The fall and winter CSA session is upon us! For those new to the CSA, welcome! This weekly blog is full of information to help you make the most of your CSA experience. It includes recipes, information about the food -- how to cook it, what to do with it, why you’ll love it -- and inspiration for developing a deep love for local and seasonal eating. For those new to the CSA, and as a reminder to those who have been with us a while, I thought I’d start this season with some helpful tips and tricks for making the most of those beautiful veggie boxes.
When you bring your vegetables home, try to put them away when you can carve out thirty minutes or so to do a little bit of prep. This will help you to have faster access to your ingredients as you cook throughout the week. When deciding how much advance prep to do, it’s helpful to consider the amount of time you’ll have available during the week for cooking. The more limited your weekly cooking time, the more advance prep will pay off. Prep can include washing and trimming as well as pre-chopping vegetables for snacks or meals. Save time and money by saving trimmings such as celery leaves and carrot ends for stock. I keep a “stock bag” in my freezer and add trimmings as they accumulate.
I find it’s easiest to plan how I’ll use each vegetable by taking notes as I unpack my veggie box. Some people plan using the vegetable list in the weekly newsletter, but I like to see, feel, and touch the vegetables to find my inspiration. Writing my ideas down on paper goes a long way in making sure nothing gets wasted. For me, mental lists often end up buried or forgotten until I find that the daikons I had planned to ferment are now molding at the bottom of my crisper. Keep your veggie list close to the refrigerator, and make notes/cross things off as you change plans or use items. In time, this habit will help make it much easier to plan and cook meals based on what’s available. For many people, meal planning in our society means first listing the dishes one plans to cook in a week, and then listing and procuring the ingredients. Eating seasonally and locally works best when using a system that first lists the available ingredients, and then considers what meals could take shape from those items. It’s a significantly helpful shift to make, and one that gets easier with practice.
Because CSA food doesn’t have to travel far distances or wait around on store shelves, it tends to last much longer than food bought in the grocery store. Knowing the proper way to store food will help ensure that it lasts even longer. Although each vegetable is unique, there are some general guidelines that are helpful to know.
Leafy greens - If your crisper space is limited, you’ll want to give a priority spot to lettuces, kale, chard, spinach, etc. These are the items that will wilt most easily in the regular refrigerator environment. If you wash and chop these items when you unpack your CSA box, you’ll want to plan to use them within a few days, as leafy greens will spoil more quickly once they’re no longer fully intact.
Onions and Potatoes - Onions and potatoes need to be stored in a cool, dry place moderately far away from each other. Air circulation is important to avoid early rotting, so never store these vegetables in plastic or a tightly enclosed space. Do not wash potatoes before storing, as the introduction of moisture will lead them to mold and rot more quickly.
Root vegetables - Store items like carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips in the refrigerator, in the crisper drawer if space allows. If you have no crisper space available, enclose them in an airtight container lined with a paper towel until you free up some crisper space. The danger of storing root vegetables outside of the crisper is that they may become soft; if this happens, try cutting off one end and soaking them for several hours in a bowl of ice water placed in the refrigerator.
Squash - Store squash in a cool, dry place. The refrigerator environment is too moist for squash and will cause it to lose shelf-life.