Look at all the lettuce! Wait, that's not lettuce ... it's swiss chard, various types of kale, bok choy and kohlrabi leaves.
As we peered into our first CSA box of healthy edibles we saw all of this and more. There were two (or was it three?) types of lettuce, perfect sun-ripened strawberries, and kohlrabi, not just the familiar purple and green globes, but the greens, too. If this is any indication of what lies ahead for the next 19 weeks, we're delighted to be a part of the CSA club.
Not having the time to grow our own vegetable garden, we decided to satisfy our desire for fresh, local, pesticide-free fruits and veggies by giving the CSA route a try this year. I don't expect we'll be disappointed.
Several Community Supported Agriculture programs are available in the area, so we chose the one in closest proximity to our work and home, making our weekly pick-up convenient.
The cool, wet spring delayed the start of our CSA by a week, which will translate into a late fall bonus come October.
Out of our introductory box of early season greens, we've already enjoyed fresh leaf lettuce boats filled with salmon salad, and tender butter lettuce tossed with crunchy julienne strips of kohlrabi. Preferring kale as a garnish, and not in my salad, I decided to use our first bunch of kale in a new recipe offered by our CSA provider, Coveyou Meadows. The crispy, oven-baked kale chips were a hit and, with a bit of tweaking on the seasoning, will become a summer favorite in our house.
The abundance of kohlrabi in our CSA share inspired me to try something new with this often overlooked veggie. I sauteed bite-size pieces of kohlrabi in sesame oil, tossed in slices of sweet Vidalia onion, some fresh garlic and a heap of Swiss chard and bok choy. I complemented my stir fry with fresh basil leaves also from our CSA box and served it over jasmine rice ... yum!
And, what can you say about local strawberries, other than simply delicious. Whether eaten whole as a snack, sliced on your cereal, or macerated and poured over ice cream, they are the perfect summer fruit. This spring's cool, wet weather has shortened the strawberry season, making me appreciate every just-picked ruby morsel our CSA provides.
The concept of Community Supported Agriculture programs has been around for at least 20 years. It's a popular way for people like us to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. The farmer offers a certain number of "shares" -- or in our case, "half shares" -- to the public.
Buying into a CSA entitles the consumer to a box of fresh fruits and vegetables every week during the growing season. The variety of fresh produce varies from week to week, offering CSA members the opportunity to try some things they may have never had before. And, in some cases, farm products such as honey or canned fruits may be found in the weekly share.
A CSA is good for the consumer and the farmer, alike.
Farmers can sell their products long before they get busy working dawn to dusk in the fields, and with CSA members paying ahead the farm's cash flow for the year is more predictable. Perhaps the best part of a CSA for the farmer is having the opportunity to get to know the people who eat and enjoy the food they grow.
For consumers, the obvious plus is bringing home freshly-harvested food filled with flavor and vitamin benefits, sans pesticides. A CSA also offers exposure to new vegetables and new ways of cooking ... like the baked kale chips and kohlrabi stir fry.
Our CSA program complements our weekly box of fresh produce with an e-newsletter detailing what items are in the box and recipes for ways to use and store the farm-fresh goodies. That way we know all those "lettuces" in our weekly box are not really lettuces at all, but various greens we can use to expand our culinary creations this summer.