Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bury your nose in this CSA abundance.

Oh, I wish you could put your face into the opening of this bag and take a deep breath. The scent is intoxicating, filling my lungs with a scent that can only be described as summer wholesomeness. Fresh herbs do smell wholesome, don't they, because they smell like earth, like sunny summer afternoons after a cleansing rain, and like homemade dinner? I love homemade dinner.

This bag is full of fresh basil, dill, and onions picked from the grounds at Scott Arbor Farms and delivered on Wednesday as part our our weekly Community Supported Agriculture basket, or CSA basket for short. We also received a wealth of ripe red tomatoes, petite and tender yellow summer squash, pickling cucumbers, white cucumbers, and this week melons! We have been enjoying the abundance with fresh salads every night, special grilled cheese dinners with tomato and basil sandwiched between thick bread, and calabacita all the time. The fresh produce (and local!...and did I mention also organic!!!) is a delight to prepare and consume, although at times we have so much we honestly don't know what to do with it at all.

Managing a weekly CSA basket of summer's abundance feels complicated, more complicated than one would expect. While I recognize it sounds silly to say that the coordination of a basket of fresh veggies is complicated, I am serious. It feels complicated in the same way that I imagine managing a hedge fund, or managing the HR paperwork for the 10,000+ employees that work for Starbucks, or trying to manage a the power grid for the city of San Antonio is complicated. I mean, it is REALLY complicated. When do you eat your squash, and what if you are tired of squash? How long will the tomatoes keep, can I put them in the refrigerator? And what is a yard long bean and how do I cook it? What do I do with only one small eggplant? And how do I cook pearl onions in summer? It is enough to make a girl order carry out and eat it while staring at a pile of beautiful veggies with guilt.

However, there is hope. I yoinked this information straight from Apartment Therapy's food blog The Kitchen, and I intend to put it into practice right away. Those of you with CSA subscriptions, or summer gardens, or just overzealous produce purchasing behavior in your local grocery :) should take note:

Seven Tips for Managing Your CSA

1. Deal with everything right away. We pick up our CSA on Saturday afternoons, which means we have no excuse not to aside some time over the weekend to sort, cook, and organize. If you pick yours up during the week, it's a good strategy to plan on an hour or two that evening and make it part of your routine.

2. Make a list of what you have. It's easy to shove your bundle of five radishes into the back of a drawer and forget about it until things get smelly. We like to keep this list posted right on the fridge so we see what's in there and cross things off as we use them.

3. Take a seat and plan out your meals. Meal planning for the week is a good strategy anyway, but it's even more handy when you're trying to use up your CSA and avoid making the same stir-fry night after night.

4. Organize your fridge. Group together the foods that go together: greens in one place, salad fixings in another--whatever works for you. We cut off the tops of beets and put the bulbs in a separate space from the leaves. We also like to trim and discard or compost any parts of the vegetable that we know we won't be using, like the tops of leaks (unless we're making stock!).

5. Wilt down greens right away. Since the leafy greens take up the most space and usually get wilted down anyway, why not wilt them down to begin with? An armful of chard wilts down to about a cup, which can then be stored in a container and added to dishes as needed.

6. Save what you can. Often we'll get very small amounts of something--a pint of blueberries or a handful of ramps--that aren't quite enough for a whole recipe. Since you're likely to get another pint the next week, try to determine if your first batch will keep that long and then combine them.

7. Freeze what you can. If all else fails and food is backing up, turn to your freezer. Berries freeze very well, as do many vegetables like beans and corn. If you have time, we recommend blanching vegetables until barely al dente before freezing them. This helps preserve the color and decrease cooking time on the other end.

Granted, this is a pretty Type A list! But we've found that being organized actually frees us up to be creative in our cooking and enjoy our produce each week.

Eat your veggies! I am.

1 comment:

Carla said...

I LOVE the fragrance of fresh herbs! We planted a few this year and every time I bring in the lemon thyme or the rosemary I nearly hyperventilate from taking wonderful, deep draughts of deliciousness. Enjoy your summer foods!