Summer is almost here! After all the snow and rain, I’m looking forward to warmer weather andfresh summerfruits and veggies. As we head into the new season, here are some simple tips for making the most of your weekly CSA basket:
Decide what has the shortest shelf life and use those things first. In general, whatever is most delicate (i.e., you don’t want it to get smashed in your grocery bag) is also what you want to eat first. Think fresh herbs, berries, leafy greens, and tomatoes. Things that area little less delicate,like eggplants and green beans, are a second priority, while more durable produce likeonions, carrots, beets, melons, potatoes, and squashgenerally have a longer shelf life.Use those last.
Storage Tip: Herb stems can be trimmed and stored in a glass jar with a shallow pool of water to extend shelf life by a few days. This trick also works for asparagus.
Once you’ve decided what needs to be used first, cobble together a plan either the day of orday after pickup. Find recipes, decide when tomake them, and most importantly, look for ways to simplify your preparation. For example, I like to make slow cooker borscht with beets and potatoes because it usually uses up all my beets and gives my family several days’ worth of meals.
A good CSA meal plan should also include standbys. For instance,when we receive Italian sausage in our meat share, I always buy a jar ofRainshadow tomato sauce tomake spaghetti Bolognese. It’s delicious and so easy to prepare that even kids can help.And when we receive basil and tomatoes, I grab buffalo mozzarella on the way home from the market to make caprese salad: it doesn’t require cooking, always tastes outstanding, and immediately makes use of more delicate produce.
- Keep It Simple
The beauty of CSA is that the fruits and vegetables are often harvested the day before pickup, which means they’re as fresh and flavorful as can be. You don’t have to work hard to make things taste great. If you have a bag of lettuce, and the most creative thing you can think of is putting olive oil and balsamic on it to make salad, go for it! In fact, that’s my favorite way to eat Rainshadow salad greens. I often add a little ground black pepper, all-purpose seasoning,and sliced carrots to dress it up. My 3-year-old devours it every time!
If you decide to search Google for recipes, group ingredients and be ruthless when it comes to complicated dishes. For example, do a search for “potato and carrot recipe” and select the easiest one. Anything that has a short ingredient list, calls for things you already have on hand, and has simple preparation qualifies. Remember: thisfood tastes good in its own right, so it’s not necessary to fix it with complicated spices or cooking techniques.
Don’t forget to ask friends, family, other CSA members,or Sarahlee for recipes. Doing so is a great way to connect with others and get out of any cooking rut. I’ve included an Iranian friend’s recipe for zucchini below as inspiration.
If you are still at a loss, I often post the recipes I’m using with the current CSA on Instagram and Facebook @theyoungskindiet.
- Break it down
In the summer, the bountiful goods we receive from Rainshadow can make meal planning seem like a daunting task. When this happens, don’t panic. You don’t have to have a plan for everything right away. Just try to incorporate one CSA fruit or veggie at every mealuntil your plan is in place. Add chopped green onions to scrambled eggs in the morning; top soups, pastas, or salads with fresh herbs; or make carrot sticks to go with lunch.If you know you can’t use it all, share your fresh produce with friends or neighbors.
- Have fun
Cooking with fresh, organic, seasonal ingredients and trying new recipes is truly a culinary adventure. Enjoy it!
For me, the Rainshadow CSA is an important family mainstay. Weekly CSA pickup is a fun family activity, and meals preparedusing CSA ingredients are ones we all look forward to enjoying together. Even my toddler gets excited about eating food from the farm. And it’sgratifying to support one of the only certified organic farms in Central Oregon.
So when I feel overwhelmed by all we receive – which does happen from time to time – I recall how grateful I am to have access to organic, local food and how much my family bonds over meals made with ingredients from Sarahlee’s farm. Being part of the Rainshadow CSA is a profoundly enriching experience for me and my family, and I hope these tips help make it all the richer for you and yours.
- Stir fry chopped onions with a bit of oil and turmeric for 5-10 minutes.
- Add bite-size, chopped zucchini (or eggplant), stir fry some more.
- Add chopped tomatoes and stir until they soften.
- Add ground dry peppermint (1-2 tsp.).
- Add salt (pepper and tomato paste are optional).
- Bring to a boil (add a bit of water if necessary), let it reduce a bit, then turn the heat down and let it slow cook. Total cooking time is usually under 40 minutes.
Michelle Porter is an economist and author who enjoys cooking in her spare time. She has written two cookbooks under pen name Michelle Lee, The Young Skin Diet and Living Luxe Gluten Free (available at Dudley’s). Her podcast, “Delicious Dishes with Michelle Lee,” originally aired on Bend’s KLRR morning show.