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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
1 red cabbage
Salt and pepper
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.