Helpful Advice

I sent out an email to members of the farm who have been with us for at least a year.  The purpose was to gather advice as to how to make the CSA experience the best it can be.  I felt members would be much better at providing guidance than I would; they have more experience at being a CSA member than I do.

Initially I was going to edit and condense the information.  However after I copied and pasted it from the emails into this post I felt the words used by the members were far superior to what I could produce and gave a better sense as to their intentions.  So, except for a bit of editing for spelling mistakes (actually I think the bits got transposed while being transported through the internet; our members do not misspell words) and just a bit of grammar, here is the advice from fellow CSA members.  Feel free to add additional suggestions:

- You don’t need a recipe to enjoy the produce.  Frequently it has a lot of flavor and only needs to be cooked (stir-fried) briefly to bring out the best taste.

- Most vegetables can be frozen after blanching a short time.

- If you don’t have all the ingredient to make something either leave out the missing ingredients or substitute.  Cooking is not baking and if the recipe isn’t followed perfectly the dish will still taste great.

Buy enough produce to make it worthwhile to pick-up at the farm.  Buying too few shares doesn’t provide a complete experience.

When you think your tomatoes might go bad and you don’t have time to can them, just throw them directly in the freezer and later use them to make spaghetti sauce (or I presume any other kind of sauce). You don’t even have to thaw them, just cut them up and cook with your other spices. Those heart-shaped tomatoes work best.

Don’t be afraid to try a new vegetable!  I had more fun learning and trying new things than I would have if I had only stuck with those things that were familiar!

Buy the fruit!  I had cherries, blueberries and peaches.  All were beyond spectacular!

Eat cauliflower first.  It starts to make the refrigerator smell funky.

Start looking up new tomato recipes or learn how to can salsa. 

1. Roasting veggies helps use a bunch quickly (tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, onions, squash, garlic (but that does store really well), fennel, potatoes). It’s fast and easy (chop, toss with olive oil and bake at 375 to 425 for 40 to 60 minutes depending on temperature). You can freeze or refrigerate after.

2. Roasted tomato sauce (can get recipe if you want)

3. Get a cookbook that groups items by season

4. Invite the neighbors over to help you consume — friendly and healthy

Tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, hot peppers and cilantro make a great fresh salsa and they are all in season at the same time.  Just adjust the ratios for the right amount of flavor and zing for your family.

My grandson loves slices of red or yellow sweet peppers and cherry tomatoes with ranch dressing. A great healthy snack!

Beets are wonderful just boiled or steamed with butter and pepper.

Herbs can be dried by putting them upside down in small paper bags and used throughout the winter.

Adventure and experimentation. I can’t wait to see the produce each week. I think about ways to use things on my way home.

Serendipity. Have folks over to share the bounty.

I really missed it when it was over. Ate more vegetables (and fresher) than ever before.

Bring lots of bags to pick up the vegetables. I picked them up once when my wife was out of town, and the two bags I brought were nowhere near enough. 

My best advice to new members is to TRUST YOUR (the farm’s) ADVICE! Last year was my first year, and I had a great experience. I read your advice on the web site thoroughly and followed it. It helped me decide about how many shares to order, how to deal with new vegetables that I hadn’t tried, and my worries about whether I’d like everything.

I not only liked everything, it was truly some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. You were absolutely correct that I didn’t need to worry about recipes. I found myself just throwing together whatever was fresh that week and making some incredibly delicious meals. It was fun, too!

I found myself eating more healthfully overall because I was so inspired by the variety of fresh veggies. I literally felt better by the end of the growing season and was really sorry to see it end. So, I added a winter share and even canned my first tomatoes. The winter share lasted until last month and the tomatoes until this month! I enjoyed using tomatoes from the farm instead of a can during the winter months.

I don’t know if this is of any help. I think that you already to a great job providing information about the farm. The reason that I had a successful experience is because my expectations were appropriately set by all of the good information that you provided up front. We’re happiest when our expectations match the reality–not an easy thing to do in my life. Due to all of your great information, my expectations were not only met, they were exceeded!

