Community Supported Agriculture - or CSA - is a wonderful way to eat with the seasons and to get to know the people who grow your food. And even though we know that eating locally is rewarding, we also know that sometimes it takes a shift in both mindset and methods. Here are a few ideas to make life as a locavore much simpler.
- Get the tools you need to process your food. One of the things that makes processed food so easy is that it’s ready to cook and eat. CSA vegetables have to be chopped and prepped. Some things shouldn’t be washed or chopped until you’re ready to eat, like tomatoes, for instance, but many vegetables and greens can be washed and chopped in advance so they will be ready when you are. Take one night a week to prep veggies so they are ready to use. I use a salad spinner, a lot of storage containers for the fridge, a good sharp knife, and a mandoline.
- Use seasonal recipes and cookbooks. Websites and cookbooks that are focused on local food are helpful, especially if they are organized by vegetable. Particularly helpful are local cookbooks featuring the produce I get in my CSA. Examples: “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” and the University of Missouri extension program’s “Seasonal and Simple” cookbook and website http://seasonalandsimple. info. CSA farmers always have good recipes many of which incorporate several ingredients from each share into one meal.
- Create a “reverse grocery list.” One of the nice things about food from a CSA is that it’s fresh. But, fresh also means it’s not shelf stable. Hardier greens, veggies, and peppers will last a week or two; tomatoes, peas, beans and berries need to be eaten sooner, etc. Create a prioritized list of all share items based on how long they stay fresh and what needs to be eaten first. Use this to plan meals based on what you need to use. I call this the “reverse grocery list” because it tells me the things I already have – not the things I need to buy.
- Have the right staples on hand and be flexible. I have learned that I can turn almost any assortment of CSA vegetables and herbs into either a stir-fry or pasta. If you have on hand the right sauces (or better yet – make your own and preserve them!) and the right grains (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, noodles etc.), you will find it easy to whip together a hearty meal using a colorful, eat-the-rainbow assortment of whatever CSA vegetables happened to be harvested that week.
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