plate of roasted red cabbage

I keep wanting to write that joining a CSA is like having a child but, I’m 99% sure the only thing that would do is prove I’m not a parent.

And probably make all of you who are parents hate me.

So joining a CSA is not like having a child. It’s just a responsibility—the kind where you have to be faithful to go get your pickups, at which point a bushel of freshly picked produce is placed in your hands, and then you’re sent home to care for it and do something with it; and then, you hear about the creative and nurturing things everyone else who is part of a CSA is doing with their zucchini and kale and sweet potatoes, and you can’t help but think about the bunches of basil sitting at the back of your fridge; and suddenly you’re beginning new cookbooks not by reading the opening introductions but by turning passionately to the indexes and hunting for squash and Swiss chard and cabbage; and you don’t even want to admit these things to anyone because then they will say, well, why did you want to have a CSA anyway? and you know they won’t understand that these guilty feelings are just one side of the issue, just one part.

They won’t understand when they hear you say, I need a new idea for garlic!, that you aren’t saying you hate having so much garlic but that really, even as you speak and in a way that’s hard to explain, you’re in love.

red cabbage

Because at the very same time that you haul your weekly boxes to your car, holding the weight of them in your hands, both figuratively and literally, wondering how in the world you’re going to do what you need to do with the bounty before you, you’re also thinking, I can’t believe this is mine! What a treasure for our family! What a miracle that these things all grow, so big and beautiful, just miles from my home!

cabbage halved

Or how now you feel freer to share, freer to open your home for impromptu dinners and desserts and to know that there will be plenty to eat, plenty to go around, plenty to feed everyone.

cabbage wheels

And that, even though you know in your mind that you paid for them in advance and that’s why you don’t pull out your pocketbook at each pickup, every new box still somehow feels like a gift has been given to you, like Tuesdays have become holidays wherein you and your husband are the ones being celebrated, honored with rich hauls of foods to fill your plates for weeks to come.

roasted red cabbage

A CSA is a responsibility, sure, but, like work and like marriage and like, I imagine, a lot of other things, from having children to being famous to growing older, it’s also something that can bring a lot of joy—when you eat giant salads for dinner, when you taste your first pattypan squash, when you chop up red cabbage and roast it until it caramelizes in the heat of your oven and makes another night of dinner, pretty and purple and wilted on your plate.



blogger tips for using up your CSA vegetables
As anyone who’s taken part in a vegetable CSA would tell you, there’s a real magic and value in not knowing what each week’s box will hold—just as there’s likewise a fear that you won’t be able to completely use it all up. So to help combat that problem, here are tips from a variety of writers and bloggers currently in the midst of CSAs:

(Or, click here to go directly to the cabbage recipe below!)

Tip #1: Prolong Your Produce Life

Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil, Nashville

I’d suggest picking up some produce savers. (We use the ones from ReUseIt.com). They’re little bags of minerals or what-not you stick in your produce drawer. I feel like they give us a few extra days out of our produce… More time to make delicious things with it all!

Tip #2: Think about Prep

Erin of Naturally Ella, Illinois

I often don’t wash my csa produce when I get home. I find that the produce, especially greens, last longer when washed right before use.

Tip #3: Roast

(our own tip)

For me and Tim, the surest bet with almost any vegetable has been roasting: whether it’s kale, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, potatoes or even, as you can see in this post, wheels of cabbage, something wonderful happens when you combine things with oil, salt and pepper, and roast them for up to an hour.

Tip #4: Smoothies

Lan from Angry Asian Creations, Maryland

For leafy greens ranging from arugula, beets leaves, kale, or chard, I throw them in with my fruit smoothies. It cuts the sweetness and gives it a nice balance, plus I know that it’s good for me!

Tip #5: Big Chopped Salads

Stephanie of Primarily Paleo, Seattle

I like to use as many of my CSA veggies as I can in a large chopped salad. In equal size pieces (I sometimes go really chunky and other times prefer diced to keep the salad tasting different), I chop: tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, peppers, celery and carrots (or whatever else ends up in the box), and I dress it with raw apple cider vinegar, walnut oil and unrefined sea salt. I keep this large bowl in the fridge and either eat it alone, use it to top a green salad, or as a side dish with grilled meats. No cooking required!

Tip #6: Use It As an Excuse to Try New Recipes

Michele W. Berger, Associate Editor, Audubon Magazine, New York

My husband and I love to cook, and all summer long, we try new recipes to use up our greens. Throughout the CSA season (my aim is once a week), I’ll share what we learn, focusing on a different vegetable in each post.

Tip #7: Share the Wealth

Rachel from Taming the Tart, Maryland

In the past two weeks, I’ve been to two potlucks, and I used up a lot of my salad greens this way. Caesar salad is super simple if you have Romaine, and you can up the impressive factor by making your own croutons and dressing and grating in some high-quality cheese. Dress the salad just before eating, and it will hold up for hours! Also, don’t be shy about offering what you can’t eat to neighbors or leaving it in your office break room with a note for your coworkers to help themselves.

Tip #8: Let Yourself Be Creative

Molly from Wonderland Kitchen, Maryland

More than anything, I try to avoid thinking that I need to follow a specific recipe rather than simply mixing and matching the produce I have together in interesting-to-me ways. It’s how I discovered that pretty much any seasonal combination of cooked veggies, a cup of quinoa, and my favorite house dressing was going to taste pretty damn good.


Roasted Cabbage Wedges
This is one of those recipes, kind of like kale and eggs, that seems so simple, you wonder if it’s worth posting. I’m going to anyway though because it was years before I knew you could do this with cabbage and that it would be good and, also, because we keep finding cabbage in our summer CSA and so thought some of you might, too.

