I subscribe to my local CSA – every few weeks, I put money in my CSA account (equivalent to $20 a week) and then each week I pick up fresh organic produce from Crooked Sky Farms, saying hello to some of the farmers, maybe asking some questions or talking about how the latest weather affected this week’s harvest, then head home.
The benefits are many: just-picked high-quality produce that’s traveled a relatively short distance for far less than you’d pay at the grocery store, a connection with the people who actually grow your food, and eating fruits and vegetables that are in season for your area.
There are challenges, though. You can’t choose what produce you’ll get – so if you don’t like zucchini and you get a bunch of zucchini, there’s not much you can do about it (other than go to the trading stall and see if you can switch it for something you do like). You have one window of time each week to pick up your harvest (though if you can’t make it, you can have a friend swing by and pick it up for you). You need to bring your own bags. If you have a whole share to yourself and you’re only feeding 2 people, it’s a LOT of veggies to eat!
I do it for both the benefits AND the challenges. It’s like a game – with all these veggies, many of which I’m seeing for the first time – what can I use them for before the next Tuesday rolls around? The goal of course is to use everything up without throwing anything away (which is such a crime). The cool thing is that lately I’ve been meeting that challenge! So why not up the stakes even further and share how I’ve been doing this on my lil ol blog?
There’s another reason I’m blogging about this. Tucson has a unique growing season and some interesting (read “weird”) native plants that are considered food – so you’ll sometimes find
nogales nopales (thanks for catching that, Jeff!), otherwise known as cactus pads in your haul. It can be intimidating. There are other locals who would like to join the CSA but just don’t know what they would do with it all. So I figured sharing my menu plans, the recipes/ideas that appeal to me, and then how it all ended up going down could give my fellow Tucsonans some ideas/inspiration.
One thing I have to make clear though: I work from home and I don’t have kids, which makes cooking every night MUCH easier. When it’s time for a break from work, I can walk down the hall and slip in some food prep or run out if I’ve forgotten something from the grocery store. So just keep that in mind and don’t see this series as an admonition (why aren’t you cooking more?) or God forbid a way to pile more stress on yourself. Nobody needs that.
So let’s begin.
On Monday, the CSA sends out an email to subscribers with a link to that week’s *planned* harvest. Note they say *planned* because it’s a real live working farm subject to real live weather conditions (and in Tucson they can be a doozy – this winter alone saw lows in the teens and highs in the 80s within a week of each other!) But that’s part of the learning experience, too.
Tuesday is my CSA pick up day. I saw on the website that it was a whole lotta greens (typical for the winter – and fine by me because this Deep South girl LOOOOOVES her some greens). Luckily I remembered to bring two reusable bags – greens take up a lot of space! Next week I’ll try to remember to take pictures (me == ditzy) but for this week just imagine lush fresh versions of the following:
- big bunch of mustard greens
- bunch of dino kale
- bunch of collard greens (lovely too! not too large/old/bitter)
- bunch of arugula
- 4 tangelos! (yum)
- 3 lemons (citrus is another star of Tucson’s winter produce)
- bunch of Hakurei turnips (I don’t think I ever had a turnip before joining the CSA but I dig ’em!) Note that with turnips, you eat both the root AND the tops. More greens!
- lush bunch of dill
- 3 beautiful yellow onions
And here is my planned menu for the week. When I see the week’s planned harvest list, I go ahead and look up recipes on the Internet or in cookbooks, plan a menu and then make a list of other things I’ll need from the grocery store after picking up my produce. (this week I ended up splurging and went to Whole
Paycheck Foods because we’d been doing a lot of lentil soups already and just felt fancy, but usually I go to the Food Conspiracy Coop on 4th Ave and keep other purchases to a minimum).
- Dover sole fillets + sauteed collard greens w/ lemon and olives + quinoa – This is one of the times I find recipes and then tweak them with what I have. This meal was a mix of this recipe and this recipe. I used collards instead of chard, white quinoa instead of red and dill instead of parsley as the herb). This is one of the few times I planned a meal with different ‘courses’ instead of the one-pot meals I usually go for.
- Chicken and kale stew – I’ve made this before and it was deeelish. Used turnips instead of the carrots.
- Mustard greens gratin – I usually don’t cook with so much dairy/cheese but my oh my this looks good. We might be going to some kind of potluck event or dinner this weekend, and this would be great to bring
- Sausage and greens pasta – This Mario Batali recipe looks like our kinda hearty pasta dish! Using turnip greens instead of kale.
- Stuffed acorn squash – I’ll use arugula – probably add a turnip here, too.
Any leftover greens I’ll incorporate with my breakfast (sauteed greens and/or leftovers with fried egg or eggs on top == comforting yum). You can also add them to sandwiches and salads.
The tangelos will be great little snacks.
Lemons and onions will be used up in various dishes (I can’t have enough lemons or onions – or garlic for that matter). Lemons go great with tea, too.
For two people, there’s a mighty good chance I’ll need to freeze some leftovers/extras. But this also gives us the flexibility of feeding friends who come to visit us or bringing them to someone’s party. I always feel the compulsion to cook more food than we need!
Today’s Thursday. So far I already made the sole dinner and Chicken and Kale stew. Around Tuesday, I’ll let you know how it went (did I use everything up? Ooof, it’s a lotta food already) and then start the whole shebang again.
In the meantime, happy eating!