Consider the quiet solitude of threading through the vines, choosing succulent cherry tomatoes. Moment to moment, we focus on the different colored fruits, they almost mesmerize us as we fill our baskets. There’s a Zen-like, meditative quality to it. We’ve forgotten the stress of the day or our trip to the farm. We don’t even realize there are several others doing the same thing among the vines. It’s that rare time when we leave reality and lose ourselves.
This, of course, changes as the season progresses. Near the end of the season, we wonder if we’ve become part of a B-grade movie, where the vines will slither up and devour us (like Audrey from “Little Shop of Horrors”). Or maybe a collection of mosquitos will gang up and take one of us hostage (I’m imagining a high-pitched squeaky Jimmy Cagney imitation, “no spray or the kid gets it, see?!?”). Then again, maybe spending too much time among the vines triggers such thoughts.
Welcome to U-Pick. That’s shorthand for “you pick”. Meaning you (or me) pick the small, numerous cherry tomatoes or string beans. There are so many and they’re so intertwined in their greenery that it’s more effective if you or I pick the veggie.
Whether you consider U-Pick as meditation or a visit to Hell on Earth, you really want to take the time each week to make the trek into the field. You see, U-Pick is a very valuable portion of your CSA (half) share.
I’m at home with spreadsheets. Since I’ve been a CSA member, I’ve kept a spreadsheet measuring each week’s half-share (for me), and then calculating its value. I published my results in 2015. I failed to publish for 2016 because I finished the tally late in the season. Looking back, here’s something I learned in 2016: I received about $429 of produce for my $300 half-share investment. Of that $429, $66 was for all the U-Pick cherry tomatoes. My U-Pick tomatoes were about 15% of my CSA half-share harvest.
(Note: My numbers are based on buying equivalent produce at my local Meijer’s. $66 is based on the cost of buying NatureSweet Cherubs. Retail Price: $3.99 for a 10oz container. These were the closest I could find matching the size and variety of cherry tomatoes in the CSA U-Pick. I also calculate price on a “per ounce” basis where possible. As always, your mileage may vary.)
So as we’re about to enter the U-Pick part of CSA season, be sure to take the opportunity to fill your pint or quart baskets with tomatoes and beans. It’s worth your time (besides, you paid for it). And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover aliens hiding in that mass of vines hoping you’ll take them to an old Steve Reeves movie.
About the author: Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook. His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies. Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water. Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.