What to Expect Each Week
The last few years we’ve begun thinking about our vegetable shares in terms of kinds of vegetables and nutrition. Think of what you eat in terms of health assurance. Food is medicine, and we’ve learned that a diversity of colors and types of plants and animals contribute to optimal nutrition. While we don’t see all of these items every week, we plan and plant with vegetable diversity in mind. What ends up in the box is often a product of season and climate, weather, pest and plague, broken implements or freak propane shortages.
So when things are right in the world, a large share may include, and small shares will include a selection of:
Cooking greens – versatile and nutritious, full of chlorophyll, fiber and nutrients. These may be leaves of all kinds of species. We eat the leaves of many plants – hundreds if not thousands are edible to us – and right we should. Vegetables (botanically speaking, distinct from fruits, nuts, roots or grains) are uber-nutritious. The leafy vegetation on a plant is where the photosynthesis occurs, so they’re high in minerals, vitamins, and other phytochemicals like antioxidants, as well as fiber. We call these greens but the more color the better (so eat those red and yellow Swiss chard stems). They’re usually savory and sometimes bitter.
Leaves are easy to add to meals: chopped up raw on top of a dish, steamed by themselves, layered into a dish or added to sauce or soup, or made into a salad. Remember, plants grow leaves first before they make flowers and fruits, so we have lots of these in spring and early summer; they do well again come fall. Leafy greens include: spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collards, beet greens, lettuce, Malabar spinach, sweet potato leaves, Amaranth greens, and others.
Salad fixings – tender leaves that add fiber and carry other foods well as a salad. I like to think of these as distinct from leafy greens even though they’re made up of the same. Salads fill a different role on my plate; sometimes I get home and just need something easy to eat, easy to make, and something easy on which to put some balsamic vinegar and grilled chicken. Know what I mean? Salad fixings might be a head of lettuce, a bag of baby lettuce, young spinach or arugula, or other tender young leaves that you can eat without cooking, including kales and mustards, Swiss chards, orach, amaranth, nasturtium leaves, chicories, herbs, potherbs…
Roots – radishes, turnips, beets, carrots… earthy, high in vitamins and minerals, and fun to cook with. Roots add starch and calories (energy) to our diet; they give dishes texture and meals a hearty base. Many also have distinct flavors. We’re talking anything from beets and carrots to radishes and turnips to, later in the season, potatoes and sweet potatoes (we also consider the latter two starches). I add kohlrabi to this group; botanically it is an enlarged stem but treat it like a root in the kitchen.
Alliums – this is the onion family: onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions. Alliums add flavor to any dish. The same sulfur-based compound that gives us that flavor has also been linked to reduced risk of cancer and increased cardiovascular health. Many cultures include this family in every meal.
In-season fruiting and “standard vegetables” – these really start in summer and include squash and zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and more. We catch other standard veggies in this group, too, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and the like.
By fruit I do not necessarily mean sweet fruits, though we do try to grow more of these each year (for now, annuals like cantaloupe, watermelon, and strawberries). Botanically fruit are the part of flowering plants that contain seeds, usually in a fleshy package. The plant leafs out, converts sunlight to energy, grows, then flowers, is pollinated, and forms the fruit. These are many of our standard “veggies”: tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, eggplant, winter squash… and even tomatillos and Cape Gooseberries. I think of these as the meat of a CSA box, and I include flowering parts like broccoli and cauliflower (these are flower buds!). Some are sweet, some are savory, some are hot or bitter. We eat them raw or cooked.
Starches – these also start in summer and last through fall and winter. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash are the main season crops, but vegetables like kohlrabi and celeriac might be included here, too.
Herb or spice – Here we’re talking about the most distinguishing flavors, which give depth to our dishes. The strong flavors of leafy herbs, of herbaceous perennials, or even the alliums (above) these flavors are given by phytochemicals specific to each crop. They are particularly high in antioxidants, and these compounds mean herbs and spices can be considered medicinal, even in small quantities. Adding them to our meals makes eating enjoyable and healthy, too. Spices include cilantro, fennel, dill and parsley; oregano, rosemary, thyme and other common herbs; ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass; and onions, garlic, leeks, and scallions, even though we usually try to provide these as well as herbs.
Inspiration – Finally, we like to add a little something interesting to a share, something you might not have seen before. Maybe it’s a new vegetable variety, a curious vegetable, a potted plant, an occasional special fruit, or a luffa gourd.
Let us know what you think about the mix of items in your box. Are we missing anything?
Shout out for recipes and box ideas – write for the newsletter!
Hey, I’ve had dinner with some of you and you’re really good cooks. We’re looking for recipes and box ideas – will you share with the rest of us? Email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve gotten especially interested in how to make fresh food, and CSA especially, fit in our lives more easily. In addition to recipes, we’re also interested in how you think about food and CSA. We’d love to make your ideas a regular part of the newsletter. Here are some things the rest of might like to know:
- What do you do with your CSA box when you get home?
- How do you unpack?
- Do you prep items then or put them in the fridge for later?
- Do you plan meals or figure it out as you go?
- Do you still need to shop for other items; like what?
- Are there particular things you keep in your pantry or kitchen for when you’re cooking with veggies?
Write it and send it, we’d love to hear from you. Don’t worry about editing or style!
We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime,
Mike, Deb, ANYA, Al, Lex, Jennifer, James, Sonya, Brianna, Theo, Bella, Radish, Goats x 10 wearing construction hats at their jobsite, Camilla x 501 let’s get cracking ladies not literally though, Police Geese x 6, dinner chicks x 1,000, 300 in the freezer and 700 on the ground, Rosco RIP and Popcorn, wearing a Gold Earing and driving all night for Radar Love