Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Four Steps for a Successful CSA

Tomorrow, it will begin. A whole new season with the Denison Farm CSA. I am very excited about my vegetables, fruit and eggs.

What is a CSA? It is Community Supported Agriculture, a crop share, in which members of a greater community buy into a farmer's risk for the year and receive a portion of the harvest in return. We belong to the fruit, vegetable and egg shares at Denison Farms and to the humanely raised and slaughtered chicken share at Kristy's Barn.


Meals are about to arrive at my house. Do I know the ingredients that will be in my box tomorrow? Not really. The weather has taken a beating on Upstate New York this year, so I'm sure even the Denisons are just finding out today what produce can make the harvest. Do I have a general plan, a modus operandi, if you will? You betcha.

Step 1: Triage




What needs to get eaten right now? What will not last the week, cannot be frozen, will spoil first? Usually, this involves mesculin mix, heads of lettuce, and perhaps bok choy. My friend Dani from Moderate Oven washes the mesculin in her salad spinner first thing, then places it back in her crisper, wrapped in paper towels (plastic bags are guaranteed to rot your mesculin, especially whichever poor leaves are squished into the bottom).

As to the rest, some will freeze beautifully and some have a long refrigerator life. An example of the later is your root veg. Your root veg tops, however, are another story. Which brings us to...

Step 2: Divide and Conquer




Eat your turnip tops. And your radish tops. And your beet greens. Serve them up with their crunchy root counter parts or separately.

My favorite method: cover them in water, swish, drain and rinse thoroughly. Chop, then, saute quickly in olive oil, with garlic, salt and a bit of red pepper flakes. Serve as is or place in the bottom of a quiche aka frozen parve pie shell. Alternatively, add them raw 5 minutes before you want to serve a soup or serve them judiciously mixed into your mesculin, tossed through with olive oil, salt and sugar, with their roots finely julienned or shaved on top.

Step 3: Everything In Its Place




The key to cooking a CSA share is to not add bok choy to your macaroni and cheese. The key is to take a given ingredient, and use it where it naturally belongs in your family's food culture. In our family, bok choy belongs in a stir fry. Cilantro belongs in salsa or in a tortilla. Swiss chard belongs in a soup or a frittata. Young turnips belong in our bellies, be they raw, mashed or roasted.

What if you've never cooked with or even seen an ingredient before? Look it up on a site you trust, be it here on Noshing Confessions, or over at America's Test Kitchen or Food Network. All of the vegetables from last year's Denison Farm's harvest can be found tagged here on Noshing Confessions. If there's an odd ingredient in the weekly box, I'll get a new recipe up that I enjoy it in as soon as possible (do I have a celeriac soup recipe for you :).

Bottom line: Trust yourself. You will make mistakes. You can always try again. If it doesn't work out? Order pizza and be done.

Step 4: Wrap Up and Store




Remember triage, when we figured out what would keep? This is because there will come a time when your family will not be able to eat all that arrives at your door. Then, you will blanch, brine, pickle, freeze, can or just donate a food at your drop off site, knowing another family will have better use for it than yours.

I know how to blanch, chill and freeze well. I love stocking up on berries, green beans, zucchini and corn to take us through the winter. I'm learning how to can, preserve and pickle this year. I'll keep you posted.

Final Step: Don't take it too seriously. It is food, it is delicious. You will get it right, or you won't. Your 4 year old will eat it or she won't. Have fun. It's worth it. 

3 comments:

  1. Do you own a copy of Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Pickling? I've had mine for years, but haven't made much use of it because I haven't been hit with an overwhelming amount of produce. Expect that'll change this year now that we have a farm share.

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  2. Do you own a copy of Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Pickling? I've had mine for years, but haven't made much use of it because I haven't been hit with an overwhelming amount of produce. Expect that'll change this year now that we have a farm share.

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  3. I'll have to check it out! I've been working from Joy of Cooking for my pickles. Right now, it's time to start stocking up on the Ball jars.

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