Do you look forward to your CSA box, or does the selection of veggies sometimes overwhelm you? Here are five tips to help you love your CSA vegetable delivery!
CSA means community supported agriculture (sometimes called CSA vegetable delivery), and it’s a wonderful strategy for farmers and for the community to improve local agriculture and get folks to eat more veggies. Often CSAs sell ‘vegetable shares’ to customers in the beginning of the season to support seed procurement, initial labor and other upfront costs, and when the crops start coming up, customers are given a weekly share of vegetables. This model is not the rule though, and here in our year-round growing season in Hawaii, we have a weekly subscription CSA that procures veggies and fruits from dozens of farms around the island. In fact, many of CSA options in Hawaii are based on this model, as many of our farms are relatively small and can’t support the staff needed to run a full CSA program. Other farms across the country use the former model and deliver a seasonal array of fruits and vegetables throughout the growing seasons.
This weekly abundance can be like Christmas (yay, what’s in the bag?), but to some it can be extremely daunting. In fact, one of the most common reasons people drop out of CSA programs is vegetable exhaustion. They just can’t get excited about rutabaga recipes or dealing with a dozen more zucchini. Most of us feel pretty good about using up the tomatoes, lettuce, kale and maybe even fruits, but what about the abundance of the weirder veggies? Oahu Fresh, our local CSA vegetable delivery, gives us a good amount of taro, daikon, eggplant and lemongrass, and these have been the trickiest to use up and use well. But it’s pretty darn fun, and we’ve been enjoying lots of baba gannoush and daikon pickles!
As the growing season is getting started across the country, it’s high time we address this fun topic and help eaters around the country avoid CSA burnout! Let’s dive in, shall we?
5 Ways to Love your CSA Vegetable Delivery!
1. Learn to Like the Weird Vegetables: Buzzfeed has an awesome list of wacky vegetables and what to do with them. Got too much kohlrabi, turnips, or chard? This list will help you make the most of the weird ones. Don’t be daunted by the new veggies: there is bound to be a way to love them. Try them at least, and try them in some different ways too. It might just become your new favorite veggie!
2. Preserve It! Pickling and fermenting is a great way to get rid of all the vegetables you have on hand, but it’s also a great way to preserve them for the dark days of winter when vegetables are a bit sparse. An abundance of cabbage can make sauerkraut or kimchi, and an abundance of daikon, turnips, cucumbers or beets can become a delicious variety of pickles. Here’s an easy tutorial for quick pickled turnips or radish, and here’s how to make pickled beets in one hour.
3. Share. One of the reasons for CSA burnout can be just TOO MUCH food, and the solution is elegant and simple. Just share! If your friends are not the adventurous vegetable-loving types, find a food pantry or church kitchen that can benefit from some fresh produce (they probably all can, so it should not be hard to find!). You can share once in awhile, or space our your shares, taking one week on and one week off with friends or neighbors. This means less food waste, you still get some adventure with veggies (but not too much!), and the farmers stay profitable.
4. Plan your Meals: Again, this task is super fun for some, excruciating for others. But it’s infinitely helpful. If you get your share on a Monday, spend a few minutes thinking about the vegetable selection and how you can use it all week long. Eggplant and bok choi: definitely making curry on Tuesday, lettuce and carrots for salad with roasted potatoes on Wednesday, and so on. I also find it’s helpful to add a list of all veggies on the fridge, that way I don’t have to dig around. I can make a list, check it twice, and choose which veggies I need for the meal. But how to choose recipes…?
5. Make everything-but-the-kitchen-sink recipes: Even if you plan your meals, there are always a few miscellaneous veggies that just don’t fit in that week, or you just don’t have a taste for. For any root veggies, a simple roast will make it a nice side dish, or it can be blended into a creamy soup for a quick meal. For most other veggies, you can choose recipes that feature allow for all types of veggies: soups, stews and lentil dals, veggie-ful quiches or pot pies, stir-fry meals and curries are my favorite. Tossing a mix of veggies into a slow cooker with some canned tomatoes, lentils, and broth will yield a great easy meal, just as stir-frying a ton of wacky veggies will turn them into a colorful, healthful meal. Think beyond the staples too: broccoli is a common stir-fry ingredient, but kohlrabi or turnips are another good option if broccoli is not in season. A random mix of veggies can also be used roasted or raw in salads or grain pilafs.