Join your first CSA? You are probably thinking “Ok, so now what?” I was so excited after joining my first CSA that I didn’t think much about what to expect. Until we picked up our first box. Week after week I learn a little more. I’ve put together all of the tips I wish I knew before that first CSA box pick up, and I’m sharing that with you here!
What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and you’ll find them at small local farms. They all operate in their own way, but the general idea is to join and pay into the share early in the year, and each week you pick up a box of produce from the farm. The money raised goes into funding the crops for the season. CSAs can be popular so they sometimes hold lotteries if they know the shares will sell out.
Why join a CSA?
There are a lot of great reasons to join a CSA, but here are a few reasons why we joined:
- CSAs support your local farmer – I love driving by all the little farms in our area and supporting these farms will help to keep them going
- The amazingly beautiful and incredibly fresh produce (usually organic!) we get each week
- Locally sourced produce is great for the environment, since it doesn’t require big trucks to transport to grocery stores
- It’s an opportuntiy to try something new – some of the produce we get in the weekly can’t be found in grocery stores
- A great reason to try new recipes and get the kids excited for trying new vegetables
Ok, so I’ve joined. Now what?
Now you get ready for lots of fresh veggies each week! And I mean LOTS! I’ll admit, it was a bit overwhelming at first. But I learned quickly and have gathered a few CSA tips for you. Even if you find yourself finding bringing home too much of the amazing produce at the farmer’s market, here is what you need to know to make the most out of your weekly haul:
1. You will be on Pinterest – all the time
Whether it’s your third week of Swiss chard or how to use those garlic scapes you’ve never heard of, you are going to want some good recipes. This is especially helpful when you get something you don’t love. There are some amazing recipes out there that turn those vegetables into something great.
Need some inspiration or ideas? Check out the pins I’ve collected on my board for the best CSA tips and recipes!
2. You’ll want to buy vinegar – a lot of it
Greens are dirty. Really dirty.
Our very first haul that was loaded with lettuce, so I promptly made the most beautiful salad ever. I was so excited to serve all of the fresh, local, organic ingredients for dinner that very same night.
Crunch. And it wasn’t the good kind of crunch. Gritty. Dirt. Everywhere.
Then I had flashbacks of my mom washing lettuce and other greens in a bath of white vinegar diluted with water. Oh, yeah. It turns out that just plain ‘ol water isn’t going to do the trick. The vinegar, however, works miracles.
I mix about 1 part white vinegar to 3-4 parts water.
3. You may be able to make trades
Our local farm places a table out where you can make trades. Don’t love something in your box? Have a favorite you want more of? I have not yet made a trade because I like the challenge of using what I was given, but ask me again in a few weeks….
BUT don’t miss the this incredible opportunity to try something new! It’s half the fun of getting a CSA box!
4. You’ll want to do some research on produce storage
After the excitement of my big salad on that first night (and the immediately disappointing crunch of the dirt that was left in there), we settled in for the evening and started making plans for our next recipes. We didn’t give the box another thought and left it out for the night.
We woke up to a mound of wilted vegetables. A lot were still very usable, but not nearly as good as they would be had we properly stored them.
Another week was particularly full of delicate greens and I promptly put them in the top shelf of the fridge on our way out after our CSA pick up. The next morning I was greeted with a lot of frozen greens, forgetting that our top shelf was abnormally cold. Very little survived that time.
Storage varies by the type of vegetable, so you’ll want to do some research based on what you have in your box that week. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- use leafy greens right away and save potatoes, beets, and cabbage until later in the week
- don’t refrigerate tomatoes, potatoes, basil, or onions
- don’t wash produce until you are ready to use it
- store corn, lettuce, peas, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower in plastic bags (in refrigerator)
- once you wash herbs, let dry completely and store in an air-tight mason jar
5. You should start small
If there are options for the size of the share you buy, choose small to start. Especially if you don’t have a big family.
The amount of produce can sometimes be overwhelming. To make the most of your CSA box each week, you’ll need to do some quick meal planning to ensure nothing goes bad before you use it.
As you start to get a feel for ways to use all of those beautiful, fresh veggies, you’ll be ready to cook with more each week and be ready for a bigger box next season.
Follow my Pinterest board for more great ideas, recipes and other CSA box tips!
If you have ever been a member of a CSA, you will definitely have some tips and favorite recipes. I’d love to hear them!