Are you new to Community Supported Agriculture? You have probably realized by now that it takes some organization and planning to make sure that nothing is wasted each week. My family has been receiving awesome, organic delights from Herb and Plow Farm for three years and we have discovered a few things along the way that help us to get every bit of goodness from our boxes.
- Get into the correct mind-set. Oh how spoiled we have become. We can walk into any grocery store and buy any fresh fruit and produce we desire, regardless of the season. It was not always this way. My grandmother, a city girl, grew up eating what could be purchased from the local farm stands and the town’s butcher. My grandfather grew up on the family farm and ate only what was produced on the farm. They both understood seasonal eating. Strawberries were a spring delight to eat fresh and preserved as jam to be enjoyed in the winter. If they had a craving for fresh strawberry shortcake in December, they were out of luck. I think that is why strawberry shortcake was such a treat. It could only be enjoyed in-season. When you become a CSA member, you are making a commitment to seasonal eating just like Grandma and Grandpa. Glorious, fresh, good-for-you produce, picked, and practically delivered to your door – to quote Forrest Gump, “You never know what you’re gonna get!” THAT is the fun part. Keep an open mind each week and enjoy the adventure of trying new things. We have grown to love purple sweet potatoes, chard, kohlrabi, rocket onions, and other vegetables that we never would have purchased at our local grocery store because we first tried them from our weekly veggie box.
- Put a veggie-scrap bucket in your refrigerator. I wrote a post about this last year. We call our oldest daughter “the veggie police” because she never lets a scrap go to waste. She makes sure we scrub everything and save the peelings and other parts we would normally toss in the trash. Everything goes into the bucket. Once a week we toss the contents into a stock pot and add whatever meat bones we might have (yes, we save those as well). Add water and simmer for hours and hours. Strain and freeze. You will never have to buy chicken, beef, or veggie stock again!
- Unpack and properly store your veggies when they arrive. Our box arrives at the busiest part of the day. I work from home, so I rely on my family for help with this. Unload and make a list of everything. Put it up on the fridge. It helps keep track of what you have when planning meals for the week. Tomatoes, stem side down, get lined up on paper towel on the counter. Berries go unwashed into the fridge. Herbs go bouquet-style into a water glass in the fridge. Every other day refresh the water and trim stem ends. Potatoes go into a box in a cool, dark corner of the pantry. Other veggies go into crisper drawers, etc. This takes 10 minutes, tops, including doing most of the prep for tip #4. While you are unpacking, make a mental note about amounts. Perhaps you have a small acorn squash or a few beets that are not enough for a side dish for your family. Roast these veggies and add them, when cool, to a salad, or mix with other veggies (cauliflower, potatoes, etc.) to extend them. Mixing veggies is a good way to try them for the first time. A serving of beets might be too much for a first try, but a bite of a beet in a medley of other veggies is a great way to try something new.
- If your family loves salads, prepare a salad bar. I have a HUGE, HUGE bowl with a tight-fitting lid. It lives in the fridge, holding salad greens during veggie-box season. I also have another divided container with a lid. It has six compartments. When the box arrives, fill the sink with cool water and a splash of white vinegar and throw in all of the salad greens. By the time everything else is put away, the greens are clean. Spread out on a paper towel to dry. Cut cucumber, peppers, onion, carrot, celery, etc. and put into divided container. Tear greens and put into large bowl. Now you have a salad bar that is easy to put together. When eating salads during the week, all the work is done. Put together a lunch salad in less than five minutes! Add leftover chicken, avocado, cheese, etc. It cuts down on waste because each person can custom design their own salad. No more bowls with uneaten cucumbers or celery in the sink! If you are a tomato-lover, wait until just before eating to cut and add to the salad. This tip adds about 10 additional minutes to the unpacking step, but saves much more time throughout the week and will lead to less waste.
- Plan a simple supper on your veggie delivery day. At our house, if it’s Tuesday, it’s crock-pot day. Add to that main course the salad bar that was prepared, plus the sauteed spinach and bok choy tops from the veggie box (literally five minutes from wash to serving bowl) and dinner is on the table. The rest of the bok choy will get chopped and sauteed with the swiss chard later in the week – yum! This past Tuesday we also enjoyed fresh strawberry shortcake for dessert. Slicing and sugaring the strawberries added three minutes to our veggie-box prep. Frozen biscuits were popped into the toaster oven during dinner……..Is your mouth watering yet?
An open mind, a sense of adventure, and a little bit of preparation can make all the difference when participating in Community Supported Agriculture. There are very few true surprises in life. Your weekly veggie-box is one of them. Embrace seasonal eating the way Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed it. These tips will help you save time and use every bit of those veggies without wasting a bite.