Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cotton Bags


I just picked a share off my porch that wasn't picked up. It's been sitting there since Monday, with no cooling other than the damp cotton bag surrounding it and a bit of shade. It's Wednesday. It was 80 degrees yesterday, and those vegetable were harvested a full two days ago, with no refrigeration at all. All of the produce is fine. I am amazed by our low tech cooling systems, even though folks have been using them forever and I was first introduced to them twelve years ago on the farm I apprenticed on.

We use light weight, organic cotton bags that are soaked with water to pack and cool our vegetables. The packaging is reusable, relatively low tech, and effective on our small scale. It has allowed us to avoid the capital investment of buying a large cooler to keep the shares cold, and the ongoing costs of electricity and maintenance as well. Because the vegetables are harvested, packed and distributed on the same day it works. If you were to eat your vegetables within three days of harvest you could probably get away with never putting them in a refrigerator. Three days is the space between our harvest days.

A couple of thoughts on all of this. Refrigeration uses an amazing amount of electricity, and what it allows us to do is to hold onto vegetables long after they have been harvested. This means we can ship them long distances, which means eaters don't get them for at least a few days to a week after they're actually harvested. This also means that they can sit in our kitchens for long periods until we're either inspired to cook them, or they turn rubbery and we're inspired to compost them. I'm not suggesting that we get rid of refrigeration, I'm just suggesting that it's not as necessary as we take it to be, and we could get away with a lot less of it if we thought more carefully about how we use it.

PS - A huge thank you to all the members who return their bags inside out! It's a very small thing but on Sunday and Wednesday evenings when I go to wash the bags it's nice to not have to turn all 60 or so inside out.

PPS - Even though I think the bags are amazing, it's still best to pick up CSA shares ASAP, the vegetables will definitely be in better shape if you do.

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