The first pickups of the Snead’s Farm CSA 2017 season will be May 1 for Braehead Farm and North Stafford customers, and May 3 for Snead’s Farm customers. You can still join the CSA by downloading the contract here. This post is written by Emily Freehling, who writes the weekly e-mails that offer tips on how to use the Snead’s Farm CSA.
This will be my family’s seventh year participating in the Snead’s Farm CSA. In that time, I’ve come to anticipate the start of this season.
It signals the end of bringing home plastic clamshell containers of tired, flavorless lettuce from the supermarket and the start of a time when I’ve got an abundance of vibrant, fresh greens to build menus around. It means weekly trips to the farm and a vegetable list that gives me a head start on the week’s meal planning.
It’s true that a CSA membership is something to be carefully considered. You will have to cook, maybe more than you are used to.
But if you take the month of April to make a few preparations, you’ll be set up for success, and can make the most of your investment.
Here is my pre-CSA to-do list:
- Sign up for the Snead’s Farm e-mail list. We send an e-mail every Sunday that gives you a list of what to expect in your CSA box for the week, along with recipes and tips for using your produce. Click here for the signup form, and make sure to check the box for your CSA pickup location if you want to receive the weekly CSA e-mail. To ensure you receive these e-mails, make sure the e-mail address email@example.com is on your accepted senders list (Don’t send e-mails there, though; you’re better off calling the farm or sending a Facebook message.). If you use gmail and you find these going into your promotions tab, simply click on the message and drag the e-mail into your primary inbox if you want the weekly CSA list to appear there.
- Clean out the fridge. You’re going to need fridge space for all the good stuff that’s coming your way, and you’ll want to put this beautiful produce in a clean fridge. So clean out all those old jars you’re never going to empty, wipe down the surfaces to get rid of those random spills that have solidified over the winter, clear the dried lettuce leaves and shriveled berries from the corners of your produce drawers and make way for the good stuff.
- Assess your equipment. My big kitchen splurge this year will be a second salad spinner (Crazy, right?). I have found over the years that if my greens are washed and ready, I’m a lot more likely to use them in smoothies, on sandwiches, and in any other spur-of-the-moment concoction I might be making. So when I bring home my box, I immediately fill my spinner with cold water, prep my chard, kale, collards, beet tops, lettuce or other green (with chard, kale and collards, this means separating the leaves from the stems and tearing them into bite-sized pieces) and let them soak in the water. You might need to fill the spinner two or three times if there’s a lot of dirt on your greens. Then I spin them dry and store them in the spinner in the fridge. This is why I need a second spinner, because I’ll either have more greens I want to prep this way, or I’ll want to use a spinner to wash and dry other produce, like sugar snap peas. Here are some other pieces of equipment to make sure you have on-hand:
- a good, sharp chef’s knife
- a paring knife
- two to three solid cutting boards
- a vegetable peeler
- a box grater (or a Cuisinart, if you prefer)
- at least two solid metal sheet pans for roasting batches of vegetables
- zip-top bags or freezer-safe containers for storing soups, purees, pestos and other ways of preserving surplus produce
- an 11-inch cast-iron skillet (I use this for stir-fries, frittatas, quesadillas and really just about anything else I cook that doesn’t involve tomatoes. It lives on my stovetop.)
- smaller colanders for berries and other vegetables
- Stock up on staples. I like to try to make fewer trips to the grocery store when I’m getting my CSA box. One way to do that is to have lots of staples on-hand that can make a meal out of just about any produce you happen to have. Here are some ideas:
- Tortillas and shredded cheese – because you can saute just about anything and put it in a quesadilla.
- Grains – Wheat berries, farro, rice, couscous, bulgur, quinoa…and any other grain you can think of can be tossed with roasted bite-size vegetables and feta cheese, drizzled with olive oil and either vinegar or lemon juice and made into a delicious salad. Grains can also be a nice addition to frittatas, soups and other dishes you might make with your CSA bounty.
- Beans – Whether dried or canned, having lentils, black beans, garbanzos, canelinnis, pintos and other beans around means you’re never stuck if you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. Make soup, a burrito, a salad and more with this cheap protein.
- Soy sauce, rice vinegar and brown sugar – These three ingredients plus your vegetables are all you need for a stir-fry. Adding grated ginger (keep it in the freezer) and chopped garlic makes it even better. It’s worth investing in a bottle of toasted sesame oil to drizzle on top of the finished product.
- Good olive oil – buy a good bottle and use it only for making dressings or drizzling over dishes just before you eat them. Buy a cheaper bottle for cooking.
- Salad dressing ingredients – You may have your favorite recipe, but homemade dressing is the perfect complement to fresh spring greens. I always start with a dollop of Dijon mustard, add a pinch of salt and pepper, some chopped herbs if I have them, then one part vinegar and three parts olive oil (more or less, depending on your taste). Shake or stir it up and you’re ready to go.
- Flour and yeast – mainly for making homemade pizza dough.
- Lemons – A squeeze of lemon can make most things taste better.
- Get excited. Participating in a CSA is a wonderful way not only to eat more vegetables, but also to educate yourself and your family on where food comes from. Farming is very weather-dependent, but Snead’s Farm partners with other local farms to ensure the highest diversity and quality of goods offered, all grown locally. In addition to Snead’s Farm, produce in this CSA also comes from C&T Produce of Stafford County, The Canning Farm and Steve Minter Farm of King George County, Timber Ridge Fruit Farm in Frederick County, Va., Westmoreland Berry Farm and Braehead Farm of Fredericksburg. Your support of this CSA helps keep all of these small farms in business, keeping land in farm use and benefitting the local food system and environment.
Mark your calendars for May 1 or 3 and don’t miss that first pickup. Happy eating!