Buh-bye boc choy

farmerEvery Saturday morning since spring started, we’ve shopped for produce at one of the local farmers’ markets.

The veggie selection can be slim early in the season. We’ll take home some of what my friend Steph calls “yuppie lettuce,” and maybe a bunch of kale. If nothing else, we’ll grab a fancy maple-bacon glaze or crème brûlée donut as reward for our wholesome excursion with our canvas bags.

Nothing says “healthy living, forty-something hipster” like a crème brûlée donut.

The only downside to our Saturday morning shopping is the need to avoid eye contact with one, little hippy farming family at one stall in particular.

We love them. We do. Each week of summer for the last four years, we’ve been at their little house down the street from ours, picking up veggies they hand picked from their organic farm just over the hill. We were part of a veggie co-op, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Tuesdays was our veggie pick up day. People would drop by their porch to ooh and aah over Jerusalem artichokes or fennel or lemon cucumbers, and other things I didn’t recognize.

Sometimes there would be carrots. Actual plain carrots. And my kids would eat them on the way home, pretending to be Bugs Bunny, with carrot greens dangling from their fists.

Sometimes there were purple carrots or yellow carrots, and I would try to convince the kids they were Bugs Bunny from Area 51.

Once I went to pick up our veggies and our little, hippy farmer family’s daughter offered Colin a turnip to eat just like a carrot, with the greens hanging. He loved it and has been asking for the first baby turnip of the bunches I bring home ever since. He’ll filch a couple cherry tomatoes too.

I’ve even gotten him to go so far as to try gazpacho.

The vegetables are delicious; fresh and ripe and in season. The hippy farmer once told me a neighbor kid once came over with a bag of marshmallow cereal to trade for turnips. The trade was made and hippy farmer’s daughter happily grabbed a sticky handful to stuff in her mouth.

“Oh, YUCK,” she said. “They got the better deal!”

So, I loved Tuesdays at my hippy farmer family’s front porch.

After a while I began to not like Tuesdays so much. Tuesdays meant a canvas bag full of crap that wouldn’t fit in the fridge. Before getting dinner ready, and with a kitchen full of people pilfering granola bars from the cupboard to spoil their meal, I had stop everything, clean out containers of last week’s slimy leftovers, wrap fresh veggies in wet paper towels (lest they wilt or disintegrate within the hour), then wrap those in plastic bags, and find a space within limited refrigerator real estate.

If I didn’t recognize something I was taking home, I’d try to catch someone at the pick up for ideas on how to prepare it.  The answer was frequently something to do with chopping and sautéing with a little fresh ginger and some soy sauce.

So, I’d go to the store, buy a knobby section of ginger the size of my hand, and a little, special ginger grater that could also double as a Barbie kitchen accessory, grate approximately 1/100th of that ginger and stick the rest of it in with the soon to be slimy stuff.

And then remember that we have a soy allergy here. So, you know. No.

Most of the time I’d successfully figure out something to do with the stuff I brought home. Sometimes, that something would be a hit – like kale chips or turnips au gratin.

But in the early spring, particularly in cold, wet years when stuff sprouts late, I sometimes brought home veggies I’m pretty sure only goats will eat. I learned how to prepare broccoli rabe and pea shoots, and radish pickles.

Then there’s the boc choy.

There is no way any one in my family finds boc choy palatable. Whether dipping the baby stems in hummus like celery, or sautéing the stuff in ginger and soy sauce, I never found a way to disguise boc choy’s bitter blechiness.

I couldn’t even figure out how to puree the stuff and hide it in something else so at least we wouldn’t waste it.

I joke about pulling slimy stuff out of the refrigerator, but truly, I hate food waste. It goes back to the whole dirt cookies thing.

Last year, I think our little, hippy farming family hit the boc choy motherlode. It was part of our veggie share nearly every week. I thought boc choy was a cold weather vegetable, but they must have had a stash in a cooler or something. They’d see me coming and sneak a bunch in my bag just to make me cry when I got home.

By the end of summer I wasn’t wrapping boc choy in damp paper towels and finding space for it in the fridge anymore. It went straight in the garbage with a little apology for all the children in the world who would go to bed hungry that night.

Here I was, supporting sustainable, local agriculture, and coping with a massive case of food guilt every week.

So we’re switching CSAs. This year we’re going to be picking up veggies from a local group trying to help refugees carve out a living. We’re hoping they don’t have a similar love affair with boc choy.

And every day, I’ll pass the little, hippy farmer family’s house in my neighborhood. On Tuesdays, I’ll see all my neighbors gathering to pick up their vegetables (surreptitiously tucking bundles of boc choy into someone else’s bag, maybe?), while I move on with a little sigh.

And on Saturdays at the market, I’ll hide my face behind my canvas bag as I pass their stall on my way to buy grass fed beef or fresh cut flowers.

Because when it comes to just about every aspect of life, I’m 98 percent badass.

With few passive aggressive tendencies when it comes boc choy.


Eat your veggies, and then vote for Manic Mumbling on Top Mommy Blogs. It’s good for you,  and I appreciate the support. Thanks!



photo by: The Library of Congress

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  1. Vegetables seem to be the enemy in my kids\’ minds. I even have a \”vegetarian\” who never wants veggies! She thinks not wanting meat makes her a vegetarian, but she only wants to eat pasta. It is really a struggle to keep my picky kids eating healthy.
    Belonging to a co-op sounds like a dream to strive for.
    Thanks for this post to show moms like me that even market co-op families sometimes have to throw out veggies that don\’t get eaten too!

  2. Oh, you don\’t have a slimy, wilted veggie drawer specially built for your micro-fridge? I thought those came standard. I too feel the same guilt when given produce that I don\’t even want to feed the chickens. And I\’m kinda jealous that I don\’t have a hippy farm family to avoid…

    1. I do have a slimy, wilted veggie drawer. That space will hold seven fresh heads of boc choy and maybe twelve wilted, rotted ones. Eventually it all has to go back to the earth. I\’m glad I\’m not the only one with guilt issues.