby, if you’ll follow me into Jane Austen Land. Continue reading »