Stacy Cowley is CNNMoney's tech editor. She's in a complicated relationship with her CSA and explores the odd vegetables that show up in her haul in CSI: CSA. This is the first installment
It’s CSA season. That means that like thousands of other community supported agriculture subscribers, I’m locked in a five-month death battle with my fridge’s veggie drawer.
It’s week three of my CSA, and right now, the fridge is winning. I’ve got the inevitable kohlrabi lurking in the crisper, plotting a coup with the half-dozen turnips I’ve had lingering in there since April. The leafy greens are forming factions. I’ve been adding “spring salad mix” to every meal I possibly can, since it turns to sludge after a week, but that means neglecting the kale, arugula and mizuna. I’m pretty sure they’re spawning. Every time I open the drawer, the mizuna supply has tripled.
It’s not all grim, of course. I actually love CSA season and look forward to our first mid-June delivery the way six-year-old me anticipated Christmas morning: Finally, after months and months of waiting, the goodies arrive!
How to eat your greens
This is my third season in my local CSA. I’d been intrigued by the community supported agriculture concept, in which subscribers pay in advance for a share of a farmer’s harvest, but I held off because I wasn’t sure I’d have the time and motivation to make enough home-cooked meals. I finally took the plunge when a friend offered to team up with me on “small share” allotments from our neighborhood farm, Added Value in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Even within the CSA movement, Added Value is a bit unusual because it grows all the crops for its program on a 2-acre urban farm right in Brooklyn. More precisely, right in the shadow of an Ikea. The farm is a really cool nonprofit that offers job training and educational opportunities for hundreds of New York City students. It also has to deal with all the challenges of growing crops in a small, demanding microclimate in the middle of an industrial neighborhood.
Our early shipments tend to be heavy on leafy greens, since not much else is thriving yet. Our farmer also likes to experiment and grow things many of us have never encountered before. In our season’s first week, I confronted amaranth greens - which I had to ask the pick-up coordinator to identify for me, since I had no idea what they looked like.
At home, I stared down my amaranth greens and my semi-random collection of other edibles. Then I asked Google what on Earth I should do with these things.
"Stir-fry the suckers" was a common suggestion. It turns out that amaranth greens are popular in Asia and Africa; they're kind of like a rugged, high-protein spinach. I tore off the stems, popped the cleaned leaves in my salad spinner, and declared my prep work done.
I also had a bag of fish to use up, thanks to one of my CSA's optional add-on subscriptions: a weekly delivery from the just-launched Mermaid’s Garden “community supported fishery.” My current fish-of-the-week was porgy from Montauk, Long Island - and like with the greens, it was something I'd never cooked before.
After combing through a dozen different menu options, I decided to hit them both with the same flavors: a sesame oil and ginger marinade for the fish and a similar sesame and soy sauce treatment for the amaranth greens. Bonus: the whole dinner took less than half an hour to prep and cook.
One veggie down! Now on to figuring out that kohlrabi...
Previously - With a CSA, Mother Nature is your personal chef and Clarified: What is a CSA? and Ramps, fiddleheads, fava beans and other spring vegetables about which people are freaking out
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This was my first year doing a farm share and I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who get stressed out every week when I know it's coming! I actually don't think I'll do it again next year.
I have the opposite problem most people are mentioning. We're a family of 10 and that means getting 2 full shares at our local CSA, which has simply priced us out of the option. It's unfortunate because I really love to support our local farmers. Instead, I grow what I can on our back patio.
Whoa, this seems REMARKABLY similar to a column Huff Po has been running all summer. The title even smacks of familiarity, since theirs is WTF, CSA?
Nothing strange afoot, I assure you. Our colleague Stacy used to write this for her CSA, and offered to do it for us instead.
ETA: A older entry of Stacy's that I find deeply entertaining – http://redhookcsa.com/2010/07/06/kale-and-mushroom-sautee/
People read HuffPo? On purpose?
Chill, guy. This kind of article comes up every year during CSA season. I don't think anyone would bother to wade through the mess of HuffPo to find one to emulate.
I cheat. My current CSA* lets us select our box contents (from a long list of what's fresh that week), so I don't have any surprises. I pay about 40% more for the privilege, though, over the 'Farmer's Choice' option.
I've done the 'you get what you get' CSA before, and it was both more stressful and more fun, if that makes sense. It was definitely harder to use everything up when I wasn't able to plan strategies in advance.
*Local Choice Food Box, western Washington state: http://www.growingwashington.org/foodbox/signup.php
I would love to join my local CSA, but they deliver enough food for a family of six. I'm a widow with no children so I"m a family of one. And I can't justify wasting that much food.
I find it a lot easier to juice my veggies. I'll be honest, some are just yucky! But I know I need the nutrients, especially since I'm pregnant. The mixes aren't so bad if you add green apple or lemons. I grow as much as I can and buy locally as much as possible.
I too, had a large kohlrabi in my CSA last week. I made a puree of it with a head of cauliflower,it freezes beautifully, and is wonderful with grilled chicken or steak. Also made an Asian flavored golden beet soup with chiles and coconut milk and froze to enjoy later. Made a terrific kale and sausage tart last week, and a swiss chard and ricotta one this week. Now, I'm on to pattypan squash and zucchini gratin for dinner...
Confederate States of America?
Here is a great recipe I got from my CSA'a website for stir fried radish and kohlrabi – we really loved it!
I had the wifey make me this recipe, it's mad good and a great way to use weird farm share veggies.
What should I have her make me tonight?
Great read and I love the poll. I am surprised at the results. I host a weekly CSA link party and it seems that most of my participants do a good job finding ways to use up all of their CSA goodies...
Thanks for sparking interest in the CSA conversation :)
Don't need a CSA, I grow my own.
Interesting reasons for not participating. The popularity has really picked up in the last 30 months as evidenced by all of the blogs on CSAs. That's a good thing!
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