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Mar 7, 2010 07:22 PM

Carroll Gardens vs. Cobble Hill CSA (Brooklyn)

We've been members of the Carroll Gardens CSA for the last couple of years, but we're curious about the Cobble Hill CSA and how members like it.

We've been very happy with the quality of the CG CSA fruit. There's good variety and great flavor and we've gotten raspberries, strawberries, apples, plums, nectarines, even watermelon, etc. The eggs are also very fresh and tasty.

The veggies have been less reliable -- sometimes they're great, sometimes just ok. The size of the share is definitely generous, but the quality runs from excellent to "eh." We've gotten amazing swiss chard and fantastic summer squash but some terrible too-bitter greens and sad-looking edamame. We like the frequent kale and broccoli rabe, but wish there was more asparagus and spinach. Their tomatoes are delicious and juicy, but the varieties are limited. Finally, it seems like you get an endless stream of the less popular "filler vegetables" like radishes, turnips and kohlrabi all too often.

Anyone out there a member of the Cobble Hill CSA? Have you been happy with the size and quality of your shares? Have you had a different experience, or is dealing with an excess of turnips just the nature of the CSA game?

For those of you wondering what the heck I'm talking about, here's more info on CSAs:

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  1. Sorry to sound snappy and sarcastic but realize you are at the end of Winter season. Its pitiful. Also, there has been a lowered quality all around on quality veges. I've noticed it at every chain, every Mom and Pop and every indie market. I'd be surprised if any one CSA would vary that much in late February/early March. Best of luck!

    12 Replies
    1. re: CGeats

      I've noticed lower quality and less variety at all the stores around here, too. I know this is absolutely the worst time of year for fresh produce, imported or local, but it seems markedly worse than this time last year. What's up with that?

      1. re: missmasala

        I wonder if the earthquake in Chile and the weird weather patterns in Florida have anything to do with it? K&Y on Court and Douglass usually has some decent-looking stuff.

      2. re: CGeats

        I meant all season. All local CSAs run from June through late November, so there is NO produce at all right now, as one would expect in the winter. I'm asking now because the signup for 2010 is just starting and I have to decide whether to join again.

        No need for snappiness or sarcasm, really.

        1. re: oolah

          The sarcasm indeed seems unwarranted.

          Your question might be moot, oolah, because the Cobble Hill CSA usually has a waiting list. Send your request now -- you can always turn the spot down if you get it.

          As a longtime Cobble Hill CSA member, our produce is generally pretty high quality. The quantity hasn't been as dependable because of farming variables like weather, gasoline prices, etc. And every once in a while we get some stinkers.

          As for the taste of the produce, you might find it similar to the Carroll Gardens CSA. CH CSA is 100% organic (the veggies; not the fruit), so the greens are often VERY strong, much more so than the versions found in stores, even organic versions. They require different treatment, accordingly. I do a lot of braising with bacon, sometimes even parboiling and shocking them first.

          And sometimes we do get a lot of "less interesting" vegetables. Root vegetables are particularly hardy and easy to grow, so we get a lot of those. One year we had a HUGE bumper crop of sweet potatoes. I mean, pounds and pounds. But that's part of the fun of a CSA. I learned a whole lot of things can be done with sweet potatoes! I also this year finally learned what a rutabaga is for. As for delicate vegetables like asparagus and spinach, we don't get a lot of those either. They're hard to grow and subject to pests.

          I hope that answers some of your questions. If you have more, please post here and I'll try to answer them.

          1. re: BklnChicken

            Another member and fan of the Cobble Hill CSA. While I sometimes found myself wanting a bit more variety, we do get a lot of veggies that are far superior in quality to those found in local shops and markets.

            Just make sure that you have plenty of green bean and eggplant recipes, as these are (seemingly) neverending.

            1. re: BklnChicken

              Thank you! Being a born and bred New Yorker with a black thumb, I had no idea that the bitterness of the greens was a function of the organic farming. I also didn't know asparagus and spinach were harder to grow, but now that you say it, it totally makes sense.

              I'll email the CH CSA and see if I can get on the waitlist, but it sounds like overall the experience is similar to the CG CSA. Your response and EJC's are very much appreciated.

              1. re: BklnChicken

                I am looking to sign up for a CSA in Brooklyn. The Carroll Gardens seems either/both full and hard to communicate with. My latest email asking if there is any space went unanswered. In contrast, for the Cobble Hill CSA, looks like I just send in a check, which honestly makes me nervous. Is that how it works? How do they cap the number of members?

                1. re: noahd1

                  Cobble Hill just opened up to the public on Friday. They'll take down the contracts from the site once they've filled up.
                  For more of a sure thing, I recently read about a new CSA on Cadman Plaza that had plenty of room available?

                  1. re: EJC

                    The contract is still up on the site now, do you think that's a pretty good indicator they aren't full yet? I sent in my check just 10 days after they opened to the public, but haven't heard anything yet. Are they usually pretty good about letting you know they've received your app, do you know? Just don't want to get locked out if they fill up!

