Using Your CSA Vegetables – a Mouth From The South Project

I’ve encouraged a lot of my friends to join CSAs. For those of you not familiar with them, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You basically buy a share from a farmer at the beginning of the growing season and each week you get a box of food from them.  Some of my friends have joined and while most of them ended up loving being a member, it was a bit of steep learning curve for a few of them.  Other friends have told me they could never join a CSA because they have no idea how they’d use all the vegetables they got.

I usually produce a fair amount of produce from my backyard garden and I buy whatever else I want from the farmers market.  But I remember how daunting (exciting also!) it seemed when I first started trying to eat locally and seasonally. Then add to that the challenge of a box of CSA veggies.  It’s one thing to plan a menu and go out and buy everything to make that menu.  It’s another to get a box of produce and plan a menu around that box of produce.

After talking with a few friends, I got to thinking a few weeks ago that I would like to give people some very practical advice on how to use up the vegetables from a CSA share.  I understand what it’s like to be busy.  My husband and I own our own business, we have a 120 year old house we’re completely renovating from top to bottom, I have a fairly large garden, we have several side businesses and activities, and we own many, many cats. I do greatly enjoy cooking but I don’t have time to make fussy meals.  I wanted to show how real people eat real food – CSA style.

So my husband and I decided to sign up for a CSA share a couple of weeks ago with Colvin Family Farm.  Why did I choose Colvin Family Farm?  Mainly because I’ve bought produce from them before and I’ve always been impressed with their offerings.  They also were one of the few CSAs still accepting members and I was delighted they still had room.  So we’ll be getting a full share of vegetables until mid-November.  And I’ll be blogging about it each week.

Each week, I’ll post what we got in our CSA box.  I’ll also make note of what I have to harvest in my garden.  If there’s any vegetables left over from the previous week, I’ll make a note of that as well.  If we don’t eat vegetables before they go bad, I’ll share what gets chucked into the compost bucket.

I’m going to wait to post all of this until after the week is over and here’s why: It’s really easy to make lots of lovely, healthy dinner plans and menus.  Many food sites do this.  It’s a lot harder to actually follow those plans.  I want to actually post what we really eat – not some imagined idea of how I’d really like to eat.  So if we say “Screw it!” and head to Taco Bell, I’m going to actually tell you that.  Now if I end up drinking five margaritas in two hours or eating an entire pan of bacon, I won’t necessarily share those quantities.  This is to help give you practical ideas on how to use up your CSA box, not to give you more evidence of what a lush I am.

I’ll be sharing recipes on a regular basis for really tasty ways to use up your CSA veggies.  I won’t post exact recipes for some of the things we eat because I don’t cook a lot of the time from recipes.  I throw stuff in a pot, I don’t measure and I hope for the best.  I will link to blogs or recipes online if they’re available.  I’ll also share the resources – websites, books, blogs, gadgets – that help me with my menu planning.

Here’s a little information about the way we eat right now.  We’re on a very tight budget so we tend to stick to cheaper cuts of meat, especially beef because we only buy that from local sources.  We’ve cut back a lot on the carbs in our diet for health reasons so while pizza and pasta aren’t verboten, they don’t make a lot of appearances at our table right now.  We’ve also been cutting back on the amount of salt and refined sugar we eat, so if you indulge frequently in those two things, you might want to add a little more to the recipes I post.

I’m not a fan of overly complicated recipes so don’t look for me to impress you with my cooking wizardry. Every once in a while, I like to get fancy but I’m mainly interested in putting tasty, healthy food on the table without it taking hours or dirtying up every dish in my kitchen.

I’m very lucky in that neither I nor my husband require meat and potato type meals in order for a meal to feel like dinner.  We’ve been known to make meals entirely based on snacks. That’s not the rule but don’t be surprised if you see that from time to time.

I don’t use processed foods for the most part. I don’t like what’s in them and what they do to my body. However, late at night (usually after drinking those five margaritas), I’ve been know to make up a pan of Rotel dip.  I try to make myself feel better by throwing in some cilantro from the back yard.  Make of that what you will.

