Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CSA (ish) update

Currently, our fridge is filled with these ...

produce bags
{produce bags}

Which are filled with this stuff ...

CSA contents
{CSA contents}

I'm on an ongoing quest to figure out how to best incorporate local produce into our lives. In a perfect world, I would go to the farmer's market every week and lovingly pick out perfect veggies. So far, that hasn't worked out for me. Mostly because I have a full time job and there are a whole lot of things I would rather do in my limited spare time, like sleep.

I tried a local CSA for a while (posted about it here).  My pick up location was pretty conveniently close to my work IN THEORY, but I had to lug the box home on the bus every week, thus taking up an extra seat and spreading ants around, both of which earn you some well deserved glares during rush hour. Also, you get a box of mixed veggies and fruit and the fruit is frequently cantaloupes, which neither of us is overly enthused about. That is an understatement. I hate the smell of cantaloupe so much that I can't have it in the house.

Currently I'm trying a new provider that sources from a couple different local(ish) farms and delivers. Delivery is heaven. The box arrives before 6 am every Wednesday, so we can get stuff put away before leaving for work. They let you pick out the option that suits you best, so we get a veggie only box every week - no more melons. It's pricier ($31.50 per week) but our grocery store trips have gone way down. We buy cheese, bread, eggs, lentils, pasta and beer to supplement the box contents. We eat out less because there is a certain amount of pressure to get through all the veggies each week. So far, so good.

Once the box arrives, I wash everything off and then place it in our muslin veggie bags (purchased here, but you could make your own for less money). You can't see through them, so I also make a list of what we have and we refer to it when deciding on meals and cross stuff off as we use it. Having the list to work with makes our lives easier, because instead of "what should we eat tonight?" we're thinking "we have to eat an eggplant tonight, how shall we cook it?". So much more specific and helpful for the chronically indecisive.

I love the variety we get, but I have a sneaking suspicion that subscribers get the older produce. I know how long produce from our garden lasts in the fridge and these veggies go off MUCH more quickly. We're okay with it, because we're on the weekly plan so nothing is sticking around for too long anyway, but it's something to be aware of.

A CSA box can be great for people who prefer not to spend much time shopping for produce and are pretty flexible with their cooking and eating. Good standby options to use up leftover veggies - chop them up, coat them with a bit of olive oil and salt and roast them in the oven at 425 degrees until tender. Then you can store the roasted veggies in the fridge and toss them into omelets, quesadillas and lentil dishes (these lentils are awesome cooked with fresh tomatoes instead of canned and with the addition of some roasted eggplant and potatoes).

19 comments:

  1. Aha, you use non-plastic produce bags as well! I won a set of the mesh ones from Tazzy Totes a few months back (from the Flirty Guide blog), but the fridge in our apartment didn't have a crisper drawer and the veggies I excitedly filled the bags with (green beans from the store, swiss chard from our garden) withered within a day or so. Is it the crisper thing? Do you have any issues with your bags? We have since purchased a house which happened to come with the nicest fridge either of us has ever lived with, excluding our parents' houses, and I want to use the produce bags in the crisper drawers, but I'm nervous about the food getting all shriveled again. Please help!

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  2. We love our CSA boxes! We get a large box and for the most part it lasts us almost 2 weeks, for a family of 4.

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  3. do the bags help the produce keep longer?

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  4. Since my boyfriend has been gone for a couple months, I've been going to the market every Saturday to get produce for the week, and I've enjoyed it so much.. I do the same thing where I feel pressured to eat a certain food, which ahs led to much more creative and enjoyable meals. Love the idea of CSA but don't think I could go through the whole box alone.

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  5. Thanks for this. I am always on a quest to buy and use more local produce. It's an ongoing project and can at times be difficult. Glad to hear this seems to be working out for you though.

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  6. Yes, what Jamie said. I'm also curious.

    And oh my gosh, I'm not the only person who hates cantaloupe! I feel like everyone thinks I'm crazy for not eating it.

