PHOTO: With a little planning you can put everything in your CSA box to use each week. | TINA JEAN WAGNER~SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Some now get CSA — that’s Community Supported Agriculture — boxes throughout the year.
But a good many only purchase their produce this way during the warm-weather growing season. Every year brings more newbies trying out weekly CSA offerings.
The one thing you don’t want to do is waste that wonderful produce. Here are some tips on how to put to good use and not let spoil what’s in the box:
Know what you got. As soon as that CSA box is home, check out what’s inside. And then consider how you might use what’s there. Will some work best in an salad? As a side dish to steak? Others good for a stir-fry? Figure that out and then you can plan your meals for the week. Make sure you set aside time each week for this and the next step.
Prep, pronto! Wash, chop, dice and THEN store the week’s bounty. It’ll make it easier to incorporate into your meals. Many CSA devotee chop the green tops off (they draw moisture from, for example, carrots) immediately. If you have time, saute the greens and they’ll be all ready for use.
Fragile goes first. Are there mushrooms in that box? Put them to use early in the week. Same goes for a lot of herbs (cilantro comes to mind). That way fragile things won’t go to waste before you had a chance to use them. Your hardier fare can star in a meal later in the week.
Freeze! (Well, maybe.) You will want to save some of the season’s bounty for the cold days of winter. But don’t get in the habit of just tossing CSA items into the freezer. Before you know it, that freezer will be stuffed. Be judicious when choosing what to freeze.
Engage eggs. Saute some of your vegetables and add to an omelet. Use others in a frittata. Add a layer of sauteed greens to eggs benedict. Vegetables perk up just about any quiche. Include chopped up veggies in egg salad.
Get creative. Use items in ways you might not have considered before. Too much parsley? Toss some into a homemade salad dressing. Dice and saute other veggies to soften, then add them to your meatloaf mixture. Just about any vegetable will work in a slaw. Garlic scape, watercress and cilantro can all be used in pestos.
Serve soup. There are a slew of chilled summer soups that require nothing more than chopping ingredients and then tossing into a blender. You can do that, right?
Research recipes. Don’t just give up when you get something unfamiliar in your CSA box. Many CSA list on their websites what the next week’s box will have. With that information in hand, look for recipes that put what you’ll have to use.
Share! Eggplant shows up, and it’s time to be honest: you never eat that veggie. Don’t let it go to waste. If you know you are never going to try it, give it to a friend or neighbor who you know will.