Many of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members this year are new to us and, possibly, new to the close relationship between farmer and consumer that the CSA program affords. Regardless of how acquainted with the process of receiving fresh veg every week you might be, it’s always good to re-introdruce yourself to what’s in season and how to use it. Knowing that the enjoyment you’ll receive from our CSA program will largely be dependent upon your ability to use what you’re getting, I’m going to help by talking about what to expect in this week’s CSA box and a brief list of options for preparing each item. So, let’s slough off our winter habits and begin again with the freshness of Spring.
In general terms, using what you’ll receive in your boxes can be divided into two categories: what you’ll use now and what you’ll put up for later. This week, I’ll go over how to use each ingredient fresh.
My biggest recommendation in preparing the more unfamiliar vegetables you’ll receive is this: As best you can, incorporate the new items into dishes you already know and frequently cook. If you’re like us, every night is an acceptable night for tacos – and pretty much any ingredient will do. Most folks like a little more variety. We also love roasting and grilling our veg alongside whatever meat we’re preparing. Smoothies, hearty salads, curries, soups and stews, quiches, omelletes, and sautees are often the final home for a lot of our produce. But, I don’t want to just speak from experience. We love cooking, but we have many friends who teach us great, new ways to prepare food as well. If you have a recipe or preparation method you’d like to share, please do so under our RECIPES tab.
This week you’ll be receiving lots of hearty greens (kale, mustard, beet greens, and salad mix), as well as peas, radishes, scapes, and green garlic. All of the greens can be used raw this week, as we’ve picked them young and they are still tender.
Kale is great raw, in smoothies, wraps, roasted, in soups, baked into chips, and grilled. Mature kale leaves can be cut in fine, thin strips (or a chiffonade) and used in all sorts of slaws, salads, taco toppings, lasagna fillers, etc.
Mustard greens are spicier, but equally amenable to the previous uses for kale (except for smoothies. I think that would be gross). The same goes for these young beet greens. You can also pickle the stems to eat later in the week on sandwiches, atop a hearty salad, on bratwurst – you name it.
These peas are called “Golden Sweet” and, true to their name, they have a delicate, sweet flavor. My only recommendation is not to overcook them, if you do include them in a dish. They’re perfect for a snack, salad topping, or quickly heated in a skillet for a sautee or stir-fry. You don’t want them to lose their crispness or cook out the sugar.
Radishes have a lot of great flavor. Use them in your salads, julienne (same principle as a chiffonade) them into your slaws, dip them into your hummus instead of using a chip, or roast them with your meat. They also add a lot of flavor to soups and grilled dinners.
Green Garlic is a young garlic plant. It can be used from bulb to tip and has, as you can imagine, a bright, onion-garlic flavor. It’s a great way to punch up a dish, though you don’t have to use it as sparingly as it’s more potent adult version.
The scape is the seed stalk that grows from the middle of the garlic plant. When cut, it allows the garlic bulb at the base of the plant to continue to grow. It has a very rich flavor and can be used the same way as green or mature garlic.
Here are some helpful resources to get you cookin’:
More with Less – a great cookbook based on Mennonite traditional recipes. Easy, simple, frugal.
A New Turn in the South – a new cookbook by Hugh Acheson of Top Chef fame. Luke gifted me this book for Christmas and I have found it to be a great tool in the kitchen. It’s taught me how to prepare food better and has even cured some recipe boredom. The recipes are simple and accessible enough to repeat, or make substitutions as necessary.
Epicurious.com – I am not ashamed to admit that, when in doubt, I often just search this website to kickstart my dinner ideas.
Passionate Homemaking – a great resource for many things, this website’s recipe page is a great place to start for simple, nutritional meals and snacks.
Feel free to post your favorite websites, cookbooks, and other resources in the comments below.