Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA: have you heard of it?
Here’s how it works. For a relatively small fee, individuals and families subscribe to their local CSA program. Most CSA’s will source fresh, organic produce from local farms– whatever is freshest, ripest and in season. Every week, CSA subscribers pick up their box of produce from a local stop.
Rinse, cook, enjoy, repeat.
But why would you want someone doing your grocery-shopping for you? In fact, isn’t it a bit of a drag to meal plan when you’ve got a boxful of random vegetables, some perhaps you’ve never seen before?
These are all great questions, and I’ve had to wrestle with them recently. My husband and I now subscribe to Abundant Harvest Organics, a CSA program that we absolutely love. And yes, while it’s meant adapting to new veggies and fruits, as well as adjusting how we normally shop for groceries, it has been beyond worth it.
If you’re considering subscribing to your local CSA, I highly recommend it! Here are a few reasons why.
1. It’s cheap. Before we started subscribing to CSA, we spent about 50% of our weekly grocery budget on fresh produce. Trying to purchase local organic fruits and vegetables, even when shopping at the farmer’s market, can get pretty expensive. But at less than $23 a week, we’re guaranteed the freshest local organic produce we’ll ever find– and more than we can eat if we don’t put our mind to it! And if you ask me, that’s a pretty good deal.
2. It’s convenient. While we still go to the farmer’s market for meat and bread, and to our grocery store for pastured eggs and dairy, receiving a weekly delivery of fresh produce saves us a lot of shopping time. I no longer stand at the grocery aisle staring at the 500 choices in front of me. Instead, I drive to a parking lot five minutes away with my empty CSA crate, exchange it for a full one, and that’s that.
3. It’s healthy. Not only is it increasingly recommended that we eat more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but it’s important that we consume a variety of produce. While I could probably eat this collard greens salad all week, it’s better that I’m also trying roots and tubers, cruciferous vegetables, other leafy greens and even fresh herbs. To avoid wasting produce from the CSA, we’ve learned about new vegetables and how to eat them. I daresay we’ve even loved them.
4. It’s natural. The recent farm-to-table, seasonal dining trend has a lot of history behind it. This is how people used to eat, before our food industry became a global economy. Nowadays, we’ve almost completely forgotten that some produce is not naturally available year-round. There’s something I love about being limited to eating whatever is ripe and delicious just miles from where I live. This is how people used to do it. They ate whatever their local farmers were harvesting.
5. It’s creative. Even if you’ve got less kitchen confidence than the next person, there’s nothing like jumping into this culinary adventure. Vegetables aren’t always easy to prepare, but they’re a great thing to know how to cook. Make your veggies right, and you’ll realize how sweet carrots can be, or how crunchy radishes are, or how rutabagas make a great breakfast hash. Working with these veggies have given me a new appreciation for their incredible natural flavor, color and texture– and I’ve only fallen more in love with this incredible planet we live on!
Now comes the big question: how do we meal plan? I’m still figuring this one out, but incorporating CSA produce into your weekly diet does take some thinking ahead. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1) Arrange the produce from most urgent to least urgent. Some things (like roots and winter squash) last for days in the fridge; others should be consumed immediately.
2) Don’t force yourself into making a full recipe each meal. The other day, we roasted sweet potatoes and ate them for lunch. Not a real dish, but absolutely delicious and filling.
3) When in doubt, add it to something you know. I love adding chopped veggies to lentil soup or chili. Thinly sliced roots and fruits are great on salads. Most vegetables are also excellent in fried rice (a little soy sauce helps!). And if you’re completely desperate, throw the vegetable in a blender with some frozen fruit and drink up.
Have you or will you consider subscribing to your local CSA? What are your favorite seasonal produce right now? I’d love to know!