On November 21 I picked up my final CSA box for the season. I was sad. I was very sad, in fact.
Before I get into my feelings and thoughts on the entire experience, here are the contents of that final box:
- two big leeks
- head of broccoli
- acorn squash
- fall salad mix
When I started this experience I thought it would be fun and challenging; a great way to get fresh produce into my house without giving it much thought. It was definitely all of those things, but, what surprised me, was how it was so much more.
Most importantly, being presented with a box of produce every week turned my world upside down. I was used to planning out my menus for the week and then going to the store to buy ingredients. Joining the CSA meant that the ingredients came first and the menus came second. Sometimes it was fun — I think the leeks and the garlic scapes got me the most excited. They were new to me and relatively easy to work with, so it was fun to prepare them. And sometimes it was not — lettuce, lettuce, lettuce. This happened at the beginning and end of the season. Salads are great for lunch, but after a certain number of salads neither of us were interested in eating another leaf of lettuce. We ate it anyway.
One of the biggest challenges for us conventional-produce-buyers was dealing with veggies that are actually perishable. I don’t think I realized before this experience how long conventional produce lasts. It is pretty freaky, actually. Organic produce is very perishable, as it should be. We really had to eat it within the week that we received it — the root veggies at the end of the season lasted longer, which was good. I made a few frittatas (this one and this one) when we got down to the wire — it was a great way to use up lots of veggies in one healthy dish.
Joining the CSA exposed me to local food — not the “movement” — but real local food. (No disrespect to the movement. I knew about that. I didn’t really know what local food looked like or tasted like.) Every week we received a letter in our box that had recipes and updates from the farm. It included little tidbits about their granddaughter helping out or how a particular dish is their son’s favorite way to enjoy the item. It wasn’t just food anymore. It was a family. Eating this produce was supporting that family. Letting food go bad was throwing away someone’s hard work. It gave my food value that it didn’t have before, and that was the most meaningful part of this entire experience.
Coming out of this first year as a CSA member, there are three clear changes in me:
- I’m a much better cook than I was when I started. Getting veggies that I didn’t usually buy at the grocery store forced me to learn new techniques and try new things.
- I am soon to be a regular CSA member. No doubt in my mind that we will join again next year.
- I am committed to buying and eating as much local food as I possibly can. Sometimes I need a jar of something that has been shipped to my grocery store — I am not going to deny that. But I can and will make a valiant effort to support families in my region who put their hearts and souls into growing fantastic food.
Spiral Path Farm was terrific. I am glad that I chose them. My only complaint is that they are a little too far away for me to visit for pick-your-own or Open Farm Days, but there is obviously nothing they can do about that. Next year I will probably look around for a farm that is closer to me and I will probably end up back at Spiral Path. They were by far the cheapest that I could find and their season lasted much longer than many. Can’t beat that.
My favorite recipes using CSA produce:
- Compromise Pie — quiche that was half tomato and half eggplant
- Stuffed cabbage (I started making this in the slow cooker — cover the rolls with sauce, set for 8 hours on low — WAY better)
- Roasted tomato and red pepper sauce
- Butternut squash lasagna
- Grilled pesto stuffed chicken and grilled potatoes