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Community Supported Agriculture and What to Do with the Leftovers!

May 24, 2011

No doubt about it, market season is here, and sign-up deadlines are fast-approaching for community produce shares. CSA, or Community-Supported Agriculture, is a model of food distribution where community members pledge their support to a local farm by purchasing a share. Boxes of produce are picked up weekly or every other week by customers, and usually contain a variety of in-season vegetables, fruit, herbs and, in some cases, dairy and meat products. Participation in CSAs not only boosts the local economy, but also saves the consumer money on produce in the long run, according to research from the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Despite these benefits, many are still hesitant to sign up for CSAs for fear of wasting precious produce they feel they might not be able to eat within a week’s time. Here are some ideas that will help you use up all your weekly goodies before your next pick-up:

Kebab night: This is something I used to do when I was new to farmers market shopping. The night before going to the farmers market was reserved for kebabs, so I could use all the leftover produce on hand. Slice up any extra squash, onion, pepper, really any produce will do, and skewer them up. Cover the assembled kebabs in whatever seasoning suits your fancy (I usually sprinkle on some cayenne pepper for a kick), line them up on the grill, or place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast on 350 for 10-15 minutes, rotating periodically. You can vary this recipe by adding pieces of chicken, shrimp or other meats. Now, you’re clean out of produce and ready to stock up at the stand the next day.

Crock-pot: Truth be told, I was a little afraid of the crock-pot until recently. Being a vegetarian, I assumed this was a kitchen appliance reserved for slow-cooking meat dishes, but a little research proved me quite wrong. Stews and soups can be slow-cooked in the crock pot with any starchy vegetables, like potatoes and greens that will add density and flavor, like cabbage, leeks and onions. Below are two crock-pot recipes that are quick and easy. Crock-pot recipes usually yield a lot of servings, so put a few portions in the fridge, pack up the rest and freeze it until you’re ready to eat. One of my favorite crock-pot recipes is Sweet Potato Lentil Stew. Here’s another for Easy Italian Chicken.

Smoothies: Smoothies aren’t usually the first thing to come to mind when you’re pondering what to do with your leftover spinach and kale, but it really is a tasty way to get your daily dose of greens. Adding fruit masks the taste of the greens, and you’re getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals to boot!

A favorite recipe:

In the blender add:

1 banana, cut into 4 or 5 pieces—I find it blends easier this way
A few handfuls of whatever frozen fruit you desire—try mango, pineapple or berries
Several leaves of kale (no stems), or handfuls of spinach, or both
Sprinkling of coconut

Here is a variation on the kale smoothie from Anna!

Salad: When I’m looking to finish off any leftover produce, I make what I like to call a dump salad. Seriously, nowhere near as disgusting as it sounds. It’s pretty simple, really, just chop up all leftover produce (fruit included!), and dump it over a bed of greens. You can even incorporate leftovers from dinner, like a cold pasta dish or rice. My latest salad included spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, goat cheese, leftover veggie burger, quinoa and dried cranberries, and was covered in homemade vinaigrette. Below is the recipe I use for the dressing. These measurements are for one serving:

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. of honey or agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro (optional)
Whisk together until emulsified either by hand or in a blender or food processor. Drizzle over salad.

For another homemade dressing variation, see Becca’s recipe for Balsamic Lemongrette.

Soup: This is the simplest soup recipe for leftover squash. Any type of squash will do: acorn, butternut, even a pumpkin! Slice the squash into pieces and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool, and by this time the squash should be soft enough to pull the rinds off. Toss the squash into a food processor or blender with:

1 ½ cups of veggie broth
¼ cup of cream
1 tsp. curry powder
a sprinkling of cayenne
a pinch of salt.
Blend and eat. Simple and delicious.

Tips for herbs: For those of you who commit to the full CSA share, you will likely receive a few bunches of herbs in each box. It’s not always easy to use them up before they go bad. When the bunches begin to look like they’re wilting, I always think pasta. Heat some pasta sauce or tomatoes over the stove and cook in the leftover herbs. Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, pizza or freeze it for later. For big batches of leftover basil, pesto is always a great option. Freeze in ice cube trays, covered in plastic wrap. When you’re ready to use, pop out a few cubes and melt into your cooked pasta. You can also dry your herbs: cut open your grocery store paper bags and lay them flat on a table, and spread out your washed herbs. Once dry, store them in emptied spice jars on your spice rack until you need them. See Becca’s herb garden post from last summer for more inspiration!

Please don’t hesitate to sign up for a CSA this year. Mega-Agribusiness destroys the environment by wasting precious resources, and is harmful to human health as a result of their overuse of toxic pesticides. Supporting local farms means you are supporting sustainable business practices, biodiversity and your local economy, as well as protecting the environment and your health. Here are some of Philadelphia Magazine’s picks for the best CSA programs in the area. Find a pick-up location near you!

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