Tomorrow I’ll post what happened the first week with our first CSA share.  If you’re participating in a CSA – I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your vegetables.  Feel free to join in in the comments or tweet about it using the #eatyourCSA hashtag on twitter.


27 Comments on Using Your CSA Vegetables – a Mouth From The South Project

  1. Heather
    June 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm (2 years ago)

    While we lived in Knoxville (for two years, up until October of last year when job loss struck), we had a share with Colvin Family Farm for a year. I loved it! And Adam was such a great guy to get to know and talk with about farming. (And I also loved buying tomato plants from you guys – though I didn’t actively know it was you-of-this-blog until a couple of weeks ago!) I’m excited to see what you’ll get in your share this year with them! :)

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 9:40 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks for commenting Heather! I’m really excited to do this project. And I’m sad we lost you from Knoxville. :( Which tomatoes turned out to be your favorite? I always love hearing this.

      • Heather
        June 4, 2012 at 9:55 am (2 years ago)

        I’m sad we lost Knoxville, too! When we moved there, I wasn’t certain if I’d actually like it. Turns out, I miss it more than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. Huge bummer. I miss the farmer’s market & everyone there like crazy. So far I just haven’t found a suitable replacement down here in Atlanta. We’re planning a stop through just for the MSFM on our way up to Canada in a few weeks. What better way to start a long trip than with Cruze milk and goodies from the market?!

        I wish I had kept better records of our garden and (more specifically) what we bought from who, but if I remember right we bought some Arkansas Traveler and White Currant (among others) – I LOVED the white currant. They were really ripening around the same time I was due with our third baby, Calliope, last summer and oh man. I probably could have sat my pregnant ass out there in the garden and just ate those little tomatoes from sun up to sun down. (If it hadn’t been for the mosquitos. And other small children demanding my attention.)

        I also got some Valencia from Neubert Springs (I think it was – the guy who always sells beautiful potatoes across the way from Organicism Farms) and between those two tomatoes, my life was made.

      • Cassie Powell
        July 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm (2 years ago)

        How do I sign up for a CSA? I live in Maynardville, TN; work in Mascot, TN and cannot find a farm to sign up with. I am new to this new way of eating. Help!

  2. Sheri
    June 4, 2012 at 1:15 am (2 years ago)

    Love this idea! Also: we eat meals made of snacks. Or just one thing.

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 9:43 am (2 years ago)

      We don’t have A/C in our kitchen so when August heat hits, we end up eating lots of snack type dinners. Also, gin.

  3. The Modern Gal
    June 4, 2012 at 8:24 am (2 years ago)

    Excellent. I will definitely be looking forward to this. We did our first CSA last year, and even after we got more creative with our cooking we still struggled to use what we got. The early weeks that were heavy on the kale and cabbage were especially tough. We didn’t sign up this year, but we’re still trying to buy a lot of produce from the farmer’s market. The problem, of course, is we keep sticking with what we know. I’d like to branch out.

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 9:50 am (2 years ago)

      Years ago, Marcus and I signed up for a CSA but it wasn’t run very well so we didn’t end up getting a lot of produce. I’m going to make sure to buy some weird stuff every once in a while to show exactly how you can use it. Yeah – kale and cabbage, while both delicious, can get a bit monotonous after a while. I’ve got a bunch of recipes clipped for those two vegetables.

  4. Lauren Rider
    June 4, 2012 at 10:17 am (2 years ago)

    I’m reading mostly to find out about your wizardry…cooking or otherwise. I expect to find subliminal tips to your wizardry and mastermind. ;-)

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 10:58 am (2 years ago)

      My wizardry usually involves copious amounts of gin. Which kind of sucks because I never remember it the next morning.

  5. eatwisconsin
    June 4, 2012 at 10:43 am (2 years ago)

    Looking forward to this! I have often thought of getting a CSA box but going to the Farmers’ Market is part of my weekend ritual so I feel like I wouldn’t really go there as much if I had a box of veggies. There is a meat CSA my friend told me about and I think I might do that next year.

