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Lakes and Valley CSA serves 87 homes with an abundance of unique crops

Anne Morgan shows off lime green cauliflowers called Romanesque. The community supported agriculture project dabbles annually with a unique item or two to gauge public desire and hardiness.

The summer that never was drove people off the lakes, bike trails and parks.

But the garden gods smiled down upon the region.

South of town, at the Lakes and Valley CSA, the five-acre organic farm Anne Morgan tends with her husband and staff, the berries flourished, the melons are abundant and unusual crops sprang to life.

The community supported agriculture project had a bumper crop - of everything. One hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables, when ripe and ready, make their way to 87 homes throughout the region and Red River Valley, all delivered by the CSA.

"It all went well," Anne said Thursday as she sliced off exotic cauliflower heads called Romanesque.

Holding up the lime green item, which resembles an exquisite underwater coral, Morgan shakes her head in wonderment.

"These were totally ridiculous to grow," she said. "The seeds were incredibly expensive."

But the end result is more art form than veggie. Regardless of the taste, the little green vegetable would add to any basket décor.

Through a maze of tomato vines, Julie Steen is picking tomatillos, another exotic-looking specimen. The small tomato-like balls are covered in a paper shell that looks like a tiny Japanese lantern.

"They have a citrusey taste," she said. "I guess that's the best way to explain them. You can put them in salsa, fry or boil them."

A few rows over, Tracy Brown is harvesting black cherry tomatoes - the few that are ripe.

Anne said the tomatoes have been slow in ripening, but are coming along just fine now that bright sunny days have returned to the region.

"The garden is adapting to climate change," Anne said. "Last year we couldn't find a melon to save our souls."

But she said persistence and education has paid off. "You're not going to be defeated by climate change," she said. "Our veggie boxes have been bulging."

A full share of vegetables, which will more than feed a good-sized family, costs $675 for a season that begins in mid-June. That's a weekly box of whatever is in season at the time. Half-shares run $400. The contents are all freshly picked.

Acorn squash the size of volleyballs are growing nearby.

"I don't think there will be an ideal growing season anymore," she reasoned. "But with judicious selection, positive thoughts" and loving care, the summer of 2009 has been ideal for growing the usual and the unusual.