Loving My CSA: Learning to Eat a Variety of Seasonal Produce

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Guest Post Written by Nicole Bennett

My first experience with swiss chard was about a year and a half ago. That Martha Stewart, I thought, she always has the strangest ingredients in her recipes. Shortly after that, however, I subscribed our family to a local farm’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and little did I know how broad my vegetable horizons were about to get. Soon, I would be cooking swiss chard as though it were as familiar as spinach.

It turns out that although I wasn’t a picky eater, nor one to shy away from vegetables, I had a pretty narrow repertoire when it came to buying and preparing produce. The standards in our house were salads and common frozen veggies like peas and corn.

Now I often find myself whipping of side dishes with once-seemingly-wacky ingredients like mizuna, kale, and arugula, not to mention amazing heirloom versions of the usuals, like orange colored grape tomatoes, yellow string beans and purple carrots.

Looking back over the last year and half, I can see that our CSA membership has thoroughly revolutionized our way of eating, requiring us to enjoy whatever the season (and the farm) brings.

It’s easy to get caught in a rut with the same ol’ same ol’ when you just buy whatever you want from the produce department, regardless of the season. Since about 90% of our produce comes from our bi-weekly CSA box, we’ve by default, begun eating more seasonally.

Living in Southern California affords our CSA membership to be year-round and I was amazed at the bounty, and variety, that comes in during the winter. Summer is of course the best season though, in my opinion. Our last box contained the first tomatoes of the season. Having basically refrained from buying them at the store over the winter, that first bite tasted the way it was designed to be, like summer candy.

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I love knowing that we can look forward to certain staples at certain times of the year, like the abundance of blood oranges and strawberries we’ve had over the last couple of months and the squash to come in the fall. I find myself appreciating food more as I wait for its time to be harvested. The produce tastes better, too, because it’s being grown and picked on the timetable it was designed for in my local region.

Sticking with the CSA has been challenging at times (kohlrabi? not a favorite of mine), but there are so many resources out there to find new recipes. Our farm keeps an archive of recipes (searchable by ingredient) on their website, and we all know the wealth of cooking resources available elsewhere online.

The variety seems to be beneficial to my daughter (three years old) as well. Not only is she learning to eat a wide range of produce, but she’s exposed to many things that are outside of the mainstream western diet, which is definitely a food goal for my family.

Being a part of a CSA has brought another wonderful aspect to our family’s food culture, too, and that’s knowing where our food comes from. Last weekend, we got to go to our CSA’s annual farm day and see first-hand where our veggie box comes from. My daughter even got to meet Farmer Joe and thank him for growing us such yummy veggies. Seeing her three-year old mind take it all in at the farm was a priceless bonus to being a member of the CSA.

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While our family still splurges on some long-distance foods (bananas, for example), I love not only receiving the most amazing produce but also supporting the local economy. And I’m thankful for the once-unfamiliar items that have now become seasonal standards in our kitchen.

If you haven’t joined a CSA yet, you can search for a local one near you on localharvest.org.

Do you subscribe to a CSA? What’s your favorite aspect of membership?

About Nicole

Nicole is a wife and at-home mom of a spunky preschooler and a beautiful baby boy. She loves handmade gifts, homemade ice cream, baseball and surfing. Nicole founded the online community SurfMamas.com and blogs about daily life, including crafts and other inspiration, at GidgetGoesHome.com.

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Comments

  1. Here’s an alternative way to prepare brussels sprouts, which no one in my family appreciates, ever. Shred them. Yes, it’s labor intensive but it really helps to change them into something different. Then cook in some butter (or olive or coconut oil) with garlic, salt and pepper, add cream and cook until tender. My kids ate them without complaint… but they didn’t come back for seconds and the leftovers went to the chickens. I actually ate about three helpings of them because they ARE tastier, and I LOVE my green vegetables, but in the end they still had a little of that bitter edge that turns us all off of this particular little vegetable.

  2. Nicole, we’ve been members of a local farm for 6 years this summer. My youngest has grown up knowing the farm. It’s wonderful. We have gained so much more than just the veggies we eat by being members.

    I just wrote a post about how I menu plan around our weekly share. This has been a bit of challenge, figuring out how to eat all these unique veggies but we have loved the experience.

    http://fimby.tougas.net/vegan-csa-menu-planning

    PS. My post linked back to this one.

    PPS. I’m envious of all you CA dwellers. No local tomatoes here for another month yet.
    .-= renee @ FIMBY´s last blog ..What a beautiful life I hope =-.

  3. We don’t have a CSA, but we are members of the Oklahoma Food Co-Op, and that means if I buy produce through the co-op, I am buying locally and seasonally. It DEFINITELY challenges our sense of adventure with veggies. We also were the frozen peas and carrots kind of people, so I completely relate to what you have said here.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..Celebrating Independence and Thoroughly Attached Kids =-.

  4. Wow that sounds amazing. I only wish! But I’m not moving somewhere hot so that I can have a year round CSA. Not happening. LOL

    We don’t have a CSA here at all. Our growing season is very short, but hopefully sometime in the future someone will start something for the growing season we do have…but I do doubt it. I have my own garden though. I’m trying kohlrabi this year since I liked it at a friend’s house, but it doesn’t appear to be forming a bottom part properly. At my friend’s house it was served raw with a sprinkle of salt and it was really good.

  5. Ooo, year round CSAs, how awesome! We don’t have one that I’ve found here in Montana, but I’m looking forward to our farmer’s market that opens up in a couple weeks :)

  6. We joined a CSA for the first time this year. I have fully enjoyed the variety, freshness, and “localness” of our supply. Yesterday, for our 4th of July party, I served a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, 2 varieties of lettuce and basil. And I served swiss chard (a new favorite) with goat cheese, and our shrimp boil had CSA corn, potatoes and onions. We LOVE our CSA!

  7. I love CSA shares- I have two: my summer one and then the rest of the year another one though, at much higher price [we're in Oregon].
    My perfect way to eliminate waste is our chickens- they love the tops of carrots and other things we just don’t love a ton of like radishes…

  8. We also, have seen all the benefits you’ve listed as we have gotten just the first 5 weeks (out of 20!) in our first year of having a CSA.
    We love it, and unless we have a HUGE garden plot in our future, I don’t see us not doing it.

    PS-for Kohlrabi, I agree, not my favorite, but we made a killer Asian Salad with our CSA produce one week and with chopping it up finely..it gave the salad a nice crunch (leftovers go into pita pockets for healthy work lunch for hubby)), and I didn’t waste any food!

    Sarah M
    .-= Sarah M´s last blog ..Day 3- Vancouver- BC =-.

  9. Up here in Oregon we can’t have year-round CSA’s, but next spring I’m joining one (I’m moving this summer, so it didn’t seem like a good idea for this year). What do you do with the stuff you know that you just don’t like?
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Friday Finds – June 25 =-.

    • @Diana,
      To be honest, sometimes it just goes bad, but last week I did give something to my neighbor, and I’m going to start doing that more. Thankfully, we are able to make something out of mostly anything. There are only a couple of things I know I won’t eat. I’ve recently also thought about getting a bunny who I could feed extras to. :)
      .-= Nicole aka Gidget´s last blog ..A Natural Approach to InFertility =-.

      • @Nicole aka Gidget, … or chickens… they eat almost anything and it’s where our peels, scraps, leftovers that didn’t get eaten up, or (rarely) a dish that nobody likes goes. Even soured milk (raw)… they LOVE it.