Posts Tagged ‘CSA’

Advice for CSA newbies

Greetings, newbies!

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…

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Reasons to join a CSA Part 1: Food

My reasons for joining Farmers’ Fresh Produce fall into two categories: food and community. In this post, I’ll address the food reasons.


  • You get a variety of seasonal vegetables that you might not have eaten otherwise.

I have definitely eaten more and a larger variety of produce this year thanks to my CSA bag. Field peas, kale, radishes, acorn squash, and Asian turnips are just some of the vegetables I never would have dreamed of eating or buying in the grocery store to cook.


  • Local, sustainably farmed produce more nutritious (?)

The research is hard to sift through. Some studies say yes, some say no, and no one who could be considered an uninterested party is asking the question. But the freshness of CSA produce seems important. When you buy at the grocery store, you don’t know how old the produce is. According to one report, spinach retains only 53% of its folate and 54% of its carotene after just eight days stored at fridge temperature.

  • CSA produce prevents colds.

Okay, so this is based on just on my experience, but this winter I haven’t been sick. I taught school in November and December, and many of the teachers and students had bad colds. My extended family had bad colds over Christmas. But so far, I’ve stayed well, and I’m usually someone who catches most anything that comes around. (Edit: I did get a sniffle last week, but it only lasted a couple of days and showed up after three weeks of no weekly CSA produce.)



  • CSA produce tastes better than what you get at the store.

That’s a really good thing if you’re like me and never were a big vegetable eater.  How are you going to get people who have been raised on foods with high sugar and salt content to like vegetables if you feed them second-rate veggies? And did I tell you all about the night my 18-year-old step-son made himself a salad for dessert?


Last summer when we were on vacation in Florida, I bought some zucchini at the grocery store to make our favorite vegetable dish – stir-fried zucchini. My guys (who are pretty good vegetable eaters in general) thought it was fine, but I ended up foisting all my zucchini off on them. It just didn’t taste anywhere near as good to me.

  • Better taste makes CSA vegetables easier to cook well.

When you start with produce this fresh, simple recipes come out really well. This builds confidence and encourages you to cook and eat more good food. If the first time I’d made stir-fried zucchini had been with store-bought produce, I don’t know if I’d have made it again. Same thing for field peas, beets, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, and lots of other veggies.


Increased anticipation

Seasonal vegetables give you something to look forward to. When everything’s available all the time, you miss out on the anticipation and the change of seasons. I remember when my brother and I would look forward to watching the Grinch every December. Now that people own the DVD and can watch it anytime, it seems to have lost its magic.

Fresh vegetables aren’t exactly the same as Christmas, but it’s still fun when the season and the produce starts to change. Last spring, we were tired of salad and ready for the summer vegetables to arrive . We dreamt of fresh tomatoes and zucchini dishes. Then, by the end of August, I couldn’t wait for lettuce again. It’s a wonderful cycle that’s fun to be a part of. If you really want lettuce, you can go and buy some. But it’s never as good. When I have broken down and bought lettuce at the store, it’s terribly disappointing  – unless it’s so out of season that I can’t remember what CSA lettuce tastes like.

South of Greenville, SC is the Happy Cow Creamery. It began with a dairy farmer who devised a year-long pasturing plan that has the cows regularly moving to, well, greener pastures. He says they get really excited and dance near the gates when he arrives to let them at their new eats.


I totally know how they feel.

Read Reasons to Join a CSA Part 2.

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The exciting world of the prep cook

Before I joined Farmer’s Fresh, I never did much prepping. I’d chop some onions or potatoes now and then. But now I have a new job and you do, too – you are now your own prep cook.

Prepping is a big part of the extra time that eating real food requires. By prepping, I mean

  • washing and drying
  • chopping, slicing, dicing
  • cooking things that can be cooked or partially cooked ahead of time
  • preparing foods that are cold and can just sit in the fridge

Here’s how to survive this addition to your schedule:

Sooner is usually better. But most stuff will survive until the weekend. That’s one of the beauties of CSA produce. It’s so fresh that you have at least a couple days breathing room over anything in a grocery store.

If you are looking for absolute freshness, you may want to delay prepping until right before cooking. But that doesn’t work for me. In the past, I used to look in the fridge and think, “I could put some (insert produce) in this dish, but I don’t have time to wash it and cut it up.” Boo! Now I wash and prep everything at the beginning of the week and have it ready to use whenever I want it. If I don’t, I’m likely to put off using it and that doesn’t do anyone any good. Any loss of freshness is totally worth it to me.

Combine prepping and planning. When you’re washing and examining produce, it’s a great time to think about what it will be good for or with. Here’s more about meal planning.

Keep prepping separate from cooking. Prep in mid morning or mid afternoon on the weekends or even later at night – far away from any eventual meal. There’s too much to do to prep and cook a meal at one time. And the energy required is completely different from when you’re cooking an actual meal.

When you’re prepping you can let your mind wander, turn on the music or the tv, sing, or invite a friend or family member to come hang out. Even if they don’t help much, it will still be fun. When you’re cooking, it’s more about keeping track of different things and timing and what comes next. There’s not so much time for mind wandering.

Get one or two good knives. A good knife can make prepping fun; a mediocre one will drive you insane. You simply have too much chopping, slicing, and dicing to do to muck around with a lesser knife. Other tools are important, too, but knives are paramount.

Delegate. Once you’ve had some experience prepping, figure out what jobs you can pass on to others.

Delegate Part II: One of the reasons I enjoy cooking for my family is that they clean up. Once the plates are on the table, my part’s done. I’m incredibly lucky, I know, that my husband just assumes this is a fair trade. But see if you can’t work something out. Focus on the fairness aspect and let them clean any way they want to. Well, almost any way. I finally had to stop biting my lip and explain to my husband that my wooden utensils can’t go in the dishwasher.

Remember, even when you have to be your own prep cook, it’s still nice to have one.

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