Vegans and vegetarians rejoice, Michigan growing season is here. It’s time to binge on sweet corn, greens, tomatoes, blueberries, fresh herbs and finish up that root cellar supply to make way for the best season in our eating culture. By this time in the summer, following what seems to be the longest potato and squash winter ever, I’m ready for just about anything that hasn’t been on a shelf or procured from my local grocer. Conversely, I know what my first CSA greens season looked like, felt like and tasted like which was overwhelming on all accounts. For example a pound of greens doesn’t SEEM like a lot until you get it home, have to process it and store it so as not to have just one day of fresh but rather, stretching the fresh to a week or so. This idea is tougher than it seems. So what do you need in your kitchen to be successful during a CSA season? Here are a few things Mr. Wonderful and I cannot live without:
1. Salad spinners (yes, plural): we use 3. One that holds plain greens that are ready to eat, one that is always either in the sink or at the ready on the dish rack, and one that is usually holding a salad prepped for dinner that night or for a quick lunch – dressing on the bottom (built like those mason jar salads) so a quick toss and I have a meal.
2. Quality Santoku knife: we bought ours off Amazon for $10.00. I was ready to spend upwards of $100.00 for a specific brand, but surprisingly the highest reviewed one at the time cost just $10.00 (it’s $11.00 now), with a “midrange” nicely reviewed model at around $36.00 for a name you might recognize. Regardless of your budget there is a knife out there you can afford. Keep it sharp, don’t run it through your dishwasher (hand wash that thing) and it should last for years. Sharp is important when dicing spring onions and herbs so you don’t bruise them which leads to yucky discoloration.
3. A “go-to” veggie cookbook: My newest obsession is this book by Terri Hope Romero, co-author of Veginomicon which is a veg cult classic, her newest, Salad Samuri has a fun title and has breathtaking photos (hello, you need photos in a cookbook, right?). The dressing section alone is worth the purchase. Another one I love a lot is the Oh, She Glows Cookbook. Angela Liddon also runs a killer blog that a CSA blogger friend of me also loves, so bow to the peer pressure of your CSA members and get on board the veggie train.
4. Ice cube trays: What better way to freeze single-serving broth cubes, herbs before they go bad, and pesto when basil season is upon us? An ice cube tray of course! This model is particularly cool because it has a lid to keep your freezer and everything in it from smelling like garlic (I mean some people don’t like that). The single servings pop out easy and you can drop them immediately into a pot of freshly cooked and drained pasta or start a soup with them. My fave hack is to drop herbs into the individual compartments cover with a little olive oil and water then when I need it for a saute or something I just drop it in a hot saute pan let the water evaporate and then add the other ingredients for my meal.
5. Green bags: Don’t let the “as seen on TV” label scare the crap out of you. These things work. Enough said, go buy some. They carry them at most Meijer stores locally too. They are, dare I say it, magical.
6. Veggie wash: While the veggies at the Blandford CSA are some of the cleanest I’ve ever come across in a CSA upon pick up. Read the dirty truth about veggies here: the top 10 fruit/veg offenders. Well get those veggies sparkling in a nontoxic way with this quick spray by Honest Company followed by an earnest cool water rinse. I’ve found this brand at Target recently but Amazon has a better price. Feeling a little more salt of the Earth? I’ve used a concoction of 50% white vinegar and 50% water in a spray bottle in a pinch. Be sure to rinse well under both accounts as the spray and vinegar both have a lingering smell.
What are your go-to kitchen hacks for surviving CSA season? Let me know what I’m missing out on below.
A version of this blog post first appeared on the Blandford Farm CSA Blog.