Ingredients:
1 red cabbage
Coconut oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheet with coconut oil. Rinse off cabbage and remove outer leaves. Chop it into rounds and lay the rounds on the baking sheet, dolloping coconut oil over the top and sprinkling salt and pepper liberally. Bake for about an hour, when wedges are soft with crisp edges.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Sues

    That roasted cabbage is beautiful! I’m getting my first CSA pickup tomorrow and I cannot wait!! I am a control freak when it comes to grocery shopping/planning in advance, so I think it will be good for me. Will definitely be returning here to take advantage of this advice :)

  2. Lan | angry asian

    this is such a wonderful roundup. you are so right about what to do with csa loot, it’s all about salads, roasting and being creative! i have half a head of cabbage, and like molly of wonderland kitchen, i’ll be adding it to quinoa with my fave dressing for some darn good tasting dinner.

    1. Lan | angry asian

      PS. i typically wash the produce when i get home with the loot… i wash them, dry them and then wrap them with a slightly damp paper towel. for me, it makes it more likely that i’ll eat up the food when i know that the step of washing/cleaning has been done. there have been times where i’ll reach for the take out menus when i think about all the produce i have to wash & prep.

      1. Shannalee

        That’s a good point you and Stacy (below) are making. It makes me think a lot of using up your vegetables is mental, figuring out what’s the best way to help yourself use it all, so while Erin finds it more convenient to wait now, wash later; you guys know you’ll profit more from doing a little prep work now so you have vegetables that are ready when you need them on quick mornings or whatever. Good thoughts!

  3. MaryAnn

    I totally agree with you about a CSA feeling like a huge responsibility – that’s why we’ve never done it! It’s sad really because a family in our church runs a farm that offers one. It’s in our future though – we will do it; unless of course I convince my husband that we should just plant our own huge garden!
    Roasted cabbage – I have a similar recipe pinned on one of my Pinterest boards but it uses green cabbage. The red is far prettier :-)

  4. Stacy

    I, too, have no children, and I recognize that they are more complex than even the most overflowing CSA box…but I must say, I love your analogy nonetheless.

    AND: I love roasted cabbage.

    At least with greens, I do have to agree with Lan: when I wash them, wrap them (still damp) loosely in a towel and tuck them into a bag just like that, I find they stay fresher — and they’re mostly dry when I need them! Regardless, the quest for freshness is a challenging one, and endless.

  5. Molly @WonderlandK

    Ha! Cooking for no more than two most of the time, cabbage always overwhelms me. I finally just shredded that 5lb head that kept tormenting me every time I opened the door on the ‘fridge and put it in the sauerkraut bucket. Problem solved (or at least hidden) for 3 weeks!

  6. Abby

    We’ve been avoiding a CSA for that very reason! But this year I’ve been experiencing that feeling with the tomatoes and spinach I’ve planted–there’s so much responsibility.

    I’ve never thought of roasting cabbage before, but it’s a great idea (and the perfect way to use up some leftovers). The kale and eggs were great, by the way.

    1. Shannalee

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the kale and eggs, Abby! And the moment you mention tomatoes and spinach you’ve planted, I have this irresistible urge to say I want to take them from you, ha! Hope some of these CSA tips will be helpful for you, too—and PS, for tomatoes, if I had buckets of them, I’d preserve them for winter, the season where I want them most.

  7. Helene

    Being a parent, that’s actually the very reason you sign up for CSA, to get the kid to feel that sense of responsibility and excitement when the box arrives… and anticipation: “What’s in there, and what are we going to make with this?” It’s almost like a treasure hunt, what are we going to do with this treasure? I hadn’t thought of it that way, but your post made me realize it… full disclosure, I haven’t signed up for CSA yet… (shame on me) will do though, I want my weekly treasure too :-)

  8. Evi

    Thanks for this post! I know these tips, but it’s nice to have reaffirmation! And I love the roasted cabbage idea- we even have cabbage in our fridge right now that I had no idea what to do with!

  9. Sharon (a Great Grandmother)

    I love the Roasted Cabbage idea. Before I moved into an apartment building that does not allow grills, I used to grill often. Grilling vegetables was something I added to my long list of meats. At that time I used a Balsamic Vinegarette for basting. Now that I have to recreate indoors, I am using garlic olive oil I make myself and brushing the vegetables with it before grilling on my huge George Foreman Grill. Recently, I did a sliced eggplant, a whole red pepper, sliced, as well as an orange one and a yellow one. Added to that was a large Vidalia onion, sliced in thick slices. After eating it for a couple of days, I decided to chop it all up and add tomatoes – no additonal seasoning – and simmer for a few minutes. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I’m sure you can do this on your outdoor grill. I love reading this blog because I am a food person. Cooking is my therapy.

  10. Juliette

    I am just getting ready to put together a large pan of our CSA veggies, and wondered about roasting cabbage with them as we’ve been receiving a head of cabbage each of the last five weeks. I’ve made every know version of cole slaw and then made some of my own! A quick perusal of “roasted cabbage” on Internet, and I find this lovely blog that echoes so many of my own thoughts. I’m bookmarking as soon as I hush up! My CSA trick: a sheet of then sliced tomatoes or halved cherry toms, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with basil, thyme, dill … what ever is abundant outside the back door, and slowly dried at 200 – 250F, gently peeled off the baking sheet and stored in a freezer-weight zip bag (in the freezer) for those long, tomato-less winter months.

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