10 Ways to Optimize the Bounty of a CSA Share

A Vegetable Farmer’s Winter Work

Through the winter I carefully plan for the coming season, laying out my sales goals & necessary harvest projections as well as revising garden maps and planting calendars.  When the height of the busy season hits (April-November) I’m glad to have this info written down, so I can turn things over to auto-pilot and just follow my own, pre-prescribed orders I put together the previous winter.

Protecting My CSA Members Investment

In my planning I do my best to ensure a bounteous harvest, and can also insulate the risk taken by CSA members with produce grown for market.  What do I mean by this?  Lets say we have a near crop-failure of a popular crop – rather than say “sorry, tough luck” to my dedicated CSA members, I am able to pull extra quantities of this crop off of my market tables to feed the CSA – thus the markets can insulate the CSA.  It is important to remember that both streams, the CSA and the farmers’ market sales, are important to the economic self-sufficiency of the farm.

Bounty:

noun 1. generosity; something that is given liberally; a generous gift.  “for millennia the people along the Nile have depended entirely on its bounty”

So what?  So, that means CSA members have so far been able to partake in the bounteous harvests I plan for, which means for some folks, its helpful to have a few ideas for what to do if veggies start accumulating faster than you think you can eat them.

Are CSA Participants Eating Healthier?

What I find interesting and satisfying, is that many CSA members have told me that they are eating a healthier diet by participating in the CSA because it forces them to eat their vegetables.  Every week I deliver a new bounty, and every week they take home more freshly harvested, organic vegetables and herbs – and are forced to deal with them.  I try to make the program as flexible as possible for folks, as it is much more satisfying producing food for peoples’ dinner tables rather than feedings peoples’ compost piles.  Thats why personalization of share contents is an aspect I plan to improve upon even more so this coming year.

You Only Make 5 Different Meals…

That being said, most people truly only prepare about 3-7 different meals regularly – everything else is just slight variations of those.  So, here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your shares this coming season…

1. Shred It

Using a mandolin, grater, or a food processor, this turns so many different vegetables into easy to manage ingredients for many different purposes, including salads, sandwhiches, stir-fries or as a fresh topping on a comforting bowl of soup.  What ever you don’t use can easily be stored, and put to use in a flash when your making lunch or supper for yourself or others.

2. Soups N Stews

One CSA member said they started making big batches of curry at the end of each week to put to use any straggling vegetables before the next weeks’ bounty arrived.  Especially in the cooler season, this option is a great way to preserve the goodness of seasonal vegetables.  When its cool outside we almost always have a soup on the go here at the farm.

3. Krauts & Kimchis

It may be out of your comfort zone, but those shredded veggies can very easily be salted and packed into jars or crocks for later use – once you take the first leap in the wild world of fermentation you will soon realize it isn’t as scary or dangerous as you once thought – its actually quite a bit of fun and a great way to preserve foods for later consumption – did you know that often the nutritional make-up can be enhanced through the symbiotic cooperation of beneficial bacteria that help us digest more effectively – don’t get me started on this topic!!!

4. Salads

A salad a day keeps the gut OK!

5. Stir-fries

Almost every vegetable can be tastefully incorporated into a stir-fry – here are a few unique sauces to help keep it fresh & fun

   a. Tomato Sauce
   b. Curry Sauce

There are so many different kinds here, once you start to research this it gets almost overwhelming – the most important thing to keep in mind, is curry must be cooked to bring out the full flavours hidden within.

   c. Hoisen Sauce

A Chinese barbeque sauce, this one was a high-school era staple for me.  It helped break the cycle of frozen pizzas and potato wedges and got me exploring good foods to satiate my humungous teenage appetite after school but before dinner time.  We always just bought the premade sauce, but a real go-getter could certainly make it from scratch, and probably make a much better product.

   d. Cheese Sauce

Here’s a basic cheese sauce, it’d be great to subsitute something for the flour, but its a good place to start:

1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 pinch cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard, 2 cups milk, 1 cup old cheddar cheese (or another variety)

Sauté butter, add flour & seasonings until well blended.  Gradually add milk & stir constantly – then add cheese & stir – watch the heat on this so things don’t get too sticky – easy to keep excess sauce for later. (You can opt for a simpler bechemal sauce by leaving out the cheese)

   e. Hollandaise

The more you do it, the easier & more satisfying it gets – I’ll let you look this one up (nothing topsfarm-fresh eggs!)

Here’s a link for the culinary explorer of the household all about the 5 mother sauces, from which many, many derivatives can be made… http://ow.ly/sJCVV

6. Community BBQ’s!

Finally, you can barbeque many vegetables and who likes a barbeque better than a crowd of hungry people?  Invite your friends, neighbours & extended family over for a simple, outdoor dinner (platters of finger food can minimize the clean up of dishes afterwards).  Good food is meant to be shared and enjoyed by cohesive communities!

7. Roasts

You can simply roast veggies, or you can incorporate veggies into your roasted chickens, ducks, legs of lamb, beef roasts, etc…

8. Blanch & Freeze

Whats better in the winter than getting down on green beans, swiss chard, kale or collards from a local garden?  Blanching (briefly cooking in boiling water) stops the enzymatic breakdown of these foods, meaning they’ll keep better for longer in the freezer.  A great, low-cost addition to winter soups & stews.

9. Canning

Its alot of work – no question about it – but when people come together to share in preserving the harvest more than our frugal, physical needs for good food year-round are met.  Friendships & family bonds are strengthened and old skills are passed on to younger generations (face it, young folks these days need all the help they can get!).

10. Juicing & Smoothies

Attention Raw Foodies!!!  Some folks go crazy for green juices and blended fruit & veggie smoothies.  I don’t have too much experience here, but I have been blessed to have tasted an exquisitely delicious green soup, made from blended spinach, asian  (like mizuna & tatsoi) & arugula, with a bit of sauerkraut brine, fresh green apple, seasonings and topped with soaked raw almonds – a very special treat, full of all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes nature intended.

Making Time For Life’s Most Important Parts

At the end of the day, it comes down to time.  “I don’t have time for all this food prep, I need to eat on the go!”  I think one great way to make the most of the bounty is the coming together of different households.  Whether its a multi-generational family collaboration, or a men’s night one week and a ladies night the next – preserving and savouring food is easier and more enjoyable when shared with people you love!

Here’s some pics of Daniel & I makin’ Dilly Beans!

3 thoughts on “10 Ways to Optimize the Bounty of a CSA Share

  1. Hi Mike, thanks for letting us look over your shoulder at what’s going on at the farm even as the snow flies outside. And we all thought you were guzzling martinis on a beach somewhere! (Just kidding.) Love the blog – something new to be learned each time 🙂 Be well, S & J.

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