Lately I’ve been daydreaming about the late summer, when all my favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs are at the peak of their season — tomatoes, eggplant, grapes, basil, summer squash, to name a few.
That I’m excited about all the locally grown and organic produce that is coming my way is a bit of a departure for me and my food habits. That’s not to say I didn’t ever eat fruits and vegetables, or I didn’t ever enjoy them, to be clear. I’ve only met one fruit I didn’t like (grapefruit — way too sour for me!). I liked plenty of vegetables, too, though I found plenty to be way too intimidating to even try. I’d buy a bunch of kale at the supermarket, but it would make its way to the back of the fridge after agonizing about how to cook it for a week straight.
So what has changed, then? I’ve transformed my relationship to fruits and vegetables, and I’ve come to appreciate them in a totally different way. And I have my CSA box to thank for that.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA’s, connect consumers to farms. You pay a fee upfront, and you pledge to support, and take on the risks and benefits, of the farms. In exchange, you get a box of fresh produce every week. In most cases, it’s the farm, not you, that picks out the vegetables.
Pictured: the contents of my CSA box from last week
Nothing has been as exciting as the anticipation of getting my new box every Wednesday afternoon, and figuring out just what the heck to do with all the stuff.
If there’s any way to force yourself into eating vegetables that once intimidated you, and actually come up with creative ways to use them, it’s by signing up for a CSA box. Last week, I received four different kinds of greens (kale, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach), three different herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme), two fruits (lemons, oranges), two alliums (green garlic, leeks) and, to top it off, French breakfast radishes. That’s a lot of produce for two people!
Getting a box of produce every week has made our meals more interesting, and it’s made me explore different ways of cooking. In just the past week, we’ve made leeks in white wine (inspired by a recipe from the CSA newsletter), parsley and lemon salad dressing, kale chips, creamed spinach, and more salads and orange slices than we can count.
These aren’t the fruits and vegetables you’d buy at the grocery store. It took 20 minutes to wash all the dirt off the spinach before we cooked it. I am always taken aback at the complexity of the garlic, leeks and onions. They’re more flavorful and fresh. They have a shorter shelf life. They don’t look perfect – no standardized sizes here.
I’ve finally grown to appreciate the amazing versatility of fruits and vegetables, and all it took was a CSA box. Try it for yourself if you haven’t already — you’ll be amazed how much you grow as a cook.
For a great listing of CSA’s across the U.S., click here!