Hi there! I’m Sherri and this is my fourth summer as a Garden Treasures CSA member. My husband, one-year old daughter and I love to eat the produce grown at Garden Treasures. I look forward to CSA season each year as I tire of the same old offerings that fill the grocery store shelves week after week. And although I am enormously grateful for the fresh, delicious, nutritious food lovingly grown at the farm, I sometimes find myself thinking things like:
How can I get my family to eat this many beets?!
Over the years I have come up with a few tips that help my CSA season run smoothly. This year I signed up for a full share, knowing full well that I would have to use all of the tricks I have up my sleeve to get the most use, nutrition and value out of my share.
Please don’t expect any earth-shattering revelations, but I am hoping that gathering this list all in one place helps you get the most out of your share, too!
Know what you have
It’s a terrible feeling when I find a forgotten bag of rotten vegetables that I had good intentions of eating. To prevent this problem, I either come home and quickly write down how I plan to use each CSA item, or keep a list on the fridge of what’s in there and cross it off as I use it. Both of these ways ensure that the most perishable items are used first and that everything is used eventually.
Have a well-stocked pantry and freezer
I really enjoy taking a break from the grocery store during CSA season. A few times during the summer, though, I find it helpful to stock up on proteins and pantry items from Costco or the regular grocery store. I buy pasta, rice, beans, chicken and fish, and buy local, grass-fed beef for the freezer. Then when CSA day rolls around, I don’t have to go home and plan out what I want to make and go to the store for additional ingredients. I can just start cooking and eating! Anything additional I need I pick up at the Arlington Farmers Market on Saturdays, which is much more fun than going to the grocery store.
Use methods, not recipes, for fast weeknight cooking
Since I already know a basic method for making soup, I can just swap in whatever vegetables the farm has to offer that week. I sautée some seasoned onions, garlic and carrots in olive oil, then add more sautéed or roasted vegetables and some homemade vegetable stock. I finish it with fresh herbs and maybe a little cheese.
The same goes for salads, stir-fries, pasta and smoothies. The same recipes I know and love take on a new dimension when I use seasonal vegetables. Many vegetables can be used interchangeably (I use spinach, collards, chard and kale in many of the same ways). Changing the vegetables up keeps old favorites interesting, too.
Collect favorite recipes
I have a Pinboard called “Favorite CSA Recipes” to catalog recipes for vegetables I know pop up often throughout the season or vegetables I’m not that familiar with. Pinterest is also where I found my favorite kohlrabi salad!
Take time to savor the season
On the weekends, I like to take time to browse through a seasonal cookbook that can teach me something new and inspire me to cook in a new way. Learning a new recipe often pays off more than once!
Ripe by Nigel Slater is a great example of a cookbook that treats food with reverence.
Make vegetable stock
We don’t compost (yet!), but I feel guilty throwing away the ends and trimmings of all of these nutritious, organic vegetables. So I make myself feel better by making a quick vegetable stock. I just collect all of the bits in a large plastic container in the fridge during the week, and when it’s full I boil them all with seasonings while dinner is cooking. Then I freeze it flat in Ziplock bags to save for later. Try this tutorial for making stock.
Ask the friendly folks at the farm stand
I have had a long struggle with fava beans. I heard that you are supposed to remove them from the pod, then peel off the outer shell to reveal the green little bean inside. I found it painstaking. This year when they showed up, I asked a passing worker at the farm stand if I really had to peel both layers. She said, “Nope!” and promptly cracked one open and offered me the raw bean with the white shell still attached. It was delightful – chewy, earthy, and satisfying. I was so happy to have a new raw vegetable to snack on with absolutely no preparation!
Read your email
There are often great recipe suggestions and helpful hints in the weekly email from Garden Treasures!
What about you? What tricks and tips help you get the most out of your CSA share?