By: Susan Murray, who spent 27 years in Europe and Asia, 9 years as owner/chef of a local B&B, and is the author of 1 cookbook. Food, exploring and writing are her passions. Follow her local cooking blog here.
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I got my first CSA basket from the North Asheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday. It marks the beginning of my summer challenge: how to use the varied and sometimes strange items I am given. It is my own personal game of “Chopped”.
A CSA works like this: The buyer purchases a share of the harvest from a local farm and receives a weekly “box” over the course of the growing season. The produce in the box is what’s in season, what’s ready to pick and what the farmer has chosen. I get mine from Full Sun Farm in Sandy Mush (the prettiest valley in all of Buncombe County. If you haven’t been there it’s worth the trip).
Sounds good, right? It is good. It is the very essence of eating locally. But it can also pose a challenge. Take a look at this list of the top twenty vegetables sold in the USA. That’s pretty much my shopping list right there!
Don’t be daunted by this abundance. Dive right in and experiment! Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your CSA.
- Evaluate what is in the box. Does it need to be eaten right away? If not, what’s the best way to store it? Can I cook it now and save some for another day? Will it freeze? (Tip: the best way to store greens is to put them in a container with a paper towel in the refrigerator. The paper towel will draw moisture away from the greens keeping them from rotting)
- How can these things be cooked? The go-to for greens is to use them in a salad or saute them. But most of them can also be roasted, grilled, steamed and can be used in part of another dish or paired with another item in your basket. Pickling is a great way to preserve the summer freshness!
- Can you incorporate them into your daily routine? If you like smoothies for breakfast, consider adding a handful of kale or other greens to the mix. Salads are an obvious choice for lunch but a homemade soup is always nice.
- Are you a baker? Try a rustic hand pie and go savory with it. Fill it with sautéed greens (spinach, swiss chard etc), roasted vegetables (set some aside to add to your salads. Once roasted they will keep for a while) and cheese. Savory muffins need to be tried! Quiches are a great way to go (Tip: Ask questions at the market. The sellers will usually be happy to share ideas and recipes with you. I like to talk to the bakers. They use a lot of the produce for sale in the market and have some great ideas. And if it’s too much for you to try you can just buy a muffin or pie ready-made!)
- Worst comes to worst: google it! There are a ton of recipes out there just waiting for you. And bloggers, like me, are one of your best sources for recipes and help. This week’s basket included spinach, bok choi, rainbow shard, red kale, lettuce mix and strawberries. Here’s what I did: massaged kale salad with fresh strawberries and goat cheese for lunch, and sautéed rainbow chard with lemon and parmesan as a side with dinner over the weekend. I also made a rustic strawberry and ginger pie. The bok choi will go on the grill sometime this week (assuming it ever stops raining) and the vote is still out on the spinach. I’m going to see what I feel like.
Got ideas? I would love to hear them!