    I'm also chronically indecisive when it comes to what to eat for dinner. I have to plan a menu for the week or we end up eating pasta everyday.

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  7. @ Kate - that does sound like it might be a crisper issue. I keep most of our bags of veggies in the crisper, but not all of them. I find that if I don't rinse them well and get them in the fridge quickly then they wilt whether I put them in the crisper or not.

    For leafy greens, I'm in love with the salad sac (that huge green terry cloth bag up there). You rinse the greens and then toss them in the bag while they're still wet and the bag absorbs the excess moisture but keeps them nice and crisp. Works better than the muslin bags, for sure. It was a gift, so I'm not sure where it was purchased.

    @ jamie and Kristy - I think that the muslin produce bags are better than leaving your veggies in plastic (they can breathe and they don't seem to get slimy as fast) but they don't have any serious life span extending effect. Not like those funny produce extending bags are supposed to do (I've never tried those, so I don't know if they work). The major advantage to muslin, in my experience, is that you don't have to make sure that everything is perfectly dry before tossing it in the bag. Because they can breathe, you aren't locking excess moisture in the bag. Mostly, we just aim to get through all our veggies within 1 - 2 weeks, so we don't have to worry too much about keeping them longer.

    @ Amy - check out localharvest.org if you want to see what options are available in your zipcode - it's how I like to track down different CSAs and markets.

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  8. This morning I decided that I was going to make lentils tonight and I needed a new (simpler) recipe...I'm so happy that you linked back to that older post of yours. Dinner plan for tonight...check! Thanks!

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  9. It is so great to see that more and more people are getting CSA boxes. I myself can't cook much of anything so maybe one day I can be better cook so I can use a CSA box. I just wanted to share with you a great blog made by my friend Jillian that has plenty of recipes and ideas of what to do with some of the random contents that come in the box, check it out... http://www.farmandafryingpan.com/

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  10. Man, I'm loving those bags!!! I'm trying to not use plastic so I'm totally smitten with those. I'll pick up a few. We just got our csa which we pick up a few neighbourhoods over. My husband picks it up by bike which saves us the bus trip which is nice and we thankfully never get cantaloupe. Phew!

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  11. Ah! I just signed up for the same CSA provider. I was in the market for one and I think the cute sales guy won me over. Ha. I love my weekly farmers market trips, but sometimes life just gets in the way and I end up eating sub par produce. Sometimes this happens for a month. Or tw. Looking forward to my box and how it turns out...

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  12. This sounds like such a neat idea!!

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  13. this is absolutely perfect! i've been looking for something in the l.a. area that delivers but isn't exorbitantly expensive.

    thanks for sharing your recommendations!

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  14. I am very happy to have a link to those bags, and I am going to hunt for the salad bag. We are lucky that our CSA pick up is a 10 minute walk from home, and picks up on Sunday afternoons. This is our first year and so far we are enjoying it. I have gotten too many baby watermelons and no other melons. But the fresh strawberries the very first week was worth all the ants, aphids, annoying dirt, and melon issues.

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  15. funny how you say you like sleep too much to go to the market but you are willing to wake up before 6am for a csa delivery!! my non-morning-person brain cannot compute. i prefer dawdling to the market on saturdays sometime between 9 and 1, whenever i can get myself out of the house.

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  16. Okay, but do the muslin bags ACTUALLY keep the produce fresh and crispy? Because I have yet to find non-plastic bags that actually work. And believe me, I've definitely given my fair share a try.

    Pray tell.

    (also I love that you have delivery service. Very tempting.)

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  17. FYI, the salad sac is available at sur la table.

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  18. I have wanted a CSA box for a long time. Maybe in a couple of years.

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  19. This is a UK book and I'm not sure if you can get it in stores in the US (although it is available on The Book Depository, I think), but have you got a copy of Ottolenghi's Plenty? It is AMAZING for vegetable dishes. The food is so varied and tasty. Worth picking up if you are looking at what to do with weekly deliveries.

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