This post could also be called, “Tips from a CSA Newbie.” This will be my second year having a local CSA share. There is a terrific farmer’s market near my home, so for years I went there once a week for locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables rather than investing in a CSA share. One of the vendors that I purchased from often is actually from a local farm that had shares available, but I was concerned that it might be too much food for my family.
Last year, however I took the plunge, splitting a share with a friend. What a fabulous experience! I love having the opportunity to support local organic farmers, and to eat food that is quite literally fresh from the farm. Not meaning to sound corny, I also think this has connected me more with the earth somehow, and I hope that it will do the same for my kids. Here is what I have learned so far:
10 Ways to Make the Most of Your CSA Share
Get recommendations. Before you join a CSA, ask around. Find out about the reputation of the farm, how they work, and whether or not you can meet the farmer. Do your own background check by asking locally and doing online searches.
Learn what is required of you as a member. Some CSA’s require that members do work shifts, such as weeding, planting and other needs. Personally, I do not have an issue with working a couple of shifts at the farm, but some people might not like that idea. Work shifts might also be offered only at ties when you are not available, so this is good information to have in advance.
Look for local workshops. Our CSA holds workshop for canning, preservation, dehydrating, and even potting – none of which I would have known how to do a few months ago. If your CSA does not have workshops of their own, call around or do a local search for classes near you.
Learn how to preserve produce for the colder winter months. Find out which items freeze well, which ones can be preserved and which ones work best for canning. This way your CSA share will last for the entire year.
Meal plan around your share. In all honesty, I’m not much of a meal planner. However, once you see what your weekly share has for you, it is much easier to build a meal or a schedule of meals around it. Keep the items that stay fresh the longest for the end of the week, and use those that lose their freshness more quickly first. This is a great way to utilize what you get from the farm.
Think outside the box. Finished your meal planning and still have items left over? Then get creative! Make your own vegetable stock for soups, gravies, and sauces. Make green smoothies and juices. Throw veggies and herbs in an omelet. (Yum!) Make chips with kale. Bake with beets. Roast veggies in a baking pan for dinner all week long. Infuse oils with herbs. (I made a simple rosemary/basil infused oil that I can’t get enough of lately.) Utilize recipes from the Pinterest and other places around the web. Your CSA share is for so much more than salads.
Plan ahead. You can ask which items will be available in the coming weeks, so that you can look for recipes and get suggestions ahead of time. That way, you won’t feel overwhelmed with the amount of food you’ll receive, and you will be able to utilize all of it.
Ask lots of questions. The people who work at the farm or the people who have been members for years have so much helpful information to offer! Utilize their knowledge. Find out what you can do with that vegetable or herb you have never heard of before. Learn how to store and preserve items properly, so that they will last as long as possible.
Don’t be afraid of new foods! Never seen a garlic scape before? I hadn’t either. Yet, you never know. Those fruits, vegetables and herbs can quickly become a new family favorite. Just ask around or search online!
Find out what they do with items that are left over. Our CSA has a bin for unwanted items. So if your family really dislikes cilantro, you can place it in the bin. If there is an item in the bin that you want instead, you can make a trade. Any leftover items at the end of the week are donated to a local charity that distributes the food to people in need. Organic, local and they help people? That is my kind of business.
How do you make your fruits and vegetables last? Are you a CSA member? If so, how do you make the most of your CSA share?