Friday, June 20, 2008

First ever CSA box!

CSA logo courtesy of A Veggie Venture.

The day I've been anticipating for months finally arrived -- the first delivery from our Community Supported Agriculture service. Our CSA is called Family Harvest and is a subscription to two farms, Yellow Wood and Lee. This reduces our risk, slightly. Both farms experienced too much rain as we all did in this region, but only one field at one farm is currently in danger of flooding. I'm very much hoping it doesn't, because that's our tomatoes, onions, and peppers for the summer. One of the points of using a CSA is to get the consumer in closer contact with the food source -- it's working for me.

The picture is of the contents of our box after I prepped them before putting them in the refrigerator. I thought this would be a good time to write about how I prepare produce, mostly tips I've picked up in the last year from reading Cook's Illustrated. I had feared that it would take a long time to wash up the produce every Thursday evening, but this week it only took a half hour or so.

I keep a spray bottle with 1 part white vinegar, 3 parts water, under the sink. I used this for the initial wash of the zucchini and yellow squash, then rinsed them with water.

The two different kinds of lettuce are Summer Crisp Head Lettuce and Leaf Lettuce Greens Mix. My method for washing greens (both salad and cooking) is to put them in the bowl of the salad spinner and cover them with water. I gently swirl the leaves around in the water and then let them sit for a couple of minutes. Then, I gently lift them into the strainer portion of the salad spinner. I appreciate my big sink at this point because I can have the bowl and the strainer in the sink at the same time. Dump out the bowl and repeat the process. Usually two rinses are enough, but I did four rinses once on some really muddy bok choy. When the water is clear after lifting the greens out, I know I'm done. Then I use the salad spinner in the conventional way and spin the washed greens to get them mostly dry.

I store washed vegetables, including greens, in reusable produce bags like these Evert-Fresh ones. I get them at Whole Foods and have used that brand and another one. This has cut down considerably on my use of ziplocs and seems to work at least as well. The instructions say to use each bag 8 to 10 times -- but how am I supposed to keep track? In practice, I use them until they tear or I accidentally let something go bad in them.

Until a few months ago, I would have thought that beets only came pickled and I've rejected all pickled things since childhood, so it's possible I've never had beets. Fortunately, one of our farmers, Tricia, wrote some advice in the newsletter that came with our box (she boils, peels, slices, and chills beets in a balsamic and olive oil dressing to serve cold alone or in salads -- sounds good to me). So, I started by separating the beets into three parts. The leaves were washed like the lettuce, the beets were washed with the vinegar spray, and the stalks were rinsed and then thrown in the stock bag in the freezer -- except for the really dirty ones that went straight into the compost bowl.

That leaves the cabbage. When I buy a head of cabbage from the supermarket, I wash the outer layer of leaves with the vinegar spray and rinse. But supermarket cabbages don't come with those beautiful curling outer leaves. The cabbage wasn't very dirty, so I decided to just leave it like it is and rinse it when we're ready to use it.

We already ate one zucchini in a pasta dish last night. The beet greens will go in our chicken and greens dish tonight. I'll be eating lettuce salads with beets and at least two kinds of cabbage salad. That cabbage may be big enough to be the basis of a soup as well. I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing with the rest, but I can't wait to find out!


Debbie said...

It looks gorgeous! I'm envious of your squash, we don't have any here yet.

Bobbi Newman said...

oh my gosh! I'm so jealous! I'm hitting the farmer's market tomorrow night for sure!

Lori said...

wow, everything looks beautiful! hope you enjoy all that produce...