I grew up on a farm in southwest Kansas. We commercially grew alfalfa hay and other crops throughout the years. In the garden, mom would often times grow rhubarb, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, etc. I have always loved the idea of having a big garden and growing my own vegetables and fruits, however when you live in a duplex or apartment building, you learn to compromise. This year's plan is to buy directly from a local farmer that is great at what she does through a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.
Normally in a CSA, you pay either one lump sum up front, which saves you money, or weekly. This can vary by farm. What a CSA does, is allow the farmer to have a guarnateed set of customers. They most likely also sell to local retailers, restaurants or farmer's markets too, but this helps them diversify their customer base and sales.
CSAs are often seasonal. Currently we bought into a six-week-long spring program. Because there is just two of us, we decided to split it with a friend and her husband to share the wealth and make sure we were enjoying all of our weekly goodies. The farm I purchased from is A&H Farms in Manhattan, Kansas.
One difference in shopping at a farmers market or a CSA, is most likely the greens, veggies or fruits, will be what I call, straight off the farm. So, not every asparagus will look the same, or be the same size, everything will need a good washing and the beets may still have dirt on them. However, I know that means they are fresh. This all being considered, I've come up with five tips on ensuring you are maximizing your produce bounty and not being wasteful.
1. Pick up your basket on the day of picking- This will help guarantee maximum freshness from picking. It will also give you the maximum time to use your goods before the next pick up!
2. Clean everything the same day you bring it home- I like to fill up my sink with water and let everything soak. I usually go in stages to make sure I can let it soak in the water, and then use the spray tool on the facet to get in the nooks and crannys and get everything clean. This is especially important with greens
3. Dry all the produce once it is cleaned- this will help reduce the moisture when you store it and I find it helps everything last longer. My salad spinner was a great investment and time saver for this step. With my greens I will sometimes put a paper towel in the bag, to take out even more moisture.
4. Store in airtight containers or bags- I use a combinations of both depending on the green, fruit or vegetable
5. Enjoy and don't be afraid to take risks- The great thing with a CSA, and especially sharing with friends, is you get to try a little bit of everything. I've cooked greens and vegetables that I've never heard of and I can't wait to keep experimenting. There will be recipe fails, and that's okay, don't let it get yourself down.
I've put together some great spring season recipes on my Pinterest board. Check them out if you are looking for ideas!
Comment below with any tips or spring recipes you've tried and enjoyed.