This summer I decided to try out a CSA share. CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s when a farmer provides a share of their crop each week. The customer doesn’t get to pick and choose, but agrees to take what is provided that week. This is a way of supporting your farm regardless of the crop yields. So on a certain week the crop yield could be low due to unforeseen weather, however on another week the yield might be bountiful because the specific crop that is ready to pick that week is giving lots and lots of yield. I liked the idea, especially since I knew that there are some very plentiful weeks for fruits and vegetables in the summer. I had never subscribed to a CSA before and decided it was about time to give it a go.
Below, I have collected photos of my 9 week long experiment with the veggies and fruits I received. Before diving into what I got, let’s look a bit at the logistics, and how useful and accessible the CSA I picked specifically was.
I didn’t pick the farm closest to where we live, because I really liked the produce from the farm I wanted to do the CSA experiment with. It follows strict organic and natural practices. It does not use any plastics, and uses only natural irrigation, as well as a very solid practice of crop rotation. And the produce indeed does taste superior to other farms and organic supermarket produce ( well not close to organic produce from France, but on the high end of organic produce in the US 😉 ).
So what did it cost, and what was the time investment? The CSA could be picked up between 12 pm and 6 pm each Wednesday. It took about 15-20 mins to pick it, because each individual item was in a box, and I had to weigh or count it to take the appropriate amount. I was looking after my son this summer, so it was a little event for us to do on Wednesdays (even though after the 3rd week, he was starting to dislike going there very much, and as soon as he would sense that we were going to the farm, he would say ‘All done vegetables’ and ‘No vegetables!’). Therefore, looking at the time investment I would say this will not be easy to do for somebody who has a full time 9-5 type of job. Unless they run out and use their lunchtime to pick it up, but then that would probably be a bit too stressful, as well as the produce having to stay inside a warm car for a good portion of the afternoon. One could pick it up after work, I suppose, but with traffic again, it might be an issue. I know there are CSAs that prepack the produce in a box, and also deliver, so I believe those would be a lot more convenient. Now, on to the cost. The vegetable share (which included also some water melons) cost $22.70 per week. Four weeks in, I also added a fruit share, that came from another farm, for $12.40/week. The fruits were also very delicious, especially the peaches which were super juicy and sweet. But the cost, well I have to say it, the cost was pretty steep for the amount of both the vegetables and (especially) the fruits I was getting each week. I waited for that bountiful moment, when there would be extra, I mean noticeably extra of everything, or at least of something, but lo it did not come…
What made the CSA share especially overpriced for me, was the fact that we don’t eat much nightshades. The nightshade family consists of tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and others. And I am certain most people, just like me, grew up thinking those plants are extra healthy, and ate, and still regularly eat an abundance of them. Turns out, it’s not really so, and I will dedicate an entire blog post on this fascinating subject. Although they do taste delicious, they are not to be eaten much, and I have to say I can’t consume many of them without feeling an ill effect. I did try to eat what I received each week, for the sake of the CSA experiment, but after two weeks I gave up. I also have issues, albeit to a lesser extent with the squash family, and will write about them too, so I managed to eat them almost to the end, but they were too much too in the last weeks. So, unfortunately, we ended up giving up a lot of the produce away, as you can see in one of the photos below.
What is my final take on the CSA, well for us, it was not worth it given the limitation in the vegetable families. But even without that limitation, would have I continued, no, not really. Driving to the farm and packing the produce myself each week is unsustainable, and well, the price is not enticing at all. And since I am looking for ways to be healthy that I can advise anybody to try, I would say this CSA is a no go (unless you have the extra time and money of course). It is not something that everyone can fit into their busy schedule, or be worth their buck. I do make a disclaimer, I am not saying I am against CSAs, I think the idea is pretty neat, but the reality of my summer CSA did not equate with the expectation that was in my head. Will I try another one at some point? Yes, probably, but not for now 🙂 . But I will definitely continue to go to the farm stand at this farm, whenever I have the time, and pick out the vegetables I want to get.
Please take a look at the photos of each week’s produce below including a small description of some of the highlights.
The highlight of the first week were the fava beans. I had never cooked them before, or prepared any bean in a pod from scratch. Cooking and removing all the layers took over an hour! They were delicious, yes, but I will not be repeating the prep process. In fact, while I was making them, I kept on goading myself to continue, since it was for the CSA experiment’s sake. Otherwise, I probably would have given up 20 minutes in the process.
The second week was not as time consuming as the first. It did include some broccoli raab. And I didn’t really know what it was, so I thought that was interesting. I saw some pictures on the internet that included also little broccoli stalks, thin and delicate. But all I had was just leaves, however I was determined to try it, at the beginning that is. Alas, I ended up waiting way too long to get my self around to exploring it. So at the end I threw it away all wilted and sad. This share also included some Swiss chard. Not a great fan, unless there are some nice ways to consume it that I am not aware of. That at least I ended up sautéing with some olive oil and garlic, and ate it kind of begrudgingly.
This week’s highlight: bunched tatsoi, again I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I sautéed it as usual with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. I’ve grown to kind of like it, but wouldn’t go and buy it on my own, unless I learn of a more interesting recipe to try it in.
Week 4 doesn’t really have a highlight, but I do have to mention that the celery in the upper left corner is one of the best I have ever had. So flavorful and crispy, unfortunately it only came that once, despite me waiting for it with open arms each following week.
The fruit share started this week. The apples were quite nice.
Two pictures this week, as I got confused and didn’t take a picture of all the veggies at once. Super delicious peaches in the fruit share this week.
Week 7 was nice, I loved the garlic, it was very flavorful, and had really large cloves, so very easy to peel. There was a watermelon, which I thought was a nice addition, even if the watermelon wasn’t that nice. The kale I used to make a super delicious brownie. I will post the recipe I had found, and pics of making it soon (update you can find the recipe here). The list of ingredients is something that I would have never thought of combining and how great and filling it tastes still boggle my mind.
For this week I decided to take three pictures of the veggies. The first one shows all the veggies, the second shows everything, but the nightshades, and the last one excludes the squash family as well. At that point, the produce on the last photo is all I could handle eating, not worth the $23 by a very, very far stretch.
The last week included a sunshine kabocha squash (upper left corner in the second photo). I know it as potimarron from my time in France. The word in French links the words for pumpkin and chestnut together. I could not have described it better. It is the most delicious squash-family plant I have ever had. It is so, so velvety smooth, and creamy. I made it by sautéing some onion and spices, then adding it to the pot, with some water (not too much), and covering it on low till it got soft. I served it with a side of Cuban beans, whose recipe you can find here (slightly adjusted to exclude the nightshades), and it was heaven. Though, I have to say, I did not feel too well after eating it, as had reached my limit of the squash family for this year. But I couldn’t resist the allure of this orange fellow.
I hope you enjoyed my foray into the world of CSAs, and if you did, or want to add something, please leave a comment. Thank you for reading!