So you subscribed to a CSA and received your food? Congrats and welcome! Now comes the most difficult and most fun part: Figuring out what to do with all this awesome food. It may seem like a lot but with a system and about an hour it will be a breeze. When the hour is up you will have washed and pre-prepped food ready to snack on and grab for meals.
How to prepare:
I wash my veggies the day I get them, giving myself about an hour. This may seem like a time commitment, but it is worth it, and once everything is washed, you will be much more inclined to use it through the week.
I grab the necessary supplies to clean my vegetables: I clean my sink and grab my drying rack, salad spinner, colander, vegetable brush, paper towels or clean towel, lemon juice and baking soda. If you don’t have a salad spinner expect to use more paper towels to dry off greens. A vegetable brush is a few dollars and if you are in a CSA it’s worth it. It works well and you will find your vegetables, picked fresh from the ground, will have dirt or sand on them.
First I usually clean tomatoes, squashes, root vegetables, things like that (everything but greens, saving them for last). I fill the sink or a really big bowl with water, baking soda and lemon juice (when you add the lemon juice it will foam up with the baking soda). Alternately you could make your own produce wash in a spray bottle. I then put all the squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, melon type food into the sink, kind of shake it around and let it set for a few minutes. Then I take it all and run the produce one-by-one under water while scrubbing off any dirt, put it on my drying rack or (especially if you have smaller items) colander and let it air dry.
Next I tackle the greens. Drain the water from the other vegetables, and refill the sink or bowl. Take off them stems if you won’t use them and take out any bad leaves. Put the lemon juice and baking soda into the water. Drop the greens into the water, leaving a lot of room for the greens to float around and really have room to shake loose the dirt and sand. This part is very important. Put your hands in the water and grab, move and shift the greens so they get loose of any particles you don’t want. Let them sit in the water a bit. Next take a few handfuls into the colander and rinse and drain the greens. Then put them in your salad spinner and spin. If you don’t have a salad spinner let the greens sit a few minutes more in the colander and dry them with towels. The point is to get them dry as moisture will make the greens go bad sooner. Put them in a container with a tight lid or a bag with a closure.
While the greens are drying, I will often cut vegetables I want cut for easy snacking or to grab for food prep. Any vegetables with roots get cut so they are ready to eat (and the roots and stems will continue to suck moisture out of the vegetable), things like that. The more you can do upfront to prepare a food (without increasing how soon it will go bad) is great and means you will more likely use the food. This all may seem daunting at first but trust me, it gets easier once you have done it a few times.
How to maximize food use:
- Based on the food you received, plan meals around this. This is why it is nice if you have a little advanced notice on what will be part of your share that deliver.
- Use the foods in order of how long they will last.
- By having the food washed and prepped, you are probably more likely to use it already. And if something can be snacked on or eaten raw, it’s good to go.
- Think of unusual places to use traditional foods, or ways to add something you have on hand to food it might not normally be a part of. Think: Boosting smoothies or adding pureed vegetables to marinara sauce or soups.
- Many foods you might not eat can be used. Some of my favorites are sauteing beet greens or roasted seeds from winter squash to eat alone or toss on salads.
- Anything left over or going bad that isn’t too bitter can be tossed in for a homemade stock. And my favorite way to maximize it is freeze the stock in ice cube trays (1/8 cup each) for easy future use. You can make pesto with any green and freeze it the same way.
- Preserve foods by freezing or pickling (even short-term pickling like this easy, delicious cucumber relish)
Typical meals to use a lot of CSA food:
- Lasagna/pasta and veggies
- Rice/grains and sautéed, grilled or roasted vegetables (like my favorite rice bowl)
- Soup (like my summer gazpacho)
- Add vegetables on hand to a veggie burger
- Calzones (using premade pizza dough if you wish). These freeze so well.
- Still out of ideas? Try these sites for inspiration.
Have you been a part of a CSA? What did you think of it?