There is no doubt about it – participating in a CSA program involves a little more planning and a different approach to your weekly cooking routine.
If you are new to CSA, here are a few tactics you can use to get the most out of your share, and minimize the veggies that go to waste.
Identify Your Vegetables
Start by consulting your share list and making sure you can identify everything in your box. Some members have been known to rush home with their share and put it in the fridge without a glance at the veggies inside! If you take the time to look through your share briefly when you pick it up, then you are less likely lose track of your tasty veggies in the day-to-day refrigerator shuffle.
What do I need to use first, and what can I store for later? You can use shelf life as a preliminary way to outline your vegetable-eating plan for the week. For example, leafy greens, ripe tomatoes, and delicate herbs have the best texture, nutrition, and flavor in the first few days after they are harvested. Other vegetables, like hearty roots, have a much longer storage life and can be stored for a week or more.
In an effort to minimize the amount of packaging waste (and packaging cost) generated by our farm, we try not to over-package our vegetables. At the same time, we want to make sure that vegetables are viable during transit from the farm to your home. You will need to take extra steps in order to store certain vegetables in your home for best quality. This is very easy – you can save clean produce bags for re-use in your home, or even invest in plastic or glass storage containers to store certain vegetables.
When we assemble CSA boxes, we strive to include a variety of different vegetable types. If you are approaching a new vegetable, check to see if you have already tried preparing something similar in a recipe – you might be able to substitute your new vegetable into a dish you already know! For example, many of the hearty greens that you will find in your share (beet greens, kale, cabbage, tatsoi, mizuna, braising mix, etc.) can be cooked using the same methods or recipes. If you are making coleslaw, you can include cabbage, but other crunchy brassicas in the same family are great too! These include radishes, kohlrabi, salad turnips, and napa cabbage.
See the table below for a little inspiration. Use your previous experience and taste buds to guide you! Experimenting with new preparations is one of my favorite parts of cooking seasonally.