Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Simple Ways to Use Your CSA Produce

Our very first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription just ended last week.  We LOVED it.  As most of you know, we usually plant a large garden ourselves and therefore have no use for additional vegetables each week but this spring/summer proved different.  In January, we began caring for a special needs foster newborn and thus our garden meeting a month or so later consisted of us going online and signing up for a CSA instead of placing seed orders.  Our focus needed to be on our kids that the baby- not on our garden.  Thank you to all the CSA farmers out there who make this option possible!

I believe that because we have a lot of experience using garden produce (of our own) we found using up our CSA produce easy and fun.  Here are some tips to getting the most out of your CSA box should you ever choose to subscribe to one:

1) Anticipate the box's arrival and set aside some time to "process" it right away.  Put it on your calendar even. Our box arrived Wednesday afternoon/early evening.  It was always on my radar when it was coming so I mentally carved out some time that evening to go through it.

2) Deal with your produce ASAP.  Don't let the box languish on your counter for days on end- this will lead to spoilage and you'll end up with expensive compost. Set tomatoes on a plate on the counter to finish ripening.  Tear, wash, and spin lettuce and toss it in an open plastic bag in the fridge.  Place any veggies that should go in the the fridge (reserving one of your fridge drawers at the bottom works well).  I kept a canning quart jar (without a lid) to toss garlic heads into for easy access. Storage produce like potatoes and winter squash should be transferred to their new home (cool, dark places indoors- the bottom of your pantry/closet works well).  Then, shake out the box and put it in your car or by the back door so it's ready to be returned or picked up the next week.

3) Make Salads.  There were only a few weeks mid-summer when we didn't get lettuces in our box.  With the other produce on hand, it was always easy to make a side salad or add some meat to a larger salad (taco salad, Caesar salad, etc.) to serve for lunch or dinner.  If you're not a salad person, shred it and heap it on to top of burritos and tacos.

4) Make salsa or bruchetta or both. Often. When the tomatoes start rolling in, likely the onions, garlic and peppers will, too.  Chop them all up for fresh salsa (picture below, scroll to bottom of link for recipe) or my friend's amazing bruchetta (although I fancy spreading goat cheese on the toasted bread before topping each piece with the tomato mixture).

4) Roast everything.  I had heard from some friends that they often googled new recipes for CSA produce they weren't used to using in their cooking.  I didn't really have time for that, so we roasted, roasted, roasted almost everything.  You can roast asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, corn, onions, garlic, beets, radishes, butternut name it.  And it's delicious.  Roasting brings out the sweetness in vegetables and is a nice change from boiling or steaming them.

I often chopped up a huge bowl of roastable veggies (all mixed together and in similar sized pieces), coated everything with oil and then sprinkled salt and pepper over it all.  Sometimes, I used a dried herb seasoning mix as well.  A drizzle of balsamic vinegar over top makes it divine.  I placed the veggies on greased cookie sheets and roasted them for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees, tossing them and checking them for doneness once or twice.  Leftover roasted veggies can be stirred into soups, sprinkled on salads or added to casseroles.  Our kids like to dip them in ketchup.  So be it.

5) Make soup.  A few of our favorite soups are Peanut Butter-Vegetable SoupVegetable ChowderSweet Potato & Sausage Soup Black Bean & Butternut Squash Chili (photo above over cornbread).  All of these call for veggies you'll often find in your CSA box.  Make a large batch of any of these and freeze the leftovers to eat when it's cold outside.

6) Do a little preserving.  Don't have time to use it all up before your next box arrives?  Lettuce isn't as forgiving but veggies like tomatoes, zucchini and peppers can be washed and chopped and frozen in storage bags for use in soups and casseroles during winter when those precious boxes full of veggies are no longer arriving.

What will we do next year?  Good question.  It was certainly strange not growing a big garden for once.  And yet having all those beautiful vegetables washed and arranged so gloriously each week? Well, that was just what we needed. Pin It


  1. What a lovely CSA you joined! And, as you say, for this year it just made sense. So, so, so much better than buying from the grocery store since you couldn't do your own garden. Plus, I'll bet you taste tested a couple of things you've never grown yourself. What fun!

  2. Roasting is good. We like roasting cauliflower florets with a little oil and salt and whole garlic cloves. Roasted cubes beets with olive oil and salt turn out almost like candy and are good cold added to tossed salads.

  3. I think CSAs are an excellent option for when gardening isn't feasible! Way to support a local grower!
    (Although you wouldn't freeze greens for salads, I have used frozen ones in soups, egg dishes, and smoothies.)

  4. Summer 2015 we attempted to start a small CSA. We thought it would be a great project for our four older children. They had six customers. We lasted six weeks! It was so much work! We barely ended up with produce for ourselves. Then the spring rains hit and our garden flooded and we lost everything :(. What an experience! It sure made me appreciate even more those who run CSA's - of course we learned a lot. We've never joined a CSA but this past summer our garden didn't do so well again and I'm beginning to like the sound of a CSA!

    1. Wow! Good for you for trying- what a great family project!

  5. I love making soup ♥ Beautiful photos♥


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