Monday, August 5, 2013

Community Supported Agriculture {Making Sense of a CSA}

If you follow us on Instagram, you saw this picture a few weeks ago...
A few months ago Jarrod and I signed up for a summer season CSA - community supported agriculture share. Each week for 8 weeks we drive to our drop site where we pick up 10 different types of produce. These veggies have been grown at a local farm and are seasonal, sustainable, and organic.

I am still not proficient in CSA, but I can tell you about our experiences. We paid $40/week up front or an entire summer share. The food is picked up each week and is enough to last Wesley, Jarrod, and I all week. We are diligent about using all of it, even the things we've never had before. We have frozen some of the foods for use later.

When we arrive at the pick-up location all of the produce is set up in bins. Each bin has a label telling how many of that item is in the pick-up today. For example, on the spaghetti squash bin it said, "1" and on the green bean bin it said, "1 large handful."

The first set of bins are the farmers choice. These 5 items are chosen by the farmer and everyone gets them. The next 5 items can be chosen by us. We choose 5 out of about 10 choices and usually pick based on our tastes and what we think we can do with it all together. For example, we won't pick something that will require us to buy more at the store when we could pick something that already goes with everything else we have.

The picture above is from our first pick-up. The items were:
  1. Tomatoes
  2. Green bell peppers
  3. Spaghetti squash
  4. Zucchini 
  5. Summer squash
  6. Mushrooms
  7. Green beans
  8. Beets
  9. Corn
  10. Sweet potatoes
It was all relatively normal. The beets actually went bad before we could figure out what to do with them. We learned to store all of the produce in the fridge after that because our kitchen gets very warm. From this batch we made roasted veggies, green beans with sliced almonds, sauteed sweet potatoes, roasted corn salsa for tacos, zucchini bread, and spaghetti squash with tomato sauce.

Week two was Jarrod's first experience with the CSA. It was a very fun time and we got a few more wild items! 
  1. Tomatillos
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Lambsquarters
  4. Amaranth
  5. Zucchini 
  6. Squash
  7. Sweet potatoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Poblano peppers
  10. Green bell peppers
This week was more of the same from last week. Jarrod made a delicious tomatillo salsa, we used the lambsquarters for green smoothies, made amaranth chips, and another batch of zucchini bread. YUM! I roasted the eggplant with squash and a few other things and ate that all week. Wesley and I also enjoyed the sweet potatoes roasted  in olive oil with a little salt.

Week 3 was a real adventure!
  1. Beets and greens
  2. Prickly pear
  3. Corn
  4. Green beans
  5. Zucchini and squash
  6. Green onions
  7. Mirliton
  8. Shallots
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Red bell peppers
We were a little perplexed about the beets, prickly pear, and mirliton this week. We've had all of that before, but never prepared it ourselves. After a little recipe searching, Jarrod made stuffed mirliton with red peppers, shallots, green onions, and sausage. We roasted the beets and beet greens and put them on pasta with a little feta. I made MORE zucchini bread. I keep thinking that the extra loaves in the freezer will last months, but I know better. Jarrod is making prickly pear salsa with the shallots, green onions, and peppers. We grilled the corn, cut it off the cob, and it's how happily frozen in the freezer waiting for a chili, stew, or corn bread.

Our CSA also has the option of adding on free-range eggs (which we didn't, but are regretting!), meat, and fruits are available for purchase on Saturdays at our pick-up. We've had peaches, pineapple, mango, and kiwi in our smoothies for the past few weeks and it's delicious! There's something about fresh fruit straight from the farm.

We are extremely pleased with the CSA experience we've had so far. We love figuring out what to do with unique items and trying new things we've never had before. It's a great way to ensure we are getting healthy produce without going to a lot of trouble. We will likely experiment with other CSAs in our area (right now we are looking at Urban Acres.)

Have you ever joined a CSA? Do you have experiences you would like to share? If you've never tried one, what questions do you have?
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