Although I've been a member of Quail Hill Community Farm in Amagansett for more than 10 years, I still get excited when the farm opens its fields to members for the season. One of the nation's first experiments in Community Supported Agriculture, the farm was established in 1988 by a handful of local families who wanted a source for local and organic produce, and came under the stewardship of the Peconic Land Trust in 1992. Now comprising 30 acres in Amagansett (with 600-plus adjacent acres of protected farmlands and woodlands overseen by the Trust), the farm produces hundreds of types of vegetables for more than 200 member families from June to late October.
Unlike many city and suburban CSAs, which grow, harvest, package and deliver vegetables on schedule to members during the growing season, Quail Hill asks members to participate in the harvest. So on Saturdays and Tuesdays in season, we all show up at the farm stand on Deep Lane to consult the blackboard, which directs us to what's ready for harvest and where. One of the joys of membership is getting to spend time outdoors in a picture-perfect farm field, on the hunt for the first sugar snap peas or perfect spinach leaves for a salad.
Every picking day brings something new and delicious. In early June, the selection was limited to asparagus, rhubarb, spinach and garlic. Two weeks in, the asparagus was gone, but the peas and fava beans were pickable. As the summer unfolds, green beans, cucumbers and carrots appear, before giving way to peppers, zucchini, eggplant and dozens of types of heirloom tomatoes.
Aside from the wondrous parade of produce, there are plenty of other reasons to love the farm. CSA vegetables have a gentler impact on the environment than vegetables grown hundreds or thousands of miles away from Long Island. There is no energy expended on refrigerating them or shipping them across the country. No potentially harmful pesticides are used at Quail Hill. There is no toxic runoff into waterways or soil. Supporting the farm means helping preserve a diminishing resource -- open space -- in the Hamptons.
And being a farm member has definitely made me a more curious and interesting cook. I have heard people complain that with a CSA you often are "stuck" with a random assortment of vegetables, none of which you would have purchased at the supermarket. It is true that I've never gone to King Kullen looking for Haruki turnips. But when I come home from Quail Hill with turnips (or rainbow chard, cabbage, Brussels sprouts or anything else I wouldn't naturally reach for at the market), I can't wait to figure out how to cook them.
Spring Garlic and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Spring garlic is immature garlic harvested before the head is fully developed. Unlike mature garlic, which has to be dried for a few weeks before use, spring garlic can be used as soon as it is pulled from the ground. If you can't find spring garlic at your farmers' market, substitute 5 garlic scapes (the shoots of young garlic), 5 scallions or 4 finely chopped garlic cloves.
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 stalks green garlic, white and light-green parts, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Fine sea salt or kosher salt
4 large slices country bread, each cut in half
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and a pinch of sea salt; cook until just fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush bread on both sides with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill, turning once, until golden with dark grill marks.
3. Spread some goat cheese on each piece of bread, spoon some of the green garlic mixture on top of the goat cheese, sprinkle with salt to taste, and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.