  • plan to go grocery shopping the day after you pick up your share so you can plan your weekly cooking around what you get and have time to do some research in between
  • similarly plan some time the night you get your share to do some soaking, washing, cutting, freezing right away – putting the time aside right away gives you time to make the most of what you get – one evening of cleaning salad greens gives you a week of easy salads
  • purchase a salad spinner – it comes in handy for salad greens, kale, beet greens and later even helps with small potatoes and herbs – it might take up space in the cupboard but its worth it
  • don’t forget breakfast when it comes to CSA food….green stuff in omelets, potatoes of course, breakfast burritos, quiche is easy to make and freezes well

The Fresher (transport time from the soil to your plate) the produce, the more nutrients & vitamins. A green leaf vegetable being on the store’s self for 4 days, looses 40% of the vitamins and other vital nutrients. What a great way to have it from the farm to your plate the same day!

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Produce growing in organic soil contains more vitamins and minerals than produce grown with crude oil (all the chemical fertilizers are made from oil!). NOT to mention the harm to your immune system consuming oil grown produce.

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Supporting your organic farmer you support your food supply, your health, your community, the environment (no oil to transport produce from far away places), your local economy, the top soil, just to mention a few positives.

The tomatoes arrive in plastic bags.  I assess them and take them out of the bags or else they don’t stay fresh.  If there is a slight break in the skin I try to eat it first.

My box arrives mid week so I try to do more cooking the first 2 days.

Choose one to four veggies and then look up a Google recipe.  My favorite: onions, garlic, green pepper stir fried plus potatoes or zucchini or tomatoes.

Kale cooked with eggs is great. 

Read the fruit suggestions about ripening.

TRY EVERYTHING

        - Don’t avoid something because you’ve never had it before.  This is an adventure and there’s something that’s going to wow you.

        - Don’t avoid something because you had it before and you didn’t like it.  You might be surprised how much better “fresh picked” tastes.

        - Don’t avoid something because it looks weird.  That weird looking heirloom tomato packs more flavor than a bushel of perfect looking supermarket tomatoes.

I recommend taking up canning.  It’s easier than people realize and a couple of books helped; we canned a bunch of our CSA goodies.  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving was our favorite.  We enjoyed things like sauerkraut, spiced red cabbage, a wonderful hot pickle condiment (similar to Jardinière) but included cauliflower and whatever veggies we wanted to turn into hot pickles.  Extra jars of our canned masterpieces made great Christmas gifts.

Don’t be afraid to try new recipes – you don’t know what you don’t like until you haven’t liked it.

If you don’t think you like a vegetable, try preparing it in different ways – if all else fails, you can always add cheese.

Fresh vegetables don’t contain BPA, unlike their canned relatives. :)

If you’re not careful, you just might end up being a vegetarian.

Don’t put off eating your vegetables. They’ll get sad and you’re gonna get even more the next week.

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2 comments to Helpful Advice

  • librarianm0m

    These tips are awesome! Some others I thought of are:

    - Buy the book, “From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce,” from the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. Chris, you had the 3rd edition of this book available for purchase by members a couple of years ago, and I have found it to be invaluable in figuring out how to prepare some of the veggies. In addition to covering each veggie individually with recipes, there are recipes using multiple items that are in season at the same time. Also, because this was done by the Madison Area CSA Coalition, the focus is on items that are grown in the upper Midwest. My all-time favorite recipe for Brussels sprouts comes from this cookbook. It taught me to love Brussels sprouts. The Internet is great, but this print resource is a good one to have on hand when you don’t want to get your computer wet in the kitchen. :)

    - Yes, you can eat radish greens, and most greens that grow on the veggies. Some people are sensitive to carrot tops, though. You can’t eat rhubarb leaves.

    - Try shredding your veggies in advance, then throw them on salads, and into soups and sauces. Or, shred and freeze. It’s a great way to use beets, radishes, summer squash, and other firm veggies. The other day, I finely shredded a parsnip and a carrot and added them to chicken soup as the “noodles.” Shredded beets added to spaghetti sauce made the sauce vibrantly red. :) My kids didn’t flinch eating the spaghetti sauce or soup, but if I had said, “Hey, want some beets with your spaghetti sauce?,” they would have thought I was insane.

  • freshearthfarms

    If there is enough interest we can put together a bulk order for the cookbook “From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce.” Please send me email and if we get enough to buy a case I will have one sent out this way.