For everyone who joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or Farm Share program, congratulations to recognizing an inexpensive opportunity to purchasing fresh and local ingredients. For my household of two, we order a half share of vegetables, fruit, and eggs from BedStuyFarmshare.org for an estimated $22.00 a week, and the produce is mostly organic. It’s a bargain price compared to health and neighborhood grocery stores.
CSAs are food programs, in which communities financially and actively support their local farmers. In exchange, the farmer is free from the burden of marketing to focus on the labor of their farms. What they produce is divided into shares for each member of the CSA. Ultimately, members learn more about fresh food, and children learn food doesn’t grow in a grocery store. Every CSA has a different set of prices, rules and produce. In addition to fruit and vegetable CSAs, they are coffee, seafood, heirloom pork, free-range chicken, eggs, beer, and milk to name a few.
For new members, the first CSA share is overwhelming. Sometimes the greens aren’t supermarket clean and they’re wilting. The fruit have bruises and aren’t glossy. The herbs are simply tied with twine. Welcome to produce 101. In reality, vegetables and fruit grow wild in dirt, and bugs need to eat, too. Since, the supermarket does a superb job of cleaning and trimming vegetables, consumers are accustomed to produce looking good, but the flavor is lacking. Local grown produce isn’t always visually clean, but the flavor is fresh, crisp, and sweeter.
The cleanliness of the produce depends on the farmer and their time. A few months ago, a farmer at a Just Food CSA conference proclaimed the purpose of a CSA is to make the farmer’s job easier. Today, consumers have escaped the hard work of actually producing food. We seem to have forgotten farm work is difficult, but it’s a rewarding career.
Depending on what’s in my weekly share, cleaning and properly storing the vegetables take an average of one to two hours after picking them up at the distribution location. Wilted greens are made crisp again with several baths of cold water. During the second to last bath a little vinegar is added for disinfecting. Root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, and turnips are peeled and the ends are trimmed. Unpeeled potatoes are scrubbed clean and left to dry on the counter for a few hours before being stored in a dark, cool place. Herbs are placed in glasses of water and covered with a plastic bag. Fruit only needs a good rinsing, but berries are gently cleaned and immediately packed in sealed containers.
Properly storing produce lengthens their freshness and saves time when cooking meals between CSA shares. To prevent produce from rotting or spoiling, write a list of the produce received in the CSA share and plan meals around those ingredients. Some produce can be frozen if time is extremely limited.
This year, my first share of vegetables had pea shoots, snow peas, green garlic, baby turnips with their leaves attached (sauté turnips leaves in olive oil and garlic), oregano, bok choi, lettuce, and spinach mustard greens. Prior to this share, I’ve never heard of spinach mustard greens. One of the benefits to joining a CSA is trying new and unusual produce.
Last year, the CSA introduced me to amaranth and dandelion greens, rutabagas, turnips, Turks turban squash, and sunchokes. Since joining a CSA, unheard of produce in the grocery store or a farmer’s market encourages me to at least try it. Most vegetables share a basic recipe. The general recipe for most young greens is to stir-fry with garlic and olive oil. Most boiled or roasted root vegetables become a comfort dish when mashed with organic butter and cream.
The first meal made with the produce from my farm share was a stir-fry dish. As mentioned, the process of cleaning all the produce took one hour. The following day a stir-fry was prepped and served in less than 30 minutes. With a little planning, it was local fresh food served fast.
Are you a member of a CSA or Farm Share? What’s been your overall experience, and do you have any tips for FrugivoreMag.com readers?
Looking for a local CSA to Join?
- » Brooklyn, New York Residents: The BedstuyFarmshare.org is closed for the summer season; winter applications are accepted for late August or early September. To be placed on a notification list, email bedstuycsa@gmail.
- » New York Residents: Find a local CSA or farm share at JustFood.org
- » Residents outside of New York state, visit LocalHarvest.org for more information
The Green Stir Fry Recipe with Shrimp, Bok Choi, Snow Peas, and Mushrooms
- 2 tbps. peanut/neutral oil
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 thinly slice fresh garlic bulb with their stalks thinly sliced or 2-dried garlic coves; paper thin sliced
- (Optional) 1-inch fresh ginger; minced
- 2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1/2-cup sherry
- 1/4-cup low-sodium soy sauce
- Fresh black pepper; to taste
- 2 pinches of crushed red pepper; to taste
- 1/2 lb. snow peas; trimmed and cleaned
- 1/2 lb. fresh medium to large shrimp; shell-off, cleaned and deveined
- 2-cup roughly chopped bok choi
- Garnish with sesame seeds and pea shoots
Serve with cooked white or brown rice
- Prep and organize all ingredients.
- Over medium to high heat, warm peanut and sesame oil in a large stir-fry or skillet pan.
- When oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger (optional) and mushrooms. Season with both peppers. Add the sherry and soy sauce. Adjust seasoning.
- Quickly add the snow peas. After 30 seconds, add the shrimp.
- After 30 additional seconds or when the shrimp is halfway cooked, add the bok choi. Do not over cook the shrimp, for depending on the size, medium shrimp take 2 to 3 minutes to cook.
- Remove pan from heat. Place rice into individual serving bowls and spoon stir-fry on top.
- Garnish each bowl with sesame seeds and pea shoots.