How To Cook with A CSA Share Basket

Recently, we decided to start our farm's CSA Share Baskets. This wasn't a quick decision because actually three years ago we started taking notes and writing down how we wanted to manage our CSA's.  We jumped in June 4th and are so glad we did.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I grab my French press and walk around our farm and scout for our best - I mean the best of all that is growing at present. It's important that beautiful and fresh are in those share baskets (a bag actually).  A precursor: I do have help filling the bags and sometimes something that isn't my best slips in - as best as I manage - it just happens. But given human mistakes - I strive for the best and the beautiful.

One of the tensions in providing CSA shares is that each week (for the duration of the share time) there is often much of the same. That's the reality - it's the season.  For example, right now eggplant and squash and peppers are in abundance and guess what?? Those beautiful items are in our CSA Share Baskets. It's the season, here in Phoenix, for everything that will help hydrate you - things that have water in them - such as eggplants, squash and peppers.

CSA's are like a partnership. It's not a grocery store or even a Farmer's market where one picks and chooses.  My part is to provide the best of what I have, make cooking suggestions of what I've chosen to be in the weeks basket and of course change it up as best as I can.

The CSA Shareholder's part is to "begin to change the way they think in terms of cooking. Meals need to be adjusted according to what is in season and in stock rather than going out of the way to find ingredients to prepare a particular recipe." ** 4/14 Tubac Villager Article on Walking J Farm.

There's one woman I know who I'd say is an example of the perfect CSA Shareholder. Michelle works full time - but cooking and being creative in her kitchen is part of who she is and what she loves. I've seen her take 'nothing' from our market and create the most interesting and delicious looking dishes/meals that anyone ever could imagine.

While scouting around the web I ran across this food blog that had a wonderful post on How to Get the Most Out of Your CSA Share Basket.  One key point stuck out at me - was this important mindset: a CSA Shareholder needs to shift thinking to plan meals around what the farmer provides rather than what they necessarily want to cook.

5 Good Tips

  1. With CSA cooking we need to start from the opposite direction, planning your meals after you pick up your share.
  2. View a week's fruits and vegetables in both major and minor recipe roles.
  3. If you get something in small amounts, treat it as a kind of garnish.
  4. Freezing and canning can be a solution but unless you have a huge freezer or lots of storage space for all those glass jars, think about which ingredients make sense to preserve.
  5. A final choice: give it away and share.

What I love about having stepped into our farm's CSA Share Baskets is to see new faces. So many just never would be able to visit our Thursday market. They would miss out. Now they get the best I can give AND the other thing I love is we get to chat. I get to personally hear from them and they share recipes with me and we talk FOOD! It's a wonderful situation.

The other thing I love is that the CSA Share baskets add-ons really make for a complete meal. Grano de Vida Breads (with Hayden Flour Mills flour), JHolbrook Grass Fed meats, Nourished Specialty Butters and Bone Broths and of course Crow's Dairy Goat Cheese and Raw Milk. I also set up a little extra market of vegetable and fruit add ons as well. For example in a few weeks I have organically grown cherries coming and this week - there are figs from our trees.

Can't get much better than this!