I’m defining newbie here as someone new to cooking fresh produce as well as new to CSAs. I wouldn’t have said I was “new to cooking” when I joined Farmers’ Fresh two years ago, but I was definitely new to cooking fresh produce.
Start in the spring. Spring is the easiest season to start your CSA subscription because everyone can make salad. Which leads us to…
Get a salad spinner and one or two decent knives. The salad spinner is worth it. Don’t let someone else in your household tell you it’s a silly gadget. Washing and drying lettuce and salad greens is a real chore without one, and you’ll be doing a lot of lettuce washing. A good knife is essential, too, for chopping onions and radishes and everything else. At least sharpen the ones you’ve got. I’ll post about some other tools that might help later, but these are the essential spring ones.
Read your friendly CSA emails. A few days before delivery, you’ll get an email with the “menu” for the next week. This list is usually accurate although occasionally there has to be a change. When you get the menu, you can start planning before you even see your bag. (This is also a good time to visit the online store to see if there’s something exciting there.) Right after delivery, you’ll get another email explaining what’s in the bags and what you can do with it. Also check back here for more ideas and to share yours!
Make friends with salt, butter, and cream. After joining a CSA, you’ll eat better, you’ll eat more from scratch, and you’ll probably eat less meat. So you don’t have to avoid these wonderful ingredients. Sometimes they’re what really make a vegetable dish delicious.
Remember, there is a learning curve. I cringe at my first CSA summer. I didn’t know what to do with so many items in my bag. But there’s really nothing to do but try. Give yourself a break, though, if your first season or two don’t go as smoothly as you imagined. I’m learning that this cooking from scratch is a real craft, and it takes some time to develop a sense of what works.
Does anyone else have advice for new subscribers?