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Horse and Buggy.

Not a restaurant review, but definitely a review of Charlottesville food!

So one of the first things we did when we moved here was to sign up for a CSA share. While working at Chatham University, where they have their own CSA, I had watched with longing as students came into the office positively laden with vegetable goodness week after week.

At first it seemed like a ton of money to put out up front and so I passed (me being of the empty pocketbook), but as the weeks went on, and the weather grew warmer, and I saw fresh organic kale (my favorite) cucumbers, squash, berries, and tomatoes come through the office door, I began to kick myself. Repeatedly. Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! Who would turn down organic, locally-grown produce at what turns out to be the same price, or less, than what you would pay for tasteless crap at the local Shop ‘N Go? Evidently me.

Not anymore. Literally, the week we moved I began searching online for CSA’s. Luckily in and around Charlottesville there are several. Problem is, even in late March many of them are full. Thankfully there is Horse and Buggy Produce, and after looking over their selection and prices, I quickly got us signed up for a couples share. With eggs.

It has been an absolute BOON for us. Every week we come home with tons and tons and tons of fruits and vegetables, sometime so many that we have to give them away (hopefully creating new converts) or quickly become Jedi masters in the art of concocting vegetable dinners. Where before on a weeknight I have always relied on a quick pasta bakeup or a Boboli creation with whatever we happen to have in the fridge, now I have to actually think, “Okay, what can I do with five tomatoes, two squash, three cucumbers, and several orange and red peppers? Answer? Pickle the cucumbers with rice wine vinegar and crushed red pepper, hell pickle some of the squash too (it’s awesome on salads). Then roast the rest, throwing them into some linguine, adding a little parmesan after roasting. Yummy.

What kills me is that from what I’ve read around this town, many people don’t see Horse and Buggy as a “true” CSA, whatever that means. Brett and April bring us organic, fresh-picked produce. They make sure it is pesticide-free while at the same time providing farmers with a livelihood. Once they even had a map out so you could see where your veggies had come from that week. What more do you need? There are a lot of people out there willing to pay for fresh, even in this economy. As long as all these people are provided for, where’s the complaint? I don’t care if my blueberries come from New Jersey. They don’t GROW ANY in Virginia people!

To me, the statement is in the taste. If it’s a true CSA (whatever that means) then what you eat will taste unlike anything else you’ve ever had before. The first time I cut into a CSA peach I knew my life would never be the same. Never again would I settle for the hard, tasteless crap they call peaches at any grocery store. This peach was juicy, soft, and the scent of peach was so thick you could drink it. It positively liquified when I ate it. Phenomenal. The fact that “peach season” is only a few weeks long just makes it that much sweeter. I won’t settle for tasteless garbage, but will wait patiently, longingly for peach season next year.

What kills me also is how much gaff Brett has to put up with almost WEEKLY at the drop-off point. “How come we have so many greens every week?” Um, because MOTHER NATURE in her heavenly wisdom decided to provide us with a cold, wet, rainy spring this year so there aren’t any sun-loving veggies ready yet. What, do they think Brett has a direct line to Ms. Nature’s hotline? Evidently.

This is one woman very thankful Mother Nature decided to let the lima beans grow this year. Friday night I was able to make homemade succotash for the very first time in my life. My husband cut the sweet kernels off the cob and I shelled the limas, huge pale green things that resembled fava beans. I hadn’t had any since I was a little girl and my Muddy had served us some from her own garden. When homegrown and cooked right, lima beans are like nothing else. Hearty flavor with a sweet green taste like freshly-mown grass. I sauteed them up with the corn, some shallots, a tiny bit of garlic and some chicken stock. My husband raved – his whole life the word “succotash” conjured up images of can openers and side dishes you pushed around the plate. This was something else entirely.

I think the husband summed it up best actually. The other day he mentioned, “I haven’t eaten so many vegetables in the past 20 years as I have this summer.” Not because we have so many around and don’t want to waste money, oh no. It’s because of the taste. These veggies actually taste GOOD. They have FLAVOR. As a kid I’d dump just about anything on veggies, just to give them some taste. Canned, frozen, fresh, it didn’t matter. They all tasted like cardboard. But these? These are what vegetables and fruit are supposed to taste like. Summer on your fork.

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