Something exciting happened at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market last Saturday, and it wasn’t me getting that cutie from the produce stand’s number. Not yet, at least.
Last week I picked up my first ever CSA box!
If that sounds like Greek to you, let me explain. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a system of purchasing produce directly from a farm, usually in advance. Often sold as “shares,” a common CSA arrangement involves paying a certain fee upfront to the farm in exchange for a weekly delivery of produce for the length of the contract. A CSA share might be for a month, a season, or even an entire year. It’s a great system for farmers because it allows them to get a percentage of their profits for the season upfront, which gives them a certain amount of security and also takes the burden off at the beginning of the season when the farmer is buying seeds and materials for planting.
I love the idea of being part of a CSA, and though I’ve shopped at farmer’s markets for the past couple of years, I’d always shied away from taking the plunge and committing to a CSA until this summer. I worried I wouldn’t have the time to cook all that food, and I certainly didn’t want to find myself throwing away perfectly good produce just because I didn’t know what to do with that much basil. (Turn it into pesto, duh!)
Old Me had a food commitment issue. She couldn’t be bothered with the responsibility of caring for a weekly box of fresh produce. But New Me? She’s all about it!
I decided to go for a seasonal share for my first ever CSA. After careful consideration, I chose Full Belly Farm as my provider. Fully Belly is a certified organic farm located in Guinda, California, in Yolo County (I still chuckle every time I say that). That means my food will be travelling less than a hundred and fifty miles to make it from the farm to my doorstep. With the average American meal travelling thousands of miles from field to plate, that sounded relatively local to me. I also liked that all of the produce that goes into their CSA came from their farm, rather than being a mix and match of local purveyors as sometimes occurs in other CSAs. Best of all, they delivered to the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market, less than a two-block jaunt from my new apartment. Talk about convenient!
Picking up my box was a breeze. When I got to the Full Belly Farm stand, I just walked around the back, where the delivery truck was parked. There was a list of names of all the people with boxes that were being delivered that week, and mine was at the very top. Maybe it’s because my last name starts with “A,” but I like to think they were just excited to have me! I snagged one of the boxes and emptied the contents into my tote bag, getting a sneak peak at my veggies for the week as I did so—Armenian cucumbers! Bushels of apricots! Kohlrabi! I’m not gonna lie to you, I did a little veggie happy dance on the spot.
I couldn’t wait to get my haul home and empty it out on the counter so that I could ogle it in private! Here it is in all its glory (plus a couple of other sundries I picked up the market):
There were new potatoes, green beans, Blenheim apricots, plums, a big bunch of green basil (my misguided fears come true!), Armenian cucumbers, beets, kohlrabi, and a honkin’ big onion.
If you’re wondering what in the heck you do with kohlrabi, then you, my friend, are in the right place, because this is the start of a new series I’m calling CSA Saturday. In it, I’ll be posting a weekly update on what arrived in my CSA box the previous week and what I did with it. I’ll be sharing recipes and meal ideas, as well as storage and cooking tips that will help you grill, sauté, bake, braise, broil, fry, or can your way through your CSA box, farmer’s market haul, or backyard harvest.
So what did I do with all that wonderful produce? Let’s take a peak!
Green Beans, Potatoes, Onion
A green bean and potato curry, garnished with chopped cashews and cilantro flowers.
Hash browns, piled high with sautéed greens and drizzled with yogurt.
Roasted beets and kohlrabi on a bed of tri-color quinoa, with sautéed kohlrabi greens, pesto (see above!) and feta cheese crumbles.
The majority of my apricots ended up in a delightful crème fraîche and apricot tart, with a pistachio crust. Head on over to The Bojon Gourmet for the recipe. It’s one of my favorites!
The rest got cooked down for a couple of minutes on the stovetop with a sprinkle of sugar and a dash of balsamic before being spooned over yogurt and topped with leftover pistachio crumbles. Yum!
Armenian Cucumber, Plums
These guys didn’t make it into a recipe. They disappeared into my belly before I could even snap a picture—cucumbers slathered in hummus, and plums icy cold and fresh from the fridge after a long bike ride.
All in all, a very successful first CSA! Stay tuned for next week’s CSAs adventures, plus some original recipes.