September 6, 2012

Recipes and Tips for CSA Beginners

Here's the latest guest post from Bradd's sister Julie on how to choose produce from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and cook throughout the week with it. This series on CSA memberships is being written in partnership with Greener Partners and Hillside Farm in Media.

My first few weeks as a member of the CSA at Hillside Farm have been very productive. I found that I used pretty much everything with the exception of one ear of corn that had a large worm in it. I hear this is a sign of a good piece of corn but unfortunately I dropped it in the trash can from fright… it was a big worm.

Last time I wrote about what to know before joining a CSA. This post will cover some of the items I picked out last week, what I made and some additional first-hand tips for using a CSA.

What I got:
¼ pound of rainbow kale           1 lb of tomatoes (even though you could get up to 3 lbs) 
3 squash 1 qt of green beans (up to 3 qts was allowed)
1 pound of potatoes 5 unhusked corn
1 large eggplant 1 whole garlic
A handful of tomatillos A few berries

Grilling up some squash and onions
What I made:
I used the squash as a side dish to grilled chicken. First I tossed it with onion and garlic and covered it in a champagne vinaigrette dressing. During the summer months we like to grill as often as possible, so I spread out the squash on two pieces of aluminum foil and grilled it until it was on the softer side.

I did almost the same thing the following night with the green beans, however I had to steam the beans for quite a while before grilling them.

The local corn during these months is amazing. Organic farms don’t use the pesticides and chemicals found elsewhere, so be warned that you do have to fight local bugs for the good produce. I like my corn boiled to a nice golden yellow with a pinch of salt and pepper – if you need to lather your corn with butter, the corn can’t be local as it should be sweet enough already. If we have leftovers I cut the kernels off and throw them in my lunch salad.

Herbed eggplant, ready to bake
I’ve pretty much ignored eggplant in the grocery aisle and at the farmers market for years now. However, seeing the vibrant colors and different the types of eggplant available at my CSA, I had to give it a whirl.

I went to my trusty recipe site,, to find a way to cook it that wasn’t slathered in sauce or fried. I found a recipe for herbed eggplant slices and have made it every single week since I joined the CSA. They make a great side to any type of meat or even a good snack. The recipe also works great on tomatillos.

With the kale, I made up my own sauteed sausage and kale recipe that is so delicious I make it practically every week. It takes longer to explain so come back for my next post to get the full recipe.

What I learned this week:
Don’t be afraid to get the full serving of produce – you can always find friends that would love a few locally grown tomatoes or squash. You can also get very creative in how you distribute the produce throughout your weekly meals. For instance, I eat hummus as a snack during the work week. I usually use cucumbers or carrots as a dipping tool – this week I supplemented in slices of squash and the week before I used leftover peppers.

Due to the size of the bag I brought to the farm, I didn’t get to take advantage of the units of tomatoes available, but learned to be better prepared with a larger bag next week so I can take home more and either can them or make sauce to freeze.

Some of my pickings
Tips of the week:
*Green beans make excellent treats for my dogs after a walk – filling and delicious.

*At the CSA farm, start at the end of the pick-your-own rows. I had been skipping over the tomatillos and berries because the plants looked bare. Take the extra walk around the field and go the opposite direction – you will find the most fruitful plants, pardon the pun!

Until next time...

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