Monday, April 12, 2010

Getting the Most Out of CSA Life

The following is a submission from one of the newer CSA members, Jet Doye, which she originally sent to me with the title "How I Handle My Box." After collapsing in junior-high glee at the title for a bit, I picked myself up off the floor and read the rest of the submission, which is really lovely and helpful, esp the part about how she keeps her greens fresh. I post it because it has great tips - even for the seasoned CSA member.
-Christiana Thomas

We've made it through the initial stages of feeling overwhelmed every week and are starting to reap the rewards of the amazing simplification our share brings into our lives. We're saving money, eating more plant based foods and having a blast figuring out what to make every week. I don't know what most of our member's lives are like, but I am busy. I have a full time job and a volunteer job. I am taking care of my mother who is living with us while she recovers from a stroke and I am in a relationship with Michael, my partner of 15 years. to handle the CSA????

We pick up on Fridays and I really think that one's schedule for the pick up day or the following day has to include some prep time. While I'm loading the bags out of the box, I think of a quick dinner idea using something more fragile from the week's selections. If nothing comes to mind, I google the names of the more delicate looking contents of the box with the word "recipe" and pick something on the first page. I stop on the way home from work to pick up anything I might need for the menu. When I get home, I always unpack everything and spend a little time with mom and Michael talking about how beautiful all of our vegetables are and trying to get a sense of what I could make in the next week that they will both enjoy. Dinner on pick-up days is usually something I can make in 30 minutes or less, because I find it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to properly clean and store our produce. What does that mean? Since it is winter and we are blessed with an extraordinary variety of salad and cooking greens, I spend a lot of time at the sink, soaking each bunch in water (sometimes twice depending on how dirty the water from the first soak is), then lifting the greens and other vegetables into the salad spinner, without which I would have had to quit our CSA in the first week. After everything is clean and dry, I store them in the refrigerator, in plastic bags, with a bit of paper towel to absorb any moisture that would otherwise accelerate the decomposition of our tasty leaves.

On Saturday, I work out the plan for the coming week. This process is not really an easy one to distill. Sometimes, I read favorite cookbooks, search food blogs, pull back issues of favorite magazines from the current month, watch the Food Network, or Top Chef on Bravo, or Anthony Bourdain on the travel channel, or take a cooking class. In any event, I spend some time putting together ideas, based on the produce in the box, heart health, simplicity, deliciousness, and various other criteria. Once I have a game plan, I check the pantry, then make a list of everything I need to buy. I shop on Saturday, or Sunday, depending on the strength of the pantry, but try to set aside some time on Sunday to cook a great dinner and anything else I won't have time to prepare in the evenings.

This sounds silly, but I literally write a list of everything in the box, then make a note of it's future, then prepare a weekly schedule of three meals and two snacks for each day. From there, it is pretty easy to identify what's missing and get the shopping done. I try to make soups, lentils, and Sunday dinners with leftovers to simplify the rest of the week.

So, that's how we do it.
-Jet Doye


Meredith said...

Jet these tips are great, I only wish I had read them on Wed, before half my greens sat on the counter for 3 days b/c I had no more room in the fridge. I'm going to go soak them in cold water to try and revive them before following the rest of your steps...


The Farm said...

Good luck, Meredith! This technique does make all the difference...


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There is plenty of gozo at Rio Gozo Farm. That is JOY in Spanish and joy is one of the most dependable products we have. Gozo is commonly found in gardens and farms. Once you get a little gozo up and going it is very tolerant of most pests, withstands dry periods, and grows with a modicum of fertilizer. After gozo becomes a staple of one's diet, it goes with about anything. Actually folks crave it so much it is a wonder everyone does not have a patch of it growing close at hand. Grab up some gozo and get with the flow.