08 November 2011

our first csa season, lessons learned

Our first CSA season. The glory of farm-fresh produce every week and, thanks to the awesome folks at Kilpatrick Family Farm way up north in Granville, NY, this produce was delivered right to our door. By my supercool friend Christina, who I was reluctant to become friends with because adding another "Chris" to my life felt like too much. You know her as the Founder/Editor of From Scratch Club and she's also the CSA Coordinator for KFF.Woot!

I first want to preface by acknowledging how ludicrous, unfair and unjust it is that some of the following statements refer to having too much fresh produce and Oh my, I'm so stressed out about using all of this healthy, nutritious food before it goes bad. I know. It's a tragedy that we shook our heads as the tomatoes piled up and the kale overtook our refrigerator while some people in this world starved, some subsisted on pure crap from the neighborhood bodega and some weren't well enough to eat at all. And yet, here I am. One of life's many injustices.

When one person was away, we had too many veggies. There were several times throughout the season when there was only one of us here to enjoy the bounty. One person, standing in a tiny kitchen with a very large cooler of vegetables, trying to figure out how the hell to eat it all. We don't have the space to preserve much, though Lord knows I've tried, and we don't have a "cool, dry storage" place like a root cellar or spare closet. If I'm completely honest, we wouldn't have the space for dozens of jars of preserved produce even if we had made them. They would be stacked next to the couch, in front of my nightstand and maybe a few would have been lined up on our windowsills. Ya dig? So the veggies we got, we ate that week or the next week. On occasion, we gave some away to friends and family or snuck them into "dinner elf" deliveries.

Eating out made me feel guilty. When the urge hit to go to our favorite outdoor Mexican restaurant patio and stuff ourselves with enchiladas and margaritas, we often suffered a twinge of guilt for abandoning the vegetables waiting patiently in our fridge. "We can't go out tonight, we have a bunch of radishes, three onions, a pound of potatoes and spinach here!" Similarly, anytime I lazily settled on a PB&J or a bowl of cereal for dinner, I could feel the Swiss chard glaring at me from inside the crisper drawer.

We also split an egg share with my mom, and I guess I don't use as many eggs as I thought. Splitting the weekly egg share meant that Chris & I kept a dozen eggs every other week and my mom got a dozen every other week. Somehow, this still ended up being way too much despite the fact that I thought I ate a lot of eggs. I'm not sure what happened, but at one point I had about four dozen eggs in the fridge.

Kale still sucks and I haven't found a really good use for radishes yet. Both of those things are true. As long as we're on the subject, I wish I liked pickles more because I would have had a much easier time wrangling all those cucumbers if I did. Instead I smeared cream cheese on slices of baguette, topped them with cucumber and ate them nonstop. I also put them in my water, my salads and my gin.

Nothing is better than a fresh tomato. Sliced up and topped with oil, vinegar and shallots? Divine.

Related follow-up: did you know you can freeze tomatoes? You can. Really. I froze a bunch of cherry tomatoes and a few romas. When I want to make another batch of insanely-good Tomato Jam, I'll just take them out of the freezer and cook 'em down. Easy. (You should read this post at In My Kitchen Garden about being sick of canning & deciding to freeze tomatoes instead.)

We became much more adventurous cooks. You have to be adventurous when you are faced with a refrigerator full of vegetables you were only vaguely aware even existed. Jerusalem artichokes? Bring it. Hakurei turnips? Ok. Onions that come in more shapes and sizes that you ever imagined? Delicious. Some nights I felt like Barbara Kingsolver or Kristin Kimball, standing in my kitchen and throwing seemingly-disparate fresh ingredients together until I produced a masterpiece of a meal. Or a complete flop, which absolutely happened from time to time. Remind me to tell you about the time I made a radish dip that no one ate, and a few people said smelled like feet. For the record, I thought it was pretty good. But also ask me about the chocolate cupcakes that had beets in them. They were legendary.

Speaking of beets... I don't know if this happens for everyone, but becoming part of the CSA world nudged me even closer to the weird hippie food world that I so enjoy. I've made beet & brown rice veggie burgers, am currently in possession of almond, rice and hemp milk and I've brewed my own kombucha. (I'll tell you more about those last two things soon.) Maybe those things aren't directly related to being in a CSA, but my deepening involvement in our foodshed and our own personal food system has perhaps pushed me past the point of no return. I love it.

Well, it turns out that I have a lot to say about my first CSA season. Are you interested in joining one next summer? I've got a few friendly tips and final thoughts for you-- I'll share them tomorrow :)


  1. Thank you for sharing! I did not do a CSA this year but we did frequent the farmers market and I often found that my eyes were bigger than my ability (and possibly commitment) to consuming all we bought. I did my best to freeze any sad looking vegetables in a "stock bag.". And I also can't get into leafy greens beyond spinach. They just aren't my taste. Sorry kale!

  2. I love kale! have you tried it on pizza in place of spinach? it gets kind of crispy and tastes pretty good. Anyway--my boyfriend and I are interested in joining a CSA next season and sharing since it seems to be a lot of produce for one person. Joining one has been on my to-do list for years! I can't wait to try it out.

  3. totally agree with all of this. overall we ate healthier and more economically - but the thing about the kale glaring at you.. totally true.. I put it all in soup and I still forcing myself to eat it... everything was great.. but Dandelion greens were something we had to pretend we liked to eat.


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