                    1. re: shih

                      Unfortunately I have no "inside info" - just a longtime member. Once your check clears, you should get an email.
                      Looking at my inbox, I got an email from Jeff about 10 days after putting my check in the mail.

                      1. re: shih

                        All CSAs are run by volunteers. They're diligent, but they'll get to ya' when they get to ya'. Good luck!

                2. re: oolah

                  oolah and BklynChicken,
                  "Sorry to sound snappy and sarcastic" means please excuse me if my comments -sound- sarcastic. Its not my intention. I too have been frustrated and curious what you find. I'm convinced that its not just weather related but that growers and wholesalers are cutting costs across the board in all markets.

              2. To throw another wrinkle into this equation, does anyone have any feedback on the Park Slope CSA?

                I have also been a Carroll Gardens CSA member and was curious about some of the take on other CSAs. Park Slope CSA has some other interesting elements with being able to order meat, bread and cheese.

                I was interested b/c they get their produce from upstate as opposed to Long Island (I know Cobble Hill's fruit is from upstate).

                Also, Cobble Hill's doesn't have flower / egg shares, correct?

                1 Reply
                1. re: K.O. Slow

                  Cobble Hill CSA has a meat "farmer" who is outside each CSA pickup. You can place an order directly with him or else buy a la carte.

                  You may purchase a flower share from our produce farmer and, most years, a honey share. In past years there has also been a special canning tomato share, as well as a pantry share, which is more of the basic stuff, I believe.

                  Cobble Hill's produce farmer is located on Long Island (the Green Thumb farm in Watermill), and our fruit comes Wilklow Farms, which also sells fruit in the Boro Hall greenmarket.

                2. I had switched my CSA this year (past summer share, from jun-nov) and not only did the CSA change, but the farm as well (some farms supply to multiple CSAs) so often, it depends on which farm your CSA partners with. I was disappointed with the change because last year's was amazing! and this year was terrible. So, definitely helpful to chase the farm, rather than the CSA.

                  with that said, last year's season was all sorts of jacked up, so CSAs and farms throughout the northeast suffered all kinds of setbacks (late harvest, wet season too long, blight in many different crops, etc.); the farms are lucky that they have CSA memberships to at least get them through in terms of getting cash/money ahead of time and when times are tough, we just have to accept that despite a crappy season, at least we helped the farmers out.

                  For reference, the farm that I didn't like was Norwich Meadows Farm (although the reason I switched was because I had asked some people who belonged to a few different CSAs which used them and, they really really liked their shares in the past). And the farm that I had a great experience with was Stoneledge Farm. However, I really think the past season had an impact; some people who still had CSAs with Stoneledge Farm were informed throughout the CSA season about problems with the crop and the harvest, and generally very good and keeping people updated, to at least lower or control expectations whereas from Norwich Meadows, we didn't hear about the problems directly from the farm, we heard about it second hand. Those are the administrative differences between the CSAs.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bigjeff

                    Interesting. Not sure which CSA you belonged to, but as a member of one of the norwich meadows csas, i would guess the breakdown in communication was due to the core members, not the farm, as I felt that our updates from Zaid et al regarding farm happenings were very frequent!

                    Any city CSA is only as good as the farm AND the core group that runs it, as the farmers are rarely on site for distribution the way they would be at a suburban/rural csa...

                    1. re:

                      thanks for the note; I know that before joining that particular CSA, I had asked around and a friend of mine belonged to a different CSA that also used Norwich Meadows and she had only good things to say about her season; indeed, it may be the CSA but at the same time, I would imagine the shipment methods are consistent from Norwich to each particular CSA; was it a smart idea to pack entire cases of heirloom tomatoes in about 8 layers inside of a big plastic bin so the bottom ones turned to mush? that, and some other logistics issues which I didn't experience when I was part of a different CSA, with a different farm, made me feel that it was not just the CSA but the farm itself. but like I said, it was a tough season for all the farms in the northeast so I don't feel too bad about it.

                  2. is the general consensus that cobble hill is perferred to carroll gardens? i much prefer the after-work tuesday pick up time to the saturday morning pick up of CG.

                    what about brooklyn heights (though i think they're sold out already), boerum hill, or dumbo/vinegar hill? from a glance it seems like the cobble hill csa provides a better value for more variety, but i'd love to hear more about anyone with experience with these csas.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: shih

                      I was a Cobble Hill CSA member last year -- maybe we're just not CSA people (I loved being able to support a small farm in an off season, but I really missed walking to the farmers' market every few days, and picking out exactly what and how much I wanted), but I found the (endless) repetition of certain vegetables kind of a drag -- how many radishes can one couple eat? I love green beans, but I think we got a lb. of green beans every week for 12 weeks. (Also, no corn and no tomatoes -- my favorite summer veggies! -- although last year was obviously a wonky season.) FYI: The volunteers in charge are all really lovely people, but if you get there right at the end, there's a good chance some veggies will be all gone.