Being a CSA member involves being a savvy, creative individual. You get a boxful of bountiful produce each week, and it’s up to you to transform and bring it to your table. It’s like an artist with 12 colors staring at an empty canvas! However being a member also means possessing the dual characteristics of going where the current may lead as well as acting on something when the time (or the CSA box) arrives. Fortunately you have help from the farm, great ideas on storage and preparation, and the motivation to eat more nourishing food, all of which will be your muse in the kitchen.
Only once you see the contents of your box does the transformative process come into play. Though starting with a whole box of produce was at first a bit overwhelming for me, I learned to slowly put together a puzzle in my mind. The simple thought process goes something like this: here is what I have in my box, here is what I already have in my refrigerator and pantry, here are my cookbooks; let’s make some magic. After paging through my recipes in books, my tattered manilla folder, or scouring the internet, the path begins to emerge in what dinners I’ll prepare for that week. -Well, yea, this recipe sounds good, but I don’t have any cucumbers (out). Or, bingo! I’ve got celeriac and parsnips for this killer soup (in). And maybe it’s a, hmmm...for this one all I need to get is some cheddar at the store (maybe). And so the process goes. It is starting with basic elements and allowing them to take you where you will be lead. For those of us who get great satisfaction from checking off list items, piecing together meals often provides a similar result.
Beyond the dinner-making decision process, CSA membership is also about attitude. Most members I meet are enthusiastic and have a willingness to try new things. When it’s October and there is no more basil around, they’re game for enjoying a meal with walnuts, roasted beets and winter squash. They also either already know how to or learn how to plan, using their CSA box as a base, and working from there to arrange meals. Even a printable can be of great assistance, like this one, which is basic in its essence but can provide a helpful tool to organize the week.
Lastly, it’s about appreciation. Many a CSA member speaks about their joy at getting strawberries in the box, or the whiff of fresh sweet corn. At Featherstone it’s the sweet fall carrots that do people in. They are joyful because they know that every local crop is fleeting, some faster than others. In the spirit of absence making the heart fonder, members can delight all the more in a food they know they will not see for another several months. Here’s a blog post on how one person came to see the light that strawberries indeed do not grow 12 months of every year.
In the vein of using local produce at this time in late March, this Chilaquile Casserole recipe is a crowd pleaser - made often at my house - that can easily take on frozen vegetables (that’s what we’ve got now ‘round here). And though it may seem otherwise, it won’t be long now until the asparagus and mixed greens come popping up from the ground, and the anticipation of the first box will be on everyone’s minds.
-Katie Sherman is Community Outreach Coordinator for Featherstone. She blogs and writes for the farm as well as dishing out samples of our delicious produce at local markets.