Have you heard of this new-fangled thing known as a CSA? From www.localharvest.org, a CSA is..
- A popular way to buy local, seasonal food directly from farmers
- Consumers purchase a “share”/membership/subscription directly from the farm in return for a weekly box of produce each week.
- By investing in a share, you take on part of the risk farmers experience over the variable growing season, and it helps them stabilize cash flow by getting payment early in the season.
Trying out a CSA was a goal I set for 2013, and I got lucky in the fact that a local farm called Culinary Delights Farm offers drop-offs right at my workplace. I signed up and paid in early spring for 18 weeks of delivery of veggies TO MY FACE. Today was the last delivery, wah! and it is getting cold in MN so I guess I will officially give in and call it fall.
Here are a few pros and cons from the whole experience:
Pros – LOVED trying lots of new veggies and recipes (eggplant, parsnips, new kinds of peppers, 3 different types of apples, lots of squash & herbs) and we definitely upped our veggie intake. The veggies were VERY high quality, and I got used to the extra cleaning needed pretty quickly. Learning a few preservation techniques (blanching + freezing) was fun, too. The farm sends out weekly newsletters with info about the veggies, recipe ideas, and even little tidbits about how the growing season is going and what to expect next. Pick-up at work was very convenient and it was easy to change the pick-up to a different day/location if I needed Brandon to get it instead.
Thanks to all the squash, our little picture wall has never been more festive -
Cons – We are only two people and ended up traveling a lot for work so we did throw some food away. We did a half share but it was still a lot of food for the two of us and I HATE wasting food. It is a little pricey – I think it averaged around $20/week for a half share, which I think is probably more than we spend on veggies normally (whether that is good or bad!). Other than that – no complaints at all, it was a great experience!
Here are a few recipes I tried and loved as a result of signing up –
- Rhubarb & peach crisp with toasted hazelnuts – this was one of the first recipes we tried and soooooo good with vanilla ice cream. Mmm. Toasted hazelnuts are my new favorite food I think. Recipe from the newsletter – here’s a similar one.
- Fresh tomato salsa – lots of salsa recipes recommend cooked, canned tomatoes, but I just chopped up a bunch of fresh Minnesota tomatoes with onion, peppers (sweet & jalapeno), lots of cilantro & lime, and a pinch of salt & sugar in the food processor and voila! Summer-fresh salsa. Brandon went nuts for it and the man HATES tomatoes.
- Homemade baingan bharta with fresh eggplant – my very first attempt at Indian-at-home ever. I’m sure I didn’t do it justice, and I was WAY too heavy-handed with the red pepper the second time around, but it was fun to cook something totally different than usual and fulfill a craving we usually satisfy with takeout. The eggplant I used was very seedy both times, too, so I’m not sure if I should use it right away next time to prevent so much ripening? Anyone have eggplant skillz?
- Butternut squash soup like this. Simple but SO good – squash soup just tastes like fall to me. I’m going to try another batch with some of the different varieties of squash I have collected next week.
- Squash halved, baked & stuffed with a (pre-cooked) mixture of quinoa, lentils, peppers and onions topped with a little parmesan cheese and baked for 30 minutes until warmed through
- Caprese salad at home with fresh tomatoes and basil + mozzarella from Trader Joe’s
- The classic low-carb dinner – baked spaghetti squash with turkey & mushroom marinara
- Last week I made a super healthy and filling veggie soup with lots of cabbage (we had 3 heads at one point.. what do you do with that much cabbage??), carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers, tempeh and quinoa. It was a great way to clean out the fridge and makes a delicious light lunch on these ever-colder days.
- TONS OF SWEET CORN. Oh wait, we always eat a truckload of corn in the summer. This summer it just happened to be a lot of local, fresh corn!
Overall, I HIGHLY recommend Culinary Delights Farm if you are in the Twin Cities area – they deliver to lots of places NW of the Cities and I think they are even going organic next year. For us, unfortunately I do not think we will sign up next year unless I can find someone willing to split the half share with us. We have decided to compromise by hitting up the farmer’s market more often, being selective about choosing local farmers, and branching out with our veggie choices.
Would you ever try a CSA? If you have tried one before, I would love to hear about your experience, especially if you have any tips of what to do with a lot of veg for a small family!