The older I get the fewer choices I want to make about certain things. Enter my CSA! I make no choices. I get what I get and make the best of it, as my 8-year-old son likes to say. Getting a CSA share (a box of produce once a week for the growing season directly from a farm) is a way of life and it is a commitment but it’s a simplifying one for me. We don’t travel a whole lot–Oregon in the summer is a pretty spectacular place to be–and I like to cook. Those are the basic prerequisites. And if you don’t yet love to cook a CSA may just turn you into a creative, eager cook.
The advantages for me of not having to make choices about what to buy is that I can focus my energy and time on what to make. Limitations–the kind and quantity of produce in this case–are the foundation of creativity. I might get, among many other things, a glorious bunch of radishes with bright, feathery greens still attached and just a few handfuls of fava greens in an early season share. I never used radish tops before I had a CSA but now I look forward to them and the fava greens in order to turn them into endless varieties of pestos and sauces (I have five of them on my Seasonal Recipe Collection I realized while writing this post). If that’s not creativity. . .?!
So ‘Vantage number one (my son’s favorite line from the story The Elephant’s Child): Creativity!
‘Vantage number two: It’s all there, ready for me, once a week and it’s all paid for so after a while it seems like I’m eating for free. Honestly though, the weekly total seems like a steal (~$20-35/week for most shares).
‘Vantage number three: Fewer trips to the store and a commitment to a better stocked pantry so I can use that produce without last minute trips.
‘Vantage number four: We eat a greater variety of vegetables. Shari Raider of Sauvie Island Organics illustrates this point beautifully in her interview about how her kids are growing up to eat and love vegetables. I would unlikely have come to cook and enjoy rutabagas and turnips for example if I didn’t have a CSA. I’ll add fennel to the list too–I’ve been slow to warm to fennel but boy do I now!
‘Vantage number five: The produce is so fresh and delicious I am spoiled rotten.
‘Vantage number six: CSA farms work awfully hard to grow crops in ways that provide you with combinations of things that work together throughout the year while keeping you in critical things like lettuce, onions, carrots and garlic for much of the season.
‘Vantage number seven: You really get a sense of your place. How is the weather affecting what you eat–are tomatoes early or late? Is it a cool spring so a long season for greens? And when it’s blistering hot out I think of the farmers who are out in the heat sweating it out for my benefit or slogging through the mud with freezing finger tips. It really does bring you closer to the process and work it takes to put dinner on the table.
And here is the recipe for the Radish Top, Parsley & Cilantro Chimichurri in the photo above that you can access if you’re a subscriber to the Recipe Collection and here is one of my favorite asparagus dishes for those who aren’t!
P.S. In regards to the title of this post, I am privileged to be able to make the big choices in my life that result in the wellbeing of my family so I use the notion of the beauty of not having a choice pointedly about produce.