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 11:00 am (2 years ago)

      Jeff – a lot of farms have you pick them up at your local farmers market. It’s where we usually get ours. We also have a fruit, raw cow milk, raw goat milk, egg, meat and mushroom CSA near us which I think is so cool.

  6. Michael C. Neel
    June 4, 2012 at 10:55 am (2 years ago)

    You’ve just sold another share to Colvin Family Farm. With a basic skill in cooking from watching a decade of Good Eats and the internet at my disposal, I fear no box of random fruit and vegetables!

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 11:09 am (2 years ago)

      Michael – Are you really signing up for a share? If so, you’ll love it. They also have half shares if a whole box seems like too much. :)

  7. Mrs. Stephen E. Colvin
    June 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm (2 years ago)

    To the shareholders of Colvin Family Farm I’m known as The Farmer’s Wife. My name is Val, and one of my responsibilities on our farm is to educate our “farm family” on how to use their shares or vegetables they buy from us at the markets. (Market Square Farmer’s Market Wednesdays and Saturdays, Dixie Lee Farmer’s Market on Saturday, Cumberland Sustainable Farmer’s Market on Thursdays, New Harvest Farmer’s Market on Thursdays, Main St. Farmer’s Market in Chattanooga,and the Dayton Farmer’s Market also on Saturday.)

    I started writing a personal letter to our shareholders, printing it off and signing each one 3 years ago. Last year I was given a blog to write (I’d never read one so I was really challenged at first.) sharing recipes, a little mountain history of where our farm is located, and daily happenings around the farm with our large family. At this point we don’t hire any help, so everyone down to our 4 year old is an integral part of producing your vegetables. This year I have the boys are stretching me again and I’m moderating the forum on our website. We’re trying to create a sense of family or I guess the in word is community. We’re having growing pains right now as I learn how to get out of the letter mode and into the forum mode…so please be patient with me.

    The forum is a bit hid…on the tool bar, look to the far right where it says, “NEWS”…The CSA and Farm forum is there. Come join us, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to link your blog up with it (though I don’t know how to do that yet! :)

    I’m really looking forward to reading your blog weekly. I love your photography! You have a gift. You have a challenge ahead of you, and there are others on the same “journey” that can be a help.

    Abundant Blessings,
    The Farmer’s Wife
    Val Colvin

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 5:01 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi Val! I actually did join your forum. :) I’m pretty thrilled about the challenge. I’ve always enjoyed buying produce from you all (I’m a fellow vendor down at the Market Square Farmers Market) and I’m excited to see what meals I can come up with each week planning around your produce.

  8. Airforcematt
    June 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm (2 years ago)

    I’m the oldest of the Colvin children but no longer live in TN – will be following your blog from here in Japan where I’m currently stationed. Will be interesting to see how someone uses my family’s CSA produce on a week by week basis :)

    • Kristina
      June 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks Matt! My Dad was stationed in Japan when he was younger. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can use up every little bit of produce I get each week. :)

  9. Darlynne
    June 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm (2 years ago)

    What a great idea, and that goes for the margaritas and the bacon, too. I am so eager to see what you get and how you use it.

    • Kristina
      June 5, 2012 at 11:42 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks Darlynne – You know I could never forget the margaritas and bacon!

  10. Lisa
    June 5, 2012 at 9:48 am (2 years ago)

    I love that you’re doing this! So excited to see the week by week progress because I’m always impressed by the recipes you post.

    • Kristina
      June 5, 2012 at 11:43 am (2 years ago)

      You’re so sweet Lisa! Thank you!

  11. Adam Colvin
    June 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm (2 years ago)

    We really appreciate you doing this, and I love the pictures–great job!

    • Kristina
      June 6, 2012 at 11:09 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks Adam – I’ve actually found out that one on my friends recently signed up for your CSA because of this project and another two readers have either signed up or are considering it. :) I really appreciate what your family does.


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  2. [...] gorgeous spread is courtesy of Colvin Family Farms - for more information on this project, read the guidelines here.  If you’d like to join in with me, feel free to post links to blog posts where you talk [...]

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