Several years ago, I invested in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription. At the time, I continually had to explain what a CSA was (basically, you buy a share in a local farm and they give you produce in return), but four years later, it seems commonplace. The authors of like half the food blogs I read seem to be CSA members! While I absolutely loved my CSA subscription for the two years I had it, unfortunately the farm went out of business. I need to find a new one in this area (maybe next year!), but until then I'll rely on local farmer's markets for my fresh produce fix. And seriously, when I go to a farmer's market, I go to a farmer's market. I buy enough produce to feed a small army, probably unconsciously trying to replicate the huge CSA box I used to receive each week.
This post is dedicated to those folks who participate in CSAs, or just go on farmer's market frenzies like I do. Here's what I learned about how to handle the bounty of fresh fruit, veggies and herbs that is about to come your way.
- Plan your week around the box. Well, at least when it comes to meals and grocery shopping. My CSA box was delivered on Tuesdays. I would pick it up after work, then go home and sort and store everything. Then, I would go out to dinner that night (one of my favorite restaurants had $5 burger night on Tuesdays, so it worked perfectly). After my burger, I would go home and make a game plan for meals for the rest of the week, and a grocery list for any missing items. I would get groceries on Wednesday, and be all set for produce-filled meals until the following Tuesday.
- Only do it if you're committed to cooking at home. If you really love going out to eat, a CSA probably isn't the right fit for you. The first few weeks of your subscription, you might only get a few pints of strawberries and some salad greens. You'll think "oh yeah, I've got this!" But then...the growing season really starts up. And one week you get 20 apples, five pounds of potatoes, 6 peppers, a bunch of beets, HUGE bags of salad greens, 8 tomatoes, 2 squash, an eggplant and some herbs. And there's just no way you'll be able to eat it all unless you eat at home, and pack your lunch, a lot.
- Get a wok. Or a really large skillet. Because you'll probably want to make some stir-fry when all else fails. You can stir-fry almost any vegetable in a few minutes. The wok was a big savior for me when I didn't know where to turn with 10 zucchini and a bunch of bell peppers. You can also make a BIG batch of stir-fry and re-heat it for lunches all week.
- Figure out what you can freeze for later. Eventually the CSA season will end, and you'll have to go back to grocery store produce. But you can extend the season a little bit if you freeze some of the bounty. Berries are great to freeze, specially if you like smoothies. Green beans also freeze well if you blanch and shock them first.
- It helps if you like pizza, too. Because you can also put lots of stuff on pizza. Even veggies you might not be crazy about. Put them on a pizza, and by the time they're touching some delicious pizza sauce and coated with cheese, they'll be your friend. Years ago, I would have thought a cauliflower pizza sounded weird. Now, it seems totally normal.
- You can make a pesto out of anything green. I made a ton of pesto with the herbs, spinach, arugula and other greens I recieved. I also recieved several cloves of garlic that came in handy for this, too. After it was pesto-ized, I could make pasta, pizzas, or just slather it on bread. Pesto also freezes well.
- Don't be scared of vegetable UFOs. Ok, so this kohlrabi wasn't a flying object. But it was unidentified, at least by me, at first. I was pretty sure it was some sort of alien. A cute alien, but still. Fast-forward four years later, and kohlrabi seems to be gaining popularity - I see it on restaurant menus quite often now. But back then, I had no idea what the heck it was or what planet it came from. Google is your friend here, for both identifying and consuming. "Kohlrabi coleslaw" popped up in the first 10 out of the 12 search results, so that's what I did. And it was delicious. Just don't get intimidated by weird stuff. It'll all turn out OK.
If you have any questions about my fun-filled CSA experience, just ask in the comments. Have fun this summer!