Last time we delved into the what, why and fears of a community supported agriculture, or CSA, subscription. If you didn’t get a chance to get acquainted with CSAs, you can read my last post here.
Now that you’ve taken the first bold step by purchasing a CSA, let’s dive into some nifty practices that Cody and I use to savor our baskets week after week.
Read your weekly CSA newsletter carefully.
The farm has likely emailed you or sent you a link to their site where they list the week’s items as well as tips for storing and preserving them—and they know best! So I recommend starting there once you receive your bundle.
Store your veggies immediately.
Depending on the farm, veggies are delivered in anything from a large plastic bag to a cardboard box. Make every effort to get them to your fridge right away. If you don’t plan on going home upon picking them up, bring a cooler with you in order to keep your veggies fresh and prevent your greens from wilting.
Separate the veggies.
Store veggies in individual bags in your fridge. If you’re using plastic resealable bags, you can rinse the bags out as you empty them, then reuse them each week. You can also use mesh bags to store your produce. Either way, your produce shouldn't be sitting in any loose dirt that might be lingering in your bag or box.
Don’t waste the tops.
Ever try beet greens in a smoothie or sauté your radish tops? These are just a couple simple ways to incorporate them without being wasteful (more tips on this soon). Separate the veggie tops right away before they wilt in order to use every part of the vegetable. Then, store these in bags and use them within a couple days.
Consider your schedule.
The reality is that many of us don’t have the time—or energy—to rinse and dry our greens before we head out to work each morning. Save yourself from foregoing your daily green intake altogether (both hands raised here!) and wash some batches a day or two ahead. As a disclaimer, this doesn’t work for every veggie as you'll see in the next tip. But I find that if I wash my veggies a day or two before I use them, I’m more likely to eat them when they’re their freshest instead of trying to revive some sad, wilted lettuce or herbs.
Know which produce to wash ahead of time.
I’ve found that tough greens like kale, mustard greens and romaine do well when rinsed, dried and stored a few days in advance. On the other hand, softer, fragile greens—like mizuna, arugula and butter lettuces—aren’t so great when washed ahead as they bruise and wilt more quickly. Of course, you can wash items like carrots, beets and radishes ahead of time, and they’ll store nicely; just make sure to pat them dry. Then, if you receive fresh herbs, chop a couple inches off the ends, and store them in a shallow cup of water in your fridge, changing the water and cutting the ends every couple of days. I’ll also leave most, if not all, fruit and tomatoes out on the counter.
By the way, here’s my washing process for leafy greens: First, I’ll fill up a large bowl with cold water. I’ll add my greens and separate them by sort of combing through them to shake off any dirt or worm friends, then I’ll pour out the water and repeat this process one or two more times until the water runs clear after straining. Next, I’ll add them to my salad spinner, spinning a few times until all of my greens are as dry as possible. I might pat them dry with a towel, too. Then, I’ll loosely store them in a large plastic zippered bag, place a paper towel inside to help with soaking up any moisture, and seal ‘em up! I’ll typically use these within three days.
Use your CSA as a template for your week’s menu.
Our subscription typically runs us $20–$25 each week, so we'll adjust our grocery budget and list accordingly. For example, if we have a CSA with three green varieties, summer squash, turnips and radishes, our grocery list that week might include a couple proteins, like a whole chicken and salmon, along with our staples: a couple lemons and limes, onions, fresh garlic, eggs, yogurt and fruit. The key to using up your CSA is to treat it as an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen while also finding multiple uses for each item. For instance, your squash might become fritters one day, then grated for a frittata the next.
So there you have it, a few methods we use week after week to enjoy the local produce from our hardworking farmers.